As is often the case, I had intended to write about a particular subject today, and had thought about it and pondered it, and then circumstances led me to feel another subject would be more pertinent for the occasion, while the original subject is to be tabled for another day. This is not an infrequent occurrence for me, and it certainly is one that has often been discussed, perhaps most famously in the book of Jude, where the author explains what his original purpose of writing was and then explained how changed circumstances required him to change his tune. While I do not wish to discuss my original purpose here, although it is certainly not too dramatic of a switch from my current topic, I do think that some explanation of thistopic is required to make sense of it.
While I was trying to finish one of my scholarly book reviews for future publication, there was a fairly insistent ringing of our doorbell. Who should I find there but my neighbor having what appeared to be a breakdown. Most people who know me are probably aware that I am not the most demonstrative of people, although I am vastly more empathetic and sympathetic than I may initially appear because of my immense emotional reserve. As I lack that warm bedside manner and competence in helping other people out of their mental hamster wheels, the best thing I was able to do was to try to listen to him talk in his extreme anxiety and nervousness, doing my best to remain calm and to help calm him as best as I could.
Like many people, it seems, far too many in my opinion, my neighbor has some serious anxiety issues. For whatever reason, and I’m not sure exactly what that reason is, he had found himself incarcerated in the past for what he claims was something that he did not do, something that so troubled him that he tried to commit suicide, and led him to want to find a hiding place where he felt safe from someone who would put him in danger and in harm’s way again. Over and over again he kept on saying that he was tired of being afraid, all the while unable to comprehend that despite my inability at expressing my own understanding of his plight, that I knew exactly what he felt in my own rather restrained way. I looked at him holding his box of cigarettes and rocking back and forth at the bottom of the stairs, sobbing as he spoke, afraid that some woman would come and accuse him of some awful sin that he was not remotely interested in committing. I have noticed in my own experience that I tend to feel rather numb and shocked in the same circumstance myself, rather than overly emotionally demonstrative, but everyone has their own way of dealing with the horrors of this world.
It is hard to know what demons other people face. We can all too easily become trapped in our own horrors and not recognize the fact that we live in a deeply suffering world, a world that is so troubled that it appears that trouble finds us no matter where we go. Often, and for reasons I do not understand, we face the same troubles over and over again, from a variety of perspectives. If it was impossible for me to convey my own understanding of my neighbor’s plight, even though I have never had to face the horrors of prison over false accusations (though I have faced the fear of it), at least it is possible for me to reflect upon the need of all kinds of people for a safe place, and for the fact that sometimes being a good neighbor means having to be reminded of the horrors of one’s own life that one would wish would just go away for good. Sadly, safe places, whether that be a geographical area or a relationship, are elusive in these dark and troubled times. It is an easy thing to be tired of being afraid, but a much harder thing to defeat the enemies of our fears and nightmares.