keep: (noun) the strongest or central tower of a castle, acting as a final refuge.
Each of us, when born, is presented a vast kingdom of people and experiences, of wonders and sorrows, all competing for our attention. In the center of our kingdom is the castle of our bodies, and within that castle is the keep of our mind, from which we look out at our kingdom and conduct endless major and minor wars.
Because I have always felt myself something of a misfit...a stranger in the world of other people...I have always had the ability to stand outside myself and observe myself with a detached objectively. If you've been reading my blogs for any length of time, you'll know the theme of my perceived alienation is a constant theme. And because I've never felt that I belonged, I am endlessly fascinated with figuring out why. I frequently refer to myself as a laboratory frog on the dissecting table, laid out for the inspection of anyone with any interest whatsoever. I often talk of personal, within-myself things most people apparently think of as too private to share. I probably should not be so willing to expose myself, but for whatever reason that does not keep me from doing it. My kingdom has open borders. (And yes, as such I have probably invited in far too many would-be conquerors.)
As is inevitable, the wars we wage take their toll. We find the borders of our kingdom slowly but inexorably shrinking. Our court grows smaller as relatives, friends, and those we are accustomed to having around us take their leave. Places we called our own are slowly taken from us. We may be allowed to visit, but we are acutely and often painfully aware they are no longer ours.
Within my own kingdom, I am increasingly aware of the toll being take on the once-proud castle of my body. The once-bright banners flying proudly from the turrets grow faded and tattered, though they are still there. The paint fades and peels, cracks appear in the walls, the floors sag. I view the inevitable deterioration of the physical structure of my castle not so much with self pity or depression as with a mixture of resigned objectivity, horrified fascination, and indescribable sadness.
Please let me make it clear that I'm not writing this as a bid for sympathy, but as a simple statement of fact. Objectively viewing my castle as it is now in comparison to what I think of it as always having been is, admittedly, disturbing. There are so very many things I could do...eat normally, run, lift and turn my head, whistle, belch, spit, stick my tongue out far enough to lick my lips, experience the feeling of belonging to and being an active part of the gay community, (including going out looking for and occasionally finding someone to bring home for the night)...that have been taken from me. I find myself, with fewer exterior outlets, being driven more and more into my castle's keep.
I should point out that I'm relatively comfortable there; there are an infinite number of things to do there to keep me busy. But I do miss all the physical things I can no longer do, all the people who were once so important a part of my life. I do wish I could look into a mirror and not see a stranger.
That the greatest of kingdoms must fall and the most sturdy castles crumble is simply a fact of the universe, and there are compensations along with the deterioration...among them a stoicism and resignation which takes the fear out of the inescapable final words of every book ever written: “The End.”
My end is not yet here, nor am I anticipating it. I am merely acknowledging the reality I normally fight so very hard to ignore. My castle may crumble, but as long as my keep provides me refuge, I'll be fine.