Sometimes a random thing can come along on any given random day and completely change your trajectory. Since I’ve heard it from a few people that they miss my posts, I decided that randomness was as good a subject as any, especially if it leads to something. I’m also just working on some radical honesty and openness so this one may hurt a little. Ew, vulnerability! Again! Things should get lighter after this one because I need some silliness after this and so does the world.
We all have characters we love from childhood, and sometimes beyond, who resonate deeply with us in one way or another. Something about them anchors in your subconscious and they trigger something, happiness, bravery, angst, whatever. Wonder Woman reminds me of being a little girl with aspirations of being both a kind and powerful righter of wrongs, Harley Quinn is for me a strong example of a tendency to place my love and trust in people who don’t care for me in return, a failing indeed, but the one I’ve found myself turning to over and over in my adult life has been the enigmatic pirate in Peter Pan, Captain Hook.
I know it sounds preposterous. You mean that oaf of a villain in the Disney cartoons my kid watches? The inept pirate? The suicidal drama queen of “Hook”? Or the leather-clad romantic love of Emma Swan on “Once Upon a Time”? Colin O’Donahue is so dreamy! Of course, you like him! Well, actually no. I’m speaking singularly of the book version of the character, who just happened to be my son’s favorite when he was little. I confess I’d never really read it until then and I was struck by how different he was to what I expected. I may have written about it before, and I’m not going to dive fully into that moat of neurosis, but I will dip a toe in for context. And now…s*** gets real…
Once upon a time, when I found out I was pregnant with my son, my husband had just left me. I had also just been laid off from my job due to downsizing and had been in a nasty family situation which meant relocation to somewhere that I wasn’t too hot about. I was alone, depressed, and thrust suddenly into unexpected parenthood all within the span of maybe a year. I felt as if I was an alien in a landscape in which I didn’t belong, injured and learning to cope. I was also amongst people who did not share or even understand my point of view on more than a few things. I had no one to talk to and, being just generally anachronistic in my approach to…everything, especially my manners (good form, if you will), there was a perfect storm of isolation and honest, diagnosed depression.
Here was someone in the character of Hook who was also isolated, vulnerable, misunderstood, injured and taunted daily by his attacker, someone who was always thinking, whose feelings ran deep, had a penchant for old-fashioned dress (I spent my early 20’s in ruffles and velvet…it was the 90’s dammit!), harpsichord music (my favorite), and was chafed by the cocky, unfeeling childishness of the person who injured him. I immediately related. At that time, how could it not sting to see my ex-husband, referred to ironically by my therapist as “Peter Pan” in our sessions despite my silence on this subject, enjoy so fully his ability to run around freely and play as he always had despite the fallout he caused and continued to cause? In Hook, I found a lonesome companion, and so he became. I saw him as stronger than me, however. He had a self-confidence and iron will that I had lacked. He’s described often as “melancholy” but having an inner resolve despite being “so terribly alone.” So, honestly, he’s a source of bravery when I feel small, which I sometimes still do. Hook’s portrait takes up a large part of my right arm, and I have a hook pendant which I find myself grabbing when I need to spur myself forward.
Of course, over the years things have shifted and life has changed both for better and worse as it does. Despite being happier, lately, I’ve found my old affinity returning for Captain Jas. as I do when I feel alone. I was searching for something, a painting I remembered from years before, when I came across an interview with one of the many actors who has played Hook over the years, and it seemed he had no kind words for the character. For some reason, it punched me square in the face. I know people relate to being protective of their favorite characters. Read any Batman message board to prove that point, but this was something else. As I walked my dog, I found my mind running through literary arguments in response. Why would a several years old interview about a fiction bug me so much? It hit me that it wasn’t so much that I love Hook, but that he resonated so deeply as me that it placed the judgments directly at my feet. Of course, I couldn’t expect anyone else to see him as I did. Who could? It’s a peculiarly specific filter I saw him through as I’m sure is his opposing one. Still, it challenged me, I think for the better.
I had to ask myself those essential questions. Why am I so alone? Am I miserable? Angry? Do people not like me? Have I given up?
I thought through it, trying to be as honest as possible. What is the thorn under my skin?
One thing I’m sure about is that I want to ease misery, not create more of it. That’s why I have the job I do, to ease grieving people through a difficult time in their lives. That in itself can be depressing. (Misery?) I’m also alone all the time. I’m the only person in my office except for my dog who, god-dammit, I should have named Smee. If he hadn’t had a name when I adopted him, that would have been it. Can you imagine? Smee! Come here! Sit, Smee! Yeah, that would have been the living end…
The few people I come in contact with are in crisis and it complicates the question quite a bit. I have wondered often if I should try to redirect to a new career. I hear often from families that I’ve helped them and have a perfect temperament. (for death? Uh…yay?) Being that help has been the reason I stay; that and having a teenage boy to feed and frankly, he eats like Ron Weasley after a week-long fast. It’s truly a sight to behold…
Clouding the question further is that I’m actually an introvert. I have discovered that yes, that is a real thing and that I need alone time to recharge amongst other things, especially with the current state of the world which is wearing down more than a few like-minded people. This alone time is something that gregarious, super-social people tend to not understand. Over the years I’ve been shamed for this, labeled as “depressing” or “anti-social” (a completely incorrect term), and have been harshly judged regarding the way that I exist in the world. Frankly, that has sucked. I’ve lost friendships over it. (Wow. Am I miserable? Guys…this isn’t going so well…) But, I’ve found people who write about introversion who give me hope; that make me believe I didn’t deserve to be ostracized for being reserved. This doesn’t mean that I want to be alone all the time, though, and unfortunately, it’s much harder to make connections or to even find other people like me because, well, introvert! We need a clubhouse or a secret handshake…something.
Also, I don’t hate everyone! Far from it! I have little patience for fake, shallow small-talk, but I do want friendships. I talk to people when I feel comfortable. It feels harder as I get older and people are in their well-worn friend groups that seem hard to penetrate, but I’m not giving up on the hope of connecting.
The real crux of this is the last comment. That question of whether I’ve given up on myself hit a nerve I didn’t know was raw and needed attention. I have to admit that I feel I have given up on myself this year in response to extreme guilt. My mother passed last year, and although she initially had clear-cut wishes, she changed her mind once she got sick and I, being in charge of everything, can’t help but wonder if I did the right thing or if I prolonged her suffering. It’s truly and honestly the fear that haunts me. I realized that this issue is the real reason for my response to that article. I’ve had my own serious illness. I know what I need to do to make things better. I find myself hesitating and I think it’s because I don’t deserve to be o.k. after that. I did as she asked, but she suffered and it was my fault. I’ve never been particularly good at letting things go. This is an anchor I don’t know how to lighten the weight of. I’m trying to accept that I did what I could at the time. I honored her wishes. I can’t change it now, or ever, no matter how I punish myself. Coming to terms with that is the key. Accepting the unacceptable.
A new perspective through which you can see yourself from the outside can be helpful, if painful. It’s been the first marble in the Rube Goldberg mechanism that I hope changes my heading toward brighter seas yet again. Looking at my old posts it’s clear I’ve been agonizing over something or other for too long now. Time for action. One thing this exercise in self-reflection has brought me is that I’m not ready to give up. I’ve restored my writing desk and started writing. I’m making plans. I’ve started to joke again, if clumsily. Hook too had moments of good humor, and I do still love him dearly, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. Maybe that’s a proxy for my own self-acceptance, who knows? Either way, I’m not yet ready to go contented to the crocodile.