Water Spout, Red Butte Garden
I’m coming up on the big anniversary. Every year, February 12 reminds me that the slightest changes in my past could have had drastic impacts on my present. By now, I could have been bones.
What have I learned while reflecting 28 times upon this morbid event?
1. Forgiveness takes more strength than judgment does—but it’s worth it.
It’s so easy to hate or label everyone. It’s easy to hold that grudge and never examine what that feeling does to you. I suppose that’s why so many people do it. I don’t believe that being hateful is honorable or vigilant. I think it’s a detriment that no one needs.
I was recently told that my tendency to care about the rights of people who have been convicted of violent crimes such as the ones I have personally experienced was a sign of my low self-esteem. I was painted as a traitor to people in my situation, too weak to defend myself and stand up for condemning all convicts categorically. This, I absolutely deny. By refusing to paint every face in the world with the mask of my abusers, I chose my well-being as my primary concern. I decided that my life is important enough to take back from the fear and hatred of living as a victim. That is strength.
I don’t love the people who have harmed me in my life, but I don’t wish them ill or rejoice in learning of their suffering. What would I have to gain from such a thing? I would rather make the effort to let go of my desire for vindication than to continue to be involved with negative influences in my past. Being unencumbered beats being right, sometimes.
Perhaps the ultimate goal is to feel empathy and caring for them. I wouldn’t say that I’m there, yet.
2. It’s awkward, it hurts, and I have to do it.
Remembering my worst behaviors used to keep me awake at night. I would fixate on the dumb thing I said, a joke that didn’t go over well, or a mistake I had made, and my brain would parade the moment like an off-key lounge act, shimmying in disgrace all throughout the night. Can a person die from acute douche chills? I say no, because I would have by now.
I have learned the value of detached observation of my memories. When my bipolar is in remission, I re-read my depression journal entries and my Facebook posts. It’s like watching the game film of my worst behavior to find out where things fell apart. I am developing an emotional “muscle memory” so that I can recognize the onset of a mood swing before it carries me away.
I will never be able to stifle the effects of my genetic imbalance completely. I know this. To be honest, I write more and better when I’m a little bit down. I get more physical labor done when I’m a little bit up. I have not experienced a relapse, and I feel like that has to do with sticking to my medication and paying close attention to those slips in mood that have no external cause.
I have to be observant. Honestly, though? I don’t think the practice would hurt anyone.
3. Maybe you don’t want what you want.
This is the part where I start sounding suspiciously metaphysical for someone who is purportedly atheist. I’m sorry, science friends. I know no other way to explain this concept that seems to prove itself to me time after time.
I wanted to die. I wanted it very much. By most accounts, I really should have succeeded in getting my way—but I didn’t. Everything fell into place and I failed spectacularly. Chance was against me. So, I didn’t get what I wanted, but I got something else and that worked out fairly well.
I wanted for many things in my life, and got only few. I wanted my marriage to work. I wanted a job that I didn’t get. When I was young, failing to get what I wanted was such a major catastrophe. Then, I learned that life just oozed its way to equilibrium and every disaster led to another opportunity or alternative.
So, I say now that it’s better to abandon expectations. Don’t wish for what you want; instead, hope for the best. Don’t fight against obstacle after struggle after challenge. When it’s the right thing for you, and you are headed for that balance that you really need, the path will make sense. It will open up for you.
Things fall into place just fine without you trying to push.
4. There is no timeline!
Live as though this is the only life you get.
When I was in my 20s, I always said that when I became independently wealthy or self-employed, I would have blue hair and wear whatever I choose. Then, I reached 40, and did those things anyway. I am happy with that decision because waiting for “x condition” to do “y thing” is absurd to me. Do you want to be a writer or comedian or singer some day? Really? No, you don’t. You want to do those things now. That’s why you think about them. So, do them.
On the flip side of that, don’t expect to have at 30 the same things your 40- and 50-year-old friends have. Or the younger ones, for that matter. Your experience is yours. Theirs is entirely different. Don’t drown yourself in dissatisfaction of your own making because you haven’t acquired or achieved the same things as others. We don’t all start at the same line at the same time. Nor do we reach the finish together.
If you are interested in hearing more about the event to which I refer, or anything else about me, feel free to pick up a Kindle copy of Mother’s House Payment. I mean, it’s literally free of charge Feb 12 – 16, 2015 (and cheap the rest of the time).