I heard someone say the other day that all of the cells in the human body are replaced within 7 to 10 years and, as a result, that I may actually be an entirely different person than I was 7 to 10 years ago. That was amazing to me. Looking that fact up brought me to this quote by computer scientist Steve Grand:
“Think of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it?
But here is the bombshell: you weren’t there.
Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place … Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes
together to be you.
Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made.”
Now, I don’t know if that is true or not but it got me thinking. If it is true, then within another 3-5 years I’ll be an entirely different person than I was when you were still alive. Crazy! Physical makeup aside, I can say with perfect certainty that I’m already a completely different person on the inside than I was when you were alive.
Losing you has changed me in so many ways, Brian. I will say that one of the things that I’ve come away from this experience with is a new, almost animalistic need to speak up for myself. I feel it is sort of out of necessity, really. I’ve struggled with my own depression my entire life and recall that my self-injurious behavior began at a frighteningly young age– about age 5. I vividly remember what I believe may have been the very first time: I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of my bedroom in front of my mirror and I was crying so hard. I was so small! I just sat there sobbing, looking at myself in the mirror and hating what I saw and being angry at and disappointed in the pitiful person looking back at me and I began to punch myself in the face over and over and over until it hurt too much and I cried myself to sleep in a wrung-out little heap on the floor. It happened often– not always on my face so people wouldn’t see and ask questions. If they did happen to see, I made up excuses for why there was a bruise– I fell out of bed, I tripped running up the stairs, something fell off the top shelf of my bookcase, etc. I don’t think it was until I was about 17 when I finally fessed up to Mom and Dad (and you) in terms of admitting to how I got all those bruises and scars; when the urges were no longer satisfied by hitting I moved on to cutting with a straight edge razor blade. As a result my arms, chest and legs are blanketed with scars of various lengths and severity. The cuts actually became more severe over the years because it was not unlike the drug addict or alcoholic who, after years of an addiction, required more and more of their chosen substance to get the same effect as they did early on. The cutting was never a suicidal gesture. I feel the need to clarify this as I know so many people out there think of cutting as a pitiful attempt at suicide or simply an attention-getting scheme. It is neither of the above. As you are well aware, we didn’t live in environment in which we could safely express our emotions and feelings so they remained bottled up inside… cutting was a way for me to release that pent-up energy because it needed to go somewhere. Imagine the emotions like a balloon being blown up… it continues to become fuller and fuller and fuller until it is in danger of exploding; to self-harm was the equivalent of letting go of the balloon allowing all the energy to escape and I was immediately relieved and relaxed… until the next time.
In my last letter to you I spoke about our childhood or, rather, my own experience of our childhood. While you were present for all the things I spoke about in reference to our father, we didn’t talk about it much other than we agreed that we both felt the same way with regard the lack of any emotional connection from him at all. We seemed to be around solely to give him an audience to whom to preach rather than as little human beings to love and cherish and nurture into healthy, grown up human beings.
I don’t entirely know if there was ever any “hands-on” sexual abuse in my childhood though I have a few vivid memories that would lead me to believe so; regardless, the verbal and visual sexualization to which I was exposed at home certainly wasn’t appropriate. I think I learned at a very young age that men were interested in women for one thing: their sexuality. I clearly remember getting myself all dressed up to go hang out in the basement and do my best to flirt with the contractor working on our house– I was only 3 years old. A few years later, using my little, plastic sewing machine, I made myself a halter top and wore it to the neighborhood grocery store and pranced around in that tiny shirt in hopes of catching the attention of a man who worked there. And yet there was always the underlying feeling of being absolutely terrified of men. As children you and I nearly always had a female babysitter but I recall one instance in which Mom found a male babysitter for us. You were so excited, you finally had a guy to hang out with and who would play Atari and wrestle with you. While you guys played in the other room, I stood at the front window and cried and cried and cried just praying Mom and Dad would hurry back; I wouldn’t let him anywhere near me because I was afraid he might try and touch me or make me do things I didn’t want to do. When I received a letter the summer of 1984 announcing who my 5th grade teacher would be that upcoming fall and I read that my teacher would be a man I cried myself to sleep for weeks because I’d never had a male teacher and I was deathly afraid of what would happen if I was ever forced to be left alone with him. If I were to describe all the memories I have like those I just mentioned this letter would go on for miles so I’ll leave it there for now. And the thought I keep coming back to year after year is that those feelings of horror are not innate– we are all born with a natural inclination to trust; I wholeheartedly believe that we LEARN those feelings of fear and distrust somewhere.
I really wish we had talked about this stuff more when you were alive, Brian. As much as these letters help me process my feelings they are no replacement for having you here and it would be so much easier if I still had here you on my side. You were my first best friend and are the only one who can really understand what I’m talking about. There is something at work in my soul that is making it possible for me to finally get this stuff out in the open; it’s a poison that has been keeping me “sick” for a long, long time and it needs to make its way to the surface. I realize the things that I have said, and will continue to say, will not be popular with everyone. But a few wonderful friends have been reminding me that it is absolutely OK for me to say what I’ve been saying because it is MY life and MY story and if it will bring me some healing then I have every right to put it out there.
Stay tuned, dude. More to come… 🙂