One of the worst things about my brain—and there are many—is that I don’t see the future. That’s not some suicide watch bullshit, that is just me saying that beyond the vision of my son graduating high school and moving on to college in a few years, I see nothing other than what is on my calendar next week.
I have no career to look forward to retiring from, and at 48 years old, I don’t envision a new career coming along anytime soon. I don’t see us living in central Michigan for the rest of our lives, but, as much as I try, I can’t imagine us anywhere else. While travel plans are made for me via Wifey’s desire to see things, I don’t personally long to see things, go places, or meet people. I go along as a semi-willing participant and try not to fuck things up.
I don’t see myself growing old, becoming a grandparent, or even being the cranky old man that lives next door. Having said all that, I don’t see bad things either, to which I’m sure there will be many. I don’t see illnesses, heartbreak, death, or the fall of American democracy as we know it. OK, that’s a lie, I see that shit show unfolding in the news daily.
Through talking with my mind-bender, the best clues we have so far in regards to all this is the mindset I developed as a kid while watching my mother’s health decline from Multiple Sclerosis.
When I was in 4th grade, my mother had some balance issues when walking. Then she developed a limp. Soon she was diagnosed with MS. Over the next 15 plus years, she went from one bad leg and using a cane to two bad legs and a wheelchair to being paralyzed from the neck down. She endured infections, sores, blood clots, and surgeries.
Each new year seemed to bring some new misery to her until she passed away in late December of 1999. Despite her years of illness, she always remained a kind, supportive mother and could run a household better from her bed than most fully healthy people could dream of.
Then, about the time I was in junior high, the factory my dad worked in closed down. That brought a few years of unemployment, and more stress to a family already stressed to the max.
You can sort of start to see why I may have developed an aversion to the future. If I don’t think about it, nothing bad can happen, right?
If you don’t look forward to Christmas Day, you won’t be disappointed when instead of opening gifts, you’re helping your dad get your mom to the emergency room to have an infection dealt with. If you don’t think about a summer vacation, you won’t be disappointed when you don’t go on one. If you don’t develop a crush on a girl and ask her to prom, you won’t be hurt when she laughs in your face.
No, you don’t look forward. You find comfort in food. You overeat, neglect your studies and misbehave in class as a way to say, “look how miserable I am, I need help too!”
However, instead of the help you long for, you are called fat and lazy. Classmates physically taunt and shame you enough that homework is an afterthought to surviving the day without being made fun of. Your own family would use phrases like “hog,” “lard ass,” “slob,” and tell you that “you need a bra” to your face. Your father would say, “Jason is so lazy; I can’t believe he even gets out of bed to take a shit” as a reply to a progress report sent home from the high school. No, you don’t think about help from family or school. You put your head down, grab a bag of donuts, go to your room to draw, listen to music, and do what you can to not think about tomorrow.
With all those sad truths, I did turn things around. I managed to escape high school with a diploma and found myself at a for-profit two-year art school where I learned graphic design and a ton of now obsolete printing techniques.
I found a job as a newspaper graphic artist, that I worked for 20+ years, lost a shit ton of weight, and fell in love with a super smart bosomy red-haired woman that I’ve been married to for over 22 years.
We have an amazing 15-year-old son and a nice house in a great neighborhood. Wifey has a good job that she enjoys, we live a good life, and pay our bills.
Along the way, I developed a love of cycling, raced my bike (poorly) for a few years, and even produced a magazine dedicated to endurance mountain bike racing for five years. Yes, I finally got to put all that graphic design knowledge to use!
For years, I was finally starting to see the future! Not everything I saw was good, but I saw it. I would plan trips out west for us; we would talk about where we wanted to live someday (oddly enough the middle of Michigan was never once spoke of), and I would plan out fitness and race goals for myself (finish, have fun, keep learning, don’t make a fool of yourself).
Then somewhere around the time I got my third blood clot, and XXC Magazine ended, things changed, and once again, I stopped seeing the future.
My racing came to an end because of said blood clots and the blood thinners I need to stay on to fend them off. Oddly enough, I didn’t even mind. My desire to race had run its course, and I was happy enough to ride my bike for fitness and take some photos along the way. Still, visions of the future remained clouded.
I find myself getting older and seeing one physical ailment after another come my way — weight gain, blood clots, infected legs, medications, viruses, arthritis, ankle sprains, and more. I look in the mirror, and I see the miserable fat teenager I was, has now become a miserable fat adult. It’s like those 20 plus years of confidence and fitness never actually happened.
Bike rides that once felt like a celebration of hard-earned fitness now only serve as a reminder of my decline. And while eating well, at times, I now find myself using alcohol to fill the void that food did in my youth.
The evenings I spend sitting in my chair playing video games or watching footy, drinking some beers, and listening to music helps me escape the person I see in the mirror. For a few hours, I forget that I lack a college degree, a career, and the fit body I once had. I forget about the ongoing difficult family relationships brought from my past, my son getting older and more independent, and the strain my mental state can put on Wifey. My way to escape is obviously not a wise one, but often that is where I find myself.
Going to the gym to lift heavy things for no reason helps, as do hikes in the woods with my camera. There, as the leaves rustle in the wind and silence is broke from the crunch of my footsteps, the birds, and the click of my camera’s shutter, I find time to reflect on all the love and support I have in my life. The support that I once craved as a child is now right here alongside me in the forms of Wifey and B. I need to learn to accept that support, and know that they love me for all the things I already am, not for the things I think I should be.
I’m a lucky man with a good life. I need to spend more time thinking about that, accept the past for what it was, and then let go of it. I might even try to start looking into the future and all the possibilities it holds.