It’s been a hell of a year or so. You may have seen me post from time to time on Facebook about some of the crap that’s gone wrong but in case you missed it, there have been major issues pretty much every month or few weeks for 18 months or so both at home and the in-laws house (which I’m responsible for).
- HVAC, dishwasher, disposal, in-wall oven, washer-dryer, refrigerator, water heater, attic fan, and even the countertop microwave we got to temporarily replace the built-in one, all failed.
- Roof leaks, HVAC condensate drain, landscape drainage, failed double-glazed windows, and water heater overflow all led to water damage.
- My truck, wife’s car, daughter’s car, in-laws’ car, motorcycle and even the freaking lawn tractor all needed major unscheduled work.
- Several rounds of trees falling down. Once it was blight. Another time it was insect infestation. The last time we got so much rain the ground softened up and a whole stand of trees keeled over root ball and all and took out part of a neighbor’s fence.
- A variety of illnesses and surgeries in the family. At this age every list of possible causes ends with the words “or it could be cancer.” It hasn’t been cancer in any of the cases but that’s led to some tense weeks waiting out test results.
- Over the last few months I’ve been pretty sick but since I wasn’t running a fever most of that time I didn’t know it until I was so fatigued and anemic that I only got out of bed to do my professional work and that was about it.
Because we humans are hard-wired to misunderstand probability we tend to think of things with astronomical odds as mere thought exercises. Academic scenarios that could never actually happen to us. But if there’s a 1 in 10 trillion chance of something happening, it is equally likely to happen on the first try, the last try, or any iteration in between. Since we don’t understand that, we also tend to attribute a run of bad luck like I’ve had to karma, divine intervention, or other forces directed specifically at us. And that’s my problem lately.
If you’ve read some of my darker blog posts you may also know that in my teens I was full-on paranoid delusional. I could tell everyone else was able to communicate by some means other than by speaking. My autism was undiagnosed so instead of thinking “I really suck at parsing body language” I thought “holy crap, everyone else has mental telepathy!” It explained the non-verbal communication as well as all the physical and mental abuse. I was being singled out but like the hero in any Philip K. Dick novel had no idea why.
Getting past that required giving up on the idea that I’m so special that pretty much the whole world would single me out for abuse. “World” in this case being an entire high school and neighborhood, but in those days that was my world. I still lacked an autism diagnosis at that time but I made peace with the idea that having no rational explanation for my apparent telepathy deficiency was better than paranoid delusions that rendered pretty much my whole life as irrational.
The ability and habit of intercepting my spontaneous reactions for internal processing before expressing them became the foundation skill that allowed me to transcend my autism and the conditioning of my early environment. But to this day when I’m overwhelmed there’s a still twinge of that persecution delusion lurking just below the surface.
After the 18 month run of constant damage control and triage, that delusion wasn’t so much lurking as jumping up and down on my shoulder yelling in my ear. My situation kept deteriorating and then a few months back I got so sick I was reduced to staying up just long enough to do my work, then crashing again in bed or on the couch. As recently as 3 weeks ago I kept wondering “Is it just me or is everyone having the Year From Hell?” Anyone with a similar disorder knows that “just me” and “why me” are reliable red flags but I was too far gone to notice.
Finally after two rounds of antibiotics and some iron supplements I started feeling stronger and told my delusions to go back to wherever it is they’ve been hiding all these years. That run of back luck was improbable but that doesn’t translate to “they” are out to get me. Shit happens.
I had pretty much gotten over my delusions of grandeur a few days ago when my neighbor knocked on the door to tell me another one of my trees is dead. Sure enough, there’s a spiral gouge running from the top of the tree to the bottom. The bark bulges out where the tree sap boiled and exploded. The trunk is split in several places and the tree is teetering.
If it falls, it is in easy reach of my house. And my truck. And my wife’s car. And the neighbor’s driveway. And the street.
My delusion immediately popped back onto my shoulder, now screaming earnestly into my ear:
“What’s it going to take to convince you? The finger of God reached down from the heavens to smite the one tree tall enough and positioned precisely to threaten the most property. The one tree uniquely representative of the greatest financial liability among all trees on your property. A tree that now must be taken down urgently before that potential liability becomes an actual catastrophe. And she signed her name on the tree in lightning so you’d know, without any doubt, she’s personally fucking with you. Yes T.Rob, it is just you. Un-get over yourself, already.”
Somehow I thought I’d put all that behind me. Now more than 35 years out of recovery I realize that delusion is waiting patiently for me to indulge it again. It started out as a side effect of my autism but blossomed into it’s own condition and it’s damned persistent. I’m never tempted to repeat the drug and alcohol abuse of my youth, but the siren call of paranoia beckons even though I know how self-destructive it is. Paranoia renders order out of chaos. It explains why shit happens and in that there is comfort.
Which explains my mixed feelings about the abyss. Yes it’s scary, but in it there is also the confidence of familiar territory. Out here in the world I’m breaking new ground, making things up as I go. It’s all improv and I’m working without a net. Down there everything is crap but I know how it functions and my place in it and if I do fall there’s not far to go. So when I lean far out over the void and look down, my logical brain says this should scare the Hell out of me, but instead I’m thinking “Hey look, I can see my home from here!” and feeling a bit nostalgic about it all. Is this why people go off their meds?
I’m not on any meds so there’s nothing to “go off” of. When I lean far out into the void and look down, my family and my work keep me anchored in the world. Down in the pit there is only The Grind. Out here I have passion and purpose. So out here is where I’ll stay, even though that means I’ll never have a satisfying explanation for the marathon shitstorm of the last 18 months. But thinking back 35 years, that’s the Faustian bargain I made to get out of the pit. That’s the price of living in the real world. I gave up any claim to knowing why shit happens. Now I must content myself only with the knowledge that it does and attempt to bear up under it with grace.
That said, set your calendar for New Year’s Day 2018. Because I have my limits and if this shit keeps up for another 18 months I’m going to demand an explanation from somebody and by God I’m gonna get one.