Cleansing Waters

pukaskwa-6

The man wandered aimlessly down the late-afternoon beach.  Even in peak season, this was a fairly remote place on the North Shore of Lake Superior.   But now that it was mid-September, whatever few people that would have been here had gone.  He had the place entirely to himself.

He was far from home, far from everyone he knew.  He had been wandering like this for a month, driving thousands of miles around Northern Ontario and New England.   Visiting family and friends, getting in the car and driving away again.  He’d occasionally stop in places to hike or sight-see, like he was doing now.  But there was no set pattern.

Normally, this would have been considered a great vacation trip.  But this time it was different.

For the man was tired.    Emotionally, mentally, and physically tired.   This wasn’t just a two-week break from work.   He was taking a break from LIFE, and needed to figure things out.    For it hadn’t been an easy year.

It had started 16 months earlier.   Work had been getting toxic.  He had been in the process of interviewing to change jobs, when right in the middle of all it all, he had gotten the Phone Call.

The life-changing Phone Call from Mom.

Can you come over?   Your father didn’t come down for breakfast this morning.   I went to go get him, and it seems like, um…well…he didn’t wake up.

Goddamit.  He had just spoken to his father the night before.  Dad had shot a 76 on the golf course, ate supper and had gone to bed.  And then he had died in his sleep, just like that.

Fast forward 10 days later, after the funeral.   Within less than an hour back at the office, with the man still trying to figure out how to deal with his grief, they had come up to him, and had started putting work demands on him right away.

I’m sorry about your dadBut the mechanics are coming down after break to fix the fan, so can you come over and bring the work permit?….Thaaaanks, that would GREAT.

Work continued to escalate from that point on.  For months on end, they pushed him hard.  Some days, he not only missed lunch, but he literally couldn’t even find the time to use the bathroom.

The mental harassment didn’t help.  The tight-lipped supervisors would barely make eye contact with him, and only spoke to him when absolutely required.  They angrily knew he wanted to transfer out of their group, and their resentment was made abundantly clear.

Yet transfer he did.   He was soon hired by another department more suited to his training and background.   Unfortunately this hiatus lasted for a few months because that second job became even more toxic.  They had stuck him with a dysfunctional mentor who already had a terrible reputation for being extremely difficult to work with.

More mental abuse and more harassment for another 12 months.   His health had started to unravel.   Things had gotten to the point that he’d bolt awake at 3:00 AM and feel an imaginary thumb pressing into his chest. That’s when he decided it was time for a change.   He got a note from the doctor, and took a month-long Time-Out from work.

*****************************

This is how he’d ended up on this deserted beach in off-season.   Wandering around aimlessly searching for something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

He sat down on the sand, watching distant horizon of the huge lake.  Lake Superior seemed infinite.

At least HERE,  he thought, it’s pureAnd least HERE, in Nature, there’s beauty and truth, far away from all the crap back home in the city.

And it really was beautiful.   It gave him a lump in his throat.

He thought what he had gone through the past year.   He felt like he had been yelled at and slapped across the face.

Like a small child, hot tears flowed down his cheeks and he wiped them away with the heel of his hand.

God, I’m so tired, he thought.

Yet the tears did not stop   They kept coming.

He remembered the dark lonely rental house he had to go back to after the funeral, in a town hundreds of miles away from everyone he was close to.   He remembered the venom and silent treatment he’d received at work.

He remembered the pukey-nauseous stress feeling in his stomach, and having to leave the building to go outside and scream.  He remembered almost breaking down and crying in front of the company nurse.

He especially remembered sitting at the bed and stroking his father’s hair the day he had died.  It had happened so quickly, Dad was still warm, and appeared to be sleeping as if nothing had happened.  That alone had probably been the most difficult thing of all.

At that point, the dam started to overflow.  The sobs become more frequent.

All these bad emotions had been brewing within him for a long time, yet there had been no outlet.   But there was something about today, something about the yellow-white sun reflecting sparkling diamonds off the pristine water that was bringing everything to the surface.

At that moment, something told him:

It’s all right.    Go ahead, it’s all right.

And he let go.

In a sudden avalanche of emotion, he cried like he had never cried before.

Wave after wave of emotion crashed over him.  Rocking back and forth where he sat, he wailed and screamed at the top of his lungs.  With no one there to hear him, he let loose all his anger, his grief, his sadness and his hurt.

His howls reverberated among the trees and sand and bedrock.   All the inner demons and poisons were leaving, rising up into the brilliant azure sky, to disperse and evaporate into harmless hot air.

How long he cried, he didn’t know.  It went on and on, until there was nothing left to cry about.

Eventually, his tears subsided.   He walked back to his car, emotionally and physically spent, like he had just run ten miles.

But for the first time in recent memory, he felt good.  He felt cleansed.

He had come here searching for something, and he had found it.

He had found peace.

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29 Comments on “Cleansing Waters”

  1. Brett Legree Says:

    Bravo for telling this story about the man. I have a friend who remembers that time, too, and how those bastards did that to the man.

    And that is why my friend doesn’t work for those bastards anymore.

    The man, and my friend, are better than that, and someday they will laugh at what those people did to the man.

    My friend has his own story of another insensitive group of bastards at that same company, that will be told in writing.

    I think the man knows that story, too.

  2. Friar Says:

    @Brett
    Thanks, buddy.

    Yeah, I think your friend can probably relate to this story, eh?

    What I like about this story, is the ending. There’s a sense of closure.

  3. Brett Legree Says:

    @Friar,

    No problem bro. Yes, my friend can relate to that – he had a similar experience, the last word, and will again, in time. He has and will stand on a similar beach and laugh about all of this.

  4. Mike Goad Says:

    Lord!

    I cannot imagine putting up with anything like that. I had a brief period in my career where the stresses and job requirements put me right on the edge where I got quite emotional, but nothing of lasting duration. And mental abuse and harassment is something I’ve never really experienced — at least since I got out of the military.

    If I was a single guy in this situation, I’d be gone by now. If I was in this situation and married, it wouldn’t take much longer.

    Of course, in the current economic conditions, that might not be easy, but…,

  5. steph Says:

    Wow, Friar. That was so well told. I mean, WOW. That the man and most everyone else at one point or other feels so close to breaking point shakes me up. That was a lot at once to have to bear.

    The picture complemented the story well, too. The whole thing gave me a runny nose and a lump in my throat. And a feeling of admiration, too. I wish I could let loose like that. I was just marvelling yesterday at how such an expressive person like me could hold back so much and was wondering when that all started.

    This year especially I’m discovering I’m not at all who I thought I was.


  6. Peace of an Island and cleansing water…we all look for that place…especially those of us who see a bit more, feel a bit more…rat bastards, civility doesn’t cost a thing, oh except grace…
    Good for you Friar, good for you. Thanks for sharing.. oh I know that’s such a female phrase and an insufficient one at that, but I AM a female. though not insufficient…
    Virtual hugs.

  7. Captain Push Says:

    That was exceptionally well done Friar!
    God Bless you my friend.
    Marti sends her love
    j

  8. Friar Says:

    @Brett
    Yeah, I think all of us need to find that special beach, in a metaphorical sense.

    @Mike
    Oh, don’t worry. I suspect that the man in the story has since made some big changes, and that he’s in a much better place now.

    @Steph
    This story can apply to anyone. Sooner or later, we’ll all go through some life crisis, and we’ll all find that special spot on the beach.

    Ahhh…don’t feel bad about being able to let it out. The story is about giving yourself time to let everything go. You can’t force it…it can take months, or years. But when it does, it’s a huge relief.

    @Janice
    Awww..Virtual hugs right back at you.

    This is why I like painting…it reminds of those moments outdoors when I connect with Nature and have time to reflect on things.

    But don’t feel too bad for the man in the story. I think the ending was a happy one. He got closure, reached a turning point and moved forward.

    @Captain
    I know how much you’re into writing, so your compliment means a lot to me! Thanks, friend.

    And give Marti a big hug too.


  9. Yes, the painting does that. Brings you closer to a good place. Beautiful spot by the water there. gorgeous actually. I’m thinking the guy in the story is doing just fine.

  10. Betsy Says:

    You captured the magic of Lake Superior’s North Shore that Pete and I know so well and love deeply. All is well when we are there. It’s home for us. We just live where we do because we have to. Thanks for a lovely post.

  11. Friar Says:

    @Janice
    You know, we read tons of blogs that give us advice on how to maximize our creativity, how to motivate ourselves, how to unleash our hidden potential…

    All those tricks and suggestions and motivational stories and inspirational quotes….yadda yadda yadda. …but how often does anyone tell you to just GO OUTSIDE ENJOY NATURE?

    That’s half the battle, I think. Getting outside and getting fresh air.

    @Betsy
    Yes…!! Someone else who “gets it”! 🙂

    I’ve been all around North America, from the Grand Canyon and high Colorado desert to the glaciers in Alaska. And yes, there are some really spectacular beautiful areas.

    But like me, you probably agree there is something special and uniquely haunting about Lake Superior. It just GETS to you…I have to keep coming back again and again.

    There are many people I know, though, who have never even seen the Lake, even though it’s within 10 hours drive from Ottawa or Toronto.

    Well, maybe that’s a GOOD thing…I hope Superior stays unspoiled and uncrowded.

  12. Karen JL Says:

    Kudos for putting that out there Friar. A wonderful read.

    For me, that’s why I love living so close to the ocean and the mountains. It’s very soothing and cleansing.

    Nothing clears my head better than when I’m sailing. I say it’s like a mini vacation away from the troubles of the week. It’s awesome. (But have to wait till next spring now!) 🙂


  13. With you there. 🙂

    or even if you’re not ‘into’ nature” wander somewhere different, get outside yourself a bit. Communing wiith a blackberry, or an iphone does NOT count.

  14. Friar Says:

    @Karen

    Hmm…Sounds like you need some winter activities to find your Zen-like state when sailing season is over. Shoudlnt’ be a problem where you live.

    I recommend cross-country skiing (I love downhill too, but cross country is more affordable, and it allows you to talk to the trees and commune with nature…not to mention torment the little Red Squirrels) 😉

    @Janice
    We really need to get OFF the grid. (Heck…somehow we managed to survive 20 years ago…and we still had a decent stanard of living)

    There’s that Corona Beer commercial on TV at a pristine beach down South. And they show a Crackberry being chucked into the Ocean, like skipping stones on the water. I LOVE that ad! 🙂


  15. That was a beautiful and very well written story. I am impressed. It reminds me of a job I had-for a short time- when my aunt, who I was very close to, was in her final days of cancer. This place I worked for liked to brag that they were a family first type of environment..on and on. Then the week she was dying as we sat around her bed, praying at hospice, they would continously call me IN the Hospital room, and ask how much longer did I think it was going to take, cause they didn’t think they could “go on” without me there.
    The Monday after her funeral, I walked back in to work and showed them just how well they were going to get along without me by quitting on the spot and leaving.

    A lack of certian key values and I don’t want to play with you anymore.

    Friar,

    I know that man is in a better place. There is always hope that things get better.

    Steph,
    I wonder if it is more that you are finding you have drifted away from who you REALLY are and you are just starting to remember. There is a time in all of our lives that we experiment with all that is out there in the world, relationships, jobs, hobbies and so we “try on” different aspects of ourselves. But as we grow, hopefully, we start weeding out what works for us and what doesn’t and our true authentic self starts to become clear. I believe you have been emerging for awhile now. It has been beautiful to watch you as you get ready to bloom.

  16. Kelly Says:

    Friar,

    Thanks for this, o wise one. You sure know how to tell a powerful story.

    “Suck it up and deal with it” is an international mantra and stress is at record levels. No coincidence. I think we’d all do better if we had a great big cry way more often, the way kids do. And great big “oh, my sides hurt” laughter, too.

    I’m glad the man is doing so much better, and I’m very glad that things at his Factory are not as stressful as they were then. It’s so hard to recharge every night to brace for such a destructive environment, and it leaves no energy for healing in other ways!

    Regards,

    Kelly

  17. Friar Says:

    @Wendi

    “A lack of certian key values and I don’t want to play with you anymore”

    I LOVE that story! (No about your Aunt, sorry to hear about that). But how afterwards you went back to the office and quit on the spot. You stuck up for your values and told them to get lost!

    You should post that on LLI. I think there’s a great moral there.

    @Kelly
    The man’s current job is the best one he’s had in 10 years. (By default). Which might be a sad statement on his career. But he’ll take the default position for the time being.

    All that matters is that he’s moving slowly forward (and he is, compared to a year ago!)

    PS. This isn’t the first time you’ve called me wise, but it MIGHT be the first time you used the formal “o” word. Wow…I’m flattered. (I dont’ think anyone’s ever done that to me before). 😉


  18. Oh. Oh oh oh. I have got to get out of The Factory. Beautifully beautifully told, but now I feel a bit naseous. And I am not being the least bit flippant here.

  19. Friar Says:

    @Panther
    Oh, don’t feel too bad. I had meant for the story to end on a postive note…

    But I think the situation about man in the story could apply to ANY of us. There are too many people in the same boat, in Factories everywhere.


  20. There are too many people in the same boat, in Factories everywhere.

    We must pick up our pitch forks and rebel!

  21. Friar Says:

    @Panther

    When talking to retired seniors, they’ll tell me companies werent’ like this 20-30 years ago. I’ve met some who actually tell me they LIKED coming to the factory back then…they were treated well and enjoyed being with their co-workers. It was a totally different work environment.

    But they add that things have changed, and they’re glad they’ve gotten out when they did.

    Sigh. How did things go sour?

    And why is it (yet again) OUR generation that misses out on this “Golden Age”?

  22. melissadonovan Says:

    Wow, this story about this man is an inspiration, and I have to admit, I had to look around and make sure I was at the right place because I’m so used to Deep Friar posts ending with a giggle. What I like best about this man (and there’s a LOT to like) is that he did what so many men never do – he let himself feel and he decided to make change happen by letting peace into his heart.

  23. Friar Says:

    @Melissa

    Thanks. (Wow..I didnt’ think of this story as inspiring…I just thought of it as a narrative).

    Yeah, once in the while, I drop the funny stuff, and I write something “serious”. (This is when Kelly says I’m being “real” ;-). Doesn’t happen too often, but it does.

    As for the man…it wasn’t too hard to let go and express his feelings like that (no one else was around to watch…except maybe the loons and red squirrels!)

  24. Brett Legree Says:

    Friar,

    As I had said in email, and all your stuff is really good, but this is your writing at it’s best, I think. Full of emotion.

  25. Friar Says:

    @Brett
    Thanks. I dont’ want to pat myself on the back, but I’m happy with how I wrote this one too.

    Thought this post has only had luke-warm readership. I guess people are more interested in reading what the Cool Kids have to say

    …Oh well, that’s their perogative.

    I’m just glad that at least a few loyal readers checked out this post.


  26. This photo reminds me of a place on the Mediterranean Sea in Europe where, when I swim in it, I feel like there is not a trouble in the world: bliss. Warm and salty, in the Med, one’s tears mingle unnoticed.

    Before I read your story, the image alone reminded me of a similar experience to what you wrote.

    Well written, my friend.

    The thumb on the chest… I have had that and it felt like one of those iron weights from those Looney Tune cartoons, the kind that gets dropped on some unsuspecting hunter.

    I have a hard time writing these sort of soft emotion exposing things… or saying them, for that matter. Bravo for muscling up to it.

    Reading through the other comments, I just want to add that being funny and adding levity to other’s lives is also a beautiful thing. Your humor is just as ‘real’ and honest as your serious side, and few people are as funny as you, though lots of people are serious, so I hope you don’t ever let go of your special talent for humor… not that you would. You better not, or I will come hunt you down and tie you up and tickle your toes with feathers until you say something funny.

  27. Friar Says:

    @jaden

    Sooner or later, we’ll all have that experiences like the man on the beach, won’t we? But I think it’s better to get it sooner in life than later, I think.

    I have to laugh, though, because in terms of swimmability and water temperature, Lake Superior is about as diametrically opposed to the Mediterranean as you can get! 🙂

    But I agree with you, I’m mostly about humor. But just to mix things up a bit (and to convince myself that I can), I occasionally write something serious.

    Now that I’ve got THAT out of my system, I’ll go back to being the wise-ass shit-disturber for the next while! 😉

  28. BrettHead Says:

    It is amazing the solitude and healing powers the great outdoors can provide. Great post my man.

  29. davinahaisell Says:

    It’s after 1 am and I found myself wandering through your archives tonight — I dunno — guess I’m weirdly fascinated with the Deep Friar.

    Anyway, I read about your cold walk to work and admired your water colours… a couple of miscellaneous bitch sessions 🙂 … and THEN I landed here, many, many months after posting. This is one that I had not read before and I wish I had read it at the time to have been able to send you a virtual hug. So beautifully written too…

    Usually, when I read your posts there are tears of laughter, but this was much different. My heart went out to you because I understood. I trust there is a very different Friar visiting the north of Superior this summer.


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