Wednesday, May 5, 2010

“Sometimes We Even Surprise Ourselves”

Last night I was at one of my regular coffee shops, doing some journaling. I’m working through Step Six and the last time I had done this, I took the time to do a written sixth step and had really been impressed by how much it had done for me, doing it that way. On this current set of twelve, the work has been just as enlightening. Some people really slouch the sixth and seventh steps, but I’ve found that doing written versions, giving them a thorough go, is good for my Recovery.

When I’d first started writing, there was no one around. Bit by bit, the patio started to fill up. First, a couple who were a little talky, but sat far enough away that it didn’t matter. Then another couple sat down. The man from the talky couple asked the newcomers if they could wait to smoke, since they were about to leave. The comment barely registered with me, but I did note that I wasn’t smoking myself—very unusual. I almost always have a cigarette in my hand when I’m journaling.

The talky couple did leave after a couple minutes, and another sat down. I didn’t pay them much attention, as with the others, and the fact that it was a gay couple registered as a detail along the lines of what color someone’s hair or eyes are. The fact that they were loud, however, stood out. Not even the both of them so much, as just one of the guys.

Have you ever met someone and in the space of five minutes, they’ve given you their entire life’s story—including how they were molested as a child, owe money to their Uncle, and hate the ex who left them years earlier? ‘Too much information’ we say. That was exactly what was taking place at the table next to me, and the guy doing the talking was doing it loud enough that everyone around could hear. I found out all about his sordid childhood, his friends that ‘forced him’ to get into drugs, and even learned the password to his Blackberry. He said it five times to his date so that he could remember it and later look through all the personal information he had stored. “Just don’t use any of it against me,” he said.

So next to me I have this crazy conversation going, and I’m busy trying to work on character defects. In a way, what better motivator could there be, though? The temptation was loud, almost unbearably so, to focus on someone else’s defects. The thoughts were there, at the gate, waiting to be let out. “Will you please shut the hell up and let me write in peace?” “Stop being such a victim.” None of them escaped, and I did my best to focus on my work.

After a bit, I went inside to get my coffee warmed up. Standing at the counter, I heard an “excuse me.” I turned. It was the loud guy from outside and I took a look at him. He was short, young. Even there, standing (too close) next to me, his insecurity bled from his pores. I felt the tiniest hint of compassion. I, too, have been on a first date and felt the fear of saying the wrong thing, wanting everything to go perfectly.

“Um, so, I’m trying to impress my new boyfriend. I was wondering, like, if the next time I swear, could you just turn to me and tell me to shut up and watch my language?”

I’m not kidding, that’s really what he said to me.

Now, I'm not positive what old Zach would have said to this guy. I might have just shrugged him off with a simple 'no'. I might have laughed in his face. I might have given him a lecture on being manipulative. I might have told him off and said there are other people in the world besides your self-centered ass. What I actually said surprised the hell out of me.

Before I even knew it, I was telling him that he was okay, that I thought he was handling himself just fine, and not to worry so much. I encouraged him, just as I might encourage a close friend in the same situation. I told him that the setup wasn't necessary and that it sounded like he had everything under control, just as it was. He went back outside, as did I once my coffee had been topped off.

Back at my table, I continued my step work. The conversation didn't get any quieter, and the guy continued on in the same way as before. I did my best not to listen to the long diatribe of how glad he was to have his new boyfriend in his life and how he wanted to open up to him and tell him all about his mental disorder and how he has so few good people in his life.

I suppose the ultimate spiritual being would be filled with compassion for him. I'm just someone working to become more spiritual. Progress, not perfection, we say. I didn't have to work to let go of the conversation next to me, though, it happened naturally. Their issues are their issues. It's not really any of my business, and that was truly how I felt. No anger, no resentment, no nothing really. Just the slightest distraction that was easily filtered out, like a tv show in the background.

Everyone in this life is on their own journey. We come from all places and only God knows where we're going. Every once in a while, I get to see my progress as I walk the path. Being able to let go of other people's stuff is a skill I have learned. Having boundaries is another. These are things I once never thought myself capable of. To possess them today and to still be practicing them, working to better myself, is a gift, a blessing, and a miracle.

No comments:

Post a Comment