The Human Experience: The Sum Total of All Parts
GIVE UP THE FIGHT
Lois Haggarty was my aunt. She died when I was eight years of age. She once told me, “Do not fight life, Bill; become part of it.”
Chuck Mason was my sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous for seven years. He died several years ago and I can say in all honesty that I have never met a wiser man in my lifetime. Close your eyes and picture calmness. What do you see? I see Chuck and his greatest gift to me was in teaching me to find that quiet place inside myself where I could find peace and serenity during the tumultuous times of life.
It seems to me that most of my life I have been deprived of that quiet place. Despite the words of my aunt I was constantly fighting life, punch and counterpunch, ducking and weaving, always looking for the knockout blow that would leave me the victor but more often than not only left me bruised and bloodied on a battlefield of my own making. I seemed to have an innate ability to make a typhoon out of a glass of water. For my efforts I was rewarded with unhappiness, fear and a restlessness that would not allow my mind, heart and soul to be at rest.
As I write this the sun has just broken through the clouds. The wind is rustling the trees and the leaves are whispering to me a message I was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to hear for many years. It is a message that was presented to me decades ago by my father, as tough a man as you are likely to meet. He told me that you do not gain respect by fighting for it but rather by being a good man.
Again with the “don’t fight” mantra! What gives?
HUMILITY VS EGO
“One does not find happiness when ego rules the roost; it is only through humility that one realizes what it means to be human.”
Heavy words to absorb at the relatively young age of nineteen but absorb them I did. My uncle Les had just watched me pitch a two-hitter in a college baseball game and I was feeling full of myself, invincible and ready to face the next helpless foe as I marched towards my dream of professional baseball.
Two years later, my rotator cuff shredded from thousands of pitches, I remembered my uncle’s words as I contemplated life without baseball. The lesson, however, needed to be learned several more times in the ensuing years as my ego attempted to assert its will. Without humility there is an emptiness that cannot be filled.
“Would you for just one second quit thinking about yourself and try to comprehend what you are doing to this family?” My former wife uttered those words as I staggered in late at night after a long day of drinking with the boys. My love of alcohol had finally become stronger than my love of family and unknown to me she had decided enough was enough. The marriage ended one year after that, my wife and four-year old son headed in one direction and I and my booze in quite another.
Without humility there is an emptiness that cannot be filled.
COMPASSION AND EMPATHY
I was ten years old when our neighbor, Mrs. Conrad, died in her sleep. Every day for a week afterwards my mother would send me to the house-in-mourning with a newly baked dinner. She talked to me during that week about reaching out to those who have suffered, that even the smallest act of kindness can mean so very much to a person who has experienced a devastating loss.
One of my dearest friends in AA has now been sober for forty-five years. I was having coffee with him one day several years ago and a homeless guy stopped by our table and asked for a couple bucks. My friend gave him the money and then went back to drinking his coffee. After a few moments of silence he told me that he had been homeless once and if it hadn’t been for the compassion of others he would have never made it. He went on to tell me that one of the best ways to measure the humanness of a person is to observe their compassion for others.
The love of my life, Bev, feels the pain of others. I have seen her cry while reading a news story of some suffering happening around the world. I have seen her smile disappear when she has seen a child cry or when she has driven by a dead animal in the road. There is nothing phony about Bev’s reactions; she quite literally exhibits empathy towards others in a way I have never seen before.
LOVE, LOVE AND MORE LOVE
There just ain’t no substitute for love, folks!
I was surrounded by it growing up. Hell, the very act of my adoption was an act of love that continued until my parents were dead and still, to this day, their love for me is so woven in the tapestry of who I am that it still appears at times that my parents are alive.
Don’t talk to me about the “love ya” kind of love that is tossed about on Facebook like someone giving a weather report. “Love ya” is a bastardization of what should be a declaration of unconditional love, the kind of love that is not dependant on what you are doing for me but rather on what I can do for you with no expectations.
Mom and Dad understood. Bev understands. My sister understood. I had the honor once, many years ago, of meeting Deborah T. in Seattle. Deborah ran a home for unwed mothers and each morning she was up at five a.m. cooking breakfast for her “daughters,” as she called them. Every morning she was helping change diapers, making phone calls for contributions, driving young girls to job interviews and babysitting. Her day would end late at night when the last child was sleeping and the last conversation with one of her daughters had ended and then the scene would repeat itself the next day and the day after that.
She had been doing that for fifteen years when I met her and I asked her why….why did she devote her entire life to this cause? What was in it for her?
She just smiled and said it was all about love, that we are each connected and it is our responsibility to reach out to others with love being our only motivation. She explained that love is the greatest gift we can give another person but that there could never be a price tag on that love, that it had to be given without restrictions or conditions; otherwise it wasn’t really love but rather a contract.
I did not know this woman; I was there as an assignment for my Sociology class my sophomore year in college. Still, with no prior history between us, she put her hands on each side of my face, looked into my eyes, and told me that I had an unlimited capacity to love and that I could change lives if I ever allowed myself to love unconditionally.
She was oh so right!
ADD THEM ALL TOGETHER
Random experiences….seemingly disconnected moments in my life….and yet they all add up to the person I am today. They are branded on my brain, imprinted in my heart and serve as a beacon of light to guide me through my life.
To deny the importance of those moments would be a great disservice to the people who served as my teachers in life. Each one of them became my mentors, shared their wisdom and implanted in me the qualities necessary to become the person I am today. I am the sum total of their teachings and it is now my responsibility to carry the torch they handed me.
I can make no excuses. I have been given the key to happiness and I now feel a sense of duty to pass it forward. To do less would be to devalue all that was given freely to me in the past and I refuse to do that.
My name is William Dale Holland and I carry with me, each and every day, this legacy. I plan on honoring it until my days are done.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
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