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Implode vs. Explode?

I was talking to someone yesterday, someone who has started drinking again after a period of sobriety. A long period of sobriety. She was telling me that things were ok on the outside: the job, finances, life in general. But internally things were a mess. The fact that she gave this explanation was really an indicator of where she was...not good. Not good at all.


But I know as well as anyone why we say shit like that. We say it because we so desperately want it to be about the outside stuff. If I just look good enough, if I just kill it at work, if I just have enough money in the bank...if, if, if. Then I will be ok. Then I will not be a mess. Then I will not be a shitshow. Then I will not want to die.


What came to me in reflecting on our conversation was that some of us explode and others of us implode. Some of us behave in ways that cause us to cause a whole bunch of wreckage: divorce or custody court, criminal charges, financial ruin, family relationships in shambles, broke hearts and broken bones. Other of us do a great job of maintaining the facade. Walking around, making it all look good from the outside looking in. Hiding really well that the whole of our insides are rotten, petrifying flesh and sinew that is decaying at a rate that is not outwardly visible but excruciating internally. We implode. Others explode.


I was an imploder. I was really good at making it look like my life was fine. Have five jobs so that no one really sees how horrible you are doing because you are always just glancing off the job. Have three boyfriends because the time you have to spend with each is so limited that no intimacy could ever really grow. Have a huge circle of friends that are all at arms length so that no one really ever is close enough to see the internal carnage. It is a show. My life was a show, I got up every day and did the Erin show. It mattered little who was actually watching because I was mostly surrounded with other self involved people who were too consumed with themselves to ever notice that I was a fucking trainwreck.


I know lots of exploders. Lots of people in the program who fucked their lives in spectacular fashion. Jails, institutions, bankruptcy, divorce court, child protective services. A life visible to all who dared look that the person was indeed on fire and blazing a hot and tight spiral towards death.


What struck me in my conversation with this woman was how much arrogance I used to have and maybe still do. I still maintain that it is better to implode than explode. But if I am really, really honest, I envy the exploders. Those who can and do just go for the self destruction super highway, caring more about the high and little of the wreckage. Seems so much more carefree. So much more in your face “fuck you I am doing my life my way!”


Imploding seems much more chicken shit to me now. Like I am going to die each day but I am going to tell no one about it and silently slip away to my own demise without anyone’s notice. And I am not calling this woman chickenshit. No, I am only commenting on how I felt about myself. I, in my very fucked up state, thought badly about myself because I was not more out there fucked up. As if that is really a thing.


What came to me last night in our conversation was that it matters not really at all about whether you explode your life or implode it...the result is the same. Your life is fucked. And that is really the only thing that ultimately matters!


Both are exhausting, both are devastating. Both lead to death. Both are superhighways of self hatred. Both result in people living lives that are really not worth living. Both result in being destroyed. The directionality of the destruction is really quite immaterial...


I think, for me, it is helpful for me to know which one I am so that I can be watchful of my tendencies. I am a liar. A hider. An untruth teller. I am the one who will look you dead in the eye and tell you that I am fine, when moments earlier I was thinking about offing myself. (It has been a long time since I thought this way, to be clear). I am the kind of person that will die on the inside while showing up for work every day, and telling you of all my plans, all in the great production of me conning you into believing that I am good, great even, while I implode myself into smithereens.


So, for me, it is good to know this about myself because even though it has been a long while since I wanted to off myself, I can still do the deal, hide in plain sight, even while writing and publishing a blog every day, pretending all is well. Imploders are great pretenders. And I am one of those through and through.


What occurs to me now, with some time in recovery, is that my daily effort is to make congruent that which has always been askew. My insides and outsides. To have them match. To acknowledge I am doing well and poorly at the same time, just about different things.


Like now...


I am grieving the loss of my job. I loved it. I was proud of who I was and what I accomplished. Leaving it was hard. And I am smarting from the loss. And I am foundering a bit in my self concept. Who am I now without that?


I am worried about my son coming home and if I can really be different, if he can really be different...can we do life differently? I am scared. I am concerned. I am grieving the life that I have been living in his absence.I am beginning to see that my life is changing...that my kids will not be here forever and while that is something that I looked forward to for a long time, now that it is on the immediate horizon, I am grieving the anticipatory loss of daily parenting responsibilities.


My parents' health is waning. They are aging and I don't like it. To be fair, neither do they. it is hard to watch and feel somewhat helpless, impotent against the ravages of time.


In other areas of my life, I am thriving. I am happier than I have ever been. Most in touch with myself and the inner workings of my mind and body. I am in the best shape I have been in in years. I like me. I would even go so far as to say that I love me today.


So it is a mixed bag. Things are not perfect. I am not killing it in every day living. I have my ups and my downs and it is just life. But I am living it and I am doing my best to share the good, the bad, the ugly and sublime as it occurs, unfolds and is revealed to me. I am trying to match the insides and outsides of my life.


And I will say that just for today...they do. Now, in twenty minutes, they might not. I might get scared and lie. I might get arrogant and lie. I might feel so lost that I begin to spin a tale that is only designed so that I might believe it.


But going back to the present moment, I am here. And it all matches up. I am not a dumpster fire. I am a woman who is living this life, this amazingly hard, yet beautiful life. Who gets it wrong, while really, quite desperately trying to get it right. And who can acknowledge, that despite all of my best efforts, I will never get it right and that is ok. I will get it. And that is what ultimately matters. Getting it. Getting me. Seeing and acknowledging my tendency to implode, seeing my need and desire to project someone who has it all together. And then, doing the very hard but courageous thing to say, “Um, I am hurting. I do not have it all together. And I care more about telling my truth than I do how that truth makes you think about me.”


Implode. Explode. Or, perhaps, find a way to your own truth. Your very private and personal truth and then live accordingly to that truth, no matter what anyone else thinks, believes, wants, or says. Find a way to love yourself enough, to neither implode or explode, but to live. Live your truth, your life and put yourself at the very center of your existence.



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