Friday, September 25, 2009

The Perpetual Voyage

I rather dislike having been so critical of my parents in the previous series. It isn't so much that I now disagree with anything I wrote back in 1997 (the posts, you'll recall, are excerpted from a journal I kept back then), as it is that nowadays I have a much stronger sense of the personal burdens my parents faced. I cannot say I miss them or look back on them affectionately. But I do feel great sympathy for them, and a sense of regret that they were never able to escape the traumas of their own childhoods and find the life they expected would be waiting for them once they reached adulthood, settled down, and had a family.

I think most of us at some level expect that eventually our lives will find safe harbor somewhere. That was true of them. It certainly was once true of me.

I remember a few lines from MacKinlay Kantor's Glory for Me, a book-length poem that was the basis for the Oscar-winning 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives:

When all my labors and trials are o'er
And I am safe on that beautiful shore
O, that will be
Glory for me.

The poem has to do with the return from war and the "beautiful shore" is home. But if it applies at all, it applies to heaven. In life the voyage is perpetual. You simply exchange one series of challenges for another. Or rather, the challenges arise, and you can choose either to meet them, resent them, or ignore them. But they don't ignore you. And if you don't face them, they wind up owning you.

At some point I'll return to the narrative of the onset of bipolar disorder and discuss with candor what it's like to experience a manic episode or a bout with clinical depression. But for now I'll just say that having long internalized the idea that the disorder is something I have, rather than a component of who I am, the challenge has not been--as it is for some--to figure out where my personality ends and the effects of the disorder begin. Rather, aside from simply managing the disorder from day to day, it has been to separate the effects on my life that stem from the existential pain of my childhood, and the effects that stem from the biochemical abnormality.

1 comment:

BipolarPorch said...

It is a struggle to define the bridge between personality and the isorer. I totally agree.

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