I couldn’t believe it.
I must have been about 11 years old, living in Pasadena at the time. We hadn’t been in this new house very long- me, my brother, my sister, and my parents- but we’d fixed it up enough to be able to start having people over. Cookouts were what the Evans family was known for back then. Games, food, ridiculous jokes, sports, and even a pool out back (first an above ground pool and then a couple years later an underground one).
I was out in the garage playing ping pong with one of the teens from the youth group of the church we went to. Friendship Baptist Church. My parents led the youth group together (fairly ironic because… reasons… but that’s a tale for another time). Dude and I were having a fairly good game, not quite evenly matched, but he was still pretty good. He took one swipe and kind of messed up his swing and that’s when he said it.
Curse words were expressly forbidden in my house.
But I knew they were words that other people used.
I also knew that over reacting to casual practices of mainstream culture was the fastest lane to nobody talking to you.
So I played it cool.
“Isn’t that a curse word?” (okay I didn’t play it cool at all)
“What. Damn? Nah.”
And I knew it.
But a different part of my brain was ticking.
It was the part that would eventually give way to such profane pleasures as T.I. and Eminem and Dave Chappelle and Deadpool.
It was something difficult for my young, Christian mind to process at the time.
This dude didn’t pause to consider what came out of his mouth. If he felt it, it was said. There was no over thinking. He was completely unbothered. Sure there were ramifications (I knew a bit of his personal life), but still… there was something appealing about that. About being this… well… whole? Person? Not someone without rules, but someone beyond them.
But that could never be me.
And not because of Jesus reasons.
Instantly I began to deflate.
And play back the record.
I’m not cool, I’m a nerd, the existence of God makes sense to me, I love Star Wars, I don’t know any popular secular songs, I’ve gotta take care of my brother and my sister, I’m not as smart as I should be, I don’t pick up things fast enough, my vocabulary is too big, I actually enjoy church, I play with action figures, I’m not enough…
There it was. Settling in. Like a boot pressed firmly into the center of my chest. A ten ton ickiness that seeped lethargy and desperate hopelessness into my blood, into my brain, into my heart.
I didn’t have a word for it, but to me it was the dark side personified. It was Kingpin, and Lex Luthor, and Shredder all rolled into one cosmic force. Liquid darkness incarnate, a Stygian deluge direct to my soul like some Jekyll and Hyde psychedelic drug.
This terrible thing defied reason, defied accomplishment, defied miracle, defied reality. Anytime I under performed or made a mistake, there it was bubbling up from the guts of hell.
And it traveled with me through the years. It became the voice to which I instinctively listened, my dispenser of validation or acclimation of which there was never any. My mom wanted to put me on medicine for it, but no, I’d say. I can beat this. Just give me a little more time. And I knew I could! By the time I hit my late teens, I had discovered the word for this black sorcery, this treacherous detriment to my daily life. But I also knew that it had never kept me from anything I was unwaveringly determined to do. It only kept me from doing things that I reaaaalllly wanted to do.
Which, though painful, let me know that the power to beat was in me.
If I could only trigger it consistently.
And now I’m here in the future.
I’ve met many other carriers of this lethal disease, other survivors whose necks bear the unholy scars from the demon’s bite. I’ve learned that it is one of the most hushed up emotional conspiracies in history. A shameful secret. Like porn. Billion dollar industry, but everybody acts like they’re not watching it. Suicide hotlines, roads littered with abandoned dreams, alcohol is the number one commodity, but nearly no one raises their hand to name the beast that ails them. We have become a mockery of royalty, while the planet rots away beneath our feet and the light drains out of our sky. We fear to utter the deplorable word.
We are Charn.
I’ve learned so much about how to deal with this… how to fight it… how to pull myself away from the edge…
But I haven’t mastered it.
Sometimes, in spite of successes, I still wake up with the boot on my chest. Sometimes I leave inspiring moments and as soon as I turn the corner out of sight, I crumble into the embrace of the void. Sometimes I heal others in the midst of having no hope for myself. Sometimes the days are so hard that I believe my fight and evolution have been in vain. Sometimes I accept the shadow as the new definition of my daily reality.
And that’s when I have to stop. To be willing to acknowledge what this is. Life is only sustained by walking through the valley of the shadow of death- not by stopping in the middle and lamenting what it is. It must be called out. I must say the terrible word. This word that I hate so much. This word I long to move past permanently. This word that has so many triggers tied to my dreams. This word that defies my authority at every turn. This word that must be laid bare and then trod upon to be reminded that it does not hold the title as architect of my destiny.
It’s the D word.
Wanna continue the conversation?
Join me on twitter! 🙂