Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Lifetime In Construction

I've always taken a particular interest in the written word.  It's my expression of choice.  For better or worse, the majority of my adult life has been a grand exercise in overshare.  At every turn, I'm compelled to reach into even the smallest sample of what lies between my ears, and release it from captivity.  I waste little time pondering how my words will be received.  I don't shape them to fit a desired form, nor will I ever ask for an audience.  After all, while I appreciate those who take the time and read the writing, half the therapy is simply from putting ink to paper anyway.

Finding the starting point is my greatest challenge in writing.  Back up too early, and I'll fill your head with meaningless build-up.  Jump in too late and you may miss some of the framework that makes it all so beautiful.  I'll make it simple.  I'll just begin at the most fucked up point in my entire life.

I divorced my wife and terminated the relationship exceeding one third of my life, for another woman and the pursuit of newfound life and happiness.  I saw a means to a more fulfilling existence and despite the overwhelming challenges to hurdle, I hurdled them all.  The close of one chapter was as a single father prepared to enter a brand new life with an open road.  Just as I was setting the stage for what would be the future I'd prepared myself for, it all went down in flames.  My future vaporized like a nuclear warhead dropped from 60,000 feet.  It was headed my way for far longer than I realized, and the impact took me by devastating surprise.  I came to discover that I'd laid the foundation for an empire on quicksand.  The woman of my dreams habitually cheated on me  throughout the most trying time of my life, as I dissolved my nuclear family.  My dream of a future was little more than a mirage.  I was absolutely crushed to have worked so hard and seen my world crumble before the paint even dried.  

I looked into my crystal ball only to see a future terminated by self inflicted wound.  I swore no force on earth would ever remove me from the fucked up and disease-ridden pit I occupied.  I was irreparably damaged and content with bleeding onto the sidewalk, one cheap liquor bottle at a time.  

But this isn't a story of downfall.  It's of salvation.  This is a about life after death, not some long-winded downward spiral of broken hearts and empty bottles in the dark.  It's of the courage to extend a hand when someone needs it the most; willingness to expose oneself for the sake of comforting another.  This is a story of solidarity and the fertile soil yielded from a healthy shoulder to lean on.  

In my darkest moments extending well beyond a calendar year, innumerable friends and family reached out for a gesture of encouragement.  Well-intended support combined with fearful concern.  I left a majority of these messages unread for months.  Truth be told, I'm uncertain if it were my own subconscious refusal to accept help, or a lack of understanding that kept me distant.  I immediately categorized the type of supportive message from a concerned friend.  Most possessed an unrealistic note of optimism that left me nauseous.  I didn't give a shit that it'll all be better soon and I'd be happier than ever.  My road back to sea level was long enough, never mind the ascent to some higher state of bliss.  The most heartfelt offer of support fell on deaf ears if produced from an unrelatable source.  

The next demographic of 'concerned citizen' was even more repulsive than the former.  These people truly did not give two fucks about seeing a man rise to his feet.  They wanted dirt.  The details.  I soon became adept at recognizing would-be confidants turned freelance private detectives.  Every conversation began the same:

"Hey, buddy.  I don't really know what you're going through, I just wanted to say hang in there."

"Thank you.  I appreciate the support."

"Yeah I mean I don't know how it happened or anything, just hoping you're ok."

"Right.  Thank you, again."

"No problem, dude.  It's none of my business about what happened but-"

FUCK!  You get the idea.  An expedition of information gathering disguised as a shoulder to cry on.  After enough of these, I abandoned responding to anyone.  Why bother?

Fortunately for me, some people are more persistent than others.  And, more genuine.  In my own reluctance and utter refusal to acknowledge a kind word, I'd have surely forfeited the chance to connect with a meaningful and experienced voice on the other end.  And so upon request, I finally sat down to review at least one particular entry in my inbox.

As I read her messages, my once-permanently clenched fists slowly began to relax.  Blood returned to my fingertips and the white knuckles softened.  Something about her was unique.  It wasn't a cheerful high five, nor was it a cliche sympathy card.  Her tone wasn't inquisitive.  The origin of her message was from an old chapter of her life, not so unlike my own at the time.  Quickly, and for the first time in recent memory, my attention was undivided.  She took me down a very personal road through her own past.  One filled with hurt and regret and heartbreak.  And I felt it in my own chest.  The place of struggle she must have come from.  But more importantly, her language was a thousand miles from the decrepit narrative filling my own journal.  The strength to share a story of hers to a seemingly uninterested audience in me; the confidence to open herself up at the off chance it might shine a light into a darkened corner of my world.  I respected her constitution even at first glance.  Clearly someone out there not only seemed to understand me, but my entire story could have been written on the inside cover of the book that is her own tale.  I was quickly humbled.  And I needed that.  Somewhere along the way, I'd baited myself into a closed loop of doom and gloom self loathing and neglected to consider things could be a whole lot worse.  My twelve months riding the struggle bus could have very easily been years on end before surfacing for oxygen.  

Before offering a response to her words of encouragement, I must have read them fifty times.  We soon spoke back and forth about hard days.  My lack of perspective did not deter her willingness to show me first hand how a person could emerge a stronger and more compassionate individual.  For the first time since coming home to discover a literal world of lies where my future was supposed to reside, I found myself pouring out the contents of my would-be launch into orbit turned Challenger disaster.  And she listened to me; absorbed every detail.  Unlike so many others, she came to me with suggestions on ways to dig myself out.  I received fewer unsolicited pats on the back and more insight into beginning the reconstruction of my emotional state.  I didn't know how to un-fuck myself.  Though, I was clearly sitting across the computer from a brilliant woman who had done so first hand.  

Even while it was too soon for me to zoom out and gauge my own rise from the bottom, this was absolutely the beginning of the climb.  


  1. Such an amazing thing to read, and realizing it's someone's true life in the happening puts me in awe. You're an amazing person , Jake, as I've always looked up to you in your lifting journey. I learned a lot from afar from watching your videos. For what it's worth, I sincerely hope to train with you some day...

    1. Thank you very much, Steve. I appreciate your support and my basement is wide open every day I'm home.

  2. Jake, I don't know you but I know your wonderful mom. I want to say I enjoyed your 'expression of choice' it captured my attention. Your story is raw, from the heart and beautifully done. Wishing you a fantastic Climb. On another note, you might want to go into writing!

    1. Thank you Linda, for taking the time to say so. I really appreciate it!