“Don’t do this essay thing if you think your readers are going to feel sorry for me,” Dave said, then followed up with, “I only want you to write this if you think they can learn something.”
“And I’ve got something I want to say, but I’ll keep it until the end. It’s about looking over your shoulder at your life.”
We went to grade school together. His Dad was a mean guy, and Dave got picked on. We became friends for a variety of reasons, but I thought he was pretty easygoing. And we shared the same birthday. Rediscovering each other through Facebook, we’ve had a chance to catch up.
Dave came from a big family as I did. “There was a lot of anger, abuse, just an awful atmosphere. Always walking on eggshells.” The second to last child out of nine, he felt like he had to “get along” with everybody. “I tried to be entertaining, have the focus on me. That way, I could suspend the conflict, the depression, and the anger for just that moment. I hated conflict, and I thought if I could be more of a people pleaser, the atmosphere would calm a little.”
“I took that into my adolescence, college, and my marriage. When I didn’t get the kind of response for trying to be a nice person, I became resentful. I was just like my father. Charming on the outside, angry on the inside, and if I didn’t feel I was being appreciated, I would get pissed. My first wife said, “Your father was just like you. He’d get so angry with everybody, and feel he was the victim.” She was right.”
“The first time I remember going to a counselor was when I was sent down to Bradley University for psychological testing when I was in eighth grade. In high school, I saw a counselor every year. Same with college.”
“I have sought counseling every decade of my life. I always knew I was different, or at least felt like I was. Ever since I was a kid people called me “weird” and even some of my friends agreed, and still agree, with that assessment. I don’t know how to change who I am.”
“But back to the anger,” Dave said. “I went to a seminar once that told me anger is a result of feeling devalued or anticipating feeling you’ll be disrespected or devalued. Jesus, come listen to the thoughts in my head some time. There are days that this goes on a continuous loop!”
“No self-esteem, always trying to please, then feeling devalued when appreciation and support doesn't come fast enough. Raging anger follows and scorches the Earth underneath the feet of your loved ones and singes their spirit and their soul.”
“I make efforts to change but the nagging sense of awfulness directs your judgements and makes second-guessing yourself routine. Self confidence is fleeting at best. So I jumped the medication train and hope that Prozac or Celexa or Wellbutrin or Paxil or God knows what helps quiet your consciousness and cushion the daily grind of the depressive gears in your head.”
Dave stopped and looked out the window. “But I’m done with the anger now. I’ve hurt one too many people. You have to just give up. It’s frightening as fuck, let me tell you. You feel unprotected. Vulnerable. Just ready for somebody to come by and kick the holy hell out of you. But you feel lighter. And you know, finally, that it’s all been a waste of time.”.
“I hurt my kids, my wives, and now I’m married to a magnificent woman and I hurt her. I didn’t mean to, but it does’t matter. But I can’t stand to see her upset or unhappy. And this time the motivation is to keep her happy, no matter what. Jesus, I realized that it’s really not about me. I have some serious repairs to do in my family, with my kids, and with my friends.”
“But “sorry” isn’t going to cut it this time. I have to hope that they notice my behavior. If they do, they can come closer as they are able, or as they desire.”
Then Dave said, “Tell your readers this: Commit to peace in your relationships. Anger, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, is the “dubious luxury of normal men.” Which means, in short, get rid of your anger. Forgive others, forgive yourself, and let it go completely. Find the way best for you, immediately and permanently, to release your anger and your low self-esteem forever. It just doesn’t fucking matter, Ed, it just doesn’t fucking matter.”
Dave paused and a tear came down his cheek. “It'll keep you from looking back on the life scattered with the broken hearts, scarred souls, and crippled spirits caused by your self-loathing and rage. That vision, the look over your shoulder at your life, seeing the illumination of pain drowning out the light of any good you created, is the beginning of the slowest and most painful death you can endure.”