I’ve been struggling to put pen to paper the past couple of days because I feel so overwhelmed. Of course, like calling a friend when distressed, this is exactly when I should write.
I had the most thrilling time on Friday morning. A friend had a spare ticket for a boat trip around the shores of a local bay. It’s something I had been wanting to do for an age, but had put it off because it’s quite a pricey adventure. We saw seals poking their curious heads out of the water, as our boat turned off its engine amidst some mighty cliff edges. We didn’t see any dolphin’s but it really was a magical experience. We also sat right at the front of the boat, which we had been told would be the most like being on a rollercoaster. It was the most fun I have had in ages.
My friend dropped me off in town, and as I walked home, still in the throes of my endorphin high, I ran into my late mother’s ex. Here is where narrating the story gets tricky. It’s so long-winded, so Labyrinthine. But it’s about as relevant to the subject of my mental health as it’s possible to imagine.
I haven’t spoken with my late mother’s ex in a year and a half. Nor have I spoken to my step brother. A while ago I read a book by a therapist. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, but it was brilliant. It was a bestseller. You might have read it.
Basically the therapist, (I think he’s American and Jewish), tells a number of stories, stories that may be loosely based on clients he has seen, or may not be (I can’t remember), but each story is there to illustrate a psychological, or psychoanalytic truth. Susie Orbach has also written a book in this genre called The Impossibility of Sex. But Orbach’s book wasn’t quite so much of a bestseller as this book I can’t recall the title of, but was brilliant as well. Perhaps not quite a brilliant though (much as I am a fan of Orbach).
Actually, as an aside, a professor I had an affair with this time last year, who is pretty famous himself and friends with Orbach, he told me that both himself and Orbach were rather jealous of this author I’m taking about, and his book. Because it is quite simply so good, and so popular as well. Anyway, I digress.
One of the stories is about what happened to some of the people who found themselves in the devastating position of being in the Twin Towers on 9/11. It was a story about survival, that I never forgot.
The people that survived the demolition of the buildings versus those that did not. Obviously, some of the people were never included in this parable, because they simply had no chance of survival. But there were a lot of people, that had the option (apparently, I have not read anything else about this topic) of leaving the building (maybe they didn’t really realise what was going on) or not leaving the building and of waiting around to see what happened.
Some people looked to see what their colleagues were doing, and not seeing them running for their lives, they too hung about. Maybe they called the fire services. Maybe they waited for fire marshals. I mean, it was an entirely unprecedented situation. They didn’t know what had happen on the floors above — how could they? It was hard to compute watching the horror unfold on the news: what on earth was going on?
Of course, it being that time of year again, one is reminded again of the horror of that day.
So, our mysterious author, said that the survival of the survivable people stuck in that building depended on their ability to recognise that they were faced with a life and death emergency, and had to get out of the burning building fast. The people who didn’t respond with their own instincts, were looking around and copying their colleagues. And they died.
That’s the gist of the parable as I recall it. It was about listening to the emergency warning flashing lights, the invisible ones, as they happen. If something inside you is saying — run. Listen. Run. Even if you are unsure you have it quite right.
This is what happened with me and my family. I realised that if I didn’t run away from them, leave my mother’s house in both the literal and the metaphorical sense, I was going to pay with my life. There was no map in front of me, nor any signpost. — the grim reaper is down there — but I knew. It would have been so easy to rationalise my way out of the corner I found myself in. I had been doing that my whole life. But I didn’t, and I survived.
On Friday afternoon one of the actors in this drama approached me in the street. Someone I haven’t had anything to do with in the year and a half since I escaped the burning building of my family. When I walked away from that conversation, and since, I felt like I had been bombed. My head has been spinning all weekend. It’s been truly terrible.
I could recount the conversation. I could recite the drama of it all; the people being hurt and hurting themselves. But I honestly don’t have the energy. In a way, I wish I hadn’t walked back into the war zone. In another way I see I wasn’t really given too much choice, and I didn’t realise the information that was about to be relayed to me. The story I have been told by my late mother’s ex has thrust me back into the epicentre of the fiery furnace .
It’s amazing what can happen when you let down your guard — even for a few seconds, or minutes. That’s all it can take for a sense of your own world, your own reality, to come crashing down around you.
It makes me wonder how I ever survived my family. How I was lucky enough to escape the burning building others were not, are not, lucky enough to escape. Maybe it’s because I read those psychological books. Searching for a map. Trying to escape.