I haven't been myself lately. In fact, I'm beginning to realize that I maybe haven't entirely been my-self for the last forty-plus years (I'm 47). One certainty is that (as friends have often tried to tell me) I haven't always viewed myself as I should. But I suppose that's what happens when you become a people pleaser...you tend to lose part of yourself trying to please the people you hope will love you back. In fact, even now...even among all of the incredible lessons that I've learned over the last two years, it's difficult to find a launching point to tell this story. Why? Quite simply, because life can be messy at times. And within that clutter are people that I care about...people that I love...people who love me, too. But maybe there's a balance that I can find in telling my story while respecting those who are woven into this tale...to tell it with the grace and mercy that we all deserve from one another. After all, the goal here is to share the good lessons that I've learned (at least from my perspective) of how to live...to live authentically. Purposefully. Wholeheartedly. Unapologetically. A life without regret. An honest life where anything can be said...AS LONG AS it's said in love and truthfulness. No. This is not a story of dragging people through the mud. This is not about the wagging of fingers or childish tattling. Hopefully, this is a story of what love can accomplish. A telling of healing. A lesson about how to forgive and to rebuild and to inspire. A narrative on how to resolve conflict, because I've learned that we, in general, do not know how to find resolution...I mean, look all around you...endless conflict is not only recounted on the evening news, but is also played out within our own neighborhoods and grocery stores and families. How in the world can we demand world peace if we can't even make peace on our own streets?
Speaking of truth, thankfully, these truths I do know about my life: #1) That I love my wife, Nicole, and our extraordinary boys. These are the people who see me within the four walls that I call home...and they know all of me...and they love me unconditionally. I'm so grateful for the life we've built together. From the moment I knew she was my soul-mate, I became forever committed and loyal (I am a pisces, after all); and I would do anything to scratch and claw to keep that love and commitment alive and true. Without question, I share the same sentiment for my boys...they are pure joy. And #2) that my belief in our Heavenly Father is true and real. That my relationship with Jesus Christ is sealed in blood. In fact, I remember at the age of nine arguing with God in a moment of doubting his existence that, "If I'm going to believe in you, God, and in your word, it's not because my mom and dad told me to. I'm going to have a relationship with you, because I have found you on my own." And he lets me find him everyday. These are the two truths that I've never compromised for anybody.
Before I begin to tell my story, I need you to make a promise. Do not feel sorry for me or pity me. There are no victims here. Rather, please know that God has used all of the sour, bland, icky/sticky, and spoiled ingredients of my life and has turned them into the most incredible masterpiece. And, yes, although I am writing about my experiences, this is not about me...this is about all of us...for anyone else who has also lived in fear and doubt...for anyone who has been too afraid to tell their own stories of emotional trauma...people who feel alone just like I did...this story is for anyone else who also wants to live authentically and wholeheartedly and unapologetically. I hope you realize, too, that, "I was never alone in this". Always remember that through this retelling that this is a story of healing and of hope and of love. Do you promise? Good...then onward!
I was five years old, standing in the school yard before the morning bell rang. A heavy-set, blonde-headed eighth grader was directing me in front of a group of other kids. I was surrounded by them, if memory serves me correctly. "Do it, again...do it, again", she implored me. Everyone laughed. And although I don't remember what she was encouraging me to do over and over, I do remember that (initially) I felt appreciated by this audience. But it didn't take long to realize...they weren't laughing with me. And I believe that was the moment I was falsely labeled. Forty-two years later, after decades of being emotionally beaten up, broken, and bruised (often multiple times daily), I've been identified as suffering from Adult Post Bullying Syndrome (APBS). And now, after all this time, I finally have a name for this strange "cloud" that used to be eclipsed over me...and I'm finally seeing glimpses of light pierce through to the clear blue skies. It's been a very long road these last two years, but I'll explain more about this part of my journey and the effects of APBS in the next post. Until then, live magnificently and love each other well!