So, here I am, puttering along in my little sober car. Doing the next right thing, minding my own business. My mind isn’t preoccupied with thoughts about drinking or not drinking. Sober is the new black for me. I wear it every day; it goes with everything!
Every waking minute doesn’t revolve around how raw and weird and new sobriety is…. So my thoughts and focus return to the ups and downs of daily life. A life that includes a job I love: I work with groups of elementary school kids, helping them with their reading or math skills. Now, I love my co-workers. I adore my job. I love the kids that I work with. I love MOST of the kids that I work with. But there’s one kid in one of my groups who’s a ginormous pain in my ass. Disrespectful, argumentative, disruptive – seems to delight in walking that very fine line between discussion and argument over every single thing I tell him to do. I’ve tried explaining why I need him to do what I ask. I’ve tried TELLING him to just do what I ask. I’ve tried ignoring it when he gets out of his seat for a tissue every three minutes. Or belches. Or passes gas – you get the idea. My husband is sick of hearing the kid’s name. I’m sick of hearing MYSELF say the kid’s name. He is just all-around disagreeable and I find myself thinking about him every morning when I wake up, just dreading having to deal with him yet another day.
So. One day last week, there was a substitute teacher in our room; a lovely retired teacher whom I’ve gotten to know pretty well, as she’s become a familiar face in our building. We were chatting at lunch and she asked me how my sister is doing ( I have a sister who’s undergoing chemo for breast cancer.) I thanked her for asking and mentioned a new medication she’s on, one given to cancer patients whose white cell counts are low. She said, “I’m familiar with that drug – my son was on it for a while.” I ask, “Oh! Is your son a cancer survivor?” There’s just a beat – she responds, “He didn’t survive.” Three little words. So much pain.
She proceeds to tell me about his diagnosis and eventual death – at the age of 28. I could feel the tears start and just couldn’t keep them from falling. She cried too, and it was a little uncomfortable and awkward, to be honest. But I just listened as she told her story and gave her the space and time to share as much as she wanted. Needless to say, I was reeling by the time I went back to work; I had absolutely no idea that she’d been through something so devastating. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 50-some-odd years I’ve been on this earth, it’s that you can never look at another human being and assume you know their story.
So then later that evening, as we’re eating dinner, the phone rings. The woman calling had been given my name by a mutual acquaintance who’d asked if I’d be willing to talk – or more likely, listen – to her friend, whose son is an out-of-control heroin addict. He’s destroying her family. And she’s a widow, trying to raise three kids alone. Such heartbreak. And anger. And love. All rolled up in one little woman, trying to be the very best mom – and dad – to her kids that she can. So we talked for about an hour and a half, and I made her promise me to stay in touch. I know the road she’s walking and I don’t want her to ever feel alone.
I was reeling and exhausted emotionally by the end of the day. And I thought – these people have REAL problems. I have absolutely nothing to complain about.
And I think the Universe was just trying to remind me to be grateful and focus on the important, wonderful blessings I’m so incredibly lucky to have.