Facing Everyday Life Requires Courage to Be Average

By Ken Wells - 10/27/2020


Series One: Blog Forty-Seven

Embracing the average everyday life experience is hard. Today, one of my wife’s family members lost a loved one to COVID. In the US the COVID count is nearing 4.5 million cases and 150K plus deaths. We still have 6 months to go before the one year anniversary of the first case being diagnosed in the US. The new average reality as COVID marches on is the more frequent awareness that someone close to you has died from the virus. Most of us consider ourselves lucky to have not been touched by this quiet robber of life. Yet, being lucky has never been the average experience of everyday living. Like knowing someone who is alcoholic or drug addicted, it is likely that most of us will know someone who has died or been impacted by this mysterious killer. 

The economics of Covid impact has created an ominous cloud for millions and has already devastated many. The truth is that we have not managed this pandemic effectively and many conclude that we have failed. Admitting failure is always difficult whether assessing our response to COVID or assessing our personal recovery from addiction. Admitting failure is difficult to do. However, failure is commonplace. It doesn’t have to be the last chapter of the book written, but likely will be if failure is not recognized and admitted. This is the struggle that is average to us all. The struggle to face our failures is the average difficulty that touches the lives of everybody. It requires daring courage to admit failure and shortcomings and to humbly embrace what you said you would never do in order to succeed. Your personal recovery from addiction parallels the global recovery from COVID pandemic. Without a vaccine, we now have been shown what helps to contain the virus from countries around the world who have reduced the numbers of COVID cases. Without a vaccine, many people around the world have embraced a twelve step recovery program that has proven to reduce out of control living caused by addiction.  It has actually stemmed acting out and eliminated destructive behavior from millions of lives who have practiced the program. However, this program similar to correcting our pandemic response, requires that we humbly admit that we are powerless in our past attempts to control and admit that our lives have become unmanageable. This is the common average struggle that many of us have refused to embrace. It is the essence of what it means to dare to be average. It is the place of brilliance that healing is discovered whether speaking of a pandemic or finding healing from incurable addiction. It’s hard to say “I blew it” but is a necessary starting point. It is the makeup of a “beginner’s mindset”. It is the opposite of a “half-assed”, “devil-may care” attitude. Embracing this average space in life requires the excellence of transparency and honesty. You must tell on yourself and be open to instruction and embrace a willingness to do whatever it takes to face an incurable disease. This is the average every day challenge facing us all, not only addicts. 

Many people scoff about embracing average. For many, it indicates less than 100% effort toward accomplishing excellence. Who gets excited about a mediocre effort toward anything? Yet if an average day in Seattle during the rainy season is clouds and rain, it doesn’t suggest a need to deny the clouds or rain but to prepare and accept what is and work with this average rainy day to make something special from it. Scoffing about the rain will not make the clouds go away. Embracing this average seasonal condition will provide what is necessary to transform brilliance from an average commonplace day that otherwise would be surrendered to dreary.

The only way for an addict to recover is to embrace the average conditions of everyday life. You have to face what is real which is often not very pretty. It is the place to gain wisdom that is delivered through life circumstance. The moments of discomfort that trigger a craving to addictively use, are the average places that addicts can develop insight and life savvy. Many who do not want to face this average experience in recovery want to alter their state of unhappiness and avoid sleuthing the wisdom that can come from the discomfort. People find a way to medicate or numb the unwanted feeling with food, substances, activities and experiences that will help to disconnect from the discomfort. People look outside themselves for a solution when the universe would beckon that we come home, be true to the heart, and allow the average experience of uncertainty and trial to teach its magic about what is meaningful in a pandemic and addictive world.

Metaphors for addiction are all around us. I grew up in east central Illinois. To go home, I often fly from Phoenix to St. Louis. From the airport, I take Interstate 270 around the city of St. Louis leading to the bridge over the Mississippi River that parallels the old Chain of Rocks Bridge that has been shut down and abandoned for decades. After crossing the Mississippi on a parallel bridge, immediately there is another bridge that goes over a canal built for commercial barges to navigate safely through the Chain of Rocks. 

The canal is designed to be wide enough to accommodate the barge traffic with a steep shoreline. It is plenty deep so that commercial traffic can navigate with no problem. For me, this canal channel is a metaphor to recovery. There is no danger of the barge becoming impeded or stuck in shallow waters. The canal is designed and properly sized for typical commercial barge traffic. Within its confines, each barge is safe from the hazard of shallow waters. 

As long as addicts stay within the confines of healthy boundaries and respect limitation, they are safe from the hazards that lead to addictive acting out. It’s only when an addict ignores limitations that he or she gets into trouble with addictive acting out. 

I often hear complaints from sexual addicts who resent the need for limitation and boundary. This resistance is an average dynamic experience of most addicts. Yet, true to the metaphor, the individuals who honor and respect limitation will discover that they can go as deep within the boundary as they want. It’s by respecting our limits and going deep within the heart that we have the opportunity to know ourselves best. Canadian poet Shane Koyczan declared that, “To discover the thing you’re brilliant at you first have to endure realizing all the things you’re average at.” 

There is no magic bullet! In the midst of global pandemic, while waiting for the cure of vaccine, living inside the confines of limitation will be necessary to stem and curb the spread and exposure to virus. It will require that we embrace the ordinary average experiences that are stressful and make it difficult to stay the course to health and safety. It is also true with recovery from addiction. There is no magic vaccine. Meaningfulness in life is unpacked when we embrace the customary and commonplace. In the common events and experiences of life, people uncover their own significance. It happens when we reframe the daily grind—the everyday struggles that yield a reason to be and give a “why” to live. Those who are capable of going underneath the average everyday experience begin to uncover one of life’s greatest gifts—their own inner brilliance. Inner brilliance distinguishes the extraordinary competence that exists within every human being.

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