By Kenneth Stepp
For more months than I can count I have noticed one big thing… I now remember all the pain I caused others. I must have gone on a narcissistic binge to have caused what I see in my rear view mirror. I feel like Urkel when he said “Did I do that?” Well…. Yes I did that. What was I thinking? First I went through a desperate time. This was when I first became single. I desperately needed someone to tell me I mattered to them. Someone who would validate my existence, looking back on those days, I was weak and searching for a way to wake up the strong side of me. I think this is where I went too far the other direction. Too strong? Hardly. Too weak while portraying a strong man. In the end, my damage caused their damage, and that, as you know, caused me to hurt myself more than anyone else.
“I went down to the river,
I sat down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn’t,
So I jumped in and sank.”
― Langston Hughes
That quote is a perfect example of what my actions caused back then, myself and others. So many times I couldn’t think and yet still jumped in. Sure I sank, but never by myself. I used others as flotation devices. I left a wake of hurting people behind me. Why? Because I was weak, confused, and unaware of others who might sink with me. Unaware of the damage I may be inflicting just by holding onto someone else because the water was taking me down In the ultimate uncaring act of showing no mercy, I strengthened my grip and held my breath. But did they? Could they? They trusted me. The sad thing is, there were several they’s over the years. I moved from one lighthouse to the other, just hoping to find my way.
“Man cries, his tears dry up and run out. So he becomes a devil, reduced to a monster.”― Kohta Hirano
A monster? Gosh I hope not. I believe desperation causes many things. It can make us overstate how we feel, it can cause us to just say what we believe others want to hear, and it can lead us down paths we certainly never wanted to follow. I really hope no one thought I was a monster while going through this well-worn phase. I believe with all my heart that we all go through this in some ways and on some level. I doubt any of us can avoid all of it. I only wish I had caught myself quicker. Back many decades ago I had the great fortune to be mentored by a man named, George Warren. He was wise beyond anyone’s years. Even in retrospect, his words of wisdom stand. He gave me one great piece of advice once, and when faced with the perfect opportunity to use this advice, I failed. He said, “Kenneth, “when you don’t know what to do, do nothing”. Well, I couldn’t pull this off in the moments I needed to. Desperation is the monster. Not the person it infects.
“I felt the kind of desperation, I think, that cancels the possibility of empathy…that makes you unkind.” ― Sue Miller, While I Was Gone
Today I’ve been told I seem like a different man, I truly hope so. I was never a bad man. I was a lost man. I forgot to put others before me, I forgot how much people matter. That they are the reason life is so great. I forgot my friends for a season, I wasn’t always honest. Today my very texture of life is different. Today I am reborn. I was at a friend’s home just recently. My friend smiled and said, this is the Kenneth I knew. Those words meant so much. For those on the single’s train with me. I recommend taking a year or so off from your search and self discover. I believe it changed my life. I believe it made me a man worth actually having around. Try it, it could be what’s missing. And remember. Perspective is everything.
“The sea is endless when you are in a rowboat.”
― Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel