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Workin' Without a Net

Essay By: Bill Rayburn
Memoir


Thoughts on adulthood, traversed without parents. (approx. 730 words)


Submitted:Apr 2, 2012    Reads: 6    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Workin' Without a Net

Up on the high wire, I hear the crowd begin to call
Some want you to fly, some want to see you fall
Now and then I stumble, but I ain't fallen yet
Your love helps me forget, I'm working without a net

I used to depend on some things I did not need
I leaned on some crutches, that kept me off my feet
Standing here without them now,

well it scares me half to death

Your love helps me forget, I'm working without a net

--- Waylon Jennings

Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another human being.

It is arguably the best quality gasoline for the tank of human emotion. High octane, and it keeps your engine clean. I've heard very smart people say that empathy has no bounds. One human being CAN inhabit the emotions of another and "share" them.

For the most part, I not only believe that, I strive for it.

At the start of my 24th year, I was suddenly without either parent. They had moved on; expired; died, choose your simile. Though I did not have an overwhelmingly close relationship with either of them, I was in no way prepared for the vacuum that was created by their absence. A completely different vacuum than the one I felt trapped in when they were alive.

I was blindsided by the powerful sense of loss. Of the fact that I had strived for independence for so many years, busted my balls to be my own man, to stand on my own two feet. And now, well, be careful what you wish for.

Strangely, as I grew older, spinning rudderlessly through my twenties, the void grew. The sense of isolation, of feeling stranded with no rescue ship in sight, simply wouldn't go away. And then my divorce sent me cart wheeling onto a whole other plane. I would hear of people in my situation, with thirty lurking on the horizon, moving back in with mom and dad, slinking back to the childhood torture chamber known as their original bedroom, hoping that laying in the fetal position for days at a time would make the fathoms deep pain of divorce go away.

And they were the lucky ones. I had no childhood refuge to return to, to sink back into like a warm hug. I was more starkly alone then ever before. I felt like the only motherless child in the universe.

And it got worse. I would hear tales of middle aged friends getting financial help from their parents. For a down payment on a house, a car, or merely to offset the sudden appearance of twins. I was standing forlornly on Financial Island, and the tide was always coming in. My beach was littered with driftwood and shells, not cash. And there was no escape.

Sure, it would have probably given my burdensome pride a battering were I to move back in with my folks, or hit them up for money. In fact, I don't think I would have done it. But the point is not whether I would have pulled that chain or not. The chain wasn't there. In its absence, it roared at me like a monster; a ubiquitous, sonorous and detached voice coming from a ceiling speaker in an airport announcing flight cancellations. My wings and windshield needed de-icing, my runways plowed and my takeoff required tower approval.

Without the CHOICE of relying on my parents came a desolation of my soul that, to varying degrees, clings to me to this day.

Being without the two people most responsible for your existence, as you surf the rough waters of adulthood, cannot be experienced through empathy. You have to be there, to know what it feels like, and to watch them be put into the ground, and out of your life forever. There is no substitute for that experience.

It's not all deleterious, however. Being forced to stand tall and face the music of life without support of an orchestra, to have to belt out your own notes, off key as they may be, is what's known as character-building. It's possible to come out of this state of disillusionment and isolation and be better, stronger, and more confident.

I think.





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