I celebrated my 32nd sober birthday on June 14.
On this day each year I take a pause to reflect on
- who I am,
- where I came from, and
- what I’ve become.
It’s not a day for “attaboys” or self congratulatory talk. On the contrary, it’s a day I remember that years are only accumulated days, single moments aggregated over time. For me sober birthdays are days to thank the Creator for giving me what I have not the means to give myself.
On each sober birthday I choose to recall those moments when I walked the edge,
- between light and darkness,
- between life and death.
It’s intentionally remembering when I was at my least that I find the fuel to live at my most.
So let me share with you what I remembered at 32.
Sometime about six months into my sobriety I got ticketed twice the same night for speeding. I angrily took the matter to court and before the presiding judge I used my errant feelings as my defense. In other words, I claimed my rage as the reason I was speeding. The judge looked at me as if I were the dumbest guy on earth and decided to double the fine:
- once for speeding,
- once for wasting the court’s time.
He then ordered me to attend traffic school; he said it might help me smarten me up.
And it did, for it was there I encountered a guy with a PhD in stupidity. He taught me a valuable lesson in what one finds at the intersection of rage and foolishness.
John was driving on the I-5 freeway between Everett and Seattle when a car came up from behind and began to ride his tail. The message was simple: move over to the right lane and allow “Mr. I’m in a Hurry” to pass.
Rather than exercising driving etiquette and simply moving over, John struck back. He suddenly applied his brakes, almost causing a collision. He then sped up but refused to change lanes. He suddenly braked again, once more barely avoiding a high speed collision.
This cat and mouse routine went on for some time until something did happen. The rear car slammed John’s bumper at 70 miles an hour, nearly causing him to lose control of his car.
What happened next was a graphic illustration of unmitigated road rage. These two crazy people challenged each other with their fists, fingers, and insults, John pointing to an exit sign and signaling to the other driver to follow him so that they might end the matter “mano a mano.” Off they both went at brake-neck speed to play their own version of High Noon.
They met up at the first intersection, both hurriedly opening their windows. John confronted the other driver with his fist shaking and spewing a slew of ugly epithets.
Then the driver in the other car the driver very slowly and deliberately pulled from his pocket a loaded gun and pointed it at John’s head. He suggested that John choose his words carefully.
John reported that he froze in terror and meekly stammered out a timid, mortified apology.
The man with the means to end John’s life granted him a reprieve.
In remembering this story I called to mind how easy it is to have my own heart and mind taken over by an errant emotion. Remembering John reminds me that he lived to tell his story – which reminds me that after 32 years, so have I. After all that’s said and done, isn’t that the greatest birthday gift of all?
Just a thought…
Copyright © 2017 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.
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