A rare glimpse into the side of me that so many fear does not exist.
Life is one of those things that can be very cruel. I’m not one to mull around and pretend that somehow my experiences are worse off than another person, because honestly that would be pretentious at best and arrogant at worst. In the end, what I can comfortably say is that “I truly understand”.
Maybe it’s empathy that drives us, a yearning to walk in another’s shoes just for a bit and bond closer? I’m not entirely sure about this, and that’s one of those things that you’ll rarely hear me say out loud. I have a fear… and it is a gripping fear. It is that someday I will not be able to help somebody when they need it most. The words “I don’t know” are like poison on my lips, because I may be sealing the fate of another by not being able to bring light into their life.
Not knowing is something that scares me more than anything. Time and again, it is the specter of not knowing that threatened people’s lives, people I dearly care about – family and friends. It’s not knowing that could make the world worse off, in my opinion. Contrary to popular belief, I really do have the best interest of others in mind, even when I’m being a hard-ass or deliberately disagreeable. It is in those times when I actually care the most for others.
I am hyper-critical in the eyes of many, but there is a deeper meaning behind exactly why I act that way. It isn’t necessarily for the sake of starting an argument, or creating some sort of ill-will toward others or even aimed at myself (although the latter is quite common toward me). I consider that collateral damages at best, but still worth the effort. It’s not the collateral damages I’m after, but preparing people to rise out of those ashes a better and stronger person.
That’s where the confusion comes… because many (if not most) only see the collateral damages or trials by fire as a result of my hyper-critical nature, but fail to see the extended outcomes of that.
It isn’t whether I’m criticizing others or even companies that matter – it’s the willingness on my part to rub salt in the wounds in order that we hopefully address there are wounds to begin with and focus our attention on healing them while we can, before we bleed out (metaphorically speaking). Nobody likes having those wounds ground in salt, nor should they… but if it was all roses and rainbows, we’d never get heated or passionate about the subjects at hand or bother to address them at all, and to me… that’s far worse because it’s “not knowing” that can be the worst damage.
I’m no stranger to darkness and pain, and my life has brought me much more than any one person should ever be asked to endure. No, I didn’t lose my legs in a war. I’m not living in a poverty stricken third world country. There are horrors and struggles that even I wouldn’t wish on others, and truly wish there was a solution to.
Over the past few months it’s been like that for me, and maybe a large part of the years of my life as well. A lot of strife and grief… unimaginable to a guy like myself who thinks there must be reason and logic to all things, and suddenly there is not. I’ve held a broken man in my arms in tears as he had a total nervous breakdown – afraid to go to the hospital because he thought they’d never let him out of the psychiatric ward, I’ve learned that my step-sister was murdered by her boyfriend in another state, and I’ve been to funerals that I never thought I’d go to so soon in my life.
I’ve had to wonder if anything I’ve done is worthwhile, if it really made a difference in the end. I’ve lost a lot in life… I’ve run into burning buildings to save people only to have them die a few months later of a heart attack. I’ve had love and lost it countless times, mostly because I’ve been lied to, stranded, cheated on, or worse.
Even in the darkness there is light sometimes.
I’m more of a realist, with a side of sarcasm. It’s not the realization that I’ve been cheated on or lied to that hurts most, because over the years that has become inconsequential to me, it’s instead when you have to let the person you love go in order for them to be happier without you, and to be a better person. It’s when you see there is a wound and you know the only way to make it better is to point it out and pour some salt on it. It’s knowing your name will be on their lips only in salt and vinegar from that moment on, but they will be stronger because of it, even if it means you have to take a hammer to your own heart to do it. That is a level of caring that I think few these days possess… often too selfish to let go even when they know they should.
I have a unique sort of perspective on things. Maybe it’s a curse… seeing the bigger picture and not being afraid to rub salt in the wounds when it’s needed. In the long run, people do change and become better for it, no matter how much they think I’m a horrible person in the short term. I can take that collateral damage if it means people will ultimately be better off for it.
I was asked in an interview recently what the best and worst parts of being an analyst and trend forecaster are, and my answer was cutting and truthful. The best part is that those situations are like a giant puzzle to be solved, something that begs to be worked out… the challenge. The worst part is knowing the solution is something that will never be acted on, and that you have no choice but to watch with your hands tied as a ticking time bomb counts down. Even worse when you have no choice but to rub salt in the wounds just to make things apparent, but know full well things will bleed out in the end because people are more interested in defending themselves instead of fixing what is wrong.
Sometimes there aren’t any solutions at all, and that’s even worse for me. Sometimes I have to lay awake at night knowing there is nothing I could have done to prevent a murder, and even the noblest of intentions did not save a friend in the end. Staring in to the hollow eyes of a dying relative who has made peace, knowing you’ll never see them again. Those eyes still haunt me today in my dreams. That’s the stuff nightmares are made of.
Inside my mind is often a dark place. There are screaming souls, strife and grief swirling and angry at the world. I’ve learned that pouring salt on those wounds is the best remedy even for myself, and trial by fire sets those dark specters ablaze in the inky void. Despite the darkness, there is always a shining light, and if I have to destroy hell itself to let it shine through, then so be it.
I’ll take being relegated to damnation if it means others are saved by that light.
“Demons”, my friend used to say, “are my only friend”. I remember he used to sit alone and cry, with the grip of addiction, anger and shame choking him. I could do nothing… I had no pearls of wisdom… I had no comfort to offer… it was his trial by fire, and I would do worse to him by stopping it. It was gut wrenching for me… and I cried with him many nights. Angels who have fallen have no choice but to become Demons… something I said a long time ago to him… and he had it tattooed on his back. There was no rehab for him… he’d been there countless times and it never worked.
He’s clean now, but only because he’s spent many years in jail. Sometimes what we think is the worst thing that could happen, really is what may have saved our lives or made us a better person because of it. This is a reality that I’ve come to understand.
I’m a better person for all the tragedy and suffering I’ve endured or had to witness. From my own trial by fire I’ve learned something invaluable – the ability to have perspective.
It’s made me a harder person, I will agree. But underneath all of that is somebody who cares deeper for others than many may even imagine.
Does this make me a lonely or bitter person? Sometimes. Some days I wonder what life would be like if I were just able to play ignorant and pretend everything was alright. Ignorance is bliss, and it’s a bliss I’m not afforded… It’s a high price to pay.
I remember when I was younger… in highschool. I watched helpless as a friend had his head blown off at point blank range. It was a pointless argument on the basketball court, and my friend didn’t want any trouble. He begged… he pleaded and cried… as the other kid pulled out a gun and held it to his forehead. I tried to intervene… and I was beaten horribly by the rest of his gang. I should have run for help… but instead I lay beaten and held down.
Later when I was in my early twenties, I worked at a bar. A friend of mine at the time came strolling in late one night, and there was clearly something wrong with him. I called for the bar owner to come down… was an older man in his fifties. The kid, and I still think of him as a kid today, snapped over something somebody said and went into a full out brawl. Eventually we managed to pull him out of the bar into the sidewalk, still beating on the bar owner… we tried to call the cops, but the bar owner told us not to. I finally jumped in and yanked the kid off of the bar owner and when the kid started swinging and fighting me, I tried to back off… but he had his sights set on me and would have no part of it.
I had no choice at that point but to fight back. I ended up slamming the kid’s head into the brick wall outside and beating the ever loving piss out of him until he would stop attacking everyone in arms length. Bleeding and defeated, he got up and started walking down the road… the bar owner went inside to get cleaned up and call the police. The kid and I were the only two outside in those dark and desolate streets.
I’ll never forget that night… as he wandered down the road… toward his home. Turning to yell things at me. I’ll never forget it because that was the last time anyone saw him alive.
The police went to his house later only to find he was slumped in his kitchen… blood smeared all over the walls and floors… he had committed suicide. His wife and young daughter were traumatized. I never felt so bad in my life… that I could have followed him home… I could have kept an eye on him… anything. But I didn’t and he’s dead. I don’t blame myself or beat myself up over it. I blame the drugs he was on, and the depression and guilt… It finally did him in.
I have scars on my my body that serve as a constant reminder that from that night on I would stand to defend and try to help people at nearly any cost. Even if that meant I would take the grief for it. I’ve been stabbed, beaten, burned, and more over the years standing for that ideal. But I stood tall and refused to back down. Because I know it could be worse… it could be a lot worse.
Despite all of this, I choose to embrace not the darkness but instead always search for the light. I choose to look for how to make all things better, but I’m not afraid of the darkness either… I’m not afraid to admit when you have to storm the gates of hell to get to that light, and face your deepest fears, anger, aggressions, insecurities, and all those demons that hold us down. I know that we all have to face those demons, and if we want to be better people we have to be willing to defeat them. We have to be willing to face them head on and not try to convince ourselves that those demons do not exist, or that we are somehow immune to their effects.
Salt in the wound is the least of our worries. It’s what happens when we bleed out and could have stopped it that we should be most afraid of. What I fear most is having no choice but to watch that happen.
I’m harsh and cynical at times, but it’s always a façade. I’m this way because I don’t want this world, and the great things you do, to be destroyed and tormented by the demons that haunt you, to overrun all the good things you are capable of and take them away from you. I’ve seen the horrible things that happen when they do. It isn’t because I’m angry… and it’s not because I like causing contention. It’s because I want less of those demons in this world, even if we have to face them together.
Whether that applies to love, business, or just personal lives… I want what is best for everyone. I’m willing to stand against those demons alone and fight against the things that shouldn’t destroy us in any capacity. Hopefully, one day… I will no longer be standing alone in that fight.
Until that day, I am glad for what little light there is in the darkness, and choose to shine that light (however painful) on those demons. I choose perspective.
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