Really, I truly mean this from the bottom of my heart. It's so much easier to go through my life now facing its daily battles, its seemingly insurmountable challenges, moral quandaries, incongruous rules and regulations, mystifying inconsistencies and quirky interpersonal button pushing competitions.
Because all of these frustrating facets of life seemed to just become a smudge on the window to my world when I stopped trying to kill myself.
Not to be too dramatic.
For so many years before I smartened up and quit drinking I would pretty much wake up, go to work (ugh!), barely scrape by until the end of the day, hit the package store and begin the ritual. It took a little bit of me away each time I did it. But when I was in the middle of it I truly believed it was just the way I was destined to live. I had seen it in enough movies and on television--I had read enough Bukowski and even seen some of it first hand from my friends who could tell me all about what I did the night before when they were loaded beyond belief.
I was the one with the deathwish.
Now, I didn't start writing this post to get all dark and depressing. I started writing this because of a conversation I had with a friend yesterday--an uplifting one. We were speaking about how amazing it is to wake up on a regular basis and get ready for work, travel the obstacle course that is our transportation system, do what we each do, come home, and go out at night and really only be worried about the randomness of the world of everything that exists outside our own heads.
Because for the longest time what was inside out heads was the most dangerous thing for us bar none.
But so true. I know for a fact that if I had let the gray matter in my skull keep hold of the wheel for any longer than it had I would not be here to write these things that some have said are inspirational and/or entertaining. I know I would not have been able to travel the world as I have with my musical group. I know I would have missed out on helping my aunt like I did as she was preparing to die. And I sure as hell know that I would not have been around to meet my true love and develop parts of my self in my heart and in my head that I had often wished I could someday aspire to.
That said, I would have most likely never admitted it was me who was measuring, cutting, installing, and shutting the many doors I had come to believe were erected by everyone and anyone else years and years before.
I was just the way I was.
I would have never come to the realization that now the only real and present danger to my existence solely and independently exists on the other side of my eyes and ears. It's all out there. There are a million busses careening down busy roads waiting for the wrong person to cross at the wrong time. There are robberies going on right now and there are, unfortunately, people who will get caught in the middle of it and may likely end up in trouble. There are wars occurring in multiple parts of the world that ensnare the innocent and the brave in its grasp and turn out wounded, disturbed, displaced people. And that's assuming you survive it. There are probably as many ways for someone to end up in peril as there are people in the world. But there is a solace that I can take in knowing that there is one unfortunate outcome that--as long as I stay clean and sober--I will never have to endure.
And that, of course, is self-destruction.
Today I live defensively.
It's not me anymore that's going the wrong way down the highway.
It's not me anymore who's adding a minute amount of poison to my food every day.
It's not me anymore who's peering over the edge of a cliffside wondering how far down it is.
It's not me.
And I understand this because it most certainly was me for almost half of my life, whether intentionally or not. I was that guy. I was laying plans daily to make it possible for me to quit this whole game right in the middle and leave my pieces on the board. And if you ask people who knew me then they'll tell you that I always seemed like such a happy person ... until I got drunk.
But this situation, I'm sure, is common for people in general, not just alcoholics. I realize that my particular problem manifested itself in a way that was easy to observe, but I'm guessing that it happens to many of us to a certain degree which we may not even notice. I'm not saying everybody has a subliminal death wish. What I am saying is that many of us live our lives with an extra added risk. Whether it be the unchecked obesity that eventually took my mother from me, or the self-imposed stress that added to my aunt's risk of cancer--taking her from me as well--many of us have problems that are so much greater than the odds of a car accident or a stray bullet. They are greater than the possibility of a tornado or a landslide, electrocution or a runaway semi.
Because we do them and we don't have to.
And when I realized this not too long ago--that I don't have to worry about me killing me as much as I used to--the world took on a much different hue.
I began to be a little bit more aware of what was going on around me in the lane I was driving in ... and a little less worried that I forgot so and so's name at the party.
I called in a professional to fix the electrical wiring in my 19th century house to lessen the risk of fire ... and put behind me the regret of having never allowed my mother to see me live life as a sober man.
I started to look left, right, and left again, like they showed me when I was too young to realize the clear and present danger of things bigger than I was ... and allowed the line at the grocery store to move at its own pace rather than letting its frustration raise my blood pressure and take away even a few precious minutes of my life.
I know that I can call it quits at any time--we all can. But there is something magical about knowing that that's not what you desire--to really understanding that you want to be here. And not only that but I get a real rush out of waking up every day and being aware that I have to work at it to stay alive. That no one ever gets a guarantee that they'll live long enough to get a degree, or meet the person of their dreams, or star in a movie, or write a timeless melody ... and that's where it all begins to become self-evident and the sky opens up, the sun wraps you in its yellow linen, and you wake up, up, up a little bit more each and every minute until you're standing straight and tall, looking over all you have, can, and are able to do, and you know there's more to come if you live defensively and pay more attention to the world around you and less to the buzzing beehive behind your eyes.
I'm not worried so much about me anymore ... but that's only because I now know I don't have to.
Thanks for reading,