Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. — Step 8 of Alcoholics Anonymous
When I got to the Eighth Step I was kind of disappointed that they use the word “harmed.” I didn’t like it because I didn’t like the thought of me actually hurting people. We get a taste of peace after working the previous steps and then Step Eight comes crashing in like a bowling ball. Announcing we’d done harm.
That’s not a judgment call or me being hard on myself. It just is. I’m just another guy wandering around aimlessly doing my best…and sometimes doing my least.
Struggling to maintain that non-mistake-making state only makes my life harder. Letting that struggle go gave me so much more free time to enjoy life and the company of my fellow humans.
Well, I guess I never really expected myself to be perfect but I was pretty good at torturing myself when I did screw up. I wouldn’t let that shit go for whatever reason. Constantly feeling bad about myself is all bullshit, though. I make mistakes and then I feel bad about them for the appropriate amount of time and then I move on.
Letting ourselves be human brings our stress levels down. Our bodies will thank us. Our souls will thank us, too, and so will our peeps. People will love being with us when we’re not ruminating over something dumb that happened a week ago.
Okay, so that’s all fine and good. I’ve made peace with all that. Made peace with making mistakes.
But the thing is, if I’m intolerant of another person when they come up short, either every day or once in a blue moon, then I’m just an asshole.
I would guess there’s been 5-10 relationships I’ve had with people where I’ve written them off. And I’m not talking about small relationships either. These are like personal relationships that have lasted for years.
And I wrote these people off because I had hurt them or they had hurt me and then it just went back-and-forth like some fucked up game of spiteful volleyball.
Then usually there came a point where I’d had enough, where I was done with it. It didn’t matter if I would see them every day or not. The relationship was sour as far as I was concerned. Even if they tried to make it better I was like, “Fuck you and your goodwill. That bridge is burnt.”
So there’s somebody in my life now that I’d written off as well. Too many spiked volleyballs and I was tired of getting hit in the face with synthetic leather by some ass who needed to be right at all costs.
Deep down to my toes didn’t care anymore. And I’m sure it was obvious to him. I don’t want to come across as arrogant and say that he was all in the wrong but as far as I’m concerned he was. There’s some dysfunctional humans populating the planet. And plenty of them commit wrong over and over again.
Not long back Sara gave me the seeds of seeing him as a human, faults and all. But I wasn’t there yet. I was holding on to my hurt and frustration because I wasn’t done with it. We were still on opposite sides of the net and I hate sand in my sandals. We can’t force acceptance. It comes on its own. Generally after I’m finished processing and have washed my feet.
So in my interactions with him in the here-and-now I can see that he’s trying to be a better person, get beyond his own shortcomings, his own downfalls and the like. Being who I am, or who I can be, up until this point I was like “good for you” with all the mental sarcasm you can imagine. I’m suspicious by default, been burned^10 by the man holding flowers the day after he smacked you with a switch.
Minor tangent that plays a part in all of this: I’ve been keeping all of my email since 2002. I like history. I like nostalgia. And I’ve had some powerful, healing conversation over that medium.
For whatever reason yesterday I was reading an email Jimi sent me in 2012. It said something along the lines of his missing ingredient had been forgiveness. I’ve written about forgiveness before. It’s no secret that it’s powerful medicine for the sick, salted soul.
I can come across as all holy and spiritual…but make no mistake, I haven’t mastered anything. After learning how intolerant I can be I’m sure the monks would kick me out before nightfall.
Yesterday, early evening the written-off guy left me a voicemail. I listened to it and immediately went into “I’m not taking time to even knowledge this” mode. Silent, bitter disgust in all its glory.
But then this morning what Jimi had wrote via email was still lingering in my thoughts. It struck a chord this time. Unlike it did back in 2012.
So earlier today, without putting too much thought into it because I think way too much, I sent my antagonist a follow up email. I answered his questions and even made a little joke. On the weekend. When I usually like my alone time to be all about me and my pursuits.
And now I feel good, feel spiritual, feel burdenless. Like the feeling when you carry six bags of groceries in from the car and finally set them down on the kitchen floor. What a relief not to be lugging all that around any more.
I feel hopeful, feel positive. I don’t feel like anything is missing. In the cosmic sense of things. I feel like I’m doing my part in the bigger picture. If I’m not doing my part then I ain’t shit.
And I hope he feels good, too, after reading my reply email. If people are making a legitimate effort, consistently, if I can see that they are honestly trying to leave their volleyball days behind then they deserve more than simply being held in contempt. Forever.
I can see him as human, faults and all, just as Sara had reminded me I ought to.
It’s easy to do the right thing when the sailing is smooth and the waters are calm. It’s much harder to live up to my spiritual potential when life’s complicated and messy.