“No, mom, that’s a crack in your face. The crack I’m talking about is different.”
“OK Ricky dear, just trying to be helpful. Love you.”
“Love you too, mom.”
My physical and mental health declined steadily. I covered up my misery in denial – reframing my personal goals. After all, I was first and foremost a dad. My job No. 1. I sure as hell wasn’t going to let that opportunity slip away because I was unfulfilled at work.
“Suck it up!” I admonished myself. “Pull your head out of your ass, dude. So many people in this world are worse off than you. Who gives a shit that you wanted to be a writer? Nobody. Nobody gives a flying fuck about your dreams either. You make money – that’s what you do. A screenwriter? Who’s kidding who? A novelist. Well, la-de fucking-da! Be happy with what you have, not what you don’t! Fucking idiot.” Maybe I was a little hard on myself, but I never saw it that way. When ever I thought of leaving work, I beat myself up at every turn.
My self-loathing was well placed: a father’s job is to support his family. Duh!
So I became an actor. A damn good one too. The training rooms and the call centers were my stages. I managed my team like a theater troop, making sure my method actors (corporate trainers) were well-rehearsed. We were the best loved employees in the house because each member of my team played their part perfectly.
No one had to know how much I was suffering inside. I especially didn’t want my children to know.
A Crack In The Wall
I built a wall between me and my dream. And since I was already adept at being a wallflower, I affixed my emotions to the felt walls that surrounded me. My work cubicle was my gilded cage for 30 years. I served the company without complaint. And when I slowly slid into depression, I told no one.
I did what all veteran actors do, I looked forward to my next performance.
Still, I kept writing. Staying up late – even on work nights. My health issues were attributed to my lack of sleep which could be explained as my problem.
My workmates told me: “You’re doing it to yourself.” I listened politely to their advice: “You should get better sleep. Certainly not two or three hours a night!” But their words just sounded like the static that TV sets used to make after the local television stations signed off.
I would nod in a agreement then continue the self-abuse. There is five work nights and only two weekend nights. I kept writing like a madman all of those nights, all night long. When the sun came up I stopped to get a couple of hours sleep before rolling out of bed and into my Honda to begin my day with the front end of a three hour commute.
London Bridge Is Falling Down
Sometimes it takes a heightened sense of doom for folks to act in their own best interest. Depriving one’s soul of proper nourishment eventually takes its toll. A sudden rush of clarity, for instance, or self-awareness that may lead to making a personal change, or not. It all starts from a crack. Typically, small, at first.
A crack in a dam may cause it to break releasing an unstoppable flood that alters everything in its path. A cracked window may hinder one’s ability to see through it, but when sunlight enters from the other side it creates a beautiful prism effect.
A crack can be a powerful force of nature or a transforming personal experience.
My corporate career had reached a quarter of a century while visiting my daughter in London. That’s when I felt the force of the London Bridge falling down. The emotional wreckage forced me to deal with a dream denied. It all started with a single crack.
One word did all the damage. A word I’m not proud of.
Below: In this scene from Doctor Who, “prisoner zero has escaped” is heard through a crack in the wall. Sometimes we must heed the truth when the crack first forms. My corporate employee number begins with a zero.