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Of Shadows And Footprints
The Memoir of a Man Who Spent Fifty Years Battling His Inner Demons
It has been referred to as “the elephant in the room” or “the 800-pound gorilla,” and in some circles it’s called “a man’s taboo.” When all's said and done, it is depression -- a destroyer of lives -- and it is propagated within the traditions that those who bear it should be able to dismiss it. Accordingly, many people choose not to speak of it, and most men choose to macho-up, tough-it-out, suck-it-up and more often than not, try to drink-it away. That describes the author.
Joe Bell’s affliction began at the age of nine after he experienced the dawning of what would eventually become a lifelong conflict. As he explains in this unusual autobiography and memoir, he had no idea that his life would traverse such a well-camouflaged and crooked path, and that he would feel most of his life as though he were two entirely different people, one a shadowy figure that seemed to always be walking alongside him.
In the end, Joe learned that hope can take the shape of a sweet bond, a gleeful romance, or an emotional healing realized through a tough truth, all leading to a triumph in the face of appalling tragedies. His story is heartwarming, agonizing, and bittersweet, and it’s about much more than just Joe’s story. It’s also the story of his family and friends--a behind-the-scenes look at how they lived, laughed, loved, cried together, and died, leaving only Joe behind to tell their story.
This book may stay with you long after the last page has been read, especially if you apply in your life what Joe Bell says has been redeeming in his.
“Man, you’re really messed up . . . you need to get some serious help,” said an old friend a while back. Thinking back, I don’t recall mounting a defense at all. It would have been useless because the different camouflages that I’d employed for years were all gone. Being unshielded for the first time in my life set off a rumor, and rumor had it that I had waged a war with my inner demons for decades. It was no rumor.
“Self discovery is the key!” the seminar leader shouted into his microphone. Fifteen minutes after walking into his seminar, I was walking out thinking what a bunch of cow dung! Don’t get me wrong--I’ve got nothing against anyone trying to make their hustle. For years I’d heard how folks tried to transfigure themselves by practicing a discipline of this nature, but it just wasn’t for me.
On the other hand, I knew I’d never been solitary in my remembering. In fact, it seems that I’ve never really been alone, as the shadows cast over me have silhouetted my every move. My journey starts not at the beginning or the end, but more of a step, out of step, that has guided my course. My modus operandi has been burying heartbreaks and tragedies in unmarked graves for as long as I can remember. Yep, dead and buried, all of them, so why would I want to utilize any scheme that would exhume such consternation?
Unwittingly though, I’d already begun to back-door myself the day I attended that seminar. When one out-slicks adversity, they avoid hardship—a decree I’d always tried to live by. Well, my dilemma was that I had out-slicked myself. Just forget about it, I told myself, thinking, I’m content with my life. It’s an innocuous one that suits me just fine, and besides that, all of my eye-opening experiences are long over anyway.
I would be wrong about that.
It was November 2010 when I joined a social network and began posting some stories about myself and my family. I wrote them from a storyteller point of view, being apprehensive about what folks might think if they knew that it was a first person account, rather than that of a third. Shortly thereafter, my cell rang.
“Well, you’ve decided to write about yourself. That’s great!”
“Who is this?”
RP was her handle on the social network that she owned. We chitchatted and she began to talk about the firestorm that my writings were causing among the other members. The clamoring being about “who was this guy?”
“You know who I am, don’t you?” she asked.
“No. I don’t.”
“I’m Danielle Steel.”