I originally wrote this blog in May 2016 but never published it. I’m not sure why I didn’t, but here it is, updated slightly.
Over the past few years I’ve written about emerging from a period of suffering from the dissociative disorder known as depersonalisation, the result of a lifetime full of anxiety and a short, rather deep bout of depression. (You can read the latest entries: “Recovering from Depersonalisation” and “Reducing Anxiety through ‘Staying Present’“, or any entry on depersonalisation through looking up the tag #depersonalisation on my blog.)
But I want to take you a step back to the 1990s as a kind of example of why living in the here and now is important.
This is only one example of the many missed opportunities I mourn when I arrive in the darker spaces of my life. I seem to have always been the more cautious child, and I’m not sure if it was my asthma growing up that caused this, the bullying and social isolation, or I just tend to be a more reserved person character-wise. As I’ve said earlier, I tend to be a person who thinks things through a tad bit too much instead of just acting.
In late 1993, I followed the family tradition and started working at Carson Pirie Scott at the Randhurst store in Mount Prospect, when Randhurst was still an indoor mall. For those of you who don’t know, my Opa worked there for quite a while until he retired in 1987, and my father worked for Carson’s, ending up a furniture buyer and working in an office in their State Street headquarters until he moved on to bigger and better things around 1984, so I ended up being the third generation to work for Carson’s. The lady who hired me, a lovely, very elegant, very well-presented and well-spoken older woman named Mrs. Rudy, didn’t even really hold an interview with me; she knew my Opa and my Dad were hard workers, she had hired them both, and that meant I was in. If all interviews had been that easy, I wouldn’t be so nervous during them.
I started in Men’s Accessories, things like underwear and cufflinks and socks, and Men’s Dress Shirts and Ties, so I would bounce between the two areas. My manager, Angie, also a very elegant, well-presented, well-spoken woman who knew of my father as she worked at the State Street store at the same time my father had, took a shine to me, and I ended up moving to Men’s Pants and Dockers (which, I guess, was a pretty big deal).
Honestly, I can’t remember when exactly this happened: whether it was the summer after I started or the winter after that. But there had been yet another schism between The Man I Loved and me for whatever reason (a woman he liked, my moodiness, whatever), and I was somewhat in that dark place emotionally and mentally again. Everything seemed quite flat and bland.
There was a middle-aged lady (her name escapes me; sorry!) who worked with Angie in organising stock and deliveries to our departments. She was a very wonderful woman, very motherly and very patient. I remember going to her several times when I felt very unsure of what I should be doing work-wise, and nothing was ever a problem.
Anyway, this woman kept speaking about the son of their family friends, a man not much older than I was by the name of Bill. I felt like I knew Bill before I even ever met him, so he might’ve been on the back foot when, months later, I did finally meet him when he was delivering stock to Men’s Pants and Dockers in a holiday break from university.
He was about 6’3″, sandy to darker brown hair, and somewhat lanky. I don’t think he’d ever had made a living as a supermodel, but he had such a genuine, warm smile and a really approachable demeanour. Every time I think about Bill, I think about the laughs we always had.
I remember listening to him talk about wanting to become a forest ranger. Images of a watch tower peeking over pine trees nestled in the Rockies filled my mind. I vaguely recall him saying he was studying at University of Colorado, but which branch, I couldn’t tell you. (I always think Boulder, but that’s probably because I’d visited that city when I was a kid.) Something in my head says he was older than me too, like maybe two to four years older. Being a forest ranger stood out in my mind because here I was thinking that I really was a city boy at heart and I was becoming friends with a guy who loved the great outdoors.
Bill also loved ice hockey. He’d tell us (me and my colleagues) stories of games he’d played before, and it intrigued me because I could barely walk without nearly killing myself half the time, let alone ice skate.
Before I came out to her, Anne and I were shopping in Randhurst, and we ran into Bill and had a bit of a chat with him. I can’t speak for her, and she may not even remember him, but I recall she seemed she thought he was a pretty good guy when she met him.
His brother worked in the department next to ours, which was also a Men’s department but different. I never quite understood why the Powers That Be at Carson’s separated it that way, but there must’ve been a reason. All I remember about his brother was that I was shocked this dark-haired, studious, rather cold man who was my age was in any way, shape, or form related to the outgoing, gregarious Bill. After Bill had left Carson’s, I remember trying to ask his brother how Bill was doing, but I only received very terse answers. Looking back on it, maybe there was some jealousy there that I didn’t know about. Maybe Bill came home from work and went on and on about how much fun we had at work, and the green-eyed monster raised his ugly head.
Here’s where the “live in the here and now” part comes in to play.
One day, we were joking around about one thing or another, and Bill seemed to shift slightly in his demeanour. I’m somewhat good at reading people emotionally, and it was kinda like he was psyching himself up for something. I was standing behind the counter, and he was on the other side, and his eyes shifted uneasily to focus on some bland corner of our bland department when he said to me, “Hey, would you like to go ice skating together sometime?” It floored me because, well, to be honest, I had found Bill quite attractive, but, as I usually have done and do, I assumed that Bill was straight (and he might be; I might have read this wrong), and if he was gay, he was far too everything-good to like someone frumpy and moody like me.
I panicked. What would The Man I Loved think if he found out? I was still holding out for him, right? If I just held on a little while longer, maybe things between me and The Man I Loved would come right, and we could live happily ever after. At the time, I thought that’s how it worked.
“I can’t.” My cheeks flushed, and parts of me were screaming, “For God’s sake, say yes!” and other parts of me were scolding, “You can’t skate. You’ll make a fool of yourself. What about The Man I Love? You would be betraying him if you went out with Bill!”
“Aw, c’mon.” Bill got that cheeky look on his face. “I promise I’ll only check you once. Maybe.”
It made me laugh, and it was that charisma that I honestly found so attractive about him.
All I could do was shake my head no.
Bless him, he was very good about it. He didn’t get angry or upset or anything like that. And maybe he was only asking as a friend. Maybe he thought, “God, Scott and I have some laughs. He’d be a great friend.” Or maybe there was something more there. I don’t know to this day. I don’t even remember his last name, so it’s not like I can ask him. (All I can remember is I think his last name started with a Mc. Which probably means it doesn’t.)
Do I regret saying no? Yes, totally. Even to this day. Is it a focal point in my regrets? Not always.
It’s only an example of this regret I live with, in saying one thing when I should’ve said another.
Bill changed slightly towards me after that. He wasn’t colder or any less willing to chat or laugh, but he seemed a little more distant than he had been before The Question.
In my mind, going over and over it, where I followed the trail where I did say yes to The Question and we did go ice skating, it ends with it having been a great night: nothing more, nothing less. Just a load of good times and laughs.
In an early session, I talked about my regret with my then-counselor. A story from the Bible that I allude to in my writing sometimes and also in this struggle with regret is the story of Lot and his family leaving Sodom and Gomorrah as God destroys the city. They’re told not to look back, but temptation kicks in for Lot’s Wife, and she looks back. She pays the price by turning into a pillar of salt.
Sometimes, I’m afraid that I am like Lot’s Wife, turning back, turning back, and the depersonalisation, this numbness or hardness in my heart, is my penance, my pillar of salt.
I am coming to terms with the fact that I can’t change the past, but I can influence the present. Several months ago, I went out of my comfort zone and learned to cook a new dish, a faux-Indian dish, because I could. It was an impulsive decision, living in the here and now, and I was so proud of myself for doing that.
As I am getting older, I am learning to silence the critic in my head and do things in the here and now. It’s difficult sometimes, but I am getting better at it.
Life is short. Live in the here and now. Be happy.