When the war is over

The last couple of months I’ve begun to worry that the incessant struggle I’ve endured might have a longer term influence on my behaviour. I’ve battled very hard, and occasionally belligerently, just to get by. Much of the last 18 months could be described as combative. I would not have survived without this hard edge, but I wonder at what cost.

At Sinterklaas in December I read aloud the poem that had been written for me. It was hard work. In the room were old friends and new friends. My old friends know my situation. In a break from tradition I had chosen to openly share my predicament with them. My new friends are lovely people, but I had not told them anything of my struggles. I was too embarrassed too, though I presume they had maybe guessed some, or heard bits and pieces along the way. Good people all they were supportive without ever intruding.

The poem was written by an old friend and in a typically heartfelt matter. I tend towards the glib when faced with strife, to the immense frustration of some people. It’s a mechanism. I churn inside, and my brain activity could power a small suburb, but on the outside I don’t want to seem any more than alert.

This poem exposed all of that. In front of people I knew well and others I knew less well I read aloud a poem that spoke directly to my situation. He had spent serious time in composing the poem, and the result was something that described the arc of my struggle, described me as a warrior, and encouraged me with the reminder that I had friends who cared for me.

I read it trying to put a smile in my voice. I felt aware of all eyes on me. I was sure that behind the silent audience listening that minds where ticking over. I looked up from reading and smiled bashfully, if not glibly. I had to guess who had written the poem and I knew straight off. I thanked him.

Besides the moderate embarrassment of the situation the thing that stuck with me was the description of me as a warrior. I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been called that, or similar, before. I’m proud to think of myself as that. It planted a thought in my mind though.

I’ve been fighting so long I wonder if it becomes habit. Given the option of fight or flight I always choose to fight. I bristle. I worry that I have become inflexible. I’m fearful that I might look for opposition. I don’t know that it is the case, but I know I’ve had to catch myself a couple of times. I’m like soldier home from the war needing to adapt to life in peace.

The good news is that I’m here thinking about it. I think I’m smart enough to deal with it. I’m getting older. I don’t want to be an angry old man. The trick now, for me, is to transition from a time of war to a time of peace. Not there yet.

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