What’s In A Name

Dos Santos.  Two Saints.  My brother and I often talk about the synchronicity of life.  I am not a New Ager, but rather  a skeptic, pragmatist and as I age (and lose my idealism) increasingly a cynic.  And, yet, even I am amazed at life’s serendipity.

My parents were not religious.  I think my dad would have called himself an atheist (although agnostic would probably  be closer to the truth); my mom had a belief in God, but to what extent I’m not sure.  And yet, I share the name of two Saints:  Saint Stephen the Martyr and Saint Francis of Assisi.  What’s in a name?

Saint Stephen:   Accused and convicted of blasphemy; stoned to death as the Church’s first martyr.  Anyone who knows me understands how close this hits to the mark.  I am constantly challenging authority (blaspheming as it were), and ranting on-and-on about hypocrisy and injustice.

Saint Francis:  Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of animals and the environment. Once again this hits so close to the mark it scares me.  That I love animals and the environment is another hallmark of my being.  I interact much better with the critters than I do with fellow human beings, and I am most at peace when solitary within nature.

I am not a religious man, talk of God unsettles me.  I am not an atheist.  More probably a skeptical agnostic if truth be told.  My spiritual path is Taoist and Buddhist in flavor, but I consider neither a religion per se though many do.  To me they provide a topographic  map of life, with the key GPS waypoints deeply and subtly encoded (and which I consistently miss on my journey).

So, I share the names of two Saints (Dos Santos), and yet I am the most un-Saintly person I know.  I lack real compassion for my fellow humans (but have it in abundance for my animal friends), I can neither give or receive love to keep a relationship alive, I have done vile things in my past, and I am still fully capable of such actions even today, and given enough reason (or provocation) I can be a violent man.  These are not saintly qualities.

I’ve hurt a lot of people in my life.  Unintentionally for the most part, but hurt nonetheless. I’ve read that we mirror life, and that we attract to us what we ourselves give.  Want to be loved?  Then love those around you.  Want compassion and understanding?  Then show compassion and understanding to your fellow beings.  Want to be treated kindly?  Don’t use violence against others.  I’ve also read to initiate actions first, and the feelings will follow.  But somewhere along the way I lost that ability, I lost me.

My wife once said to me (actually hurled it at me as an accusation):  “You don’t need me.” And the awful truth was I didn’t.  I really don’t need anyone.  I am self-contained and compartmentalized.  And protected by armor-plate two feet thick.  I used to think of myself as a brave man, a man who could overcome his fear and confront any obstacle placed before him.  A man who could do what needed to be done.  But I am, in fact, a coward. Because when it comes to the real gut-work of being a better person I fail.  Worse than fail, I don’t even try.  Because I am afraid.

This worldwide adventure I am on is also a quest.  A quest to rediscover myself.  To reclaim that which was lost.  But I think I lack the courage.  It is easier and more comfortable to stay isolated within myself.  And a little voice deep inside of me keeps whispering:  It’s too late old man.  I lack the traits that make us uniquely and truly human: Love, Compassion, Trust and Intimacy.  Did I ever possess those traits?  I don’t remember. I think I had them once.  Were they lost somewhere in childhood, or in the debacle of Vietnam?  A shrink would probably say it’s PTSD clear and simple.  If not Vietnam, then surely all of the other traumas life likes to throw at you.

I function well, if mechanically, on a day-to-day basis.  And irrespective of this confession (we have been talking about Saints after all) I am pretty content and often feel happy.  At least in the compartments labeled ‘Content’ and ‘Happy.’  But, if I’m honest with myself, I am emotionally numb.  Not all emotions of course … I can still get pretty pissed off at times.  But the softer emotions don’t exist in my world.  I think I would be a better person if they did.  But the voice whispers yet again:  It’s too late old man.  And I am afraid.

A few of you write to me with similar feelings about life.  You’re going through difficult times. You feel lost, like maybe you’ve lost your way.  The rules have changed and you’re in new unexplored territory.  I wish I had an answer for you.  The only advice I can offer is to be braver than me.  Overcome your fear and open up to people who want to help you.  Be willing to take a risk.  Life can beat the crap out of you if you let it, but it can also be more rewarding than I make it sound.  I am not depressed, and this is not alcohol induced, it’s just me with lots of new-found time on my hands, peering into dark corners probably best left in the shadows.  Of all the crimes-of-the-heart I’ve committed, betrayal of  trust, and assassination of love have been the worst.

Dos Santos.  Two Saints.  What Karma, synchronicity or serendipity in life brought those two names to my person?  What’s in a name?



8 responses to “What’s In A Name

  1. Interesting….

    I know what you’re talking about…being solo is easier than being with someone; it’s hard to be “real” in a relationship…much easier to not get close…and thereby not have to deal with what it takes to be a good “other half” for someone.

    As far as the “done things bad” part? Well…that’s part and parcel ob being human…nobody gets away without doing things that they’d be embarrassed to have other’s know that they did. You know what they say “what you do when you think nobody is watching…is really what you are…”

    I’ve found this; even though you don’t like “religion” it’s something that’s got to be dealt with…it deals with important questions, the most important a human will ever ponder.

    I’ll leave it at that for now.

  2. Years ago, I was inspired to read the biography of Saint Francis of Assissi…It was fascinating. According to what I read, he was quite tortured by many things but endured to the end. He found great tranquility being in nature…It soothed his soul.

    I believe one of our largest hurdles to overcome is the feeling of being less than “The Light”…We are the Light! And we are good regardless of our errors and flaws. I was telling this to someone once and he said to me…”Oh but you don’t know what I have done in my life.” He proceeded to tell me how he had been in a position of authority and that he had abused his power by torturing others when he questioned them…He was quite explicit about what he had done. (I will spare you the details on this public site.) But he was watching me intently to see how I would react….He was quite surprised that condemnation was not delivered in that moment… He had clearly been condemning himself for so very many years. Compassion and forgiveness was what I extended to him…and he so desperately needed to feel that vibration.

    Imagine if I were to tell you the very worst things I had done in my life…and let’s just say they happened to be the same as what you had done…(Because who is to say that if I were given your same set of life circumstances I would not have done the same.,,) Would you not feel compassion and forgiveness for me? I think you would!

    You are the LIGHT! I love you, Laurie

  3. I can relate to much of what you have written here Steve. I wish I could express myself as well as you do. I guess all I can add is don’t be too hard on yourself. We are a species that is still evolving and each of us has only a few decades (if that) to figure out how to navigate our lives. There is a line from a poem or song that goes “I, a stranger, and afraid – in a world I never made.” I think of it often.

  4. I get you. I am the same. Always thought it was because I have German in me. Totally afraid of men. I was married for 10 years. My ex said the same thing to me. You do not need anyone.

    When I really hash it out my parents were not that loving toward there children of 5. No I love you daily , no hugging, no you did a really go job, no I am so proud of you. Only heard from them when I did something wrong. Leaves you with no self esteem to think you are worthy of anyone to love you.

  5. The fact that you recognize your flaws and can express your feelings shows incredible courage, in my opinion. I thought it was interesting that you used the word “shrink”. It is a nickname that comes from “headshrinker”, something to be feared. I hope that you did get some help for your PTSD. It not usually something that you can fix yourself. My ex had it. I tried to help him, I couldn’t, I gave up. It was like living with a dark cloud. The experience taught me to value my independence and most of all freedom. I don’t view being alone as a bad thing at all.
    I’m a strong believer in therapy and it was a major turning point for me. It helped me to see the events of my life from a more detached viewpoint. It basically opened my eyes and helped me get unstuck. Sometimes it’s necessary to break the wound wide open before you can start to heal. Never give up on the journey… Delve deep into those dark corners… bring a flash light…

  6. Hey Neighbor, [NOT SPAM]

    “TAKE A FLYER” here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/06/13/190369460/Guidelines-For-Commercial-Drones-Expect-To-Come-By-2015

    I think you would make a great drone pilot! A hot new approach to photojournalism.


    You’ve got spiritual aptitude. We’ve already broached the topic, briefly, at the cafe; you already understand I’m not a brand salesman. Sometime we should talk in depth. Mary and I expect to back in the ‘hood sometime in mid October.

  7. While in the womb, I was Margarita Antoinette, and by all spiritual that mother had I did remain that in her heart, but once born my father thought it too big of a name for such a small creature, so insisted I become labled Margaret Ann…

    Mondays child full of Grace, a pearl, in Spanish a daisy, but ma never raised no daisy!

    With all the little scars of childhood, and the big scars of adulthood we all tend to hide our true nature away for self preservation of the soul.

    Oft times I’m seen as aloof. Dad sees me as a butterfly off on the breezes of life, and calls me Cho Cho San, and perhaps I am.
    Perhaps avoiding problems or not facing things in life, who knows, but I like solice and who I am in all my weirdness…
    Mom gave me the tile that says, “A weird, wild, wonderful woman lives here.” I try to live up to those words.

    Listening with my heart to all your words, I found myself smiling and remembering my love for animals, and having the same feelings of humans as was your remark. I too, at times, think air is a free commodity that should not be shared with some.
    ( forgive me father for I have sinned)…

    All of us are damaged goods that will not except anything but perfection in our daily purchases, and conquests in life.
    But life is not perfect, and at times we feel short changed or guilty for our short comings, but without all the experiences we cause or receive, we could not be the glob of molecules that we have become.

    So St. Stephen Francis, you need to quit beating yourself up over past choices, past heartaches, and anything else in the past.
    I know that the past gets back in our heads at times, but I for one kicked it out, I didn’t like the renter’s, and refuse to be a slum lord!
    Oh, I throw a pitty party every now and again, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t, but for what it’s worth I hate that kind of hang-over, so miss me with that slop until the next time.. ar ar!

    I need to tell you again, that at age of 16 things were very hard for me. I asked myself how I could make my mother change. Praying and praying about it. Finally, one day I shut-up and listened.. I had not been listening.. I had not heard!
    In the quiet of my tiny bedroom, sad and alone in the house, I heard.
    Was it a voice? Not so sure.. I think it was my heart talking.. nevertheless, the words were loud, “How can you change yourself to make things different for you and mom?” It was intense, a sixteen year old with an epiphany.
    After that I took all the sticks, stones, mud and shattered heart-strings and made them into stepping stones into my future. I’m still making stepping stones. I can’t say it get easier, but it is possible.
    Through it all, I have found humility and grace in life, so I guess it’s true of a Monday’s child. At 63 I’m full of grace, with a decerning analytical edge.
    I do have a higher power guiding me as a light barer, but as you, walk and live like a Taoist more than ever. I believe a little is a lot and “stuff” is holding my spirit earth bound.

    I must share, this morning your words hit home for me, after suffering a meltdown last night.

    Coming from a split home as a child, I found myself always longing for my father, who was always just out of reach because of his career in the military.
    After his retirement with the evil step-mother in the way, it was still hard to manage a good father-daughter friendship.
    With a lot of water under the bridge changing life for my father, I got a new wonderful friend and step-mother, so for the past twenty years it’s been a great ride, however, it’s only been in the last five years that Dad and I could really visit in person.
    Last night it hit home. I had spent most of my life chasing this person. Had I wanted to know him so bad, that I missed getting to know myself better, perhaps yes, but what really made me very sad is the reality of what my job in memory care brings me.
    Now at 63, wanting to know and be with my father, who is now 84, I’m facing his memory loss, seeing and hearing the deteroration. The hard facts are there. What I feel I just gained is eluding me again. There will be no more knowing my father as the man he is, only the memory of who he really was, and the memories of good times are too few, it shatter’s my heart.
    In September 2012 my father became enraged over the election, he said things I had never heard him say in my life.
    He was a military officer/intellegence 22 years, served all over the world, full of honor and loyalty to any commander and chief no matter his political view. He had a job to do, and did it proudly.
    When he flipped in Septemeber, I did not recognize him. Should I have? Yes! I do memory care, and anger is the first thing that comes with memory loss.. Frustrations of losing your thoughts is aweful, and covering for it daily is a huge task.
    The study of the aging brain is facinating, but the reality of it is devasting to loved ones.
    Day by day I have watched my clients forget things until they forget to eat, and one day forget how to breath. Wiil I get to be there for my Dad’s last breath as he was there for my first? I hope I can be, and pray for strength, after all, Mom never raised no daisy!


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