I’ve always been a sort of magical thinker, my hopes always far outpacing my realities, and to the point that sometimes when my dreams would finally come true the pleasure had already been exhausted.
I had so wanted a go cart growing up. On the school bus ride home my mind would start to wander into the fantasy realm. I would picture a shiny new go cart, like the ones in the catalog, waiting for me at the end of the driveway and would actually be disappointed when it did not end up being true when we would finally pull up to to my stop.
That’s not to say that I didn’t love the old go cart that my dad would finally weld up, using a rusted frame as a starting point, and an old lawnmower engine. Anything with four wheels, that ran on gasoline, that could be slid around corners, definitely scratched that itch. Still, my vivid world of make-believe did not always end with any fulfillment.
In my adulthood this tendency to be way out ahead of myself did not get any better. I’ve cried, on more than one occasion, thinking of my beautiful bride walking towards me up the aisle. And not in sadness either, it was in bliss having momentarily put myself in that wonderful place. Of course, given that I never even so much as went on one date with this young woman, I pretty much ruined that music.
The world between my ears can be a paradise. A place where there’s such thing as innocent love and anything is actually possible. I used this as an escape. My school years spent doodling and hoping for some kind of rescue from the mundanity of the classroom.
These visions were often grandiose. A child scaled B-17 would land in the school yard. I would run out to meet my faithful crew as the teacher and 5th grade class would watch in disbelief, stunned, as we revved the engines and were on our way to the nation (later a planet with two suns) that I benevolently ruled along with my brother Kyle and cousin Mel.
Truly, I had always thought that Kyle and I would always be together, build a house with a chimney in the center, like the ruins that I saw on a Civil War battlefield. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t seem possible then (despite our fights) that we ever be separated, let alone hours apart, and I really can’t claim to have gotten over that disappointment yet. He moved on, it seems that I could not.
And I have lived a sort of Peter Pan existence. Holding on, hoping that some day the love that had eluded me, child-like and innocent, would finally magically arrive to rescue me from my torment for having failed to achieve. I long overstayed the youth group. Until I had my happily ever after, what choice did I have? Get old by myself and alone?
Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy and I lacked the necessary social tools to approach an attractive young woman—let alone convince her to date me.
Years would go by, where I would convince myself, “this time will be different,” and end up leaving the church retreat no closer to my goals and disappointed. These beautiful wonderful thought going in would slowly morph into a nightmarish reality as opportunity would pass me by and I would be left with only my profound loneliness again.
It was only in my mid thirties that this optimism would crack and the pattern of hope followed by disappointment would finally overwhelm me. Brimming with outsized expectations, I would arrive at the weekend, and suddenly shut down. The wheels came off, I would collapse into the nearest couch, curl up, unable to push myself to try again—eventually ending up a sobbing mess.
The pressure had become too much. The difference between my hopes and reality too insurmountable.
Sure, I could entertain my delusions, the right one was going to finally arrive, we would look at our feet, shy at first, we would talk, she would smile at my earnest thoughts, I would finally be at ease and soon enough we would be walking hand in hand out the back of a church. But the chances of that were as good as Gatsby somehow being able to turn back the hands of time and Daisy would be his.
My collapse from exhaustion came at the tail end of decades of forced optimism and sweeping aside my rational fears. I did not want a world where my being 5′-8″ tall and rather unathletic disqualified me. Love, to me, especially pertaining to my female religious counterparts, was supposed to be something transcendent. Unfortunately, what I got instead was a brick wall of rejection.
Life is especially cruel to those with a high ideal. If I were less able to see the marvelous maybe I could have more easily moved on to more practical aims. But I could never get my head out of the clouds nor was I willing to acknowledge the harsh truth about romance. The young women were also chasing their version of perfection and that perfect man wasn’t me.
Somehow, despite a mind that could span universes, I ended up being thirty years old living in Milton and thus ineligible for that kind of love. How does a dreamer, still holding to those childish notions of escape, ever recover from that terrible pronouncement?
It wears me out thinking about it.
It makes me think of another novel and protagonist, Ethan Frome, an injured ruin of a man. His house reduced in size as he limped, painfully, through what remained of his life. Not even granted the merciful end to his suffering of that suicide pack those many years before. Perhaps my life would have been better had my secret world been a little more stark, desolate and devoid of life?
4 thoughts on “What Wears Me Out”
Truth is not always harsh. I can sympathize with being worn out by the failure of ideals, because I’ve been to that place (though maybe not to the extent you have). I married my “ideal” after having decided years before that she might be ideal, but she wasn’t the one for me. Suddenly I discovered that I loved her, not the ideal of her. I had partly figured on remaining celibate, and I was satisfied with that, but of course I wanted marriage. Miraculously, she said yes, despite my misgivings about my romantic capital. I can’t begin to express the difference of outlook between how I viewed love before and after.
This is hardly helpful for you, or even for me. But I can hardly help but view ideals and romance in a cheerful way.
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For me, over the past few weeks, love was deciding whether to continue to hold up someone that I love (not ideal because of distance and waiting) or tell her to move on for her own good. All the while, dealing with my physical body continuing to decline, despite dedication to fitness, which makes me also wonder if marriage and children is even worth it at this point. Nothing about the current romance is ideal, it has been painful, actually, with the years of separation, we won’t likely have much of a wedding if she does finally get here and of course I had hoped to have that big day experience. Add to that, her biological clock is ticking, that’s the harsh truth, and what wears me out. I’m glad you’re in a better place. I did receive a bit of positive news today too. Maybe I’ll join in the cheerful perspective again some day, ago knows?
Some aspects of my dating life weren’t far from that—I has been thinking of telling her to move on because of some crippling anxiety I was dealing with. I didn’t feel I could give her anything worthwhile. But she wouldn’t take that. We have been able to help each other in bodily weakness, and the result has been beautiful. Stress and pain take a lot out of one, as I know too well. But as we gained mental and spiritual health together, they have receded. I’m lucky to be one who forgets the pain as soon as it’s gone, and I know not everyone can do that. But success in love is a picture of the resurrection, and a beautiful marriage makes up for a lot of things.
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I feel, or rather I know, that I would have been better off had I never seen it. And I’m not only talking about that young Mennonite couple, in a car with Ohio plates, in the drive thru lane at Dunkin this morning. It is the ideal they represent and for me was seemingly lost in the blink of an eye. The dating scene, in my old tradition, ran past me before I even had my shoes on and remained impossibly ahead, or rather behind me, for decades of my life. My hopes of ever finding love or appreciation there were only a vain hope.
I lacked something, was simply unmarketable there, and would have been better to have moved on quickly like many of my cousins have done. Of course, I wasn’t looking to escape the culture, I loved and appreciated it, but there was never anything reaching back or reciprocating that love. It was a world as harsh as Darwin’s and actually worse because it was sold as Christian community and claimed to reject natural selection in favor of faith.
Me? I was a mind, certainly more rational than most of them, that clung to this belief that my dreams would be made manifest. That was my childish faith that held on for dear life and finally lost it’s grip in pursuit of the impossibly. It is easy to claim to have faith while only ever reaching for things that are possible by human power or within our abilities. But that doesn’t take the existing of God to explain.
The challenge for me now is to not let the new cynicism of my age and final acknowledgement harsh reality ruin what remains of my higher aims. Sure, maybe I should not have saw innocent romantic love as being representative of the divine. But then what does establish the truth of the heavens above if not the actions of the faithful? And if these ‘faithful’ act no different from the worldly, despite their different costumes, then maybe it is time for the rocks to start proclaiming the glory of our Lord?
As an epilogue, it isn’t my fault that I cannot simply accept the circular reasoning of a book based faith. It amazes me that religious folks, the same people who scoff at the book of Mormon or Qur’an, can somehow believe their own book simply because of the claims within. And yet, while they say this, they do not truly act as one who believes.
Unlike Peter, they stay within the boat of human reasoning, doing their useless ‘missions’ and somehow can feel good about themselves. Of course, I didn’t do much better, I stepped out of the boat and immediately headed for the depths of the sea. Had it not been for the timely wise encouragement of an Orthodox Father and the unfailing love of my Filipino bhest, there would have been no reason for me to go on in this life.