Wednesday, November 16, 2022


 My brother and I had a nice, long conversation the other day about his pending 65th birthday and the passage of time. We remarked how odd it feels to have now outlived our father by a decade, though he'll always feel older than us. I helped a friend from grade school celebrate her birthday too, as the small group of us marveled at years gone by. Aging is a gift denied many. 

A snippet from a Mary Oliver poem:

When it's over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

I can read this as a challenge or chastisement, or perhaps a goal. Or maybe as a reminder to truly inhabit my days rather than merely checking boxes off the To-Do list. "Lunch date with friends - check" or "Lunch date with friends - ahhh, such wonderful conversation." 

And these days, conversations sway gently between present and past, now and then (and sometimes my friends recall episodes I have no recollection of!) So much of my recovery life has been about unearthing causes and conditions - the inventories and therapy sessions and long conversations, reading old journals or looking at photographs that provide clues to the "what it was like and what happened" portions of my story. A few times, Mom handed me an "ah-ha" on a silver platter of a remark, but usually, those investigations involved courage and patience, and compassion for all involved.

And sometimes, the "ah-ha" shows up on the radio. Listening to the oldies station last week, I heard a song, "Wives and Lovers," that made my blood curdle: "Comb your hair, fix your makeup, soon he will open the door. Don't think because there's a ring on your finger, you needn't try anymore.... Day after day there are girls at the office and men will always be men. Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again."  Arghh! I'm all for keeping the spark alive, but really? Might these types of song lyrics (I can't live without you... I'm nothing without you... etc) have fed my already fragile ego, reinforcing that I was merely a body? Causes and conditions aren't just the family dynamics. I can look at the whole of it and know I am a product of my times and popular culture as well as my upbringing, schooling, privilege and how all those interacted with the nugget of personality I came into the world with. And at this stage of the game, I can take what I like and leave the rest.

In a meeting this week focused on the 3rd Step, I realized I can turn my will and life over (which for me, is more related to getting out of the way than a god pulling strings), but then I have to pay attention to what the Universe brings me each day, whether a passenger in the car who acts suspiciously like I do when my spouse is driving (how annoying!) or a sub-zero on the joy-meter in response to a request for my time. Maybe recovery is about paying attention - to my reactions, to the "how important is it?" question, to what I think and what I do. Not a magic wand, but an increased awareness of what is mine to do and what isn't, or my favorite quote from a program pal - There are two kinds of business: My business and none of my business. I also heard the reminder that Step 3 involves patience. I don't simply get to say, "I'm out!" and then expect whatever it is I was turning over to magically appear. Trust the process, time takes time, make plans but not the results - all the things we've heard over the years that serve as reminders that I am not in charge.

This is pretty funny, and one more indicator that I don't have an original idea in my brain:  After writing last week about realizing the old ideas I've carried about myself no longer fit, I came across an article in the December issue of Prevention magazine, titled "Who Do You Think You Are?" about how it's "common in midlife to have a self-concept based on outdated ideas of who you are." The piece goes on to describe what is essentially an inventory process of writing and talking to someone else, as well as both writing a letter to your younger self and imagining yourself in the future. (In early recovery I had a dream where I told my younger self to hold on, that life would get better and that I had important work to do.) I'm a sucker for a process or a plan, so I'll try it, once I stop laughing for thinking, once again, I'm the only one who feels the way I do. 

Do you ever catch yourself so busy that the days and weeks fly by? How might you slow that down a bit to notice and appreciate what's happening? What aspects of family and society influenced who you became, and do those influences still hold sway? What works and what doesn't anymore? How do you practice Step 3?

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This could be time to plan a holiday gift for a sponsor or sponsee, or to think about a year end/new year stock-taking. See the Feb 4 entry for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy mailed to you. Email me at with questions. 

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