Our existence is a chain of experiences which culminate in us being who we are; it is linear. Choices and consequences build up one after another, creating the landscape of our lifetime and the shape of our character. When something monumental, good or bad, befalls someone, we encourage that person to move on and keep living. When it happens to us, we discover that “moving on” is easier said than done.
In the first ever episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Commander Sisko is faced with the challenge of communicating with a race of beings that do not understand the concept of linear time. “What comes before now is no different than what is now, or what is to come. It is one’s existence” explains an alien in the form of Sisko’s son. Sisko attempts to explain that humans and other “corporeal beings” experience the universe with linear time as a frame of reference that defines their existence.
The aliens, who can penetrate Sisko’s thoughts, memories, and state of mind, are confused because Sisko exists at a point in his past full of pain and anger. At the beginning of the episode, we see how Sisko’s wife dies when his ship is destroyed by the borg. The aliens force Sisko to realize that he exists there, in the moment of his greatest sorrow, because nothing in his life had prepared him for the consequences of that event. “It is not linear,” says the alien assuming the form of his dead wife. “It’s not linear,” agrees a sobbing Sisko as he relives the horrible moment yet again. The event, the choice that has landed me in my current predicament is one that continues to haunt me. It haunts me because of its power and scope, but also in its far reaching consequences which continue to emerge before me.
My teaching career was progressing wonderfully, my love life was the best it had ever been with me being engaged to marry my best friend, and my domicile was no longer at home with parents, but apart and my own responsibility. The choice I made that day has resulted in my losing that teaching position and being forced to assume the ad hoc role of a daily substitute in various other districts. I have been forced to move back to my family home due to lack of funds to remain at the house I was renting. The wedding which was being planned with such anticipation has been postponed indefinitely for the same financial reasons. All of this occurred in fairly rapid succession following that day of unrelenting regret. Unable to move past this trauma, I was in a dark place for months.
In the DS9 episode, once Sisko understood that he’s been living in his own mental hell for the last three years, he realized he must let his wife go and continue to live . . . three cheers for Star trek. Similarly, I eventually decided that I needed to move past my pain in order to rebuild my life and be of any use to anyone. No one was killed as a result of my actions, my students will be able to move on past it and prosper, and my teaching career is by no means doomed or ruined. For a time, happiness returned and I felt hopeful about my future. More recently, however, the foundation of my happiness for the last three years, my relationship with Ann, has threatened to crumble beneath me.
My fiance, Ann, was nothing but supportive of me following the accident; yet, having had time apart from me after we had to move out of the rented house, she now is unsure of whether she wants to marry now. Ann tells me she loves me but she isn’t sure whether she is attracted to me as much now. The impulsiveness of my folly and the repercussions it has had scare her and make her wonder whether she wants to risk anything like it happening to us again because of my impulsiveness. She has not said that she wants to break off the engagement, only that she needs time to think and figure out what she is feeling and what it means.
While I care for her as a best friend as well as lover and I want what is best for her (which seems to include discerning where her heart is now), I now live in a sort of simmering hell where I can’t even count on/ look forward to my life with her because even that now is uncertain. The possibility of losing Ann’s love taints everything for me right now. Every joy is soured; every sorrow is spiked with despair; every cause for anger is infused with a rage disproportionate to the offense at hand. At times, while I am working at my part time job at a plant nursery, I am full of bitterness. I have never turned my nose up at good, honest labor. Things like carrying bags for customers, which always brought me such joy and satisfaction, will now occasionally make me seethe with resentment. It isn’t the work that makes me bitter, it is the knowledge that I wouldn’t be there, doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for . . . despite my temporal distance from the event, I exist there, in a moment several months ago. I exist trapped in the abyss of my mistake contemplating the cost of my actions . . . and the promise of more loss to come.