I was at a meeting not too long ago, and a man started off the discussion by telling us all that he had just gotten back from Florida where he went down to bury his father. He had never dealt with feelings like the ones he had while he was there, let alone since he’s been sober. He expressed how happy he was for the fellowship of AA and that if it weren’t for the program, he wasn’t sure what would have happened. He was very grateful that he didn’t drink over it.
For the next fifty minutes, one person after another shared that they, too, had experienced their own stories of losing loved ones and other tragedies. As each person shared, I noticed a common theme: not one of us had known how to deal with deep, significant feelings in a constructive manner before. In an effort to push reality aside and jump to the end of grief’s stages, or in wanting to make bad things better right now, in our own time, we drank or took drugs or did whatever we could to push the pain and consequences aside.
I have always wanted to skip to the end of things. It’s not because I don’t want to work. I believe myself to be a very hard worker, especially in my career. I think it has to do with a deep desire to have everything be alright and everyone around me happy. But when I look at my life and what I’ve been through in the past year, I see a man who had his priorities out of order. I think I had the right priorities, I just failed to heed the advice of those closest to me who were trying to tell me that I was off track. No wonder I felt so conflicted and sad. The idea of what I was to do to support my family became more important than my family, and my inability to reconcile that led me to make choices that lost me my family altogether.
Life is very funny. It can really mess with your head. I have been witness on numerous occasions to the truth that my life is unfolding in ways in which I could never begin to predict the outcome. It’s unsettling, to say the least. I have tried at various times to steer my life toward my desired outcome, but when the course has been interrupted or, indeed, completely altered, I have not responded well. I have typically made things worse with my impulsive and rash behaviors, sometimes alienating those closest to me, and hurting them deeply in the process. The more I worry, the less my life is what I want it to be. The more I try to race to the end, the less I am able to see the beautiful sites along my journey.
I left the meeting very happy that I had attended. I felt a kinship with many others who struggle with the same shortcomings that I do. I think that’s the point. When I take the time to engage with other people and listen closely to the stories of their lives, their journeys, I get a sense not only of what to do to get through the really tough times, but of the simple fact that none of us is alright. None of us is truly in control.
The best we can hope for is to live each day for all it’s worth and hold onto one another along the way. Pain, tragedy and death happen everyday, but keeping each other afloat with loving, open arms while we experience the inevitable feelings that go along with such traumas makes the journey of our lives a joyous, redemptive and extremely fulfilling.
I’m trying to learn to not be so impatient, and to focus on others more. The more I can see others, the less I worry about my own outcome. Will that be a strategy that I’ll always employ? Well, all I know is, I have to learn to accept life on life’s terms.