There’s a man. A man I have known of for some time. I’ve been looking for him for some time. I seek him out in all that I do; all that I say; all that I am. Every moment of every day, I look for clues and walk in whatever direction my internal sense tells me might lead me to him. The central task of my existence is to find him; to know him; to be him.
You see, he is me.
He’s not me in the sense that I am him as I sit here and script this piece. He’s me in the sense that he is a version of me that exists, apparently always has existed. He exists, perhaps somewhere off in the future; or maybe in a far off distant past; or maybe in a parallel universe; but he exists. He is a me that it is possible for me to be. A me that I, at this moment, believe myself to be far short of; and yet a me that I am far closer to than I once was. Like I said, I believe that he has always existed; though I have only been aware of him for the last fifteen years or so. I’ll never forget the first time that my conscious mind was first blessed with the gift of an awareness that he was out there. It was late 1996 when a scant glimpse of him first crossed my view reflected in the magnificent eyes of the woman who had come to save me.
I was at an end. A true end. I was ready to go. To go to whatever is beyond this world; this life; this crushingly imperfect human shell; which had been suffocating me for a quarter of a century. The addiction had me firmly in its grip and I was left with neither the belief that release from this chemical prison was possible nor the wherewithal to take a step even if freedom was a viable option. I cared for nothing; for nobody. My capacity to love had frozen into a retched rictus of terror, shame and despair. I had made the decision to continue to pour whatever meager resources I could procure into bags of heroin and vials of crack cocaine and speedball my way into the arms of either my maker or his horned arch nemesis. Which it would be was out of my hands. I had my preference, but either would be a step up from the living hell my life had become.
But then she came. I have never, and will never, find a way to better locate the love of God, than the fact that this resplendent creature dropped into the center of my hopeless mortal typhoon. I loved her. I didn’t look to; I didn’t want to; I didn’t choose to. I couldn’t think of anything more selfish than drawing this naive innocent into my paradigm of sheer insanity. But the love had me in its grip before I could even make a choice. I never stood a chance. Quite frankly, the way in which my addiction overtook me and the way in which the our love overtook me were quite similar. The difference being, the latter was faster, more powerful and, in time, the doorway to overcome the former.
But more than the love was the man. The man I would set out on a course to find with no less vigilance than exhibited by Captain Ahab in his quest to find the white whale. Up until that time, if you asked me about the possibility that there might be a version of me available who was reasonably sane and stable and did not spend nearly every moment swirling in a vortex of self-loathing, I would have answered, “Doubtful, but not beyond the realm of possibility.” But a man who was humble, honorable, trustworthy, powerful; led by faith, integrity and a thirst for justice? You might as well have asked me if I thought there was a chance that the world was neither flat nor round but shaped like a three-toed sloth.
And yet there it was. Though it didn’t become clear to me right away. The magic playing out before me was initially masked as a woman buying hook, line and sinker into my bull-shit laden floor show. I suppose I figured it had to be that as I was quite sure that I had nothing beyond that. I was always a great starter. I knew how to make a girl swoon and blush and pine. The entire male contingent of my family instilled me with lots and lots of game. Not a one of them was a matinee idol, and neither am I, but they all knew how to land and envelop members of the fairer sex. So I knew how to own the room and drip confidence from every pore; I knew how to strut in my trench coat and palm 20 bucks to the doorman; I knew how to cast a spell, hypnotizing them with a potent mix of humorous stories, clever anecdotes, intelligent opinions and heaping tablespoons of what appeared to be deep emotional disclosure. Essentially, I knew how to paint them a portrait which offered them the hope of my being just about any brand of man they had spent their lives wishing and hoping for. But I was none of those men. In fact, the very thing that allowed to me to pose as anybody was that behind the curtain, I was nobody. There was no actual me. I was nothing more than a collection of holograms emanating out from me with the sole purpose of garnering that love I so richly believed I was undeserving of.
Or so it seemed.
As time passed, it became clear that I was wrong about what it was about me drawing the lion’s share of Lorri’s attention. Yes, by her own admission, she found the floor show quite appealing. She was a measured, perhaps even shy, mid-western girl who had come to the big city with dreams of stardom and yet, in spite of being breath-taking to behold, had done very little dating. I was her first, in her own words, bad boy. I suppose, perspective-wise, my sad little cool guy routine may well have resonated to her as a date with one of The Sopranos. Either way, it wan’t about that.
As my downward spiral continued, taking my capacity to love along with it, I was simultaneously finding myself sinking deeper and deeper into the whirlwind romance of a lifetime. Deep in my heart, I knew it was destined to end in pain. I was beyond saving. And when she eventually saw the light, either through my arrest, my overdose, my death or my finding some way to inadvertently crush her, it was sure to be awful. But, as it happened, she had already seen the light. The reality was not that the fake me was masking her from the horror of discovering the real me. She had not fallen in love with the fake me or the real me. She had fallen in love with the best me. She had fallen in love with a me that no one else, including me, had ever seen or, to my knowledge, even suspected was out there waiting to be called upon.
I saw him. At the time, I didn’t want to have seen him. I wanted the vision to retreat and undo itself. But that’s the thing. You can’t un-know what you know. And now I knew. I could no longer hold the hopelessness with quite the same fervor. I had set my course for a pine box and yet the possibility of a u-turn had shown up to ruin everything. Holding on to the concept that there was a fraction of a possibility that some form of salvation might be a possibility was one thing; the first clue of how to get there was an utter mystery. Nonetheless, there she was. As my connection or care or interest for anything or anyone in the world had vanished, I couldn’t shake what I felt for her. The want to wrap up my time here and venture to some other plain still ran strong, but it kept bumping up against the thought that leaving her felt… scary. I could not resolve this thought in a way that made any sense, I couldn’t rid myself of it either. And when I hit the fork, I chose to stick around. Actually, I don’t even know that I chose it. I suppose it was just where I was left when she robbed me of the other direction with her silent, steadfast view of the man I would shortly begin my search for.
She saved my life. That is neither a metaphor nor is it an overstatement. Without the fateful appearance of my own personal angel, I am no longer walking this planet. I don’t think that that is true. I know that it is true. If you ask her about this, she will shrug it off. Though, that is neither here nor there. She saved my life. She gave me a life. She showed me that my life was worth saving. Yes, of course, the all-powerful creator did the work- but he needed a conduit. A pure, unadulterated conduit. In September of 1996, she was my Jesus Christ. God is the father- but it was his daughter who stood before me, glowing with radiant light, with one clear and true message emanating silently from every pore of her alabaster skin:
“You must be here a while longer, Michael. There is much work yet for you to do. A great mission is yours to complete. There are thousands walking the planet awaiting the full realization of your power. And as you walk this blessed, though often painful road, I will be by your side every step of the way. I will be here when you flourish and I will be here when you falter. I will be here as you create and I will be here when you crumble. I will be here as you are glorified and I will be here as you are crucified. I am your forever muse and from this day forward, you will never walk alone.”
And I never have. She’s been there all along and she remains there still. And I have had the chance to help so many. There are many ways I help others, but the most concise way in which to explain the power she has helped me find would be that hundreds and hundreds of people have looked into my eyes and said:
“I have never in my life trusted any human being the way that I trust you.”
I can take no credit for this as, absent of God’s power and the divine messenger he sent me, I am the same lying, cheating, nefarious junkie ready to shuffle off this mortal coil that I had been nearly fifteen years ago.
And I wish I could say that all the service which I have had the opportunity to participate in has brought about the full realization of the man she first spotted those many years ago.
But it hasn’t. Not even close.
This tortured soul who continues to trudge this road of happy destiny still falls painfully short of that man.
That man effortlessly exhibits empathy, patience, unselfishness, honesty and humility as he peacefully strolls his surroundings, needing no exterior vices to subsist, as his worth, his serenity and his sense of self are generated entirely from within.
This man struggles mightily with self-doubt, impatience, compulsiveness, shame, arrogance, selfishness, fear, anxiety and rage- polluting his body with nicotine, caffeine, poor nutrition, and too little sleep, maintaining a medicine cabinet full of enough pharmaceuticals to open his own Wal-greens.
With that said, the gap between that man and this man is probably about the same size as the gap between this man and the man she saved a decade and a half ago.
And that is no small thing.
In fact, while my quest to find him carries on now with no less determination than it did then, the core reason for the search has changed. For ten years or more, I chased him for me. Today, I chase him for her.
I don’t know that I need him anymore. I’d like very much to find him, but if it turns out that I am already as close to him as I will ever get; that would be okay for me. The perfect program which laid the foundation of this journey for me essentially promises three basic things for those who complete and maintain the work precisely as directed: happiness, joy and freedom. I have those. I’m not happy every day. And yet, the amount of happiness I have been granted through my marriage, my children, my friends, my family, and those I am charged to help is well beyond anything I had ever imagined possible. The joy I find through my journey of spirit, plugging into and observing the work of a loving God is beyond words. And I am free. The chains of active addiction fell away some time ago and I live in this world aware of the many choices before me and I choose freely between them. They promised me happiness, joy and freedom and they delivered.
They did not necessarily promise peace, though. They tell us that we will “know” peace. And I do know peace. I recognize it; I believe in it; I advocate for it; and I strive for it. But I don’t know that I’ve ever had it. The reasons behind this, at least the ones I am aware of, are numerous, though not critical to this piece. I have always been a tortured, restless spirit. While I do not wish to hold that its rectification is an impossibility for me in this life; I strongly suspect that it may be. I can live with that. I suppose this has much to do with why I have never feared aging or death. I’m happy to stick around here for as long as my higher power lets me, but I also have a strong belief that I am playing with house money. This does not mean that I choose abject recklessness or understand my life to be unimportant. But as my spiritual life has expanded, so too has my faith that the peace I long for, whether or not it ever becomes available to me in this world, is assuredly awaiting me in the next.
So, for the most part, I accept me. I often don’t like me a whole lot; but I accept that what I am right now, with all my assets and liabilities; with all my light and my darkness; with all my triumphs and failures; is just fine. So that man I have hunted for all these years is welcome to show up any time he wants to; but he doesn’t need to. Not for me. But I continue to seek him with stark vigilance, because I still very much need him to materialize. I need to find him… for her. Because, while I do not believe that she needs him any more than I do; she absolutely deserves him. And I am dead set on delivering him to her.
When she first saw him, she never suggested, not for a moment, that the deal we struck was contingent on my finding him. She was delighted to take me exactly as I was then as she continues to love and accept me for exactly who I am now. I feel assured that if you asked her she would say, without reservation, that absent of even one more ounce of growth or progress, that she is the luckiest girl there is for the gift of what we have shared. As I do for an endless number of other reasons, I love her so much for being willing to take that and demand no more. And I do not wish that she find her way into demanding more.
But I demand more.
I demand that the man she saw and showed to me when we met become the man to whom she is wed.
She may never have it. Truth be known, I’m not sure I can pull it off. I don’t need to know. All I have to do is try. And try I have. And try I will.
And so to you directly, my beautiful blushing bride; my forever companion; the gasoline for my passion and the salve for my wounds;
That man you saw; the one you showed me; the one that opened the doorway to this overwhelming cavalcade of mercy and grace; that man is well within my sights.
Know that every moment of every day which remains for me here will be spent seeking him with every drop of fervor that I can muster;
that he and I may join and become one;
the one you are meant to have.
For me to accept what I am able to give you as of this moment is a blessing. But to settle for that and not strive to give you more would be a sin.
I may never find him; but hear me when I tell you that I will surely die trying.
Thank you, baby. Thank you for him. Thank you for me.
And beyond all, thank you for you.