Nothing upbeat today, folks. Sometimes its important to let sadness to dwell with us for a little while.
I found out yesterday that someone I knew as a young man had just passed away. He had had a tough life, struggled with alcoholism and looked like the faintest shadow of the person he was. The thing is, he had issues as a young man – he had been involved in an accident that left him a little brain damaged. He was always a bit blunt, heavy handed and struggled with anger.
I could be wrong, because I know we all have choices, but I can’t but feel that life dealt him a lousy hand. When you can’t control your own mind due to damage, what can you do? I’ve had my share of things in life that I have struggled desperately to change, and they have stubbornly remained, or only changed a little along the way. Thankfully those issues have not been my undoing – they were not so severe (they were severe to me) to cripple my life, although I have certainly paid a price because of them.
But here we have a man, unable to control his emotions and with inadequate reasoning skills, fighting to make life work. Now the truth is I have no concept of the choices he made and the life he lived. I barely knew him then and certainly have no idea whatsoever of the choices he made that brought him low. But how bewildering life must have been for him. To come up against his own inadequacies and be unable to change them (an assumption I know but one based in bitter experience and observation).
I saw a photo of him, looking poor and emaciated, smiling in a strained way, and I remember the strapping young man who tried very hard to present himself as together, focussed and confident (but which it was easy to see even then he was none of those things). It could be that my imagination is working overtime, but I see him struggle to get it right and just see the things he wanted fall away relentlessly and inexorably.
I know full well as I write this that this could be complete bosh. I wasn’t there, I haven’t seen him throughout his life. I’m working with scraps, I know. I did talk with him a few years ago at his father’s funeral, and even then he was old before his time, and his clothes spoke of poverty, and he had that glint in his eye of someone struggling to find peace. I know that he struggled with alcoholism and that he had been trying very hard in recent times (perhaps longer) to break free.
The sad thing is, some things other people can’t help with. You can only be so kind (and you should), you can only be so available (and you should, and in any case too much support is condescending and ultimately unhelpful). You can only give so much advice, and the person you are helping has to use whatever you provide and add it to their own determination to help themselves. But only they can solve their own problems in the end, and sometimes determination and support and advice just aren’t enough. How do you overcome brain damage? How do you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps?
So I think of him and I am sad, because I think that apart from some miracle (maybe finding that one person in 1000 who had just the right temperament to be married and constant to him), his life was always going to be hard, and frustrating, and limited by the walls he couldn’t scale.
Evan, I never really knew you. You may have been a good man, you may have been a bad man, but I hope, after a lifetime of struggle, you have finally found peace.