Do I want to be comfortable or do I want to be honest? The two aren’t mutually exclusive, just all too commonly incorrectly valued. For many, the goal is to have a “comfortable life.” When comfort is achieved, it is assumed that we have fulfilled our purpose: bills are paid, there’s food on the table, et cetera. Honesty, as it pertains to true purpose, is overlooked.
I had been working for a property management company for a little over a year and a half. The job was essentially a favor, as I was limited in employment options living in a treatment facility. I was given a job writing blogs for the company website, but the majority of my days were spent doing property maintenance tasks. I was pretty terrible at the job, and though I brought my best effort every day, my sustained employment was clearly because the owner was a friend. Painting tasks that I’d seen a professional do in two and a half days would take me the full week, with mistakes in the final product. I just was not a particularly good handyman. I worried all the time that I was going to come in one day and they were just going to say, “Ben, I’m sorry, this just isn’t working.” Though still far from stellar, over time, my work did progress from apprehensively accepted to generally acceptable.
I did grow, however, to thoroughly like the writing aspects of my job. I started writing longer posts on social media about a funny day’s happenings or about my personal journey in recovery. I started getting sober as I was working there, so a lot of changes were taking place that prompted me to write several things that just weren’t appropriate for a company website. The posts garnered a decent amount of reads, along with encouraging and positive responses, even a few requests for more. I began to see that I was able to reach people and spread some light, as well as enlightenment. I never took the writing seriously, though, I mean, they were only social media posts.
As sobriety became less taboo, I began praying fervently for some direction and purpose. I knew I wanted to help people, so I wanted to find a way to do that. I learned of a position specifically geared toward people in recovery helping other people in recovery. I was extremely excited when I was officially signed up for the training. I did the training, passed the certification exam, and then found out a vast majority of the positions required a driver’s license, which I did not have on account of multiple DUIs. I was pretty sad and embarrassed about this, but thankfully my job was still there.
After this setback, for some extra money, I took a second job as a part-time server. But if you asked me what I did, I’d proudly say that I worked for the property management company. I don’t think the idea to do anything else ever crossed my mind as more than a fleeting notion. I loved the people I worked with and for, the job accommodated my AA meetings and the obligatory monthly probation appointment, and the pay was not bad at all.
Meanwhile, life was happening … and so were deaths. Every Monday for three consecutive weeks, someone I knew died, either by suicide or overdose. I wrote about it. I was writing more of these posts, as a cocktail of inspiration and necessity stirred inside of me.
Affirmation of my writing’s value came when I was out one night and a guy shared how much a post about one of the suicides really helped him. My hope in most of my writing is to share a different way for people to look at life, a way that doesn’t hold them to a standard of perfection to be acceptable: acceptable enough to reach God, acceptable enough to deserve life, acceptable enough to have hope.
I am learning this, too, as I am just barely dipping my toe into this sea of new knowledge and beginning to see this shift in perspective move my own internal mountains. Life events weren’t changing, I was! I had a message, and that message was hope, attainable hope. Writing became my catharsis, my way of processing the hope I was finding through my commitment to sobriety, self-awareness, and spirituality. I was beginning to find my purpose.
I toyed with the idea of personally blogging and writing in general, but it all seemed too large an undertaking to take seriously. I had a job, one that I was truly grateful for, and therefore, there was no real reason to look outside of that scope … until one Monday in early June. I was in the office and was basically called out for not following my passion — writing. I was given a month to figure things out and go answer my calling. I wanted to be mad. I was hurt. But honestly, I was scared.
Honesty, as it is explained in the 8 Practices of Living Hope: Honesty is the rejection of fantasy or delusion and the acceptance of what you know to be true, regardless of how ugly it may feel.
It requires that you recognize the difference between what you want for yourself and what others expect of you, and the willingness to act on that distinction. It also serves to illuminate the ways in which you present yourself inauthentically and falsely, allowing you to see clearly the circumstances of your reality.
I was being pushed to see the “circumstances of my reality,” pushed to be uncomfortably honest, pushed to Practice Honesty. I had to reject the fantasy and delusion that how I was living was enough. I had to acknowledge that I was doing a disservice to God if I knew I had been called into an area of service through my writing and I denied that.
If I was ever to live in the arena of Hope and bask in the light that is joy and purpose, I knew I had to Practice Honesty. I had to, first, surrender to my situation as it was: my time at my job was up. I had to, then, sit in stillness with this fact and realize I was not being punished but pushed toward Hope. I have grieved the loss, but I also have come to the conclusion that I haven’t really lost. I’ve gotten honest about what’s actually going on, and now, curiosity can flourish as I find new ways to pursue my purpose. I can forgive myself for not living in my calling because I’m human and will fall short at times; the purpose is progress. The resiliency implemented now, is charged with optimism founded in my faith in having a calling to pursue. Having a calling, a purpose, has been all I’ve want and I can authentically experience joy. And it is with that new lease on life that I can embrace Hope.
This is Living Hope.
Ben Gear is a writer in his hometown of Chapel Hill, NC. He can also be found charming dinner guests at one of Carrboro’s fine restaurants. Ben is a father, a lover of people, and tries to inspire everyone with his consistently cheerful disposition. He is very committed to his recovery and is proud of his 18 months of sobriety. Ben will be writing about his journey through spirituality, sobriety, and personal growth on his upcoming blog, Perfectly Imperfect, which you can find at www.bengear.net.