Fooling all of the people some of the time

He woke up tired.  Not tired in the way that comes from not getting enough sleep though.  He woke up tired knowing what lay before him for the day.  Getting out of bed was tough but so was showering, brushing his teeth and putting on deodorant.  He had been through this before so he did his best to see these as microscopic victories but they didn’t feel that way.  It would have been nice to have them buoy him or give him a slight boost for the really heavy lifting that was sure to come later.  They didn’t.

He dressed, neither aware nor worrying if he had worn the same shirt or pants very recently.  Once on the way to work, other cars, general traffic and anything in his path were merely a blur.  At work he logged onto his computer without thinking.  He was almost certain his personal appearance was sub-par.  He was thankful his distracted driving hadn’t ended in a crash.  And although he knew booting up his computer started a day where he would be mismatched against even the most mundane tasks, the routine would carry him along to its end.

The work day was a fog.  Time spent analyzing numbers, advising procedures or making decisions delivered by email was passable; the personal interactions were not.  His mind wandered even as he engaged in conversation, even as words tumbled out of his mouth.  He knew his speech and his thought patterns were not crisp.  He wondered if those he talked to noticed.  He wondered what they thought or if they had any indication of the mush that was his mind.  He clung to the procedures he knew were right, the things that were tried and true.  He stayed away from making any creative decisions.  His mind wasn’t clear enough for that, best to keep things black and white.  Best to play it safe.

By day’s end he couldn’t recall what he’d done to begin the day.  He didn’t know exactly who the person was who had made those decisions; he just hoped he’d been diligent and documented everything he’d done.  He was reasonably sure he hadn’t made any bad decisions but at least if he had and they came to light later on he’d know why.  Staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror late in the afternoon he wasn’t sure he knew the face staring back.  It was as if he were watching someone else wash their hands, dry them with paper towels and open the door to return to his desk.  As much as he’d disassociated himself from his work he’d distanced himself from…himself.  It was only the framework of work that held him up.  Tonight would be an even bigger challenge.

Their card club had been getting together on the third Friday of the month to play Pitch for years.  These were some of their dearest and closest friends but tonight they would each represent little more than an obstacle.  As he drove home dreading going to club, he tried to claim some victory in the conversations he’d had throughout the day.  For the most part he thought he’d been friendly, affable even, and he had been his normal, cheery self but he was never sure.  He’d only spoke when spoken to.  Unfortunately this next hurdle would require more than that.  He wasn’t sure he was up to it.  As he changed clothes and ate a mostly silent dinner with Christen his dread grew.  By the time they were walking up to the front door he would have given almost anything to turn and bolt in the opposite direction; to get in the car and drive as fast and as far away as possible; to just run.  Instead, he rang the doorbell.

Almost all of the gang was already at Jerry’s, gathered around the kitchen table, seated or standing.  They may as well have been jurors sitting quietly in the box awaiting his opening arguments.  He took a deep breath and began by greeting everyone by name and asking them collectively how they were doing.  The mixed chorus of responses was warm and welcoming as always.  Score one point for normalcy.  He visited briefly with Jeannie, Jerry’s wife, as he sat their dessert contribution on the counter.  Yes, she was fine, kids were busy in school and yes soccer was almost over thank goodness.

“I remember those days.  Soccer was never our favorite but it’s a great first sport to get kids involved and understanding what it’s like to be part of a team”

Nice philosophical twist there at the end conferring engagement in something larger than themselves.  Jeannie nodded in agreement.  He moved along to Steve who was standing near the sodas as he popped one open.

“See much of the game last week?”  He nodded as Steve admitted he had.

“No idea how in the world we have any hope of beating State tomorrow.  We barely got through our non-conference schedule.  It’s a shame really.  I remember when starting five and oh was just a given.”

He barely heard Steve’s reply as he struggled to keep the friendly smile on his face and appear interested.  It wasn’t Steve; he liked Steve for crying out loud.  Nope, his problem was he wanted so much just to say nothing, stare at the floor, and concentrate on just getting through the moment.  Most of the “visiting” went that way until finally they broke into groups of four and began playing.  At least while they played he could remain intent and focused on his cards.  He held them up in front of his face, high, like a shield or very low near his belt as if guarding their precious information (he wouldn’t want anyone to know he had the off-Jack).  Either way allowed him to avoid eye contact.  He laughed at all the funny stories, was persistent in his efforts to appear interested and never once started a line of conversation.  They left shortly after the last hand was played.

Driving home Christen filled him in on all the interesting news she’d learned from everyone there.  As for him, he knew he’d talked to people but he had no idea what they’d said.  He concentrated on his driving and threw in the occasional “Oh, really, I had no idea.” and “Well, that’s interesting.”  And while it was true he had no idea he wasn’t interested in the least.  He was interested in the prospect of getting some rest.  He knew that sleep might make tomorrow different.  After all these years dealing with this off and on, he still had hope.  However it was a hope tempered by experience.  It was hope colored by his history.  He knew tomorrow was an uncertainty. He couldn’t know what it might hold, how he might wake up.  He wouldn’t tell himself it would all be better.  He’d never lie, to himself.

Each week I write about all kinds of things we work through in this life.  I’m not sure how much of my experience is your experience, maybe not much or maybe a lot.  If you’re making your way through something like this guy I want you to know you are not alone.  I’ve been there and I’m willing to help however I can.  

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