Yesterday, while I was at the park exercising, I saw a guy doing a handstand on a yoga mat. His body was completely vertical and still. I could tell he was either an expert at performing such a feat, or well on his way to becoming one. So, I walked over to him to investigate.
When I walked up on him, he was coming out of his handstand, and didn't hear me approaching. As I was within a stone's throw from him, he finally saw me and damn near jumped outta his skin. I mean, I could clearly see how startled he was. He assumed a defensive stance as he jumped back. I said, "Whoa, man, I'm not here to hurt you." Then we chuckled about it.
I asked him how long it took him to master a handstand and about his yoga training in general. He was forthcoming about his training. And eventually, about his life. You see, I have a way of getting people to talk about their lives. The good parts. The bad parts. And all the parts in between.
Turns out the young fella is 32 years blessed and a former marine. He was a marine from 18-23. Doesn't sound like a long time, but after hearing his life story, I can clearly see it was long enough to wreak havoc on his life even now.
He acknowledges that he suffers from PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). He recounted to me a tale of waking up from a nightmare once and beating his girlfriend senseless. Of course, she's long gone from him now. He has punched/kicked holes in the walls at home. All because he sometimes thinks he's back in Iraq. He told me that one time his brother crept up on him and he jumped up and put him down in a headlock that dang near choked the man out.
Now, this guy's mother is ailing. And he thinks it's because of him. When he joined the marines as a teenager, his mother feared for him so much she began drinking heavily. And now, all that drinking has caught up to her. He told me he is her part-time caregiver. The family hires someone to look after her when he isn't there.
The more I talked to Jay (that's his name, by the way), the more I felt for him. And the more I thanked God I never enlisted in anybody's army. I just am not cut out for that kind of possible warfare. Honestly, the stories he told me just crushed my heart. Young men and women see things during wars that NOBODY oughta see! Nobody!
He's sometimes haunted by thoughts of suicide. He took an overdose of pills once, but his roommate came home earlier than expected, found him on the floor, foaming at the mouth, and called 911 for help. He has even pondered having his testicles removed since he believes he's psychologically unfit to ever bring children into the world. Luckily, he sees a therapist, so perhaps in time, his outlook will be more positive.
Before I left him, I hugged him. Three or four times, actually. And I mean, a really BIG, BEAR HUG! At one point, as he was motioning to pull away, I said, "No, not yet. My hug isn't done." And we stood there and embraced a little longer. His eyes got misty. And he told me over and over again how thankful he was to have met me. That my energy made him feel better. Good, I thought. No, great, I thought. That's what I'm here for. That's what we're all here for. To make each other feel better.
I don't know that I'll ever see him again. But that's okay. Because I got the distinct impression that he'll remember me and our divinely ordered encounter for quite some time to come.
And that's as it should be.