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A Painful Path

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 by Murray Dunlap

I was too smart to be normal, but not smart enough to be anything else. I was tested repeatedly (I imagine this to be at my proud mother’s request) but in the end, I was a ‘straight A’ student, sure, but not much else. I finished high school in fine style, college was a silly game of transfer here to there to back where you were, and so on. Then I went to graduate school at UC Davis, but every word of that time has been lost to amnesia.

Which brings me to my reason for telling you my story. I developed amnesia, as well as a traumatic brain injury (among other injuries) when I had moved to my hometown and a very nice man missed a red light. Yes, ‘avery nice man’… I have forgiven him for this endurance run that has gone on for more than a decade. If I an honest, it still goes on today.  It took immeasurable flexibility with my definitions of right and wrong, but it was a mistake, for God’s sake, and accidents do happen. I have forgiven him.

I had written my first book as a thesis in graduate school, but had not published it yet, before my car accident. I had not gotten my head back on straight when I published it and was overjoyed to be on the local news in Mobile, Alabama. As I reigned in my brain-injured-excitement, I gave up on my dreams with fiction. Amnesia makes longer pieces impossible to navigate. So, I started writing poetry. It would seem I had become an “acquired savant” of sorts. Although, it came to me slowly. My first book of poetry, ‘Proof,’ was nothing special. My next book was called ‘A Beautiful Catastrophe,’ and it roars with life.But the future will be ‘A Racing Blur.’  I could not be more proud.

So I have great new books, I find myself married to an Episcopal priest and all of the pieces seem to fit. I imagine you may be having a hard time feeling sorry for me at this point. But, let me tell you about Athens Georgia and you will not think twice about my path as being anything but difficult.

I have decided to distil the events in Athens to this: I was lonely and tried to date online. With a brain injury, I was unaware of what I had allowed myself to get into. The girl had serious psychological issues that I will pretend I am unable to recall. I feared for my life. The devil did, in fact, go down to Georgia. The end.

All of this directly followed my painful divorce from my high school sweetheart. I do not hold an ounce of anger or resentment toward her. The man she married died in a car wreck and not one person could make heads or tails of the man he turned into. I was a deeply changed man who bore no resemblance of the man she had married. We no longer made sense together.

But again, after it all hit the fan, I pulled myself back together and married a priest. My path has truly been blessed.  It started rough, between an alcoholic father and having more close friends die than most my age, and then, after a bizarre spell in hell, I have come to see my life as a blessing beyond all expectations. My brain injury has slowed me down, no doubt, but has led to my gift of a life with no complaints. In the end, I am a more well-rounded man with four books to my name and a marriage to die for(and I almost did…).

My intelligence runs differently now, but it hits when I need it, and poetry may not have been my plan, but by damn, I can hang my hat on itwith no regrets.


A survivor

I aspire for more than simple steps

I work to rebuild a life beyond that

I take on more challenges than I should


I am told

Be happy with what you have

With where you are

Do not bite off more than you can chew

I reject this notion

There is always better, more


No doubt

But to aspire is to live



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Last modified: June 27, 2023