(The names have been changed to protect my friends’ rights to privacy. Additionally, I have avoided giving too much detail, which might identify my friends, in case someone they know reads this blog.)
This was an email I sent my dad tonight, who has Multiple Sclerosis. He’s been bed-ridden for a year or more; and his last email says that the disease has progressed to the point where he is now waiting for a nursing home to open up and take him. When I was just a boy, he was my best friend. As I grew older, our relationship grew more and more strained, until we stopped communicating all together for a very long time. Just recently, after speaking with my close friend about his extremely caustic relationship with his mother – I began giving him advice. Of course, if you are willing to give advice, you should be willing to take it…if it applies. It did. I needed to attempt to heal the relationship between my father and I, somehow.
He is going to pass away at some point, and I didn’t want that to happen before I had a chance to say how I really felt about him and what impact he had on my life. In the past I had focused so much on my own pain and misery, that I could not really see what was going on. I spewed hatred and bitterness everywhere I went. I hated myself. I hated my father. I hated my mother. I hated the world; and I didn’t trust anyone. The miracle is – how did I ever manage to become removed from all of that and begin my healing?
Something greater than me has stepped in. I am sure of it. And so, in the spirit of generosity and appreciation, I say with a very warm heart, Thank you, whoever or whatever has watched over me all of these years. I know that you were there; even if I couldn’t feel you at times. You have guided me, protected me and brought me to this place and time of forgiveness for myself and for those who I felt did me harm when I was younger. If there is a God; then this bit of song which I love to sing applies, here, I think:
~Our God is an Awesome God- He Reins… from the Heavens Above, with Wisdom, Power and Love – Our God is an Awesome God!~
Remember when I was at one of the foster homes; and you recorded two cassette tapes of songs on my birthday? You would spend a few seconds to introduce the next song coming up.
I really appreciated that.
I think I wore those tapes out, playing them over and over and over again. Each time I did, I thought about coming home again. It got me through some really tough times. Thank you.
My friend Sam went through some very traumatic stuff with his mom when he was just a kid. She nearly killed him several times, driving drunk. He literally, had to, as a kid, grab the steering wheel out of her hand, so they wouldn’t drive into a concrete divider on the highway; and shake her awake.
When he tells me this stuff, I let him talk for a bit, because he needs to speak about it. He needs to acknowledge it. But after a time, I begin to steer him toward what he wants to get out of his relationship with his mom, now. Now is all we really have. And I hate to see him waste his, now, on bitterness, so I have repeatedly asked him to focus on the things that were good between him and his mother. Over the course of a few weeks, he has increasingly been able to do so; and what started out as hate, and anger and all the why’s of why she did this to him as a little kid; and why can’t she just admit some of it…..he’s starting to feel the love he felt and has wanted to feel for so long, for her.
As a man, I have had to make really tough choices:
One of those choices led me to walk away from a girlfriend/friend who kept drinking and drugging, because it was keeping me from being able to stop, myself. I still like her and think about her. I care about her; but I had to do that in order to get my own life straight.
It’s these kinds of choices, I feel, which make the difference between a boy, and a man; or a girl and a woman. When you told me, that I had the makings of being a leader, I couldn’t see it, all those years ago. All I could see was that I was unpopular, felt confused and no girl seemed to want to be with me. I tried to change all the outward stuff, hoping that that would somehow change me and that people would want to be close to me. In time, I saw that changing my outward appearance, was a very SMALL part of changing the conditions in my life; but where I would need to focus most of my attention, would have to be on my character.
I came to this conclusion very slowly and very painfully, when I started looking for a way to avoid being poor; and instead, studied the ways of the wealthy. I gave up, for the most part, reading fantasy and science fiction; and began a steady diet of self-help books. It was a painful process, because the last thing I wanted to really do, was to change myself – that takes courage, conviction, commitment, consistency and discipline – all of which, I was sorely lacking, at the time.
Some of these books would have exercises to do. I wouldn’t do them. The most I would do, was imagine doing the exercise. Yet, I kept coming across these books that told me that if I really wanted to change, then reading the book would not be enough. I would have to take action. Because I had created a habit of reading these kinds of books; I kept coming across this message, until one day, I picked up a pen and piece of paper and tentatively began an exercise in the book I was reading. But as my courage grew and my yearning to change grew stronger, I did more and more of these exercises. – And the course that this has set me upon has been so powerful that it literally changed my life.
So, yes, I am becoming a leader; but I am certain that I could never have done so, had I not been in pain. It was the pain that forced me to take a look at myself, that caused me to have such a burning desire for change and transformation, that I would become intimately acquainted with fear, and what it takes to overcome it – or pain, and what it takes to push through it. How could I ever have hoped to lead people, if I had not gone through my own hell? How could I ever have related? Even if I tried, what advice or real-life problem-solving action could I have taken? If I had tried to rely on some text-book knowledge that I had read out of a field guide for leaders – the most I would have accomplished, was regurgitating what someone else wrote – with no thoughts of my own that had been congealed over time and experience.
Facing failure after failure and learning that that is not the end; has given me the ability to not see myself as a FAILURE, but more as a scientist, who will eventually find what he seeks. I may have gotten people to follow, but as soon as REAL problems arose, my lack of character would have shown through and people would have lost faith in me; and maybe, even, themselves. If I am in a crisis situation in the future…I cannot afford for this to happen. Lives might be at stake; or something greater.
So, looking back on my life, even though the lessons have, at times, been very difficult – I am extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to have gone through them. Most people would never say that – And that is precisely why I will be a leader among leaders.
Most of that has to do with how you brought me up: Your advice. Your quotes like, “If man thinks he can; or a man thinks he can’t – he is generally right”; and “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”. Your love of knowledge and being more than just average. Your love of the mind and logic. Your multiple interests. Your curiosity and playing with science. Your anger and passion for life. Your jokes and lighter side. Your wanting to teach other people what you had discovered…Your need to think for yourself —- I watched that, and began to incorporate it into my being at an early age. I didn’t know what was happening, but I was being transformed. My little body and mind and heart were going through an alchemical transformation; yet, I was unaware.
So, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for the time when we were watching a football game; and you smelled something burning and grabbed a hot frying pan with your bare hand; had to go to the sliding glass door, slam it open and dump it outside on the deck. You acted without worrying about your fears; got a second or third degree burn for your bravery and selflessness.
Later, while I was in the Marines. My corporal had dove into the water and the other corporal froze when she realized that he was in trouble. I acted without thinking, endangering my own life, getting my glasses knocked off; and having the water pull me down in between the big stones of coral…ripping my my back to shreds and my hands and my feet, after bracing with all my might, so I wouldn’t be sucked under. Even after all that – after having failed to help him and nearly dying, myself, I still went and crawled back over to him and pulled him out of the water. I calmed my mind and noticed that if I used the tide, it would buoy up his body weight and would be able to pull him up onto the rocks, safely.
These are things I did not share with you; or if I did – not the whole story.
I just want you to know, that I am the kind of man I am, mostly, because of you. Words cannot express all that I feel for you, though in this email, I have tried.
David Lee Madison, Jr.
~Nate – street name
~KnavetheMage on Twitter
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Monday, December 16, 2013 – 01:27