Here There Be Monsters

April 25, 2006

Throughout your life you exist primarily inside a sphere called normal. Accidents, surprises, successes, and failures all move you around inside the sphere but you rarely approach the edge, much less cross that boundary into lunacy. The scope of normal is far greater than most of us would readily admit and, if we as a society were more willing to communicate honestly, the less odd we'd all feel. The fantasies, dreams, fears, and thoughts we hide inside are shockingly like the ones everyone else is hiding.

Trouble only starts when some event or combination of events pushes us hard against the thin membrane that separates the edge of normalcy from beginnings of lunacy. The loss of a loved one is certainly big enough to shove you way out of your comfort zone. I saw that in Michele after her father died. Losing a second loved one while you are still flirting with the edges of the sphere can easily take you well beyond the borders of safe and sane into uncharted territory. When Virginia died, Michele crossed into her uncharted territory, the area on old maps where the legend reads, "here there be monsters." There is no way for me to know how much this displacement of normalcy played in her decision to die. That it did play a part I am certain.

I have spent the last six months crossing and re-crossing the boundary between sane and not sane, between known and unknown. My moments of lunacy have resulted in brief episodes of uncontrolled rage and destruction (my printer being the prime example). Every time I have crossed into the howling wasteland that lies beyond "normal" I have heard in my head a voice of reason that calmly brings me back to known ground. If I were to indulge my addictive side with drugs or alcohol I think the tie that secures me here would snap and I'd be lost in the wasteland for ever.

The impending death of my mother frightens me in a way I can't really put into words. Michele always said I was the strongest person she'd ever known, that my courage and strength were awe inspiring to her. The coming weeks will put her assertion to the acid test. I have used so much energy just to make it this far, and, having circled once through the edges of lunacy called despair, I do not know where I will find the determination to survive that journey again. I only know that I must husband my energy, and choose my course carefully.

For here there be monsters.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.