When Shit Shows Up: speaking the Universe's language

New Orleans junk store

I met an old man this past Sunday at the Healing Center. He was tall and thin, his two bottom teeth missing, dressed in a navy sports coat and brown trousers. They were nice clothes, a little worn, and he had the sweet, imploring voice of someone used to asking not for handouts but for help. I wanted to help, but I never carry cash. 

Tremaine was more heartbreaking. He listed into the yoga studio too high to walk, a little boy with floppy dreads and an ache he wore plainly. He wanted to take a yoga class, and we filled out the waiver form together, his head on the desk, eyes squinting at his pen as it scrawled across the paper. He was a stalk bending in the wind but never falling over.  He'd wandered to me lost, and besides treating him with kindness, I didn't do anything real to help him. 

On the way home, a red light caught me on Elysian Fields. I'm a people watcher, my greatest fantasy to turn invisible and spend my days watching the rest of you in your most tender, unguarded moments. A willowy boy in pink pajama pants came out of the  bodega on the corner and exchanged a wad of money for drugs with another boy, this one hiding a stocky frame in his huge sweatshirt. They parted, the willowy one drifting home while the other scanned the streets before shoving the money in his pockets. 

The Universe was talking. But I had no idea what it was saying. 

I've been walking around with a knot of anger and fear and tears all wadded up and lodged in my chest. The place I carry things when they become too much, at my breastbone, the center of my chest. It might be the headlines, this surreal version of the greatest Punked ever committed. Or, it's me. 

Later, all done with my groceries and trying to back out of the parking lot, a couple stood in the middle of the row, each pushing a stroller, clearly in the middle of a fight. I inched by them, and this infuriated the woman. I could see in her sun-streaked skin the agony of the day spent outside, fucked up, her eyes feral and fangs bared. The man, the softer of the two, tried to get me to stop, hey, he said, hey, we just need -- 

I didn't stop. I was too full of rage. What I had for those parents were judgments, self-righteous, sanctimonious I-would-never, as if drug addicts ever have a real I-would-never kind of bottom when it comes to getting more drugs. If I had kids back then, would I push them around a grocery store parking lot to beg for money? Maybe. Maybe I would. 

The Universe was talking to me all day, and all I heard was my own fury. 

I've been making it a point to talk in meetings, obligatory participation so I don't recede into the background of my own recovery. I told a story about how I'd kept my outside life mostly in tact, so I didn't feel I had too many amends to make. After all, I spent most of my time hurting myself. 

These are my defects roaring up. The ugly boot stomping of my Truth being all, "Hold up, bitch. You've been talking an awful lot of talk. How about that walk now?"

A now-closed coffee shop in which I discovered a court yard manifestation of my soul. 

A now-closed coffee shop in which I discovered a court yard manifestation of my soul. 

The truth is, I'm a baby bird in this recovery business. In this kindness business. I forget my compassion and gorge on my judgment. I forget that we heal together and recovery happens in community, not in the safe isolation of my comfy house and on the spaces I deem safe on the web. I've been talking that talk about recovery out loud, but the truth is that I still feel shame about even being in AA, about needing to text the beautiful women I am so fucking lucky to have, about wanting to throw a tantrum because I have to make myself dinner. 

Seriously, I want to have an epic, floor-pounding, wailing meltdown because my house is full of dog hair, my bathroom's dirty, the sink stinks like rotted steak farted in it, and I still feel super fat despite trying to force this whole body positivity thing. And even worse, I feel awful for feeling this way because you all went out and marched for my right for autonomy over my body, and I should be full of pink clouds and love, but I'm not. 

I haven't been able to figure out why I feel like this. Why now? I think all this shit is here because I'm learning a lesson. I haven't completed some important wisdom shit, so I get to make great friends with all the ways I can act like an asshole in one day. And just because the Universe is vast and loving, I get about 100 times each day to see myself in my fellow addicts and to be kind. Sometimes, like with Tremaine, I make it. When he wandered back in an hour later, total amnesia about being there earlier, we shared a small quiet moment before he turned around and wandered back out, telling me, "No yoga today, Jamie." 

New Orleans cemetary

This is my shit showing up. I get a thousand moments each day to practice being a kinder version of myself, taking care of my needs like I might a small person I loved, making sure I'm fed and put to bed at a decent hour. And I get a thousand moments each day to totally fuck that up, forgive myself and try again the next morning to figure out what the fuck the Universe is trying to say to me.