I have this idea in my head that once I make it to a certain plane, I will not be “this way” anymore. I will not have those dark and depressed days. I will not feel crazy. No matter how fast and hot the soup around me is boiling, I will be calm, cool, and collected. The eye of the hurricane. The wisest one in the room. In this elusive, impossible version of myself, I am taller and a real grownup.
This future me has it all “together,” which I guess means keeping all of our parts in unison, our complicated, complex, human, limitless, ever changing aspects of ourselves in constant alignment. Like a computer system or an assembly line. No mistakes.
I sometimes feel that I am close to achieving this state of being and then I very uncalmly blurt out something stupid that is neither cool nor collected. I ask myself How did I let that happen? After all of this therapy, all of this self-exploration to navigate my feelings and contain myself, all of this praying and meditating and the various tools of sobriety. When I was first getting to know my ex-boyfriend, it came up in conversation that I regularly saw a therapist. His response was, “I’m surprised to hear that. It seems like you have it all together.” I don’t think I need to dive into the irony of that statement here.
At least during my Lost Years, I knew I was a mess and I accepted all the dumb shit I did and said. The reckless behavior. The demoralization. The chaos. But now, since I know better, that means I should do better, be better, behave better, act better…. Wait. Act better. That’s acting. Performing. That doesn’t sound like living authentically and quite honestly neither does behaving. Good behavior to me connotes images of sitting quietly in class, completely still, with head faced forward and ears open ready to agree with whatever the teacher says.
Behaving feels like acting like everything is okay, not asking questions, and showing that I am happy because we are on a romantic vacation and I don’t want to rock the boat. Smiling for the pictures even though I am confused as hell. Sure, he yelled at me for a reason I don’t understand, and called me jealous for asking when he would be back with the pizza he went to pick up for us two hours ago, but I just want to have a nice time. So I apologize for being so clingy. Promising that it won’t ever happen again. That I would behave better in the future.
A long time after, many similar interactions later, I sat in this same boyfriend’s kitchen and logged into my Zoom class. We had just been fighting and I was really upset. I tried to keep my video on but the dams of my tear ducts were not working and I couldn’t hold back the water works. One of my classmates private chatted me and asked if I was okay and that made me cry even more. Video off. I messaged her back, “Thank you so much for asking. It means a lot. I’m not okay but I will be okay.”
The next week I ran into that same peer in the bathroom of the hospital for our internship. As we washed our hands side by side at the sinks, I used this opportunity to thank her. I looked at her in the mirror, “Thank you so much, for reaching out to me in class last week.”
“Yeah I could tell something was wrong. I was so surprised because you always seem to have it all together.”
I immediately felt defensive. I wanted to scream, I DO HAVE I ALL TOGETHER. IT WAS JUST A BLIP IN THE SYSTEM. I stayed upset about this for several days until I finally worked up the courage to text her. “Hey, I can have all my shit together and still cry!” and attached some funny meme to the message so that it wouldn’t be taken too seriously. She laughed and agreed.
Phew. The order of my life had been restored because this woman who weeks ago was a complete stranger, has seen that I still have my shit together even though I cried. This whole story absurdly demonstrates that I don’t really have anything together at all.
The bottom line is that growth is not about always keeping it all together or working hard to spiritually excel to avoid all pain and suffering. It is about letting ourselves experience our unvarnished feelings. Accepting when things aren’t in alignment and being okay with that. Or not being okay with that. Whatever the lesson of the day is.
Instead of having it all together, let’s practice having it all.