ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching
Book Two, Chapter 161: I Am No Longer My Parents
When he served in the Army during World War II, stationed in Bermuda, my father began to hear the voice of God talking to him. Discharged to a veteran’s hospital, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Perhaps the fear of toting a gun and possibly killing someone or being killed set up his breakdown — even though he never saw action. That possibility would have caused me to break down, too. Just having to learn how to shoot a gun would crumple me.
My mother suffered from migraines. Often she lay on the living-room sofa, a pillow over her head, incommunicado. Ernie said she had the saddest eyes he ever saw. “Who hurt her?” he asked.
I never saw her sadness. It was just another thing I missed. I never looked into people’s eyes or thought about their state of mind. I lacked empathy, I realize now. I didn’t recognize in others what I didn’t recognize in myself.
So, knowing my weakest link has been my mind — as it was my father’s and my mother’s — and knowing that unhealthy thinking sets up both schizophrenia and depression, I’m on guard against it.
When I first awaken, that’s when dark thoughts come to me. It’s when I feel the most alone, the most frightened, the most resistant to the life I’m living. I give myself lots of time to fully awaken. If I awaken with a dream, I try to retain it. Is it a significant dream? Or one that’s merely a jumble of associations from the day before or the day before that?
Also, I’m practicing this: to be honest with myself and with others. I can be dishonest by what I say or what I don’t say. I never before realized that keeping so much to myself or from myself — secrecy or rationalization — are both forms of dishonesty. The Great Unsaid.
Also, I’m learning to feel grateful Ernie and I met. That we married. That we worked together. Yes, our relationship was dysfunctional . . . because we were stuck in The Great Unsaid.
I am growing in awareness. I can get healthy. I am not my mother. I am not my father. I am not Ernie. I am who I am, and I am becoming who I am.
I am grateful.