The problem with Stoicism is that it works like magic...not like stage magic, but like the kind of magic where you sign away your soul on a dotted line. If you're any good at it, Stoicism pays massive dividends up front, but sooner or later the debt gets called in and it's bone crunching time.
I was very good at it.
For nearly ten years I stoically repressed my sexuality. Then, when I was pregnant with my sixth child, the collections officer came calling. I was trying as usual to be holy and heterosexual, but found that I was increasingly lonely, anxious and wound up instead.
Okay, lonely doesn't cover it. I wrote a novel in which the main character, Germanicus Kirkman, was a martyred, highly erotophobic Stoic trapped in the bottom of a malevolent supernatural Well which was outside of time, space, and existence. He was even lonelier than me, because he had no hope of any contact with people other than himself. Over the course of some hundred-thousand words, Germanicus became increasingly more and more insane, literally torturing himself within his own imagination as he tried to cling to virtue, to be perfect all on his own strength. He was ruthlessly rational, unable to be weak, trying to dominate every single one of his passions by the strength of his own will, unable to accept or forgive himself, unable to receive love.
I identified with him completely. For about six months, I could not stop writing this novel, every single night. It took over my life. I wrote it compulsively, and I could no more put it aside than you can escape from the logic of a dream. My subconscious had taken control of me, and it would not be silenced until it had spilled out every last drop of its complaint.
In some ways, living as Germanicus was wonderful. My pain threshold shot through the roof. All temptations save pride became laughable. I could look on my own sufferings with marvelous indifference. I could face insult and injury and be vexed with no man. I could be superhuman. Or inhuman. Depending on your point of view.
Only I couldn't get the novel to come to a proper resolution. I wanted Germanicus to triumph, to save himself, but every ending that I tried came out wooden or incoherent.
Finally, I showed the manuscript to my husband. He said, “You need to take this to a shrink, not an editor.” I was unbelievably angry with him about that, but slowly I began to realize that it was true. I wasn't writing about a character in a weird speculative horror situation. I was writing autobiography in archetypal guise.
(Part 5 of 12)