I’m reading a book, translated from Norwegian, titled Silence in the Age of Noise, by Erling Kagge. The author, who has trekked across Antarctica and to the North Pole, speaks to the importance of finding the quiet place within, even (especially?) when the noise of the world fills our ears. The book is a series of small essays. In one, he writes about being in gatherings of those in their 60’s, 70's and 80's, and how the main regret voiced is that they hadn’t realized sooner that this is life. Not someday, not later, but now. That reminded me of what an old guy used to say in meetings when I first came in to recovery, his words cutting to my core: “This is not a dress rehearsal.” No rewind, no undoing what’s been done, no time out while we get our shit together.
As much as I sometimes feel like the years have gone by in a snap, I am beyond blessed to have lived, to be truly living my life. I have had peak experiences that still give me goose bumps. My challenge, be it intellectual or emotional, is to incorporate those peak experiences into the day-to-day. “Life” isn’t just the high notes, the adventure souvenirs and dance parties. Life is also, and maybe more so, noticing the falling leaves that chase me on my morning run, the way the rain sounds on the roof, cooking a tasty, healthy dinner, waking up next to the person who loves me back. Life is the newcomer who shows up next week, the sponsee who takes the risk of trust, those who do the service that keep our meetings running. Every day is full of little miracles, if I but pay attention. I very well could’ve died behind the wheel, or at the end of a syringe, so waking up each day is a miracle, and one I vividly acknowledge, even though it has been a long time since I came-to with a hangover.
As the fog lifted, and I surrounded myself with like-minded others, I developed the capacity to dream, envisioning what could be, then taking the steps to get there – signing up for that first class, running an extra mile, picking up the phone. I think of recovery as both pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, and as a journey of discovering my rhythms and the daily rituals that ground me. I am grateful beyond measure for the vision of Bill, Bob and the first 100, who wrote a book that is as relevant to me with 30+ years sobriety as it was at 30 days. They saw the joyful possibilities of lives reclaimed, even though they were only three years in when the book was published.
One of the challenges of long term recovery is to remain teachable – in and out of program. I learned a new word this week: Petrichor = a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Who knew? I also read an interesting article in the NYT Magazine (see link) that describes humans as the only species that can time travel, able to remember the past as well as imagine the future, and how important it is to allow our minds to wander. That seems to dovetail with the idea of inner quiet. Not every moment needs a screen or a keyboard, a radio or TV. Not every moment needs a book or some other distraction. Sometimes, what I really need is to simply sit still and breathe.
December approaches. How will you find moments of quiet reflection amongst your real or perceived obligations? How will you let yourself off the hook if the holiday season isn’t something you look forward to, but simply endure? If you do enjoy this time of year, how will you pace yourself?
A friend very unexpectedly died early today. She was a cousin to my oldest and dearest friend, a woman I've known for something like 45 years - funny, energetic, always full of life. I am in shock, as is the family, and I send my deepest love and condolences. Tell your people that you love them, not later, but today. Godspeed T.A. Gone too soon.