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Friday, September 2, 2011

The Jim He Should Have Been

I had such an interesting dream about my deceased brother this morning. Jim died at age 50 from cirrhosis of the liver (alcoholism) in 1994.

My mom, my brother, and my dad were all very technical people with little interest in philosophical reflection. Mom was an occupational health nurse (one that works for a corporation), dad was an airline pilot (he died in a UAL crash in 1951 when we were 5 and 6), and Jim was always interested in electronics. My dad was somewhat spiritual and philosophical, but we were just too young to really know him. My mom had her moments of trying to figure out why things in life work out as they do, but mostly she was all about her career.

We were raised Catholic, but only in the shallowest sense. It was better than no religious training at all, but it didn’t stick. By college, I was an agnostic.

Early on, Jim found some great employment in electronics in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Silicon Valley. He had security clearances, traveled to military-industrial installations, and made some very interesting friends. He always wanted to be a spy and work for the CIA. He applied late in his life. They told him he had the mental acumen, but there was that little problem of the alcohol. He never married. Never finished college. He died a pretty much a failure, having lived a very sad life. He lost his friends, his jobs, his dreams, and his self esteem.

So my dream this morning was about Jim Appleby super-spy. He was showing off that he was a physical marvel and could do feats of climbing, strength, and balance. He even had his equipment pack with him that he would take on his new deployment. My physically unfit, sedentary brother could never do those things in real life.

So we sat down next to each other to chat. I talked a little about how he had a mathematical mind (I am the opposite), but that it really takes determination and focus to make it all work. He was sitting on my right with his left arm resting on the arm of the stuffed chair. I laid my right hand on top of his (something I’d have never done in our real lives) and said something like, “Jim, things are so different here. How is all this happening? What made the difference?”

In other words, in the dream, Jim was the Jim he coulda/shoulda/would have been but for some psychological wound or problem in his youth that was never addressed and thus never healed. All the teachers, friends, and neighbors saw trouble coming. They knew Jim needed help. My mom totally denied it. Had she seen it, she’d have had no idea what to do about it. If raised in another family, Jim might have been an entirely different person. He might have been the person in my dream.

I came close to being like the real Jim. I was a psychological mess in High School. I never drank, but I could never see a future for myself. I had no idea who I was or which way to go in life. I was psychologically depressed for many years after I became a Christian at the age of 20. It took years to find a career. But slowly, my fractured personality came together and my inner wounds healed. My life has surpassed my own dreams in some ways. I have two great kids, a wonderful husband, a home, wonderful in-laws, good friends, health, and a Ph.D.

Had I been raised in another family, I might have started my present journey 25 years earlier. But that’s OK. I'm content with how things have developed. I ask myself, “How did things turn out this way? What made the difference?” For me, the difference was the transformative power of walking with God. It’s not just about church or religion, but a day by day relationship with Jesus Christ.

Coming soon: The Gulf Breeze Sightings. You may have read the book and seen the photos, but have you heard the rest of the story?