I have this concept I’ve been working with for the past 12-18 months which I’ve named, “The Forward-Facing 90 (FF90)” — it’s my way of saying that about 90% of who I am is genuinely visible to literally everyone most of the time. 90.01-95% is visible only to those in my innermost concentric circles — a few key mentors and close friends/confidants/colleagues. 95.01-98% is reserved for my wife and I, and age-appropriately and at my discretion, my children. And then 98.01-100% is just for me (and G_d as I mis/understand G_d). In discovering that this is my default approach to life, I’ve learned a ton of lessons, some of which I’d like to share this coming year.
But for now, for New Year 2018, it’s worth noting that if you follow me on social media, my newsfeeds only display the FF90, and thus they naturally omit some of the ways in which the last roughly 12 (but particularly 6) months has really been a bit of hell for me professionally, interpersonally, relationally, spiritually. And this in spite of the fact that ostensibly many things are going well in my life. Indeed, I would say that the fact that many things are going well in itself informs that turmoil; it is one thing to know that “success” and having a few nickels to rub together “won’t make you happy” and something different to live my way right into that on a daily basis as I try to sit with the tension of formerly mutually exclusive realities.
Over 16 years of mental health work, I’ve learned more than I can possibly recount from all of my clients, but recently I have been thinking of the CEOs that have been under my care, particularly those in years past that have run into this same reality: reaching a point in their lives where they have achieved some financial or business milestone or seen a vision through all the way to completion only to drop into the abyss of existential crisis as they realize how fleeting the feelings associated with “success” can be and begin clamoring to “get back” to that place again like junkies looking for their next fix.
With the lessons I’ve learned from them, and now with some of the last year of my life in tow, I’m trying to set an intention in 2018 in my heart and mind to remember that we (my family, my friends, my business, my clinical work) are all different than we were a year ago, let alone 5 years ago or 10 or 20. As for me personally, my energies, faculties, priorities — all of these have shifted considerably. Thus, it makes no sense to try “get back” anywhere in that light if no other. I am not that guy anymore.
Instead, I am telling myself…
Don’t try go home again.
Don’t try to get your groove back.
Don’t try to duplicate ‘what you did when.’
Look inward, now.
See who you are, now.
Ask what makes sense now, even if it is somehow a reversal of the original vision, and see what you can live with.
Wonder at this new place that scares the hell out of you.
Wonder that you are still so scared.
Laugh. Laugh. LAUGH!!! Defy your fears to dictate the course of your life.
Love yourself. Put your arm around yourself. Be a good father to yourself. Be a good friend. Understand and deeply accept yourself. Be kind to yourself. Remember every loving embrace, every look of understanding, every nod of forgiveness you’ve had from your friends and family and channel that into a big pile of unfettered affection and grace and acceptance. You are worth it. No one around you gets free if you are all chained up.
Keep trying to see who you can help, even though it backfires sometimes. Stick your neck out for them anyhow. Defy your fears to move you onto the sidelines. People are worth it. And you might learn something even when it backfires.
Keep pointing to the truth, even and especially when it risks burning the whole thing down, including and especially when the whole thing is your own kingdom. This makes you dangerous to systems of power and wickedness — even the power and wickedness you have in your own life. If you don’t tell the truth to you, it doesn’t matter what you say to everyone else. Your words will just highlight your own darkness.
Let go. See what happens when you don’t have control over everything. The worst that can happen is that you lose everything, which would be awful and beautiful, like everything else. And you have the capacity to grow from ground zero — you’ve been there enough. Everything is everything.
Find the new place. It is waiting for you, my friend, my brother. But you cannot find it if you keep looking for the old place. Trust yourself. You will know when it comes, whether you find it alone or with a host of friends. You will find it because you seek it, and That which you seek is in its own way seeking you. You haven’t been here before, but you have traced the outline. It has been with you before you even knew it was, the arc of the way things are, repeating itself, unfolding for you to watch, awestruck: coming together, falling apart, coming together, falling apart, coming together.
2018 — I. AM. COMING. FOR. YOU. GET READY.
Ryan Thomas Neace, MA, LPC, NCC, CCMHC, is the founder of Change, Inc., the premier counseling and wellness center of South City, St. Louis, MO. Contact Change, Inc. for counseling at 314-669-6242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.