That’s Why I’m Here: On Vulnerability and Courage and Gratitude

Some days I am so steeled against the world, it’s a wonder I even feel the rain on my face.  Other days, like today, I am cracked right open.  So raw and vulnerable that I may not function as a human being but rather just a ball of electric feelings so exposed to the elements that a gentle breeze will crackle and bring me to my knees.

Feeling heady after a weekend so full of joy and normalcy and the American Dream that my ego could say, hey, I’m just like everybody else!  Then I get slapped in the face with a reminder that while my life from the outside may look normal, I will never be normal.  I am wired differently.  I’m so thankful for these reminders.

The same walk we do every morning on work days, through a lovely neighborhood with great big trees and old well cared for homes, in slow motion we saw it.

The aftermath of a crash.

My heart jumped right out of my chest and into my throat threatening to burst right through my eyeballs.

That’s why I’m here.  To be reminded.

What we saw first, what I saw first was her.  A woman physically fine, walking around on her phone outside of her SUV.  As we walked a bit further, we saw skid marks and a bumper.  Further yet – spanning about 5 houses and yards – a police car and car tracks up towards the homes, certainly on the sidewalks.  Right where we walk multiple times every day. Where so many people walk multiple times each day.

There was a tree down where the car marks drop over it.  There were more broken off car parts.

As my husband and I walked, all the possible scenarios raced through my head.  But first I said, we could have been walking right here when it happened.  We grabbed hands and a chill ran down my spine.  As we walked on the floodgates in my head of what ifs opened:

  • We could have been walking right then with our kids.
  • Had it gone much further, she would have barrelled right into a home or two.
  • Was she altered in some way (my gut says absolutely, but I cannot say for sure)?  Was she looking at her phone?  Did she fall asleep? How did this all happen?
  • The yards and property she ripped through will open their doors to destruction and wonder why.
  • She was out walking around on her phone.  Had it been a busier time of day or others around, it could have been so much worse.
  • That could have been me driving that car.

That last point is the one that always strikes me as soon as I hear a terrible story or see someone desperate or come upon an “undesirable”.  That could have been me.  Still could be me.  This gives me immediate compassion. This is why I will never be just like everybody else.  Because my heart always goes to, that could’ve been me.  That could happen to me.

Never say never.  Given the right circumstances, we can all fall into destruction.  

Somebody wrote me a comment recently that basically thanked me for my posts but also said, I am pretty newly sober and a couple years ago I couldn’t stand your posts.  They were all up in my face.  Backhanded compliment?

That’s why I’m here.  To be of service.

You just never know who is paying attention and needs to hear or see it.

After that brought me to my knees this morning, we got on the train and I finished listening to the WTF podcast with James Taylor.  Have you heard it?  Do yourself a favor.  He speaks so openly about using and sobriety and the best day of his life being when he finally surrendered.  I love when people keep their past close.  I love when people stay grateful.  This guy has it.  Both of them really.

He talks about a guy that ran in their circle that back in the day was a lost cause.  But then one day this guy shows up and he’s healthy and got his shit together and JT and others were like, YUP.  WE WANT WHAT HE HAS.  And they got sober and they continued to work on it each day.

JT spoke of this song.  That’s why I’m here.

John’s gone found dead he dies high he’s brown bread
Later said to have drowned in his bed
After the laughter the wave of the dread
It hits us like a ton of lead
It seems “learn not to burn” means to turn on a dime
And walk on if you’re walking even if it’s an uphill climb
And try to remember that working’s no crime
Just don’t let ’em take and waste your time
That’s why I’m here

Any good JT fan knows that this verse is about John Belushi, but he speaks of it being a wake up call as he had a similar that could’ve been me moment.

Long story short, I lost my shit on the train.  Again.  In waves.  It comes in crashing, torrential, heart in your throat waves.

Then an incredibly strong beautiful friend texted me in that moment talking of her 15 year old son snorting drugs and getting into all kinds of trouble and you just think, that’s why I’m here. But I cannot fix him. I can just be her safety for a moment.

I’m the person everybody goes to with their secrets.  With their vulnerability.  With their desperation. Sometimes I hear back but often I don’t. Sometimes folks decide to go to a meeting, and never ever return. Sometimes they stay clean but mostly they don’t. Sometimes I hear back that their family member is gone or even that they have come back to the fold.

People want to tell me their stories, but they often don’t want to hear what I say in return.  I sure didn’t when people said it all to me.  But then one day I did.  And I did what they told me to do.

I stay sober.  Each and every day.  Hopefully.  Because that’s why I’m here. To listen.  To point to a meeting.  To say it’s going to be okay and you can do this. To be a safe space. To remind you that you are going to do whatever you want to do anyway and I have no control over that but if you want what I have you best get your gratitude on because that is the key. Throw your white flag up, ask for help and get to gratitude.  Now.  That’s why I’m here.  To carry the message.  To do my best each day to be better for my family and the world around me.  To spread compassion and gratitude.  Because that’s what I did and that’s what people extended to me.

As I walk through life every single day, if I am present, I get to be present. If life were fair, I would be dead.

That’s why I’m here.  To pass it on.

I can’t fix anybody and I certainly don’t have a magic pill.  But I know why I’m here.  I take it very seriously.  It is an honor.

I practice gratitude daily.  It’s my religion.  It really is.  And everything I have is a result of that.

I am shattered from this morning.  But today I have the tools to pick myself up and somehow carry on through a “normal” day.  If that involves a lot of candy on a day when I woke up saying, YOU GOTTA KNOCK THAT SHIT OFF WITH THE CANDY ALREADY so be it.  Candy is way better than a lot of things.  If it takes going to a meeting and ugly crying through a share, so be it.  I don’t give a rip.  My toolbox is ugly and beaten up and well used.

I am fragile today and for that I am grateful.  I don’t numb anymore.  Most of the time I don’t even want to.  Being vulnerable takes a lot of practice and a lot of courage.

You know who is even more fragile today?  That woman this morning.  She’s having a bad day.  I am choosing hope for her.  

My husband will never ever be as fragile as I am, thank goodness.  He is my rock and in many ways I am his.  We are rooted in each other even while being so completely differently wired.  He texted me right as I was walking into work saying simply I love you.  And I started crying all over again.

That’s why I’m here. To know and share that it’s okay to crack and break wide open.

See also – Reeks of Compassion

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