In the seaside town where I got sober, there was a different gay meeting every night of the week at various church basements, rec centers and the like. When I say it’s a ‘gay’ meeting I mean for LGBT folks but everybody was welcome. They didn’t check your musical theater knowledge at the door or anything, Typically, the same group of folks floated from meeting to meeting every week. During my first year, I went to all of those meetings almost weekly and that’s where I made some of my best friends on the planet. One member of our little nomadic gay sober tribe would share, week after week,”I don’t know shit!” First off, to be thrilled about not knowing anything was a weird concept to me. I always thought of myself as the slower, less brilliant member of the bunch so proudly saying it out loud was something I wouldn’t do. Secondly, I knew some things, didn’t I?
Sure the basics I knew: name, age, where I was born. I won’t include height and weight because I lied about those things for so long it wasn’t until my first doctor’s appointment in sobriety that I knew the true numbers. Which were both disappointing and nowhere near what I had been telling people, by the way. But how to have healthy relationships? How to go to brunch without drinking? How to show up on time for things? How be honest? What I wanted to do with my life? All mysteries. So maybe my friend from the rooms whose drug combo platter of choice was “Crack & Jack” was right! Maybe I don’t know shit.
There could be something to this not knowing thing. After all, Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” And he didn’t even go to a 12 step program or, to my knowledge, smoke crack. Maybe being open to not knowing makes me willing to learn more? Or at the very least plants a seed of humility that perhaps I don’t have all the answers. How little I actually know was pounded into my head several times this week. I was certain I needed to do all of this stuff to get what I thought I needed. What I got instead was a series of “No, thank you”s. Turns out i didn’t know what I actually needed or wanted. These ‘nos’ became yeses. So this part-time job thing turned me down. It was a bummer. Or was it? See, I also this week I got word that I’m teaching a series of workshops on creativity and writing! Wait, talking about what I love, helping other people get inspired and making a little money? Sign me up! This opportunity would have been hard to wrangle had I gotten the part-time gig.
So yeah. The moral of the story is I don’t know. I don’t the future. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what’s best for other people. I don’t what’s gonna happen. And it’s fabulous. I trust the universe/God/something bigger than me has already set the best possible thing for me in motion. What’ll come next, how will everything turn out and what’s going to happen five years from now? Well, I’ll let magic 8 ball answer that:
Once upon a time, there was a hard-drinking, coke snortin’ waiter in Los Angeles who would go to great lengths just to be right. I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t Brainy Smurf. But in his never ending quest to be right, this guy was equally as annoying.
Give yourself 100 points if you figured out that pain in the ass know-it-all is none other than me. Yes, nearly as much as I enjoyed being drunk, I loved being right. I adored knowing more on a topic than you. I enjoyed making better decisions than you. And I loved when you were wrong. Like really embarrassingly wrong so I could say, “I knew it!!!” I always knew that you were going to break up with your boyfriend and I knew that you said the wrong name of the place we once had brunch ten years ago. I just knew that you didn’t know who directed that movie we watched on TV. I knew you were gonna mess up that job interview. And I knew that your life was a bigger disaster than mine. But lucky for you– I also knew how to fix it!
Funny. No one ever took my advice or did exactly what I said. Hmm. It couldn’t possibly be because even the most effed up folks in my life knew on some level that I was full of hot air and that taking my advice on how to run their lives would be like taking low-fat cooking suggestions from Paula Deen. Nah. That couldn’t be it.
This “colorful personality trait” or flaming character defect depending on how delusional I am at any given time, has peaked it’s gnarly head out recently and said, “Helloo!!” and I’m not glad to see him. In fact, I think it’s pretty ugly. I’m in several creative work situations where I have to listen to others, bend on my opinions, let things go and collaborate. Lately in these situations, I have been acting like I know best. Like my way is the only way. In other words, I’m acting like a dickhead. This stubbornness and inability to work with others really takes a toll on me today. When I “get like this”, I’m overly passionate and misdirected and angry about things that aren’t worth my explosive behavior. Yeah, it’s admirable to fight for what you believe in but it’s also courageous to listen and work with others. So after days of wanting to be right and show everybody I had the right answer, I let it the fuck go. My psyche operates the best when I’m at a place of “I don’t know.” Once my chokehold on being right was let go, I instantly felt better. Spiritually. Mentally. Physically.
I got sober with a guy who used to always say in meetings, “I don’t know shit!” He repeated it like a prayer or a battle cry or sometimes like he was screaming it at himself. Mainly, it was a reminder that no, I do not know everything and yes I need help. And that my old ways never worked. Sobriety has taught me these things. It’s also taught me that when I forget these things I can also go back to the beginning and keep trying. So that’s where I am today. I’m Sean Paul Mahoney, a writer and a person who doesn’t know shit. And I’m okay with all of that.