Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Change of place, change of pace

 Two summers ago, we had a couple of huge trees removed from the backyard, trees that essentially shaded the entire area. This spring, the rose bush that hadn't bloomed in the entire 18 years I've lived here has flowered, and the rhododendron has bloomed for the first time. Let there be light! 

This made me think of how we awaken to life in program, from shivering denizens to happy, joyous and free. I think of myself, and all those I've watched come in - how we go from a whirling dervish of emotions to getting jobs, and then better jobs, maybe going to college, becoming parents, hiking mountains, being of service. 

Under the dark canopy of alcoholism, either our own or the family's, survival takes precedence over thriving. Those familiar survival mechanisms followed me into sobriety because they're what I knew. Little by little I grew up and grew into who I was supposed to be all along, able to release most of the fears and the resulting behaviors that held me back. 

I attend several meetings with women in long term recovery (20+ years) and a recurring theme is self-acceptance, the recognition that we are human, and thus make mistakes from time to time. That doesn't make us bad or defective, though that is often the internal message. Sometimes "working a program" can feel like so-much naval gazing or self-flagellation, which goes back to the "me, me, me" barometer I mentioned after my 5th Step. There comes a point, I think and I hope, where it is OK to simply be. Not rest on my laurels or disregard how I move through the world, but to drop the rock of thinking myself a project to be fixed, or finished.

James Baldwin wrote, "If you don't live the only life you have, you won't live some other life - you won't live any life at all." I can reflect on that when I'm feeling hurried, or like there's too much to do (which is really just a figment of my imagination). As one of my Alanon readers says, "What is urgent is rarely important, and what is important is rarely urgent." Important is noticing how the garden is growing, and taking time to scratch the cat behind her ears. Important is laughing with friends, whether our team wins the game or not. Important is acknowledging the young woman my step-daughter has become, and honoring her proud father on his contributions to her growth. Getting here or there can feel urgent, can pretend to be important, but what I've found, over time, is that whatever truly needs to get done, gets done. Vacuuming is nice, but there is no housekeeping police. If I keep my focus on what is in front of me, which may very well be the vacuum cleaner, or perhaps reading a book, I have a better chance of living in the eternal now, one foot in front of the other, taking time to breathe.

I've been attending a lot of meetings lately, adding in a daily Step Group that has been thought provoking. But added to my usual evening meetings means a lot of meetings, and I found myself questioning how I'm spending my time, as in thinking I should be more productive. I recognize that I continue to be in transition, not only from going to work regularly, but from the mental structure that tells me I need to do something with my time. I have entered a different stage of life, and I don't exactly know what that looks like. I know what it looked like for my mom. I know (from the outside) what it looks like for some of the super-agers I read about, but what does it look like for me?

As so often happens, just when I was feeling like the ground is moving under my feet, I heard several people share that they've never been this particular age, with these specific circumstances. Of course it feels like I've never been here before because I've never been here before! When I'm feeling reasonably centered I can relax into that not-knowing. As always, the answers lie within (though often, the road map comes from listening to others). 

I had a dream recently where the house I lived in while skidding towards hitting bottom was being dismantled, having fallen into disrepair. In the dream, I was telling someone, room by room, how beautiful the house had once been, while realizing "that was then, this is now." I've read that a dream about a living space, past or present, can be related to our inner life and emotions. If that is the case, what is being dismantled within me? What used to fit, but does no longer? Might that be related to my ideas about productivity and how I'm "supposed" to spend my time?

This past weekend, we attended my step-daughter's college graduation ceremony. Talk about a beautiful blossoming! She was nine when we met and has grown into a lovely and accomplished young woman. Having decided somewhere along the line to not have children, she has been one of those life gifts I hadn't known I'd wanted. I'm very grateful, and excited to see where her next adventures lead, reflecting on my own life at 22 when I was headed for divorce. Different times, way different circumstances.

I'm visiting a good friend in the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) this week,  so posting early. I love the damp green of home, but love the stark, arid beauty of the southwest. I appreciate the opportunity that a change of place offers to slow down the usual rapid pace of my thinking mind. 

Early Step work rightly focused on areas needing correcting, but today likely includes more in the "plus" column. How do you notice when you are thinking of yourself as a project needing to be fixed? How do you honor transitions, large and small, that you may be facing today? What old ideas are in need of dismantling? What can you celebrate today?

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See the Feb 4 post for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" available as hard copy (mailed) or PDF (emailed - ideal  for those of you outside  the U.S.). Portland Area Intergroup also has a supply available.  Go to the WEB VERSION of this page, if you don't see the purchase link in the upper right corner

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