“I thought you were a shit show the first night we hung out,” he laughed.
‘He’ was a guy I’d met while out drinking with friends probably three years ago. ‘He’ (let’s call him Baxter) was also someone I hadn’t seen in well over a year and had ran into while out listening to a band recently.
Not going to lie, it stung to hear him say that. But then … I reflected.
Last year I was in an affair and had my heart very publicly broken. I was also banned from a bar, along with my friends. I gave my friend a black eye (self defense .. have I told that story?). I lost all my belongings to bed bugs. And then found out my dog was dying. Shit. Show.
The night ‘Baxter’ first met me I was out with a group of my girlfriends. We met him on lower Greenville then drug him to our next bar to keep chatting him up and during the midst of that, I decided to sneak away to see the guy I was falling for … THE guy who later broke my heart and banned me from his bar. The guy I’ve written more than a few blog posts about. The guy who I was later in an affair with. Ugh. However, that fateful night, three years ago, we were only just … talking really. I was dumbly and naively crushing on him, thinking it was all very harmless.
While talking to this tall, bearded total RED FLAG, my friends came in to drag me out. One friend in particular … the one who I later had the *cough* altercation with … was being incredibly bossy and in my drunk state I got upset with her and decided to just go home. I’m sure it looked like I was being a brat (I was). I’m sure it also looked like I was being a terrible woman talking to this guy in general and I’m definitely sure it looked like I was a total shit show.
So… fair statement, Baxter.
I have been/can be/might continue to be a bit of a shit show. But I don’t see that as a bad thing.
I know I’ve said this before, but I spent the bulk of my childhood, teenage years and 20’s following ‘the rules’. I was raised super religious and had that value system forced upon me without really understanding why it even existed. To be clear, it’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with the bible or the teachings of Christianity, but I wasn’t allowed to question it really. To truly understand WHY I wanted to adopt those values as mine. So they were just rules I blindly followed out of fear of both hell and being unloved by God.
Then from 23-31, I was in a very stagnant relationship with someone who pretty much wanted to change me (which further compounded my fear that something was indeed very wrong with me) and didn’t really want me to have any life outside him. I was likely as toxic for him too, struggling with my own self-worth and codependency. So basically I had 8 full years of staying in night after night with one person, having very little to no social life outside my ex, no hobbies of my own, no individuality. In a word, I just didn’t grow as a person. At all.
These past five years have been the first time in my life I’ve been allowed to discover … ME. And let’s just say my path to self discovery, to defining my own values … well it’s been a roller coaster and a shit show to say the motherfucking least. We all have our shit show moments or years. And perhaps my particular ‘moment’ might be lasting a bit longer than a year and it certainly is a little more colorful than most, but that’s kind of a good thing. Or .. I’m starting to see that it that way.
Some things I’ve learned in these past few years … I tend to live in a bit of chaos and I’m ok with that. But … that chaos sometimes leads to moments that are a bit shit-show-esque. Case in point, a few weeks ago I was on my way to get my iPhone screen fixed (because, of course, it’s cracked. Chaos). In the back alleyway behind my house, there was this ratty couch dumped by one of my neighbors. I tried to squeeze by it and ended up kind of nudging it with my car. It wasn’t until I arrived at the screen repair place till I realized that the damn couch (or rather me being an idiot) had damaged the side of my Honda making it to where I could no longer open the driver side door fully. Sigh. Then I went into the iPhone screen repair place only to discover that I’d bought a groupon to replace the screen of an iPhone 6. And I had an iPhone 7. Face palm. Shit show.
I had a moment where I wanted to scream and cry because I was so frustrated. And then I wanted to shame myself further for being such a mess. And then I went, wait. These are just .. things. And I shrugged and immediately started laughing. Because that whole morning was actually fucking hilarious. I mean, yeah annoying. And I’m like ‘DAMMIT ALY, get your SHIT straight’. But I was also like, ‘ok .. you’re ridiculous and it’s hilarious and I still love you (me)’.
The beauty of living in a bit of chaos with smaller things means that when the shit hits the fan with bigger things (work, life, etc) I’m better equipped to handle the stress and it not spin me out to a dark place. I know how to differentiate my worth from the shitty things that happen, even if those shitty things are a result of what I’m doing. I know how to go ‘ok, Aly, how are we going to learn from this for next time?’
The beauty of being a bit of a shit show is that I am (usually) more compassionate to others. Because I literally CANNOT judge. So when my sweet barely-26-years-old friend says, ‘Oh I acted so crazy when that guy broke up with me, I’m so embarrassed’ I can go, ‘you think that’s crazy? Here, hold my vodka.’ Not to justify her choices or mine either, but so that she can have grace for herself and stop the cycle of shame in the hopes that she can focus on healthier emotional choices in the future.
My mistakes make me more empathetic and understanding, and embracing them and their lessons allows me to love myself and others better.
That’s not to say I think my choices were GOOD choices nor do I say hey, follow in my crazy, chaotic footsteps. The funny thing is the LAST thing I wanted was this unconventional, sometimes wildly unstable life. But here’s where I wound up. This is how I’m learning my lessons. And I’m ok with that. I’m learning how to love my broken, messy, crazy, shit show self.
But it’s taken me a bit to get here. After all that mess I described above (the bar banning, break up, loss of a friend) went down, I beat myself up and felt embarrassed for all the mistakes I’d made. I tried desperately to ‘hide’ my shit show, but there was no way, because it was very public. I learned a really valuable lesson during all that … you have to know your truth. Who you are in spite of the mistakes. You have to know the truth of who you are, what your character is, your heart, and you have to hold on to that with all your might because the thing is, even the kindest, best people have made epic mistakes. But we are not our mistakes. And you have to know that deep deep down in order to have grace and gentleness for yourself.
Every single one of us is a shit show. Some of us are a little better at hiding it or have learned through past shit-show-experiences how to not be so chaotic, but we all have this in us. And it can lead to some epic personal growth if we let it.
Case in point, Baxter. He’d actually approached me the other night because he too had had a falling out with the friend I’d lost and he’d wanted to vent about it to someone who understood. This past year, he’d heard tales of what happened between her and I, no doubt from her perspective. He probably believed it was all my fault and I was a monster. Then … she lashed out at him and similarly cut him out. So, you see? We’re all shit shows. Broken, fractured people trying our hardest to grow and learn and love better. And have a little fun along the way.
Welcome to the shit show, guys. It’s gonna be a helluva (good/bad/terrible/wonderful) time.