T.A. Barnhart

carpe bucko

at last, an ending

from Transitions, by William Bridges:

2018-06-05 ending.png

But endings make us fearful. They break our connection with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves, and they awaken old memories of hurt and shame. Growing frightened, we are likely to try to abort the three-phase process of ending, lostness, and beginning. We might even twist this pattern around so that beginnings come first, then endings, and then . . . then what? Nothing. When we turn things around in that way, transition becomes unintelligible and frightening.

I was shuttled from ending to ending throughout my childhood, the most devestating being my folks’ divorce when I was 12. (14?) Moving from Corvallis to L.A. to Billings; different schools, different homes, different neighbors. The problems became the same: I didn’t have friends, I was lonely, and my family was falling apart. I got no help for dealing with all this; I was just allowed to be miserable while my parents lurched forward in their lives.

Then I became a Christian, and that buried my problems for many years to follow. First in the idea of salvation, the ultimate beginning, and then in the depression that was no longer hidden behind Jesus. I don’t know if I really believed, or if I wanted so much to believe, that was good enough. In the early 80s, though, with Christians in the US and UK (where I lived until mid-1982), focusing on gays as the ultimate evil in the world, I was unable to maintain even the desire to believe.

I’d had enough. I wanted something different. But I had no idea what that was.

And I did not look. I was clueless about what was going on in my life. I would be in my fifties before starting to understand my life, and it’s only been in the past year that the scope of my mental illness has become clear.

Now, between therapy and reviewing Bridges’ Transitions, I am understanding a simple fact about myself: I have no idea who I am. If I were a character in a story, I could not write the paragraph that described who I am other than the mess my mental health has made of me. My life has been constructed of circumstances: the school I went to, the stuff I did, the humiliations and accomplishments, always moving on to whatever was next. “Random” is the word to describe my life, and that’s not a word that describes a healthy, fulfilled life.

Nothing could be more pointless, less meaningful, than random.

Now here at age sixty-one, I need to wrap up all those loose ends and bring a close to the randomness. Perhaps I’ve been in the neutral zone my entire life; perhaps I’ve stood on the brink and am now ready to step forward and let it take me where it will. The cool part about that is that I don’t have to make a decision about who I am or what I’ll do; I can explore possible paths and opportunities. Spending the rest of the year making podcasts and vlogs is not a declaration of who and what I am; it’s just half-a-year of making podcasts and vlogs and seeing what results.

“My life as random mess” is coming, at long last, to an end. And as it does, I will take my time until I can find the real beginning for the next stage in my life.

T.A. Barnhart