Life Pain

Life hurts some­times. I know that this bit­ter truth is no sur­prise to any of you read­ing this, that this real­i­ty affects many of those close to me in ways that are beyond my imag­in­ing. But I have long held con­cealed from myself the fact that such unpleas­ant­ness could sneak through the bub­ble of my hap­py-go-lucky world and dark­en my charmed life.

Now I know. In the past year I have become acquaint­ed with a painful era of my life that I had assumed I would nev­er have to meet. I have endured real hunger as a con­se­quence of my fail­ure at the man­age­ment of of my own (and my wife’s) finances. The bit­ter shame of that long lean sum­mer is grad­u­al­ly fad­ing to the back­ground as we slow­ly rebuild our con­fi­dence in our sit­u­a­tion and in my abil­i­ty to be in any way wor­thy of trust. But the knowl­edge that I so spec­tac­u­lar­ly failed at the respon­si­bil­i­ties of hus­band and father are always with me, whether awake or asleep.

And I do not love my job, not at all. More than once in the past month I have had to sti­fle the sobs of pan­ic and despair ris­ing in my throat as approach my place of work in the morn­ing for anoth­er ten-hour day of doing what­ev­er it is that I do.

I am not an ambi­tious per­son, though late­ly I have been pre­tend­ing to be so for the sake of being able to to ade­quate­ly sup­port my young fam­i­ly. I do not mind being the provider of the sole house­hold income. I just wish I was bet­ter at it, that I could find work that pro­vid­ed us with suf­fi­cient means to live and build a future for our­selves with­out suck­ing out my soul and leav­ing only a weary shell of a man for my wife to live with for the all-too-few hours at the end of each day. This is not too much to ask for, and it is some­thing I should be able to do. I just do not yet know how, or where to look for such a utopi­an sit­u­a­tion.

I bare­ly remem­ber what it is like to spend time with friends. When I think of those I con­sid­er my inti­mates, I am increas­ing­ly reluc­tant to name them as ‘friend’ in my mind, not for any­thing they have done to lose my affec­tion, but because I feel that I have aban­doned them, cut myself off from the world of the liv­ing. I have rebuffed so many attempts on their part to get togeth­er over the past year that — not sur­pris­ing­ly — the offers have ceased to to be made. I trudge through my life, my week all but filled to the brim with work, so that what few hours are left to me are the sole claim of my wife and son.

I love being a ‘fam­i­ly man’. I just didn’t expect it to so utter­ly and com­plete­ly oblit­er­ate every oth­er aspect of my life. I knew there would be activ­i­ties that would no longer be prac­ti­ca­ble — movie-going, live the­atre, con­certs, pub-crawl­ing — but I real­ly thought I would be able to hang with friends for a few hours every week or two, hoist a few beers, chat through a favourite film, even roll some poly­he­dral dice. But it has not proven so. This past Sat­ur­day I stopped by the Cre­ative Elec­tric Stu­dio before the Lit6 show to say hi to my friend Brady. My wife was singing in the women’s choir at the Basil­i­ca, so I was not able to stay for the show, but I thought as long as I was that close I should swing up and return the copy of Ian McEwan’s The Com­fort of Strangers that Brady had lent me last year, before his removal to the Red Riv­er Val­ley. Grant­ed, a 26-pound tod­dler strapped to one’s back is a bit dis­tract­ing, but the twen­ty min­utes we spent con­vers­ing in the warm spring sun­shine felt excep­tion­al­ly awk­ward to me; it was almost as if I had for­got­ten how make con­ver­sa­tion. The expe­ri­ence left me feel­ing more acute­ly alone than ever.

I know that mar­riage and chil­dren change one’s life for­ev­er, and that is great. I know that I need to work long and hard to keep food on our table and to allow us to pur­chase the cloth­ing and house­hold items that we need to sur­vive and thrive. I know that my expen­di­ture of time and ener­gy out­side of work is pri­mar­i­ly the right­ful claim of my beloved wife and child. These are all neces­si­ties that seem just and rea­son­able to me; my ratio­nal self knows that this is how things need to be. I just wish it wasn’t such a hard and lone­ly task to be a respon­si­ble adult.

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