– Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails
The last three years of my life have seen some dramatic – and often traumatic changes. I could go back a fourth year that was underscored by my father’s death literally followed the day after by the death of my favourite uncle.
But for me, the life I’d been building, the future and the hopes I’d hung on that peg, began to fall apart in 2012. It was the year of my arrest as a political dissident. It was the year I lost my job. It was the year my marriage began deteriorating, as she discovered I’d been treating my mental health problems by self-medicating with marijuana, and I discovered she’d slept with the one person on Earth I could never possibly get over being cheated on. Our family vacation was a disaster of epic proportions, and that particular ill omen happened before all the rest.
All through that year I watched as the woman I loved and had been in love with, my best friend, turned from someone who loved and cared about me into someone who no longer gives a damn what I do, what happens to me. All that year I watched myself become an absolute bastard towards her, because it was easier for me to feel angry than face my pain.
We separated in August of 2013, and I moved into the slumhole that I will never call home; home was with her, with my children. No place I live will ever be “home” again. As the year progressed I lost regular access to my children, wound up forcibly confined in a mental hospital overnight – literally because my unilingual French-speaking social worker misinterpreted what I had said – and then struggled for most of another year before I found work again.
During that whole horrible time I continued to struggle with the difficult process of writing Chronicles of the Aeons War – made difficult because I found that I could no longer escape my personal problems by delving into the story, something I had been able to do when writing, since childhood. It was more than another year before Chronicles was finished, edited as best I can afford, slapped with a cover and sent to market.
But by then writing long since stopped being a means of escape: my only goal was to see the story and the characters within to the end, so that I could take a break before starting work on two other projects – projects which I have been stumbling over and struggling with for about four months, now. I can see both stories in my mind – complete and whole, beginning to end – and yet I cannot make the words flow.
The only thing that seems to flow through my mind these days is thoughts about how rarely I get the gift of being with my children, how seldom I see their smiling faces. The only thing I can think about is how far I have fallen: from gainfully employed loving and loved husband and father to a barely-employed, subsistence-wage slave who struggles to make ends meet on a weekly basis. I find myself wondering how much of a bastard I am that I so successfully alienated the only woman who ever truly loved and accepted me, how I lost as many friends as I did, how I lost the last well-paying job I had, how the only thing I have left is profound regret over all that I lost, and grief over the future I will never have. I’ve lost so many friends…the two that I have left are geographically and emotionally distant…and I am alone and isolated.
My books have never sold exceptionally well; I’d neither call myself widely-read or prolific, and I certainly wouldn’t use the word “successful” to describe my work. But at least, I used to be able to say, I have a family who loves me, children whom I adore, friends who care and support me.
I would sell my soul (if I could believe I have one to sell) for the chance to go back to 2012 and do everything over. I would give up everything to just be able to have then what I don’t have now. But I will never have the love of my ex-wife; fuck, I doubt I’ll ever even have her respect or friendship. I will never be a daily part of my children’s lives again. I’ll never have another well paying job. I’ll never be a successful, famous author. I’ll never have better than I already do, and all I have keeps getting worse.
I wish I could take back every cruel and angry word I’ve ever uttered. I wish I could stop myself from posting the politically-charged outrage that led to my arrest and subsequent firing. I wish I could regain the love, trust and respect of the only good woman who’s ever been part of my life, to hold her, to feel her love…I wish I could be woken up by my children’s laughter, cries, squeals or squabbles every morning, and I wish that I could kiss them goodnight every night before going to bed. I wish my books could reach a wider audience, but nothing I try or can actually afford to do works. I wish I could find escape, and pleasure in writing again. I wish I could find joy in life again. I wish…I wish…but as I look around at these four cracked and peeling walls, the secondhand furniture and gifted computer…all I can see is the failure that I have accomplished.
In this place it seems like such a shame.
Though it all looks different now,
I know it’s still the same.
Everywhere I look you’re all I see.
Just a fading fucking reminder of who I used to be.
– Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails