Slow Burn, Part 2: Liberate

“Just do whatever makes you happy!”

How many times have we all heard THAT conveniently generalized, yet absurdly restrictive phrase?

I know this might be triggering to some people, but I believe that statement is utter bullshit - hear me out. What makes someone “happy” is a completely subjective concept. One that suggests anything that makes you happy is good. Real quick, let me tell you something that used to make me happy. What used to make me happy was pre-gaming with a bottle of wine, then heading to my fave Santa Monica bar (The Birdcage, chirp, chirp), consuming multiple Vodka cranberries and ending the night by eating an entire pizza, alone. Although it is implied, let me explicitly state that I consider that to be something that’s not good for my overall health. To indirectly quote the urgent care doctor who first prescribed me anxiety medication due to my frivolous alcohol consumption, “Just because something is culturally permissible, does not mean that it promotes a healthy lifestyle.”

In part 1, I expounded upon the tumultuous 2016 chronicles of Clyde and our subsequent breakup after a year of dating (plus about three months of “WTF is going on” at the tail end). In my story, Clyde represents that culturally permissible “no-no” in your life that you so desperately want to believe makes you happy, but is actually causing vicious spirals of anxiety that feel like they will never end. For the first six months, I thought I was truly happy. Another six months later, I realized I really wanted to be happy, but wasn’t. And then in those final three months, I realized I’d never be happy. With Clyde, it was impossible.

The thing about relationships is that they require a whole lot of sacrifice. At first, I think we voluntarily give up a lot of ourselves just out of pure euphoria, like not hanging with our normal friend groups or stopping that workout and diet routine that was going so well for two weeks. The harder, more character-centered sacrifices occur once you realize how different the two of you actually are. Now, for the relationship to continue, you both need to make much bigger, intentional sacrifices that you’re much less eager to make. Therein lies the decision – do I die a lot and give up a huge part of myself for this relationship to work, or do I die a little and break this thing off so that, in the long run, I can become a renewed and more realized version of myself. [DISCLAIMER: I do speak solely from the perspective of a failed relationship, but I promise this is all leading to a lesson that’s relevant to everyone!].

Now, the thing that I find funny about sacrifice is that, in the context of a relationship, we don’t even think twice about the friendships we’re leaving behind, or the healthy lifestyle we’ve abandoned or maybe even the total disapproval of our family members. All things that are seemingly valuable to us go out the window without even conscious consideration. However, outside of the context of a relationship, we won’t even entertain the idea that sacrificing some negative, self-centered behavior could be good for us. Let me proceed with a personal example.

Remember those Vodka cranberries and pizza that I used to love so much? Those were things that I would never have thought twice about giving up. Sure, they incited crippling panic attacks almost every Sunday night (Sunday Scaries, am I right!?), but by the following Friday, that “culturally permissible no-no” felt a lot more appealing than it had five days prior and I was ready to indulge again. I was incapable of even considering that not drinking my face off was an option. In the same sense that Clyde was toxic for me, I was perpetuating this very self-destructive behavior that I just thought was normal. I was my own worst enemy. And “WHY?” is the real question. Because it’s fun! It’s fun to cut loose, it’s fun to throw your hands in the air and shake what your mother gave you on the dance floor. It’s the rush of the moment that helps us get through the struggles of work, relationships, family drama, shitty bosses, all the things! (I know, I know, “It’s called balance, sweetie, look it up!”). Plus, EV-ER-Y-ONE is doing it, so we must be doing something right! Lest I remind you…”Just because something is culturally permissible…”

And this is why sacrifice and liberation go hand in hand.

Overshare time! On the heels of that Easter breakup, I went through some serious spiritual warfare. It was like, Dumbledore vs. Voldemort, “Dark times lie ahead, Harry,” type shit. This all took place after about a year of my spiritual life running on E. Not even fumes. I was empty. And so, trying to renew that faith was painful, because I was slowly reminded of what I had willingly sacrificed. Not only that, but I was shown the harsh reality of what I would have to give up in order to be truly free. That’s when it clicked. I realized, "I’m doing this wrong! I am doing this backwards! I gave up my faith life in the snap of a finger, yet I can’t even bring myself to let go of the very thing that’s been causing me all of this internal trauma in the first place!" Then, it all began to change.

By no means was this an overnight transformation. I stumbled, I crumbled and flubbed a few times. But each time I fell, I stood back up even stronger (thank you back squats)! And with each tumble, I decided to entertain this elusive idea of giving up my crappy behavior in exchange for something more fulfilling. That’s the deal that God gives every single one of us. It basically took Him grabbing me by the face like your overzealous auntie at Christmas dinner saying, “Seriously, Patrick, you’re doing this to yourself. Just do what I ask, and you’ll be WAY HAPPIER than your human brain could ever comprehend!”

Just a few weeks later, I was accepted into one of the top screenwriting MFA programs in the country. Oh, and I closed my first TV producing deal for a faith-based reality show that's based on an original concept of my own. Oh, and I found the confidence to start this blog and divulge all of my life struggles to you guys in hopes that you can learn something from my longwinded stories.

Again, by no means did these things happen in the snap of a finger just because I said, “Okay, God, you win!” No, it took a long, long time of learning and accepting the pain that comes with change. Through prayer and loyalty to a power much stronger than myself, I saw the truth, the real meaning of my life. God was trying to tell me the whole time, but I was too hungover to even hear the phone ring. Realizing His purpose for putting me on this Earth, and then fully embracing it, has put me on an entirely new path.

This is true liberation.

The Vodka cranberries and the hookups with strangers might make you feel free in the moment because our culture says, “You do you, gurrrrl! No consequences!” But I guarantee you, that emptiness will not be filled with those fleeting, meaningless interactions. Those things that your friends encourage you to do because they think it’s what you want…my guess is that, they don’t want that shit for themselves either. It’s just that, that’s what we’re supposed to want to do, right? And everyone else is doing it…right?

That kind of “liberation” is an illusion. Now, I am speaking directly TO YOU, the reader, so don’t hang up just yet. This culture wants you to be distracted. This culture so desperately needs to control you and tell you that “hoeing it up” with a stranger for the weekend is not only normal, but healthy. Please. Do. Not. Believe. The lies. This is a choice we are ALL faced with. “Will I fall into line and be boxed accordingly with the rest of my kin like a good little follower,” or will I say, “No way bro, I’ma ACTUALLY do me and discover my own identity.”

Trust me, I’ve been where you probably are right now. You’re like “Okay, Patrick this is all great for you, but I don’t believe in God,” or you’re thinking about your horrific childhood experiences with religion. It’s just a bunch of slaphappy nuns with rulers shouting at you for wearing your skirts too high, or your pants too low. Well, let me make one final thing very clear: God doesn’t need us to be perfect. If ANY of us were already perfect, His job would be a lot easier and a lot more boring. No, no, do NOT be fooled into thinking that those hookups and that drunken debauchery disqualifies you from His never-ending love and grace. That’s just where the work begins. It all starts with that choice that you decide to make. Will it be toxic on the rocks tonight, or will we say, “Bye, Felicia” to our damaging routines and open ourselves up to something really frickin' great?

And finally, this has never been about relationships, or the alcohol or the one-night stands. This is all about freedom. It’s about the liberation that we can all live with by thinking, “Is this choice coming from me, or from some fabricated and manipulative worldview that doesn’t have my best interest at heart?” Every day we have a choice. I have a choice right now to jump off my soapbox and shut my laptop. But that decision would be made out of the fear of backlash from those who disagree with me, those haters who think they know better. Well, I think we’ve made one thing very clear, true liberation comes from making up your own damn mind.

Most of us live, some of us learn, but do any of us ever change? The choice is yours and no one else’s.

Patrick LeheComment