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 to while the sun started to watch, bored.
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.