“You Were Never Meant To Be Here”

qctimes

Several months ago, I had the unexpected privilege of sharing my heart with a room full of folks battling and in various stages of recovery from drug, alcohol, and other addictions at a treatment facility in the Mountain West. It was the last place on earth I ever expected to find myself, which likely was evident from the freshly pressed khaki pants and button-down Polo shirt I was wearing and the fish-out-of-water body language that I’m certain was oozing out of every pore of my skin. But, I’d promised someone I care deeply about that I’d be there to witness their graduation from the program and so there I was – in the front row no less – feeling quite content to mind my own business. Unbeknownst to me, however, the staff had very different intentions. Apparently, it had become customary for invited guests of program graduates to speak (or at least be given an opportunity to speak) in support of their loved one at the end of the ceremony and, as I found the microphone being passed to me, I realized that night would be no exception. I also realized, from the tightness that immediately took my chest hostage and my racing heart, that I wasn’t prepared to speak.

“You were never meant to be here,” I began, wondering where those words had come from and then surrendering to the Spirit that gave birth to them as a hush fell over the room. “You were never meant to stick a needle in your arm, hold a spoon full of crack or meth over an open flame, put a rolled up $20 bill in your nose, pour alcohol into your body until you passed out, cut yourself, or starve yourself until the distortions only you see in the morning mirror match the “perfect” image of self your eating disorder voice demands. And those things were never meant to become the centerpiece of your life, your reason for getting out of bed in the morning, the objects of your “affection”, the things for which you’d “gladly” sacrifice everything and everyone you once held dear – your friends, spouses, partners, siblings, faith, freedom, employment – even your self-respect. And yet, that’s exactly what happened and here you are – some for the first time, others likely for the second or third – searching for answers, trying to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘what’s next’, and hurting. I know, because I don’t even know you, and I hurt for you, as I’m sure do those who do know and love you”.

“I want you to close your eyes for a minute,” I continued. “I want you to think back to a 4-year-old ‘you’ playing with your friends at the neighborhood park. I want you to try and remember what that looked, felt, and sounded like – the smell of the freshly cut grass, the wind in your hair as you chased your friends from one play station to the next, the feel of the sand against your skin, the sound of laughter, the warmth of the sun, the fear and exhilaration of going down ‘the big slide’ for the first time. That ‘you’ didn’t even know what drugs or alcohol, or eating disorders, or addictions were. You didn’t give a second thought to the past or have a moment’s anxiety about the future. You were engaged in the moment and fully alive. It wasn’t that you didn’t experience the full range of human emotions (e.g., joy, sadness, anger, love, hate, frustration, pain, comfort, kindness, etc.). You did – intensely – often all in the same day! It’s just that, perhaps intuitively, you knew that they were just feelings, that they would come and go, so you didn’t get stuck in them. That uniquely beautiful, carefree, innocent version of ‘you’ is the reason I can say – with confidence – ‘you were never meant to be here’ – and yet here you are. So, what happened?

Life happened. S*#t happened. I know because it happens to all of us. Sometimes it happens thru no fault of our own and no matter how careful we are in trying to avoid it (e.g., a traumatic event, a breach of trust, the unexpected loss of a loved one, a radical change in circumstances, a sense that life is hopelessly spinning out of control, etc.). Sometimes we pile it on ourselves. We don’t do it intentionally. We’re human. We make bad choices. Those bad choices have consequences. Some are really harsh and hurtful. But, regardless of the source, the end result is the same: Before we know it, the playground version of us gets buried under a mountain of ‘adult’ debris and begins to suffocate. Sometimes the weight of it all is too much to bear and we make even worse choices. We try to run away from the pile and hide, rather than commit to digging ourselves out – one shovel (or spade) at a time. We isolate. We numb. Eventually, we forget that little boy or girl gasping for air is even there, let alone what their love of life, quest for adventure and curiosity feels like, and we end up here – lost, ashamed, afraid it can’t be undone. But, it can. That “you” is still in there,” I said through tear-stained eyes.

“Look, I’m not a doctor or a therapist or an addiction specialist. I can’t tell you how to get from Point A to Point B. I’m also not suggesting for a minute that anything about the journey is easy. Truth is: It’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. But, I believe this with every fiber of my being: You were never meant to be here. This is not the fullness of life you were called to. That’s out there,” I said pointing to the door. “It’s on that playground. And, I encourage you to do whatever it takes and spend however long is required to get back there.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbCVcPst6J4

Image credit: qctimes

Rewrite The Rules. Retire The Cape

Super

I suspect, at one time or another, all of us have donned The Cape.

You know the one I’m talking about – the one with the big “S” emblazoned on it; the one we use to first try and convince ourselves (and then others) that we’re fully in control at all times; the one that whispers in our ear that there is no power in the Universe, let alone on Earth, so great that it won’t bend, if not break, before our will; the one that assures us there is no mind so sharp or clever that we can’t outwit it; the one that makes us believe we’re tough, that there’s no “boogie-man” so devious that we aren’t able to defeat it; and, perhaps most delusionally, the one that lures us and those “fortunate” enough to be within our sphere of influence into a false sense of security (i.e., that as long as we’re in the area they are out of harm’s way, insulated from the adversity and uncertainty that is so much a part of others’ lives). In short, it is The Cape, which, worn long enough and with just enough “good” results, makes us believe that we (and through us those we love) are invincible!

Maybe you’re one of the ones who put theirs on in the parking garage at work, where, in a misguided effort to prove your “worthiness” or, better yet, your indispensability, there is no hour of the morning too early for you to arrive or hour of the evening too late for you to leave, irrespective of what you have to give up or what compromises you have to make to accommodate that level of commitment; there’s no project too big or too complex for you to handle on your own no matter how much more expeditiously, efficiently, and expertly it could be handled by properly delegating aspects of it to a willing and trustworthy group of colleagues; and there’s no amount of supervisory (or co-worker) neglect, criticism, or “abuse” you’re not willing to endure in the hope of future advancement or out of fear of losing your job no matter how unfounded, misplaced, hurtful, disrespectful, or inappropriate that criticism or abuse may be.

Maybe you put yours on at the bus stop or in the parking lot en route to school.  Maybe your cape is the one that simply won’t allow you to tolerate even the slightest academic misstep no matter how inconsequential it may be to your future; the one that insists you not only take a full load of, but excel in the hardest courses your school’s curriculum has to offer, so that you will be uber-competitive when the time comes to apply for college; the one you rely on to enable you to put on a “brave face” so that you can appear to be unfazed when your peers bully you, bombard you with demeaning, even dehumanizing comments and slurs or ostracize you from the “in group”; the one that demands that you not only participate in, but fight for a leadership role in every available extracurricular activity, so that you scarcely have time to catch your breath, let alone have a life outside of school.

Maybe you quickly put yours on before you step through the door at the end of an undeniably long day and assume the role of parent, so that you can create the illusion that you have unlimited stamina and strength; that you don’t tire like normal people; that your energy knows no boundaries; that you not only are desirous, but fully capable of being all things to all people at all times; that, unlike most, you have the seeming ability to be in several places at one time; that there is only one speed in the life of a super hero (full out, 24/7); that normal human emotions which might distract mere mortals from the task at hand (e.g., sadness, frustration, anger, hurt, discouragement, moodiness, etc.) have no place in the world where super heroes roam and, therefore, are to be “fixed” rather than felt. In short, The Cape that enables you to create the illusion that you’re perfect – or at least a perfect mom or dad.

Or maybe you put yours on first thing in the morning, while you’re still wiping the sleep out of your eyes – before you get to the bathroom mirror to make that critical first assessment of “you”.  Maybe your cape and the expectation of superhuman perfection that comes along with it are what “prompt” you to look past the multitude of visible and invisible characteristics that make “you” inherently beautiful to the rest of the world and, instead, demand “answers” as to why your hair, your eyes, your complexion, your teeth, your nose, your lips, the shape of your face or jaw line, your neck, your figure, your smile, your eye brows or lashes or some combination of the above haven’t magically “adjusted” or “corrected” themselves overnight so as to more closely resemble the “super image” you (all of us?) have in mind for ourselves – The Cape that makes us oblivious to the reality that NO ONE meets that standard.

Don’t get me wrong: Having worn The Cape in all of these settings over the years, I’ll be the first to attest to how intoxicating it can be, particularly when you actually appear to be performing at what by most objective measures is a “super human” level.  But, even on its “best” days, wearing The Cape is exhausting and, more often than not, it’s downright unhealthy.  Inevitably, we are reminded of our humanity (and all that goes along with it) – as well we should be – and we’re forced to let go of the illusion that The Cape instills in us.  Sometimes those reminders come in subtle, almost imperceptible ways – other times we are hit over the head with the Life-equivalent of a boulder of Kryptonite.  In each case, however, the message is the same:  There is a reason Superman/Superwoman have been relegated to fictional, indeed comic book, status – they’re fun to imagine, but no “fun” at all in real life.  Trust me on this one.

From here on out, “Clark” will be just fine – thank you!

Image credit: screenrant.com