It began with an admission of guilt and ignorance.
“I don’t know how to love myself.”
Forgive yourself. A voice from within replied.
“How can I?”
Take care of yourself.
– The past only exists as memories, fragmented and biased to one’s personal experiences. –
I had spent my childhood unhappy with myself – defiant, refusing to participate in even the simplest of responsibilities. For a decade afterwards, I was convinced that I wouldn’t live past my twenties and lived like someone who was expecting to die chasing every experience I could.
Then reality set in.
I was in my thirties with no education, barely paying my own way, with a scarred, worn body and the habits that followed. I tried to love others, but my shadow – ever present – whispered in my ear, “You’re not worthy of love,” and I believed it. All my life it had been about the chase and never love. When someone would profess their love for me a switch would flip and instantaneously, without explanation my interest in the person would vanish. I hurt so many people in my self-loathing
Not quite four years ago, I experienced my first taste of true loss – the unexpected death of a confidant, lover, and friend – and I was not able to bring myself to mourn their passing or at least I was unwilling to allow myself to feel their loss. I buried myself in work during the weeks and intoxication on the weekends, and in a month’s time I was in a hospital, unaware of the gravity of my life situation, having my blood drawn and listening to a doctor explain that they couldn’t understand how I had managed to walk into the emergency room, fill out the forms, and was holding a conversation. By accounting of my blood oxygen level, I should have been unconscious. My body doubled over with each cough, my skin covered in goosebumps and my teeth chattering from a chill that only I could feel in a, by all accounts, warm room.
My lungs were filled to the brim with the waste of bacterial pneumonia, onset after a yet to be identified strain of influenza, denying the absorption of oxygen into my body. Even as I sat in the chair explaining that I believed I was suffering bronchitis and telling the doctor I just needed antibiotics, my vital organs had already begun to shut down. My kidneys were gravely injured on the battlefield of my body with no sign of life and as a result of their defeat, my blood was filled with the poison they protected me from.
I don’t remember much beyond this point in time except that it had been days since I had slept. As the story is told, I refused to be put on a ventilator to assist my fading ability to breathe at all. The respiratory therapist treating me, an Iraq War veteran combat medic, forced me down and gave me a shot of something that rendered me unconscious and I was placed on life support.
He saved my life.
I awoke twelve days later with no memory of what had happened, where I was at, or how I had gotten there…
And I could not move.
I had not the strength to even roll myself over onto my side.
Over the next couple of days, being rationed water (my kidneys were still not functioning so water was not being processed), spoon fed, bathed, and diapers changed like an infant; I quickly learned humility in ways I could have never comprehended prior. An outpouring of support came from all directions. Friends and family by the hundreds came together to provide emotional and financial support. Friends that I had only met online pooled their resources and paid for my prescriptions.
That’s when I learned that I had a reputation for always helping others but also refusing to ask for or receive help. They pleaded with me to never put myself in this life situation again – and many still do. My mother, with tears in her eyes, told me she knew that it wasn’t my time; that God meant for me to do great things. I remember being told that it took three separate attempts to revive me from my induced coma and that there were many times that I was not expected to survive the night.
I later learned that a man from New Zealand, a native trained as a shaman (a fact that I was unaware of at the time), a friend that I only knew by his internet alias and by his voice, had performed a physically intensive, day-long ritual to enter the astral plane and visit me on my death bed. Casting protection and healing over me, a few hours later I began to respond to the antibiotics my body was pumped full of that for over a week the bacteria had resisted avoiding an open lung biopsy that was to occur the following day. My vitals began to climb and shortly after, they were able to successfully awaken me.
I was informed that it would take months of physical therapy to learn to walk and regain motor function and that the trembling of my hands may never subside.
One might think that laying on a hospital bed, unable to muster the strength to move, requiring a crane to lift you from the bed onto a recliner and back again, kidneys still not functioning and on dialysis, and being fed and bathed by – to put it no other way – simply gorgeous ICU nurses, may cause a person to become angry at their life situation, but it had the opposite effect.
Surrounded by the ICU staff that genuinely cared for my well-being, my tear-filled yet relieved family, and the friends that later came to visit once I was cleared for visitation gave me a feeling of peace and abundance. I was a wealthy man, surrounded by the riches of love.
I was worthy of love.
On that first sleepless night, alone in a dark hospital ward, surrounded by the sounds of beeping machines, I made a promise to the universe that I would use my talents to help others – specifically that I would pursue technical knowledge to help others. I promised my brother that I would change my behavior to live a longer, fuller life and I set out upon that immediately. I requested my laptop and began teaching myself additional programming and math from my hospital bed. I convinced an RNA to locate a walker for me and once I had the strength to hold myself up against it; I walked it up and down the length of my room until I collapsed from exhaustion and would sleep for an hour or two. These naps between practicing walking would be the only sleep I managed in the week before I had what was described as a miraculous recovery and was able to walk out of the hospital on my own.
It took me some time to find my bearings through two failed businesses and the occasional return to former habits, but eventually I enrolled in school to be formally educated in programming. I took on a job with a steady schedule and benefits. I was thankful for the stability and was rewarded with abundance.
This process began two years ago and I’ve remained true to my promises, identifying where I need improvement, uncovering root causes of behaviors, and focusing on returning the kindness I was blessed with in my darkest times. Emotions found their way out through cracks in my mental armor and three years after her passing, I finally mourned the loss of Samantha.
– The future only exists as predictions based on fragmented and biased memories of the past. –
Why tell this story?
Why tell it to you?
These experiences led me to forgive, take care of, and love myself. I want you to understand the process that led me to you. Perhaps you’re someone I already know, perhaps you’re someone I have yet to meet. What I do know, in my heart of hearts, is that you will find me in a state of discovery – ever learning how to love myself more fully and stumbling around with my candle in the dark, trying to share my discoveries with others.
But I don’t know how to love you.
I’ve just learned how to love myself and even though we’re unrealized at this moment, you are inspiring me to reach my fullest potential. I want to be a star, a beacon of light for you in the vastness of this experience, just as you will be for me.
I’ve waited a long time for you and I will always be willing to wait for you. My story is a collection of lessons teaching me to become the one who you will discover.
When you find me, I will most likely still not know how to love you, but I will want to learn and you will take my hand and say to me,
It’s alright, let me show you how.