I wrote the section below a few weeks ago. I wrote it in a moment of despair. I was, no doubt, suffering from the abusive self-talk that can creep in when I am not actively working on something that stimulates me. I present this to you as a preface to the breakthrough that was only possible through having reached this breaking point.
I used to be someone.
To read that sentence reviles me. Yet, it evokes a certain nostalgia. I am truly thankful to have arisen this morning with all of my faculties and to be given another day to ponder the profundities of this life. But I succumb to moments of weakness and self-doubt on occasion when left to my own devices. Often when I reflect on my life I cannot escape what seems like an endless loop of my missteps replayed in my mind as a sort of ‘low-light reel’. I am writing this in hopes of confronting what is actually bothering me.
There was a time when I took great pleasure in retelling my story of rags to riches. The self-imposed poverty that I chose in my late teens by leaving my comfortable, middle class home formed the backdrop to my rise from beggar to self-ascribed philanthropist. I was proud of my journey that began with moments that saw me eating out of a dumpster all the way to starting my own business…and I never wasted an opportunity to share my story.
Along the way, I was fortunate to have mentors to guide me. As a way of repaying this good fortune, I made sure to foster the growth and development of many people who regarded me as a mentor. If someone came to me for advice or assistance (and the good lord knows there were many who did), I felt it was my sacred obligation to help them in any way I could.
I found the satisfaction of helping people in need immeasurable. The feeling of significance when your words affect a change in someone’s thinking or actions is hard to describe. And to help someone from whom you stand to gain nothing is the truest expression of charity. For me, this sense of value that I offered to the world- a feeling that I was truly reaching people and making a difference in their lives- was worth the countless hours I spent offering my time/money/home/whatever I had to offer.
I was someone to whom people turned when they needed help. I was someone who knew something about a lot of things. I was able to connect people. I was part of a community. I was a leader. I was someone.
And then, all at once, I was no one. With a flash of light, I had nothing to offer. Suddenly, no one wanted anything to do with me. My phone, which once rang incessantly, was now as lifeless as a stone. Once trusted colleagues and associates became detractors. I was shunned from my social circles and locked out of my profession. The culmination of all of my efforts for nearly all of my adult life was isolation.
There is little comfort in assuming responsibility for the loss of all that I had created. But I have no one else to blame but me. Just as I had built my dream, so too had I destroyed it. The more I analyze what happened, the more disgusted I become with how I responded.
Years have passed and I have not found a way to let go fully. I am troubled by the feeling that I will never be able to recreate the success I once achieved. Are mediocrity and obscurity my new normal?
My ego is bruised and old age slows its healing. My heart is heavy under the weight of countless, as yet unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. Whereas once I could take a thought and bring it into action in moments, now I stutter and stumble.
I feel lost and alone, unable to find my footing. My grip is tenuous and failing. I cannot find the bottom. I do not do well on my own…
Wow, what a piece of crap that was…What a sorry sack of narcissistic self-pity. After reading that, it sounds like I might as well throw in the towel.
I realize, after suffering through reading (and re-reading) this cesspool of self-loathing, that it is necessary to acknowledge that I continue to carry some of the fear, disappointment and pain from those events with me (even still today).
I have allowed myself to hide behind a creative veil in the last several months. Through circumstances, I have couched myself in excuses for not doing the things I want to do. Among my mistakes has been hiding behind a fictitious writer’s block.
There is a reservoir of creative energy in me that has crested at just below the flood level. This causes me anxiety. When I do not share the ideas and projects that interest me, it’s as though these ideas begin to develop a sort of cabin fever in my head.
In my past lives, the flow of creative energy was the well-spring that fed my success. The urge to put my ideas and energy out into the world was too overwhelming to hold back while I edited or analyzed. I was coming from a place where my intention was to make the world better one interaction at a time. Being that I intended to leave everyone and everything better than I had found them, I was content to make mistakes. Any mistakes I made were completely without malice.
This approach permeated everything I set out to do; Whether it was as an employee offering suggestions and giving my very best effort or as a neighbor that wanted to make life better for our community. My mind was always brimming with ideas for improving whatever I saw.
Reading that passage hit me today:
A revelation came from vomiting out that sad sack of self-pity: The only impediment to my happiness/success/productivity is me getting off my ass and doing the work.
I am same person that made all of those things happen before. I am the same fearless adventurer. I still want to help people in the ways I can. The creative urge continues to push me to create.
But now I enjoy the benefit of experience. And more important than that experience is that I still maintain a fundamental belief in the essential goodness in people. I am willing to continue to help people who may take advantage of my best intentions. I am willing to give second and third chances when no one else will. I am willing to put myself out into the world without first considering “What’s in it for me?”.
I may not have as many friends as before, but the friends I have now I consider to be true friends. I may not have all of the things I once had, but what I do have I have earned and truly appreciate. I may not be where I want to be professionally or artistically, but I am happy that I woke up today and have another shot at changing it.
Here’s to today!