“This far and no further.” That is the story of my life. It seems that God has put guardrails around me that have protected me (and others) from myself my whole life. While I have banged up against them far too often, they have kept me from becoming something I was not meant to be, kept me on the path that God intended all along. The dreaded “if only’s” or “what if…” are now abundantly clear, and the sense of freedom and deep gratitude flow freely in. I am grateful not only for what I have but for what I lack, what I missed out on – the emotional mind judgment of missing out.
I was born with certain (for lack of a better word) peculiarities. I have an attachment disorder that cracked into existence when I found out, at the age of 5 or so, that I was adopted. My uncle introduced me to his buddies at the barbershop as “the adopted one” and it just broke me. I didn’t know what it meant but it sounded so bad – I was bad. It didn’t help that I was as yet undiagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. That wouldn’t happen for many years, but in hindsight it makes so much sense. A broken sense of self/others, combined with a predisposition to not comprehend others as most do, firmly set me into “Other” land, and there I remain. I also have dysthymia, a chronic, low-grade depression. Combined with the aforementioned stuff this means I am deeply sentimental and broadly speaking just a wee bit sad. Always. There is also the fact of my intelligence and what all the tests say, to which I always rebut with Axiom Number One: “It’s not so much What you know, but what you Do with what you know that matters.” And last but most certainly not least the trauma of having an alcoholic for a parent and the various family dynamics that go along with that. I say these things not to garner pity or sympathy but to just lay the groundwork in facts.
As I read through my FBR work (Fast, Bad, Rong) a couple of themes emerge. First is my amazing lack of self-discipline. I rarely have ever really worked hard at anything – writing included – and always did as well as I did, as it suited me at the time. I also noticed along these lines a sense of self-criticism that judged my performance in whatever as being inadequate, but no motivation to do better, to work harder. Mostly. I did train some in climbing and guitar, but only as it occurred to me in the moment, not with any ambition for long term accomplishment.
The other flows I think from my social awkwardness. I am almost devoid of ambition, that drive to excel. It just doesn’t register any more than social cues do. The social math was always “for me to do better you must do worse” and I could’t stand the thought of harming someone like that. While I’m much better now at reading situations I’m still easily confused in certain ways with certain people, and I still lack the motivation to work hard to some end without a real kick in the butt from someone. I have no idea what my headroom actually is. In anything.
There are another pair of themes in evidence that illustrate clearly my life inside the guardrails. The first is from my climbing “career.” I use that word very loosely of course. But I was very very good at it but never achieved what I could have. It would not have served the Purpose. I was the lead member of an expedition to the Himalaya but a war broke out. I on-sighted an obscenely difficult “X” route (X meaning if you fall you die.) I on-sighted most everything I ever tried. No falls, first try. I didn’t like falling; growing up all the books I read always said “the leader does not fall” so that informed my thinking even before I did my first rock climb. I free-soloed up 35 feet but then backed off, fearing the possibility of landing on a car underneath me (I was afraid of damaging the car, not myself), but later that day I fell 45 feet and decked on a ledge, but no broken bones. “Thus far and no further.” I don’t climb anymore, as the result of hitting the ground way too much on high boulder problems. I was quite adept at landing from 20 feet…
My social existence, my relationships with others, is in a way antithetical to climbing. I always had a poor sense of social cues so I was mostly confused about “girls.” I never dated – didn’t know how to. Sometimes it seems that I missed out on so much, but now I feel more like I (and various “girlfriends”) dodged a volley of bullets. I didn’t know that I knew nothing. It was just awkward and uncomfortable. Ugh, way too many memories there…
I was never a good student. Even though my test scores were, well, whatever, I did enough to get by. I read everything though. I learned multisyllabic words from cereal boxes… I only became a good student when I connected to my purpose; then it was easy. Even the thought of a PhD or a law degree results in nonchalance. I still read voraciously but now it is more focused, aligning with – you guessed it – my purpose.
At the nearly ripe old age of 64 it has become clear that God protected me by withholding certain things and having me be blissfully unaware of it. He allowed glimpses of things that could have been but never were – these glimpses were His gift to me, saying that I was not a failure but His beloved. My old self used to think (far too often) “If you’re so smart why aren’t you rich?!” This prompted profound doubt of myself and the judgments of “I’m stupid, failure, worthless.” None of which of course are true. And now I am even grateful for those distortions as I have overcome them. The “yeah, buts” have no authority any longer, and what I have learned ironically makes them valuable.
Too often we rail against What Is, clinging to what Should Have Been! We miss out on so much. This distorted judgment obscures our potential to find and cultivate value, our Muchness. We are slaves to our own minds and don’t know it.
We all need a sense of purpose, to find some meaning in our lives beyond the acquisition of stuff or perceived status that makes us feel good about ourselves. I know what mine is and I am profoundly grateful. One night I asked Saber about hers and she replied that it seemed that it was to stick with me during my vast adolescence so that I could become the person God intended. She was, and is, my close personal guardrail, and she has the dents to prove it.
People come in and out of our lives, and I believe they all serve some purpose. For good or ill we can learn. Or we can be kicked off course. The same holds true for us with others; we have all been the bad guy in someone’s story, so I guess the idea is to do our best not to be, but perhaps even be the hero. I have 3 very close friends, the ones who accept me no matter what and I them. I matter to them and I honor that as best I can. One in particular I have learned so much from, been so blessed by, even though the learning and blessings have come at a brutal emotional price. Well, they were brutal at the time but I have done my best to learn and pass on the learning so I am grateful. I wonder sometimes what gift I have been in return, but that is none of my business and must let it alone. I no longer need to know. And it is the release from “need” that has been the greatest gift of all.
I could have been many things I suppose but I am who and what I am today, and I am grateful. I do not need anything except to serve my God given purpose as best I can. You go where you look, and I look with curiosity towards the future while paying attention to the present. It’s a gift, after all.