I didn’t get to sleep Friday night until the sun was coming up Saturday morning around 6:30 a.m.
I’m not quite sure what I was doing all night, but this has become a pattern for me lately. I spent some of the time reading. I watched a movie. And I spent quite awhile at this little gazebo about half a mile from my house. It’s at the center of the little downtown area of the suburb where I live. While the rest of the city is asleep, it’s a good place for me to write.
I’m back there again Saturday night, but it’s hard to be sure why I’m here. I feel the need to write, but I also feel a creeping frustration that doesn’t have a name. Part of me wants to hide and be alone, and another part of me wants to desperately reach out to someone. I feel so conflicted — like someone who is screaming like a mad man on the inside but looks perfectly calm on the outside.
I feel as though I’ve lost control over my life — and these late-night times of solitude seem to be the only times when things make any sense.
I hadn’t really drawn a conscious connection between this late-night habit and my feeling of lost of control, but a friend sent me a link to something last weekend that left me thinking about it.
In June, journalist Daphne K. Lee tweeted from Taiwan that she had just learned an interesting phrase that she can relate to. In Chinese, it’s “報復性熬夜,” which she said translates roughly as “revenge bedtime procrastination.”
Lee said the concept is “a phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.”
The more I thought about that this week, the more I’ve seen the ways in which this might apply to me. I’m not happy about it, but it seems to accurately describe what I’ve been unconsciously doing.
Ever since I stopped working in politics, I’ve slowly lost the tight grip I used to have over the direction of my life. I can’t point to one specific day and tell you that’s when it started, but there have been markers as it’s gotten worse over the decade. I started at a point at which I felt on top of the world. I was successful and prosperous. I was loved. (My biggest relationship issue was choosing between two women.) I felt that I was in complete control.
But everything came crashing down for me — in what felt like a horrific, slow-motion train wreck that left me feeling powerless and alone, down in a dark and depressing pit of shame.
As I sit here in the pleasant 66-degree Saturday evening all alone, I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say. I suppose I’m trying to find a narrative that makes sense to me. I want to find some way to look at myself and feel as though I can still recognize who I’ve always thought I was. And there’s a part of me that feels very ashamed of not being the successful and in-control person that I used to be.
I guess I want to find a narrative that explains — to you, as well as to myself — what I’ve done. I want to feel proud of myself again. And I want to feel as though I can still be a man who someone else can be proud of, but I don’t feel that way when I’m trapped in this web of shame and self-condemnation.
I miss being a man who saw what he wanted and then moved to get it. I miss having the confidence to know — or at least to believe I knew — that I would somehow always find a way to win. I remember being a man who did outlandish things and somehow won.
That felt like the real me. What I’ve become feels like the real me is trapped under layers of shame. I don’t know how to dig my way back to being myself.
I have to find a way to regain control — over my thoughts, my actions, my life. I know that I need help and love and support from a partner, but even if I find that, the ultimate spark will come from some buried part of me who still knows how to take outrageous risks and still knows how to win.
There’s a strange beauty to the quiet stillness as I sit alone outside tonight. There’s a comfort in being alone in this crisp night air. But the day is coming when my days will once again be filled with work I love — and time spent with people I love — and I’ll once again fall contentedly to sleep at night with a smile on my face.
That day will come when I’ve regained control over creating a life which makes me happy. And a life which makes others happy, too.
But for now, I sit in this beautiful stillness and ponder how to get there.