by Kevin Mercurio
This post is a dedication to a poem written by W. Livingston Larned named Father Forgets:
I write this after some time of reflection. I am alone at my dining room table, gazing in front of me at a large mirror. I notice I am frowning and feeling inferior, eyebrows crumpled in confusion. For a brief moment, nostalgia arouses memories of halcyon years.
Oh. Where did all the time go?
I have been thinking, and I believe I have not been the man I had perceived myself to be. I look in reticence into myself, and acknowledge the multitude of mistakes I achieved. What is worrisome is that I cannot determine whether my state of mind in folly justifies regretful actions. Does a thief who covets out of greed find peace by superseding materialism with idealism?
I woke up at dawn and began my morning routine. I rose from the bed, carelessly hurling the blankets and exposing my wife to the chilly early air. Had I not appreciated that my wife deserved the comfort of a good night’s rest, perhaps she would have been in a better mood today.
I kick the family cat from my side who greeted me at the bedroom door, in order to make myself breakfast. I cursed as the coffee machine slowly drip drip dripped my morning medication. I howled at the children for not waking up in time for school. Had I not recognized that my son and daughter stayed up the previous night to finish their end of the year projects, perhaps I could have had breakfast ready for them when they woke.
I continued this onslaught on my journey to work. I demanded that the taxi driver get me to my building on time. I chastised the young barista inside the cafe for mishearing my order. I slipped on the marble floor into the elevator and glared at the custodian for being so inconsiderate. As I entered my office, my secretary welcomed me and said, “Good morning sir! How are you?”. Without turning my head I replied, “Good” and shut the door. Had I not been more grateful for the work my secretary accomplished, perhaps she would not criticize my reputation as a supervisor.
To my superiors, I act different. I put on a front to be presented as significant. I force out smiles to be the one that everyone admires. I attend team meetings listening for keywords that I repeat, feigning ignorance to assume interest. When the meeting concludes, I was surprised by the invitation to remain in the room. It was here that my boss tells me she has some sad news. Had I not genuinely collaborated with my colleagues, perhaps I would have been a valued team player in my career.
Outside the building, I check my phone. I have several missed calls from my mother’s retirement home. The voicemails indicate that she was taken to hospital a few hours before. She underwent cardiac arrest on her trip to the store. “Oh Lord! Why me?” I cried, with one last voicemail to go from the hospital itself. Had I not demonstrated my love to the woman that raised me, perhaps it would have inspired a desire within her to live healthier.
No. Where did all the time go?
Ashamed, I detour my car to the neighbourhood bar. “Some beer and a scotch on the rocks,” I demanded. How long should I remain here, I asked myself. I don’t know, I answered. How does this help, I questioned further. I’m not sure, I replied. Perhaps some temporary relief can solve my problems, I thought. Are you sure, I cautioned. “Another one please,” I yelled.
There was a loud bang. I stepped out of the car and brushed the glass from my clothes. I rang the bell to my own house, drunk as a skunk. When I laughed and turned the knob, I was surprised by the lack of resistance from the unlocked door. It’s quiet and desolate. When I walk into the kitchen, I was even more surprised that there was no food for dinner prepared, just a note on the dining room table. It was here that my wife tells me she has some sad news. I look up, gazing in front of me at the large mirror. I notice that I am smiling and feeling superior, nostrils flared in amusement.
So, where did all the time go?
And then I wondered, how did I get here? A few drinks and some beer? No, how did I get here?
There was so much good in my life, and my failure to recognize what was secretly invigorating my desire to wake up every morning has come to a bitter end. I have always visualized myself as one of the greats, who can encounter Inferno and mould it into Paradiso. Yet, as I gaze at myself in the large mirror, I see that I am as human as everyone else. How interesting is it that a man discovers life’s greatest lessons at the brink of madness?
I grabbed a sheet of paper and began writing. “I write this after some time of reflection. I am alone at my dining room table, gazing in front of me at a large mirror…”
“Help me save me from myself by showing the best in me that the worst in me is the same person with a distorted perspective.”
I wrote that entry back in June of this year; a year filled with mistakes that completely shattered my mind until it was grounded into dust. I will try and hinder from the taboo topic that I imagine is quite sensitive to most people. Instead, since I have already written about it in the past, I shall attempt to highlight another enigmatic concept I find so difficult to understand: Love.
What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me…). Honestly, how would you define it? Is it a feeling, or is it a verb? Can it be both? Should it even be defined, or just experienced? Here is another entry I wrote back in July:
“I do not fully grasp the concept of love. My best definition is the non-sexual longing for someone who is suddenly not there.”
This statement took a lot of careful wording to generate. Think about the use of love in our everyday language. Is there a difference in undertones between the phrase “I love you” versus the phrase “Oh my god, I love those”? Does the word love have identical meanings in these statements? To understand this, there are three elements of love I have ruminated on that I want to discuss with you.
I fully acknowledge that I am somebody who obsessively thinks. I think constantly about anything from philosophical notions to over-analyzing unfamiliarity. For example, when I walk into a new room, my eyes are immediately inundated by the amount of information being processed by the brain. So much so that my eyes begin to dry and, due to an evolutionary process initiated thousands of years ago, cue the waterworks. This is ever so apparent in my capabilities within social gatherings. I have been told that eye contact is one of the most important skills you will ever learn. But have you ever truly looked at someone’s eyes? I do it all the time, but only for a brief moment. The moment I lock that gaze with someone else, man or woman, adult or child, I instantly become overwhelmed with sensory information. I notice their eye colour, the dilation of their pupils, the redness in their sclera, and I’m absolutely awestruck. But I will turn away not because of shyness, but because I am building an impression of a person based on previous experience through only one second of visual interaction, and I realize that they are doing the exact same thing, consciously or unconsciously.
That is the element of perspective, influenced by the knowledge gained from past experiences. No concept more greatly emphasizes the importance of perspective more than love. Love is so deviantly complex that it can take different meanings depending on the perspective. Is the love you have for a parent the same as the love you have for a spouse or significant other? How about your pet? Or your best friend who you’ve known since kindergarten? Does answering yes feel like you’re insulting some of those listed above? But by answering no, you are admitting to differentiating the love you have for these people. This in itself could be offending some of those you care about.
This leads into the second element. Describing the love you have towards somebody you care deeply about can certainly be difficult, especially for those who have extremely poor communication skills rooted by deep insecurities. I may have the right body language but orally communicating the thoughts and opinions from a mind on overdrive is challenging. For instance, the only way I was able to communicate effectively in my past relationship was through writing. Emails were sent back and forth in order to understand the meaning of our words and the perspective of the other. This I found as one of the most intriguing aspects of the relationship, and to this day I am unsure whether this methodology had a positive or negative impact. Was it positive that a platform was developed to communicate effectively, or negative that the relationship lost a sense of spontaneity and physicality? I am leaning towards the latter, and because I have yet to develop these skills, the relationship was doomed to fail.
It is essential that communication be at the centre of all loving relationships. If something crosses your mind, the relationship has to be at a developed stage for one to feel comfortable introducing the topic and expressing their thoughts freely, without worrying about consequences like anger, jealousy and sadness. With love, you kind of open yourself up to these emotions and accept them as collateral vulnerabilities. Rationally, this is something extremely difficult to comprehend and let alone accept. But without this, love would not be able to blossom into its known beautiful and unique form.
There is one last element of love for which I cannot find the correct word for in my vocabulary. Regardless of having the right perspective and the ability to communicate, there needs to be some action or verb that culminates love. The “Walk-the-Walk”, if it were. For those who have had few social connections during their life, the choice to be with someone in the present when you could be doing anything else, to me, is a sufficient sign of love. But that doesn’t seem like enough, does it? In fact, writing it out in that way sounds empty and incomplete.
To elucidate on love, I need to share examples I have heard from people in my life that have answered my initial question. Love is the inclination to have dinner ready without asking whether you should make dinner tonight. Love is the conquest through a storm in order to surprise someone for a special occasion. Love is the relief of knowing that despite all the shit that happened today, there’s someone out there you can talk truthfully about it with. And that’s probably the most simple, yet important thing about love. Love leads you to do something for someone that allows you be with that person. If that person also loves you, this action is something that would bring them real happiness. The closest term I can think of that remotely resembles this element is empathetic action, and its significance is something I have repudiated my entire life.
I’ve thought a lot about love this past year, and what it really means to me. And although I can blame society over the fact that I stink at relationships and opening up to people, it is not the fault of society. It is my inability to reason how these past experiences have impacted my way of life. I can believe that society has shaped my perspective of the world to be cynical and incessant, but rationally this is only because of the information I choose to listen to. I can believe that society has encouraged lack of communication through the development of virtual realities, but logically this is only a consequence of my shortage of social connections with other individuals. What I know is that in this year of despair and division, love is something that all people need and desire to provide. Perhaps the present circumstances hinder us from accomplishing this. But all we need is the awareness that we are in the abyss together, to drive that push to love.
I will end with one last entry I wrote back in August, at the end of a summer that completely changed my life. Months and months of talking with numerous people and reflecting on my life throughout the years can be surmised into the following statement:
“I presumed I could understand the human psyche by the vast number of books and films in my memory repertoire, of experts who explain what is and what isn’t. However, this means little in empathizing on how one became the character they are today. Empathy, in establishing a true connection, is fundamentally more essential than understanding, for if you can experience the emotional load of ones current state, without fully grasping the cause, this is all that matters.”
Whether you are reading this a year from now, or 10 years from now, keep this in mind: Do not prevent yourself from hearing the voice of others by only listening to the voice within. Love yourself, but do not forget to love others as well.
Have a Happy New Year!
Instead of a quote, I wanted to share with you all the blooper reel of 2017. From my trip to Western Canada, to moving into a new apartment, to meeting inspirational people in my jobs and graduate program, I hope to share my experience of this bittersweet year with you. Here’s to a life-changing year and wiser years to come!