I keep this written on an index card next to where I work: “I love you Jeff. Being human is hard. You’re doing great. Even when you think you are failing.”
On the reverse is: “What if it’s all just going to be okay.”
These two things are my mantras, the philosophies that are carrying me through life in lockdown.
Because it’s true. It’s fucking hard being a human being.
Lately I have found it hard to settle down, to stop my thoughts from racing. And then I find myself swinging into acceptance and peace. There is a lot to be anxious about right now. A lot to be afraid of. And there is a lot to be grateful for, a lot of proof of how lucky I am.
But I am feeling cantankerous. My character defects seem to be coming out swinging right now.
When I got sober, the hardest thing about that first year was the way everything became unbearable. But the most unbearable thing was my reaction to things: I was angry, moody, controlling, afraid. Once a feeling took hold it seemed to control me, I had no idea how to talk myself off the ledge.
Through the program I was in, through meditation, and through therapy I learned how to manage those things. I learned that just because I thought or felt something I didn’t have to react, I didn’t have to express my thoughts or feelings. I could sit with them, even if they felt like they would tear me apart.
And they never did tear me apart.
Peace became a place that didn’t erase the anxiety or the fear, but it became a place where I could allow it, and it didn’t have to define me, to swallow me whole.
Just because I thought a shitty thing about someone, or got angry, or wanted to control what someone was doing, didn’t mean that I had to hold on to that thought or those feelings. I didn’t have to let them take form. And when I did, then I learned that I could make amends, and forgive myself, and move on.
Because being human is hard. For all of us. Not just me.
Living right now, in lockdown, under the threat of a pandemic, feels a lot like that first year sober for me.
Because right now it feels like so much of what is happening is internal. And I’m having to use all those early sobriety tools to confront my thoughts.
And I’m mad. I’m mad at the government, I’m mad at Donald Trump, I’m mad at the healthcare system, I’m mad at this fucking virus, I’m mad that all the things I was working on and building got suddenly put on hold. I’m mad that once again I have to confront myself. In this new way.
A couple nights ago, sitting in my living room, I just started to cry. For all the things that have been lost. And I remember a time in early sobriety when I cried for a similar loss: of drugs and booze. Of the man I had been.
Things are changing. And we are powerless over that. But here’s where we aren’t powerless: we have the opportunity to change as well.
Everything that we are living in this moment, in lockdown, the way our life looks, the people around us, is because of choices we have made. Who we were.
So I keep coming back to this: Who do I want to be? How do I want my life to look? In that first year of being sober I made myself a promise: I did not get sober to be unhappy. I did not get sober to lose my life to some other distraction (addiction). I got sober because I wanted to live the largest life possible. I wanted to chase my dreams to the end. I wanted to risk failure.
Lockdown is reminding me: Who do I want to be? How do I want my life to look? What false obligations are holding me back?
And that it’s ok when all I can do is watch tv, or jerk off, or eat ice cream. It’s ok when all I can do is cry. It’s ok when I feel lost and I can’t imagine ever succeeding, when I think this is all I will ever be.
But those things don’t have to define me. Or who I will become.
A friend once said to me, “It’s not about what you get, it’s about how you went about getting it. That’s the only thing you have any control over.”
I just finished reading “Later My Life at the Edge of the World” by Paul Lisicky. Beautiful and reflective. Now I’m reading “Overthrow” by Caleb Cain.
I’m listening to a lot of Records. Right now I’m kind of obsessed with Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Francis and the Lights and Four Tet.
And I’m missing a lot of you.