I was born an outcast, steeped in the silence of my mind, for words were forbidden on my lips. As a very young child, I was aware of the void of my own voice. My earliest memories are like a silent movie of my family, and my place within it. Speaking seemed natural for others, but for me, most every word was a thoughtful calculation of vowels and consonants. Awareness that they were meant to be fluid was consciously beyond my grasp as a kindly but foreboding tolerance awaited the breaks in my awkward pauses. I knew early on that I was broken.
By adolescence, I was sorry I was broken, but I didn't want to suffer 23 consecutive syllables to say so. Neither did anyone else. My parents found a balance between frustration and compassion, but my social circle beyond remained aloof at best. I had some nice friends while growing up; at least until we got to the age where the social pecking orders form. I’d realized that they were going to be difficult to navigate and I was usually too socially paralyzed to care much. At some point, I was able to brave those waters despite the frequent requisite dunkings as a de facto member of the nerd class.
Never able to fully overcome socially crippling fear and doubt, especially with girls and strangers, I worked to sculpt a persona that helped me engage. I became the comedian, and the good listener. Naturally sensitive and philosophical, I was the logical choice for a broad range of friendships, but I rarely felt comfortable dating. The hesitance was something I fought, but never forced. I was always genuine, frequently terrified, and usually reserved. I named the taskmaster voices in my head Fear and Doubt, and they never missed an opportunity to offer unwelcome color commentary for everything I pursued in life, from relationships to business. Personifying them made them easier to control. I was obliged to hear them out, but I didn’t have to listen. I didn’t like them then, and I still don’t like them now. Evidently, they too often don’t care much for me either.
I was a teenager before I could articulate a complete sentence and I struggled with speech well into my 40s. There was always so much on my mind and in my heart, but I was too used to either letting it all just pass away, or writing my thoughts and feelings down and throwing them into a drawer.
On my third marriage at age 36, and with seven children, I finally found peace in the arms of a good woman who has blessed me with the space and the grace to be OK with just being OK. As for my career, I muscled my way through a tradesman’s life in practiced empowerment over my weaknesses. Having experienced more failures than successes, I’m pretty beaten up by now.
I am too old and tired to care about balancing the scales. My files of private ramblings collected over several decades are threatening to revolt. I’ve been through enough counseling, 12-step, and therapeutic self-realization models to heal a psych ward. I get it; I am my own nemesis. Not long ago, I was diagnosed with adult co-equal ADD/ADHD with OCD tendencies, complex PTSD and a host of interloping tagalongs. According to the DSM-5, though I battle the fringe affectations, I’m not autistic in the mainstream sense, but the forehead stamp hovers too near the inking pad for my comfort. Nevertheless, I am an alphabet soup of dysfunction and have been most of my life.
Note to first two wives: Sorry I was such a poopoo-head.
Note to children: If you are suffering the sins of your fathers, blame me. Heredity is what it is. I am at peace with it all.
Note to self: Evict Fear and Doubt already. They are pernicious squatters. Feel free to hate them with fervor.
If a biography of my life were to list the few goals I have achieved, let one be that I have come here to face my squatters, my nemeses. I have lived three simultaneous and interwoven lives; one of doubt, one of fear, and one of promise. Their tangled web binds me no longer.
The words you hold in your hand have arrived wearied, born of their nexus and raised in exile; a nomadic band of brothers on a journey from the mind to the page. I have no illusions of being a writer. I am simply compelled by the voices of my tormentors to let the words flow. They have always come in silent torrents that must be cycled back around until their release is orderly enough to express. My language of choice confounds me with endless forms of prose and structure that play out in vexing sequences in my head until I can trust the words to keep their promise to say what I mean and mean what I say. Words do mean things, and anyone who has been on the receiving end of uncontrollable monkey-brain rantings and the coarse and careless utterances of others, knows their capacity for unguarded damage. Words can also enlighten, edify, and heal. They can form in thought the means of conveying the beauty of the world around us. We share them, one to another, until they have been digested in full and our minds and souls are satiated.
It is these words I offer to you, dear reader. If you are pleased with them, so much the better, but this work is for a separate purpose: To overcome a lifetime of reticence to brave the gap between the ire and honor of those who have mattered to me most. They will love me either way, so my goal here is to invite a greater understanding of my lifelong struggle to become a better me. This book is my way of defeating my nemeses, Fear and Doubt, before they consume me.
Here I chance Promise, the only life I choose to keep. Here I bare the ramblings of my mind and my heart for your judgment, and I pray thee, judge me kindly. The world, and some of my family, have judged me already, and I have been found wanting.
Be Right Back is simply the narrative of my appeal.