Breaking Bad, a show that aired on the US cable TV channel AMC from 2008 until 2013, is essentially about unwise choices borne of dire circumstances, and trying to solve the unpleasant consequences of those choices by digging deeper into the realm of the underworld via additional unwise choices.
Yet, if one is paying close attention, there is plenty of wisdom to be gleaned from that show.
One of the most significant pearls of wisdom comes from an unlikely source (and a quite minor character), the 12-step addiction recovery counselor with whom one of the main characters has contact.
The reason this character’s wisdom is unlikely is because he’s planted into a show that illustrates fictional-but-realistic proof that the underworld depicted in the show can be extremely tempting, luring, compelling, and invisibly chaining. The counselor himself is not perfect, having been One of Them at some point before it took the ultimate tragedy to serve as a wake-up call. In a sea of lawlessness and self-destruction, he’s the lone voice trying to guide the vulnerable, and not always successfully so.
In fact, he’s somewhat ineffectual at what he does, mainly because the forces that act in opposition are so powerful.
That significant piece of wisdom is: walk with who you are.
Walking with who you are conveys two distinct ideas.
Self-acceptance is the first one. Self-acceptance appears, on its surface, to be so easy. After all, it’s easy to say the words, “I’m me. That’s fine.”
It’s harder to mean those words. So many of the people who say it are merely offering themselves lip service. They may believe it; they may not know they’re lying. Lying to oneself is the ultimate deception, because we may genuinely believe our words to be truth, and there’s no one else to question their validity or truth.
The ease of self-acceptance can be quite deceptive. In truth, it can be incredibly elusive to attain.
To accept oneself, one must soften the Inner Critic and let the Inner Child come out to play. That doesn’t mean silencing the Inner Critic altogether; they’re still needed to keep us safe from dangerous edges. But for many, the Inner Critic is a harsh and unforgiving taskmaster. It must be reigned in, for absolute power corrupts absolutely and all that.
The second element of walking with who you are is the idea of moving forward. Sometimes you take a few steps ahead; other times, you take a step or two back.
Walking with who you are implies an acceptance of the backwards steps, too.
It’s all part of the package.
And backward steps are natural. After all, when one is faced with opposing forces and conflicting information/thoughts/people/etc, one naturally comes to feel like they’re swaying This way and That. Water is quite innocuous, but only in small amounts; given enough of it, human strength is no match.
The trick to dealing with the turbulence is one mastered long ago: a sturdy boat to ride the surface. Stay out of the water; don’t get sucked in, don’t get pulled under. The undertow is invisible, but leads to certain death.
For me, my Asperger’s/autistic mind can be a turbulent place, so much so that sometimes it’s difficult to tell up from down and forward from backward. It can be tough to get my bearings and remain properly oriented.
One can only walk with who one is when they’re standing upright and balanced. Trying to take steps while still unbalanced can cause one to fall.
The Buddhists have it right, for the most part: all life is suffering, and balance is a key component of the remedy and the relief. It’s the antidote to the chaos and a main ingredient of calm.
There’s more to it, but that’s the basic idea as I see it.
The bonus point is, one is not required to walk alone. It’s like “phone a friend” on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”. You’re allowed to do that.
But to make it happen, one must be comfortable with who they are.
We’re our own best friends and our own worst enemies, all at the same time, wrapped up in a package of yin and yang. To know and fully appreciate friendship, one must know enmity.
And it’s OK. It’s OK to be friends and enemies with yourself.
Just get those shoes on, and start walking. ❤