Wednesday, December 5, 2018

I was honored and privileged, over the weekend, to sit with a small group in hospital as our good friend, Walt G, made his transition. Such a blessing, these program relationships. At one point, the ER nurse asked, “So how are you related?” We decided that  “cousins” fit – different last names, same story, though with variations. As we stood by his bed and said the Serenity Prayer, I felt the power of the “we,” the power of connection, the power of love, for our friend, and for his long-term partner. No matter what my dis-ease sometimes whispers to me, there is nothing in this life that we need to walk through alone.

At one point, during a nurse hand-off, it was mentioned that our friend had cirrhosis, from alcoholism. I felt it important to speak up and note that yes, alcoholism, but that he’d been sober for 30 years. The “cunning, baffling and powerful” of this disease is that it sometimes gets us long after the drinking is done. Our friend had a good, long life in recovery.

So I'm thinking, today, about life on life’s terms – the highs and the lows and everything in between.  Contrary to what the old timers used to say, there are big deals, though even the little deals can trigger my emotional roller coaster.  We switched out our big Christmas tree for a table model this week, which means the opportunity to trim down the holiday decor. But, it isn't just "holiday decor." It is memories of the Christmas spent with friends in Florida when it was so cold, lizards froze on the sidewalks. It is the favorite pink glass ornament that Mom always let me put on the tree as a kid. It is ornaments given as gifts, and purchased on various vacations, some from childhood and some from Mom's tree. I'm feeling both efficient and melancholy as I look at what to keep and what to give away.

I'm thinking of that duality, the ability to hold seemingly opposing emotions - sad and happy, relieved and grieving, excitement and fear. It took a long time for me to be able to move beyond black & white, good/bad thinking to "this, and..."  With time (step work, good sponsorship, therapy) I’ve been able to understand that I did bad things, but am not a bad person. My father was more than “the alcoholic” in my childhood. Bad things do happen to good people (an excellent little book, by the way – by Harold Kushner) and people that I love do die. I understand that “happy, joyous and free” is not an everyday high, but a state of mind. I understand that it is possible for fear and hope to coexist. I can anticipate missing friends who are moving, and be excited for their adventure. I can love my job and be ready to quit. 

This time of year lends itself to reflection on the year passing by and that yet to come, especially as I feel the shock and sadness of these most recent losses. A friend asked, "What is going on?!" when I told her of another friend who is currently in the hospital with kidney failure. I think what is going on is that we are getting old. As much as I don't feel what I think 64 should feel like, I am an old person. I am an old person who has been fortunate enough to have loved and lost and loved again. I am an old person who has been blessed with close friendships, and many more acquaintances of the meeting variety.  Honoring those who have moved on while allowing my sometimes mixed emotions is an aspect of maturity that I'm just beginning to get on a deep, soul level.

Even as I do my best to detach from the busyness this month, I'm unable to avoid traffic that grows exponentially each week, overcrowded parking lots and busy stores. How do you carve out a quiet moment to appreciate the connections that make this time of year special? What are some of the dueling emotions that you're feeling, and are you at peace with the whole package of your humanness?

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