Samuel L. Smackson

The demonic tattoo that is taking over my brain

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Ernest Hemingway, and my personal faults.

Ernest Hemingway is the most quotable person I’ve ever found. In times of personal strife, when I find it hard to get through the day, I find his sayings uplifting, empowering me to soldier on. Before I begin the beguine, a small story.

My first encounter with Hemingway was in eighth grade. Very disappointing to have found him so late in my childhood, when I had already experienced so much. I began reading A Farewell to Arms in the fall of 1999. My uncle, before his mind took him, was a brilliant man, and my primary male role model. When he heard I was reading the novel, he sent me a letter, prefaced with one of his favorite Hemingway quotes, and now mine.

"Man is not made for defeat. He can be destroyed, but never defeated."

I was half my own age when I read that letter, and finished the novel, and I have not become the man that I wanted to be. I’ve been in a state of great introspection lately, taking personal inventory, and assessing mistakes I’ve made. Some of those I’ve made very recently.

I thought I might bare my soul a bit, for no benefit other than my own, in a place that’s somewhat public and, at the same time (for me) considerably private.

It really all boils down to selfishness. I’ve been withholding of my time, my affections, and my friendship. I’ve never been good with correspondence, but lately I wonder if that’s not because it’s what I’ve chosen. And, with very little departure, when I have a bad day, it’s all about me. I haven’t given consideration to others having a bad day, or what might be happening in their lives.

I’m quick to anger. I have not cultivated an appropriate release for the wear and tear of everyday living and its stresses, and it shows. Accentuated by the bad day, I become a force of negativity. Smiles and laughter become my enemy, embittering me against whatever it is those around me are enjoying.

I’m an emotional guy, and not just with anger. I feel very intensely. But I am, as with correspondence, lacking in my expression when I am truly happy. My expressions betray my feelings, and leave them to be questioned by the people near to me.

I know that these make me a hard person to enjoy having around. I certainly haven’t given them enough consideration, or commitment to change. Contrary to Hemingway’s quote, I’ve accepted defeat. I’ve settled for less than what I can be, and it has cost me, very possibly, everything I could ever want.

Recent events were the cause for this introspective, but I’m certain they would result in another dismissive acknowledgement if not for the days following. I keep a very small circle, and those three people I confide most closely in were out of reach; one by request, the other two by circumstance.

I stewed on this, the reality of it. There’s feeling alone, being one thing, but it is entirely another to realize that, even if only for the moment, you are truly alone. I’ve pushed so many people away, and some of those relationships are lost for good. But I fully intend to do my best where recovery permits an opportunity.

I’d like to say there’s hope to salvage what was lost. These are people with whom I’ve shared significant moments of my life. But I know that it’s not always possible. I suppose it will be enough to make the effort. I certainly don’t want to be alone when everything ends.

And everything begins with a first step. I have three. The first is to smile at least once today. Twice tomorrow. And so on and so forth. The second is to step outside of my comfort zone when opportunity permits. If nothing else, the experience will expand my knowledge. Number three is perhaps the most difficult for me. Trust more. I’ve lived a very guarded life, and it has made me weak.

And don’t be so damn serious. So, four.


I realize that I’ve become a complete asshole, and I want to undo the damage before I completely alienate myself. Working on: Less selfishness, calm demeanor, positive attitude. Going to 1) Smile more, 2) Get out there and do something, and 3) Trust more. And 4) LAUGH AT MYSELF.