“Each and every lesson learned through my life, has been learned the hard way.” -JSM-
The “phoenix rising” metaphor is overly used, and way too cliche. The example may fit the bill for a lot of people in a lot of cases, but I hate using it. It’s almost cringe worthy. As most of us already know, a series of catastrophes and personal tragedies through life potentially have the power to mold us into something we never expect, or break us beyond recognition. Our tragedies and overwhelming struggles define who we are, and what we become.
My raging storms, tragedies, and personal struggles ultimately transformed me into an emotionless vessel of priority and order. A manipulator of chaos. It was both a blessing and a curse.
During my divorce proceedings I only shed tears one time, for roughly three minutes (give or take). In the shower, after the water turned cold, I stood there with both hands pressed into my face and allowed the tears to fall for a time. I gave myself one moment and one moment only. Who knows… maybe I was sobbing cause the hot water was gone. Yeah… let’s go with that.
During that brief moment I whispered into my palms, said what I had to say to whoever was listening, took breaks to catch my breath, and purged incremental rounds of continued emotion until I believed it was finally over.
Then I flipped the switch to robot mode, buried those emotions as far down as I could push them, and life moved forward. I had to. I didn’t have a choice in the matter.
I haven’t cried since 2011.
One difficult afternoon a couple years ago I said goodbye to the mutt, speaking my love to her, scratching her ears and nose while the drugs slithered through her veins to stop her heart, and I never cried. Even placing her in the ground with her favorite bone, chew toy, and blanket, sprinkling a handful of fresh earth over her corpse, I was as calm as a cucumber.
Nancy’s pain, death of loved ones, funerals, receiving crushing devastating news, jumping through bankruptcy hoops, attending four court hearings for unpaid debt knowing I was facing warriors much stronger than I, continuing mounting bad news, epic medical situations, betrayal, piling stress… sleepless nights… disconnection… lethargy… borderline catatonic…
Big deal. Your crap is no different than anyone else’s crap.
You’re absolutely right.
Why even bring it up?
I believed by switching that emotional lever in my mind to the off position, I was able to survive my tragedies. My lack of emotions created a force field, and shields were always up. I had to attack the obstacles thrown with logic and reasoning. Applying deduction, and breaking details down into minutiae. Even delving into the metaphysical when needed. Life became a chess game. Timing was always essential. Routine and management was absolutely necessary and thinking about each and every angle was paramount.
I couldn’t laugh. I couldn’t cry. I could barely smile. Eyes always moving, wide open and shifting, darting all around and watching my environment. Analyzing and scrutinizing everything.
Of course… it’s all different now, but it took a long time of life lessons to get there.
Those lessons helped me be more prepared, mentally. Over a short time I developed the thickest of skin. When formulating and developing the mentality of, “anything bad can happen, at anytime, and you must be prepared for the worst case scenarios at any given moment…”
Life will indeed take on a whole new meaning.
Sleeping with one eye open. Hearing every noise. Listening intently to the random swarms of butterflies flapping around in the stomach. On the cusp of paranoia, but not to the point of watching the neighbors through the windows with binoculars. Driving the same series of roads every day and maintaining a specific route. Trusting only those few folks you truly trust with absolute certainty, and conversations with everyone else is all surface dialogue.
That was my universe for almost three years.
I wasn’t incapable of love, just the ranging emotions that accompany love.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but I’m veering off onto a side path for a moment.
When filing for bankruptcy, all the noise stops. The harassing calls. The angry messages. The piling unopened mail on the end of the counter. The threatening emails and cryptic text messages. It all vanishes. Absolute quiet. Serenity. I remember receiving bill collector calls almost every five minutes. At ten at night, sometimes eleven. Sunday’s. Holidays. Relentless pursuits of my money.
File for bankruptcy? It all goes away.
It has it’s obvious drawbacks, but once approved and the process is complete… life changes.
For me, it changed for the better. Quite possibly one of the greatest things I’ve ever decided on. A struggle in it’s own right, but a fight worth fighting.
No loans, no credit cards, no leases or contracts, no mortgage, little ties to the Old Life, zero debt. I didn’t have much, so essentially I was starting over clean slate. All I had to worry about was a student loan nagging me and threatening to garnish wages.
I made arrangements with their loan department for a monthly payment I can afford. They continue to intercept my tax return as well, and I see the monthly deductions from my account without fail.
Three years later, in 2018, I receive a notice in the mail, on October 30th.
A second student loan has gone to collections. A loan I thought was was being paid. A debt I was unaware of. I “believed” the arrangements made with the loan department three years earlier had settled the matter.
Nope. Not the case.
I quite literally almost lost my mind. The verge of tears.
I take full responsibility and blame no one but myself. I never asked questions. I never dug deeper and looked into the details. I never asked the loan department, three years ago, if I had any other outstanding debt with them or anyone else in the network of student funding, and if so, let’s take care of it pronto. Apparently, the re-payment arrangement was made for one debt. Not all of them.
I never did what I should have done.
I want to pay my debts. I don’t want to owe anyone anything. Some things are apparently unavoidable. I’m a victim of my own ignorance. I wasn’t prepared.
The thing that pisses me off is the fact I never received any correspondence from the entity seeking payment. No bill in the mail. No email. No phone calls. Nothing but a paper notification one evening after work, stating the debt is now in collections.
What’s that all about? I mean… really? Out of the blue it arrives in my mailbox from nowhere.
I was so furious I couldn’t communicate with them. I hung up when the agent on the other end started asking questions about my utility costs and what I pay a month for electricity, food and recreation.
Nope. I don’t have the ability or time to discuss that with you right now, “Bruce.”
The moral to all that is, I was never prepared for the blindside. It caught me completely off guard and I almost freaked out and lost my faculties. I hate being caught off guard. I once vowed to always have my guard up.
When I brought Nancy home from the hospital, I made a promise. I promised to think only of her, and getting over this new hurdle. If we can do this, we can do anything. Together we’ll find strength through struggle. I had to prepare. I had to be ready. One little oversight can lead to catastrophic failure and the domino effect from that failure will land on my shoulders and I’ll be held responsible.
Time to robot up.
Realistically, we can never be fully prepared for what the world throws at us. We can only hope to be prepared, believe we’re prepared, and do the best with what we have.
Nothing could prepare me for what was yet to come.
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