Adjusting to the new me

Four years of going toe-to-toe with a stalker stripped my personality. I’ve spent the years since then, getting reacquainted with myself. It’s disorienting, adjusting to this new me.

I’d heard of this happening to servicemen after returning home from combat. Like my great-uncle, Grover. He was in the first wave of troops during the D-Day invasion, who were quickly cut down by Hitler’s guns. The bodies from that first wave provided barriers for the following troops to take cover. Advancing by crawling behind piles of corpses. Somehow, Great-Uncle Grover survived. Despite being in the first wave.

This happened before “post-traumatic stress disorder,” got a name. So, after Grover returned home, the family’s response to his erratic actions was saying, knowingly, “He was never the same again.” Then nodded to the shotgun he kept under the bed. The milk jugs he stowed in the crawlspace, under the house. The carpet, couch, and easy chair Grover dragged to the front lawn, under the shady tree, for a proper sitting space. We tried moving the carpet. Wouldn’t budge. After decades of outdoor living, weeds grew into the carpet, anchoring it to the earth.

"Rusty Couch," Wayne Stadler, Creative Commons

"Rusty Couch," Wayne Stadler, Creative Commons

I wondered, “Why did he have such a blatant problem with re-adjusting? How could Grover possibly forget life before D-Day? The war was over. He should see that, and get over it.” Then I found out. After being constantly threatened, there was no choice: either I became a warrior or I’d get snuffed. Making that decision irrevocably changed me. Without realizing it, morphing into a fighter stripped my old personality. The old Amy got put into storage, while a mercenary freak emerged.

The first step was assessing my skills. Repurposing them for a battle. True, the old Amy had some serious plucky/calculating skills. Occasionally they’d surface. Organizing fringe groups of weekend knitters. Maneuvering into better-paying jobs. Systematically filing away useless facts about Star Wars. Occasionally challenging the status quo, only to quietly disappear when people hated my brassy suggestions. The equivalent of mild-mannered, spectacle wearing, newspaper-writing Clark Kent who never quite made it to Superman.

The New Amy ignored moral queasiness, and blatantly nosed around my stalker’s past history. Collecting evidence of police records, arrests, and email chains, to build a case. Learning to not apologize while tenaciously reporting multiple incidents to the police. Pressuring reluctant witnesses to deliver statements. Reading The Art of War, gleaning ancient Chinese military tactics to build my strategy.

And then … it ended.

Silence. I finally had silence.

Time to live a normal life again.

Old Amy emerged from storage, and met Warrior Amy. She politely explained (because Old Amy was afraid of offending) that the fight was over. The mercenary was now completely unnecessary. New Amy could leave, now.

But the warrior refused to retire. The mental equivalent of a veteran who never removes the uniform, with an alarming gun stash. She bellowed into the sci-fi obsessed knitter’s face (because aggression how New Amy stayed alive), “You have no place either, you mousy nerd. How can you ever forget how quickly someone could destroy your life? How can you relax? What do you do when the next threat comes? Tell me. WHAT DO YOU DO?”

"Duality," David Roisum, on Creative Commons

"Duality," David Roisum, on Creative Commons

I’d step back. Listen to them bicker. Sometimes, completely disoriented while their values collided. I’d worried. What if it went too far? Great-Uncle Grover and I shared the same genes. What if I became him? What would the outcome be? A phrase from The Art of War started to haunt me:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The warrior said I needed to figure out this strange new person before the next tragedy. The knitting nerd, in a rare moment, agreed. It was just the smart thing to do, listening to ancient wisdom.

Who was I, now? How would I figure it out?

To be continued …