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:
- 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 …
Acceptance is the KEY to ALL my problems
There are NO justified resentments
Resentments are the dubious luxury of normal men and women. Resentments are a luxury that alcoholics cannot afford
We are POWERLESS over people, places and things
Today was a glorious day. Just GLORIOUS. Twenty degrees, sunny, a cool breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. It was so nice, that we all left home uber early and set off for the church to do The Work with others. A sure sign that Spring has Sprung, and not a day too late.
I made plans, and God laughed at me. (read: the baby slept all day long after not sleeping at all last night, so our venture to the park to play was put off). Boooo…
That gave me an extra hour to luxuriate in my bed before I HAD to get up.
We opened the church and got set up, so The Work could commence. I took those pesky egg timers and tossed them into the trash, never to be seen again. When my chair walked in he went looking for them, and in not finding them, looked at me askance, and I said, “No More Egg Timers EVER” (In my best Joan Crawford imitation).
20 points if you get that reference…
We read from Living Sober, and the chapter on ANGER.
We sat a good number AND we made it all the way around, with time to spare. I had spoken with my chair as to his ability to run the meeting long, because, it is his discretion, as chair to be able to do so. Running long isn’t a problem, when the discussion is going somewhere, and people don’t usually complain. Those who do can just suck an egg.
I mused on the topic as it went around the room. And I thought about the past. They say that when we point the finger at someone because they wronged us, we can also be reminded that in most cases, it was US who started this whole thing.
But there was/is a time, when people wrong us, and that had/has nothing to do with us.
When my mother, on our last conversation, blamed me for all of her problems and cited my birth to the date I left home as the period that I caused her ten lifetimes of grief, that had nothing to do with ME and had everything to do with HER.
She made the choice to lay back and take it. And it was her choice to carry and give birth, and then decide to keep me. That may have been a choice she was forced into by family, but it was a choice nonetheless. How can you blame a child for ones problems to begin with?
The truth is that I grew up in that abusive, alcoholic home. And what was dealt to me was above and beyond what should be dealt a child in any case.
It was a good thing that I took it and decided against retaliating, because my father could well have been hurt, terribly, and I would have ended up in the slammer.
My parents live in their resentments. I learned how they worked early on. They would cop a resentment in anger and respond with “Watch this, I’ll show you!”
Then proceed to shut your light off, put you in the dark and ignore you for life.
My parents are guilty of many things. Harassment, Denial, Homophobia, Hatred, so forth and so on. They denied me things that a family should never deny a child, young adult, human being.
And how did I respond to this treatment, “I’ll show you.”
For every action an equal and opposite reaction occurs.
When I made my life changing decisions, I was sober. Both times. I made a conscious decision to show them, “I’ll show you!”
Was that right or wrong ?
Self preservation decisions, are just that self preservation.
I pissed a lot of people off the first time I was sober, because I may not have had a drink in a while, but I sure as shit was not as sober as I could have been, (read: The Work). What I did not know then, directly affected what happened next.
I drank and drugged again.
Did I drink or drug out of anger, No not really. The book says, that sometimes anger is a direct result of fear, named or unnamed. I definitely drank out of fear. Being alone, and facing ones own death, is a place of fear, DEFINITELY.
I survived that fate. Famously.
The past is the past. And for a long time, (read: For over a decade in sobriety this time) I lived with rocks in a sack that I was carrying around, never realizing that they were there.
Some say, that if we let go all those rocks we are carrying, the pain and anger that is deep seeded, and internal, subconsciously, when that surfaces, we think, Who will we be without that baggage we are carrying around for no good reason?
Which is why subconsciously, we tend to carry shit for ages, before we get permission in sobriety, in steps Six and Seven, to finally LET IT ALL GO.
Been there, Done that.
I am not my past, But did the past define who I was, YES, definitely. Those moments in the past when I surmounted infirmity, sickness, alcoholism, abandonment, all those times that were hard, I conquered. And yes, that is part of my story. And it defined who I was for ages.
When I moved here, I came with a clean slate. I started a new life, in a new place, with new people, and a new life, sober, a second time. I could write my own story now.
I moved away from, and put down, all that shit that tied me to misery and pain.
I have been angry in sobriety. I have lost my temper and said wrong words. I have stormed out of meetings, vowing never to return. I copped resentments in sobriety that lasted for years. I have not been a perfect sober human, but who is a perfect sober human being?
I don’t know perfect people.
I have also learned the hard way, that when something affects me, I have a choice, to entertain it, or not. If a situation comes up where I can either speak or hold my tongue, for better or worse, it is good advice, just to keep my mouth shut.
If it does not effect you directly or has bearing on your life, let it go.
The book talks about restraint of tongue and pen. And how often am I guilty of committing that sin ?
- Does it have to do with me ?
- How do I feel about it ?
- Does it really matter ?
- Do I really need to get involved ?
- Am I acting out of EGO or LOVE ?
- Should I just walk away and keep my mouth SHUT ?
Feelings come, and feelings go. We have the choice to entertain them or not. And what alcoholic, doesn’t like to wallow in anger and resentment, just because it “Feels so Good.”
Oy, I am getting too old for this shit.
I want to be sober in mind, though and action. Which means that I need to be “In the Middle of the Boat.”
Which means I need the work, others, my sponsor and a meeting.
If I am connected to OTHERS, there is no time to be in ME.
Anger and resentment are luxuries that I cannot afford.
Mother Nature, as of late, has been having some serious PMS.
The weather was nice and warm, then temperatures plummeted into negative territory. Yesterday it SNOWED all afternoon and well into the night. Today, it was cold, wet, very windy, and it was pouring down rain all day into tonight.
And I had things to do today, but that really did not matter.
We were told that the water would be off until 4 p.m. this afternoon, because they were working on the buildings water pumping systems. There are two. From the first floor to the tenth, and the other for the higher floors.
Knowing the water wasn’t coming on, I slept in a bit. At 2 p.m. the water came back on. I flushed the toilet, and ran the shower to bleed the pipes. But I was hearing water running above my head, and all around the bathroom.
It seems, the pipes burst on the 19 floor above us.
In December, the apartment building spent thousands of dollars renovating our bathroom, as well as a few others. The day after they finished, my upstairs neighbor, flooded his bathroom, and we had more water damage coming from the ceiling around the seams where the walls meet the ceiling. (read: All brand new dry wall and paint).
This afternoon, I am hearing water gurgling in the walls themselves. The the water broke through our ceiling, and began to bubble up under the paint. Running down through the wall system inside the paint, and at floor level was coming up through the floors, where the floor meets the walls.
We have an air vent in the bathroom, that leads out through the balcony to send air into the bathroom from outside. Now it was a waterfall. In the end there was two inches of water in my bathroom.
My bathroom, is inside the bedroom proper. Water was coming down the walls, and through to the carpet in the bathroom. Along my bathroom wall, inside the bedroom proper, I have my books stacked against the wall.
The bedroom, closet and bathroom flooded out.
They got soaked wet. I had to throw the ones that were on the bottom away because they were ruined.
The access hatch to our water works is inside the bedroom closet where the clothes hang on that particular wall. Water was coming through the wall, into the closet. All of our shirts got soaked. The carpet was flooded.
I ran downstairs in a panic because the water was pouring out of the ceiling fast and furiously. It seems that the upper pipes burst and flooded several floors, bathrooms.
Eventually the super came up and vacuumed the water, but the carpet is still wet, and I came home, to find towels on the floor, that are soaked, because water is still leaking into the bathroom from above. UGH !!!
They took pictures of the water damage and said that it would all be fixed, AGAIN !
I had an appointment at the bank at 4 p.m., then I was supposed to meet a friend before the meeting, THEN we opened a new meeting on the M.A. side, just a couple of stops up the Metro, that started at 7:30.
God laughed at me…
Oh really, you made plans huh? Well, I have plans of my own for you instead.
I had to move all my books, into the living room, where they are sitting at this hour. I had to empty the closet so that they could vacuum water up, then put everything back when they finished.
I needed to go grocery shopping, at some point. And it was pouring rain.
I really am not willing to go out in the pouring rain to do anything.
But I had to shop. Because I have plans tomorrow afternoon that I have to make.
So I went and shopped. The cleaners came and did their work.
It was now 6 p.m. I thought that I would hit the Thursday meeting instead because it was close, but my friend cancelled on me, so I was clear to hit the new meeting like I was supposed to all along.
I hit the Metro, up two stops, and got lost coming out an entrance I never use, so I was all discombobulated. I walked in circles for a bit, then found my way. I got the the church, and all the doors were locked, the parking lot was flooded and snow was piled up in ruts.
I fell on my ass, in a cold, wet puddle of rain and snow.
Finally I found an open door, and then found the hall they rented us.
Aside from the folks who attend the Mon/Sat meeting, we had two visitors to the new space. And we had what we call a “Topic Jar” meeting. Which is an anonymous drop in the tub topic and we pull them out randomly and discuss.
That was a good format.
Aside from the flood, and being royally fucked mentally and emotionally, I hit a meeting, because that’s what I needed after the afternoon that took place.
It is supposed to rain/flurry tomorrow and Saturday. UGH …
I have a massage on the East End at 3:30, and a meeting set with a friend at 5:30. We will see how that all works out.
I’m not holding my breath …
Until tomorrow …