I Know Not Where to Begin

I know not where to begin, so I will begin with gratitude for all of you.

I never would have imagined that something I shared on Facebook recently would have generated the outpouring of concern it did. I never intended to convey that I was ever at risk of or contemplating self-harm. I wasn’t at all. I would be lying if I said that for the past several months, I never wished for the cessation of my own life should it occur naturally. But I could never bring about such a misfortune by my own hand. I still have faith that all I have been through in trying to heal from all I have been through will find its glory at some point. I want to be around to bask in it and share it. I truly do. Yes, I am often at a point where I want out, probably more often than is healthy, but I am not taking myself out. As one popular meme says, “I did not come this far only to come this far.”

Bouncing from the lows of molestation, vagrancy, and a meth addiction as an adolescent who grew ashamed of his own shadow to being catapulted onto a trajectory of a materialistically venerable existence was emotionally jarring. I never took the time to seek healing or talk to anyone for decades. I never reset what I wanted out of a life that odds once suggested would not have lasted into my twenties. My development as an emotionally healthy human being was stifled as opportunities came from all directions to pursue what I was raised to believe were the only noble pursuits: wealth and status – two things sorely lacking growing up in an environment that appeared to idolize both. I had finally found acceptance for how I was now living, and no sacrifice was too great to maintain my chokehold on it, regardless of how little fulfillment there was for me. I even eschewed marriage, family, and all deeply intimate connections, fearing I might lose my grip on the threads of chasing wealth and status that I needed to be worthy of social acceptance. I have broken more hearts and shattered more dreams than I care to recall – including my own many times over. Of this, I am, yet again, ashamed.

In quiet and lonely suffering, I have accumulated much materially; in my quest for healing, I have forfeited much materially. I want to believe it will all be worth it if – no, when – I come out of the other side of this an emotionally mature and balanced individual. Such growth requires believing that the entire world is not against me, as I observed it to be from my earliest days of life. Save for a few brief experiences where I did feel safe in the world, I have lived in fear of almost all people as acceptance seemed unwaveringly conditional on living up to expectations I was not equipped to meet.

As for finding my way out of this darkness once and for all, as I began this piece of writing, I know not where to begin. So, I begin the only way I know how – writing and sharing. Picking up the emotional pieces left behind decades ago is no easy task, but it is as crucial as it is painful. Growth is painful, and the more it is pushed off for whatever reason, and the later it occurs, the more painful it is. I still feel safest alone but my fear and distrust of people must abate if I hope to recover, and your outpouring of concern and love is huge. Thank you all!

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Boy Rescues Man

I recently confided with a friend about a few things weighing heavily on me about my life, and they shared an idea with me that reminded me of a photograph I had shared on social media a few years earlier. In that picture, I am holding and looking at a 4”x6” print of my kindergarten school picture.

This friend of mine suggested that the younger version of each of us is the person we need to live for. This made sense to me. When we are children, we dare to believe our dreams are verily worth all our attention and energy without fear of rejection from others. As we grow older, many of us, if not most, pivot the expectations we hold of ourselves for the sake of acceptance and approval. For many of us, this fear of not fitting in weighs heavily on the choices we make about our lives. Thinking back on this picture, I was motivated to engage in a brief exercise of looking back at my life at developmentally pivotal moments, and I invite others to give it a go if anyone has ever felt that their life choices, whatever they have been for whatever reason, has somehow disrupted the relationship we once held with our dreams.

I start at the top with my kindergarten picture. On my face, and especially in my eyes, I see a blend of wonder and sadness. I had dreams, but I also felt different based on feedback from the world in response to me simply being me, a behaviorally challenged child who was labeled and medicated. Over time, I would internalize this labeling, allowing it to form the blueprint of my own self-image.

Moving clockwise, I am in my early teens, within a year on either side of being molested by a stranger 100 miles north of home. I was beginning to feel the angst from a burgeoning self-dissatisfaction with how my relationship with the world around me was evolving. I felt like there was nowhere safe from criticism.

One photograph further clockwise is my high school senior year photograph, where angst is supplanted by growing anger. I tried to hide it, if only from myself, but I was beginning to resent how my way of being seemed so damn problematic for many around me, especially those closest to me. Less than three months later and three months before graduation, I was expelled, never to graduate.

Moving to the bottom, I am in my mid to late teens and undoubtedly stoned and speeding my ass off, looking like a skeleton tightly wrapped in a thin veil of skin. My nearsighted eyes are behind eyeglasses, tinted by request to block the deathly view of my eyes. (To my delight so far, I underwent laser corrective surgery fifteen years later.) The look on my face is saying to no one in particular, “Dude, I am so wasted.” I finally believed I was being accepted among my peers – even if only as an addict among addicts. This is what apathy for one’s own life looks like.

Continuing clockwise, and out of nowhere, I am graduating from a high-ranking U.S. university, and my face is saying. “There you go, fuckers; I did it your way.” I chased the popular rabbits of ever greater social significance playing the dream-killing game of Keep up with whoever. I might appear happy and proud, and I was indeed quite proud…of finally finding the keys to approval.

Moving further around, we have me in the present day. I can tell you what I am thinking. I am struggling to find peace in the realization that I have spent my entire adult life – more than thirty years – making nearly every choice with one deeply damned objective in mind, to impress as many people as possible to feel worthy of belonging … to feel worthy of living. My self-directed resentment for my earlier life choices, the shame I felt for the reasons I made them, and my frustration for allowing myself to spend a lifetime chasing success by how others define it, still cut deep to this day.

Unbeknownst to me was that I had overcome one addiction only to pick up another so that I could have a seat at the table of an economic class my family growing up could only dream of. The difference is that my first addiction reaped derision while the second was celebrated.

Long ago, I had so brutally forsaken my own dreams as a means of social survival, and I had almost forgotten what they were. However, there is a boy who clearly remembers what they are, but I rejected him for who he was because I believed the world was rejecting him for who he was. I accepted this rejection as justified and have lived in anguish ever since. I need to welcome this boy back into my life; he is the only one who can rescue me. Both of our lives depend on it.


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Is It Narcissism? Or Is It Drowning?

I regularly see memes on social media decrying the narcissist. Call it a gut reaction, but I genuinely believe that those who share such memes do so for the same reason most, if not all, who share memes do so – because they hold deep personal meaning to the person who posted them. I am willing to bet that if you ask anyone who shares memes calling out the narcissist if they feel they have ever been in the grips of a narcissist to whom they gave themselves, that all would say yes if they were being honest.

But is it narcissism that bedevils these targets of publicly shared gripes? Let’s look at the definition of the word. According to dictionary.com (no less credible than any other online source), narcissism means ‘inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity; self-centeredness; smugness; egocentrism.’ Ratcheting up my own self-awareness, it is not at all difficult for me to see how I could have the propensity to show up for others at times as a world-class narcissist based on such a definition.

I have been called out for being a bit obsessive with my physical appearance at times, and I have often been lost in my own world, seemingly oblivious to the needs of others, as if my situational awareness had become utterly impotent. But why? Am I self-centered? Am I smug? I am confident that anyone who has ever known me well would never say I was smug. I often am complimented on the kindness I show others, including strangers.

This essay is not about defending narcissism. Instead, this essay explores what else might be going on when someone exhibits behaviors conventionally described as narcissistic. For starters, people who are labeled…er, ‘diagnosed’…with ADHD (me among them my entire life) who have difficulty holding focus will often appear aloof and in their own world, which can seem like a complete lack of consideration for others.

What about self-love? Even under penalty of death for untruthfulness, I will bear witness to the fact that I hold more loathing for myself than love. I know I am not alone in my plight. I have lived my life completely ashamed of myself and full of self-loathing devoid of worthiness in acceptance and belonging.

The scatter-brained ADHDer aside, what I believe is likely going on is emotional drowning. When someone is in the throes of drowning, they are in a state of absolute panic for their life. They will flail their arms and legs wildly, trying to hold on to anything upon which they can push down to get themselves above the water line for air so they can breathe. That often happens when someone is drowning emotionally – and I posit that no one is immune from feeling this way at times, no matter how brief or infrequent.

The person wishing to save the apparent narcissist will feel pulled down and stepped on. Simple physics instructs us that the force applied is a force of equal force in the opposite direction. We know this from Newton’s third law of motion. While we are not speaking of mass on mass here but rather emotion on emotion, the same principle applies as the lifesaver feels pulled down, stepped on, and disrespected. This analogy holds further true when neither party is particularly good at swimming. Just like it takes extraordinary strength and skill from training to save someone from drowning without allowing themselves to become submerged by the desperate flailing of limbs of the person drowning, it takes extraordinary emotional strength and skill, also from training and practice, to save someone from emotional drowning without allowing ourselves to feel stepped on dragged down.

I will reiterate that I am not defending narcissism. There are indeed people who unabashedly hold themselves above others and truly see themselves as entitled to the praise of others. Perhaps it is these individuals who are caught up in the most ferocious of emotional riptides. Nor am I suggesting we should not try to save the narcissist from their riptides. I am merely inviting us to consider that we are best to keep our own emotional resolve in as tip top shape as possible so that when we are pulled down by the narcissist we wish to save, we can keep ourselves above the water line and not wind up drowning during the attempts to rescue those we love.

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Once In a While, We Get Along

About seven months ago, we moved my mom and dad from the living facility where they had been living for the past two-plus years into my home. Given how things were, it was the prudent thing to help us keep the family’s place in Sussex County, DE, near the lower Delaware beaches – a place quite near and dear to my heart. Living completely on their own was no longer practical, so my 2,200 sq. ft. bachelor pad in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was repurposed to help him, 92, and her, 86, feel at home under my roof.

With the approach of the move-in date and other worries about my life’s next steps, my stress and anxiety levels were going through the roof. I even sought medical guidance to help keep me from completely losing my marbles. My feelings ran the gambit from joy and excitement from providing a roof over their head to depression that the life I had cultivated, for better or worse, was being turned upside down, to downright frustration with occasional outbursts of anger over the challenges I was now facing.

Not the least of these hurdles has been butting heads with my dad over different world views born of a generational chasm. Much of my upbringing had been marked by our significantly different opinions on the role of money in life, leading me to carry some resentment for money’s very existence. Having grown up during The Depression and the years following, my dad seemed to view the world more myopically than me through the lens of wealth.

I, in contrast, grew up far more removed from, or shielded from, such dire economic uncertainty and desperation yet unhealed from childhood trauma (through no fault of my mom or dad). I developed the means to earn enough money to live more comfortably than I ever imagined possible when I was young. Moreover, being childless, I never experienced the modesty and often humility necessary to provide for others when access to means of providing is limited. I grew up believing that filling deeper voids was just as important, if not more important, than earning as much money as possible for its own sake alone. Our different views were often the undercurrent of our disagreements over the years.

Agitating the transition in our new living arrangements, I had come down with a bit of a bug a month a few months after they moved in, and my dad soon came down with what I had. Mom was spared. My dad and I were both more miserable than usual (and that’s saying something).

On one early summer night in June of 2023, several months into our new living arrangements (and after we were back to a healthy household), I was sitting on my back deck facing the setting sun shining through the much-diminished arbor, thanks wholly to my overzealous trimming of tree branches that were hanging too low over the deck. My dad came out and sat on a chair facing me to relax as I did my thing, whatever that was at the time. We exchange chitchat – nothing deep, but nothing pedestrian like his favorite topic – the stock market. I am struck with joy and gratitude that I, a grown man still stumbling around this nutty blue marble, could still chat with my dad – whatever the topic. Thanks to social media, I have often observed the sorrow of others who only have memories, especially on Father’s Day. Some, one whom I have recently endeared as family (because, by blood, he is), grew up without a dad.

I am wildly lucky to have this gift of time with my dad. Moreover, despite my many majestic mistakes, I am also aware of how good life has been to me. There is so much in my life that has long been derailed – or so I thought based on popular standards, but perhaps in no way whatsoever – and triumphing over all of it is realizing just how good my life has been. I have no idea what the future holds, but I will be fine as long I remember on every present day, just how lucky I have been.

This encounter with my dad inspired me to write this essay. As I reviewed and edited it a couple nights later, sitting at the same spot watching another sunset, my dad came out on the deck again, and we chatted about money again. This time I actually enjoyed the more philosophical discussion on the topic. As he got up to return to what had been my office and study, which was now the TV room for my parents, I told him how much I really appreciated these small moments we had to sit and chat. I will remember his response for the rest of my life. “Well, once in a while, we get along.” I chuckled and said, ‘Yep, we sure do, Pop. We sure do.’

Happy Father’s Day, 2023
Matt Gorman

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A Blessed Man – An essay

It is said life is a circle. The term circle of life is an oft-used one from philosophy to the theater – though those two worlds are not terribly far apart. Life is thought of as a circle in which we return to some beginning point and continue around and around. In the sense of the culturally popular Lion King and The Legend of Kung Fu[1], the circle of life refers to the succession of generations and the handing of the torch from one to the other.

In my experience, the circle, as defined by traveling around and returning to whence one begins, is in caring for the two people whose life has been dedicated to caring for me. Recently, I began my role serving the greatest privilege I could ever ask for (and I have been the recipient of many privileges throughout life).

One day before Thanksgiving 2022, seven weeks before this essay was posted, I, and my brother and sister-in-law, packed up our parents’ belongings on the back of a trailer and hauled them 17 miles northeast to my home. He is 92, and she is 86. Both lucid and ambulatory. With a bit of shifting around of furniture and a relocation of my office to the basement, we were able to create a bedroom and a separate TV room for them. I keep my living room as a stimulus-free room for quiet time.[2]

Source: Unknown

Indeed, the lifestyle of a post-middle-aged bachelor is laden with a bit of a wrinkle, but adaptation is doable. (We still have the family hideaway near the beach to which I can escape for alone time.) More importantly, this adaptation is well worth it. I am in a position to provide for, care for, and spend quality time with two people who sacrificed to give me so much and support my many second chances in life. I am, if nothing else, a very blessed man.

[1] I never saw the contemporary “Lion King” on stage or on screen, but I have had the privilege to see “The Legend of Kung Fu” on stage in Beijing as part of a business school week-long ‘class trip’ visiting companies in China.

[2] In One’s Origins I share my affinity towards the Quiet Room.

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Protected: Being Ok

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Protected: My Life And No One Else’s

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One’s Origins: Dedication and Introduction


To Peter: Your life was denied you so that I could have mine. It has not been easy, and I have fallen down hard, and by grace, I have risen. For as long as my life goes on, I shall always strive to live a life you would have been proud to live.


I have lived a life in constant pursuit of approval from others. The term often thrown around in clinical circles is an external locus of identity, meaning that I identify myself based on external characteristics such as physical attributes, wealth, material possessions, and fame, to name a few. Nearly all of us either suffer or have suffered from an external locus of identity.

I was born with neurological abnormalities that impacted my ability to regulate emotion and manage behavior, which struck the ire of many well-meaning people in whose care I was placed. The result was a quiet but persistent humming of criticism for which I never fully developed appropriate mechanisms to process in a healthy manner. As a defense mechanism against criticism, I developed habitual self-denigration. ‘Beat them to it!’ became my way of fending off others’ criticism whenever I did anything wrong. While rarely cruel, the message from the world back to me was, “Just keep your head down, stay out of the way, and don’t expect too much of yourself, and you’ll do ok.” I still struggle with a damning self-image today.

When I failed at earning the approval of others, I began making life choices that landed me in situations where I was molested, expelled from high school without ever graduating, developed an addiction to methamphetamine fed intravenously, and spent a few months of homelessness[1]. Through enormous grace, I physically survived it all, only to sit by helplessly and watch the first woman with whom I felt safe being vulnerable, who persistently encouraged me to not give up on myself, die a slow and, at times, painful death.

All of these emotionally traumatic events occurred in the ten years between my 13th and 23rd year. This is when we begin to exert our independence, and our sense of who we are in the world and our relationship with it takes shape. My trust in others, myself, and love itself were all nearly destroyed. Before I had time to even process, much less heal from any of it, I was given opportunity after opportunity to do better than just ‘ok’ – a lot better. But by whose standards?

I grew up in an environment that measured men by money, without which a man struggled to feel proud about himself vis-à-vis his peers. Success was a function of what we got from the world much more than what we gave to the world, and more importantly, showing off what we got earned more admiration than showing off what we gave. Whether it be big and/or shiny things or a big wad of cash in the pocket, a statement had to be made about how well one is making it. If I wanted to belong, I had to do things to belong. Getting (or perhaps more aptly, taking) from the world required drive and a fighting spirit to compete and engage in wars of wit, which sometimes were hostile. For those poorly adapted to criticism, this makes the entire world seem like a hostile place.

Rather than live life towards a desired future, I lived escaping a past that shrouded me in shame. Shame has been what has motivated me to soldier forward every day of my life. I was ashamed of being a social outsider; I was ashamed of being molested; I was ashamed of never graduating from high school; and I was ashamed of being a meth junkie. I was ashamed of giving up on myself, and I was ashamed of being ashamed.

My tribulations pale compared to the misfortunes that have befallen many others. (I am one of the luckiest people I know.) But life is relative, and I have only my orbit from which to compare and draw conclusions. That orbit grew in one direction, a direction which only magnified, rather than contextualized, the heinous choices I made, and I lived my life ashamed of myself, and since I am being honest, feeling sorry for myself.

By sheer luck of a birth and adoption lottery ticket, I was demographically and geographically privileged. Without knowing anything about me, the world at large made assumptions about me that were to my advantage. Indeed, I had to bust my ass and kiss a little ass along the way, but the asses were there for busting and kissing. I had a leg up before taking my first breath.

As I grew older, having given up on trusting my own gut for life choices, I concluded that mimicry, not genuineness, was the only way to survive in the world. I, a square peg, spent 30 years making every sacrifice necessary to fit into any round hole I confronted if, on the other side, I saw a crowd of round pegs. The choices I made in life from adolescence onward through the following three decades were based on the single criteria of fitting in. I eventually found my way to positive appraisal, but it was superficial and, at times, dishonest, but the world is not to blame. The blame falls on me. For the sake of belonging, I became superficial and, at times, dishonest. The reflections were fair and accurate.

I lost faith in my ability to decide what was right for me as a young adult, so I looked to others to advise me on how to live my life. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself on a conveyor belt hustling me through the rigor of higher education, despite never graduating from high school, to prepare me for acquiring all the spoils of a socio-economic class far above any that I grew up believing would ever be available to me. Soon, I was traveling the world for work and pleasure, providing me an abundance of opportunities to meet and work with people from all over the globe.

Once I began receiving the adulation I craved, I was hooked. I was sure I had found the formula for being relevant. I finally mattered. Cheers replaced jeers, and my life became, quite simply, charmed and perhaps even enviable. I faked the hell out of it for the sake of belonging, forfeiting authenticity and losing humility in the process. I traded in what used to fill my heart for what filled my pockets. I learned to covet and chase materiality, and, in the end, it cost me almost everything, including self-respect, peace, and my soul. I earned admiration from many but never from the man I saw in the mirror.

I am human, so feedback from others will always remain essential to my survival. But I can survive no longer with feedback based on a façade for which I tormented myself by propping up for decades. If I want an honest appraisal, I must be honest. If I want raw, I must be raw. If I want truth, I must be true – to others and myself. My emotional development was arrested by adolescent trauma, and One’s Origins is my attempt to get things back on track.

For all who have ever struggled with feeling worthy of love and belonging, One’s Origins is my compassionate embrace of you as much as it is, for the first time in a long time, a compassionate embrace of myself. I wish for us all that we learn to love and embrace ourselves with all the self-compassion we crave. We all deserve that much.

[1] If I had pleaded for mercy, I have no doubt I would have been welcomed back home if I had met reasonable conditions. But I was too obstinate at the time to do so.

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Covet Nothing

Recently after a 23-mile bicycle ride at a respectable clip I reclined sun-drenched in a lounge chair on my backyard deck and a cold beer sat in the shade a half an arm’s length away. My imagination shifts to images of the rich and famous relaxing pool or sea side at some of the poshest resorts ever constructed on earth. (I’ve been to several over the years and have amassed a drawer full of t-shirts for bragging privileges.) I also do this very same thing (lying in the sun) often on a beach three hours south of home. Naturally the eye candy quotient shoots into a much higher stratosphere on the beach compared to my backyard. No offense meant to my neighbors. 

I’m doing the same thing that others are doing at swankier outposts. The only difference is location. I can think of nothing other than ego-driven coveting that would even consider that important. Is life nothing not but a collection of experiences? What lies inside the boundaries of the experience and what remains outside when assessing the value of  an experience? Locally, I can do this any time I want. Any desire to be somewhere other than where I am is fed by something on which I place little value. 

If we could focus on what’s important and ONLY what’s important, we’d be amazed with how easily we would find contentment. The courage it takes to draw that line correctly is not to be minimized. 

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King of the Road

I stopped by a convenience store recently to grab a sandwich on the way to spend a few hours on the beach. In one of the parking spaces sat a motorcycle with a sidecar. Not unusual but for the paint job and decal. Oh, and more than that, the rider, and passengers.

Meet David, a 42 year-old autistic motorcycling enthusiast who was king of the road when he sat in the sidecar of this Harley Davidson Ultra Classic touring motorcycle equipped with a wheelchair carrier on the back. His parents, Dave and Pat, ride on the bike on the front and back seats respectively.

I was drawn first to the bike and once I met David, I was drawn to their story. The three of them were not too far from their home in Maryland. They had ridden together to destinations all across our great nation hitting some of the must-visits for motorcyclists such as Sturgis in South Dakota, etc. David’s parents told me how much he is in all his glory cruising in the sidecar with his parents. Because of David’s condition, his parents communicate with him using some basic sign language. He cannot communicate back that way but he understands what they are saying to him and he communicates his understanding, agreement, approval, etc, or lack thereof, in his own way.

I was so moved by their story I felt that somebody should write about this. So, I did, if even only a vignette, of a three-wheeling family of three who cruise across this land from sea to shining sea.


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