Don’t Go Away Mad

by Bill Brenner on March 28, 2013

A funny thing happens when people share stories of the not-so-happy moments of their lives: You walk away thinking they’ve experienced nothing but tragedy. In reality, there are plenty of uneventful pages in between the drama.

Mood music:

One time I was asked to tell my story at a 12-Step meeting. Under the format, you tell your story for about 15 minutes. The first five cover the speaker’s ugly path to addiction, the second five focuses on the point we hit bottom and entered the program, and the final five are about how our lives are today in recovery.

So I delved into the stormy past: The older brother dying, the best friend killing himself, the childhood disease and the depression and addiction that resulted. And, of course, the underlying OCD.

At the end of the meeting, someone expressed shock over all the troubles I’ve been through. “It’s just been one tragedy after another,” the person said.

I had to laugh. I’ve experienced my share of adversity, but a tragic life? Not even close.

It’s easy to feel punched in the face by the gravity of the experiences I shared because it’s all concentrated into one intense place, whether it’s reading all the back entries in this blog in one sitting or hearing me talk about it for five minutes of a 15-minute talk. Inevitably, it’s going to come off to the observer as a horror movie.

In truth, while I have been through the meat grinder, there have been many years of peace, joy happiness in between all the bad. All these events are stretched out over the 42-plus years I’ve been around. If you were to sit and watch even a three-hour replay of events, you’d find it a lot more boring.

To understand this, think about your own life. You’ve no doubt experienced sickness and death, family dysfunction and career ups and downs.

If you haven’t, you will.

In between the rough patches, I fell in love with and married the best gal on Earth, had two precious children who keep me laughing and loving, I’ve enjoyed a lot of success in my career, traveled to a lot of cool places and found God.

Would I want to go through the bad stuff again? Of course not. But the weird truth is that I’m not sure I’d change the past, either. It’s easy for someone to wish they had a lost loved one back in their life and that they were less touched by illness.

But without having gone through these things, would I be where I’m at today? I really don’t see how.

So when you read about some of the tougher things in this blog, don’t worry about me and don’t feel bad. I’m no different from most people in what I’ve been through, and it’s all good.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Penny March 25, 2010 at 6:11 am

Heavy stuff. Meaningful as hell. We are what we are and what we make of what we’ve been given. Personally I’m in a State of Lowered Expectations. While here, I hope that when the next hit comes (and it’s due any day now), if I’m already in a low place, then I won’t far as fall and hurt so much when I land. Make sense? That’s not to say that everything is bad right now; some things are actually in a good place. It’s just tough knowing another blow is coming.

I particularly like your final graf: “So when you read about some of the tougher things in this blog, don’t worry about me and don’t feel bad. I’m no different from most people in what I’ve been through, and it’s all good.” We have to believe in ourselves. If we don’t, how can expect anyone to? (OK, edit that! It was worded wicked awkardly… this is too.)

And don’t we need a meet to have a beer or other suitable grown up beverage?

Greg March 30, 2010 at 7:55 am

Thanks for this post. It really helped me to realize that although, like you, I have had many difficult experiences in my life, in between there have been so many more good things. Am working on not defining my life by all the misery and sorrow that has gone on. I really enjoy your blog–thanks for so candidly sharing your life, thoughts, and observations. Have an amazing day!

Best regards,

nanjcsy May 2, 2010 at 2:19 am

I really liked that, Bill. Due to the issue with Mark and Melissa, i have actually had folks say to me, “How can you possibly live with that? I am sorry that you have to live this way? Aren’t there other places Mark could live? A special home maybe?” Or my other favorite,”I am surprised you bothered to have another child! You must have just died when you found out she has problems too! If it were me, i think i would have just put them up for adoption or something. Aren’t you embarrassed to take them out where others can see?”

As you know i belong to AA and have told my story. Sometimes when they hear about my youth, or my children, someone will come up to me later and express sympathy for things i went through and how can i live with some of it sober?? well, alot of it i understand better now and i try not to hold grudges anymore. the past is done and gone, cannot change it. as for my kids and hubby, they are mine i love them and i wouldn’t change them. what is normal anyway?

io_saturnalia March 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Apt and beautiful post. I find it easy to get down when things are going well, but feel joy when things are going poorly (or *really* poorly).

Two biblical passages come to mind. One obvious one is Ecclesiastes 3 (familiar to anyone who’s heard The Byrds’ “Turn turn turn”).

The other is Matthew 5:45, that says God “makes it rain on the just and unjust.”

Not bad for a heathen, huh?

Fred March 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I understand, but I can say the same thing with events covering much fewer than 42 years. I have this in a note on my handheld, an extension of my memory. 🙂

Recent major events
May 9, 2010 lost job
Dec 23, 2010 house fire
Out of our house for 7 months
April 21, 2012 Stroke

Sounds like a lot in under 3 years. Not so bad. And God’s been gracious.

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