Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Self knowledge

 Maybe not every single time, but in general, I continue to hear words of wisdom and helpful phrases in meetings. Case in point: "I have to act better than I feel in order to feel better about how I act," a variation on the theme of acting my way into right thinking, vs thinking my way into right action. Oh, how I had good intentions. Good intentions that frittered themselves away with each ice cube plopped into a glass. I banked on being judged by my intentions, which were nearly always honorable. But, alas, it was my actions that told the tale of who I was.

At the reunion, I took a deep breath and thanked a woman for always being kind to everyone. She was of the upper echelon in high school, but you'd never know it by how she treated others (and trust me, some people were very status conscious in how and with whom they interacted). I also said to her, as a way of making amends to my 15-year-old self, how embarrassing it was in retrospect to recall how I attempted to use my popular cousin as entry to the "cool kids" group. She may or may not have remembered that conversation from 1970, but I do, and the metaphorical pat on the head that told me I was excluded. At the time, I at least partially meant it when I said, "I didn't want to be part of that anyway!" when I was passed over for a particular club (I started school in that transition between old and new - 50's & 60's sorority style clubs giving way to sitting in a circle in the park passing a joint). I did mean it, and can still feel the sting of being left out, whether from a family gathering or something I'm not invited to. 

I do know that, as an introvert, I am better with a role, such as hostess, at gatherings. I learned that within my first few months of sobriety when our treatment counselors "volunteered" my roommate and I to collect tickets at the North Coast Round-up. I would've been petrified to talk to strangers, but in my official duty, I had a reason to put my hand out in greeting. These days I think of myself as being at the extroverted end of the introvert continuum, which just means I can be comfortable with people as long as I can retreat to my solitary couch with a cup of tea after too much social time.

Self-knowledge is so important to my peace-of-mind. How many years (decades?) did I try to fit my square peg into a round hole? As I heard in a meeting this week, self-examination is different from self-absorption, and... I function better (as in more serenely, which benefits you and me) when I'm conscious of my general operating instructions. For me that means knowing that I get super cranky when I'm hungry or tired, and that I reach a saturation point with social interactions. I have friends who thrive on people, or who can go all day without eating. The point is, "To thine own self, be true."

We had a good time at our first in-person conference this past weekend - Summerfest in Eugene. It was good, and a bit surreal, to be in a crowd, with some masked, most not. I'm still digesting what I heard - I appreciate how "what it was like, what happened and what it's like now" comes in different flavors and focus depending on who's talking. I was very happy to run into a person who'd gone through the treatment program I retired from, now themselves working in the field. As an AA vs NA person, I rarely see former clients, so it is all the sweeter when I do get the reminder that the work I did mattered, that one life is better and healthier than before.

Following the conference, we drove to the coast, gratefully watching the temperature drop as we neared the ocean (from 95 to 65 degrees). We stayed at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, a funky inn in Newport, Oregon, where all 21 rooms are themed with a different author. I felt myself exhale into my element, realizing that I'd been missing the nourishment that comes with stellar conversations and stacks of books. I hadn't known what was lacking in my day-to-day until I tasted it, and along with messages I heard at the conference, told myself to be mindful of living from the heart, not just habit. Where am I just dialing it in, and where am I engaged? How can I best reignite sparks of joy that get hidden underneath grocery lists and laundry? Paying attention is a discipline, one I hope to strengthen.

What have you heard, or been reminded of, lately that sparked your curiosity?  What do you know about your modus operandi and how do you honor those particulars? How does "to thine own self, be true" play out in your life today?

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Thank you to those who purchased the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook at Summerfest! You can always purchase from me directly via the link on the web version of this blog page (hard copy or PDF), or at Portland Area Intergroup. Stay tuned for other entities that may carry it soon!