Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Staying present

 I've found myself in a spiral of existential angst coupled with happy, joyous and free. Interesting how my mood can shift from one to the other, sometimes in the space of hours. 

I'm realizing, after inopportune tears triggered by a song from 1972, whether conscious of it or not, I'm picking up the psychic vibration of fear and frustration so prevalent today: the horrific wars in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, hate crimes, warnings of lone-wolf terrorists, not to mention the dysfunctions in the American congress are like background noise - not always noticeable, but there. Add to that, concerns for my sister-in-law, who has struggled to settle in to her new living situation, and I'm vacillating between fear and faith (having worked on a hospital geriatric-psych unit years ago, I know firsthand that finding proper placement can be challenging). I meditate on peace, for my family and for the world.

And, have been reminded again and again that I can't do anything concrete for worldwide situations (other than send money, and my little drop in the bucket won't solve the problem), The best I can do is sow kindness in my corner of the world, whether that is a sweet interaction with a houseless person at the coffee shop, conversation with a Syrian Uber driver, calling my brother each day, or simply sharing a smile with a neighbor as we pass on the street (I'm constantly amazed at how many people don't say "hello" back, even when not wearing earbuds). I need to be conscious of the hoola-hoop, staying appropriately aware of what's going on in the world (with the knowledge that bad news gets more attention than good), but not over-indulging.

And, reminder to self that moods do shift, with a phone call, the sun coming out after a foggy morning, a much needed hug. One of my daily readers points out that I have choices in where to spend my mental energy. I can forget that when caught up in current events, or my own stories.

For much of my recovery, I've participated in small, in-home groups, whether a monthly Step group, friends who go through a particular recovery-related book, and now, a small group of women who gather to talk about spirituality - connections, disruptions, intentions. Our reading this month was about the cosmic beauty we notice - sunrise, red leaves on the sidewalk, a friend's smile - and how quickly we revert to affairs of the day. As I took an early walk on Sunday, just before dawn with a light misty rain, I caught myself over-thinking, barely aware of my surroundings. I reined it back in, like I imagine roping a wild horse, which worked for a few moments before I was off and running again. OK, so I can't live in a place of total rapt attention to the now - breakfast needs making, calendar needs attending to, etc, and... if I live in my top two inches, I'm less likely to notice the sweet moments when they appear. 

What strikes me, again and again, is the absolute honor of bearing witness to the details of each others' lives, whether sordid, joyous, happy or sad, and how we move from a place of wonder (how did I get here?) to gratitude for the experiences, all of them, painful and sublime. Maybe other people get that depth other places with other people, but AA and Alanon are where I feel at home, in the best sense of the word.

Where do you find peace when affairs of the world are so distressing? How do you interact with kindness in your own corner of the universe? Where do you feel "home?"

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Thinking of a year-end inventory? I've just restocked my supply of the workbook "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?"  with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. (See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample.) Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you). Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th