I agree when you tell me life is a journey. Along the way, we learn about various disciplines of thought. We go through different phases of our character, we shed our skin as we grow to evolve and we encounter different experiences. We meet different people with paths that match our own; in some cases, we part ways, sometimes we split temporarily and then we reconnect at another point in time. We run parallel with other people living their life, and sometimes, we overlap, somehow cosmically, and we find ourselves back where we began in an almost deja-vu state. We move and we grow and we go on our own way. Then suddenly, almost miraculously, we come to the understanding that we always had exactly what we needed and that everything we ever wanted was always right there, right in front of our very own eyes.
There was a time, although it was years ago, I still remember it clearly. I was unsure of which path to take, I felt pressured to go one way, but there was another direction I always wanted to turn towards. Yet, in the moment, I was afraid to go against the grain. I was afraid to disturb the natural order of things.
It was never clear to me whether passion for life was real or a dream. And yet, there I was, about to enter a bet on a long shot that I never fully believed in. And like most, I look back and think of the left turns I made when I wanted to go right.
I used to wonder if fate was real as concrete or if it was molded according to our decisions. I consider the routes we took and the avenues we walked along, and in my moments of deep thought, I swore there had to be a reason why I walked this earth the way I did and found myself in this direction.
I think of the places I have seen in my life. I found myself, introspectively speaking, of course, standing high above the world and looking down from the elevated cliffs of my hindsight. I think about the life I chose. I think about my life’s direction, only to look back and wonder about the absolute absence of all that dreams said goodbye to.
Yet somehow, all which I believed was lost had come back to me in a more suitable time. Eventually, all that I thought was gone had found me through the random course of chance and for this, I m grateful.
Life changes. We change too. We grow. Our body replenishes itself. We fade in some regard and yet we are revitalized in others. I believe this. I believe there is a reason for everything we encounter.
Although doubtful at times, I never once questioned the randomness of running into someone, like say, ten years later.
I remember there was a 12-step meeting I used to attend in Midtown on the Westside. I was a regular here. I was not only on my way to improving my conscious contact with a spiritual source of health and wellness; I was also on my way to improving my interactions with other people.
This was tough for me, because yes, I wanted to improve but I was still somewhat uncomfortable, certainly young, and definitely unaware of so many things. I felt awkward and uncomfortable in my skin. I was never one to say or do the right thing; in fact, I was usually the one that said the wrong things. And I was good at this too. However, at least my timing was close to impeccable, which allowed me the ability of comedic relief. I was growing though and improving to the best of my ability.
This was an interesting time for me. I was about to undergo a break-up. I was about to undergo a career change and about to change my living situation. I was partly excited and partly frightened. I was also partly nervous and partly empowered.
I was finally in a place where I was leaving past resentments behind (or at least, so I thought) and I was moving on to bigger and better things.
One afternoon, however, I walked over to my noontime meeting which met on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays; but on this day, I was scheduled to be the celebratory speaker in an event to announce my sober anniversary.
As I walked through the doorway, I was greeted by familiar friends that knew me well enough to say hello and congratulations. I walked over towards the table up front, which is where the speaker sits.
Quickly though, I was disturbed by a man sitting front and center. I knew this man well. In fact, I knew this man well enough to call him an enemy.
He was a counselor at a facility which I attended for several months. He was someone that took joy in what he did, but not in a good way.
No, from my point of view, this man manipulated minds. He was intentionally hurtful and drunken with his own position of authority. I swore that one day, if I ever saw him after my release, I would unleash all the years of my aggression on him and leave him bloodied in the street.
I knew things about this man. I knew bad things about him. I knew that yes, there were times I am sure he might have been helpful to others; however, I am also sure that there were times when he admittedly picked on me.
He laughed about this in fact, and no, this was not my perception. This was him in a position, admittedly toying with me as someone younger, smaller, and in a humbled place in life.
For this passage I will call this man Danny. And oh, but did I knew Danny well. He was not an overly large man. Danny was just bigger than me at the time. He was not tough or physically intimidating either. No, to me, Danny was more predatory.
On one occasion, I recall sitting in one of Danny’s intense group sessions. And there he was, Danny, sitting in the middle of a semi-circle of chairs, pointing fingers at me, but yet, I sat quietly because I knew nothing good would come if I answered back.
Danny knew I couldn’t respond the way I wanted to. He knew I had no other choice but to take his sarcasm.
I was mandated here by the courts. Any infraction would result in something awful for me. The courts sentenced me here, otherwise, I would have to face the exact nature of my wrongs in a more deliberate atmosphere. Either way, it was the courts judgment that I do one of two things: I would either learn from my mistakes while living in a therapeutic community or I would face them while spending time in barred rooms and concrete cages.
Rather than face the sentence, I chose the easier route of the two. Naturally, I chose the better surrounding; I chose the freedom of a place without cages and guards. I chose treatment, yes, but this did not make my choice easy. There were tough times here too. Like anyplace, there were pros and cons. In this case, or at least in my mind, Danny was one of the cons that nearly sent me over the edge. I did not like that man.
No, I did not like him at all.
I viewed Danny as a bully. He knew that I was weak after my Father passed away, but yet, Danny continued to toy with me. He knew that I could not respond or defend myself, else, I would be removed and placed in a cage, which is why I sat quiet the last time I was in Danny’s group.
Danny invited me to respond to him at the end of that last group. He dared me to respond, but instead, I told him, “Danny, if I could, I would love to kick you in the face and watch you fall out of that chair right now. But you and I both know I can’t do that.”
Danny laughed. “I think you should try it.”
Then he shook his head and told me, “I’m not co-dependent over you Ben!”
Throughout my life there were only so many moments when I felt as mad as I did on that day. The first of which is when I found out the source of a rumor about me when I was a boy junior high. The second is when I was called another man’s name when a girlfriend and I were on the verge of serious intimacy, and then there was this time with Danny.
Danny was sitting in the chair with the two front legs off the ground, leaning backwards; his hands clasped behind his head, rocking back and forth. And again, Danny was not a tough man. He was not a capable man, He was just someone in a position of power.
I never settled those resentments with Danny. Not until years later, which is why I reacted so quickly when I randomly saw him at a noontime meeting. This was a home group of mine. This was a place which I considered an important part of my path in recovery.
Minutes before I was about to speak, and standing at the front of the room, Danny looked around, unaware that I remembered who he was. I was older than when he saw me last. I weighed considerably more, I was stronger. I was taller. But more importantly, I was unafraid and without a leash or collar around my neck.
“Is your name Danny,” I asked
“Why yes it is,” he smiled.
God, I hated Danny’s smile. I hated the way he talked. Mostly, I remembered how much I hated the way I felt in his presence, as if I was less-than, unworthy, and deserving of punishment.
“You don’t remember me do you,” I asked.
“No,” said Danny. “Can’t say I do.”
“You used to be a counselor of mine.”
“What’s your name,” asked Danny.
“Ben,” I told him
“Nope, can’t say I remember you at all.”
I knew Danny was lying. I knew what he was trying to do. This was the same kind of game Danny would play with me when I was supposedly under his care. I used to swear that Danny hated me. Either that, or perhaps, Danny had a fiendish little perversion for 17 year-old boys undergoing treatment for addiction and other emotional challenges.
“Well, I remember you,” I told Danny.
“As a matter of fact, I once swore to myself that if I ever saw you out in the real world I would bury you dead underneath the cement.”
Danny pulled his best, “I’m not afraid” card.
But I knew Danny was afraid. I knew Danny was afraid of me the same as he was afraid of my friend Jim, which is why Danny pulled a shotgun out when Jim arrived at Danny’s place, drunk, and ready for some payback.
I looked at Danny. He was scrawny. I thought about the resentments I had towards him. I thought about the promise I made to myself about how I would respond if I ever saw Danny out in the real world. And then suddenly, almost responsibly, I understood this had nothing to do with Danny at all.
Sure, he might not have been the best fit for me. But I realized at this point in time that Danny was just a face. He was part of something that I saw through previous eyes. I was sick then. I was undergoing an intense amount of change as well as an excruciating amount of pain. And sure, Danny’s response to me was close to as immature as my initial threat. However, after I shared my story in the meeting, Danny raised his hand to respond to my qualification. He apologized to me in front of the fellowship.
He laughed with me after the meeting and told me, “You were this little punk kid,” said Danny. “And you were always trying to be tough.”
“You always looked like you just did something wrong too, it was like, there was no way you were going to get away with anything.”
Truth is Danny was right.
I always wondered about the randomness of this interaction. Was there a reason why our paths interconnected so many years later? Was there something for me to learn, or, was this simply a case that I realized I was no longer a scared little boy and that I didn’t have to defend myself anymore?
I wholeheartedly believe there is a reason why we meet people. I believe there is a reason why we walk away and why we run into each, years later, so we can look back and laugh and find closure.
I used to blame people for certain aspects of my life. I blamed my troubles on others. I blamed my behaviors and blamed my responses on things that happened to me at one point or another. I did this to justify my actions or find some kind of accountability for the emotions I struggled to let go of.
That being mentioned, I believe the universe is kind enough to allow us a second chance. In my eyes, there is a reason why we go the way we go, to learn something, and to find out the truth, which is nothing short of this: We always had exactly what we needed but for some reason, we were afraid to be lacking.
At some point, I came to an understanding that my life is truly less about the external and more about the internal satisfactions I need on a daily basis. Money, the cars, the houses, the life I thought I’d want to live as a kid is all just materials.
I am blessed to say that I have grown. I am older and sometimes wiser. I have arrived at a level of awareness where I understand my external satisfactions are only temporary. It’s not about the external anymore. I want the internal satisfaction. I want the whole thing and nothing less. And since time is not always definite, I don’t want to waste anymore of it while pretending to be something I am not.
Put simply, I want the dream.
I want it all
Now all I have to do is get it