After the fire

I read a quote this morning which immediately stuck with me:

Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.

It seems very true, and apropos of much I have thought about in the last 48 hours.

Adversity strips you back to the basics. When times are good and easy it becomes customary to adorn yourself with accoutrements of good living and success. You become immersed in that persona, your true self buried beneath layers of extraneous and ultimately irrelevant luxuries. That’s not to say you can’t be an authentic person still, but it’s nearly impossible to be your basic self. When strife comes all that falls away, either because you can no longer afford to carry it, and because ultimately it is secondary to the person you are. Adversity, should you survive it, simplifies it.

What happens then when you survive and surpass the adversity? Hopefully, you’re left with a truer sense of self and a better perspective on what truly counts. I think that’s true of me, but it also has unexpected, even unintended consequences. This is what I’ve been pondering.

I took the decision earlier this year to open myself up. I chose to let go of the shame and the dark secrets that haunted me. That process is incomplete, but is making good progress. One of my hopes was from that I would become more approachable. For many years – even before my slice of adversity – I could be charming, but also seen as generally enigmatic by many, and intimidating to some. That never worried me too much, and to be honest doesn’t concern me too much now in principle. It’s what it means that I wonder at.

Since I made that decision I’ve succeeded in broadening the group of friendly people around me. I can still be a grouch, but I’m also often light-hearted, witty, generous. I hope and expect that most people within that enclave see me as kind-hearted and true.

Beyond that darkness still reigns. I’m still enigmatic at best, occasionally intimidating, and sometimes arrogant.

There are two sides of this. The first is that I don’t know it does me much favours. The second is that I’m not sure if I care if it favours me or not.

Having survived my hardships I find myself looking back at the time before with a different perspective. By and large, life was pretty good, even happy, and in general I was a success. I took pride in being my own man and doing my own thing. I sought experience over promotion, though ultimately experience served promotion. I travelled broadly, read widely, and considered myself an urbane intellect. I was supremely confident.

Then it comes tumbling down. Rome burns. Slowly I inch my way back over an extended period until I have some semblance of a normal life, though it’s been a torturous process – and it’s but a fraction of what I had before. What I have is a mindset.

I like the man I was before. I think he was a sincere character. He meant well. All the same, looking back I realise what I see are the delusions of the man of comfort. I convinced myself that I was leading an unconventional life, and so doing that made my life worthy. If only it were that simple! And only if it were true!

I’ve come out of that with few illusions. I’m subject to the same conceits as most people, but then I deal with them more harshly than most. I feel no need for admirers having survived what I have. I believe the true essence is being authentic to yourself. I miss some of the fripperies, and still have an indulgent, sensual streak, but I see them now for what they are, pure adornment.

Above all, I don’t want to delude myself that I am more than what I am. I want to be in myself, and in these moments.

I find myself unwilling to commit to the bill of sale presented to me. It’s like I’ve become more aware of the precious self inside and refuse to compromise it – I have one life, my life. Having experienced such hardship much that passes for misfortune appears trivial. Given I have limited time remaining to me, and hence, limited opportunities, I want to make them count, and to be sincerely true throughout. I refuse categorically to allow myself to be stamped by conventional expectation, and that informs behaviour. If I seem impatient it’s because I don’t want to waste time, and if I’m outspoken it’s because I refuse to be silenced just because that’s how people behave. Life is a vital thing – don’t muddle through it!

There was always time before, so I would tell myself. I was content in being a quirky character. Now I realise that time shrinks and there’s no excuse to put things off. I have an urgency now that I only ever applied selectively before. I see life in its pure essence, feel it pushing me forward, urging me to live it now, be myself now. That’s one reason I’m now writing the books that I might never have if not for my troubles.

Whether my life ends up being conventional or unconventional or something between doesn’t really matter as long as what I choose to do and be is true to my self. Ultimately the only arbiter is myself, and I’m glad of that.

With that said I realise I have a way to go. I could be softer. I could be less judgemental. Being honest doesn’t always make for a gentle personality – though I believe I am essentially both kind and gentle. I can be true to my principles, but in a more user-friendly way – and no-one would benefit from it more than me.

That’s the next stage for me, and in my mind I see my next relationship as being central to that. I have someone in mind, but it could be someone else. I realise the person I am drawn to appeals to me because I think she has the qualities to counter-act some of my excesses. Well, for other reasons to. And when I think about that I wonder what it is she sees in me that resonates so in her? It’s such a cliché, but really the best relationships are based on complementary characters, not identical, like two pieces of a jigsaw that fit together perfectly. I need what she can give me; hopefully, I can give her what she needs in return.

Much of this I considered as I sat having a coffee in a cafe in Hampton. I looked out over the street watching people walk their dogs and my mind ticking over. At the end of it as I began the walk home with my groceries hoisted on my shoulder I wondered if I was more complex than most people, or just more aware of my complexities? That led to the obvious question: does self-awareness lead to greater complexity? I might easily have asked if self-awareness simplifies things. It probably does some things, but overall I expect the scales are tilted the other way.

Self-knowledge means looking beyond the surface and beholding the depth and detail beneath. I think it is inherent that with that comes understanding, but so to complexity. Either way, I wouldn’t want to be any different.


Here I am

Sometimes when I tell my story I’m actually surprised how many things seemed to happen at once, and I wonder occasionally how I survived it. The thing is you don’t know the next thing is coming otherwise you might start shittin’ your pants again. When it does come there’s no time for that and you just deal with it. And so it goes – you keep going doing your best to survive and riding the blows and thinking to yourself it’ll turn one day – and it did.

In any case I compiled a list of things, comparing basically where I am now to where I was six years ago, before it all started.

Six years ago, give or take, my mum was still alive and healthy. I had a full and loving family about me. I had an investment property, a share portfolio, multiple tens of thousands in the bank, and a job earning me around $7,000 a week. I’d travelled abroad for holidays in each of the previous ten odd years, and some years twice. I had an excellent lifestyle, ambitions, aspirations, and hopes to settle down into a prosperous and happy future. Then it all came tumbling down:

  • Mum would be diagnosed with cancer, which would turn out to be terminal.
  • I was defrauded of about $100K.
  • The lucrative job I had would abruptly end as another, unrelated, project crashed. We’d been in discussions for a 12 month extension.
  • My shares crashed leading to margin calls and eventual significant loss.
  • Unable to find work and having used my savings I had to sell my property.
  • Unable to continue living independently I moved into mums.
  • Mum died two weeks later without ever coming home from hospital.
  • Her will led to dispute and a legal impasse. Eventually resolved, it left the family fractured and I’ve not seen or heard of half of them since.
  • Unemployed, near bankruptcy, battling the legal process and living in mums home under threat I became depressed and miserable. Dark times.
  • Will finally resolved I was able to move out, find a home of my own, and pay off the majority of my substantial debt. Time for hope.
  • Still unable to find work, invested in a massage shop hoping for passive income.
  • As the business struggled, still unable to find other income, was finally forced out of my home. Officially homeless.
  • Moved in with my sister initially sleeping on the couch, but not permitted to join in family meals.
  • My father let slip that he blamed me for the divorce from my mum about 30 years before. Relationship – never close – fractured.
  • Finally offloaded the massage shop at a significant loss.
  • ATO continues chasing debt of around $40K. Ends up in court, unresolved. Battle continues.
  • Creditors ringing daily chasing debt.
  • Having patched up with dad it comes crashing down again as he again tries to tell me what to do. Without ever a word of praise or encouragement from him I call it quits. That remains the situation.
  • Forced out of my sister’s home I shift between friend’s couches, house minding at different outskirts of the city, and making it up as I go along living out of the boot of the car with the dog.
  • More court action. More rearguard actions.
  • Just when I thought all my options had ended, including housing, received an email out of the blue which led to my first job in about 3 years.

That was about 3 years ago, and though there’s been much more since then, that basically marked the turning point. Still more court actions, still creditors chasing me throughout, I was at least able to find my first home in 15 months. Slow road since, but things are better, debts are being paid off and I have some life again.

Against that I have no real family any longer – my sister broke from me over a married man she was having an affair with. She believed I wasn’t sufficiently supporting her (having endured weekly updates in the 12 months prior). My sister is no loss – she’s a nasty piece of work – but she disconnects me from the remaining family. I now have but just tenuous connections with my nephews and niece. In basic terms I am without family, but I’m fortunate to have friends who are loyal, decent and caring. I can’t complain.

It sounds like a litany of unfortunate events, but there’s no enduring sorrow, and despite everything, few real regrets. In fact I feel buoyant more often than not and hopeful and confident. I’ve been stripped of all the material possessions I had accrued, and the security that went with it, but I understand that I’ve lost nothing of myself. I’m still just as capable as I ever was, still just as determined, and if anything stronger than ever before. On top of all that I’ve released myself from the burden of my pride and feel freer than I can ever remember, no matter what happens. I’m tied to nothing but my own beliefs and I take care to nurture them.

The only real loss is family, but the relationships I really care about I’m certain I can redeem. The rest I couldn’t care less.

Where I come from

A couple of months back I sent off some of my DNA to test my genetic origins. I got the results today.

It was no surprise to find that my strongest regional connection was with Europe. What was surprising that within Europe the top result – and therefore the top result of all – was Belarus, followed by Central and Eastern European countries such as Austria, Czechoslovakia, Bosnia, and so on, until we hit Ireland coming in at seven – Ireland I know I have definite ancestry. After that came Spain, Portugal, as well as the top result from the second strongest region, Morocco, from the Middle East/North Africa.

It’s fascinating to think about all the previous versions of H inhabiting a reasonably concentrated geographical area, meeting, mingling, inter-mingling. These results, I should note, are based on statistical probabilities. My DNA, for example, most closely matches those of people living in present day Belarus, and so on.

It took me a while to process and unpack this, and then I began to hypothesise. I’ve often been mistaken for German/Scandinavian, but those countries were 16/17/18 on the list. I can only imagine Belarussians – what were called White Russians – are of similar physical appearance. In case I speculated that obviously many hundreds of years one thread of my ancestors inhabited Belarus, before spreading. I know historically that some Vikings came from that area, and I would guess some long ago ancestor of mine headed off on a raiding party and ended up in Ireland, where the story is taken up. The other countries listed are false positives I would guess, reflective of the spread and influence of Belarussians into the eastern and central parts of Europe. (Interesting to note, incidentally, that England does not rate in the top 25 of possible ancestral connections – which explains my general resistance to English culture).

On the other side of it I know that my mum’s maiden surname was said to be French or Spanish, and I think we can probably presume that she is represented by those countries on this list, including Portugal and even Morocco, which is just over the straits.

Strangely enough of the remaining regional areas the Honduras is the highest rating in Central/South America – that will be the Spanish/Portuguese of my mother’s side of the family.

In Asia – the fourth ranked region – Australia itself comes out the top result. That’s no surprise given I live here and my family on both sides as far as I know have been here five generations at least. And it represents the multicultural polyglot Australia is – a bit of everything. The other Asian countries represented are those who were colonised by the west and therefore have some European DNA bred into them. Surprisingly New Zealand comes in number six in that region. It seems odd that the only real Caucasian country in the region would rank so low, until you consider that New Zealand has a strong English/Scots heritage – I have no English in my recorded DNA, and Scotland comes in at about 20.

There’s one family story, possibly apocryphal, which crosses over these different connectors.

My aunt was very dark blue-black hair, Spanish looking hair, or Irish black if you prefer. She was the anomaly in the family, the throwback. The story went that around the time of the Spanish Armada some Spanish sailor washed up on the shores of Ireland after his vessel foundered. He found some sweet Colleen and the rest is history.


The next stage

As I do every Saturday morning, I walked up to Hampton Street to do my weekly shopping. I visit the supermarket, the greengrocer, the baker, sometimes I pop into the newsagents and browse the magazines I never buy, or I catch up with Cheeseboy for a coffee. Regardless of what I do, it’s all pretty standard.

This morning was no different, except a random thought came to me. I live in a very civilised part of the world, perhaps even privileged in some ways. There’s always been a strong sense of a Hampton village, and the local community is friendly and warm, the sort of place strangers nod to you or wish you a good morning passing by in the street. I felt that close about me again as I crossed the railway line heading towards a cafe by it, and I recalled how in my bleak days I would sometimes make the trip to Hampton just to walk through these streets and feel a part of this community.

I yearned then for one of the many things I didn’t have – a sense of belonging. I’d lived in Hampton before and had strong roots in the suburb, but then by circumstance, it had been denied to me. It came to represent something warm and embracing to me, something I had to get back to, to prove a point, and to be part of the community and belong.

I made it back, and I’m grateful for that, but this morning I remembered those fleeting visits when I felt like an intruder, though I knew it so well. Thank God I had made it, I thought, but the memory brought back to the sense of those dark and despairing times.

It seems an apt recollection at this time as I feel poised on the cusp of something more. I have made changes this year, well documented, and the changes have been beneficial to me. I feel lighter, freer, more open. I am happier than I’ve been for years. It’s far from an end, but what I expected to be a steady change now appears to be a change executed in stages – and I have come to the next stage.

Something happened at work yesterday which crystallises in my mind what this change is. It was quite innocuous really. I’ve been working hard and pushing on a project for a while now and seeking a go-live date to work towards. I emailed the ops manager yesterday advising him of our status and recommending a go-live date Monday week if feasible. He gave his agreement. I then advised my manager of this, at which she went red-faced, exclaimed loudly and stormed off. Later she returned to apologise.

I believe she was upset that her manager had consented to something she believed was her decision was to make.

I thought about this as I headed home. I didn’t feel right. I’d been the unwitting instrument of her displeasure, but I didn’t feel entirely innocent. I should have been more aware of her feelings, and I wondered if in fact I was and did this anyway to sting her – my complaints about her are well known. I couldn’t answer that question – if there was intent then it was sub-conscious, but still, I should have been more aware. As I am always saying, two wrongs don’t make a right – and no matter my discontent with her I shouldn’t let that play a part in my actions.

On Thursday I had posted something on Facebook which summed up the philosophy I have adopted since the start of this year:

No point in trying to be something you’re not. No value in trying to impress others. No reason to act anything other than truly. It may be enough, it may not be, but it’s real. Reason enough.

After what happened yesterday I posted this last night:

Tonight’s learning is that though I mean no ill there are times I should stop to consider how others might feel about things which seem to be clear to me. That’s a fault of mine. I go confidently forward forgetting others are not so sure or strong, or see it differently to how I do. It’s a lesson in humility and perspective. Even if I am right

I post these to Facebook because it’s easy to keep these things personal and close, but by publishing them I expose myself – it’s a part of the process.

This has been a reminder that there’s still a fair way to go and I have to keep at it, but I feel at the same time that I’ve reached another level. I have opened myself up. Next is to become truly humble. I’ll need help with that.

PS – I’ve just posted this to Facebook, related to that event a few weeks back, and very apropos:

A little while ago I went out of my way to help with something. I was glad to do it and it was the right thing to do, and the outcome very satisfying. Then afterwards in the glow of a successful event, I was ignored, receiving neither thanks or acknowledgement or even a good night. I was surprised at how much it affected me, thick-skinned as I am. I felt hurt.
Over time it faded and I realise for all of us the reason we do or don’t do things are subject to a complex range of reasons. I have no control over what others choose to do, and I shouldn’t expect – and certainly not seek – something that must be given freely. Ultimately I do what I do for my own reasons, and they should be sufficient in themselves. This is what I have control over, myself, and what I do is what I believe in, without regard to fear or favour.

Born salty

It turned out yesterday that I was in a pretty salty mood. Not unusual maybe, as I tend to that anyway, but surprising in a way given the mellow reflection leading into the office. It’s funny how it happens like that. You feel fine and have no idea that you might be in a difficult mood until you encounter people, or return to a familiar environment. Sometimes it’s just hidden because it hasn’t been exposed, and sometimes it needs a triggering event – like walking into work. That’s what happened yesterday.

There was good cause in many ways, as I described yesterday – upset with the behaviour of my immediate superior, frustrated with my efforts to find meaningful work, and exasperated in general by the inefficient practices in the office.

In that mood it doesn’t take much to rub me up the wrong way. Yesterday it was one of the team leaders here I despise, and the general touchy-feely vibe across the floor.

I’ve long despised this team leader. You hardly create a personality more suited to offend me. She is very much a look at me character. She’s highly self-absorbed, and pontificates all day in a loud voice to anyone and everyone with in the general vicinity. Unfortunately that includes me.

She speaks with a smug, superior attitude, and a plum in her voice. She goes on explaining how she did this and did that, how clever she was doing the other, and offering up uninformed opinions that veer between the sanctimonious to the ridiculous. She is a tedious woman under the impression that she is fascinating, and inflicts it upon us all. I might excuse it if she was a good operator, but she’s one of those characters happy to drop everything once she gets on a roll with her stories, which take about five minutes each, and average around ten a day. She’s been around a while and is one of the more knowledgeable people here, and so I use to go to her with questions or asking that she check things. No longer. She’s too unreliable. Long denied a team of her own because of her foibles she has finally been granted one. She’s quite good at teaching them, but her inherent slackness means they tend to follow her suit. I may not look it, but I have a wasp-ish work ethic and I can’t abide this.

Yesterday she was full on. (Funnily enough for a long time she had a thing for me. She knows I don’t like her though, and I suspect that affection has wilted).

The other thing was the general environment, and there’s not much I can do about that. I’m attached to a contact centre. By and large the average contact centre employee is very different to what I’m used to. For most of my life I’ve worked with graduates and professionals, ambitious, hungry types with strong views and a lot of energy. There’s the occasional shrinking violet, but generally there’s a mix of alpha and beta personalities. I know it, I like it, and I thrived in it because I’m innately competitive and have a pretty uncompromising attitude. It was sometimes blunt, but mostly we were effective.

I don’t want to seem a snob, but clearly there’s a different style of person drawn to contact centre rolls, which generally have a pretty low bar and have sucked a lot of personal responsibility and initiative from the role. Seems to me that most people here are either on the way to something else, or else happy to sit in their corner and know exactly what is required of them without having to think about it too much. It’s a very predictable, structured role that fits well with someone wanting a low fuss job.

There are exceptions, some strive for more, some are more innately ambitious or thoughtful or curious, and some are doing it desperate to find something better. Most aren’t though. They’re all pleasant, universally inoffensive people, bright to some degree, but incurious, somewhat timid in regard to things outside their area, and with a personality I would describe as soft. I don’t mean that in any derogatory sense. I mean they are more receptive and reactive, even the bigger personalities among them. They absorb the environment around them, rather than looking to ever disturb it.

I’m a disturber, by practice and instinct. I like to shake things up. I don’t mind being provocative. I don’t want to rest on my laurels, and I’m certainly not retiring. I’m curious and energetic and sometimes hard. I don’t want to let things be, I want to make things be. I can’t imagine being any other be, and in my heart of hearts feel some sympathy who don’t know what it’s like to feel that. This is life – do something!

I miss working in an environment where that is normal. I get no energy from this place, and I must stick out llike a sore thumb – certainly I create unfamiliar waves. I’m used to that more combative environment and the occasional positive confrontation of ideas. That’s absent here by and large and when I make my waves I often get looked at askance. I want to be among my peers.

Most of the people here are lovely – they’re just not me. Sometimes I feel like giving them a shake. I’m a bit bolshie sometimes suggesting to them there are greater things out there in the wide world. I urge them to explore and taste, to try things, to test the limits of themselves. Fundamentally we’re polar opposites. What is second nature to me is foreign to them.

That’s what got to me a bit yesterday. I miss that vibe. I want to be inspired to greater effort by a culture of excellence. I miss rubbing up against intelligent and vibrant personalities.

That’s one of the reasons I was drawn to the girl here, A, and probably one of the reasons she was drawn to me. She is curious and ambitious and highly intelligent. She has a mighty work ethic and lots of energy and a desire to be more, do more. This is what I know. For me she was one of the few I could relate too, separate even to the fact that she is also an attractive woman. I know her in so many ways, in the same way I know myself.


Off getting my morning coffee, they had Summertime playing in the background sung by Aretha Franklin and Louis Armstrong. It’s a great song and I found myself singing along to it. I felt better after that standing there waiting for my coffee to me made, the languid, sensual tune recalling memories to me of my childhood, when such songs would be played on high rotation, and of my mother, who would often sing around the house in her trained voice. I grew up with her singing the standards as she did the dishes or attending to some other domestic chore. That’s how I absorbed the music and came to love it so much and why often, as she did, I’ll break into song (I know just about all the words by heart).

The song had a restorative effect upon me. I returned to work feeling as if a situation that had become twisted had been normalised. I wished I was somewhere else, but as I hummed the tune to myself I felt nourished. I went about, a sardonic smile on my face and cracking wise left, right and centre as I haven’t for so long. That little episode in the coffee shop had a restorative effect on me.

I needed it. Despite my brave words on Sunday I felt pretty bleak yesterday. There was no belated thank-you, and in fact after quickly checking in she left the floor, a 3 month secondment as a trainer meaning she’ll be here but a fraction of the time.

Initially it all came as a blow to me. I found it hard to concentrate or to take my work seriously. I was upset with her, but I didn’t want to lose her still. I reasoned with myself. It really was pretty trivial, and for someone with skin as thick as mine it was ridiculous to feel so upset. But of course, the snub is symbolic of so much more.

After my coffee this morning I am beginning to wonder if her absence is my opportunity to become myself completely once more. It seems to me that one of the ongoing issues – if that’s the word – is that much of the fun had gone out of her interactions. I would make her laugh every now and then, but mostly our dealings were sober and matter of fact.

For me that was one of the problems. With everyone else on the floor I felt I could be the me people knew, open and witty. I would engage with people around her, make them laugh sometimes or have them call me over.

It was different with her because the first few times I tried that with her after our problem she was non-receptive. She would politely smile, determined not to engage or to show anything. I took my lead from that, and as a result there was a zone about her in which I was perfectly sensible and proper, unlike the occasionally free-wheeling and irascible character I was elsewhere (the character she had been drawn to in the first place).

Now she has gone and the zone goes with her. I don’t have to abide by those restrictions. Looking back I don’t know if I realised how restrictive it was to my natural self. I’m glad to be free of it, and a little angry with myself that I allowed myself to be so constrained. I understand, though.

The bottom line is that I’m freed up, and I want to make the most of it. I need it too. It’s been a busy few months and I’ve made many strides forward, but in hindsight I realise I’ve survived a destructive segment of my life.

Returning to life

Just a small point highlighted by the last two posts.

I reckon about a year ago that my experiences had left me hardened to point almost of being callous. It wasn’t that I felt things less, but they were overlaid by a hard shell that left me blunt and sometimes angry, and that had me impervious to the effects of personal emotion. I would still be moved by tragedy and by triumph – I’ve always been someone affected to the point of tears by such things – but when it came to my life I was almost ruthlessly impassive. I felt like a hard bastard, and had for some time. Having survived homelessness everything else seemed trivial, even small.

It was not a circumstance I was happy with. I felt distant from myself. Being distant from myself I also felt distant to much of society, even still. I wanted to be the sensitive man I’d always been. I was sad thinking I might have lost it. I didn’t want to be tough, or calloused, or indifferent. I wanted to feel. I wanted to be part of things. I wanted to feel the torrent of life surge about me, pushing and pulling and taking me it’s capricious way because to feel, and to feel deeply, is life.

I might be sad at this moment, but sad is better than feeling nothing. I’m grateful that some of that life has returned to me. Being homeless was to live in a wasteland. Coming out of that was to return to a barren landscape. Now that landscape shows signs of re-growth and in time, I hope and expect, it will be a lush playground.

Perhaps it needed only time to return to this state, but I credit a couple of things for it. I think first is actually finding myself interested in someone else after years of forced abstinence. Even when things were good I never fell easily but fell hard when it happened. In this case, it caught me by surprise. I found myself flirting with someone flirting with me. That wasn’t unusual – what was unusual is that from the flirtation came real affection, and the beginnings of hope I only ever realised after the fact.

That’s been no fairy-tale and it’s not anywhere near where I want it to be, and it may never be so – but I feel it, I’m alive to the possibility, can feel those tendrils of desire and hope and pure tenderness spread through me like an elixir. Even in despair – which I am yet to experience this time – there is life, much preferred to casual indifference (though sometimes in the midst of it you may think differently).

The second thing is the choice I made to open myself up. In retrospect, I can see the choice was made easier because of what I felt for the girl. The depression I experienced over Christmas was enough for me to know that I should change things, but it was the utter mortification knowing that it had undone everything with the girl who forced me into action. I couldn’t live with the shame and guilt and tragedy of it.

I have said before opening up as I have is one of the most important things I’ve done in my whole life. It has been hard at times and perhaps difficult for others occasionally to absorb, but it has been largely positive. As I open myself to the world, the world opens itself to me.

I wish I could share it with her. It’s been one of the great frustrations that the one person I really want to share it with I cannot. Perhaps she did eavesdrop the other night and heard at least a part of my story. It would put a different spin on much she might have considered settled fact. It would be something for her to think about, and I can’t imagine it leaving her indifferent.

Regardless of what she knows or doesn’t, what I ever tell her or how it turns out, I owe her more than she can know. Meeting her, and feeling for her, set me on the path to reclaiming myself. I’d like to tell her that someday, but don’t know if I ever will.