When I was young, I was not a bully. In fact, I was probably the anti-bully. I spent my time either trying to be invisible so as not to attract the attention of bullies or I served as an appeaser, someone trying to smooth things out to prevent conflict.
Michael Adelberg and I worked together at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – he in the DC area, myself from Denver. I retired from the government a few years ago to pursue my spiritual teaching. Mike continues on in what he describes as his “health policy wonk” role but he’s pursuing a broader path as well. In addition to authoring historical pieces, he’s now published his first work of fiction – A Thinking Man’s Bully.
I recently read Mike’s book. If Mike and I were not friends, I probably would not have read it being very selective on spending any time on fiction. I generally only read two or three pieces a year. Mike’s book is remarkably good and I highly recommend it.
He tells the tale of a middle-aged man in crisis, Matt. In his younger days, Matt was a bully among other bully buddies, one of whom committed suicide. Matt now deals with the realization that his son, Jack, is a bully. Jack also attempted suicide. By writing self confessional biographical pieces for his therapist (which are shared with us), we then sit in on his therapy sessions to discuss them. This back-and-forth pattern brings us from Matt’s youth to present-day. Along the way we experience Matt’s evolution in understanding how his unhealed youth contributed to the behaviors exhibited in his son. There’s also a ton of cringe worthy humor in the tale – you know the kind – you laugh and grit your teeth simultaneously.
Although I wasn’t a bully, Mike’s book certainly called forth from the recesses of my memory deep recollections of youthful interactions long forgotten. Mike has an eye for detail in past memories that’s a true gift. I’ve always admired friends of mine who can recall at will details of events from our youth that I don’t have access to until their recollections allow the memories to come streaming forth from some hidden place within me.
The book’s jacket says Mike is a reformed high school troublemaker. I do have a lot of memories of Mr. Adelberg but none that come anywhere close to such a description. For example, back at the turn of the millennium I spent a long four-month detail on the east coast working long days at Medicare and lonely nights holed up in the condominium rented for me. Mike invited me to join he and his poker buddies on a couple of their game nights while I was on my detail. The games, camaraderie and outrageous laughter late into the night were highlights from my time there. I remember wishing I could re-create a similar group of buddies back home. There’s something truly special about connecting on a deep friend level where belly laughs are involved.
Right after reading the book, I was in a group process where we each identified via meditation a particular outcome to a group situation that we feared would happen. My fear was that the ultimate outcome might be conflict. We were then taken back individually in our imaginations to recall an early incident where that outcome occurred. Ironically, my early memory of conflict was of being bullied on the playground in second grade. It was fascinating to realize that certain present-day fears and patterns were still being influenced by long forgotten incidents from decades ago. It was the same realization Mike’s character Matt experienced.
It’s interesting how everything appears to be connected, isn’t it?
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!