In front of a room full of 50 people, I began crying uncontrollably.
I’m not a crier. I try to be a man’s man.
Who am I kidding?
Early yesterday morning, I experienced the sort of tragedy I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. You might be wondering what that is. I’m not sure I am ready to write about it. The wound is deep. It hurts more than you could ever know.
What happened after the tragedy is what can help you.
Pay attention to the one person that comes to save your life
After I finished up at the police station and the feds (Oz FBI), I went home.
I rang a few close friends to let them know I’d be out of action. Some heard the story and shrugged it off. Some said, “I’m so sorry.” Others quickly changed the subject.
But then I rang my old boss. One of my closest friends.
“See you at 11 am,” he said in a rush.
“I … can’t,” I said.
For the whole morning I felt numb. You could have punched me in the face and I wouldn’t have felt it. You could have sent me a nasty, racist, rude, message and it would have done nothing. You could have let a steamroller roll over my foot.
I would have felt nothing. Lifeless. A zombie.
A body with a heart and barely a beat.
Still, I made a promise. I met my old boss. I went to shake his hand. He leaned in for a hug. We sat down. He ordered my favorite tea. We’d done this dance before. He was well-rehearsed.
I sat down and tried to hold a conversation. We spoke about the forbidden event. Twin waterfalls began pouring out of my eyes. The sobbing was loud. The (roughly) 50 people in the cafe looked over. Nobody took out their phone to film. Thank god.
These are the gems he gave me in a time of deep pain:
- Your life has value. Don’t do anything stupid.
- When you’re deeply emotional about something, don’t make any big decisions. Sleep on it.
- Spend time with your partner (if you have one).
- We’re born to suffer. It’s guaranteed.
- Take the tragic experience and do something useful with it. Otherwise, tragedy wins and you lose.
In the final moments of our conversation he shared something I didn’t know. He’d experienced the exact same tragedy.
That’s when he told me the brutal truth: “This will affect you for at least the next 10 years. Prepare yourself.”
How to spend a day of grief wisely
When grief strikes addictions come knocking at the door of your mind.
I was desperate for an escape. I thought about alcohol for the first time in a long time. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t stretch my back. I didn’t take proper coroni-rona precautions. I didn’t drink any water.
This day of pain happened to fall on my writing day. I attempted to sit down and write. My fingers wouldn’t move. My mind shut down. All I could think about was what happened.
How it was all my fault.
So for the first time in a long time I let myself off the hook. I had a zero day. No progress. No more phone calls. No reading. No self-education.
When your life falls apart, sometimes you have to let it, in order to rebuild.
Productivity is nice. On a day of tragedy it’s a sin. Forgive yourself. Rest. Let the tragedy flow through you, for once it does, you can be done with it.
Own the tragedy but don’t blame yourself
I’m a blamer. I insist on blaming myself.
While what happened is my fault, I refuse to permanently blame myself. We all make mistakes. We all do things we’re not proud of. We all can experience an error in judgment when we’re tired and running on empty.
It’s easy to miss tiny details. Boy! did I miss a tiny detail.
Be the survivor not the victim
The reason I struggle to write about what happened is because I don’t want to become a victim. I don’t want people to feel sympathy for me. The whole tragedy would be pointless if that’s the outcome.
What I want is for people to learn from my mistakes. Maybe I’m a teacher. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m a son of a b*tch. I don’t know.
But if at least one person learns from my mistake then everything feels worth it. It’s a strange feeling. I realize it isn’t normal that I’ve turned my life inside-out into a series of experiments that anybody in the world can read and perhaps get some value from.
Maybe one day I will understand why. Maybe it’s the breadcrumbs left from the dark mental illness that took over my life and provided daily, silent, torture.
In the end all we can do is survive tragedy. Otherwise it runs our life and we end up out of control. I know intimately what it’s like to be out of control. It’s not a viable option for a long, healthy life.
Most people won’t know what’s going on inside your head
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about — Brad Meltzer
I woke up today with a rather loud high-pitch noise in my right ear. When I get stressed my tinnitus goes into overdrive.
When I opened my inbox I started to reply to the messages I’d missed. One guy tried to hustle me out of a $20 discount on my online course. Another person told me to divorce my business partner for a few tiny spelling errors.
One woman messaged me and said I’m a terrible human for selling a course about writing. Then I opened Twitter. A well-known influencer sent me a message. I thought it might be an opportunity to recover from everything that had happened.
They tried to hard sell me into doing online trading. I told them I don’t gamble, politely. They kept going. I tried to explain that I wasn’t in good shape and this was a bad time. They didn’t stop.
Sometimes the people you look up to are a total disappointment when you have a 1–1 conversation with them. That’s why I always say, your idols aren’t perfect. Don’t expect them to be.
None of these interruptions knew the tragedy I’d just experienced. They treated me like a doormat you wipe your filthy shoes on.
It’s not their fault. But it’s worth remembering: your best day could be somebody else’s worst day, so always be kind.
After a tragedy you’re right back to day one. Today is my day one. The only requirement is to show up. Make the best of it.
So here I am. I’m taking my soon-to-be wife’s advice: “You can always write about what happened.”
She is right as always. That’s why I hope to marry her next week. Talk about odd timing. All one can do is make the most of it.
So here I am on day one, making the most of it. If my former boss is right then it will be 10 years of making the most of it.
Accept. Breathe. Move on from tragedy.