Without the stethoscope that used to hang around my neck, who am I? My hands no longer hold a C7A1, standard issue rifle. I no longer dawn a cap badge and stand at attention. My dress blues hang lazily in my closet. Who am I? You see, I have identified myself as a medic for so long, that without these things, I feel naked and lost. A wandering traveler with no destination. I do have an identity though; it is of a troubled man. A man who floats along a sea of confliction. Navigating the endless waters of loss. A man who has lost his smile somewhere along the road of experience. If you are not actively engaging me in conversation, and you choose to look over at me, no matter where I may be seated: in a bar. On a bench. A wobbly generic chair within the coffee shop, you will see truly how lost I am. You will see, even from afar, that I am not in your world. I am wandering through the catacombs of mine. It is only when you begin to engage with me, that I choose to dawn a mask, so as not to trouble you with my broken compass. So the question remains: who am I?
I sit in my therapist’s office, once, maybe twice a week, and I fight the urge to cry on so many occasions while I am there. Some of them are noticeable, some of them are not. Is that who I am now – The Crying man?
The other night, after waking from another PTSD induced nightmare of remembrance, and faced with the inability to call back asleep, I found myself ruminating on the images of that nightmare, along with the issues I am currently facing; being sued by a vengeful ex – yet again. An absent mother. A fractured family, and a small broken apartment. As all of these things swirled together, I rolled over, and buried my head, deep inside the fabric of my pillow, and I screamed. I bellowed angrily while clutching the pillow with my hands, pressing it against my face. I yelled until my voice gave way. Is that who I am now – The Angry man?
In six days time, another anniversary will pass. An anniversary of another slain brother, who died on the distant fields of Afghanistan. A sweet and gentle man, taken before his time. Taken by violence. Ended by a rage filled ideology. A sacrifice he willingly chose, so that others may never have to. I miss him. Is that who I am now – The Mourning man? …
What about that lost smile? The one that left me years ago, replaced by a slight, brooding frown. Is that who I am now – Depression man? I don’t know. Maybe I’m none of these things, and maybe I’m all of them. Depends who you ask I suppose. If you ask those who see me and my masks, they may tell you their version of who I am. If you sit down with me, and look into my tired eyes, and ask me, well, if I trust you, I will remove the mask, and I will tell you – I am a lost boy, dressed in an aged man’s armor. I am scared, and I am lonely. I am angry, and I am bitter. I am experienced in things that no one should be, and only a few are. I am a man who was once an abused child. A man who still wears the scars of that abuse. The only lasting remains of my father. I am a man who has not only witnessed death, but held it in my very hands. That’s an odd one. Sometimes, just as I am about to pick something up, like a drink for example, I catch a glimpse of my hand, and it forces me to stop for a moment. My eyes examine every fading scar, and discoloration. Every aging wrinkle, and I remember – I remember everything that my aching hands have touched in my days spent in uniform. That rumination, generally makes the drink in front of me, disappear quite rapidly. Irish magic, I call it. Is that who I am – The Drunk? I don’t think so, but, I certainly have been…
I think really what I am is just, lost. And that’s ok because, everyone who is lost, is that way until they are found. I’ll just wait out the storm. Look for the clearing and then, head for land.
A man is his own island – I am just trying to figure out where I belong. Maybe that’s who I am – A Man of hope… I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out… Until then, I must keep searching for my ‘island’ and a place to set it down. A place to finally find some peace, and maybe even a smile. A place to call – home.