I think that my life is similar enough to anyone else’s that it has its good and bad parts. I have seen a life-examining exercise where someone graphs out their past, marking the highs and lows. I even did this once in 1996, right before I left for Hungary. That was a tumultuous year, especially compared to 1995 that I blogged about being 80 seconds in the slow lane. During training for Hungary I was sitting at the table with other teachers and asked to graph out the last several years of my life. I could only describe the graph as a slow incline. In other words, my life was just getting better. Others at the table talked about highs and lows. I was a little concerned that I had no real lows. Then I went to Hungary and experienced turbulence like I never had before. We got back from Hungary and tried to find the peace we had two years before. We struggled financially. Then Naomi was diagnosed with cancer. The toughest decade of my life was starting. If I were to graph it then, there were a few highs, but the low prevailed.
I am better now. What is nice is that I started getting better, and then the circumstances seemed to improve too. I am still attending a recovery group and will start working on my testimony to deliver on a Friday night soon. My testimony will include some very personal demons that I tried to fight alone. The first step in recovery is stepping out of denial, which is where I lived. It took time to finally learn I needed to rely on more than just my own understanding to heal. But it took more than time. It took several failures. I lost two jobs trying to do things my way. I had been at my new job only a year when I was suspended for my attitude. I tried to get better. I joined the recovery group. I thought I was doing all I could. But I saw the group as a sentence to be served. I still wasn’t ready to surrender. I wasn’t ready to admit that I needed other people.
During Naomi’s illness I took care of things. I held her down when the nurses needed to give her a shot. I finagled my way though the hospital’s phone system and got ahold of the CT scan department and told them to stop making Naomi wait for her scan. I believed that Naomi would live even when Prajna was so discouraged that she didn’t think so. I thought I had been so strong and done so well. And I thought I had done it alone. And when she died I felt like a victim too.
So when I was so severely depressed that I couldn’t see the truth, I started recovery. And I couldn’t get it. I still couldn’t concentrate enough to convince my employer that I was getting better after the suspension. Then my immediate supervisor called me and asked me to meet him at Starbucks. He bought me an Americano and I sipped the scalding beverage outside on a cold December evening. We discussed some unresolved issues at work. He had lost a family member too and confronted me on my tendency to “Play the Naomi Card”. He gave it to me straight. I was not honoring her memory by using her as an excuse to be depressed and live my life with a bitter chip on my shoulder. I don’t remember much else of what we talked about. But one thing I have not forgotten: He took the time to take me aside and try to talk some sense into me. Be believed in me enough and he cared enough to do this for me. His words didn’t matter as much as the effort he made. And it was not in vain. That night I realized that I wasn’t alone. Other people cared. That realization that I needed others didn’t scare me as much as before because there were people like him. That was the night I started getting better.
I have written two blog entries before that I called messages in a bottle. This was because I had a particular person in mind when I wrote. This today is another one. He has a birthday this week. I won’t mention his name. This isn’t just a message for him. I hope anyone reading this can know that there are quiet people out there who make a big difference. If I were to graph out my life, I would see there in December 2008 an unmistakable rise where it emerges from a despondent quagmire of self-absorption and mistrust. And standing there at the start of that rise, there he is pointing the way.