Of Mice and Men and Providence

"If the only thing that people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world." – Sydney Banks

I'm 41 years old and still have to look up the meaning of some words now and then.

Providence was just one of them.

I've heard it used my entire life, and other than being a city in Rhode Island I knew it had something to do with nature and/or God or some sort of otherworldly something-or-other.

I wasn't too far off, with my favourite definition of "Providence" falling to it's synonyms: foresight, fate, destiny, and common sense.

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I also rather enjoy the last one: "timely preparation for future eventualities."

It just sounds so...grown up and responsible.

Sometimes I get a word stuck in my head, repeating itself like a scratched, skipping record (am I dating myself here by making vinyl LP references?). The word "Providence" has been rattling around my brain over the last few days, and I have no idea why or where it came from.

Maybe it means I'm on the right path.

It's as though there's been someone hanging over my shoulder, whispering it in my ear nonstop and it keeps replaying in my head, beyond my control, just like when T Swift dropped "Shake It Off".

Just because you don't choose or want to hear it, doesn't mean your mind isn't going to keep playing it.

Like when I'm craving a drink or ten, or unconsciously hearing my nagging, negative self-talk, it just stays there, stuck, until I acknowledge it, give in to it, or deconstruct it and send it on it's way.

When something is stuck in my head, it won't go away until I deal with it, as though it's been placed on my path for me to learn from or create from. I'm slowly getting better at recognizing repetition in my life as a sign that I'm supposed to do something.

That's sort of how it happened when my life seemed stuck on repeat, every morning jumping back to the same low, hungover spot, willing to trade anything for another chance at some sort of sobriety.

Desperately grasping for even a shred of control over my life again.

I had to make the record stop skipping somehow. I was getting so very tired of the same old song. 

A similar thing happened before I created this photo, inspired and titled after one of my favourite novels, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. I couldn't get the story out of my head until I eventually channeled it into this:

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"Maybe everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other" – Slim, Of Mice and Men

That quote from the novel is everything.

If you haven't read (or watched) Of Mice and Men yet, I'll try and summarize the story's moral for you (as I understand it):

It's about the universal struggle for survival that is shared by most living things, from mice to men. It's about how no one trusts one another, how we are all lonely, scared and alone, and regardless of our best-laid plans (Providence, if you will), things will still go wrong no matter how carefully we plan or prepare. 

How joyously optimistic.

Let's just say the book is brilliant, but not the most cheerful of tales with it's grim (and sadly accurate) commentary on the nature of our existence. (Plus, a puppy dies, and that's about the worst possible scenario imaginable).

Honesty is usually pretty ugly.

I think it's this innate, human condition – feeling alone and scared – that drives so many of us to the point of addiction and beyond. It's what drives us to do things that help us feel as though we belong.

As humans, we not only crave connection – we require it.

Feeling "alone" drives us to all sorts of things, from isolation, depression, self-abuse, negative self-talk and self-sabotage, just to name a few that I'm intimately, and sadly, very familiar with.

The worst kind of feeling alone is when you aren't alone at all. It's when you're in the company of others but feel light-years apart.

We drink to escape, seeking comfort and company in bottles and bars. Our attempts to feel as though we belong just leave us feeling more alone. Our plans and intentions fall apart, we break down a little more...and we get stuck on repeat.

Just like Taylor's "Shake It Off" being trapped in your head, we get stuck in the loop, unable to shake it off no matter how hard we try. And, the longer we stay in the loop, the more we begin to wonder what makes us so different from everyone else. Why are we stuck and why can't we get our shit together like it seems everyone else can? 

What if we started asking ourselves "Why am I so damn hard on myself" instead?

If the only thing that people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.” – Sydney Banks

If only we were fearless, everything would be so much easier.

Breaking away from our fears of failure, and oddly enough, success, gives way for Providence to hold our hand as we boldly (and scared shitlessly) move forward with terrifying, positive attempts at bringing change to our life.

And that change usually only begins when we courageously stop and try to listen to whatever is playing on repeat in our heads.

We have to listen to understand.

And we have to understand before we can act.

And let's face it – as alcoholics, we aren't really known for our well-thought-out actions. It's usually only when things get really, really (like, really) bad and we are pushed to such an extreme level of self-disgust that we feel almost forced to change our behaviour.

Essentially, we finally get tired of our own bullshit.

Breaking away from what has always been is a really scary thing. Change itself is made up of uncertainty and risk, and uncertainty and risk are really, really uncomfortable, especially when it feels like we are diving into it alone.

What if I fail? What if my cravings are stronger than my best intentions? 

Oh, but darling, what if you don't, and what if they aren't?

What if you're so much stronger than you've been telling yourself you are?

Fear stops us, stalls us, and it digs our isolated hole of loneliness deeper and deeper the longer we just sit there, as though gravity just keeps getting heavier.

We need to be fearless. We need to become lighter. We need to rise up.

We need to trust that Providence has our back, and whatever we need on the journey ahead will somehow be there for us.

The word Providence itself has "Provide" within it.

Think of Providence as having faith (however you define it). Whether you believe it's in the stars aligning, my personal belief that the universe is conspiring with you, or that it's God's hand leading you, it all comes down to the same comfort: that we are being looked after.

And if we are being looked after, what do we have to be afraid of?

The day I committed (again) to getting rid of alcohol, once and for allI immediately became intimidated by the long, lonely, struggle ahead of me.

Because that's what I was told to expect.

Thankfully, Providence was there to remind me that I'm not alone, but in it together with so many others just like myself. 

Mice, men, and everything in between. We are all connected. We are all in it, and we are all struggling.

Once I committed to changing my life, groups of like-minded, terrified, incredibly strong people seemed to start popping up out of nowhere. From the Alcohol Experiment community to my new friends at the Recovery Elevator, I didn't find my tribe – my tribe found me.

Providence was there to show me that even though my best-laid plans and intentions may not play out as I hope (or, perhaps they actually will), there will always be comfort in the collective.

Dear Prudence open up your eyes
Dear Prudence see the sunny skies
The wind is low the birds will sing
That you are part of everything
Dear Prudence won't you open up your eyes?
– Dear Prudence, The Beatles

Maybe we aren't alone on this journey, after all. Maybe we aren't all drifting in our own one-man lifeboats, scared and afraid.

Perhaps we're all sailing the same choppy waters on the same big ship. Perhaps we've belonged all along, and we are all more alike than we are different.

Maybe the only thing we have worth being afraid of is staying in the same sad place? Maybe all we have left to do is take our fear and Shake It Off, once and for all.

Just imagine if we all stopped being afraid of failing, and started to celebrate trying, instead?

Sometimes a little blind faith is the only thing that can send fear on its way.

"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too." – William Hutchison Murray

Sober, alcohol free recovery blogger.

Photographer. Writer. Ex-Blackout Artist.

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