I’ve spent the last few days reading a book which has as its center the country of North Korea. The people here, if the book is to be believed, are the most atrociously deprived lot in the world. Yet they accept these deprivations without thought, without regret, without knowledge of any state other than want. Since I’m a privileged American, I have, of course, compared this rather hopeless situation to my own and have plumbed the very depths of my emotional nadirs over the years.
As a child, I wasn’t abused. Nobody ever really hit me outside the bounds of discipline but part of me ached. All I ever wanted to do was to please my parents but somehow that was beyond hope. My father, as a rather free spirit couldn’t care less. He would have accepted me as a mime on the street as readily as he would as a Wall Street banker. OK, well, let’s be honest, he would have preferred the mime. To him I was his son and that was entirely sufficient. Sadly, as a child I had no way to know this so I sought desperately for approval that was already in evidence. From my mother… well, approval was impossible. She could scarcely accept her own existence let alone approve of mine. She was a large and throbbing ball of pain that had long before given up all hope of happiness. She was in no shape to dispense such on me. So from my family no hope of fulfillment was to be seen.
Later in life, I look back upon dark times in which I recall with particular poignancy the pain of rejection. In high school I remember many long nights spent sitting at home with my grandparents (recall that my mother tried to kill herself so I went to live with her parents during high school) wishing for some outside connection with people my age. Until one day… one magical day when the girl whom I had often admired from afar but never dared speak to told me that she was going to come and take me to some school function. What that function was proved irrelevant to my young mind. The point was that after all those long months alone somebody was going to come and take me to be among my peers. I was actually going to do something normal for once. I recall with great vividity waiting by the front window for hours. The minutes ticked past and no car appeared in the driveway. I was left sitting and wondering and later my mind whirled around the possibilities of what might have happened to somehow dash my hopes. To this day I remember in excruciating detail the chair I was sitting in, the thoughts that raced through my mind, my grandfather saying, “aaah, nobody would want to take you anywhere anyway” as the minutes became hours. Despite my greatest hopes I never got the chance to be a normal kid. The car never arrived.
As an adult, another period of my life stands out. Again I hung my hopes and dreams on another person. This time I didn’t wait for hours. I waited for months. Every time I saw a particular color of car my heart raced, is that her….? No. Every time a door slammed or a footfall was heard, is that her…? No. For a year my nerves jangled on a knife’s edge but it was never her. In the end I was left with nothing but a fistful of dust and forced to start over yet again from nothing. Every time that I have placed my trust in someone else, with the exception of one, I have been betrayed and left with nothing to show for it. I am eternally the fool played by another.
Yet for all this I have hope. Through all this I have always had a place to at least begin again. No matter how my heart is wounded and my soul darkened, I have found a starting place to go upon the journey once more.
Clearly this is an unusual place to go beginning from a simple story about North Korea but it is what comes to mind.