One day I was so scared, I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt empty because everything I had ever worked for and ever wished for had gotten me to this point: lying on a mattress with no job, no money, no friends or family.
But I wasn’t scared about the past. I was scared because I knew that as hard as it is to get successful and then fall apart, it is ten times harder to come back from such a shattering.
I got dressed and walked out onto the street. Everyone wearing their suits, a hot summer day. Old men straightening their ties, their postures bent over with fear of one more sale botched. Would I be afraid like them? Or worse?
I walked past South Street Seaport and walked up the Pier stared out onto Brooklyn. Old Chinese women next to me doing Tai Chi while the bored sun started to watch.
I didn’t know how to be grateful for what I had. Nobody taught me that. Go to a good school and get a good job and then you are safe. Grateful maybe comes later. I didn’t know.
I didn’t know how to come up with new ideas. All of the ideas I had ever come up with had led me to this. All ideas were bad and even harmful.
I was afraid to sleep. And it wasn’t because of dreams from the night before but it was because I was afraid the dreams later that night would be worse.
Could I reach out for help? I was ashamed to. Who would want to help a burning thrashing corpse while the flames were still flickering?
Self-help books? All drivel to mint TV millionaires and sell infomercial products.
One time I had thought success meant I was a fully finished product. Now I was just finished.
I went to a coffee shop and took out my waiter’s pad and made a list of every good thing I had seen people do over the prior 30 years.
It was a big list and filled up a lot of pages.
Then I started to put on an act and pretended to be like the people written in my pages, doing the good things they had done.
And I fooled people. And fooled myself until I didn’t know what was an act and what was real. I just read off the script.
I still don’t know what’s real. But that’s ok. The good things started to help people. And then they helped me.
And maybe one day I will be a line on someone else’s waiter’s pad.