The Man Who Isn’t Here

I don’t exist. Not fully, anyway. Not like you do, in one place in time.

Physically I do. Physically I’m existing in my one room apartment, lying on my bed and vacillating between staring at my ceiling and typing this out on my iPhone. Mentally, however, I’m simultaneously in multiple places, multiple timelines, multiple universes, and multiple tenses all at the same time. I’m lying in my bed typing, but I’m also sitting across from my now-ex-wife but then-best friend a few years ago at a restaurant, my phone in my hand, browsing through Facebook while I listen to her talk and she grows more and more discouraged and feeling like I don’t care about what she has to say. Meanwhile I’m also in a far flung future where my photography and blogging are actually paying off and I’m also loved and wanted again. I’m also at work tomorrow trying to explain how I had a breakdown last night and fell asleep at five in the morning after praying and sobbing myself to sleep because I feel so broken inside. I’m also thinking, What if she reads this ? Wwill she think I’m crazy? And am I too broken to be loved by anyone? I’m also thinking about how deeply I’ve disappointed people because I never seem to give my full attention to anything and how sorry I am for being this way. But I don’t exist the way you do, and that makes me feel incredibly alone.

Imagine failing. You experience one failure at a time. Now try to imagine failing and experiencing the emotional turmoil of failure in your current moment while simultaneously experiencing failures stretching from deep within your childhood psyche all the way to future failures you haven’t even been given credit for. Once that becomes clear in your mind, now try to imagine what it feels like to be lost in a future or past failure and then have to drop back into your current failure to deal with the consequences; meanwhile your eyes have drifted and you wake up halfway through your angered spouse frustratingly trying to get through to you what you’ve done. Now imagine knowing that your spouse thinks you just don’t care.

Attention is so fleeting — even in intimate pleasure with the person I deeply love, I’ve found myself having to close my eyes in order to anchor myself within the reality of the here and now and just enjoy being felt and loved and known. And even that’s in the past now. My aching heart is my present.

To me, existence is an artform. I see you all do it and I wonder how. I try to imitate it; I’ve watched YouTube videos and read countless articles on how to structure your life, be organized, stay on task, keep yourself in the here and now ,  but it seems like no matter what I do, I cannot keep my mind stable enough to simply “be” the way you do. And I’m jealous. I wonder why my life can’t be simpler ,  why I have to alternate between past, present, and future constantly, why this busyness and this constant buzzing just won’t go away. But the constant imitation and failure to live up to this world’s expectations is exhausting, and part of me wonders if the reason I hurt so damn much all of the time is because I’ve never had the opportunity to just be me in full fledged abandon of this culture’s norms and expectations.

I don’t exist. Not the way you do, in one place at one time. But actually that’s not true. There are places I exist all of the time, fully and freely. I exist in love. I really, really understand love on a deep and fundamental level. I know how to love because I know how it feels both to be loved and to not be loved and to love and to burn with anger all at the same exact moment. I can freeze frame the concept of love and walk between its complex structures and meaning. I can recognize the heart of someone by mere words or actions. I can decipher intent and discern motivation.

Maybe trying to be like you, and having tried for so long, is breaking me.

I could medicate it, I guess. I’ve thought about it. I don’t see anything wrong with that, by the way — one of my closest friends, someone I consider an absolute brother, has gone through this longer than I have and medication has helped him tremendously. Maybe the medication will help me be more like you, or at least harness me into reality enough to be productive. But I’m also afraid that I’ll lose what I love most about me.

Maybe instead, I need to reshape reality. I’m really nervous about what that means. Is it irresponsible to want to quit my job and write and photograph and pastor full time? Is it unrealistic to want to center my whole life on my loves — the things that seem to draw the tides of my attention away from the things that seem to provide the most stability? I don’t know. Is there a level of irresponsibility and irrationality that is simply necessary for me to fulfill my purpose here in life? I don’t know that either.

I guess what I’m seeking is a way to remain purposely present but necessarily negotiable with where my productive attention lies. What I really want is to meaningfully exist in your world while genuinely existing in mine: To be the man who is here; not the man who isn’t.


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