Bad at love

(Title is the Smith & Myers song, because every word of it is me. And because that album is better than the last 3 Shinedown albums combined.)

I’ve done a lot of writing over the past decade, and one of the hardest parts, I’ve found, is writing about relationships. Specifically, the beginning of one. Why? It’s simple, really: until about three years ago, I’d never experienced one for myself. “Write what you know,” the mantra goes, but characters getting together is such a natural part of a story—just as people getting together is a natural part of life—that even I couldn’t get away from it.

Partly due to this lack of experience, I’ve fallen into a bit of a pattern. The shy, smart, and often self-deprecating male character finds a woman who can look past, if not ignore entirely, the flaws he perceives. She loves him for who he is, not who he thinks himself to be, and his character growth follows a trajectory of being lifted out of his “down” mental state as he learns to accept her feelings. I did it with Alex and Aare in Otherworld, Asho and Deena in Hidden Hills, Lucas and Elyssa in the “Fallen” novella, and Anit and Lia in Shadows Before the Sun. Four times I’ve gone to that well, and it’s because that’s a trope that resonates very strongly with me.

There was supposed to be a fifth, however, a final iteration that would become the culmination, bringing the fantasy to the next level. A storybook moment for a character who had too long been without. That fifth pairing was to be Michael and Leslie.

I don’t think I’ve ever named her here before. I usually refer to her as “the woman I love” or some phrasing to that effect. And I’m breaking that habit this time not because I don’t love her anymore—I most certainly do—but simply out of authorial necessity. Writing something, even on a computer, makes it real. Publishing it, whether on a blog or in a book, fixes it in both the writer’s mind and the collective knowledge of society. I need that reality, that immutability, at this moment.

A few months ago, not long after I started my job, I was making plans again, plans for us. I hadn’t done that in nearly a year, for reasons that should be obvious. But things were looking up, and I believed they would keep going in that direction. I’d get my life back on track, the world would cooperate and regain some rationality, and we’d live happily ever after. I had planned to propose about a month from now, my head full of dreams about bringing my fiancĂ©e home to meet my family at Thanksgiving. Not long into next year would be the ultimate step, I had hoped.

That didn’t pan out. Instead, the world has slid deeper into tyranny while I’ve slid deeper into the most severe depression of my life. I’m not thinking about engagement rings or finding a place for us to live. I’m barely thinking about “us” at all. My days are filled with wondering just how much worse things are going to get, how many more places will bar me from entering for the crime of not wanting to be part of a genetic experiment, and how much more I can take before I finally reach the breaking point.

There are still things I want to accomplish in this life, and there remains within me a faint glimmer of hope that enough people will realize the truth before it’s too late.

I’d like to finish at least the Otherworld series, as well as Orphans of the Stars; the first is for my own peace of mind, while the second is the only story of mine that has actual fans. The rest of my bibliography I’m content with leaving behind, except that I really, really want to edit and release Heirs of Divinity. I’ve promised that one for years. But Nocturne doesn’t need a sequel. Hidden Hills was more of a thought experiment gone awry. The Occupation Trilogy? Why write it when I’m practically living it?

I also want to get my nonfiction book, The Prison of Ignorance, into publication. That’s only the first part of a larger scheme, though. It’s intended to be the introduction of technetism, my attempt at merging humanist philosophy with self-sufficiency, patriotism, and a love of knowledge. A kind of echo of the Enlightenment, in my opinion, and it really is something that no one else can do. Technetism, in my vision, has its own website, podcast, and social circle, among other things. It’s intended to be one pillar in the support structure I never had. If I can give that to the world—and, more importantly, if the world accepts such a gift—I’ll consider it a job well done.

Those are the only true goals I have left, and I calculate that I have about two years to complete them. That figure comes about from many factors. I’m not in the best physical shape, of course, and the next Chinese bioweapon might be something more dangerous than a bad flu with a 99.8% survival rate. Mentally, I’m very…unstable, to say the least. I’m a social outcast in a region where socializing largely comes in particular places I tend to shun.

Most of all, though, I’m not sure I can live with the shame of being a 40-year-old bachelor. Especially since being single at that point would be my own fault. I had it all, and I squandered every bit of it. I wasted my chances, my opportunities. At every turn, my own self-destructive behaviors stood in the way of happiness and a shot at a bright future in this darkening world.

Sometimes I wish I understood the minds of people who have faith, and now is one of those times. I come from a family of devout Christians, all of whom would tell me that no one is beyond forgiveness. But I don’t feel like I deserve to be forgiven for what I’ve done, for the shell of a man I’ve become and the effect that transformation has had on the people I love most.

“Falling down like he always does,” this post’s title song says. Indeed I am. And every time I fall, it’s a little harder to get back up.

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