Writing my memoir piece, I’ve been reading a lot of my old journals and blog posts, “dredging the self” as I called it in my last post. I found this and thought it quite relevant, considering the season. So I polished it up and posted it below.
I do apologize for the occasional “recycled” post. It’s not that I can’t write another one or that don’t want to, but I find I can’t replicate some sentiments. Writing, I find myself dragging my net through the world, searching for a story, and sometimes particular moments have an eloquence or meaning that only lived during that brief space. Taking my net out again, I know I cannot find it.
So it is with this.
But a brief backstory may help. Last year, as I’ve alluded too, I was battling a depressive episode. I took a four-day stint of solitude, where I did not see a single person. Sometimes I rested, or walked in the forest, or meditated. I did what the hours allowed. The piece below was a reflection I wrote from the period, not anything grand or academic, but my own tangled thoughts about the world.
No one can ever steal my childhood away. Yesterday, I watched an old 1970s kung-fu flick–the Drunken Master. Over the years, I’ve developed a palate for cheesy, low-budget movies, but kung-fu films are special because they remind me of my brother and the hours we spent watching classics like The Drunken Monk, Enter the Dragon, and The Master of the Flying Guillotine at odd hours of the night.
My brother and I have had a rocky relationship. On the surface we have little in common. He’s a boisterous rabble-rouser and always has been, with a penchant for fun nights on the town and sports. We have divergent tastes in music and are eight years apart in age.
His stories are rich. He bounded through a window, drunk, at his high school prom. He slept in jail for alcohol possession as a minor, got his stomach pumped, and hid in the attic from cops as his friends smoked pot. I hid myself most nights when he had friends over.
Our mom fought him each step of the way. Coming home from work once, he found his stuff piled in the driveway with a sign stained in permanent marker that read, “Patrick go away.” He had to hoist himself through an upstairs window to sleep in his bed that night.
In contrast, I’ve had detention twice.
Still, we grew up together. When I was a kid, we built forts. We clambered over bridges of beds and pillows. We hopped across the gulf between furniture as if lava seethed beneath. He always offered his hand to help me cross couch to couch.
He slept in our finished basement. Once, when I was too young, I built a decoy of pillows beneath my blankets to fool my dad when he came to check if I was asleep. Before he checked, I crept downstairs to the basement, like in a spy movie, where my brother and I watched kung-fu until I snuck back up before morning.
I saw my first R-rated movie with my brother. Played my first video game. Threw my first football. Kicked my first soccer ball. He helped me with my first crush and all the heartbreaks since then.
As I got older, we talked more. Turns out, we had a lot in common. We both felt a little lost with our lives. Like “black sheep,” as he put it. He offered advice, or sometimes, he gave me the laugh I needed. It was always enough.
Relationships are subtle and mysterious. You never know when a relationship will mean something. I suppose I’ve loved my brother for a long time. He’s always been there, a source of inspiration and strength. We grew up together and talk when we can. I know he doesn’t realize how much he means to me. But, truth be told, I didn’t either until yesterday.
Love has no schedule. I never expected to be tearing up over my brother today, but here I am. No rhyme, no reason. He’s miles away, off in New York, imbedded in his own life, with his own losses and ambitions as he starts his new job as a biology teacher and hunts for an apartment. Two separate lives apart in space, but linked at the heart.
Our lives are full of strangers that leave no knots. They come and go. Sometimes they make a mark, but even that fades most of the time.
But when individuals move us to tears because we love them so much, the beauty of the world shines through all the grief, and loss, and anger that often overtakes it. We become a little less rugged, a little less independent–perhaps a little more open–because we wonder how far we would have made it without them and how much of them finds its home inside of us. When love moves us to tears, our heart wells up to the surface and shouts, “I’m human” without shame.
Such humility is a rare moment. Everything else falls short in the face of that. Teardrops wash the morning clean like dew, and we suddenly feel refreshed. Once again, we can love. And that, perhaps, is enough to bear us through those empty days when we simply can’t.