Michael Hiemstra

A moment ago I wrote, “Sometimes I get in such despair I want to cry and vomit at the same time, like a REAL man.”

After posting that to social media – like anyone else would – I opened a Word document listing 28 emotions, one for each day of February. I had already written about love and trust. And though I had written the list, I had no memory of what order they were in. I did not know despair would be next. Despair is just always next.

In reverse for just a second, I added the “REAL man” bit because nobody likes maudlin posts on their social media timeline. Broadcasting personal struggles with such brevity to such a wide audience is hard to do sincerely, or not as a plea for attention, or both. It would be nice if real emotion were allowed. Even in small bursts, people on the internet are capable of being heartfelt. I think.

I like to think I am. To be honest, or tbh, I did feel a visceral despair. I did want to cry, or at least sigh in frustration, and maybe it was because I had a gas station sandwich for lunch, but I was sick to my stomach when I saw what inspired the feeling.

I was on break at work scrolling through Tumblr when I stumbled across someone I did not know. The person had the air of someone who was instrumental in the local writing scene. I could tell by who had given the heart buttons accompanying each post. The proprietor of the blog seemed to live a charmed life. Working at a brewery in its marketing division, they had a lovely apartment with wood floors and no microwave and lots of framed art.

I don’t know how happy this person actually is. He or she could be as happy as the blog shows them to be, though the suspicion they are not pumps up the bloodstream toward the center of my despair.

The heart of what made me sink came as I scrolled more and saw the person had reblogged – sorry for that – another. It was a think-piece written after a tragedy and maybe you now think I am being petty but the question I ask is this, how does a blog post like “The Time I Went To City X” after a tragedy in City X help anyone in City X? Is someone going to see that and email someone else who had a member of their family die in that tragedy and say “Ahh, see, see, this person was in our city once, and he or she wrote about how that was special for them, does not that just make everything better?”

And if you tell me that writing that helps the writer cope with the tragedy, then, okay, that’s fine. But why does one need to post that to the internet? Is there anything about that writing that is not about the writer? And in that time after a tragedy, is not best to respect those who are grieving? Is posting something like that not diverting the attention to yourself?

Retching or not, the person who I stumbled across not only reblogged – sorry again – but added at the end “Well said [Name Redacted]” And when I saw that, I fell. That is not something I like to admit, but I fell, and I thought, like I had thought so many times before with many other similar articles – I think this is called hate-reading, though I can never make it more than a sentence or two – how I will ever be able to make it myself?

Because, I thought again as I ate the rest of my gas station sandwich, there is no room for true writers, only fake writers and friends of the fake writers. Then I thought of the cycle, of how it goes. One fake writer will write something cliched and self-serving that will get praised by another who writes something cliched and self-serving, then the others from before will praise that cliched and self-serving writing, and over and over again so the scene can be forever buoyed with buckets of juice from the same people doing the same thing. When it is like this, there is no hope.

So I closed my phone. And I sat there, forced to reckon with what my life had become. I was on break at a job I resented – but told others I enjoyed because it is “physical” and “manly”  – unable to look at my phone because someone I did not now know but perceived as being important, in a scene which I perceived as being important – even though it is imaginary – reblogged someone else’s personal think-piece about an tragedy, and in doing so, I believed, validated it. Which made me want to disappear.

I understand this is absurd, but so is despair – especially in these trivial matters – as it is only useful in acting as a barometer for later on when you can look back when you were at your lowest and think, “I’ve come a long way since the times when I thought I had no hope. God help me if I ever go back there again.”

Despair can be wrenching. I mean that as literally as I can without saying literally. It is like someone taking a wrench and milking out everything positive from your being. Or, a better way of saying that, like falling into a pit that you, more than often, dig for yourself.

And if it goes on too long, that pit can become a real one. No longer are the holes in your head, but there in your front yard.TC Mark

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