There was someone who told me, “Kid, the only way ‘To it’ is through it.” What this person really meant is in the case of finding our way or having the life we want to live, there is no easier or softer way. By the way, the idea of finding an easier, softer way is not mine. These are not my words or an original thought. No, this comes from chapter 5 in a book that we use in the 12-Step world. The chapter is called “How it Works” and in short, the meaning of this chapter is the only way “To it” is through it.
Think about this for a second . . .
No change comes on its own. No life improves without the effort to improve it. Hence, the only way “To it” is through it.
I understand this. I get it but still, there are times when doubt is so critical and limiting that nothing seems possible.
I understand the uphill battles. I understand there is opposition in life. I understand that adversity comes in all shapes and sizes. I get that too.
I know that tragedy speaks all languages. In fact, heartache is universal. Stress is real and sometimes, stress is too real or painfully real. Therefore, anxiety is real. Depression is real. Mental and emotional challenges are felt by everyone. There is no limit to this and just remember, this is life. Nobody gets out alive. No one’s above it or below it. Some have privileges. Some have advantages. But tragedy does not discriminate (even if we do).
I’ve seen people who wait for their change to happen. I have watched people who surrendered to the fact that their change may never come. So, they gave in and the world seemed to wash them away.
There are times in our life when the frustration is so great and our surroundings seem to be such a lonely place. There are times when we wonder if anyone understands.
“Can anybody even hear me?”
“Does anyone see me?”
“Does anybody really care?
And guess what, no one will ever understand your thoughts or ideas to the level that you think or feel them. At least, not really. But that’s okay. They don’t have your intentions. They may have the same dreams but this does not mean they have your intensity. No one will have your intuition or interpretation. You being you means you are absolutely and perfectly unique. (It’s about time that we see this as a gift and not a curse.)
There are times when our explanations fall short. Or wait. No. There are times when our explanations do nothing more than frustrate because either we lack the ability to explain or it seems as if people lack the ability to understand.
There are times when our life becomes a series of motions. What I mean is, we become a series of routines. Each day is a repeat of the one before and we become more machine-like than human. Or, robotic.
We wake up at the same time. We do the same thing. We think the same thoughts; therefore, we are destined to repeat the same things because we live in the same mindset. There is no change or excitement. We simply fall into an unrewarding flow of everyday life, almost mindlessly, and we flow with the crowd as if we were nothing more than human debris in a moving river that empties out to sea.
As a kid, my Mother used to tell me, “Nobody ever promised you a rose garden.”
She would say this to me when life was tough. She would say this when life hurt or when I was disappointed. “No one ever told you life was going to be easy, son.”
The trick that nobody talks about is the longer we wait to make a change or the longer we endure instead of improve, the harder it is to pull the trigger and make the uphill climb.
Everyone is quick to tell you about a success story. Everyone notices the people at the top. We see them. We hear about their life and their success. And we like what we see. Or better yet, we want what we see. But in the end, we have to work for what we see. We have to work for what we want, relentlessly and without apology.
The other night, I was asked why people cry when good things happen. To be clear, I cannot say why others cry. However, I can tell you about myself. I can tell you about the times I saw real achievements, like the time I received my high school diploma in the mail.
I never graduated the way others did. I never had the cap and gown. I never went to a graduation party. No, that time of my life was committed in a different direction.
I was never much of a student. I have poor memories of my time in schools and the ending of my time in public schools ended in a tragic fashion. I had unfortunate experiences with teachers who did not deserve to teach anybody anything, let alone teach children about math or science.
In fact, that happened after I grew into my body. I was not small and afraid anymore. I swore that when I saw any of the teachers who hurt me that I would respond in such a way that they would feel the pain they put me through.
I was at a diner one afternoon. I saw one of the old teachers from my school days. He told me that I was going to end up dead or in a ditch somewhere and that he was going to laugh.
Well, I wasn’t dead. At first, I thought about all of my fantasies of revenge. He was walking down the steps from the diner and I was walking up. He was a big man and would have fallen hard. However, I noticed something. I noticed his face. I noticed he was the same miserable son of a bitch. He was miserable enough on his own. Me kicking his knee cap to send him down the stairs would only degrade me. This was his problem. Not mine.
Years later, I took my equivalency test. I doubted that I would pass. I hardly studied. I barely followed the class that I took at night. I went a few times. Maybe about five nights. Maybe six. Instead, I believed in the predictions from the teachers like the one from the diner.
On the night of the test, I arrived at the school. I was given my booklet and answer sheet. I answered the questions and all the while; I thought to myself, “What’s the point?”
I swore that I failed every part. I believed that at best, maybe I passed a few sections but there was no way that I passed the whole thing.
A few weeks passed. My life eventually went back to what it was before the test. My attention was no longer on the likelihood of my failure. To be clear, I resigned to my failure. I accepted the fact that this did nothing else but prove what I already knew.
This proved that I was not smart. I was certainly not book smart; furthermore, this proved that all the predictions about me were true. I was learning disabled. I was incapable of understanding information and I would never be more successful than a physical laborer or “Grunt.” I could never build or create. I could only break or destroy. That’s all.
I came home after a day of work to find a letter for me on the kitchen table. I can see this in my mind’s eye. I can see the white envelope laid diagonally on the dark wood of the round table. I can see how the lights were on in my kitchen. I can see where the shelving was. I can see how the chairs were around the small table.
I swear, it must have taken me 30 to 45 minutes to open the letter. I assumed, of course, the opening statement would read, “Dear Mr. Kimmel, we regret to inform you” or something like that.
Why open the envelope?
I took the envelope into the living room and sat in the recliner. I kicked my legs out and leaned back in the seat. Then I took a deep breath.
Enter the sound of a “Rip,” to signify the opening of an envelope.
I can still feel the blood rush under my skin when I remember this.
See, if you don’t know then you can’t know. And if you don’t understand then perhaps you can’t understand but I will try to explain. Tears were streaming from my eyes.
For years, I believed that I was a label. I believed that I was stupid and I kept myself this way in the closed-minded capsule. I believed that I was incapable or at best, I believed that I was only capable of certain things.
When people told me, “Good job,” I believed that this was no different from congratulating a child for using the restroom instead of going in their pants. This was no different from cheering for a child for tying their shoes. Therefore, I never believed in compliments. I only believed I was incapable.
In all honesty, my belief had crippled me. Yet, there was a letter from the Board of Education in my hands informing me that my life-long beliefs were wrong. I kept myself captive and I could have been free the entire time. I could have done anything; but no, I failed to believe in myself. I failed to try. I refused to launch because I lived in a structured belief system that limited me.
I could have lived. I could have accomplished. I could have braved and dared or better yet, I could have sat at any table with anybody and believed that I deserved to be there. There is nothing in the world so rigid and as limiting as an inaccurate belief system.
That’s why I cried. I cried because I limited my life. I cried because I gave into predictions. I accepted opinions about myself that were false and untrue. Moreover, I cried because I could have been free all this time. I could have done anything but I was limited to my thinking. Now, the truth added color to my faded beliefs, which means I was free.
(If I chose to be.)
I cried because the pain I felt was no longer a threat. I might not have worked my way through college but I did work my way through hell just to prove that I am not stupid or learning disabled.
There is no way to get to anything without going through the process. Otherwise, we are limited to our beliefs. We succumb to our self-fulfilling predictions. We give in; but worse, we become nothing more than human debris in the rivers of life, swept away by the current and released into a sea of empty promises.
Beware the way you see yourself.
The poor predictions you have in your mind can keep you captive when in fact . . .
all we want to do is be free.
Could you imagine?