I’d love to say I’ve overcome the dark thoughts. “Overcome” is a strong word. I can certainly say I’ve “survived” a good deal in my, thus far, 38 years. I had my spleen, gallbladder, appendix and 26” of small intestine removed as an emergency measure right from the outset. Some kind of hemolytic anemia was complicating things and Mom always told me I was a “miracle.” She’s quick to remind me that the doctors repeatedly warned her I’d never make it. Something in me, even from birth, was white-knuckling it to survive. That was ’83.

It’s...interesting now, being 38, having being born in ’83. 83/38. Like I’ve survived long enough to have reached some mirror/matrix moment in my own existence. What happens now? Is there some sort of switch that flips or code that glitches out? Anyway, to the point: multiple surgeries, blood transfusions, an absentee biological father, an angry, verbally/physically abusive stepfather and hyper-fundamentalist/evangelical schooling...these are all ingredients that, shaken together, make a mighty bitter cocktail.

For now, right here, on June (whatever it is?) in the Year of Our Lord 2021, I’m inhaling/exhaling with a pulse and brain activity and feelings and thoughts. There were birds singing all around in the backyard this morning at 5:35, before the sun was awake. I’ve had my coffee. Looking around me, I have two adopted terriers, C.S. Lewis who is old but still has his spark, and Surry, the drama queen with the deer-drop eyes. I have a high-school sweetheart of a wife who has stayed “in it” with me for 18 of my 38 years. Lots to be thankful for. Lots yet to process. Promise and pain. Grief and gratitude. I’m learning to recognize the anchors, and clinging to them for dear life.

When the dark thoughts wash over my skull from deep beneath the black abyss that is a physical/mental/emotional/psychological trauma history, I’m learning to stay with them—letting them flow over, soak through, and eventually recede into the ground...and I can take a deep, life-affirming breath, and lift my gaze to see the world, and others, once again. There are no easy answers or sure-fire fixes. “Overcome” is a strong word. Instead, I’ll say, I’ve learned to stay “in it,” the way my wife has stayed “in it” with me. To breathe through the dark waters. To anchor. To cultivate curiosity about my thoughts/feelings. To be in relationship with them, rather than seek escape. To be ok with them—not to judge them. Otherwise, I suffocate, I drown, I go dark. If the baby born dying in ’83 has made it all the way to 38, I want to see how much farther he’ll go, and grow. It’s a journey worth taking all the way...until the heart decides it’s tired, and goes to sleep.

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