Do me a quick favor and watch this commercial.
This commercial makes me cry cry cry. Lifespan made a series of these, this being the longest, and between the six o’clock news and Modern Family reruns, I tend to catch the shorter ones which never fail to send me into a sweet oblivion of tears. I am so touched by these fucking commercials and it astounds me every time.
These commercials remind me of what I’ve only just learned: this is what we get. How simple. How utterly perfect and beautiful that is. We get life – chores and work and laughter and making dinner and riding our bikes. These are the things that make us human, they are proof that we are alive; life is simple and complicated and takes place while we’re breathing in and out, maybe we’re laughing, maybe we’re crying, maybe we’re staring up at the ceiling trying not to think too much. It is all so fucking perfect and it brings me to tears because it’s true: this is what we get. We get so fucking much. It was only a short time ago that I thought that what we got was nothing at all.
I was scared of a normal life. After college I moved home and got a waitressing job. I went out to bars with my friends almost nightly – socializing was a break from the ordinary. Partying was synonymous with adventure – maybe I’d meet someone, maybe we’d take those photos you see on Facebook where it’s clear as day that these are the friends we’ll have for life. Drinking and parties meant fun, wild, youth. Adulthood was the nine to five, the grind, the bill paying and lawn-mowing and lack of sleep. Adulthood wasn’t something I wanted, especially because it looked so boring. When I hadn’t landed my dream job right out of college (or any job in my field) after putting in minimal effort, I realized that the spiel that had kept me going all those years – you can do whatever you want, you will accomplish so much – was a crock of shit meant to keep me in school. I was no different from anyone else. I deserved no special treatment. Look at my parents – my dad was in and out of the hospital my whole life, working three jobs, hating his employer, leaving IOU notes in my piggy bank. My mother came home from work exhausted on a daily basis from teaching stupid kids and catering to their shitty parents. They worked hard, they served their community, they raised a couple of kids, and they’d die exhausted and in debt. That’s not the life I wanted. It was pointless.
For a while, I went nowhere. I reached total boredom and restlessness from a trilogy of dead-end jobs, worrying about my dad’s health, hating money and doing the same thing day in and day out. I was getting close to thirty fast. When my grandmother passed away, I stayed at my aunt’s house and before long, four of us had put a dent in a case of wine. I proclaimed that I didn’t think this was all that life could be, that I wanted to quit my job and do something different for once. My aunt, who had given her career to her ungrateful father, shook her head and said that I was being selfish, that life was about putting your head down and working hard to get what you wanted. I remember being both disappointed in myself and saddened by her mindset. What I wanted was irrelevant, something to laugh at. How was it possible that no one saw what I saw: that life was empty and about working to pay for the things that keep you from becoming homeless? Or maybe people did see it, and they’d accepted it and that was that. One of seven billion people. One tiny job with no impact where I could be replaced in an instant. I wasn’t special, none of us were. The whole thing was a lie. Even the party didn’t feel like a party anymore. There was nothing ahead of me but the same boring shit that had lead me to this conclusion about life.
If entire generations before me made it through their whole lives with the knowledge that this was all there was, then I could do it too. I didn’t have much of a choice, I might as well get used to it. Luckily, alcohol made it easier. I could get lost in the frenzy of a night out (or in), thinking of eyeliner and a playlist and endless cigarettes. It was simpler; it became easy to focus on the little things. It kept me from having to think about the fact that nothing else mattered. This is what we get.
I was so lost.
Part of me wants to slap that girl across the face while another part of me wants to hold her like a baby.
Stop it with this shit, get a grip.
It’s going to be ok, sweetheart.
When was the last time you did anything good for yourself? When was the last time you read a book or looked for an actual opportunity? When did you get so scared?
I know it hurts now, but it can be better, I promise. You’ll see.
You’re doing life all wrong. You’re wasting it.
Come on, get up, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Stop blaming everyone and everything else and face yourself, you coward.
You’re so much better than this, can’t you see? You’re perfect.
Seven months doesn’t seem like a long time, but when I think about how far I’ve come and how much has changed in that short amount of time, I beam with pride. And I’m so excited.
The fact that I’m in this body, this mind, this sense of humor, these lungs – it’s incredible in and of itself. There is no other me, there never will be and never has been. Only I can do what I do. My life is my own and I make it with every breath. This is what I get.
I have so much work to do, so much to see and hear and feel. So many books to read, so many feelings to find. I’ve tapped into a sense of purpose. Finally. For the first time in my life.
Maybe I would have found this sense of purpose elsewhere, but I doubt it. Taking on the task of getting and staying sober was the first act I chose to do in my adult life. As soon as I took that first step, the world opened up. It took actually doing something for the sake of my life that made me see that this life is mine and is what I choose to make it.
(Let me take a moment to congratulate myself here – not only did I finally do something, I did the thing I never thought I’d do, never considered doing, never wanted to do. I did the thing I didn’t think was possible, the thing nobody talks about, but the thing that is clearly and wholly a good thing.)
I’m now fully invested in this thing called my life. I’m working at it and I’m getting so much more back than I bargained for, and sobriety gets a pretty big chunk of the credit.
This is what we get. We get to do the work, we get to figure out who we are and what we’re made of. We get to cry and scream and stomp our feet sometimes. We scrape our knees and we laugh so hard that we pee (more than we’d like). We take pride in our work and we wonder how we got so lucky to be on this planet, in this place, watching the wind move through the trees while our chests heave, up and down, up and down while our bodies pulse with life. It is not about where we’re going or what we take, but rather the fact that we’re here at all, that we’re building and tearing down and choosing what our lives will be, who we are and who we will be, what our happiness is and where our purpose exists. I’d been looking at it all wrong – I was always looking out, never in. I only saw the shells of things, which is why everything looked empty. I was out of touch with all of the parts of me that matter – soul, spirit, mind. Now there is abundance.
I don’t want anything to dull that feeling. I know now that we are supposed to hurt just as much as we are supposed to laugh, that the work is in our minds and our hearts and not in our careers or our bank accounts. The pain will push me, the boredom will drive me. The restlessness will mean I need to seek more and the joy will sustain me. Drinking pacifies me, distracts me, empties me. I don’t want to be pacified anymore. I can’t imagine feeling anything less than I do now that I can see that what we get is to be full.