For whatever reason, I have had the life I’ve had and you, the one you’ve had. From my first breath on this earth to my first day of kindergarten; the first time I shaved my legs to my first kiss; my first heartache to my first time moving away from home –
– every single moment has perfectly and unequivocally led to this one. Every past self and past decision, has made me… me.
I really feel this sometimes. When I’m listening to an old song that reminds me of a moment twenty years ago, and how that one led to the next, to the next, to the next…
When I look back at old journals.
At old calendars.
It’s easy to chart how each moment has connected; I can point to each and make a constellation of my life.
Sometimes I feel it as an encompassing, something bigger-than-me, oh-THIS-is-why-this-happened.
That’s how it was yesterday.
I went to my good friend’s house, a friend who is struggling with addiction. A few of us showed up to support and circle him on his experience. I felt, perhaps, unduly equipped to understand him; armed with years of my own struggles with addiction and eating disorders; steeped in a family history of alcoholism and drug abuse.
I know the feeling of being powerless over something; I know how it feels to be hopeless.
There’s not a whole lot I can do – but I get it. So, I just got it, and was there for a while.
Then on my drive home – a woman stumbled out into the middle of the street, flip flops dragging behind her. She fell over in the road.
I immediately pulled my car over and ran out to help her. She was, perhaps, 35 to 40. Blond, well-put-together, wearing diamonds on her fingers. We sat down for a while in the shade, not talking. I got her some water.
“I’m fine.” She must have said this about thirty times. Her words were barely coherent; she couldn’t stand – she also couldn’t really sit.
So I held her up. I talked to her as best I could while she drifted in and out. When a man came out to try and help and became aggressive when she wasn’t making sense – I told him, that’s not helpful. Don’t be aggressive with her.
Finally, her phone rang and I picked it up. Shortly thereafter, her wife and her mother-in-law arrived to take her home.
“Absolutely not,” she said when they asked her to get in the car. They began arguing. The mother-in-law raising her voice – “You’re the alcoholic here! Get in the car!” Again, I said, that’s not helpful.
The woman wanted to leave, so I walked with her a ways – supporting her – guiding her – keeping her away from the road.
“I’m not fine,” she told me.
We continued to talk – I heard a bit about her life. Her anger. Her pain. I just listened, mostly. I guided her more strongly when I needed to – “Do NOT get in the street again.” “Come this way.” “Stay right here.”
In an hour, we developed something like a friendship.
“Stop trying to be my friend.”
I don’t want to be your friend.
Fuck you, too.
“Hey, I really like you. You know that?”
I like you, too.
Finally, the cops arrived – several bystanders down the road had been worried and called them.
For a variety of reasons, the woman ended up getting in the police car instead of her wife’s. While this was happening, I spoke to her wife. How was she doing? What’s been going on? I understand.
While the woman she loves was put into handcuffs, I stayed with this woman. How was she doing?
While the police car finally drove away, we hugged. She and her mother thanked me for staying for so long – for helping. For understanding.
“I’m glad it happened to be me driving by,” I said. And I went home.
I’m not sure how this woman is doing now – no doubt she sobered up and they let her out of jail. No doubt she’s feeling shame. No doubt, the pain for her and her family is far from over.
But the experience has stayed with me, and likely will for a long time. It has reminded me that each moment shapes the next, and each is perfect, because it is.
If I hadn’t seen this sort of behavior before, there’s no way I would have known how to handle it. If I hadn’t once felt so out of control personally, I wouldn’t have been able to empathize. If things hadn’t fallen apart in Austin, I couldn’t have given her family the resources I know of. And if I hadn’t spent so much time learning communication tools, I may not have been able to be there as solidly.
And just like life goes – where each moment leads to the next – yesterday has led to this: I feel reminded of the unique perspective I have on addiction – growing up with it in my family, and in me.
At that time, it certainly did not feel like a gift. And in many ways, it still doesn’t. But I can see that it is what I make it, and I feel inspired to make it into something good.
So coming soon – another book in my “Is” series. This one focused on addiction. This is certainly not something that many people, let alone books, talk to kids and teenagers about.
It feels like a gift to be able to do so.
More updates soon.
And, keep a look out for those moments that connect like stars. The more you look for them, the more you’ll find them.