I went to support the one I loved. I went to support myself. It was dusk in the City by the Bay and the soft orangish golden hues of a day that was reluctant to say good night illuminated the city like halos.I went to support the others who would be there. Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge with a heart that was dripping with love and pain ironically felt intoxicating.
Driving up the steep streets the city is famous for seemed like a metaphor for life as we eventually dipped down into the heartbeat of San Francisco, the Castro District, where Harvey Milk changed the course of human history by insisting that those who had encased themselves in closets of shame come out come out where ever they were and start to tell the truth.
I went to support the truth. I squeezed the car into a parking space so tight you’d swear I was related to Houdini. I had driven in with the one I love and we followed a line of people, almost exclusively men, all walking with determination and drive to enter the place where denial and excuses took a backseat and the air was filled with the real life truths of men and women whose secrets had been exposed one way or another and the only thing that really mattered was that day, that night, that moment.
The church had a large meeting hall and we were surprised when we entered. There wasn’t a seat in the house. We settled on a hard bench after we grabbed a handful of cookies and tea.
I went to support the anonymous, the misfits, the homeless, the wealthy, the flamboyant, the athletic, the weak, the successful. I went to support all of them, addicts, just like me, and just like the one I was with.
We stood out like sore thumbs, the two of us, white wonder bread heterosexual women tucked in between men who smelled of sweat and fragrance, bitter and sweet, dashed dreams and realistic hopes.
Bare to the bones honesty was the theme of the talk. In unplanned unison, the hundred or so of us packed into that room nodded our heads in agreement, laughed at the stories that we would have sworn someone was reciting from our most tightly held journals, and tears at the remembering, the longing, the disgust, the secrets and the good pathway out.
I went to support no more secrets.
As I sat there gazing into the faces of strangers who were just like me, I was struck with the good fortune we all shared. We had all, at one time or another, been enslaved to a Presence that didn’t want our best or even our mediocre; it wanted our souls. And we had, some willingly and some kicking and screaming, handed over our lives to the care of the better part of ourselves, to the wisdom and self-knowing that had been laying dormant for months and for most, years.
I laughed when I thought of the absurdity of it all. The Us vs. Them as if those who hadn’t fallen into the trap of addiction to some kind of substance or drug didn’t have their own demons and habits that had seduced them into living lives false and uninspected. Just like us.
The workaholics, exercise fanatics, religious zealots, the do-gooders, the academics, the internet junkies, action oriented goal seeking strivers, the actors, the pretenders, the tightly woven, and the perfectly put together. They who had also stopped being honest and instead chose to stay on a treadmill that offered no release or freedom towards the lightness of being.
Someone in the meeting said that the truth might just set you free and I wouldn’t disagree. The last six years had brought me sobriety, the last six months had brought me hell. No matter, I was thankful I’d given up the alcohol years ago. Sedation is no way to find one’s way out of Hades and that night, being cocooned with those who were walking the same path was more than liberating.
We ended the meeting holding hands aspiring to change the things we had any real chance of changing, accepting the things that were out of our hands, and committing ourselves to be humble enough to at least attempt to try to learn the difference.
Friendly faces and handshakes were thrust on us in every direction and conversations were quickly made. We felt as if we’d known one another for a lifetime.
Stepping outside where fog had changed places with the sun, I walked past the faces of other strangers, strangers who may not have needed that kind of meeting, but strangers nonetheless who struggled with the same kind of life difficulties as those of us who had just left that hallowed room. It is no easy task to be rigorously honest with oneself.
I supported them. I supported us. I am them and they are me and we are all when it gets right down to it, One.