Mind Fields: The Highwayman Of Failed Dreams

Note: I wrote this piece ten years ago. Things have changed. I’m doing much better than I would have expected when I wrote this essay. Here it is in all its misery.

Lately I’ve been waiting for a heart attack to drop me in my tracks. It isn’t that I have heart disease. I just turned seventy and I’m waiting for my official Hypochondriac’s License to be delivered in the mail. I think that every little twinge in my body is an incipient cancer. I’m waiting for the stroke that will paralyze my speech centers and put me in a wheel chair. I’m old, and I’m terrified. My imagination runs wild as I fantasize every possible affliction. I feel as though something awful is lurking just around the bend. It’ s like a giant boot in a Monty Python skit, it’s waiting for me to walk under it so it can go SPLAT! and squish me to a gooey puddle.

This is called “catastrophizing”. It’s a feature of depression. When I wake up early in the morning I’m churning with anxiety and my mind boils with fears of the worst things that can happen to me. Life is hard and I’m like a child: I can’t reconcile myself to the level of difficulty that life has thrown in my path. I’m inadequate. I’ve been broken since childhood. I want my mommy. I want to feel safe. I feel vulnerable, lonely, unsupported and bereft of family and community.

Now that I’ve introduced you to some of the fun features of depression, I will make an observation. Depression is extremely common. So is despair, but that’s different than depression. Despair is an emotion. Depression is a disease. It can kill you.

When I turned sixty five I was waylaid by the highwayman of failed dreams. It was too late (I felt) to rebuild my life. It was too late to develop an audience for my writing. To say that I was disappointed is too mild. I was heartbroken. I had worked my butt off but the world had changed and suddenly everyone was a writer. Five million self published books were elbowing my fine works into oblivion. I couldn’t gain traction. In spite of great reviews and an award from Writer’s Digest, I couldn’t even give away my books.

I have become almost proud of my obscurity. When I say “I couldn’t give away my books” I feel a weird yet heroic conceit. If my books were shit I would still feel proud, but my books are not shit; they’re damned good. They are compelling. One reviewer called them “important”.

There’s no reason you should care about me. You don’t know me. If you’re still reading it’s because I’ve touched a nerve. You may share some of these feelings and I’ve roused your curiosity. “Oh, does someone else feel overwhelmed the way I do?”

Yes. I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, respond on Medium and Facebook, talk to me! What we lack is connection and mutual support. I’m looking to connect. I’m not looking for a dialogue about depression. I’m looking for truth. I want to know how you really feel and are maybe too ashamed to admit it.

It’s important to consider the state of the world when we contemplate our emotional pain.

The world is sick. The planet is reeling with toxic conditions. These things affect us personally, they have impact on our health and our moods. Seeing the faces of certain politicians rouses me to anger and nausea.

Every human being comes into the world with a set of parents and a third parent that is the culture in which he or she lives. The information that programs the infant child is transmitted by the parents and the culture. If it’s good information chances are that the human will live a good life. If the information is flawed there may be problems.

Let’s start with the culture, this culture, American culture. Every child born in America inherits an inner blueprint that guides in the construction of a personality. A Self. The weird thing about this blueprint is that it shows a structure that lacks a foundation. There’s no bottom on this diagram. It starts on the first floor.

If I had lived a more fulfilling life I might not be so catastrophic. My life, however, has been one of incredible effort and little reward. I have been endlessly creating works of music, literature, photography…that no one cares about. It’s good that I’m not prone to self pity. (Sound of sardonic laughter in the background.)

I don’t have any significant heart disease. My blood pressure’s running high but that’s because I’m terrified. It’s a vicious circle. Terror increases the BP and the BP increases my chances of stroke and heart disease. You can’t win.

Depression can stop you in your tracks. It is epidemic, it’s the most dangerous disease of the human race. I know you don’t care about my problems. You care about YOUR problems, whatever they are. Health, money, relationships, all the basic stuff that won’t behave and won’t get organized in a sustainable way.

When I’m REALLY depressed I don’t want to live but suicide’s not an option. I have responsibilities to people. I feel like a prisoner in my life, in my body, and that’s a fact. It’s irresistible. I can’t even open my email because none of it is for me, it’s all spam and fills me with ennui. I’m socially isolated. I’m old. My friends and family are scattered and gone. If I had a family I’d probably tell them to get lost. You know how families are: when you have one you loathe most of the people in it, but when you don’t have a family you feel cut adrift from reality.

This is my screed from a moment of dangerous difficulty. I understand that obstacles are necessary to my development. I get that. I accept the fraught process of living. There’s little else I can do other than bow to the will of a higher intelligence within myself. I believe in that higher intelligence. I believe it is not only possible to know God but that God has designed our consciousness so our understanding progresses by increments towards that knowing.


Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos


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One Comment on “Mind Fields: The Highwayman Of Failed Dreams”

  1. I know what you mean about the crowded book market. Everyone thinks they can write a book now. Not sure why – learning and improving our craft takes as much skill and hard work as learning to play a musical instrument or paint a masterpiece, but not everyone thinks they can do these things.
    I’m glad you’re in a better place now.

    Liked by 1 person

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