I’m on LinkedIn. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a sort of Facebook for professionals. I’m not very active on it, but it seems to keep my email busy, as I get several notifications a day telling me that someone has linked to me, or joined my circle of pros. And sometimes they even “endorse” me, which is silly, as most people who endorse one of my skills have never even worked with me, let alone validate my superior abilities to a group of unknowns. It’s like high-fiving a one-armed man – a pointless exercise (unless you high-five his available hand, but you know where I am going with this poor simile). It’s clear they endorse me to get an endorsement in return, a sort of modem-to-modem mutual admiration society. Not interested.
Now, the only reason I bring up LinkedIn is that there is something that is both fascinating and creepy that happens when you mess about with it (or when it messes about with you). There is a little game that LinkedIn likes to play, and it’s called “Hey, if you know these folks, you might know these guys.” And then when you are crazy or bored enough to play the game, you are shown a list of faces and names that you really do know. It’s some sort of six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon separation mojo magic that the interweb goblins conjure up and slap you with. It’s like they’ve pulled out the Wand of Voodoo and post mug after mug of people that once crossed your path. It’s strange. Like they got into the musical of your life and published the program of it, understudies and all. All there in glorious colour. And hey, I have even seen some of you, my sober blogger friend, pop up…full name and place of work. But don’t worry, your secret and anonymity are safe with me. Shhhhhh….
I sometimes entertain this walk down memory lane. Unlike Facebook, where you would get high school or even grade school past besties and beasties, LinkedIn is all work. All business. And for me, that’s been a problem. You see, most of my harms were work-related. I’d say that 80% of my amends were to those I worked with or for. I owed some places money, but for the most part, I needed to make things right with a lot of folks I used to work alongside. Bosses, colleagues, staff…I have had to make amends to many. I still have a few outstanding. Work was where my alcoholism reared its ugly head. Work is where it played out often. Work is where I both hid it and didn’t hide it. Work was both a prison and a playground. I was at my best and worst at work.
Where I was once a great and proud employee throughout the years, my alcoholism brought me to a place where my reputation started to get tarnished. Where I once operated at nearly 100% effort given and sacrifice taken, I was at best a 10% employee by the end. I never lasted more than two or so years in one place. My industry is transitory in nature, but in comparison to many, I still jumped around a lot. Mini-geographicals, if you will. Trying to get away from me, while I was a stowaway to my own undoing. Where people once depended on me, they were worried about me. They didn’t know what to do with me, how to help me. I realize now that some of those who got angry at me and said hurtful things to me were concerned and didn’t know how to express themselves. There were some disappointed folks, and I now understand that they cared about me.
So the other day as I scrolled down this who’s-who of my not-so-golden past, I started to think back at the hurts and harms I caused some of these folks. I thought of how they just came to work to do their thing, with concerns of my own, and had to deal with a crazy dude like me. I can’t imagine I would have nearly the amount of patience and compassion that many of them showed me. I felt a lot of gratitude as I perused past the ageing and changing faces of these people I once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with. Whereas a few years ago I would have felt anger and resentment, I felt a calmness. Whereas a few years ago I would have shut the phone off in embarrassment and would have been ashamed, I felt a warm glow of humanity. These folks are just living their lives, trying to improve themselves, reaching out to guys like me to stay connected to.
The biggest surprise I have gotten are from those who I harmed in the past, and yet reached out to me first. I know that some of these guys felt that I didn’t need to make amends to them. They told me so. I still made some of those amends. Some of these guys and I had emotional, tear-filled conversations in my amends to them. Some of them thought that I wanted to meet them to punch them out or curse them, when really I wanted to tell them that I wronged them and wanted to know what I could do to make it right. It’s amazing the reaction I have had to all my amends to these people. What kindness I found out there. It showed me that I was completely and utterly wrong about people. And I am still wrong at times. There’s love in them there hills.
As I rolled past people from the old days, I had one overwhelming thought – that I wished them well. I never would have thought that in the past. I was too wrapped up in ego and pride, in anger and hurt, resentment and the wanting of getting in the last (spiteful) word. It’s not that I would have some sort of relationship (professional / friendship) with them now, but I wouldn’t be closed to the idea if something came up. But I know that many of those folks will remain in the background. And happily so. Making amends doesn’t mean that I am ready to hop on the horse and start riding into the sunset with others. It’s just to make things right and to release the hounds of forgiveness and resentment. It’s about cleaning up my side of the street. Regardless of their reactions, the fact that I did my best means that I take myself off the hook, so to speak. But I have yet to find a reaction that hasn’t been surprising and endearing.
I can’t change my past. I am not sure what these folks think of me or what has been said behind closed door and closed hands over ears, but it’s none of my business. I might have been the crazy drunk boss, or the pain-in-the-ass employee or the sad-and-pitiful comrade, but that isn’t me now. These folks aren’t thinking of me. They are living their lives – getting married, having kids, getting promoted, opening their own businesses, changing careers, falling in love. Their images and avatars on my screen are only images that I decide how to react to. They can either be reminders of past pains, or windows into people who came into my life for a reason. People who showed me compassion and empathy. People I harboured anger against because they had something in them that I couldn’t stand about myself. They all brought me clarity, in a kind of way, after I did the work in pinpointing their roles in my life.
Like everyone else who has entered my life, I am linked to all these guys in a deeper way. They may never know it, though. I stepped on these people’s toes and they retaliated. Who wouldn’t in the states I found myself in? Hey, one of these very guys is in my recovery circle now. I met one of my old employees, a guy I used to drink with, in the rooms of AA about a year ago. We still talk and hit meetings and go for coffee. He struggles with doing the work. He still holds anger and resentment. I can only offer my support and my own experience. It shows me the value of releasing and letting go of that which doesn’t serve me. I am linked to a great power than myself and that has given me the direction and nudgings in my life that bring me to a place of peace and serenity. I am linked to a power that shows Himself to me in those that I meet, or those who I have met earlier in my life. He shows me His love in the eyes of those who flash past me on my tiny phone screen, or the man or woman sitting across from me on the street or church basement.
I have a long ways to go in terms of growth, but noticing my reaction to these faces from the past brought me a measure of peace. It showed me that the path that I am on, the path that others have kindly helped me along, is one I need to be on. My serenity, and life even, depends on this. We are all linked, in one form or another, in fellowship and in humanity. And for that, I am grateful.
Thank you for being here.