Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Moving forward

 I attended the online Beacon Group this week (noon EDT), on the topic of Step 4 as related to fear and sex (they do Step 4 resentments separately). I could relate to so much of what the (female) speaker shared about the times we grew up in ("love the one you're with"), including being the first generation with access to effective birth control - we at least imagined we had all the freedom in the world. 

What the speaker said, and my own sponsors have echoed over the years, is that the sex inventory isn't simply a matter of making a list of where my behavior hurt myself or others but looking beyond the "I did this" to uncover causes and conditions, like the mistaken idea that I'm OK only if you say so.

All of the 4th Step, whether resentments, fear or sex, benefit from looking at those deeper layers of the "why" I act out in a particular manner - what am I afraid of? Am I looking outside myself for a fix?  If I'm angry at a particular person, place or thing, am I forgetting my powerlessness? What are my fears, real or imagined? Am I operating on self-reliance or figure-it-out mode? 

There aren't many blinding revelations in my inventories these days - the same characteristics tend to pop up. Which brings Steps 6 and 7 to mind. What does it even mean to become entirely willing? I can say to myself that I no longer want to do or think x,y or z, then 15 minutes later, I'm up to my elbows in a justified x or z. I supposed that's why I keep coming back. Progress, not perfection. 

In the Step 4 meeting, the speaker referenced a quote I've heard before that's attributed to Michaelangelo. When asked how he possibly created the magnificent statue of David out of a piece of rock, he said he simply chipped away at everything that wasn't David. For some reason, that brought a tear to my eye, thinking of the immature girl I was in 1986, who had a lot of chipping away to do. But it also triggered a deep recognition of the here and now - are there trappings of personality, behaviors or habits that may have been adequate and appropriate to the younger me but that might not serve as I move into this next phase of my development? Do I walk my talk in all areas, or am I cutting corners? Do I automatically point the finger at you, you or you, ignoring the three pointing back at me?  This upcoming milestone birthday really has me thinking, and feeling what it means to apply program tools to the aging process. 

And then, as the fates would have it, I was in a meeting with someone five years ahead of me on the calendar, talking about this exact topic (funny how that seems to work - when the student is ready, the teacher appears?). They spoke to the idea of developing a matrix, a structure of sorts for how they want to be in the world going forward. I resonated, and love making a list! It's not so much a bucket list of things to do before I die, but the energy I bring to the tasks and adventures I'm drawn to. People talk about the joy-meter as an indicator of satisfaction with their days. I think of that along a continuum from pleasant and enjoyable to fun to outright joy. Joy has a measure of excitement, whereas pleasant and contented feels calmer, but no less satisfying. 

In the manner of an inventory, I've started to jot down experiences that come to mind with that measurement, looking at patterns or commonalities. Sitting on the couch, or at the beach, with a cup of tea and my journal is definitely a positive experience, but with a different energy level than the time friends and I rode bikes into Central Park on a glorious November day. I'm realizing that the events that bring me joy or satisfaction are directly tied to my values. I wouldn't enjoy rock climbing, for instance. I do value adventure, but also safety and security. 

When I think of the emotional and spiritual energy I want to experience and bring into the world going forward, what comes to mind is connection and conversation, going to new and beautiful places as well as appreciating "home" in all its incarnations. And... I don't want to turn this new idea into simply another To Do list of things to accomplish. Yes, I'd like to learn Spanish (and have a CD set that's been on the shelf for a year), so can add learning and stretching my mind to the matrix, along with finding beauty in the everyday - carry water, chop wood. And while reliving the past isn't necessarily part of the deal, a good friend points out that all those memories are part of who I am today so I can celebrate the good times and not so good, the people who've come and gone. 

This whole aging business is a process. I've never been here before, but just like in sobriety, I can follow the taillights of those who are on the road ahead. We can learn together and from each other. 

How do you use the inventory process in long term recovery? How do you move beyond the superficial act or action to get at causes and conditions? How might the inventory be useful in the aging process? 

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The NOW WHAT workbook is 78 pages of topics and processing questions, great for solo exploration or in a small group. Go to the WEB VERSION of this blog page for the link on ordering (PDF for those outside the U.S., or hard copy mailed to you).. Please contact me at  or with questions. And a reminder that the workbook, is available at the Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th. for you local folks.

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