Power - 8/15/13
Something happened last night. It didn't happen to me, but a friend, and it could have been significantly worse. The details aren't important, what matters is that she called me in hysterics. Terrified. She needed a friend and in a perfect world, needed someone to be there. "There" was in Cambridge, a good 45 minutes away and I was at home with a sleeping kid in the other room. We talked as long as her phone's battery lasted, which thankfully was long enough for her to get to safety, if not quite safely home. The situation was bad, but like I said, could have been much, much worse, yet I wasn't able to sleep until after 3:30 am (several hours after she let me know she was safely home) because I was so upset. I made it through a full work day on three hours of sleep with virtually no sense of sheer exhaustion because I was so angry and the anger kept me going. But why was I angry? Was I upset that some bad shit could have happened to someone I care about? Sure. But once she was safe, why did it linger and even gain strength? I've spent the evening trying to unravel the layers of my psyche to figure it out in the hopes that understanding will help me let go of the anger. It was clearly a triggering event for me. I quickly realized that it's the same feeling that I had during my childhood. Which explains the anger.

If you're reading this blog, you've probably read some of my fiction or listened to some of my music, so it should be no surprise to hear that I spent much of my life extremely angry. All the time. It's something I'm mostly past, but that kernel of deep, fundamental anger lays underneath all my jocularity, just waiting for an excuse to try and take control. Fuckin' A, we've all got demons. Whatever. But why did it come out so damn effectively last night and get enough of a hold that I'm still writing about it now? Was I projecting my fear for my friend into the almost constant fear that I grew up with? I grew up in a town where the bullies were rewarded and the adults joined in and made it clear that if you were a kid who was a bit different that you didn't belong and you didn't matter. Everyone would be better off without you. The bumps and bruises weren't frequent, but they always came without warning and without consequence for the perpetrators of the violence. That seems like an easy explanation, but it wasn't quite right. So I took a harder look at myself and who I am.

By the time I reached high school, I was emotionally shattered. As early as elementary school, one of my "defense mechanisms" for the bullying, was to beat them to the punch. If a kid would start insulting me, I'd come up with insults ten times worse and take the fun out of the game. Of course over the years, I started to internalize that shit. Who wouldn't? I didn't like who I'd been lead to believe I was because there really wasn't anything good to say about him. I knew my friends liked me, but honestly I had no idea why. I barely dated at all, not just because I was crap at talking to girls, but because even when someone seemed interested, I viewed it more with suspicion than anything else. What was her game? At what point does the joke get exposed and how public will the humiliation be? Why else would she be pretending to like me?

The more I thought about that, the more I realized that was the emotional synchronicity. But I don't hate myself now. It took a damn long time, but the day I drove away from my emotionally destructive marriage the light went on and I realized, I'm not just some consolation prize, I'm a damn fine catch. I'm a nice guy and I'm not going to apologize for it, motherfucker! If anything I may have picked up a touch of arrogance as my self-confidence has made my life really take off. I'm doing pretty amazing by almost every measure of success these days. If I was a catch four years ago, broke, moving into my mother's basement, and about to embark on a caustic divorce, I'm the goddamned golden ticket these days! So why is that the well spring of my current anger and how can I exorcize this demon?

After work, as I drove home, to my apartment in the town where I grew up, I realized what it was. The self-loathing, the fear, it all came from a single source. My childhood was spent in an environment that daily and in a myriad of ways made me feel constantly powerless. I wasn't in control of my safety. I wasn't in control of my emotional well being. I had few people to turn to for protection or support. That's how I felt last night. I had a friend in real danger and all I could do was talk through the phone and try to keep her calm and moving in the right direction. If things had gone from bad to worse, I would have been forced to listen, with absolutely no way to alter the outcome. It's not often that I feel that way these days.

It doesn't help that I have an extremely vivid imagination so that I can visualize any horrible scenario in technicolor. All that said, I'm incredibly glad she called me. I may have felt powerless to help if something went wrong and may have gone on a bit of a rage binge, but I'd like to think that my bearing witness and making sure she didn't feel alone offered her a little power. Sure I'm arrogant and everything here is about me, but in that situation, my feelings were correctly at the bottom of the priority list. I felt so powerless as a child because I had so few people to turn to when I needed someone to guide me through whatever shitstorm I was embroiled in. That's not a problem I have these days. One of the things I'm kind of kicking myself about in retrospect is that I have people who could have been to her in under 20 minutes. They may never have met, but if I called and explained the situation, 11:30, midnight, time be damned, I'm sure my people would have been there. I'm really glad that I have friends like that and I'm glad I can be one. Most importantly, I'm glad she got home safely.

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