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Friday, August 4, 2000

It might be time for some changes around here. I was reading some old paper journal entries tonight, from 1994, and guess what? I was saying the same things then that I am now. Check this out:

The reason I can't bring myself to go to bed at night is that it brings the next morning that much closer… The more I determine to maintain equilibrium, the more out of balance my life becomes." (September 26, 1994)

And these:

Sometimes I lose sight of what keeps me going from day to day. Sometimes I even sink into the depths for days at a time. (October 27, 1994)
I was out of control at work today, physically and emotionally spent. The multitude of crises that arise daily ordinarily will set me on edge, but on this day they pushed me over. I wore myself out fighting my own mental stress, and by tonight I was hoarse from screaming out my rage all day. I'm not unusually sleepy, but lack of sleep, due at least in part to the time change, has at least contributed to the overall fatigue that leaves me vulnerable to this loss of control. What I need is a day or two to recover, but that is impossible, so I'll just put my head down and drive myself through, one day at a time. Sooner or later I'll forget how hard it is to make it through the day. Or I won't make it through the day at all. (November 1, 1994)
Even on a good day at work, which this almost was, I find myself acting out the mental scenario in which I tell [the Boss] that I don't need to take his grief any more, not for what he pays me. I fantasize what it would be like to leave him with no one who knows how to access my computer files. Ha! That would show him. (Unfortunately, he would find a way to make me feel guilty.) This is all a pipe dream, of course, because my options are so limited. (November 21, 1994)

And on and on and on. But that's enough to show what I'm talking about. The irony of all this is that I now look back on that time as the good old days. I was able to spend more time with my nephews in those days. David played youth soccer a couple of times a week, and I stayed with him one or two weekends a month. Eric was still around, although by September of that year a strike had ended the baseball season and our trips together to Candlestick Park had come to an end. (But at least the 49ers were winning.)

Why was I so unhappy?

I'm sure the despair I expressed was genuinely felt, but I also believe it was self-inflicted. I was depending too much on other people to give meaning to my life. I kept seeing a better life for myself — a better job, a better home, a better social life — but I wasn't doing anything about it, except lamenting my fate. Indulging the darkest part of my soul left me lost, alone, and unable to see that there might be a way out.

Am I better off now? Definitely. Alas, I don't see my nephews as often, but I spend more time with Suzanne and Mom, and I've made some real connections with people through my journal. I feel more love and support than at any time in my life, at least since early childhood (which I don't remember all that well).

I have the same job, but I supervise myself now, and the atmosphere is whatever I make it. In 1994 I was in the middle of a political war being conducted almost literally across my desk, between the Boss and his top assistant. Sometimes I tried to stay out of the line of fire, and at other times I'd mediate. It was beyond the scope of my duties or ability, and it put so much stress on me that I still get shaky thinking about it. And at the end of each day I had a forty-minute drive home through traffic. Oh yes, I'm better off now.

And I'm living in a space where I have room to spread out and get away from work at the end of the day. Soon, I believe I'll be in an even better living arrangement, with more quiet and privacy. Both of these new situations have come to me without much work on my part. I've been very lucky to fall into a new life that gives me the luxury of living my life when and how I want.

So what have I done with this freedom? Not enough, apparently. Every couple of weeks I still find myself writing the same kind of self-pitying journal entries I was indulging myself in six years ago. I still have some work to do here.

But looking back on those old entries gives me some perspective about my life, both then and now. I could not have been that miserable then, or I wouldn't have survived it as well as I have. And I'm definitely in better shape now to cope with the stresses of work and the lurking darkness that keeps trying to lure me in. Recognizing the enemy is the biggest step toward conquering it. Stepping back and looking at the forest keeps me from losing my way in the trees.

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Childhood climbed up in a white oak tree,
I blinked once and it was gone.