There. I've said it. Or, at least I've typed it. And as soon as I publish this entry it will be set in digital stone for all eternity.
And I can't believe it's taken me this long to admit it to myself.
It's kind of weird to see what vestiges of denial linger on after we strip away what has been directing our minds, bodies, and spirits for what seems like forever. They hang around like that last party guest who you find snoring on the couch as you head on to your room to pass out. You're not as gone as they are, but you're gone enough to just let it go. It would be way more trouble to wake him up and forcibly extricate him from the premises. So, maybe you even throw a blanket on him and turn the lights off, which may or may not elicit a groan of thanks directed your way ( which is most likely in response to the act of kindness more than a direct acknowledgement to the person kind enough to have performed it). And then you sleep. And in the morning they may or may not still be there.
This time they were right where I left them. Ugh.
I was called on it last night. I'm not going to go into who or where or the surrounding circumstances of it all. Suffice to say it was said by someone who knows me better than just about anyone in the world. We have a long and storied history. It's been rocky at times, but it always seems to work out, and I can always count on him to give me his honest opinion whether I asked for it or not.
He said to me, in the middle of a conversation about appreciation of music (after I provided a decidedly petulant statement), "That was a while ago ... that was when you were an optimist ... ."
And I just stood there and immediately became defensive. I think I even sputtered.
"But ... but I am an optimist. I ... I'm just being practical."
And it went on from there, with not much more to the conversation that needs to be conveyed in this post. But I just realized--after being moderately upset about it through the few hours before sleep came last night and now--that he was right. I'm not an optimist. An optimist--which my computer dictionary defines as "a person with a hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something"--is not the way I would describe myself at all. I think many situations in life are destined for disaster (or are just flawed from the start) and it is simple human nature to just let them fall apart and dissolve into the rug under our feet and then run. "Whoops! Did I do that?," (looks both ways) "I'm outta here!"
I am, however, optimistic about the outcome of situations that have been undertaken with intellect, compassion, and understanding. I believe in optimism, and I try to utilize it when I can, but I don't feel that because I am optimistic that things will turn out okay. Things will only turn out okay if the circumstances they occur in allow it, and we, as individuals, can only do so much to influence that outcome. With indifference, malaise, and insolence the world falls apart. It's happening all around us every day, every hour, every minute. It just happened somewhere just then. But I'll do my best, in my little part of the world, to counter it with my actions, and hope for the best. It's the least--and the most--I can do.
But I don't think he was totally right about me formerly being an optimist in the first place. And this is helping me understand a whole lot of stuff that had been simmering right under the surface.
You see, when someone lives as self destructive a lifestyle as yours truly they develop many ways to cope with intentional negative behavior. I, after years of self-abuse, developed a m.o. which consisted of not only looking only at only the good in something, but oftentimes fast forwarding over the intricacies of what was inherently wrong, essentially ignoring the simple errors which, with a more scrutinizing eye, I could have fixed along the way. Subsequently, I never really learned how to find a happy medium. I gave in real quick. I just brushed off the negativity and swept it into a giant pile in the closet. It built up and built up and became unsightly. I covered it with giant blankets and shoved and jammed it into the corner and then I piled more stuff on it in an attempt at projecting an image of stability.
At least I think I did. I can't really be too sure about a lot of things I did, said, thought, or felt over the last few years.
I just remember, more often than not, saying, "Argh ... well, this is just what I do ... there's no way around it." Or, "at least I'm not as bad off as ______ ... it's okay ... at least I didn't ______ ...", and so on. Extreme, forced optimism combined with finely honed rationalization. With that mix (and a substance abuse problem) I'm going to have to say that I feel lucky to be alive.
But I know enough about the human psyche to understand that what I and my friends took as optimism was really just a way of clinging to the merry-go-round rails of a human being spinning out of control. I don't think anyone who knew me the way I used to be would deny that I had some severe problems. I did what I could to hide the most unattractive byproducts of it all, but after a while the symptoms become the subject and what one thinks is successful subterfuge is in fact only deceiving its host.
And I should say that it wasn't all false optimism. I was raised by a family who was happy with so many aspects of life. My mother never stopped encouraging me in my efforts in the arts, as well as my many unsuccessful attempts to clean up my life. I was provided the best possible accommodations available to grow and become a content, positive, and nurturing human being. My family made certain that I was always aware that I was loved to the fullest, in hopes that I would carry on that spirit of joy and vitality. And for the most part it worked. I have a good life filled with exceptionally unique and thoughtful friends.
But learning what I'm really like under all the armor I used to wear is a huge part of my sobriety. It puts everything in perspective. It provides focus as it gives a point of reference.
So, that leaves the question: What am I?
I suppose I am still learning on a daily basis what kind of person I am. For now I'll just settle for being whatever will bring about a positive outcome. And please note that this is different from believing things will always work out in the future. It's simply just avoiding the alternative unattractive eventualities from careless decision making. I don't have a catch-all. I don't have a consistent m.o., and that's a good thing. Because that leaves the door open for all kinds of personality leanings. That's the part of living life sober that I think scares a lot of people--they feel like they're going to find out what they are really like under it all and they're not going to like who they find. And not even necessarily that, but that they're not going to be able to do anything about it--that they're stuck with it.
The only eventualities a sober person is stuck with is knowing that they will never be able to fully describe themselves. And there's a certain amount of security in that idea that I think I will always look forward to.
That may be the optimist in me talking, but there's a big crowd inside this cranium of mine, and it's hard to know who said what sometimes.
Thanks for reading.