Zack – Named after the grandfather he never met. Born to rebuild himself.

Who do I think I am!? Is it even grammatical to use an exclamation point followed by a question mark?! I don’t care, because I’m arrogant and egocentric. But mostly I’m AFRAID. So cliche for a man to confess that he fears both success and failure. It’s true I do. I must have some kind of anxiety disorder because I find it very hard to pick up the phone and make a phone call. I find it very hard to keep the simplest of plans with people. I hardly sleep thinking about these things. It’s even worse now because I’m a father of three, and I am currently unemployed. Fingers crossed for my next career. I envy those who seem to have it so easy, sure I don’t know the realities they face but wow am I impressed by how free other people seem to be. Men, Fathers, husbands who simply do it; who just have a job and work it their entire life. Folks who find a good wife and together they make sound and seemingly wise decisions that lead to continued personal prosperity. I’m sure they sleep well at night. not reevaluating, and second-guessing every word they spoke, every minuscule choice they made. What’s worse is that not only does the past haunt me, but the future does too. How can I plot a series of decisions that end in my kids having a future, well why don’t I stay up all night trying to figure it out! Get the right high yield savings account and save the remaining money I have while I’m not employed… I think the expression goes: the best time to plant a tree was forty years ago, otherwise you better do it today.

If I’m being honest a majority of this anxiety comes from my divorce. I filed for divorce, leaving behind a raging mad woman who carried and birthed my first two children. She fancied herself perfect and quite literally could qualify for borderline personality disorder or as a sociopath. She would start huge fights with me that ended in police involvement on occasion, but never any arrests thankfully. However, before we were married she was arrested on domestic battery charges after assaulting me. Back then in 2011, the responding officer told me to get a new girlfriend. I wish I had heeded the warning. Many significant people in my life were telling me to get the hell away from this women, but I had an unbearably crippling trauma bond, and an attachment disorder coupled with a lifetime of complex trauma that made me very susceptible to positive and negative attention from almost anyone who would show it. My fragile self-esteem made me nearly a sociopath myself. I had no real relationships with anyone, platonic or otherwise. I had only single serving friends as “Tyler Durden” described in the acclaimed film Flight Club. I was literally alone in the world with a shattered sense of self. So meeting a women 7 years my senior on a street corner sidewalk on the third of July around midnight and starting an unhealthy long-term relationship with her seemed like a good idea. It was a mistake. However, mistakes are lessons to be learned from and that lesson taught me how to be a father and how to overcome all that baggage I was carrying. Of course, this wasn’t an overnight process and many scars do I have to show for that wide arched learning curve known as the hard way. 

Now I am a man less likely to repeat foolish behaviors and less likely to forget or even acknowledge who I actually am. Semi broken, once beaten down, made to feel shame and unworthiness by the people who my innocence considered infallible (I’m talking about parents). That fat kid in middle school who wanted to be liked so badly that I would be talked into anything – shamefully I still recall my idiocy. Art class 6th or 7th grade. I am very fat and I have good-sized man boobs, the cool kids can see all my weaknesses. They exploit my need to belong. They egg me on telling me to go tell such and such, attractive young lady, that she should do like I do and put Kleenex in her bra to make her more attractive. Wow, what a foolish bastard I was, literally semi fatherless. Only with my father 3 months out of the year. Not a man, not a woman, nothing. I was a demented degenerate who was so easily lead, fooled and seeking of other’s validation. Of course while snubbing all the healthy and positive routes to these ends; like sports, positive communication with healthy adults or teachers. Simply denying every authority and claim to me. Another shameful recollection, a genuinely good man, who taught 7th or 8th-grade math (aka pre-algebra) literally was willing to aid me in rising to a station – any station. What did I do? I told the man to fuck off, that I didn’t need anything from him. What was I really wanting? for him to demand to acknowledge that I did need his lessons and instruction to pass that class. Detentions, banishment from the “end of year class trip”. Marked for life as I entered high school as clearly a degenerate. What did I lack? I lacked the Authority of a Father. The mother I was born into was herself a broken person, full-throttled trauma history, and full of absolute bad decisions. As was my dad, who’s alcoholism took him when I was 24 years old. Mom, of course, couldn’t save me. She couldn’t aid me in seeing how beautiful and full life could be. Therefore, just like my parents, I made terrible choices when picking sexual partners.

So who do I think I am? Even the passive reader would assume that I had little chance of becoming much. Just another divorce statistic, a deadbeat dad perhaps, surely some kind of blue-collar who enjoys recreational drugs on the weekends. These were my peers and potential bedfellows. What I did I hope surprises you. I dropped out of high school. I worked among those peers until I could not take it anymore. I enrolled in a junior college. I learned how to speak in public. I mean literally how to use words to form safe healthy human relationships. Had I not done so I could have been a college bathroom rapist given my trajectory.

Wait! I am not giving credit where credit is due. There was always God. I am telling you, it sounds so self-fulfilling, but truly some things are stranger than fiction. This fatherless boy that lived next to a church and next to a home that was the residence of the church’s youth pastor, his wife and five kids. Sure my mom supported me walking to that church and hanging out with kids in the neighborhood, but who except for God could have taken the raw, soft clay that was me, positioning me next to HIM and putting me on his foundation when I needed it the most, as a youth. I would soon walk to that church most Sunday’s without my mother, father, grandfather or grandmother. Just a boy looking for validation, and to be honest, I couldn’t have said it better than David the King of Israel, writing The Psalm, describing God as – A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Psalm 68:5-6.

Sure it took me half my lifetime to stop rebelling, I am a hard learner! Some of the most important fathers in my life were the men I met in that church next to my childhood home.

Finally, Who do I think I am? – in short, I am a child of God. A Loving father and a dedicated husband…… but I could have been so much less.

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