Outside, the sky is crystal blue, birds are singing, and I feel great. It’s a shame I’m inside writing such a heavy blog to bring the mood down. I can’t help it though. I feel compelled to do so.
I was minding my own business, listening to the first chapter of an audio book – Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins – when I started to laugh nervously. Not because David’s story is humorous, far from it. His childhood experiences were dark as shit. My laughter bubbled up from a bleak recess within me. I call that location The Well of Bitter Recognition.
I recognized some painful similarities between David’s early childhood and my own. His father ran a profitable roller-skating rink while mine designed and built a popular skate rink in one of Australia’s capital cities. Yes, there was a time when roller-skating was cool.
David’s father also was the proprietor of a thriving bar while my father became known for renovating drab and tired pubs, transforming them into appealing places to eat and hang out.
The childhood home of David was in a nice neighborhood and his family’s garage was filled with motor vehicles. My family lived in a picturesque, leafy suburb and our driveway was filled with the latest Nissan Four Wheel Drives and a brand new, limited edition black BMW my father paid cash for.
I was the only eight-year-old child at my school who rode a motorbike. Not to school of course, but around our five-acre backyard. In 2020, an eight-year-old on a motorbike is probably not a big deal, but when I was a small boy it appeared odd and decadent. My peers thought I was a spoilt brat.
My father worked like a demon and the fruits of his labor meant our family life appeared idyllic. I did not want for anything. Or so I thought. Something was not right. The part of David’s life story that rang true for me was the palpable sense of dread I would also feel when my father returned home from work. He was often drunk and angry. My mother, my sister, and I would bear the brunt of his verbal assaults. Especially my mother.
David’s mother had the courage to leave her nightmare situation and took her sons with her. I often wonder if there would be less trauma in my life if my mother did the same. Probably not. The damage was already done. Life certainly did not become a fairy-tale for David once he was away from his father because there was so much for him to process from his own trauma.
As an adult, full awareness of our past – not denial – can help us. But the associated feelings are awfully unpleasant. It’s not for the faint of heart because if we admit things were bad when we were young, we revisit a time we were truly powerless and vulnerable.
It has taken me half a lifetime to admit my bad experiences are a resource more valuable than feelgood statements or motivational speeches. It feels counterintuitive, but David’s story has clarified that for me.
The pain and hurt you accumulate are fuel that can take you far. Just make sure your head is screwed on straight, so you travel in the right direction!