Who the hell am I ?
I haven’t decided what kind of man I’m going to be, and I’ve been around a long time. You see it’s not really up to me and that’s the mistake people make when trying to work out who they are. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know who you are, everyone else has that pretty much worked out for themselves, not that what they think really matters anyway. It’s a paradox.
Who you want to be is something entirely different? Adolescence is when we become most aware of it and that can be a cruel learning curve. If we only knew then what we know now eh? When I was very little, the choice was simple. I was more certain of what I wanted to be than at anytime in my entire life. I wanted to be a cowboy. Not just any cowboy either. Technically, I didn’t get the whole notion that being a cowboy involved actual working with cattle. In my head I wanted to be the Virginian or Manolito from the High Chaparral. I wanted to be the Sundance Kid, or Chris from the magnificent seven. It was easy.
That I lived in a council estate in working class Dublin seemed irrelevant. What was relevant was perhaps that it wasn’t so much the cowboys that I admired, but their character. To me, when I grew up, I wanted to be the kind of man who would stand up for the little guy and protect his gal. When push came to shove, I wanted to be Clint Eastwood lighting a cigarillo in the face of 10 heavily armed bandits and telling THEM, that they might need more men.
Perhaps it sounds foolish, and maybe more foolish to any women reading who don’t get the pressure on young men to measure up. I remember being afraid when I was very young, for many different reasons and all of that fear was real and presented itself in very tangible physical threats. Figuring out how to bridge the gap between wanting to run away or hide, or indeed stand tall and face up to the threat, was a thing bigger than many people can even imagine.
I remember taking a beating for not backing down to four guys when I was 10 years old. I should have run away that day, I could easily have outrun them, but I knew that I’d come across them again so I had to make a decision. I’d love to say I go them back one by one, but that was the real world and they moved on as did I. There was no retribution. But I did learn from it. Sometimes you have to jump from the moving train, even when you know it might kill you.
In my teens it got worse because the fear manifested itself in a far more dangerous way. Where I grew up you never left your friends to face trouble alone and I recall with frightening clarity, the time when my then girlfriend’s brother challenged a group of guys threatening his neighbour. It was a very brave thing to do on his part. Me? I was sticking to the rules of the street nothing more. When I saw the iron bar in the first guys hand, I realised what it was to be afraid. But I stood by his side keeping a close eye on the pick axe handle that one of the guys was holding by his side, while Thomas reasoned with a gang of very unreasonable assholes.
For whatever reason, they walked away that day and I got to feel how terrible fear can be when it grabs you in the pit of your stomach so tight, that you literally feel sick. I also learned how to walk a walk I hadn’t walked with such confidence before and it stood me in good stead for the rest of my life. I won’t go into detail about how that same fecker of an in-law, challenged an entire biker gang in Melbourne for interrupting a show we were watching in a club, with me once again as his only back up. All chains, tattoos, muscles and knuckle dusters they were, and that was just the women.
But I grew up and got out of that life. I moved on in life. I travelled and felt the touch of success. I married had a family, divorced and found love again and through every second of that life, my life, I learned something new. My parents taught me something valuable. If you don’t know or understand something, look it up. Find out what it is. Don’t talk about things you don’t understand, but don’t avoid them either. Go learn what they mean, then you can talk about them with understanding the next time. Be true to yourself and don’t be so stubborn. I never really fully learned the stubborn lesson but I listened to the rest.
Every book I write is about love. That’s what I always say. The power of it, the absence of it, the desire for it or what people will do for it and in writing about love the way I do, many people miss it entirely. They read Darkly Wood and feel the fear and terror for example, but all of it, and I mean all of it, even the despicable Mr. Wormhold, gain their power to instil fear through their relationship with love.
I haven’t decided what kind of man I’m going to be. That’s how I started this piece. Of course, I haven’t. It isn’t me that gets to decide and while it may take some people a lifetime to realise that, it’s true. I know some of the things that go into making me whatever kind of man I am. I know that I will take action, make decisions and act, and I know in having these traits as part of my makeup, that I am sometimes wrong. People like to say that when your moment comes you have to take it. I know I certainly do and that’s definitely a part of me. I’m a thinker, I’m opinionated and I am often too quick to criticise. I can be many things that I dislike. I am indeed an imperfect, flawed and sometimes difficult man.
But all of these things are just traits. How they combine to make me whatever kind of man I end up being, is most likely something I have yet to discover, and perhaps I never will. We all like to see ourselves in our best light. I have had the misfortune of coming face to face with the grim reaper and I think if it changed me in any one way, it was to realise that it not only doesn’t matter what other people think about me, it really doesn’t matter what I think about me.
All that matters is what I do. How I live my life. What good if any, I can conjure up and how I can avoid doing as little damage along the way as I can. I haven’t decided what kind of man I am going to be, perhaps because I long since abandoned the fantasy, that I can be any more or any less than the sum of my actions words and thoughts.
Today I am a grumpy old man with a bad back. That is not my destiny I hope, so I work to be more than that. Maybe I’ll fail today, but you know what, I might do better tomorrow. Remember, do or do not, there is no try. Now I’m going to pour myself a nice glass of Sangiovese and maybe I’ll work on what sort of man I’m going to be again tomorrow. Stay inside my friends and stay safe…whoever you turn out to be…
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