A Panic of Unhappiness§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: October 22, 2007; revised: August 15, 2017; readers in past month: 590

Volvo PV-544

I am in an absolute panic of unhappiness. Having split from the girlfriend, I feel myself slipping into a pit of misery and am scrambling to prevent it. I’ve been trying to distract myself from it: working diligently on my book, shopping for things I can do without, etc. Most of all, I am in hopes of finding a new woman about which to become excited and thus elude misery. This latter method is not going to happen (who would be attracted to someone in my current state) and the former tactics are not going to solve my problem, although I do need to finish my book. The unhappiness cannot be avoided and is necessary.

Despite my better understanding of happiness and of suffering, of not letting life conquor me, I cannot help but feel out of control when it comes to experiencing certain realities. I must let myself be miserable and ride out the pain. It’s unavoidable. To do otherwise is not only foolish, but will turn me into a person who hides from his feelings, a person who is afraid of the silence. I don’t want to be like that.

I’m in the U.S. at the moment, staying at my mother’s house for a few weeks so that I can visit my daughter. The other night I was looking for something and stumbled across an old toy car of mine. I acquired it when I was seven. My parents didn’t give me toy cars for some reason, at least not until some time after I was seven. My father died when I was three and my mother remarried when I was seven. We moved away from my family to Massachusetts. It was the start of a long, miserable time for me.

When we first moved, we lived in an apartment complex in Peabody, Massachusetts. One afternoon there were some kids outside of my building who had Hotwheels and Matchbox cars. They let me play with them. One boy had the car in this picture: it was bigger and more interesting than the others. It’s a Volvo PV 544 and made by a Swedish toy maker. Other than its uniqueness, I’m not sure what attracted me to it. Nevertheless, not having cars of my own and this one being so different, I wanted. When the boy wasn’t looking, I shoved it into a hole under the side of the building where we were playing. There was a girl in our group. She saw me hide the car, but didn’t say anything. She protected me. When it came time to leave, his mother was calling, he quickly scooped up his cars. He asked about the Volvo and scrambled to find it. I told him I didn’t have it. The girl said nothing; she just looked at me. His mother kept calling, so he eventually ran off along with the other kids. When they were all gone, I retrieved the car and kept it to myself.

It’s kind of sad and it should be embarrassing to say that my first toy car I stole. I’m not sure how my current state of misery relates to this toy, but I somehow have gravitated to it and feel comfort in having discovered it this week. Having taken it, rather than it having been a present, it gives me a feeling of being in control of my life.

Much of my life I felt separated from the pleasures that others enjoyed, I felt left out. For instance, I accepted my misery of not having a father when others had theirs. I accepted the fact that I didn’t have a college degree for a long time (I have one now), while others had them and got jobs requiring degrees without having to fight for the jobs as I did. I grew up in a mindset that I wasn’t like others and that I was an outsider to mainstream life and that whatever pieces of happiness I might get were only what I could snatch when no one was looking. It seems that I was in this frame of mind from an early age. But not being like others, having a sense of style about me even then, at least I didn’t steel the usual car, but an old Volvo.