Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

Did you ever wonder if you were really living your own life? I don’t mean that in a shallow sense like the kids, the job, blah blah never leaves you enough time for yourself – I actually mean it in a more literal way. Like someone you love suddenly dies or has a terrible accident – and you become so distressed that you practically will yourself into becoming them. That you so don’t want that person to leave your life you begin to lead their life for them, rather than your own?

I know, WC, where the hell do you come up with this stuff? Hard to say but it has nevertheless been on my mind lately. As most of you know there has been lots of crazy action around me the last few months and it seemed to start when my friend Kelly had an accident that should have killed her but which she was too stubborn to die from. When I learned the news I actually felt myself do a funny little thing – not one of those out of body experiences but it was as though I was driving east and suddenly I picked up the car and turned it west and drove that way. And it stopped feeling like my car too.

Obviously in extreme situations, we will react with stress and our stress manifests in different ways. In my case it seemed almost a personality transplant had taken place. I often found myself thinking I didn’t recognize myself and was confused by my own actions, my own thoughts, my viewpoints. Though I suppose some part of me remained or I wouldn’t have questioned anything, I still felt obsessed, possessed and not truly under my own will.

Suddenly things just happened to me, rather than my making things happen. Odd, that. Not like me. I would get irrationally upset about things that never bothered me before. Saw danger where there really was none yet it all seemed very real. In fact, for a while, I couldn’t drive without the image of someone slamming into me. I thought incessantly about Kelly’s children and family – natural you might think because of the situation – but it wasn’t the thought so much as the viewpoint of the thought – as if I were thinking for Kelly.

And suddenly many other things seemed to go to shit in my life as well. Inexplicably. As though it were now my turn to ride first class on the shit tour. Blow ups with friends, room mates, my dog acting weird, clients not paying me – yeah it was shoveling faster than I could shovel it out. With me, just shaking my head and asking WTF?

Though there came a point that we realized Kelly was going to make it and we could let out a collective breath, it didn’t return me to myself, so to speak. I still felt weird, odd, strange. Not me. So instead of ignoring it which I’d been doing and hadn’t changed a thing I made myself think about it, examine it, turned it into a science project if you will and I realized something very interesting. That I’d done this before – the first time when grandfather died, then my brother, then my father (that was a real tough one) and now Kelly. It gave me pause to see a pattern like that. I was tempted to just say, ‘well, that’s natural, that’s normal, we all go through loss and stress and so on.’ But I really couldn’t buy that for me. I am a strong person with a very strong personality and strong will – I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t some decision on my part involved in it. I don’t necessarily rational decision but decision nonetheless. And when I really looked at it I could spot the decisions – see them, almost hear myself think them. And it goes something like this, “I’m not going to fucking let them die, no matter what.” Spooky, huh? I thought so.

And so the pattern began and has lived on – some dumb part of me believing that through sheer will I can somehow continue another person’s life by being them or acting like them, carrying on for them. With no mind to my own life and all the many things that I need, want, have. Well, I’m here to tell you folks, it can’t be done. It really can’t. I can only truly live my own life, as can anyone else and that’s how it should be.

It’s a relief in a way to realize it – so much guilt I now don’t have to own, so much worry, so much grief. I can empathize, I can understand and I can grieve but it’s not my job to continue for them. And so I can just tend to the job of being myself and living my own life. Which is hard enough, eh?

So, any of you ever feel that way or is this one of those posts that you wonder if I’m smoking crack or something?