Monday, December 26, 2011

Disasters and Blessings


Just three years ago, around this time of the evening, my world collapsed around me. Mistakes I had been making, silences I had kept, and a general hiding from myself all came together, coalesced, and I felt my world fall out from under me. It was the equivalent of having constructed a scaffold far up into the night sky and then having the footings give way. I felt it all tumbling down under me and, like Wile E. Coyote, hung in the air for a moment, a terrible expression on my face, the pit of my stomach falling faster than gravity could ever imagine.

I suppose that, as disaster strikes, it is only normal to feel as if there is no hope, that this is the end, that doom is upon us. Even the small disasters bring this on for me sometimes. The fender bender, the gift in the wrong size, the spoiled milk in the refrigerator. With those smaller disasters it is so much easier to get through the oh-no moment. The car can be fixed, the gift returned, the milk poured down the sink and replaced. With larger disasters, it's another matters.

Well, sort of.

Thinking back three years ago I see that it's not all that different. It comes down to making decisions. I wasn't prepared then to make good decisions and so I kept the problem going for a while, kept myself in a state of hiding much longer than I needed to. The solutions, which seemed impossible at the time, were all close at hand. Each began with being true to myself and honest in considering things. Each began with being present in the moment.

I know, I harp on that idea of presence all too often, but it's the single most important thing that I can do for myself and it's the thing I most struggle with. Most of my problems three years ago had to do with holding onto things from as far back as 1998, disasters that I should have put to bed, should have accepted years before. In fact, most of the things that led to my world collapsing began closer to 1978. It has been a long road.

Tonight, I feel like I have some small bit of wisdom to impart and so, if you'll forgive me, I'm going to talk at you for a moment. If you can't forgive me for such an indulgence, I recommend that you check out TheOnion.com or TheBloggess.com. Either one will be more fun and worth the visit.

You're going to screw up at some point. I'm going to screw up again, probably sooner than later. When it happens and someone calls you on it, don't defend yourself. Don't surrender either. In fact, stop thinking of life as a battle or a game to win or lose. Accept what you're being told as that person's perception of you and then consider why you're being told this. The sooner we learn that the perceptions others have of us are founded in our actions, the sooner we can get better.

When you're thinking about it, and maybe you're still boiling over being called out for your mistakes, think back to the other people have called you out already. They were there, I'm betting on it. In my case, looking back, I see at least five separate times that someone let me know that I wasn't doing it right. Each time I was able to blow that off and keep going. But when I was called out, I remember looking back and hearing all those warnings again. Even so, I couldn't add up all of that and admit to what was actually happening. I was still trying to win. And because of that, I was losing like you can't imagine.

Remember that it's unlikely you can figure it out and fix things yourself. I tried. But living within the narrow confines of my own head I didn't have the perspective to see things, to really understand. Eventually, almost too late, I sought help from my wife, my therapist, my best friend, my family, and my other friends. Raising a child takes a village; recovery sometimes takes a whole city.

We screw up. That's the nature of being human. There's more to it than that, but part of our lot is that we make mistakes. Often we feel like that's the end. It might just be unless we can see what is happening, be aware, be present, and ask for help.

It's the day after Christmas and I guess my gift to you is this sermon. Here's hoping that you don't need it. Here's hoping that you're better equipped than I was to deal with my own mistakes and decisions. I hope that I'm wiser now than I was then and wise enough to know that I don't know very much at all.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me, who has taught me and helped me learn, and who have honored me with their friendship and love. The world is, for me, so much more beautiful than it was three years ago. Every day is, for lack of a better word, a blessing.

Write on.