When it’s just not working, anymore

A couple of weeks ago, I walked out of my apartment building, headed to a training event for my church’s new building – an opportunity to get involved in AV/Tech in a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility.

My car was gone.

While it briefly flashed through my head that it might have been stolen, deep down I knew better. First and foremost, like most mid-level and up cars built from Y2K forward, my VW has an immobilizer system. It’s gotten harder to just flat break into cars, these days (which is one of the reasons we’re seeing an increase in carjackings).

Second, I knew my parking tickets were accumulating – at this point, almost daily. Ever since I moved into my new apartment, I struggled to make the numbers work. I thought I had budgeted correctly. I thought I had given myself margin. When it became apparent that I was going to be playing catchup, I thought I could do it successfully. I chose to ignore the tickets, knowing I did so at my own peril. The final cost to address those consequences will be enough to threaten my living arrangements.

I swore I wouldn’t let myself get here, again. And, in doing so, one more time, I found myself at an emotional low equal to last year, when my ex wife filed for divorce, hired a ruthless attorney (knowing I would eventually be footing the bill), and refused to do anything to assist me in getting our house ready for sale. In the midst of all this, I reconnected with an old acquaintance, in what became an attempt to move on to my next chapter. It ended horribly, in the most passive-aggressive, mean-girl fashion one can imagine, and once again, I was the grade school kid who was bodyslammed on the pavement, in front of my mother – who was waiting to pick me up. I was the seventh-grader, who was tripped by a classmate, at the suggestion of someone else. I was the kid who was mocked for just about anything and everything imaginable.

I get flashes of this insecure feeling, whenever I deal with a rude customer at my current job – which just so happens to be in those same stomping grounds – a sought-after suburb that has been the subject of numerous national profiles, for its so-called image of Americana. In reality, much of it is populated with a particularly self-impressed, entitled bunch, who don’t have near the amount of wealth they want you to believe they do. I know rich people. They don’t act like this. In fact, if my financially successful father ever got wind that one of his kids was acting like this, we’d be summarily called out. Which is as it should be.

I got flashes of this, toward the end of my time in Shaw – an equally self-impressed bunch, with that irascible combination of privilege and self-righteousness. I’ll call them “Woke Rich.” They’re perfectly comfortable telling you to check your privilege – while sitting in a half-million-dollar house, on a street with private security.

Mind you, I have zero problem with wealth. I’ve benefited from access to said wealth. More times than I care to admit, since it was often the result of me getting myself in a jam. My problems are with entitlement and hypocrisy. But, are those really the root of my problems with the so-called “beautiful people” – the “cool kids”?

Or am I still wounded from my childhood traumas, of which there were many?

Probably both, and truthfully, more of the latter than I want to confess. Because, more than the physical pain I endured at the hands of others, what I dread most is humiliation – especially in public.

Because, I couldn’t handle these things with an equal amount of physical measure, I learned to channel that anger toward my mistreatment in a written voice that was equal parts authoritative and acerbic. I learned I could cut people to the core in an argument. But, more often, I took it out on things – destroying books, CDs, stereo equipment, flat-screen TVs, kitchen windows, drywall. I angry drove. I stuffed my emotions to a breaking point, then exploded, regardless of who might be around.

Sometimes, I still do these things. And, while my more glaring behaviors are no more, it is clear that a life full of resentment only leads to futility and unhappiness. And, for me, it will eventually lead to self-destructive behavior – which I can no longer afford.

The full catalogue of those resentments, and the motivations behind them, became perfectly clear, some time ago. The tools to address them, became things I would start to put into practice, with some success. And, yet, here I am, dealing with the consequences of impulsive decision making, and reactions based in anger. I am, at once, clearing away the wreckage of my past, while dealing with the continued mistakes of the present.

And, it is painfully clear that my old ways of coping simply won’t work. If that is my one takeaway – two months shy of (yet another) one year of sobriety – then, so be it. Some of us are sicker than others. And, I am grateful that my ACA-subsidized health insurance allows me access to good psychiatrists, psychologists, and any necessary medicines – with minimal copays…actually, none, when it comes to the meds I need.

In his first sermon in my church’s new building, my pastor put it this way: “you can’t build a new building over old junk.” Another writer, whom I deeply respect, put it similarly: “Have we tried to make mortar without sand?”

Am I willing to discard my old junk? Doing so, is going to mean involving other people – including and especially mental health professionals. Doing so – for me – is going to mean dependence on some power greater than my own. This is more than esoteric tilting at windmills. Because, if I was so capable of willing my behavior away, I would have done it already.

Honestly, I don’t have much hope that doing these things will result in the abundant life that others tell me is possible. I only know that the alternative is continuing in my current perception of reality – which will only result in further heartache, bitterness and pain.

Today, the best I can do is believe that others believe. And, take action accordingly – which means going after the community I crave. If I’ve done any one thing correctly, over these last ten months, it’s been exactly that. And, I believe that they believe it’ll work.

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