Altering the Ending

So it’s already 11:15pm as I start writing this. And to be honest, for the first time since I started this blog I would really like to just go to bed and not post anything tonight. I made some notes throughout the day because I knew I would be up late and I wanted to be able to write this quickly and easily so that I could get to bed. However, as I sat down to write I knew that the notes I made were useless.

Here’s something I’m sure you know, but something I’m just learning: there are dozens, if not hundreds of things that happen to me every day that I could turn into a blog post. Yeah, I might have to embellish here or there, I might have to spin a story a bit to make it fit with some point I want to make…but that would be inauthentic. It would be me trying to write for you, the audience, rather than for myself.

So what I am learning is that I must write the thing that I need to write about, rather than what I want to write about because it is easy or might “play well”.

And all the notes I wrote today to prepare for this post were me trying to just “skate by”, as my mother used to say. I wanted to just throw something down on the page here just to satisfy the commitment I made without putting any real effort into it.

Fortunately for both you and me, I caught myself. So you won’t read that worthless post because I won’t write it.

Here’s what I will write about:

I went to an amazing one-woman theater performance of a show called Hopeless. Its core content came from the practice of mindfulness – defined partly in my earlier post Being, Not Judging and Mindfulness Equals Confidence – and from the life and works of Pema Chodron, a Buddhist Nun.

But I actually don’t want to tell you about it. If you want to find out about it you can click the link I provided above or you can go see it yourself at the Brooklyn Bay Theater in SE Portland.

What I want to talk about was how my serendipitous universe provided an opportunity for me to reconnect with someone who helped to lay the foundation of what I know and believe about myself in relation to my thoughts, emotions and experience of my world. Though I have had dozens of counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, most of them had very little effect on me. In fact, I can’t recall many of their names and if I walked past them on a street I’d probably just keep walking.

But Tracy was one of the few whose presence and heart stayed with me. She was one of my counselors in the Providence Dual Diagnosis outpatient program. Also know as “Building B” for those of us “alumni”. I can still remember the first group she led way back in November 2010. She had this easy warmth that was energizing without being overbearing. She had a quick mind and was full of information to share without being arrogant or preachy. And her compassion helped many people (including me) turn difficult experiences into opportunities for growth.

As my aunt, uncle and I pulled up outside the theater, who should I see getting out of a car, but Tracy and her 12 year old son Devlin (I’m guessing on the spelling here, as we were just introduced and I didn’t ask for a spelling lesson… sorry Devlin, if you are reading this and I got it wrong!).

I was really quite surprised, but in a pleasant way, to see her there, and to meet her son. We chatted briefly before the show, and I was happy to be able to talk to her outside of the context of mental health. We went to our respective seats and just before the show started, I realized I wanted to say something to her afterward and made a note of it in the notebook I carry around for just that purpose.

And afterward I approached her and gave her my contact info. I was able to give her a hug and relate to her in a way I never quite could when I was a patient. And I hope that I’ll be able to keep in touch with her in some way.

But what this experience really was, for me, was a chance to change an ending. You see, last time I was at Providence, she was my primary counselor. I had been coming for about two weeks when I ended up back in the hospital and when I got out I was supposed to come back, but I relapsed and ended up just dropping out of the program without so much as a phone call. And although I know it happens all the time in an outpatient program like the one at Providence, I am sure Tracy wondered what happened to me.

Tonight, for me, was an opportunity to change a question mark to a period. Or, since I hope that I can stay in touch with Tracy to some extent in the future, perhaps a comma.

I don’t believe in coincidence, luck, or chance anymore. I believe there is a reason for everything and that we are intimately connected with all the myriad life and energy around us and in us. When I discard the silly notion that everything is separate, I begin to notice new and amazing movement in the world.

I am so grateful for my experience this evening. And my gratitude fills me with joy.

-Nathan

PS – I need to give partial credit for my title: it was inspired by the name of the Dashboard Confessional album, “Alter the Ending”. Which, by the way, is a wonderful album.

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