Spiritual Non-Fiction posted January 29, 2020 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10... 

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A personal reflection on my feelings about stranger's

A chapter in the book Muses of the Heart

Stranger's in my midst

by JLR

It is said in some of the eastern traditions that if a soul has not completed its work in a lifetime, that it departs and will sit resting in the primordial stew of the cosmos until there is a “BAM.” This soul is then reestablished in the womb to begin another life cycle to complete its learning process. This soul repeats whatever the number of cycles required until it achieves Nirvana.
So, begins my story with the “Bam!”
He was thirty, she was sixteen, I was to be their first “Bam” with six to follow.  As defined by the patriarchal system and Irish Catholic system I was born into, he, my father, was in my life for a total of six years because my parents separated. I learned that divorce was not allowed unless they lived apart for five years.
I have many adjectives with which to describe him. Ranging from hardened, serious-minded, mood-driven, angry, physically active, distant, non-engaging, domineering, not God-fearing, pessimistic, feared, drunk.  What I do not know about him or his family are the things that arise from family gatherings where there is talking and sharing. The simplest of things, such as -- where you went to school, what do you like to do for fun, where did you grow-up, where are your siblings, what makes you laugh, have you ever shed a tear, where did you learn this or that -- these were missing from the family talks.  I felt at times like, for some nefarious reason, my father simply didn’t have a beginning, he just was.
Even to this day, I find it hard to describe what it is like to have been born into this family, To have lived with a person, who now has passed on, remains a stranger in the most exact descriptive form of the word.
So, you can imagine when I was seven years old that my mother’s father -- my grandfather, suddenly came into the scene and started making it clear that we "Don't talk to strangers."  He would go on to say, “strangers are people we don't know, who could be dangerous. Just like strange things that are odd or weird, a stranger is unknown and, therefore, potentially scary.”
I so bought into this message! Because my father was precisely the perfect example of being a stranger, word for word.
Growing up, she, my mother, was another stranger in my midst. It was only as of the result of my grandfather being open and willing to tell me her story that I gleaned the following from him:  He explained that, as was Irish custom, my mother was presented as a child bride. He and his first wife had two daughters. The Balls were from Antrim, and at the ripe young age of sixteen, they arranged for their oldest daughter Iva, whose prospects of a future were in immigrating or going into the nunnery, or as was the case, getting betrothed.

So, it was that mother at age sixteen, along with six sheep and her trunk of "hand me downs" with dowry complete, jumped onto a jaunty cart and moved into rural life to become wife to father. My siblings and I would learn early in life that our mother had a mean streak and, more pathetically, a broken moral compass when she would take to drink. Early in my life, I saw her as robust of will and as the hard-working disciplinarian in the home. Her beatings were often more painfilled than Father's. However, all that changed when we moved to America.  She became ill right from the start. I say sick because, over the years from my age of six to seventeen, my mother was always taking some concoction of prescription drugs for her medical conditions.

Outside of what little my grandfather told us about the betrothal, I really knew nothing about her as a person. I did not know how solid her faith was, what type of music she liked or disliked if she had a goal in life or what was her greatest fear, her greatest hope.  I felt a great depth of regret as my mother continued to morph into more the role of a stranger than the role of a mother. I pulled further and further away into my little shell of introversion and quiet spaces that even carried over into school.  For eleven more years, she became someone as the definition reflects: strangers are people we don't know, who could be dangerous. In fact, she crossed the line – a person should never cross over with a child born unto a mother. This crossing over the line resulted in a severed relationship. My mother died in 1988 at the age of fifty-four. The last time we talked, she was thirty-three.

As I started living on my own at seventeen, I was able to function quite well, as life took me along my traveled pathways. I was rooted in my introversion and found being a person who ran in the periphery of circles worked quite well for me, My work ethic paved the way for me to get doors open that might have been closed to less focused people. 

My military service as a medical-surgical nurse was a perfect place to continue to build my instinctual habit of keeping an arm’s length, keep the topic-specific, and never getting close to a person habituated my ongoing lifestyle.  Name and rank only, never where do you call home, how many siblings do you have, are you married, have a fiancée, where did you go to school, nothing that would break into more than a surface knowledge of any one patient.  Getting too familiar was a risk, in that many of the patients did not survive, and it was easier to deal with this harsh reality as a fact - life was so damned fragile.

Post military, I became a stranger unto my own self. My attitude coming back stateside was a rebel, reacting harshly to what was happening around me.  I was not going to let the hatred toward Viet Nam veterans dampen my attitude to get on with the future, keeping people crossing my path as strangers, was in full force as a safety barrier.

My career shift into a sales role was a goldmine to feed my selfishness. I was able to pick who I wanted to let into my outer circle to get the sale.  The purpose of customer entertainment fit me to a tee. Golfing, dinners, fishing trips, box seats to all the big games and events. Just fill out the expense report, keep the customer happy, get the deal done -- that was the mantra from the top down.  Boy, I was good at it!

The problem was my stability eroded when I became a stranger in my own midst.  Life became my own personal nightmare when I could not stuff my family of origin crap, my divorce from a ten-year marriage, my inability to maintain the pace of the wining and dining.  I came to a place where I could not eat food like ordinary people, I was caught in an unmanageable binge-purge eating cycle that nearly ended my life.  It required me to admit, I, like my father, was an alcoholic.

Telling a total stranger, the truth for the first time in my life about the cesspool of existence that I had been planted into and cultivated for thirty plus years was a mucky, nasty, and untillable wasteland. I was thirty-eight! It began with therapy to slowly peel away the layers of a lifetime one thin layer at a time. It was a God moment that this therapist called me out: She said, “tell me how much you drink.”  Some called it denial when I was confronted about my drinking. I said, “I don’t have a problem, I drink all the time.”  A full functioning alcoholic – perfect for the sales jobs of the mid-seventies.  This stranger called me out – I went to my first AA meeting.

I turned my life and my will over to something greater than myself and began taking in life with a more clear prism to see the world for what it was and what I needed to do to survive and then learn to thrive in it.

It was at this juncture that I made it a point to never meet a stranger again.  Today, I meet people wherever they are in life. Whether glad, bad, ugly, sad, I meet them eye to eye as the embodiment of the Christ that dwells within the hearts of every individual.

It is my job, my responsibility, to mirror back that God-Image to everyone I meet.


True Story Contest contest entry



A bold, honest reflection of my feelings about living with the stranger's in your own family and within your own self. My hope is someone may read this and reflect on their own situation and realize that, in spite of all of this, you can soar on the wings of life!

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