I have lived much of my life in defiance of logic, in mortal combat with reason, against my own best interests and without my full knowledge or participation. I have chosen not to choose. I have watched life unfold before me and followed the path in front of my nose. I worked hard and with mild success but no joy. An empty frustration eventually seemed normal. Those annoying opportunities that sometimes beckoned to me from uncharted ambiguity failed to breach a perverse protective barrier which shielded me from risk and reward.
Born into poverty, raised in a liberal society and thrown into mental trauma by age twenty, what more should I expect? I felt undeserving, inferior, and, at my core, afraid. I held that dark secret in my heart for all my days. I knew I was destined to fail at the big things in life.
And I did.
It is not that I had no dreams, or ability, or mental capacity. In every measure of those things, I feel certain I am above average. But it matters not what a man can do; it matters what he does. My potential stagnated, forever tainted by fears and insecurities created solely inside this big broken brain of mine.
My head was filled with a cluster of tiny time bombs, each one eagerly waiting to be triggered by some sight or sound reminiscent of the traumatic elements of my days in Vietnam. When each bomb exploded in my head my world grew darker and more ominous. In ignorance and in my convoluted worry of not appearing normal, I offered my excuses, then told myself I was OK and nothing was wrong.
But I wasn't OK. Something was wrong.
I survived through avoidance and denial. I struggled on for years inside that protective bubble. As I shrank away from the dangers poking at my defenses, my world grew smaller and smaller and filled itself to the brink with fear and mental pain. Life was not worth living.
I tried to end it ... but woke up still alive.
Now I must face an agonizing truth. No matter how accurately I might point the finger of blame at things other than myself for my past failures, that changes almost nothing. I still have to live this life. And I am responsible for all of it. Even those decisions or indecisive moments, spoiled or spurred on by outwardly-induced poor judgment, are all mine to own. I cannot escape responsibility for the results of my actions.
And even if I could, I will still have to live the life those actions created.
I search my soul and relive my past looking for answers to how and why I let it happen. The answers come slowly. And I grow old. Perhaps I'll never fully understand the weakness that led to all my failings. My mind moves between brief moments of clarity, the occasional few hours of a working intellectual energy, and days or weeks of the densest mental fog. And I don't know their schedule.
Time has become precious. I must do something of value to justify my existence; that is my new life goal. I can not know when this life will end or what I might accomplish in these days that lead to then. But I know this: I'm not yet a failure. I'm just a man still on a journey. I lost my way and I stumbled in the dark. But with God's mercy, therapy, and the help of my loving family ….
I've been given one more chance for a meaningful life.