by Jim LaPierre on Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 8:55pm
We made it through another Christmas – or at least that’s what folks are telling me today. They seem relieved and pleased. Apparently the outcome was in doubt and I didn’t realize it. I forget to worry sometimes, fortunately there are always people who are happy to remind me that I *should* be stressed about things that I’m not. They remind me of what I’m supposed to do, feel, think, and in short – these are people who suck. There seem to be an awful lot of them – my theory is that it’s a lot less work to stay miserable than to overcome and be happy.
I’ve gotten pretty good at eliminating soul sucking people from my life. It’s not important to me that we may be related. Sharing DNA doesn’t make you my family – sharing the good and bad of life with me and genuinely caring makes you a member of my chosen family. I don’t care that we went to high school together, worked for the same asshole boss together, live in the same neighborhood or that our kids grew up together. What I care about is, are you a real person?
Real people are hard to come by and a very high percentage of us (myself included) are freaks. Many of us can pass as “normal” but that’s just because we’re good at hiding our eccentricities and true selves from those who would judge us harshly. In this context, hiding isn’t being fake – for us it’s being private when we choose to be.
I’m working with this amazing young woman. She’s just “coming into her own” as they say. I’d like to describe her as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon but what she’s been surrounded by wasn’t safe and protective. She’s breaking away from a toxic family bit by bit and she’s scared shitless. She’s ashamed and in a quiet voice she confides, “I’m not like most people. I’m not normal.” My heart swells – she’s 19. She thinks it was her fault they rejected her and she thinks being normal is a good thing to be.
At 19 it’s not helpful for me to shower her with a bunch of ideas about being a nonconformist or to explain why “normal” is a limiting and problematic concept. Instead I asked her if she likes Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. She blushed. “Remember the Island of Misfit Toys?” She nods. The toys thought they were broken and that nobody wanted them, but they found each other and became a family. In the end it turned out that despite being different; they were wanted. That’s us – that’s how we are. She looks like she gets it but the truth is still disappointing to her. I explain that we are different but in very good ways. Nobody loves like we love. Nobody laughs like we laugh. Nobody will ever be as honest with you as we will. Our loyalty to each other is fierce and we are the very best people to call at 3am when the wheels have come off the bus because nobody can handle a shit storm like we can. She laughs at this last bit. I wish I had better words for it. The very best people I know are freaks and whether they realize it or not they are the coolest people on the planet.
I have this hang up – I need for things to be real. I’d rather have someone tell me to fuck off than to receive false praise or empty promises. I like AA and NA meetings because they’re real. I like rednecks and folks who are poor or working class poor because they’re real and the most generous people you’ll ever meet. I like people who survived cancer because they take nothing for granted and I like people who really get recovery because they have amazing attitudes.
It’s not just people I need to be real. I like diners because they’re real. They’re a dying breed but they’re genuine. Sit the fuck down. Order something homemade. It’s good. It’s cheap and it’ll be along if you wait. Nope there’s no garnish and your water glass may have a spot on it and who gives a shit.
Diners are great places to meet real people. Folks from every walk of life appreciate diners. Forget Olive Garden – it’s got no soul. Give me Nicky’s Drive In and a ton of cheesy 1950’s memorabilia.
Maybe the hardest thing in the world is to become completely real/genuine/honest with ourselves. We love our illusions but create DIScomfort in the lies we tell ourselves. We seek to convince ourselves of things instead of accepting what the truth is. We make empty promises to ourselves. These white lies begin with words like:
I’ll feel better when…
If I can just through this then…
I’d be happy if…
I just wish…
We often speak these words to others but they harm no one but ourselves. They set the stage for the rejection of self because they most often involve things we are powerless over. When we look closely at the scripts we write we notice that none of them have happy endings. This is not real – nothing about script writing is real except for the heartache we cause ourselves.
In order for us to be honest with others we must be honest with ourselves. We are somehow convinced that we are indeed “terminally unique” and that others cannot understand us because we see ourselves as more fucked up than most. The truth is we’re all misfits and we’re all black sheep and we’re all freaks. If we can get out of our own way we can discover that we are not alone and that one of the greatest joys of recovery is that we never need to be alone again. We are free to have chosen families. We are free to surround ourselves with those who have suffered similarly but who are overcoming. It’s a joy to meet ourselves and to find that people really can *get us* when we’re real.