One’s Origins – Part Six

Welcome to Part Six. In Part Five I shared a very cursory view of a journey down a road from which few recover. With what can fairly be thought of as a new lease on life, I had some ground to make up. The only question for which I had no answer was this: In what direction do I go? One can reasonably assume that my childhood interests might be a useful compass. Did I consult that compass? Don’t I wish! Alas, wishing I had does me no good, though that does not stop me from doing so from time to time. I consulted the reactions of others. To some extent, I have always had an external locus of identity. Part of what drove me to make the decisions I did in my mid and late teens had a lot to do with the fact that they got me noticed. I was cool in the wrong groups who I thought were right and I distanced myself from the right groups who I thought were wrong. Carrying around the shame of the mistakes I made then and the pain they caused those who loved me the most only fortified that locus of identity. I would only love me to the extent others loved me. Regardless of how strongly I believed something to be right for me, I was guided by what I thought would please other people. I felt I had dished out enough disappointment for a lifetime in less than two years and I was not going to disappoint anyone whatsoever ever again. If that meant it was I who would be the least pleased, I could live with that.

The disastrous outcome from this approach is that I was throwing the baby out with the bath water. All that made me who I have been since birth (and before) I completely threw out the window. Making good on second chances is an opportunity too few people are offered – I am among the fortunate ones. I know this and I am grateful. My error was not keeping true to who I was at my core. I am not pig-headed or insolent at the core and never was – even when I was pretending to be exactly that.

Recall that this entire journey of capturing and sharing my story as it unfolds began when I received an email from an older biological half-brother I never knew existed. I grew up as the older brother but not having one. My brother Andrew with whom I grew up often made more rational life decisions during post-adolescence. I am convinced that his front row season tickets to the terror show I orchestrated had some influence on his decision-making about life. At times when a big brother should aid his younger siblings through the winding and trap-filled road of the teen-age years, I abdicated. Well, to call it an abdication is sugarcoating it; what I did was not even that noble. I abandoned my post – pure and simple. My only solace is that I served in some detectable role as teacher for him only by showing him what road not to take. In the more than thirty years since, I have strived to be the best big brother I can be for him.

What I lacked only due to circumstance, and not by fault of anyone, was someone in the role of older brother for me. In every multi-sibling family where the oldest sibling is male, there lacks a big brother for him. Most step up and take on the role graciously and courageously. For reasons that might be of interest to some psychologist or spiritual guru somewhere, I struggled without a big brother. Did knowing I was adopted influence this struggle? Is growing up without older siblings more challenging for adopted children? Or, as strange as it might sound, was there some cosmic or supernatural force, from which my struggles stemmed in part from knowing at a deeply subconscious level that I had siblings out in the world? I am not at the stage of ranking and yanking possibilities based on merit, so any explanation is fair game at this point.

Matt and Kevin Wurster

June 1969. Kevin (right) at 3½ and yours truly at two months.

Growing up, there were three older young men to  whom I looked as filling the role of big brother – even though at the time neither they nor I had any idea. First there was Kevin. Kevin’s father and my Dad have been friends since my Dad was twenty-four years old – thirteen years before I was born. Kevin was nearly three and a half years older than me. When he and I were introduced to each other, I was two months old. Our two families hung out with each other frequently enough for me to grow to look up to him. In 1980, at the age of sixteen, Kevin was in a freak motorcycle accident and died from his injuries within a few days. I had just turned thirteen a month earlier. When I heard his father tell my Dad the news on the phone I collapsed. Any meaning of life I was developing during those formative years fell to pieces.

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2017 at my Mom’s surprise 80th birthday party. Left to Right: My Mom; Michael’s mother, Marcy; Michael. (The surprise part of the party was a huge success.)

Prior to the loss of Kevin, Michael, whose mother has been friends with my Mom since the two were in high school, was staying with us for a while during the summer of my eleventh year while he attended an art program in Philadelphia. (His home was in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.) On the day he was to pack his things to return home, I felt I was losing something, but I did not recognize what. Years later I realized that he was the second young man I saw in a big brother role. The day he left I holed myself in my room and wept.

Years later with the terror years behind me, I found myself on a path that finally had some semblance of normalcy. My employment as the overnight shift clerk at a 24-hour convenience store coincided with (and in part was influenced by) a friendship established with some folks who operated a convenience store in the same chain in an adjacent town. Oddly, their store is walkable from the house in which I was raised while the location where I worked was about 6 miles away. One of these folks in particular, Brian, was a regular night shift employee at this other location and we got to know one another quite well. We are still in touch from time to time and I consider him a dear friend. His brother, Bob, had followed in their father’s footsteps as a carpenter. It was the mid to late 1980s and new home construction was enjoying good health. Brian left the convenience store that employed him to work with his brother. Not long after, Brian asked me if I would want to join his brother’s company with him. For me, it was like a sign from the heavens – an omen. Working a job on the midnight shift was still a little too connected to the very recent past from which I was trying to escape. I needed separation from the job as part of the process. And heck, need I even mention the preferences for being awake and asleep the same times as the vast majority of society.

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Bob (right) and Brian (left) circa 1990.

In Bob, my new boss and owner of the construction company, I found yet a third person to be my pseudo older-brother. What I needed in those years, and he delivered, was someone to dish out the straight skinny on what’s up in real life as an adult and give me some advice I could sink my teeth into in the here and now. My dad certainly contributed here to the best of his ability. However, with thirty-seven years between he and I, there is enough of a generation gap to limit how thoroughly his contributions could be relevant to the nuances of coming of age in the 80s. Peer-bonding demands generational commonality.

Seeing Bob as a big brother model was unique from my earlier bonding with Michael and Kevin which both occurred long before my tumultuous time. While working with Bob I began to finally see myself as someone removed from who I was just a year or two earlier. I began to see myself as a contributing member of society rather than the maladjusted misfit I thought I was.

As a grown man, I now have an older brother in Dan. Does a boy’s need for a big brother role model attenuate as he ages? I don’t know. While it is not a belief held by all, there are plenty of academics and practitioners in psychology who boldly assert that it is complete drivel that by middle age, people are generally baked in their ways. People can evolve and become newer versions of themselves with the right effort applied the right way. I like the ring of that. I look forward to learning from Dan in the future. In both the past and present, I would look to Andrew when I sought support in areas where he was skilled and knowledgeable. Similarly, I look forward to looking to Scott in my lifelong pursuit of learning.

First there is the Fall

Between my ability to square up my cash register with ease and consistency each morning after my midnight shift at the convenience store and my ability to apply basic geometry and trigonometry to become more efficient in carpentry, I had to admit to myself I wasn’t as dumb as I had allowed myself to believe. Eventually I convinced myself I could return to school in a community college to prepare for what seemed like a good next step – working indoors away from the elements. Swinging a hammer and carrying around construction material and equipment was fun and kept me in shape as a young man. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning new things – especially from someone who was a true mechanic at his skill. Did I see myself doing this for the long haul? Not really. Reconnecting with old friends with whom I had lost touch, hearing about their progression through college and plans beyond, fired up that damn external locus of identity of mine. I needed to go to college if I was to make anything of myself. Question was, what shall I study? I had no idea. I know what I enjoy and have at times believed that was part of answering the question, but I still had no clear path. So still, I focused only on external cues and ignored internal ones.

In Part Seven, we’ll begin the wild ride of my twenties where I will continue to crawl out of the hole into which I dug myself. It starts off with unimaginable heartbreak with the power to change my life in ways that have had a long-lasting impact.

I hope you’ll stick around.

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One’s Origins – Part Five

Welcome to Part Five. The genesis of the One’s Origin’s series was and remains the revelations of biological family members discovered through DNA testing and the accompanying smorgasbord of emotions. The inspiration to share this is, among other things, a longing to explore my many selfs (self-identification, self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-disclosure).

At the end of Part Four I mentioned that in Part Five we would jump to the present time and examine the relationship between my youth and my future with what I am learning about my biological family. However, I would be leaving decades of events out that are instrumental to the impact this experience is having on me and why it has the impact it does. There remains no intent for this to evolve into a detail-laden autobiography; I don’t have enough street cred for that. However, as this series is about the experiences and emotions that are part and parcel with learning about my biological lineage, I believe the story would be incomplete without exploring the hell that was my adolescence – not only for me but for my family as well – followed by the journey back.

In Parts Three and Four I made assertions about visions I held for my future self as a child. These were real for sure. A significant part of what inspired these visions are, as we are learning, in my DNA. And that is no metaphor! The scientific community is aligned in the belief that there is a genetic component to talent and/or predispositions to particular interests. The clarity of those childhood self-visions was matched only by the utter lack of faith I had in myself to believe in and execute on them. Learning to understand the reasons for this lack of faith is one of my objectives for sharing this story. I wholly believe that at some level, nearly everyone can relate to such struggles.

Having abandoned music, I continued onward with life as your run of the mill high school student. Except! I was suffering immensely from the disconnection between who I was and who I was disallowing myself to become. I did not believe the dream I had had legs, and if it did, they surely weren’t my legs. This suffering is where I point my finger when reflecting where my life would soon go. It was brutally heart-breaking, for me and my family. As far as a vision of my future self of which I felt worthy, well, there wasn’t one I could identify.

In my mid-teens, I began innocuously as a kid with a rebellious edge. That edge would quickly get much sharper. And it would cut deep – especially those whom I loved and who loved me the most. I cannot recall the first time I experimented with substances, but I know why. I wanted to escape the heartache I was feeling. My detour on this path had little to do with the substances themselves and was more about the reasons for them. Other than escape, the other reason was simply to do something wrong because I wanted the attention. Although I know this to be on the wrong side of healthy for any adjusted teenager, I also know this to be not uncommon – then and now. The manifestations are sometimes more extreme, but the underlying struggles are not new.

Relationships with childhood friends began to fracture. Eventually I got to a place where I was standing at the precipice of the point of no return. Along the way I had been to places and saw things I sometimes wish I never saw but it was very much for my benefit that I did. In the process I put my family through hell. Between the age of 17 and 19 (about 18 months or so) I was expelled from high school and had minor run-ins with the legal system. Thankfully nothing was permanent. Most of my shenanigans occurred before my 18th birthday. The sacrifices my Mom and Dad made were beyond what I might imagine most people bargain for when they become parents. The worst of this is that, at the time, I almost resented this. I also developed a resentment for being a “good” kid. Always being told how “good’ I was in ways seemed patronizing. I could not take a compliment at face value.  In my first year of high school Spanish, my teacher reported to my parents that she never had a student catch on to the language so quickly, so I stopped being a good student. I was angry at the world and I wanted my right to be angry. How dare anyone interfere with that. My Mom and Dad interfered. I am at once terribly sorry they had to and immensely grateful they did. I am among the very lucky ones. I returned from depths the likes of which most do not. Their immeasurable love for me was instrumental. Every now and then I hear of the passing of people I knew back then who never did fully return.

My time spent there ruined any prospects for college. Just as well, I figured. Since I had no ‘normal’ ambition, college would have been a waste of time and money. Correction: I had ambition. I lacked confidence in that ambition.

In September of 1986, I was closer to the precipice than I had ever been, and it was time to move in one direction or the other. Go one way and I likely would not have made it beyond my 30th birthday – and that’s being optimistic. No matter how long life would care to keep me around, a rap sheet was certainly in my future even if only for nonviolent offenses. Go the other way and repairing the damage I had done at so many levels would be possible.

Also, in September 1986, my Mom had a brain aneurism, the likes of which the vast majority do not survive more than a few minutes of excruciating pain. If I may digress briefly, she not only survived with a long therapeutic road in many areas of treatment, she thrives today. At eighty-two, she sometimes jumps in to give thoughts and feedback on many of the blogs I write.

In the months preceding my Mom’s aneurism I had been cut from communication with my Mom and Dad. I stood at the foot of my Mom’s hospital bed next to my Dad. Within seconds my head dropped to his shoulder and I cried like I hadn’t cried since I was last in diapers. I apologized for everything. For the first time in a very long time I recognized something I had been denying. I needed them. Both of them – and Andrew too. Seeing my mother sedated and on a ventilator opened my eyes to something far too often overlooked. Life is fragile as hell. It can break and be lost in the blink of an eye. My Mom’s mother (Mom-mom) asked me through tears, “Do you think she’ll make it?” I said without hesitation, “Dammit she better!”

At that moment, I made a decision with unshakable conviction; I was going to make the turn towards damage repair. As strange as this sounds, I credit my mom’s aneurysm for my course correction. Indeed, I believe her aneurism saved my life.

At the time I was working graveyard shift (does irony have no mercy?) at a convenience store. I immediately began making 360º changes in just about every corner of my life. Where I should not be, I evacuated. Where I should be, I charged ahead. It was not easy. I had to unwind relationships with some people who I realized only enabled my toxic lifestyle. Sometimes recovery feels as painful as the fall. But I knew I wanted to leave where I was leaving and go where I was going. Correction. I needed to! The details of the recovery in the immediate aftermath are outside the purpose of this blog series. Suffice it to say, it was neither easy nor swift. The experience of it all influenced my id in ways that remain with me today.

On a new road, it was time to find out just who the hell is Matt Gorman? I am going to sound a tad selfish here but to heck with the meaning of life, I am staying a little closer to home. What was the meaning of my life? This question emerged front and center over thirty years ago even though, as we saw in Part Four the answer had already revealed parts of itself nearly ten years earlier. Learning a few fascinating factoids about my genetic lineage gets credit for pointing me back in that direction – with sights on who I was as a child – to answer the question of who I am now. I guess I should not be surprised to see the overwhelming similarities. Why a four decades long detour was in the cards full of pain and struggle vexes me. I cannot deny it. But I cannot allow it to define me.

I now feel I am getting close to an answer I can truly embrace and not an answer to fit in with the expectations of others. Getting here thus far has been as improbable as it has been amusing. If you have a penchant for a blend of disbelief and humor, stick around. You’re in for a treat. Again, I am not claiming to possess extraordinary literary skills. Simply, I lived through it and I remain amused and at times in disbelief.

In Part Six I will share a tale of a young man traveling from a death taunting lifestyle to a livelihood supported by client paid expenses for dining as well as traveling the world over having tackled an engineering undergrad degree and an MBA. The insights gained along this journey provide clues to the answer of ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ As this is about origins, it does make for a provocative journey, the underlying essence with which I believe will resonate with many.

I hope to see you in Part Six.

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One’s Origins – Part Four

Hi and welcome to Part Four of my ancestral journey. Thanks for hanging out with me as I follow wherever this road of ancestral exploration leads. I hope you are having as much fun as I am.  In Part Three we had the three half-brothers together for the first time ever. I mentioned in Part Two and again in Part Three that my view on nurture vs. nature has evolved significantly due in large part to what I have come to learn about my paternal genealogy. I might go so far as to say these views are, in some ways, cementing.

But, before we dive into that, I must take us on another detour. This one will be brief, and I believe it is necessary and appropriate as it adds context for things to be discussed below and in later posts.

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Image one: (Left to Right) Nina, Dan, yours truly, and Matthew

My biological father Lawrence had two brothers and no sisters. On the same weekend I met Dan when this whole wild ride really took off, I also met three cousins on my father’s side. Nina is daughter to one of my biological father’s brothers. Matthew is son to the other brother. So, my friends, meet two of my newly found cousins! This appears to be the tip of the iceberg. There are others and I verily look forward to meeting them soon.

Nina is a vocalist with an amazingly powerful singing voice. The first time I heard one of her recordings, her ability to belt blew me away. On her property in Northern California she is constructing from the ground up a full blown no holds barred recording studio. We learned in Part Three of half-brother Scott’s accomplishments as a life-long rock musician. Dan, I am told, can carry a tune, though I haven’t heard for myself yet. Cousin Matthew is an accomplished author and I recently learned that my biological father Lawrence was no stranger himself to the guitar and singing. There’s more! My biological father’s mother (my paternal grandmother) was self-taught on the piano and organ. She was also prolific in her writings. She did not vault to the echelons of renowned authors, but having read a bit of her work, she wrote with an eloquence that had the ability to enthrall. There are several sketches of hers that undeniably demonstrate her talents here as well. In addition to her writings, she also had a knack for art and appears to have possessed an untamable intellect. Is there a genetic component to music and art? Well, let’s take a trip back in time.

We’ll turn the clock back to the late 1970s through early 1980s. The impact music had on me as a child was enormous. Sure, nearly everyone enjoys listening to some genre of music or another. Me? I was enraptured by melody and rhythm across a spectrum of genres. Take this as a pun if you must, but music truly resonated with me – always has and still does.

When I was about 8 years old, I rescued from our attic an electric miniature organ that produced the windblown sounds of a pipe organ. I remember sitting at our kitchen table for hours hitting keys trying to learn combinations that were melodic and just sounded good together. I knew absolutely nothing about sheet music or even music notation. Yet, I was determined to make music. From that moment, I felt there was something for me in music.

Observing this, my parents, neither of whom are musically inclined, did not hesitate to swing for the fences and stretch the family dollar in buying for my thirteenth birthday a dual keyboard organ with electronic accompaniments. If you’ve watched the day-time gameshow The Price is Right, you’ve seen the way people react when their name is called to “Come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price is Right!” Well, that was me being surprised with this gift. The emotional support my Mom and Dad provided me –

Matt at organ

Enthusiastic practice in the beginning.

and my brother Andrew – was second to none. Within no time at all, I was taking lessons and things were off to a great start. For a combination of reasons, it lasted no more than a couple of years. Two of these reasons are my attention challenges and the structure of lessons and practice. As a child with what would eventually become known as ADHD, the discipline of practice had its challenges. My Mom and Dad were and remain rock stars in their support of me and Andrew.

An additional reason for me giving up on music was in part because a classmate I befriended was, in my opinion, nothing short of a musical prodigy. At age 13 he was playing Bach and Beethoven among others to near perfection – or at least it was perfect to me. I allowed myself to be intimidated by how advanced he was and how elementary my playing was by comparison. It tears my heart apart today to look back now and realize that I thought I just was not good enough to be a musician.

Looking back, on my brief childhood career as a musician, I now recognize that I did have some success as a thirteen-year-old. I attended a Catholic grade school and the parish church was on the school grounds. Being a catholic school with a church meant we had our fair helpings of mid-week Mass services throughout the school year. In this church there was a choir loft with a large church organ. I, along with the friend mentioned above, were often called upon to play some of the traditional church hymns. I played the easy stuff; left hand playing chords while right hand played the melody. My virtuoso friend would tear it up with the more complicated works reading notes on both the treble and bass clefs. That always impressed and intimidated the daylights out of me.

During one of our annual large class church services I was to play one of the traditional favorite hymns. I sat on the bench of the organ waiting for the cantor (a classmate) to introduce the song. There was a mix-up in communication as she waited for me to begin playing and I waited for her introduction. Several seconds went by with silence in the church and before I knew it, the next part of the service was underway. The show must go on! I never got to play that one big piece in that one big service. This thirteen-year-old boy then ran to the bathroom, locked the door, sat in the corner of the room and sobbed uncontrollably for what felt like an hour. I blew my first opportunity to play a significant piece on the big stage – at least it was big in the mind of fledgling young dream-filled organ player. Looking back in retrospect, my reaction gives light to just how deeply important succeeding in music meant to me. My mistake was responding to that event as if it was my one and only chance to showcase myself as a musician when in fact it was only one of what could have become many if I had not let it upset and deflate me so much.

During my teens, I had unending visions of myself as a musical performer and I would spend hours in my room with loud music playing the air guitar and singing. This was not your run of the mill make believe to kill time. It was how I would purposely spend a lot of my time. It was the vision I held of myself. Where did this come from? With so much music and art woven into the fabric of my ancestry, I am convinced the answer to this question is revealing itself before my very eyes. I now find myself in the middle of a significant re-evaluation of my life and my relationship with music.

In Part Five I will share with you what all this means for me going forward. I will be inviting you to join me as I return to the path from which I veered forty years. ago. I am making up for lost time. In Part Two I closed with a reference to lyrics from Led Zeppelin’s iconic Stairway to Heaven, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on”. Forty years later, it’s time to put that notion to the test. After a twenty-five-year career in management consulting (the genesis of which I will share later) a career in music might be a bit beyond reach but it is a road that will become quite accustomed to my footprints.

I remain ever grateful to you for your company. See you soon.

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For the Moment

Not too long ago I saw a clip from an interview with country music star Dierks Bentley. In this interview, he revealed that he still uses a flip phone as a mobile device. His reasoning is that being constantly connected to multiple mediums robs him of being ‘in the moment’ and he feels his creativity is sorely diminished. So, a simple means of communication only when communication is necessary is all he feels he needs. I can relate to the creativity comment. I am gaining some momentum with my guitar lessons and I find some forms of modern technology do take away from the ability to focus on tasks at hand – namely, creativity. Maybe I’ll get back into blogging. And maybe even a new song or two will emerge.

I’ve tried to do the one or two month social media (SoMe) detox or cleanse at times (to the relief of some :-). I did this by disabling accounts and making myself invisible and unfindable but not gone. Inevitably I return to the same old time stealing practices that ate more nonsense than not and is void of value for me.

When buried in a mobile device or almost any modern technology, you are always ‘there’, and never ‘here’.

The second half of 2018 starts today, July 1. So I am initiating a new SoMe approach. Kinda like a mid-year resolution. I am not exiting social media – and let me be frank, I am referring primarily to Facebook and Messenger. I am not leaving altogether – at least not now. I will be removing mobile apps thus cutting my 24/7 access to it from my phone. If my current phone was paid off, I’d look into a lesser smart phone. I will still check here and there every few days – Messenger also. But, it will be on a laptop and only when I permit myself a legitimate break from all of life’s ‘in-the-moment’ moments. And there are always an abundance of those moments so visits to SoMe will, by God’s grace, be few.

Ciao for now,


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