Since Ryan was so brutally attacked, many people have told me, “Ken Diviney, you are the strongest person I’ve ever met.”
My response to this was always the same, “Oftentimes, fear looks like strength”.
I’m here to tell you, this I believe firmly. In my case, I cope with fear through logic and rationalization. I literally feel my head (mind) separate from my body. It’s similar to — but not quite — the recently discovered experience I had upon entering a physical state beyond exhaustion.
I reasoned that since I’m often scared (and exhausted, for that matter), I must seem so damned strong to the unwitting. Herculean!
I convinced myself that people are obviously perceiving me all wrong. There’s no way anyone would feel this way about me if they knew how many times I cried in agonizing despair… or screamed in hopeless desperation… or crumbled to the floor in physical exhaustion… or pulled myself up while wishing I could just stay down… or drifted off to sleep wanting to never wake… to awaken and curse reality.
The reality is, mine is now a life at the emotional extremes. Always pegged at maximum intensity; in one form or another. Some emotions and feelings are constant, like fear. Some are competing, like desperation and hope. Then there are some that are both constant and competing, like love and hate.
To be clear, I recognize the clinical definition between an emotion and a feeling. To me, these are two sides of the same coin; with the only difference being time. For the sake of simplicity, I’m not making a distinction. Besides, since I consider myself an expert on emotions and feelings, I don’t entirely agree with the Psychologist’s canned-definitions anyhow.
You know what, though? Fear can look like weakness too. Funny, this never crossed my mind until recently. That is, not until an off-hand comment I wrote in my previous article, Reaching Light at End of Tunnel. Pay particular attention to the last sentence where I wrote:
The thing is, my well-being doesn’t matter one iota. Well, not when it comes to being responsible for another. This time, like untold times before, I had no say. I did what was needed… I lowered my shoulder and leaned in… all the while I just felt like crying. I kept moving toward the light at the end of the tunnel; hoping it wasn’t a train barreling down.
If nothing else, I’m a persistent bastard.
That last line was just a statement meant for comedic relief. At least, that was my intention. People seemed to get a kick out of it, just as I had hoped. I giggled each time someone would comment or email me agreeing that I am, in fact, quite the persistent bastard.
Then something occurred to me.
First, no one was disagreeing. Second, I wrote it as a matter-of-fact. Something so obvious that giving it a second thought would be unnecessary. Finally, I made that statement related to physical exhaustion; not fear.
Could it be that I am as strong as people think? Is that even possible?
It seems that not only am I a persistent bastard, but I am strong! Why in the hell should I care what makes me this way? There’s something in my makeup that I must have had all along. I see this trait in both of my children. They are made of the right stuff. No one can deny Ryan has suffered and lost more than ANYONE they know.
I’m not just strong, but the strongest person I know! It took a tragedy to expose this and your validation to convince (finally) me.
Sounds like I’m bragging, right? Oh, hell no! On the contrary. There is no pride, only sadness. I wish I were never unjustly forced into circumstances to learn this about myself. I hate being the strongest person that people know.
Like I just said, there is no pride. Only grief.
I wish I was never unjustly forced into circumstances to learn this about myself. What Austin Vantrease and Jonathan May did to Ryan is worse than murder. Much, much worse. They ripped away Ryan’s being and left his shattered body to struggle through every day.
People say that we should be grateful because there is always someone worse off. I must ask, who would this be to Ryan?
People are so wrong when they say there is nothing worse than burying your child. I’ll bear witness to this fallacy. My son’s essence died on November 7, 2009. My son, as he exists now, will die again.
As fo me? Well. I won’t quit. Not until Ryan does, that is.
Please remember this, it is the people (e.g., you) who care so deeply for Ryan that I draw strength from. With your devotion toward him I’ll be the strongest person around… at least for a while longer.
But, please, excuse me if you see me crying.