I never thought I would be returning to Exeter New Hampshire. Now that I am here, I have no idea what I expected, in my planning and travels, my experience here to be. Now that I am here, however, I have no idea what to feel, to think, or even to be.
Following Ondrelique's graduation, the girls and I are staying on as house guests in Exeter, New Hampshire, . It was an unforeseen pitstop to say the least; and, being very unaccustomed to accepting hospitality of any kind, I find myself a rather poor house guest. It is odd how easily we all slip into modes of thought and behavior. For me, the objective has been the very frustrating cycle of survival-recovery-survival-recovery that basic human responses and sensations now seem...foreign. That kind of emotional and psychological detachment, I am told, is not unusual in "near death" situations. The problem is, I never felt as though death were particularly near to me: just the constant gnawing of my own perceived inadequacy.
(Chance, was it Dan Brown in your class...or his brother Chris?"
Drawing a complete blank: "Brown...Brown...I think so. I'd have to put a face to the name, though...?"
"Do you know who I'm talking about?"
"Uh...Brown...?" I mutter, still utterly lost.
"The Da Vinci Code?"
"...Oh. Yeah. Him." We were in the same general class, weren't we? Man, do I feel like a complete failure!)
Being here again has awakened sleeping ghosts--curled quietly in the dark corners of my hidden psyche--that I did not even realize existed. How odd it is that we human beings find phantasms of reality lurking behind every corner while the imaginary shadows of our most deeply-seeded insecurities take on the depths and dimensions of Unavoidable Truth. For me, the notion of myself as unforgivably lazy (rather than recovering from a severe medical setback)
Years before, when youthful confidence never allowed me to for a moment lose track of my own sense of self-worth, not once did I doubt my ability to take this world into the palm of my hand, then nonchalantly set the sucker on fire. Strength and determination lent to the illusion of invincibility which deluded me into believing that time, though of importance to everyone else, would bend to my will. Nothing would change unless I first gave it permission. Life existed to do my bidding. And if I didn't like it...well, then, life had to deal with my omnipotent wrath.
Now, as I struggle to relax and enjoy the respite so generously proffered, I wander the only semi-familiar pathways of Phillips Exeter Academy searching for traces of that fearless young girl. Where, exactly, is she...and why can I not find her (alongside those specters of my ever-growing dissatisfaction) within me? After twenty-plus years, did I truly expect to see her, some benign adumbration of my most secret longings, bopping past the Academy Building or Phillips Hall? Or, was I hoping to catch some whiff of her youthful essence--imagined or no--floating on some summer breeze as a reminder of all that I was, all that I once hoped to be?
Whatever it was that I had in mind, the fact remains that these last few years have caused a mental rift between the person I am and the person I now deem myself to be. In my mind, medical setbacks have come to represent abject failure. It was one thing, to be told that the end was unavoidable, leaving me no choice but to make peace with myself and my own failings. Now, this miraculous second (or third, maybe fourth) chance at life is...daunting. So much of my former passion for living seemed to have already passed on to the fabled Other Side: and, as such, I find myself left with no concept of who and what I now wish to be.
Do I even have a desire to write any longer? Does writing evoke in me any sense of pleasure or accomplishment any longer. Do I even care if I write Great American Novel at this stage of my life? At a time when everything I thought I knew or believed about myself and those around me has come into question?
I have no idea....
But here--now--is a great place to find out.