If there is anything positive that is coming out of trying to get healthy, it’s knowing when I’ve made a mistake and not letting my first reaction be “stuff and deny.” If you had met me a year ago, I would have told you that I have no problems at all. That’s how I’ve lived my entire life- nothing is wrong with me, let me do for you, let me take care of you, let me let you walk all over me until I can’t stand it anymore.
When you do that, you set yourself on a pedestal that creates a hard fall. If someone hasn’t made the connection that you’re fallible, when they do, they can’t understand it. It doesn’t compute. But that’s not their fault. I’ve never needed anything from anybody, and now I do. Most of that is forgiveness for just being a right jackass in the midst of the most terrible time in my life.
I’ve even gone through it with Dana. The other day she was talking about how completely I’d fallen apart and she didn’t have any support. Was that before or after I called everyone I knew and said, “I’m going down, and Dana needs some help.” I knew this was going to ruin me ahead of time, but in my best hopes, it is breaking eggs to create an omelet.
In order to rise from the ashes, it usually means there’s been a fire. In AA, the first step is admitting you have a problem. In Al-anon, the first step (for me, at least) has been admitting that I am clever and stupid enough to throw the first match. It’s not my fault, and it is. I am responsible for my current behavior, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons for it, stemming back to an age where I couldn’t be held responsible for the kind of emotional system I set up for myself. My outer self is trying to grow up, while my old patterns are trying to say, “come back… this is where it’s safe.” The space between those two ideas is the difference between the high road and the low one.
Going back to what I know is just pure id. I’m too scared to embark on this new life, so I grasp at straws of my old personality when the new one feels like my “clothes are too big.” I have ADD, so my impulse control is naturally impotent when I need it.
Becoming new and whole is a journey, not a destination. I am on the beginning end of learning great emotional tools, not the end. My nerves are frayed in a way that they never have been before. A dream that I’ve had since I was 18 years old may come true quickly- definitely on God’s terms and not on mine, but still. I have a lot of work to do.
And then, even then, the Rev. Leslie Lanagan is still going to be an ordinary asshole with an extraordinary calling. Because even the Rev. Leslie Lanagan will still have all her flaws and failures, because that Leslie is not a separate personality. It is more important for me to show my humanness now than ever, because what parishioner really wants to go to a pastor that hasn’t been in their shoes? Hasn’t understood what it’s like to be entirely, completely wrong and still had someone love and affirm them anyway?
There’s an old story that Leo McGarry tells the President’s staff on The West Wing:
Guy spends all day in a hole 8 feet deep. Guy screams for help, and a passerby jumps down the hole to help him. The guy that’s been trapped all day says, “NOW YOU’VE JUST SCREWED US BOTH.” The guy who jumps says, “I’ve been in this hole before, and I know the way out.”
I have to believe that someday, all my flaws and failures can be used to pull other people out of the behaviors they hate about themselves, because they can see them laid out on the page, here, in black & white. I’m not scared of the things that make me appeal to my basest self, because I know that everyone has those same behaviors inside. I just care less whether you care what I’ve done in my life, because of two things:
If I treat you like a human, in all of your failures, I expect it in return. If you don’t respect me as much as I respect you, I am less concerned with whether I need to answer your needs. I do not want to set up any pattern in which you get complete forgiveness for your actions and I don’t.
Your reaction to my flaws and failures is not mine to own. Your reactions are your reactions. You have what you can put up with and what you can’t. I will not live in fear of what you think.
Because you know I’d do the same for you.