REFLECTIONS, INVITATIONS, CHOICES, Part two
Usually you get an invitation by mail, either usps mail or email. If the invitation comes in an email, you save it with all the other email, knowing full well you are going to delete all of it in six months! You know how it goes. One day you wake up and decide for whatever inexplicable reason, that today is the day, the day all the old email has to be exterminated, sent off to some non existent graveyard in cyberspace which is probably a huge file that the CIA keeps on us! I AM NOT PARANOID!
And it is about the same for the invitations that come through the postal service. You toss the invitation on a pile of other unopened mail or maybe even other invitations. You tell yourself you are going to get to it later, to open or do something with it in the future, but in reality, you have no intention of doing anything with it except to let it pile up. You are afraid to just toss it in the trash, so you hold onto it as if it were the winning lotto ticket. What is that? Surely, you are not going to tell me that I am the only one who does such weird things. Well, the truth is, someone, as you will see later in the hub, did threaten to send my name to that reality TV show! I have to be honest. In the not too distant past, I had such an abundance of piles of “stuff” I could probably have coated it all with steel like the Japanese do with garbage and built myself quite the mansion. I am happy to say that I am I improving! But more on that later.
Yes, of course, any person in their right mind, recognizes and acknowledge some invitations, like the invite to your niece’s wedding or the invite to your most valuable customer’s Holiday party, but even with those, you end up losing the time and place and the directions amidst the piles.
But then there are other invitations. They don’t come by email or usps. But just like the other invitations, we can dismiss them, toss them into “piles” of unaddressed emotional turmoil, some of which we have been lugging around for years.
I have had quite a few of these latter invitations during 2010, and I thought it might be useful to share them with you. When I finally did pay attention and respond to each invitation, the results were life changing, life changing beyond my wildest imagination. The changes were also extremely painful and the grief continues to this very moment.
The first invitation for 2010, came from a old therapist buddy with whom I have worked on a variety of projects. I actually supervised him when he was an intern. He is extremely fun and funny. Quite tall, handsome, a die hard Laker fan, gets depressed when they lose, is extremely opinionated, but nevertheless, gentle, wise, a marvelous Dad, and again, just a LOT OF FUN. When we get together, even for business, we spend most of the time LAUGHING.
So he tells me that he has stopped drinking, and his entire life has changed. I remember congratulating him and wondering to myself what more of an invitation I needed to stop drinking myself. But like the mail invitations, I tossed it on a pile in my brain of have-to-get-back-to-that- later. So that was the first invitation for 2010, and it got tossed on to the “pile.”
Then someone very dear to my heart began inviting me TO LEAVE. Whoa, that was awful. I did everything to control the situation including just refusing to leave. For months, I continued to cuddle, to let her know I wanted to remain connected. I made it next to impossible for myself to read the invite even though it was in bold letters, posted on billboards, full page ads in the local newspaper. (Not really, just making the point!)
I finally acknowledged the invitation, finally read it, finally knew it was for reals, and finally accepted it. But I was stubborn and continued to resist, and I selfishly held on for another three months, literally holding on to the very edge of the mattress, careful not to touch even by accident. I finally mustered up enough intelligence to rent a room at Bob’s house, and I moved out. That was exactly five months ago.
Within a week of moving out, I quickly realized that it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, and I thanked her. It was also perhaps the most painful thing that ever happened to me. I am not sure if moving out was painful or if moving out was simply a gathering point, (you know, like metal shavings coming together on a magnet) of piles and piles and piles of emotional mail, of unopened emotional mail. Some of that mail dated back to birth. Yes, how did I manage not to open it?
Well, as human beings, we make survival a priority, and sometimes survival means avoiding emotional experiences that can potentially kill us, either by HEART attack, literally HEART attack or suicide, and suicide in all of its varied forms, like drinking, for example. You don’t need to put a gun in your mouth to kill yourself. Sipping Single Malt Scotch like a high class seasoned drinker with fine taste will do the job really well.
The day I moved out was Saturday, July 31, 2010. It was that day I began to grieve all the ungrieved losses in my life. The tears continue to stream five months later. The tears are cleansing and healing. They have opened my heart in ways I have never experienced before.
So that was a huge invitation, one I fought tooth and nail in resisting opening, let alone responding to. I sometimes think that perhaps I really didn’t make a decision to leave, but simply picked up my ball and went home, and home became a fairly large sized room in Bob’s house. But I think I did make a decision and sometimes, like all of us, I am just too critical of myself.
My room started out looking really homey with fresh flowers to remind me that my life was not over. But little by little, my room looked like a homeless person’s shopping cart. And I guess in some ways, I was feeling homeless. Thanks again to special people, I have gotten a grip and my room is back to looking homey, a good place to come home to, and yes, there are fresh flowers here once again.
Recently, I hired a business consultant to give me direction with my office which had come to look like all the other parts of my life, like a shopping cart. In fact, my room and my office were like identical twins at one point. The office had been not only a beautiful place where I “practiced,” but it had become a delightful refuge, the place I loved to go to for an emotional reprieve, for a time out, a place to recoup. But no longer.
The consultant threatened to have me featured on that reality TV show about hoarders. I would never qualify! I am really NOT that bad!! You can actually walk through my office, well you couldn’t walk through the rooms whose doors were always kept closed!!
It is fascinating to me that sometimes clients like an office that represents how they feel. Shambles, hopeless, depressed, dead. Dead like the office plants! So no one every complained. They felt at home. Perhaps that was good and perhaps it was not. But I took some comfort in that phenomenon. I could hear them saying to themselves, “he really understands.” Until, one of my best friends said to me, “this place looks like you’re dying.”
So invitations come in interesting packages. Like my dear friend, the first words out of the consultant’s mouth: “What happened here? What is going on here, Mr. Bradley?”
So here was a huge invitation, perhaps the biggest invitation of my career as a self employed businessman. The consultant’s kind “crew” descended upon me like the Holy Spirit. I am only perhaps half way through this “intervention” process, but even so, my clients think they are in the wrong office! One client actually searched the place looking for the familiar piles! “What did you do with them?” he asked. Could have killed him!
The more I came to terms with the impending “shipwreck” of my marriage and the more I sank into depression, the more another counterpoint movement stirred inside my soul. I started swimming, swimming for my life, beginning to stand tall and believe in myself once again. Wow, how life is so miraculously paradoxical, the stuff of mythology!
Depressed as hell and crying almost all day long on the one hand, but becoming more alive on the other, reclaiming parts of myself that had washed ashore who knows how long ago, waiting for me to show up and retrieve them.
During this time, I told only my family and a few friends what was going on. Obviously, I had some difficulty explaining my constant flow of tears to everyone else, and I simply told anyone who asked that there were sad things going on in my life, and no one seemed to need to ask any more questions. I think sometimes we can send off non verbal messages regarding our boundaries, and people will respect them. Interesting, uh?
Anywho, it was during this time, that there was yet another invitation, perhaps the most unexpected invitation ever. For some reason, I found myself comfortably looking more directly and more fully into the faces of people with whom I am at home. Perhaps because I was feeling so homeless. People like my sisters, with whom I spent a week shortly after I moved out, people like Dan, Bruce, and Andrew who had always freely said these precious words to me, “I love you.” And there were yet other people, both men and women, for whom there was a fondness is how I would have put it, but not a conscious clue that these gentle people, like my sisters and friends, loved me and would actually say the words, “I love you” in response to my “silly” question, “What is that look on your face?”
And you better believe it, these experiences of being loved from so many different people scared me, and I tried desperately to retreat to a place of “safety” or familiarity, where I could justify in my deranged mind, rejecting the “onslaught” of deep, genuine, and caring love. But I was warned on several occasions that I was not going to be allowed to return to business as usual nor was I going to be allowed to hurt the people who loved me by pushing their love away–courageous friends thumping me on the head, inviting me to experience love down into my bones and into my soul, an invitation I almost tossed into the pile of my emotional turmoil, a move, I realize now would have resulted in certain death for me, because as much as I KNEW I was loved, I did not let it in past my skin, and I looked more to my relationship with alcohol to ultimately FEEL loved. I know, pretty sad, but true.
The experience of looking into the faces of men and women who loved me and recognizing the love and then letting it in was so profound that I published the blog LOVE-BABY-LOVE.
Check it out if you haven’t already. A long read, but useful and enlightening.
There are a few paragraphs in that hub, that I want to go back to here.
I think most of us have a hard time believing that anyone could find us, find me, THAT lovable....it has been quite a revelation...., in the midst of new grief, to be shaken to my senses by more than one person, shaking me till I believe they really love me. Yes, indeed, that experience of letting love in can be very exhilarating, but with it comes a gentle and precious responsibility.....When I decide to love you and simultaneously decide to be loved by you, I am answering an invitation to be accountable not only to you, but perhaps even to the larger community of people, and I am answering an invitation to be responsible enough to take care of this precious experience called love.....Loving and being loved is HUGE. It’s not particularly complicated, but it is huge, not to be taken lightly, not for the faint hearted....
If I use the analogy of a meal, I can’t just gobble up...love or gobble up as much as I can and take home the left overs for myself later....So I am beginning to look at a kind of measuring "stick" for myself when it comes to experiencing love, either me loving you or being loved by you. Does what we are calling love bring a huge brilliant light to the space around us? Does what we are calling love make me walk tall and love even more all the other people in my "circle?" Does it increase my compassion for those relationships where I experience intense–intense–conflict and pain? Does the love shake me to the bone to loving myself, so my neighbors will be excited about being loved by me the way I love myself?! (That is the commandment you know.)
The safer I felt in these love relationships, the more I began to ask questions of those I loved. The biggest question was “Do you think I am an alcoholic? Do I look like an alcoholic?” Oddly enough, no one was willing to answer my question directly, but one person said to me, like a good healer would, “What do you think?” So yet another invitation. I was being invited to acknowledge what I already knew, what I had known since 1994 after seven years of sobriety when I started drinking again. I was being invited to go back to my therapist buddy’s invitation some nine months before.
And so I have been sober once again since September 17, 2010. Perhaps it was really an invitation from myself, harking all the way back to 1994. I relish in the reality of those parts of myself, parts we all have, that are so absolutely healthy that we will not give up on ourselves. Isn’t it awesome when you think of how we are created?
My big mistake in 1987, when I decided never to drink again, was going it alone. I have, myself, encouraged all of you to go to meetings for support, but never took my own advice. In fact one of the meetings I now attend, I specifically recommended to everyone because I had heard from others just how absolutely wonderful it is. And it is. Thank God, I finally followed my own recommendation. What the heck is that with us? We make such dynamite recommendations for everyone else!
I hate to admit this part, but what the heck. After stopping drinking and beginning to get support, I also went to the doctor and found out, if I did have any doubt, that my liver was also complaining about my drinking. I am grateful, a grateful alcoholic, that I was open enough at this time of my life to take in your love and in return, love myself, so I can live longer than I would have if I had continued drinking.
If there are any of you who wonder yourself where you are, in terms of your own addictive behaviors, I want you to know that I was a pretty good drunk (!) in that I think I masked it well. You know, I never drank during the day. I only drank after I got home. I did not stumble around drunk (well, yes I did, but late at night!), and I have been smart enough in recent years not to drive after drinking. I ate very healthy foods, drank very healthy wine and very good Scotch! I exercised regularly, walking four, five, six miles at a time.
So I was theoretically a responsible and health-conscious drinker! But I WASN’T, and my liver and particularly the people who lived with me and tried to love me, knew the truth. I was a drunk pure and simple. So my invitation to any of you who wonder for yourself, maybe the wonder, the gnawing question, IS your personal invitation to stop whatever it is, and if you do stop, surround yourself with support.
Allowing myself to be loved and recognize that I am loveable led me to yet another invitation. We hear so much about how God loves us. Such a simple statement that folks for zillions of years have talked about, been inspired to write about, composed poetry and songs about, have literally fought wars over (Ugh), and have struggled to understand. Just what does that mean?
Well, I don’t know what it means means, but I figured this profound experience of love, I was allowing myself to take in, had to be parallel to God loving me, so I began to write poetry both about my experience of love from each of you as well as my experience of love from what had to be God if there is a God. I only say that, not because I don’t think there is, but if one has to be overly logical, then the experience of love sort of caps it for me. Yes, God exists, and loves.
At first, I became critical of my poetry. Hesitant to share it, but I was nudged, as I am so often by a chapter in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. And so I have posted many of my poems here on Hubpages. And by the way, if your life needs changing, and you’re looking for a genuine but relatively simple and inexpensive makeover, READ Julia Cameron’s book.
One of my favorite poems about God’s love for us is You Give Us Gifts, Lord.
Another favorite, about coming “home” is To Dream.
From time to time, I am accused of enjoying making folks feel uncomfortable, so this poem probably proves their point.
For those of you who are not Catholic, a little explanation. When your ministry is to take communion to the sick, you go to the Church and take as many consecrated hosts as you need from the tabernacle and place them in a small round container called a pix. The pix fits inside a small wallet-like leather case with straps and you hang the pix "wallet" around your neck. In the Catholic tradition, according to Scripture, Jesus is substantially present in the consecrated host.
So here is the poem
I SLEPT WITH JESUS
After picking up
To visit a friend or two,
I stopped by the house
For another round of Jo.
I saw the crumpled covers
Inviting me back
For just a momentary fling
As I was wanting
From late night meanderings
With poetry and prose.
The temptation was too delightful
To turn down,
So under cover I went
With Jesus around my neck.
I awoke some time later
With the pix pressed firmly
Against my heart.
I was ever so refreshed.
As I realized
I was needing to confess
I had slept with Jesus
So with that, I will wrap up. Thank you for reading to the end. I invite you to reflect back over the last twelve months (or more) and take note of any and all invitations you have received, and unashamedly look at what you have done with them. It is never too late to open or respond to an invitation. It is never too late to live because there is only THIS MOMENT to live, and obviously, if you are reading this hub, you have THIS MOMENT.
You might consider sharing in the comment section your own invitations and how you have responded to them. Someone else may need your story.