Laying Anchor at Numb Island
The storm rages and the ship’s timbers and mast creak and crackle. The violet howl of the wind is all I hear as the salt water blinds. Out in the middle of those skyscraper waves that feel like body blows, one after another, I pray for a safe harbor, for my senses to block out the storm that rages all around and in an instant, I arrive at the still and silent shores of Numb Island.
The sea can be a terrifying expanse where at any moment sudden storms can tear down your mast and your ability to move forward. Snap your rudder, to leave you without direction. Or be so powerful and terrifying that you crawl into your bunk, pull the sheets over your head, and block out the world.
Numb Island is a real place. Many go for short visits throughout life and some, unfortunately, never leave. The fear of present or future pain and loss that is out of our control can drive us to simply ignore the facts or events that surround us. We block out reality and numb our senses, especially in the beginning of a divorce storm. The unknown buffeting can become just too much to handle.
What’s the Draw?
Everyone at some point, wants to block out negative or scary parts of their lives. And I mean everyone. You might be Mr. or Mrs. perfect, and not venture as deep or as long in land, but we all visit Numb Island. It could be a death in the family, an issue at work, or break up or divorce but short term escape from reality can be a place to catch your breath or collect your thoughts.
I probably have spent too many nights on Numb Island. I should not use excuses, but I will. Divorce kicked my confident ass. Things I thought I controlled, I didn’t. Things I thought about myself, my character, my family were wrong. There were days when I woke up and collapsed in the shower and just sat there. I felt very alone and not in control. There were weekends when I numbed. It could be as simple as my favorite suspension of disbelief of going to the movies. Siting and hiding in the dark from the world while I watched others battle right and wrong, win and lose, live and die. Outside I had to go back into the real world with real people needing real answers. I loved and still love escaping to the movies. Then there is alcohol, especially beer, which I love. I have to be very careful as the son of an alcoholic, but definitely during the year of my divorce and following I used the excuse to party too hard, drink too much, and think too little. I have thought many times about how easy it would be to float off and stay numb. Drugs have never been my thing, and luckily, I hate hangovers more than the night that caused them. It is tempting to continue to hide from pain and just float on, oblivious, uncaring, and without worry, but only for a little while.
Probably the greatest fear during my divorce was losing my children. The thought of seeing them only every other weekend almost broke me, and the separation reality of week on, week off, drove me to numb.
I am not saying the court was wrong, or who should or should not have them as I’m sure my ex experienced the same feeling of loss from the other side of court.
Divorce is hard. Reality is harder.
I have also experienced, seen, and spoken to dozens of others that go numb in their workplace. They literally wake up years later after going through the motions, getting the job done, but not being part or growing in their career. Don’t get me wrong. Money and stability are good things. I’m not suggesting in the spirit of “Eat, Love, Prey” that we gallivant around the world cooking, drinking, and sleeping with strange accents (I’m not selling the negative virtues of doing this as well…) but the reality of real responsibilities keeps us doing what we are doing until we are ready emotionally to move on.
Alcohol, sexual addiction, drugs, or anything used to numb-out the world does not have any long-term benefit. For the moment, you may feel empowered and as though you are moving forward when in fact you’re not moving anywhere you want to end up. We cannot build a strong foundation and home on Numb Island. In the end, after a moment, a few days, weeks, months, or even years we have to go back into the world and move on with the reality of a new life.
For some it can feel impossible to leave and the only way may be to seek professional help. I escaped because of the needs of my three kids and the everyday chores of school and feeding them. It became my saving grace. Filling that hole with more of their love and being more involved helped raise my anchor and escape the island of numb. Also, the desire to try and create new things in my work life and in new relationships helped put wind in my sails. Leaving does not mean I don’t return occasionally, when the world gets too much, and I need a movie.
Three Tips to Make Your Trips Short or Escape Numb Island
- Reality Bites – No matter how numb to the world you become, it’s always there waiting for your return. Your temporary escape is just that. Pain of love lost will lessen but the issues and memories around it still need to be faced. You cannot avoid reality. Sounds dumb, but understanding helps you move on.
- Positive People – Hanging around with negative people doing negative things to avoid their own realities, will not lead anything new or positive. If your influences are negative, change them and your environment as much as possible.
- Positive Goals and Aspirations – Look forward, not just on the past or the storm your currently in. Have and make plans for personal growth.
Bringing tingling back to your numbness,
P.S. Beware. Sometimes the numbing wind drives me to neighboring islands of Self-pity, or the dangerously attractive and fun Sin Island. More to come on those adventures.
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