Hello everyone, today’s Sunday Snippet is from the book The Narratives by Vince Guaglione.
About The Narratives by Vince Guaglione
The Narratives is a collection of short introspective essays written by an average guy in an effort to better understand himself, his life, and his relationship with the world around him while travelling the road of self-discovery. This series can best be described as the author’s unique brand of journaling, encompassing both self-reflective entries and an expression of thought and opinion surrounding social issues of the present day.
The Narratives Box Set is a compilation of all seven previously published Narratives works that were written over the course of four years (2012 – 2016), following the death of a loved one. This series traces the author’s journey through the five stages of grief, his healing process, and his transit towards inner peace. What started as an exercise to help collect his thoughts and quiet his mind, morphed into a journey of self-discovery and personal transformation; one that yielded many surprises along the way.
The highs and lows are pronounced and seep through in the writing, taking the reader on an emotional journey through moments of triumph and exhilaration, but also through moments of anger, sadness, and total despair. Each short essay style narrative is personal, honest, and authentic, giving the reader a completely transparent view into the author’s soul. When taken as a whole, this collection of works is best described as an exercise in vulnerability, courage, perseverance, and inner strength, and is recognized as an emotional stepping stone in the transformation of the author’s life.
This book contains all seven previous published Narratives works plus a new foreword that capsulizes the series and reflects on a life both examined and changed.
The box set includes:
The Narratives: Keeping The Soul Alive
The Narratives II: Dusk To Dawn
The Narratives III: Fanning The Flames
The Narratives: Evolution
The Narratives: Anthology
The Narratives: Transformation
The Narratives: From The Heart
The Snippet: The First 42 Years Were Easy
Whenever a discussion of life comes up among friends or acquaintances, I’m always the first to admit that my life has been an easy one. I feel neither pride nor shame in this fact—it just is what it is. I evaluate things objectively and make no pretense about myself when it comes to taking a hard look at the life that was handed to me and what I’ve made of the rest of it.
I can say without question that my first forty-two were easy years. I was born into a middle-class family, and although my parents occasionally had a tough time making ends meet, we were not underprivileged. I graduated from one of the many local Catholic high schools in the Philadelphia area, received a half-scholarship to college, graduated with the right degree at the right time—computer science—then spent a few years living at home while working two jobs to accumulate enough of a financial cushion for a decent start to my adult life.
I got married at twenty-seven, four years into a somewhat dysfunctional relationship, and walked away from it unscathed emotionally and financially four years later. The divorce was amicable. We didn’t have much combined marital property, had no kids, and we lived in an apartment. The split was so easy, in fact, that I took care of it myself for five hundred dollars.
I have a small carbon footprint and don’t require a lot of space. As such, I’ve spent my entire adult life living in one- or two-bedroom apartments. It simplifies things and keeps my monthly expenses low.
My free time is better than most. No kids, minimal housework, zero home improvement, and I haven’t been forced to work more than forty hours per week most of my adult life.
Like I said, easy.
Maybe too easy.
Yep, the first forty-two years were easy—definitely too easy, in fact. Once out of my marriage, there were eleven years between anything that could be considered remotely traumatic in my life. My immediate family was (and is) still alive and well, my personal life changes, including my move from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Raleigh, North Carolina, have worked out much better than expected, and I’ve evolved as a human being.
Nothin’ to it.
At times, I’d think about these things and tell myself that the gravy train would have to end at some point. No one gets this lucky, I thought. Smooth sailing into retirement, right?
Not so fast.
It did end, as it usually does, in grand fashion. I don’t need to go back and rehash everything about the loss of my significant other almost two years ago, and I won’t. But that was what got the ball rolling.
Sure, there was a bunch of good, post-loss, that I’ve experienced as well, but in reality things had certainly turned. As easily as I blow it off and say “Shit happens,” while rolling with the punches and telling everyone that things are status quo, the reality of it is that I’ve had quite a bit of shit to deal with in the last two years; some say more than what I deserve.
I don’t know. More than I deserve? Maybe it’s just that I’m finally getting my share. Maybe in my case, it’s been accumulating in a giant collection bin for years and has, at last, tipped over and spilled its contents at my feet.
Over the past two years, I’ve experienced and have learned a ton about loss, hurt, sadness, depression, PTSD, and grief. I’ve also been forced to persevere in the face of pure misery, and dig my way out of my hole. Although I had plenty of support along the way, I learned that it was up to me, and only me, to be strong enough to take the first step. Still, it wasn’t easy, and there were a bunch of struggles along the way.
But now, sitting in exactly the same spot in which I sat almost a year to the day when I began my journey of self-reflection, I realize that I am a little worse for wear. I have a hard time admitting it because normally I’m the type who is fully self-sufficient and believe I can conquer anything. Admitting the wear is an admission of failure. But I’m also smart enough to know that it isn’t really the case: It’s not failing—it’s part of the process. We cycle through many ups and downs over the course of a lifetime. This just happened to be one of those down cycles.
Aside from the emotional struggles I’d handled as they were fired my way, I definitely learned quite a bit more about myself, and that of my fellow man. I’ve been exposed to the good, the righteous, the compassionate, and the just. But have also been exposed to the treacherous, the unjust, the deceitful, and the soulless—all the qualities that make me lose faith in humanity. In today’s society, the bar isn’t set very high. That much I know.
I’ve cycled through emotions from euphoria to despondence and everything in between. I’ve felt whole in my entirety, and fragmented and disjointed. I’ve been pained, strained, nervous, and have even felt fearful more times than I’d care to admit. But still, here I sit.
Yep, the first forty two years were easy and my luck may have just run out.
But it’s not all bad.
Amidst the trials and tribulations of the past two years, I have discovered things about myself that I previously had no capacity to understand. I learned that I handled tragedy gracefully. I learned that I have more strength and courage than I had believed possible. But most of all, I learned that I have the capacity to love unconditionally and put aside my needs for that of another. First time ever—in forty-two years. This is what death and the ensuing depression and grief do—they force us to confront the self and transcend what we believe we are capable of. We’re charted with either sinking or swimming. There is no half-assed way out.
In the process of learning these things about myself, I also learned much about my desires in the time I have left. At forty-four, things look quite different than they did at forty-two. That in itself is quite a revelation. But aside from recognizing that time can grow short and my resulting undertaking of the tasks I set out for myself, I understand now that there remains much left to experience.
I never really examined things from this angle until I started thinking about it earlier in the day, and finally took a look it from the perspective of “what’s missing?”
And in the process of truly listening to myself and being honest with myself, it finally hit me. I can now boil it down to one succinct concept:
“To feel wanted, needed, adored, and loved, and to feel the same about someone with whom I have a unique connection.”
It’s ironic in light of the fact that I’d experienced this once in my life, and didn’t fully recognize it—until after it had been taken away from me. Talk about a revelation, eh? Being kicked while I’m down? This one takes the cake.
The most important thing I have learned throughout this journey is that I now recognize and understand what truly matters.
As I write this, I deal with uncertainty and doubt. I haven’t really had much of that to deal with in the first forty-two, and as such, life was simpler. But now, faced with a fuller understanding of myself, my desires, and my shortcomings, I can only wonder if I will find inner peace. I am the epitome of the restless soul, regularly oscillating between fits of contentment and restlessness. Without purpose or a focus, I easily get lost. Then the cycle begins again.
There are no guarantees in life, and I’m not the first one who has ever had to walk this path. But others who are currently walking it with me can take some comfort in the fact that they aren’t walking it alone.
For us who have had and lost, it certainly is more difficult than not having had at all, because we know exactly what we miss. The harsh reality is that we may never find that again. I look at myself and want to give it my all—go “all in,” so to speak. But there’s nothing written in the textbook of life that says what I want is what I’m going to get. And even if we do go all in, there’s no guarantee that the effort will be returned in kind. Most of the time, save those among us who are fortunate enough to be leading a charmed life, it doesn’t work that way.
For the first forty-two, I felt I was in that exclusive group. It’s ironic how such a small fraction of time in a lifespan can drastically alter one’s perspective.
If you enjoyed reading this snippet from The Narratives by Vince Guaglione, you can buy your copy of the book on Amazon