Why is it miserable people seek solace by attempting to impose their misery on others?
Here’s wising everybody a great holiday weekend.
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-=[ Gratitude ]=-
“If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
— Meister Eckhart (c.1260-c.1327)
Thanksgiving, with its roots in myths and falsehoods, holds significance on many for levels. However, for me Thanksgiving holds its most significant meaning on a personal level. You see, it was around this time about 18 years ago that I experienced the first of a series of “spiritual awakenings” that would drastically change my life. The exact date is November 26, 1990 and it usually falls around Thanksgiving Day. A week before this date, I was so overcome with psychological pain that I attempted to commit suicide. It’s actually a little funny. If I tried to sell it as a story, most producers would say it sounds phony. It was a cold, rainy, windy November day. I remember there was a storm coming, some early, freak Nor’easter, and it was very windy that day. I tried climbing over the rail on the Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian walk, but I was so skinny from malnutrition and years of substance abuse, that a strong wind knocked me on my butt. I saw this as the ultimate insult, not even being able to kill myself, which gives you an idea of my state of mind at the time.
I walked away cursing my life to chase another bag of heroin. In my warped way of thinking, I had this fear that I would botch up my own suicide and merely succeed in paralyzing myself, dooming myself to chase that bag from the disadvantage of a wheelchair, so I decided I would make someone else put myself out of my misery.
Though I speak lightly today of that time, I was miserable. I don’t believe in a God in the traditional Christian/ Judeo sense, but each night during that time I would pray that if there was a God/ Goddess/ It, that they would find it in their mercy to kill me in my sleep. But every day I would wake up to find myself alive, cursing my existence. I would always awake broke, but at the height of my active addiction, I would manage to spend $300 by the end of the day, feeding my heroin habit.
I took to ripping off drug-dealers, never a safe proposition. One day, an individual annoyed that I had separated him from his assets, pulled out a gun, and threatened me with it. I took the gun by the barrel, put it to my forehead, and begged him to shoot. All I asked was that he made sure to kill me because, “You would be doing me a favor.”
This was in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded New York City street. I remember people screaming and a crowd forming, but what I remember most was thinking that this was my way out. “Do it, ma’fucca!” I yelled. He pulled the trigger and…
I don’t know if the gun jammed or if it wasn’t loaded, but for whatever reason, the gun did not go off. The drug-dealer, for whatever reason, yanked the gun from my grasp and tried to whip me with it. But I wasn’t having that. You could kill me, but I like the way I look. ::grin:: By then people had gathered and separated us and he walked away, calling me crazy and vowing to get me (A familiar refrain, huh? LOL!).
In my mind, I thought I could do nothing right.
That wasn’t the worst of it, things actually spiraled downwards until November 26th, when I was arrested after having been on the streets for only 14 days. That was my bottom, the total bottom. Humiliated and defeated not know what to do, knowing only that I was facing a lot of prison time, I experienced a spiritual awakening that would change my life forever. No, I didn’t see God, nor did a burning bush dictate commandments to me. Actually, most people would consider the events that transpired on that drizzly, dreary November day as a defeat. For me, it was the beginning of a new life. Having experienced total defeat, it freed me from my worldview to glimpse a new world filled with possibilities. It was like a bolt of lightning in the middle of darkness: everything became illuminated for a brief second before plunging into darkness again.
A the core of my life today is an invincible joy. This is why I often tend to see the better side of people: I know even the worst of us have the potential to liberate ourselves from our own self-made prisons. Unfortunately, there are some in denial regarding the shackles they cling to. To those people I offer my profound thanks for keeping it real for me. You remind me of what I was and why.
No, I am not a religious person and no, I don’t accept Jesus (nor anyone else, for that matter) as my “Savior.” In fact, neither Jesus nor religion had anything to do with my recovery. My personal view is that religion is for people who are afraid of hell while spirituality is for those who have already been there. What brought me back to my humanity is a set of principles so simple anyone (even me) can implement them. Today I try to be the best person I can be on a daily basis and oftentimes I fall short of the mark. However, my intent and direction is good and orderly – I try to live a life that’s centered on spiritual growth.
On that day, 18 years ago, I had no clue of the joy I am experiencing today. It’s a joy that’s not dependent on any person, place, or thing. I can be sad, happy, angry, disappointed, disgusted – I can be experiencing any number of attachments – but at the center, at the very core of me — there is a profound awareness and connection that’s greater than any drug-induced high I have ever experienced. Believe me: coming from me, that’s saying a lot! LOL
I’m no hero, so please don’t post comments lauding my actions or “victories.” My life is a redemption song, a manifestation of what can happen when people reconnect and help one another without condition. If you laud me, then you’re leaving out the countless individuals who gave to me, who supported me and taught me the simple principles of honesty, openness, and willingness that allow me to live my life as I do today. And if you leave out that part — the people who loved me until I could love myself — then you’re eroding my message. So this day is not about me, it’s about a celebration of Life.
I don’t write this self-indulgently. I write this because maybe there’s someone out there somewhere feeling the same pain I once felt. Perhaps someone feeling the same utter defeat, humiliation, and hopelessness might read this today and maybe — just maybe — it might give them hope. That I can embody this message is a source of happiness for me.
For that, I am truly grateful. Life continues to hurl challenges at me. I experience sadness, happiness, the loss of loved ones — the “full catastrophe” of life. At times, I feel as if a thread is being pulled and my life and all I have worked for all these years seems to unravel. At those times, I could easily adopt the attitude that my life, that life itself, sucks. But that’s a lie. Life is a gift — probably the most precious of gifts.
And for that I am most grateful.
May you all have as much to be thankful for…