Thursday, August 24, 2017

I'm revisiting the idea of a sense of place, having just returned from 2 weeks in foreign parts. I had the pleasure of reading a novel set in the village where we stayed in the Outer Hebrides (Scotland) while there - Heartland by John Mackay. The author opens with "This was his land. He had sprung from it and would return surely to it. Its pure air refreshed him, the big skies inspired him and the pounding seas were the rhythm of his heart. It was his touchstone. Here he nourished his soul."

I wonder - does everyone feel this way about home? I recall a discussion in grad school where others described various exotic settings that felt like their spirit's home - high mountains, low desert floors, open meadows - that place of the cosmic exhale, usually someplace they'd visited and felt connection. At the time, I was slightly embarrassed to share that my place of deep breaths is the rain soaked Pacific Northwest, and more particularly, my corner of NE Portland. There are other places that make my heart sing - London & the Lake District in the UK,  New York City, the northern Oregon coast, the Olympic Peninsula... overall, my spiritual home is damp and green. My internal culture is informed by reading while winter rains batter the windows, the delight at spring's first daffodil, summers where I inevitably say, "It didn't used to get so hot!"

I also thought of the culture of our 12 Step programs as I traveled. Each meeting, whether home or abroad, is comforting in its sameness while having a particular set of norms. The meeting I attended in Edinburgh was hardcore.The chair person spoke of "living rough" (on the streets) prior to recovery, and another man's voice cracked with emotion as he shared the day's reading. In each share, gratitude for being alive and sober was the primary sentiment. The English speaking meeting in Reykjavik was a traveler's group, a marvelous conglomeration of Americans, Brits, a fellow from the Middle East, a German and a few Icelanders, several of whom talked about the stress of traveling with drinking friends, their challenges with shifting peer groups, and again, gratitude for being alive and sober. As I sat in that meeting on Sunday evening, I knew that my home group was gathering on Sunday morning back home. I felt connected, and, grateful for our 100's of choices here in Portland, each group with its individual culture as well, whether cerebral, by-the-book, or anything in-between.

I love to travel. It is my thing. And, one of the best parts of going away is coming home. Home to mossy sidewalks (dried up at the end of August), our little garden gushing ripe tomatoes, my dear spouse and our two cats (only one of which is speaking to me at the moment). As I've noted before, stepping out of my routine periodically, whether via a transatlantic flight, a run in the woods, or maybe reading a new author, is a good way to hit the reset button and remind myself both of the glories of this great big world, and the simple beauty of home.

Is your sense of place, your touchstone, related to where you grew up, or someplace else? How would you describe the culture of your favorite meetings?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"How it Works" in the Big Book, references "our personal adventures, before and after." My adventures "before" were related to what could I get away with. Any actual adventures were clouded by hangovers and arguments.The adventure back then had to do with intent that was overcome by either inertia or intoxication. I love the scene in the movie "Boogie Nights" where the two girls are sitting on a bed, coked out of their minds, talking about all the things they are going to do - take a class, learn to macrame, get a life. And of course, the next day, with the hideous four horsemen galloping through their brains, all they end up doing is more coke.

Every minute of "after" has been an adventure of sorts, especially at the beginning - daily life was an adventure, both exciting and terrifying, as all grand adventures should be. Making new friends, going to school, getting a job, dancing, for heaven's sake...falling in and out of love, learning to show up and sit still and listen - the discovery of what I was capable of.

Today, life continues to be an exciting experience - both internal and external. A counselor in treatment used to say to us, "You can do anything you want to do, as long as you don't drink or use!" At first I balked at that idea - I couldn't become President, after all - not with my history. Then again, I wouldn't want to become President, of anything. What I want to do is travel and write and run in beautiful places. I want to be a good wife, a good step mom, a good sister, a good friend. I want to grow, and continue to explore the depths of my soul and my commitments.

I'm getting ready to embark on a grand adventure with two of my best buds. I may be out of consistent internet range, so will write again when I get home. In the meantime, I'll be out there in the world, gathering experience, living life.

What are your adventures today? Maybe the adventure of a new love or a new job? Maybe another round through the Steps? What is it that you look forward to?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

It's August. It's hot. And I am just about tapped out...

In the year+ that I've been writing this blog, I've become increasingly aware of my process. When something is on my mind - triggered by an event, a memory or something I've read - my writing flows and the entry nearly writes itself. When I sit down with a "maybe this" or "maybe that," the piece is chunky and clunky and doesn't feel quite right, which is where I am this week.

On this oppressively hot August day, my mind is in the doldrums of deep summer. I'm hitting my meetings. I have a new sponsee. I'm getting ready for vacation. And I don't have much to say. So I will sit in the luxury of air-conditioning and worry about the garden, and about the planet, with prayers that we're not too late to move from greed to conservation. I will make cobbler with fruit from the U-pick farm. I will appreciate in awe my fore-mothers who spent Augusts sweating over canning pots, and be grateful for the many conveniences of my time. I will express gratitude that, while I may be sweltering, I am not hung over.

And, when the spirit moves me, I will write again...

Sometimes recovery is front and center, and sometimes is it like an old friend who doesn't need much attending to. Where are you today? How do you maintain your recovery focus during the fallow periods?