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Monday, June 26, 2017

Of loss and feeling cheated

I’m going to apologize in advance for any funkiness with regards to the font and/or text size, as I am working with a hodgepodge of not-so-finely coordinated tools this week, involving much copy and pasting, a tethered cell phone internet connection and probably several other things I am forgetting at the moment.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017
The older I get, the more I appreciate the lyrics in some of Roger Waters' Pink Floyd songs.  For the benefit of the un-initiated, some of his songs (such as the incredible “Wish You Were Here”) deal with the loss, if you want to call it that, of band founder Syd Barrett.  You can Google the details if you want.

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

I’m on a much needed vacation this week, and part of the “much needed” part, I think, comes from a need to mentally deal with loss.  It’s not as if I haven’t already tried; well, in point of fact, I haven’t really tried.  Part of me doesn’t really know how to deal with this stuff.  I have a lifetime of mostly avoidance when it comes to dealing with such things, going back to when I was a kid and my mother would be yelling at the top of her lungs and I would find some safe place to weather the verbal storm.  Some skills, if you want to call them that, stay with you for a very long time.

The loss, for what it's worth, is really two-fold:  My (former) job and my brother, both of which I thought/had hoped would be with me for far longer.  Both of which, I will also add, provided me with plenty of cues that they wouldn’t (be with me far longer).  In both cases, my ability to deal with strong emotions by mostly not feeling them has been on full display for only me to see.  For the record I know this is unhealthy, but in an almost odd quasi-parallel to my brother, I’m not sure I know how to stop.  At best, over the years this blog as been one of the few ways I can try to sort things out in my own head.  Sad but true, you just happen to be along for the ride.

I want to also add that part of how I feel is a certain kind of disgust at myself.  The worst possible thought bubble I have about others is that “they are weak”, which is precisely why, I think, I struggle dealing with my dual losses:  I simply don’t want to be weak.  I don’t want to be that “weak” person who can’t get over stuff.

To the extent I have dealt with anything it was been my loss of a job, poured mostly into my new job.  I feel a kind of frenetic whirl as I am at my (new) job, so much so that there have been a few days when my chest has literally been pounding as the day ends.  I am shocked and almost dismayed at the level of concentration I put into it, so much so that I almost feel like a different person.  In some ways, it just doesn’t seem like me; at best it’s this turbo-charged on steroids version of me.  It’s like this heavy suit I put on when I go to work and take off as I leave Jessup, Pennsylvania.  To make matters truly surreal, I have simply wonderful co-workers…they are professional, exceptionally well qualified (as well qualified a team as you find in any organization, bar none), and hard-working.  In fact, I couldn’t ask for a better group of folk to work with, which adds a kind of exclamation point to the notion that how I feel is a kind of manufactured (in my own head) reality.  Yes, I landed well, but far too often my thoughts go back to the one-way 30 second video conference call that ended my nearly 28 year prior career. 

To that last point, I don’t even recall what she said in the 30 second video stream, other than the outcome.

Monday, June 26, 2017
I had hoped that my brother would have been around for much longer.  Part of me envisioned spending more time with him as we got older.  We had talked, for example, about going in an exploratory hike around the old Rocky Glen amusement park.  I knew he would be able to retire early, as he had worked for the federal government for most of his life, and that this would afford him some level of comfort.  The idea of maybe going on vacation with Chris and his wife had crossed my mind as well.  With Chris, or so the Chris I like to remember from years past, there was a kind of independence.  I didn’t have to worry about him, or help him, or otherwise be the “smart, successful one”, something that pains me on so many levels.  Of course, as the years went by and his illness began to consume his life much like a cancer, all of that went out the window, and I was left at the bitter end being someone who did in fact worry about him, as well as helping him out financially (which, I will add, was a mistake…but a mistake I would make over and over again).  Chris was one of the few people in my life that I truly had a shared experience with, who could understand some of the dynamic that shaped our mutual and perturbed views on life.

I feel robbed, that somehow life has needless cheated me out of two important things, and for the life of me, I didn't really ask for all that much in the first place.  I functionally didn’t have a father growing up.  I had a mother who was incredibly bitter and angry much of the time.  Was it too much to ask to at least have all of my brothers?  Apparently it was.

Growing up, Chris and I were both every different, yet we also had so much in common.   In an odd sort of way, it’s as if we were both cut from the same cast, but we both drifted in opposite directions.  My brother was a smart guy in every sense of the word.  If he set his mind to something he achieved it.  With rare exception, he was successful at just about everything he attempted in life.  He was persistent and passionate, two qualities that I greatly admire in anyone, let alone my brother.  He was also supremely confident…from the outside…so much so that he could be accused of arrogance.

Where we drifted apart, it was, I think, in how we handled the stresses of growing up in our dysfunctional environment.  Where I drew inward, he lashed outward.  My coping skills included over-thinking and rumination, while his mostly included rebellion.  Chris was, without a doubt, a rebel with a cause, with that “cause” being fighting back against an upbringing that he somehow viewed as having cheated him.  He ran away to the Navy and I ran away to college, but since I was the far more cautious of the two, I waited two years.  We both knew that something was off in our childhood, but neither of us had the skills to actually understand, let alone cope, with the circumstances.  And I’m still looking.

Perhaps what I saw in my brother was a final chance of having someone around whom, as we were both older and wiser, would be able to help finally and fully unpack our shared childhood.  I’ve been cheated out of someone who understood, at a very basic level, this far too difficult to explain shared experience.  Chris was someone who, in the absence of real answers, would at least be able to offer some affirmation that it wasn’t “just me”.

In the end, I know that, deep down, I am still truly blessed, and that everyone carries their own cross in life, even if some are far heavier than others.  Mine may, in fact, be relatively light.  Still, maybe my hope had been that my dues in this part of life were prepaid in years past, that somehow at this point things would less dramatic.  Note that I never wrote the word “easier”, because I get that part:  No one ever says that life is or should be easy. 

So here I sit, on a back porch overlooking the Chesapeake Bay on a very sunny Monday morning.  There is a breeze in the air, and a boat in the bay putting down or pulling up crab pots.  My legs are a tad bit sore from a 6 mile + bike ride (with my mother-in-law, no less), but otherwise I am fully functional.  If ever there was a place where answers could be found, it's likely here.  At the very least, it feels peaceful.  Maybe...just maybe...that's what I really need right now:  Some peace.

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