This is how I got here: I grew up in chaos and trauma, but my parents are not to blame. They did the best they could.
I escaped in books and stories and fantasies. Disconnecting from reality felt good. By the time I was in 2nd grade, I knew I had to “get out”. But neither my environment nor my proclivities were to blame. It is what it is.
I hurried time, graduated early, traveled abroad, joined the military. I wore a flower in my lapel for morning formation; I was not a murderer. I wanted them to know. I was not a follower. I simply wanted a better life than what I thought I was destined. Hope and dreams are not the answer but they are also not to blame.
9/11 happened. We lost light that day. Everything changed but still it remained the same. Evil exists, but it does not have have to infect your heart.
I went to college, made good money, felt a calling to connect with others to do good. My confidence soared. Maybe I would finally “make it”. But men are men and hurt people hurt people. As quickly as it came, my sense of stability faded once again.
I escaped the disappointment with grad school. Tried to understand the world through numbers, through knowledge. Equity not equality. Raise your fists. Speak their names. Take back the streets. But, it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough. Because the problems of this world are not to blame.
In my mind, there had to be something to account for the sacrifices, the loneliness, the discomfort I felt in my own skin. There had to be relief somewhere. Something to be done. When would I be able to breathe? To feel safe and satisfied and like my contributions mattered in the world. Institutions are not to blame. It’s not society or misogyny or socioeconomic insecurity. My ghosts were of my own making. You cannot run from yourself. But I continued to try.
I fell in love. I got divorced. I lost a baby. Not in that order, but it doesn’t matter. None of that is to blame. I was raped. I was assaulted. Also not in that order. Much of it happened before and again and again. I was always afraid. I didn’t know I had the right to say no. But, helplessness is a symptom. It is not to blame.
I still couldn’t see so I put my head down. I worked harder, slept less. The striving, the searching, the fight — it consumed me. If I could save one life, give one person hope, reunite one family, I thought it would be okay. But it was never enough. The harder I tried, the darker my soul became.
No one is to blame. But I blamed me. There was something wrong. I was broken, too sensitive, not made for this world. I chose to remember the clients who died, who relapsed, who went to jail. I focused on the systems that were broken. I blamed men and authority, but mostly I blamed myself. My humaneness was to blame.
How could this be all there is? The world is not kind. There are no bootstraps, no ladder, no solution. At least not from where my spirit fell. I got angry. I made decisions that harmed me. Instead of running I embraced the cycle of poverty, anger and regret. I put myself in danger and I blamed others for not protecting me.
It’s hard now to see how unmanageable my life had become. How I had given up. I never thought I would lose hope. Idealism had been my religion, my higher power, my escape. But it wasn’t enough. Nothing I could do alone was ever enough.
This is how I got here: my mind failed me. I lied to myself, abused my heart, punished my very existence. There was no reason, no purpose — we all die alone, I used to say--no one can experience that for you — so what’s the point? Nothing matters. There is no god, no higher power; there is only suffering and the absence of suffering. We have a choice. I didn’t understand why I kept wallowing in my own wake.
Two years ago, I looked up and saw the prison I had created. A man looked at me recently and said, “it doesn’t sound like you really “got out”. But I still wasn’t ready to let go. My will. My power. My mind, determination, my grit. It had to save me. It’s all there was.
The loss was unbearable. So intoxicated with my own will, I started looking around and casting blame. 30 odd years of blame. Fault and shame and recognition of the fall from grace. But there was no one to blame. I could not fault the world or my fellow man. Everyone is doing the best they can.
It had to be me. I was to blame. I raged and ravaged. I slashed my thighs with razors, drank until my days were consumed with numbness and regret. So angry I was that I started wanting to die.
I went on 26 interviews. I traveled more, tried to find peace in nature, in the cycle of life, in the basic understanding that it all was connected. I gave up indulgences, sacrificed more, made do with less. I slept in my car, gave away my things, tried to find the value in nothingness.
In the end, there was no light. I saw only the evil in man, the heartache, the abuse and sadness. Refusing to accept my own powerlessness brought me to my knees. Because there is nothing to blame.
I cannot control others. I cannot will them to health or save them from pain. I cannot stop death; there may always be terror and war. But I am not to blame. I cannot work harder or sacrifice more. The weight of the world does not rest on my shoulders. I do not need to make amends for the fact that hell on earth does exist. For so many.
The wind blows without me. I must simply enjoy the breeze.
Powerlessness has brought me finally to peace. There is something greater than me, something that sent me to places of horror and misery but that also brought me love. I still don’t fully understand why, but my mortal limitations are not to blame. Maybe I don’t need to know. Maybe I don’t need to be better, do better, or enjoy less.
Freedom is waking up and asking the universe to use me as a vessel. To share, to connect, to love and to just be. Powerlessness is a gift. The outcome is not up to me. I can only do the next right thing and to have faith, to truly believe, that there is something greater than me.