Wednesday, January 12, 2005

coming clean

I'm not sure how to start this off. I've been writing this blog for a few weeks now, but I've never really come straight out to explain the truth about myself. I experimented with doing so in a prior post, the story behind the stories, but I only let a glimpse of myself shine through. My wife was actually horrified by that post, mostly because she felt that I made her look bad. I didn't take the time to explain her anger; she's actually a beautiful person, and she has every right to be angry with me.

We've been in marriage counseling for about five months. Our family is falling apart, and it's completely my fault. I've been trying to figure out what my problem is, and it's only been through preparing to write this post that I've begun to understand it. According to the psychologist who we've been meeting with, I've been using this blog to deal with my problems all along, but I honestly had no idea that that was the case until he wrote me the following note:

"Manuel, I've read every post in your blog, and I have come to realize what you are doing. I believe that the fictional character that you are so vividly describing in your writings actually embodies the issues in yourself that you are avoiding. You're contending with your demons on a very deep level, but if you continue to externalize your problems, all your work will be in vain. This character will become a form of escapism for you, allowing you to cope with your problems, without actually growing past them. Because you've managed to so deeply explore these issues through your writing, I suggest that you write an article about yourself. Apply your skills where they will be of use."

So, that's where we are today. I've never done anything like this before, but I'm going to truly do my best. My family is losing faith in me; I have to get a handle on this immediately.

My name is Manuel Ortega. I'm 33 years old, and have a lovely wife named Megan. We have three wonderful children, any of whom I'd die for: Maria (age 9), Marcos (age 5), and my little star, Estrella (who is 18 months). We live in Arizona (my wife won't let me be more specific because of all the 'weirdoes' out there), and I am essentially unemployed.

Honestly, I think that my employment status is the real issue. I was born in Mexico, and when I was about Marcos' age, my parents brought our family to the States, so that we would have better opportunities in life. My father worked himself raw for us, from the moment we left Mexico to the day he died, and never expected anything in return. He died three years ago, and my mother is now alone. My wife offered to let her come stay with us, but I insisted that she would be too much of a burden; really, I was too ashamed to let her see the man I've become... I pale in comparison to my father. My father was a good man - I don't know what I am.

Theoretically, I'm a substitute teacher at the local high school. They seem to really like me, but the school is small, so there just isn't much demand for my presence. I can't stand not working, but my wife has a great job here; if we moved, I'd be able to find work easily, but even with our double income, we'd still end up making less money. I couldn't do that to the kids anyway. I'm stuck here, and I guess I just need to come to terms with the fact that I'm a 'stay at home' dad. The idea of that sickens me, but it's what my family needs.

My wife complains that I don't help out around the house, and she's entirely right. I feel so helpless and useless in not working, that I guess I just finish the job, making myself be worthless on all levels. I tend have the 'all or nothing' approach to things, and this time, it's destroying me. I don't feel like I'm a man, because a man provides for his family... it may be a cultural thing, but I wasn't taught to 'figure things out', who I am was always a given; I'm a man - a husband and a father. My role was always defined, and there was no reason to question it. My role isn't being fulfilled, and I've been direly afraid to figure out what that means about me.

I guess that's where 'Rand' comes in. This is a man who defines himself in terms of what he doesn't know, rather than what he does... all this time, I just considered it to be an interesting character concept, but now, like a slap in the face, I realize that he embodies the questions that I'm afraid to face directly. He doesn't know who he is, and feels like he has something on everyone else simply because he's aware of that fact... he takes pride in not knowing who he is, because it gives him the motive to find himself. I can't think of any time in my life that I've ever looked at myself as deeply as I have him doing... until maybe now.

When I designed him, I made sure that he had no obligations or attachments. That's the only way that it would seem fair for him to explore himself... if I gave him a family, his family would suffer for his lack of stability. I'm scared to death that mine will suffer if I really take this seriously... if I hurt them, I'll feel like even less of a man than I do now. I guess I'm hurting them by avoiding this though.

My head is spinning right now. I can feel something in my gut... I think I maybe feel like crying, but I don't cry. It's funny... I actually find comfort and strength in my ability to push this away... I feel like I still have some control over my life because of it. My father wasn't afraid to cry; I don't know what that means. That's all I can handle writing right now.