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Posts tagged “Compassion

Essay: Vulnerability

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It is Tuesday, a day off. I watched a You Tube Video about Candice Neistat, with Bryan Elliott, which lead to a TED talk with Brene Brown, about vulnerability.

Bryan shared a quote from Brene that said:

“The depth that we are willing to be vulnerable is the measure of our courage.”

When He heard that quote, it floored him. When I heard the quote from him, I had to go to the source to understand its context.

I’ve been working to understand what the entire last year has been about, and why things panned out the way they did, and I think it comes down to being totally vulnerable, honestly and authentically.

Over my life, there have been times when I have been brutally honest, and totally vulnerable. Take for instance, finding out I was sick and was going to die.

Utter devastation makes one vulnerable, because we have lost control, we are not in control, and we end up, out of control, in many ways.

In a sense, I was too vulnerable for my own good, because in that vulnerability to be honest and authentic, scared everyone away. I was in the mix, and my friends and family could not handle the honest, gut wrenching truth.

The person that I was truly vulnerable with, was Todd. He was humble and a force to be reckoned with, when it came to my dignity and my life. Over those years, I shed a great many tears in front of him, with him, and because of him. That is something that I can say, changed my life.

A little while later, I stood up, in front of a room full of alcoholics like me and was vulnerable, once again. I alienated them, and they asked me to go away. So much for wearing my death on my sleeve.

Imagine having your heart crushed by someone when you are sharing the deepest darkest fears of your soul. In the attempt to recover from numbing your emotions for so long.

Brene says that you cannot selectively numb certain emotions, and not affect the others along with them.

In sobriety, I have been vulnerable to a certain degree. And it has taken almost all of my sobriety, to finally tap that well of vulnerability, like I have tapped over the past year.

I may not have tapped it, but it certainly tapped me.

People who are authentic:

  • Have the courage to be Imperfect
  • They are Compassionate to themselves first, then to others
  • They believe connection is the result of Authenticity
  • And they Believe that they are Worthy
  • That fully embracing their Vulnerability makes them Beautiful
  • And that Relationships are Fundamental parts of existence for us all
  • Connection is why we are here on earth. To Connect and not be Alone

Brene goes on to say that Vulnerability is at the core of:

  • Shame
  • Fear
  • And the Struggle for Worthiness
  • Which is the Birthplace of Joy, Creativity, Belonging and Love

I can see, in hindsight, where I shut down that part of myself. Not necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is. You might think that I was stoic, on certain occasions, but I don’t think it was stoicism, but maybe fear, numbness and an inability to articulate what was going on in my head.

I’ve spoken about those points in life where I was totally vulnerable and sunk in a pit of despair. I can name them, because the list is very short.

  • The day I identified James’s body at the morgue after his suicide
  • The night I told Todd that I was going to die
  • The day I said goodbye to Todd
  • And the emotional response I had to the Orlando Massacre

The last episode was the worst, in many, many years. I had not cried, as I did, since James’s death, the many nights I cried on Todd’s shoulder, struggling with death and his insistence on my survival. Many tears were shed during those two years of intensive work on myself, at Todd’s direction.

That Tuesday night, at the meeting, when I fell apart, it was a cathartic response, to the story that we were reading from the back of the Big Book, the emotional state I was in, because of the massacre, and the fact that only one human being thought to call to see if I was ok.

Then the reaction of my sponsor who humiliated me and accused me of expecting to be treated differently than the others in the room, when all I wanted was a little compassion, that my fellows and my sponsor could not accommodate.

Instead of understanding and compassion, for my vulnerability, I was humiliated and shut down, by people who were incapable of understanding.

I had friends, who were long sober. Whom I thought loved me. They cared for me and supported me, and did charitable acts for me, inside of an organization that I belong to, that I have not set foot in since many months ago.

I ran my steps with a woman I trusted. I told her my deepest and darkest secrets, and she knew my story, and had been involved with my sobriety for a very long time. When I got through my steps she said to me that I was angry and that she and the other women were afraid of me and that I should, in essence, go away …

I raised my voice at a business meeting, then ensued a mass running for the hills by my friends, fellows and sponsees. I had a rough night, and got punished for it with silence and judgment by people I spent an inordinate amount of time with. And when it came time to speak to that truth, I did so. Which probably alienated them all the way gone.

So much for being vulnerable.

I have some fatal flaws that always get in the way of my relationships with others.

  • I have an idealistic belief that every human being has ONE redeemable quality, that lends to forgiveness and love.
  • I believe in people, from the get go.
  • I trust people, from the get go, which stems from the rooms and my belief that most people are good.
  • I am also judgmental of some. I can spot bullshit and arrogant men, and people who would do me harm, at 50 paces
  • Living with AIDS gives me certain perspective on people, a talent I learned to save my own peril from those who would do harm to me.

This is what I have been feeling and experiencing over the past year. And now I understand it as well.

The price I paid for vulnerability was the loss of many people in my life, who either could not stand my depth of honesty or their understanding and commitment to compassion and love.

Such is life in the world of the alcoholic.

I also know today, that resentment and anger, pointed towards people,is sometimes pointless and wastes valuable energy towards others, when I should be pointing that energy towards myself. And that I need to be a bit more compassionate, understanding and forgiving, and also have a sense of pity for certain people in my life.

It is not always my fault for the reaction or beliefs of certain people in my life. I did not create them, and I am not responsible for their reactions to me, and/or towards me.

Not everyone we know, Not every one we meet, and Not everyone we spend time with are meant to be in our lives forever. In each interaction, there is a lesson to be learned about them and about ourselves.

This has been a year of learning about myself and others, in regards to the way others react to what is going on in my life, in the sense of honesty, integrity, vulnerability and authenticity.

It is true that, for the most part I am totally honest in some ways, but reserved in other ways. I don’t necessarily share my opinions, but when I do, they certainly cause people to look at me with second glances.

Hence, the loss of so many friends and fellows over the past year.

I get a sense that vulnerability comes in waves, as I am able to deal with them. And it seemed to me that they came fast and furiously for a while. It was BANG, BANG, BANG, one after the other.

That dam, failed. And vulnerability came.

I had no way to stop it once it began.

Not sure if I am done with it, but it makes sense now.

We shall see …


Sunday Sundries – Warning, Emotional Overload Cliff Approaching !!!

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The good thing is, I know what to do.

The doctor who came to see me almost at once did not assail me with any new doctrines; he made sure that I had a need and that I wanted that need filled, and little by little I learned how my need could be met…

All of my needs are met …

It is also a good thing, that I have the support system I do, the people in my life that I have, a sponsor who I am connected to, that I have friends who really care, and family that does love me. Not to mention rooms to go to.

Many of my friends are afraid that soon, I will suffer an emotional breakdown. That the emotional overload cliff is looming … As long as I have you in my life, that isn’t going to happen.

I learned a long time ago, not to dwell too long on emotions that were toxic. Like any good alcoholic, bottling up, ignoring and denying emotions was what we did when we drank and used. We just doused/drugged the pain, but that pain eventually returned and usually with a vengence.

If I stopped too long to actually think about what was going on with me and how I was feeling, I am sure, I would have imploded by the impact of such pain.

You call me surivor. You tell me that I am amazing. You remind me what I have survived and just how strong I am. You also tell me of my faith in God. And I am told that one day, I will give myself permission to feel some kind of emotional feeling.

I know what happened to me as a child, as a young adult, and now as a man. And to tell me that I am delusional is just plain wrong. To tell me that my life does not matter and that nobody cares, and that I am unforgiveable, is utterly sick.

And reprehensible… repugnant …

You don’t know how broken hearted I feel. My heart aches …

You don’t know that pain and agony I feel in my soul, having had watched all of my friends get sick and die. You have no idea what it felt like to watch families, husbands, wives, friends, churches, employers, toss their sick significant others into the streets and leave them there to die alone.

In speaking to my cousin last night, she related a story to me that I had never heard before about my parents. Shortly after I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994, my Aunt and Cousin were in Florida for an event, my parents were there as well.

My mother told them that I was sick and going to die, without my permission, not that she even thought about that really, but she took it upon herself to Out me to family before I had the opportunity to do that myself in my own way and in my own time.

My Cousin Sandy turns to my mother and says, “Jeremy is sick and is going to die, what are we going to do for him?” My mother turns to her and says …

“What do you mean, What are we going to do for him?”

What she really meant to say was that she wasn’t going to do anything for me.

And she never did.

As a child my mother never stopped my father from beating me up. She never defended me, because if she did, he would go after her. My brother never came to my side either. When I got sick and was going to die, and I went to them for support and love, they turned their backs on me like everyone else had to the hundreds of friends I lost in that war.

My mother is a failure of a woman, a mother, and as a friend. My parents were never my friend. My father had his good points, and so did she. They gave us everything we ever wanted and more, so I must give them that.

Can we all say together … This is ABJECT FAILURE !

Todd was wise, when I got sick, to give me the tools he had given me. He knew very well, where I would go, If I remained in my head for any amount of time.

So his advice to me, every day was the same:

When you come to work, whatever problems you have and whatever emotions you are feeling are to be left outside the door, no questions asked. When you cross the threshold of that door, all I want you to do is your job, and nothing more.

Can you even understand what this little piece of advice did for me?

For however long I was at the bar, inside those walls, I did not have to worry about being sick, or even dying. I’m not saying that I did not feel anything, because there were nights when I was an emotional basket case, certifiably !!

In our relationship dynamic, I turned my will and my life over to Todd, (read: God) on a daily basis.

While my friends were drugging and drinking, and killing themselves quicker, I was skating just above the water, on a cushion of love that was complete. It was the best and the worst times of my life, in equal measure.

I survived. And that is no small feat. I fucking lived.

In the end, I really do not think about the horror of what I saw, and I don’t sit here and ponder my own mortality. Because if I do that, I will get lost in my head, and in recovery we learn that to be inside our heads for any period of time alone, is not suggested.

I’m alive and that is all that matters.

  • How I got here, was one day at a time.
  • It began with one day, tacked on to one day,
  • tacked on to a week,
  • then another, until I could tack together a month.
  • Then it was a string of months.

Finally, I reached the day I was supposed to die, and I was still alive.

The rest they say is history.

What do I feel right now? I feel Red Hot Poker Anger. If it were my decision and I had the opportunity, I would fucking loose my marbles on my parents.

The one thing is, and I have to remember this, is, that I will never get my day in court. I will never get to say all those things I want to say to certain people. I would give my ass to be able to one day have the ability to say …

You have no idea the life I lived, and the things I witnessed, and the pain and grief I went through burying all of my friends. You have no idea how hurt I am that you fucked off on me and you turned your back on me when I needed love, compassion and care. You have no idea what true abandonment did to me. What it did to my friends, and how they went to their deaths alone.

ABANDONED !!!!

My mother then reminded me yesterday that getting sick was my fault and that I did this to myself and that I am getting God’s revenge for being gay. She mentioned twice, that according to her, my actions are unforgiveable. She kept repeating to me, “your actions…”

What kind of God, puts humans like this in our lives, only to say to us that we must pray for them, and forgive them, and to love them anyways? Why? Because God, Jesus, asks us to forgive seventy times seven. He tells us to turn the other cheek.

Pope Francis tells us that God always forgives. He never tires of forgiving, it is us that err, in failing to ask to be forgiven.

Rafa, tells me that one day there will be a reckoning. That one day they will reap what they sowed. Forgiveness is not earned just because.

Penitence is required to recieve forgiveness.

My parents and my brother, are resolute in the ways they think. It was all on me, it is all my fault, and they owe no debt nor compassion towards me.

I got what I deserved.

Yes. I know what I did. I can still see it to this very day. What happened happened. What we did not know, we did not know. And before I got tossed into the deep end of the pool, AIDS was not a topic of conversation, not that I remember.

I am not blaming anyone else, nor am I asking for pity. I am only human.

I did not have time to be angry, or point fingers, I was terribly sick, and Todd did everything he could do to keep me alive. And it worked.

All of my decisions, all of my actions, were made, because that’s where I was at that specific time on the continuum. All things considered, for a long time, I lived to drink, and I drank to live, because I was taught, TAUGHT that alcohol was my way in. Nobody else offered me any other thoughts.

It was good that I had Todd for the time I had him. Because now, I am sober a long time. I grew up a great deal. I feel every day. Every day I look in the mirror and I thank God for Todd. I can’t begin to tell you what my heart feels when I think about this at length. I just want to sob and be in his arms again.

He gave me love. He made me feel important and he made me feel like I could do anything with the training I was given. And I have that today.

I don’t have time to be angry.

I don’t have time to pine about shit I don’t need to think about, (at any great length).

Revenge ? One day ! God will avenge me. I hope that I see that day come.

My mother has to live with herself. She has to live with what she said to me, not that that is going to matter to her, because she is the delusional one, not me. AND she hung up on me a second time.

I wonder how she lives with herself.

That is one fucked up self imposed prison she has there. That is a place, I would not wish on anyone. Nor a place I would ever visit.

Resentments and anger are wasted energy. People who feed on that and live in that space are pitiable.

Yes, I am angry and heartbroken.

I was reminded last night at a meeting about humility.

It is not beneath me to say I need help, nor is it beneath me to ask for help, and to say, that in certain moments I am weak, and to admit that I need my friends sometimes more than they need me. But they don’t know that.

Rafa does …

I get what I gave. God returns to me the love I have given in spades.

How do I conquer my anger? By loving my friends and my family.

I’ve learned that negative energy and negative feelings are extremely powerful agents. And that if you retain negativity, and you internalize it, it will destroy and kill you.

Very slowly.

I’ve learned how to turn that energy into useful positive energy, and that is how I remain alive to this day. Every ounce of power I can put behind the pills I take, equals supercharged positivity.

BANG !

There is no time to be sad, mad or angry. Why, What good is it ?

I spend my days doing good for those people I love. That is a much better place to live than waiting for revenge.

Vengence is mine sayeth the Lord …