The Real Bill I
Bill Long 11/07/04
Reflections on a Life
This "Reviews/Current Events" page is primarily devoted to reflections on other people's ideas. But I need to do some "interior work" today, and I thought I would do it out in the wide open on this page. All of it isn't pretty but I think it needs to be done. I am not doing this on the "Me" page because that is my "official" resume for people that want to have nice, positive and easily accessible things to say about me. But a resume is approximately 80% untrue; not because of what it does say, which presumably is correct, but because of what it leaves out. Here are some "off budget" non-resume thoughts on my current situation in life.
New Life in 2001
The primary reality for me as I wake up each day is that I am a single parent of a 17 year-old son, a senior in high school, who is planning to go to college someplace in the East. My 22 year-old daughter is now working in NYC and, even though our paths cross through emails and instant messaging much more than I anticipated when she moved to Manhattan in July 2004, she is basically on her own. A divorce which was finalized on October 1, 2001 ended my marriage of 24 years. Several very difficult things previous to and in the wake of the divorce made the years from 1999-2003 an experience I don't want to repeat. I tell the story of these years in my July 2004 autobiography 52 and Strangely Found: An Autobiography Intellectual and Intimate.
Since 10/01/01, then, I have been on a new journey into self-discovery, as well as learning about others and the world. Much of my learning about the world is captured in this web page, and I don't need to comment on that further. Insights into the self and others have often come through other people's comments, even if they had no idea that their comments would become grist for my mental mill. In this and the next three mini-essays I want to talk about three things that I have learned or not yet learned in this period, things that liberate and hamper me, things that shape my mental reality each day.
Getting Rid of One Bad Thing
I am most proud of a personal victory I have won over a fierce and, I thought, unconquerable foe. For years, beginning in the 1980s and becoming worse in the 1990s, I became increasingly subject to interior (and then exterior) fits of anger and frustration when some things were beyond my control. I would explode in fury at people and at situations. One example will suffice to illustrate this.
I have always believed that my children were exceptionally gifted students. When we moved to Salem, OR from Kansas in 1996 my son Will was in fourth grade. He was slow to adjust to his new environment in school but I felt he was making good progress. About mid-year he received a B+ in math. While many parents would have been pleased with that, I knew that grade had to be incorrect because I also knew (as a former math major myself) that Will was exceptionally skilled in calculation and mathematics. So, I went (with my wife at the time) to talk with the principal and the teacher.
I asked about his grade and performance and saw that in their statements about Will they were fully misunderstanding him and already seemingly "tracking" him as a decent but not outstanding student. I told them that he was a very capable math student and that he actually was a gifted student. They were not sympathetic to my characterization. I proceeded to explode at them, degrading them personally, questioning their professional competence and saying things that were utterly inappropriate. My ex was livid at me, feeling that I had hurt Will in so exploding. Even though the story has a bit of a happy ending (he received more math awards at the high school than any other student), it illustrated a tendency that increasingly got out of control in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was as if a rush would come over me when someone had done something I couldn't control, and I had to lash out with immense energy and all the strength of my focused intelligence to berate, degrade and expose the person so evaluating me or a loved one. In a sense, I was trying to obliterate them on the spot.
I knew I had this debility in me after our divorce, too, and though I tried to control it, I seemed unable to master these thoughts and occasional outbursts. I think it hurt me personally and professionally to act this way, even though I tried to "mask" the behavior. Finally, however, I was able to give up these outbursts. I can pinpoint the time. It around June 20, 2004 and my daughter was in NYC trying to find an apartment. She called me in confusion one day in a line at Chase Manhattan Bank as she was trying to negotatiate the requirements for putting down money to rent a Manhattan apartment. I felt absolutely helpless as my daughter would seemingly lose out on apartments because I wasn't there to "guarantee" her signature. It is more complicated, but that is the issue. I felt the surge come over me again, and I know I responded somewhat inappropriately, but we finally got the apartment.
Then, in the wake of this, I realized something I never realized earlier. It was that the bodily or health effect of this kind of visceral explosion of immense energy could only be negative. I decided right then and there that I would never let these waves of panic wash over me again. I felt deep in my body that if I continued to let them happen they would injure and perhaps kill me. I didn't want that to happen. Thought it has only been five months since the last "attack," I haven't been close to one since, and I don't feel the need for them anymore.
I am proud to say that I think I have buried this demon.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long