I recently watched John Mulaney’s newest comedy special on Netflix called “Baby J.” I like John Mulaney, I think he’s funny. He’s got at least two or three other specials on Netflix from earlier years, but he hadn’t done anything in a while due to some crazy life circumstances he went through. His newest special, “Baby J,” is really him opening up about what the last 2-3 years had in store for him.
Obviously in the last 2-3 years, we ALL went through a little thing called COVID-19. So in a sense, all of our worlds were kind of rocked. But John Mulaney had a particularly difficult time, and he begins sharing that experience in the first few minutes of his show. He kicks it off by describing his process of finally having to deal with his drug addiction and going to rehab. And he does it in a way that is funny! I loved that he just came right out and talked about the elephant in the room. His entire special is about what’s it like to go to rehab, how he really didn’t want to go to rehab, and how badly the drug addiction had a hold on him. And I respect him so much for doing a special all about that. Yes, it’s funny – but it’s also so beautiful and real.
I have no experience with drug rehab, but I admit it did remind me a bit of going into the mental health hospital when I had postpartum depression. So maybe in the tiniest way, I felt like I could relate. I could relate to people being worried about me. I could relate to having to be away from friends and family in a facility that kind of felt like a prison, and where many of my basic rights and choices were taken away from me. But I was only in the hospital for a week. John Mulaney describes being in rehab for months.
It reminded me of another person who recently shared their experience of rehab and addiction: Tom Felton. Earlier this year I read his memoir, Beyond the Wand, and like with Mulaney’s special, I also remember being appreciative that he would share his story and be honest. His story started the same way John Mulaney’s did – with an intervention by friends and family. A bunch of people all gathered in a room for hours on end, trying to convince someone they love to agree to get help. Which both Felton and Mulaney eventually did.
Both Felton and Mulaney describe the intense anger that they had in those moments of confrontation. They both knew they were in bad places, and I don’t think either of them were surprised that they suddenly found themselves at the center of an intervention. But they both describe feeling livid.
What is it about others telling us that we need help that makes us get so angry? Why is anger our first emotion when people who love us want us to get healthier? Is anger covering up our shame? I would guess it’s something like that. And I think Brené Brown would guess that too.
The other day I was walking around in downtown Abilene, and outside of one of the stores was a table of books. As any librarian and/or book lover would do, I paused to glance over the titles. Only one book really caught my eye:
I loved the simple design of the cover, light pink with varying sizes of red dots sprinkled all over it. It seemed like a no-brainer for me – I love memoirs, I love reading… I don’t love acne, but unfortunately it has had quite an impact on me and my story.
I scanned the book for a price, and suddenly saw a sign that said “Free books: Limit 1 per customer.” Free book??? Even better.
I had no idea what this book was really going to be like, but when I came to this paragraph on the second page, I knew I was going to like it:
“After genocide, nuclear war, famine, slavery, and child abuse, acne is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person. Okay, fine, maybe cancer is worse, and probably a bunch of other stuff, but acne is bad, really bad, and if you haven’t lived though it then… honestly, go f*** yourself.”
— Laura Chinn (p. 2)
I laughed out loud when I read that last part! It was so honest and real. If you’ve never had bad acne, you will think these sentiments are crazy exaggerations. If you have struggled with bad acne, you’ll know that during your lowest points of dealing with red spots all over your face, you literally do feel like this sometimes.
My experience with acne is something that deeply affected me, more than I ever knew until I really started doing some reflecting upon the experience in my 30’s. It affected my body image (I stopped thinking I was pretty, and in fact, was convinced that because of acne scarring I could never be beautiful again), my idea of my own self-worth (I questioned why anyone would want to be friends with someone as ugly as me), and my mental and physical health (I had a few years of extreme dieting when I was trying to find the perfect diet to “cure” my acne, and instead ended up losing so much weight that my period stopped).
A few weeks ago as I was walking across my university’s campus to go to my Tuesday yoga class, I noticed these words written on the sidewalk in chalk: You are right where you belong.
I knew that these words had been written for the incoming freshman to make them feel more welcome, but I honestly felt like they were written for me too.
I’d been struggling over the past few months with feeling like I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, or if I was going down the right path. I’d been laser-focused on accomplishing certain goals, and I had been failing at achieving them. For over two years now, I’ve thought I was going to have another baby – but infertility struggles have prevented that so far. Failure. At the beginning of 2022, I had a specific career path in mind, and even interviewed for a job I felt like I would be perfect for, but ended up not being chosen for it. Failure.
If you follow my blog, you know that what ended up happening with my job was that I worked with my boss to find a better fit at my current place of employment, and it’s been a really great change for me. And if I hadn’t been rejected by the other place I interviewed at, I would have never even considered moving to my current department. (I’m still in Library-land, now working in the Special Collections and Archives department.)
The unexpected job change still kind of rattled me though. (In a good way.) I had been so sure that I was going to be working at a different place, or possibly having another baby, that I never allowed myself to consider other possibilities. I had been stuck in a season of waiting, instead of a season of truly living. And I needed to be rattled in order to me to make me realize that.
It’s hard to give up on dreams – maybe “give up” is too strong of a phrase. It can be hard to simply have your dreams change. It sort of feels like a shift in identity. But I’m trying to lean in to the place where I’m at, and make the most of it.
As I go about each day, I’m trying to believe that I’m exactly where I need to be – that the people I interact with and the places I go are purposeful and important. That they are integral parts of my journey, and that someday I’ll look back and be able to see that so much more clearly.