The Stoic Approach To Broken

“And then I felt sad because I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it’s already happened. “–Douglas Coupland

Everyone has a pivotal moment, a retrospective stand-still, in which growing becomes hard; innocence lost.  It’s like being punched for the first time, doubled-over in perplexing pain, trying to catch your breath.  After that–the first time–it becomes easier to take a beating.  Maybe you self-protect or maybe you’re scared or maybe you’re stronger, but you’re never where you were before.  Moments of truth awaken reflexes within you that were either conditioned or innate, but either way the reaction defines you.

Everyone also has an ostensibly innocuous moment, a seemingly irrelevant event, in which a choice or decision is entered into the dynamic mindstream of another; karma.   Sending and banishing another into Samsara–cyclic suffering–until noble virtue, noble concentration, noble discernment, and noble release is understood.  Sounds like a disproportionate amount of spirit work for one versus the other, right?  Not really, it’s all in the give and take.

One midday Saturday in the early 80’s, I watched out the screen door as a trio of teenagers walked down our mostly desolate road in Divide Community.  No rock was left unturned by my family in our Podunk community and it was the first and perhaps only time strangers afoot passed through.  The details between my curiosity as a screen lurker and why those orphans or hippies or serial killers were devouring the Hamburger Helper at our dinner table may have been misplaced.  Nevertheless, the youngest of the ambiguous sibling tribe became a squatter in our hamlet.  Squatters get all the benefits of home without the responsibility, and by their very nature live in survival mode so everything is a threat.  He was the first broken person I knew, and a catalyst for the demise of  my family unit.

Several months after my parent’s divorce, we were in the grocery store when a familiar but faceless lady mentioned seeing my father buying beer.  This information would have been a fairly normal adult activity, however my father spent my whole life up to that point judging and preaching about the sins of the sinner.

“You must have meant my Uncle Donnie,” I interjected.  “People think they’re twins, but they aren’t. MY dad doesn’t drink.  Drinking beer is a sin.”

Ironically, I will never forget her expression.  She quickly withdrew her tongue from idle talk and looked down.

“Oh.”  She glanced at my mom and then back to me.  “Maybe you’re right.”

I placed my hands on my hips and curtly replied, “I am.”

I was afraid of what it meant; my father drinking.   Was this how stoic people did things?

I didn’t have a penchant for bad things during my teenage years like my friends did during their era of rebellion.  I coughed and  complained too much for my friends to truly get me addicted to cigarettes (like most of them eventually did).  Not a smoker.  It wasn’t an easy feat, either, to get me drinking alcohol.  I hated the taste of liquor, wine, and beer.  One particularly weighty morning, I snatched a beer from my stepfather’s refrigerated stash and took it with me to school.  I got in my car and pushed in the single cassette tape of TLC’s “Waterfalls” and drove toward school–beer between legs and sobbing.

(WAIVER:  I DO NOT CONDONE DRINKING & DRIVING, NOR DO I CONDONE DRINKING LOW-POINT BEER.) 

7:30am, football field parking lot, sobbing and gagging as I forced down my first beer, alone.  After all, this is how stoic people do it.

Musical Memory Meme #2: My brother Jeffrey

In the early 80’s my mother used to blast this song on eight-track while trying to teach us to move our shoulders to the music.  This song conjures up my brother’s knack for shoulder dancing.

The Bullshit of Growth, grab your boots.

Part of me thought the term ‘growing pains’ was bullshit – good TV show though.  Part of being an adult is being able to suspend your thinking and change your mind, and I have changed mine.

It all started around the age of eight or nine when my calf muscles ached something fierce at nighttime, and my Granny Ben would rub Absorbine Jr. on it.  I was in the 40% of children that physically felt their growing pains.  In my bodily defense, I took full advantage of my physical superiority probably more so than most little girls that played with Barbies all day.  Not me, I climbed trees with my boy cousins, ran faster than them, and rode my bike faster than the wind.  Too bad my parents bought me a girlie bike with a banana seat because what I really wanted was a rugged BMX with pegs.

Circa 1988ish – the pinnacle of divorce –  I was struck with the emotional growing pains of…you guessed it…divorce.  I sure wish they made an Absorbine Jr. for that!  Those growing pains were brutal.

When the nineties hit it yet another type of growing pain – physiological ones.  It was an awkward time that I prefer not to delve into again because it fits in like a pair of MC Hammer pants.

College was a time for experimenting of all genres and with this expanded my pant size.  The ego expanded and deflated as appropriate.  Often times reckless abandon for organized anything was merely a gateway to debauchery, and throwing caution to the wind defied everything we learned from our parents.  Didn’t you want them to be so dead wrong (your parents)?  I know I did and this rebellion was a growing pain that was the hardest to realize, but thankfully I eventually did, fixed my credit, and had enough failures to write a book.

Career growth, what can I say about that?  Sometimes you work for ten years to get what the intern that ‘knows’ the president of the company gets in less than a year going from intern to Director, but she hasn’t yet learned what you did in college (not to fall victim to compromising positions).  I’m just saying…she didn’t get there from paying her dues… like you, but then again maybe you’ll wise up and realize you’re now in debt with your soul.  Sometimes you soar, but most of the times what you dream of doing isn’t what pays the bills and growing to be okay with that is a big miserable lesson to learn.  This usually makes you fall victim to lottery tickets and a reintroduction to your college friend, alcohol. I’d take the muscle aches of growing pains any day over this because at least you’re inflicted and unaffected.  If you’re not a pessimist by this point of growth in life you will be, and if you aren’t we’ll who the hell do you think you are (steer clear of the rest of us)?!

I struggled greatly to break away from what was hammered into my head called religion in spirituality’s clothing, and I formed my own private spirituality to which contributes to my happiness.  I’ve learned not to talk about it with my mother, and since she’s my superfan on this  I will skip this too (along with the political section).  Love you mom.

Learning to not argue at impasses was a hard growing pain to get through, but it sure does make life less acrimonious.

Growing pains happen at every beat until your very last one, so you might as well grab the boots and wade through the bullshit.

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