Monday, August 11, 2008

Reflections on a Bittersweet Return

Relieved ... and yet anguished? Broken, furious with nowhere to direct my fury. I don't know what specifically I felt as the time neared for my departure from Asmara, Ethiopia. Maybe that's an angry response at having to think about how I felt. It was dreamy, in a way. But it was horribly discouraging, tearfully remorseful, and unnecessary disruption of a life that had been going well, socially, but granted with no direction. I was in college, and I intended to graduate. But I had wasted a year of my life, and there were more ahead, accomplishing nothing, increasingly a stranger to myself with no way that I was aware of to arrest these feelings. Home wouldn't do it. It felt like the end of being ill, or deeply asleep, awake but weak -- unaware of just how weak I was, uncertain, not confident and already resigned to having a disasterous rest of my life. But not once did I feel suicidal. Never. I was cynical, dark and bitter, but I would take a slow death fighting madness over checking out without a fight to the end.

I didn't hold out much hope that I would fare well matching my new personality with those of my family members, which would not have changed, not to the unraveling degree mine had. I dreaded them seeing me like this -- and it would not be a matter of willpower to put my best face forward, because my mind had a mind of its own, at this point; if it felt fear, my mind wanted to race with it as fast and as far as it could, as if to push me down just a little bit further. But, I was actually getting stronger, as I have seen the progress, and who and what I am now.

The thought of leaving was reassuring, yes, it was exhilarating, but always there were the dampening feelings, so agonizing that should feelings should emerge. A part of me hated me for being such a wimp. Almost intolerable melancholy, until I could get stoned on whatever was available. I missed life as I had enjoyed it, which seemed more than two years behind me. It seemed an eternity since I had been happy. Join the crowd, you might say. Everyone was unhappy. I only know that I saw none acting like me, but that means nothing. Nobody was happy. Words are insufficient; speaking in cliches, one hopes, will be enough. I miss the beautiful weather and the amber afternoons, which felt like early autumn, and the mornings which felt like early spring. It was barren and stark, but unique enough to hold my attention.

I never wanted to see Asmara again, at the time, though parts of it were beautiful and unique. There is a charm to a stripped down society, third-world living, but with a broken heart, alone, there was only dull interest, until next when I was drunk. I felt in a way I had never felt before, and I was sure I would never feel that way again. I'd never found myself away for so long, preparing to may a return which would be almost as traumatic. My life was enriched, but ruined. I felt a part of me had died, if not all of me but the breathing and thinking part -- and with that part which died, all of the happy memories I had ever created with my fiancee died. It didn't matter whether she loved me anyone, or if I loved her, we had not weathered fate or love well -- she much more than me.

I was not the same. And I couldn't love her in the way I had loved her before. She had revealed herself to be selfish, flighty, immature, cruel, with no forethought of the consequences and no apparent conscience. I was being forced to start over, with my return to the United States ... and I was still in the Navy ... with advanced mental illness, which was problematic, but I didn't have a name for it. I was ashamed that I had experienced a form of death, the death of my personality and soul, of my hope, of my confidence and general outlook, whatever that means. I felt doomed. And I was scared to death, though I didn't want to be. I kept telling myself I had no reason to be. Except going through what other men had gone through.

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