“In youth we learn, in age we understand.” –Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
We may have come to this wonderful age of forty with less to show for ourselves than we thought we’d be dragging with us. We may have thought we’d be dragging jewels and families, our own business, the respect of those we thought would never respect us in our twenties (and they still may not). We may have thought that The Ease would’ve hitched its cart to our wagon by now and brought along all the things we believed we would need to get on in life well.
But it hasn’t. In fact, The Ease still hasn’t shown its face.
The beauty of forty plus (and by beauty I simply mean, what makes life valuable) is what we have within us to give away.
Brennan Manning says, “When I accept in my being that the ultimate accomplishment of my life is me—the person I’ve become and who other persons are because of me—then living in the wisdom of accepted tenderness is…a way of life.”
You may feel you haven’t amounted to much. I feel it all the time. It’s normal (I think) to self-assess and give ourselves the short end of the stick. Others often have so it’s only natural. But because of our tenure in life, there is so much we’ve learned about dodging stray bullets or healing up from their wounds. And these lessons were not learned from a book.
We’ve learned them most often by sitting with someone who has been there – by hearing their story, the sometimes lurid details, their failures, missteps, crazy thoughts, etc. that assured us they were as screwed up as we were.
So I sit, every single week, with my brothers and I tell them my story. Sometimes I see that same worry in their eyes, that fear when they realize that they just might be as screwed up as I am. “No need to worry,” I tell them, “of course you are. But it’s going to be okay.”
The gift I give them (and keep for myself BY giving it away…[see step 12 in The Big Book] is the gift I was so desperate for in my twenties, but couldn’t find enough people offering. And then sometime in my thirties (which is a terrible long time to be lonely) I found individuals who were brave enough to tell me their story. Thank God they showed up when they did. Because I almost lost it all several times.
Their stories, I’m certain, made a difference. And because of their gift to me, I’ve made a vow to live differently.
Those I encounter won’t find me holding back. I will use what I’ve learned (and have yet to learn) to relieve them of the fear we all feel deeply; that we are terminally unique, the only ones who…?, that we’ll never be well, that if anyone knew…
In my presence, they will not bear that burden alone. Because I’m in my forties. And my life is useful. And so is yours.
I understand that you may not feel you know your story well enough to help, or know how to put it into words. It’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect. All they really need to know is that you understand – that you’ve been there with a little more than a “been there, done that” sentiment. They need to know you felt crazy too, and that at times you still do.
Our stories, our pitfalls, our abuses and rages, learning disabilities and disorders, weight problems and divorces, anxieties, struggles and issues are capable of more than sucking the life out of us. They have the power to remind others that we have survived, or are surviving, or that we WILL survive.
Our brothers and sisters need to know they can survive too.
The ability to make others feel less crazy is a gift. Without a doubt, bringing order from chaos is never a small thing.
Ned Vizzini, author of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” said, “People are screwed up in this world. I’d rather be with someone screwed up and open about it than somebody perfect and ready to explode.”
Yes. Me too. Who wouldn’t?
The early years of adulthood are lonely and frightening. We don’t really know what we’re doing, but we’re all pretending that we do. Men feel as though they are not enough, and woman, as if they are too much. And we think if we achieve, deliver, figure it out, solve the problem, that The Ease will show up on our doorstep one day.
Should you tell them or should I?
The Ease is a lie.
Not that good times won’t come. They will. And life can become manageable and reasonably happy, but not if we are holding a bunch of secrets behind our backs.
I’m searching for those people…the “ready to explode.” They’re out there, doing their best to snuff out their own short fuse before it disappears into their belly and destroys them for good. I want to find them before they explode. And because I don’t always know who they are or where to find them, I tell my story as often as possible, because as I’ve found, they are everywhere.
They are everywhere.
So tell your story.