• 31 and No Longer Falling

    by David Lacy

    “God damn my wasted time,
    ringing all the bells… I’ve got half a mind to lie to you,
    half a mind to tell you, everything I have to tell, to tell, to tell.”
    – Chris Pureka, “31 and Falling”

    It all clicked in an instant as I was driving home around midnight at the end of what had been a surprisingly remarkable week.

    It was a seven-day stretch in which the past and present collided in indescribable yet extraordinary ways. It began with a frenzied night out with some of my closest hometown friends, continued with an epic Nerf battle with my Godson (I’m pretty sure he and his buddy repeatedly violated the Nerf Geneva convention in that battle), proceeded with a memorable iPinion gathering, hit an apex with a humbling recognition from my employer of the work I do, and concluded with an eight-hour chat with a friend who inadvertently joined me in dunking onion rings in a small tub of mayonnaise at a local pub.

    (How could a week that begins with best friends and ends with an accidental mayonnaise overdose NOT qualify as remarkable?)

    I’ll be 31 in a little over two weeks from today. This means I can finally say a welcome farewell to a year in which I – to put it lightly – didn’t have a single fragment of my own life figured out. (At least not consciously; subconsciously things had begun clicking long ago. But those will remain private stories.)

    At 30, however, I was at the ultimate crossroads: I wasn’t certain about my education, my occupation, my capacity for love (to love and to be loved), iPinion, my friends, my writing, my connections with my own family — hell, even what part of the state I really wanted to reside in! Uncertainty and anxiety wound their way into every crevice of my life, pushed neurons in my brain around like little Tetris pieces unwilling to snap and lock into the right places.

    I cried, I screamed, I disparaged, I self-pitied. I was, admittedly, a rather pathetic version of the ‘self’ I could be.

    Very, very slowly however, something began to happen. I reached out. I asked for help. First from one friend, then another. And another. I even sought (and still seek) therapy. I have begun to learn the tools of something psychologists call “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” that is, the deliberate re-training of particularly instinctive negative thoughts into positive ones. Learning how to “re-think” actually restructures the PHYSICAL components of the brain – now how fucking cool is that?

    At the end of this week in late March that I describe above I had a short Facebook interchange with friend and fellow columnist Christy Sillman.

    Christy, making a cameo in my column: “My best advice for healing slowly and carefully is to focus on YOU. The problem with both you and (and me frankly) is that we’re people pleasers (I get this impression of you, but maybe I’m wrong). We tend to focus on others – what others might think/feel/judge. This can be good- we are good people because of this, but bad because we’re neglecting ourselves. We come into this world alone, we leave alone, so shouldn’t we make ourselves #1?”

    She continued …

    **(I really hope she’s not expecting royalty checks for these appearances.)**

    Christy: “I took my own “getting to know myself journey” for a year and a half. I didn’t date anyone, and I made decisions carefully with the focus on myself. It ultimately taught me how to communicate with myself (sounds strange I know) and to clear the other ‘junk’ out, be introspective, and focus on my needs. It ultimately led me to Steve and prepared me to better approach my relationship with him in a self preserving yet selfless way.”

    Steve is her hubby if you didn’t figure that one out.

    At 31, I’m going to be selfish in the hopes of one day being selfless. But I’m going to be selfish in a much healthier way than I was probably already accidentally being when I was attempting to please everyone else (ahhh irony!)

    The trial and error in which we learn how to interact with life is really beginning to fascinate me. Learning how to love, how to forgive, how to re-train the worst parts of our selves into more positive, productive energy. These are only beginnings — first, toddler-sized steps if you will — yet even recognizing the mere possibilities of self-change creates a flare of hope I’ve NEVER felt before.

    • Hooray for flares of hope!

      The journey to self is a fascinating, ongoing adventure. Thank you for sharing yours with us.

    • Brilliant David. So glad you have started on your own journey devoid of judgment. I have never met you but I feel I can call you a friend. Your writing and honesty are truly remarkable characters and I have grown to love you and all you are. I know you will enjoy the adventure of loving yourself. It is wonderful. I know because I have been on that adventure and reached my own self. I have no doubt you will too.

      • David Lacy

      • April 3, 2011 at 9:13 am

      Thank BOTH of you.
      And Christy. If this were an award show, I’d need to thank my co-star. 😉

      • Weinshilboum

      • April 3, 2011 at 9:22 am

      I love this column, and here’s why: the appeal is universal. We’ve all encountered difficulties balancing individual needs with the needs of others. This piece encapsulates how hard–and how wonderful–the process can be. Bravo!

      • Christy

      • April 3, 2011 at 10:18 am

      “I’m going to be selfish in the hopes of one day being selfless.” Beautifully stated David. It’s a journey, a process, and ultimately leads to a better sense of balance. Where you are now in your life…relish the selfishness. Live up the singledom and childlessness. I know it’s not where you wanted to be right now, but it has afforded you the opportunity to truly bond with yourself. Not many people get that opportunity. I am so thankful I did.
      It never ends…the struggle for balance in one’s life, but establishing a strong foundation with yourself is the best starting point. In my humble opinion.
      Thanks for the co-staring role, I feel so honored!
      I’m so excited for you…hope is all you really need to get where you want to be.

      • David Lacy

      • April 3, 2011 at 10:20 am

      @ Christy: You’re just trying to get in a free trailer for your column two weeks from now! (Spoiler Alert!) Just kidding, and thank you. I’m honestly stoked to be on a home page of really good columns today. EVERYONE is solid.

    • a stunningly honest & deeply inspiring essay. thank you david, for being such an amazing human being. you always, with doubt, restore my faith.
      all my love.

    • Asking for help and making yourself vulnerable is one of the greatest lessons in life. I actually used to believe asking for help meant I was weak. I’ve learned through working with a gifted intuitive healer, that it is a sign of strength to say I need help. Admitting that you can’t do it alone and need others. I loved reading your words and thoughts David. These beliefs are held on a deep cellular level but can be re-learned with work and the right person.

      Your post resonated so deeply and I thank you. Your journey of self-exploration is a gift not just to you but to those of us lucky enough to be around you.

      I’ve been married and I’ve been single and there are great humbling lessons in both. Thank you for your honesty and courage.

      • David Lacy

      • April 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks Weinshie, Hannah, and Amy. I really appreciate it.

    • Here’s to possibility! 🙂
      Great work!

      • Judy

      • April 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      David, Thanks for this inspiring piece. I really believe the bit about brain chemistry, but then I forget. It’s good to be reminded (Your column just changed my brain chemistry!)

      • Katie

      • April 3, 2011 at 6:20 pm

      I am so happy to hear the tetris pieces are coming together. You deserve for things to fit. Sending positive thinking your way!

      • David Lacy

      • April 3, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      Hey Katie! (I’m assuming Conway) Hope all is well. My best to you and Bryan. (If this is the wrong Katie, then scratch the Bryan part but still assume I wish you the best!) 🙂

    • David,
      I would love to help you with your 30’s but sadly, I can’t remember what I did in my 30’s. I think I married and devorced my best friend’s wife, she then retaleated by burning almost every photo I had taken while in Vietnam. Once, I could look at those photos and remember what a good person I was before I started taking drugs and screwed my best friend’s wife. Without those pictures, I have only images of what I have become since. My family has scattered through the years so I can’t use their photos and they can neither give me love or advice that I need so much. Therefore, with that said, those that love you (Fam and friends)and have known you for many years, can be a comfort to you when you need them. They will help you in ways that no one else can. They will stand you up, point the direction, tell you how to find them should you need them again, and then push you out into life and to your delight, you can do the same for them. This I know is true, not from personal experience, but from observation of my wife’s family. They are really freaky and I love them one and all. Family and friends-that’s all I have to say on that.
      My personal observation of you: You stand tall, carry yourself very well, you are intelligent, polite, and kind to others. I think you will be successful in any direction you wish to go.
      Life is like an island, some will visit your island but you must demand respect. If they want to change it or make it their own, kick their boney ass off and make them swim away. When you visit someone else’s island, remember that it is their island and you are just visiting so be respectful and true to yourself and them and you will be welcomed on everybody’s island and everybody will want to visit yours.

    • Donald… you know… that may be a new column just born. 🙂
      And, you describe David well. He’s a good guy.

      • David

      • April 5, 2011 at 8:45 am

      I am dark and mysterious and pissed off!

        • Diana S.

        • April 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm

        “I am the enemy!” Sorry, I don’t know if you were quoting Almost Famous there, but I thought I would at least.

        David- GREAT column. I’ve always appreciated how open you are when you write. Cheers to you and 31 🙂

      • Xiao Wei

      • April 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      I’ve gone through something similar but at a younger age and recently again. It’s good to know I’m not alone ;] When I was younger, I went through a bout of different emotions and ended up distancing myself, observing the world. I felt like the world was full of hatred, anger, and greed which I did not want to be a part of. I’ll do my time, then depart after helping as many people as I could.

      I looked at my own life from a third-person perspective. I judged every action I took and always contemplated why. I always had a thought in my head as well, “If I happened upon someone in trouble, do not falter, do all I can to save them because no one else will.” I viewed the world as something I could not participate in yet, I would protect it with my life. If any of the people I knew beckoned, I would heed. Is this the giving nature?

      Recently, I went through a new revelation. I started yearning to partake in this world again, but with all the distance I’ve put, it’s really hard to grasp another person again. Even when I do, I find myself in sheer joy yet I have a sudden urge to distance myself. I still feel this world is the same, but it’s my world, my one life, and I now desire to be surrounded by people I love. It is the world I exist in and I love it.

      Now here is the part that makes me confused. I love being alone. I want people to be around me. I hate all the ugliness I witness and obscenities I hear. I enjoy the beauty within this world and the goodness that exists. I find tranquility and serenity when I am alone with my thoughts. I want to be surrounded by noise which drowns out the voices in my head. I feel like I am drifting off to insanity.

      I don’t know exactly what you are going through but I feel like I can relate a little, albeit I am only 20. When I said younger, I meant 13. What is a true downer is I recently discovered there is a history of bipolar disorder in my family. Great. All I can hope for is to go out with a bang!