Lately–actually, nearly daily for the last couple of weeks–I’ve walked into work, or back to work from my lunch break, or out the door after work and had the same, lingering thought: “There is more to life.” I’m grateful to have a great job, to make decent money, to have a nice place to live, to have a vehicle, etc. etc. That being said, the last 2.5 years dealing with Chris’ situation in Palm Springs have changed me. Things that used to bother me at work are now an afterthought once they even happen; much of the petty office drama rolls off me like water off a duck’s back; I’m grateful for a handful of good friends and I strive to keep them, instead of looking for ways to cut them off (which I used to be a pro at). Seeing Chris once a month and helping his cousin and parents deal with his ongoing care are much more fulfilling…and time- and energy-consuming. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I also used to be borderline obsessed with this blog. I’d look at my stats several times a day; the books I chose to read were based on which ones I could potentially write a blog on. Which–humble brag–I’ve written several pretty decent, glorified book reports on this blog. Things like that just don’t seem important anymore. (See the Tallulah Bankhead blog disclaimer a couple of blogs back; I’m also almost done reading Jerry Lee Lewis’ eloquently dictated memoir and I have no plans to write on it.)
Being back in AA–though I’m nowhere near sober–has also re-taught me about not trying to manipulate situations, feelings, or people. Let’s be honest, I was also pretty decent at that. I missed my lesbian sister’s wedding this past weekend for that very reason; I’d done my best to manipulate the situation re: who was attending from my immediate family, and ended up upsetting pretty much everyone involved in the process. At the time I thought–no, I knew–I was right, and I still have no regrets or apologies to offer. But it remains that I was doing my darndest to manipulate the situation. For why?!? To be right…plain and simple.
Things I’ve gained lately:
-Humility. This entails learning to listen more and talk less, especially during prayer.
-The ability to budget. This one has not come easy after the fiasco of paying no taxes last year. Even whilst cleaning my closet the other day, I found several items with the tags still on them. Cutting down on the retail therapy is a work in progress.
-Weight! That being said, I’ve lost about 5 pounds since starting my current, full-time day shift. Getting older and weighing more isn’t fun, but it’s made me get out and walk more and also rediscover my fondness for salads. (Which sounds lame, but I do love a good salad.)
-Empathy. During my last AA round three years ago, I was the smug, skinny, pilled-up (thanks, Topamax!) dry drunk who pretty much thought I was better than everyone else in the room. My sponsor had a beer gut, everyone seemed to have chips on their shoulders, and I thought I had all the answers even though I couldn’t stay sober enough to get a 90-day chip. Quite frankly, going to AA *not* sober has taught me more than I ever learned whilst sober. Or maybe I’m just a bit more mature and open-minded this time around.
-Less Pettiness. Though I’m still good for running a joke into the ground and beating a dead horse until it’s six feet under, I don’t have the time, energy, nor inclination to hold on to grudges. A kid at work made an incredibly disparaging remark about Southerners a couple of months back. (I won’t repeat it, as that would be the definition of petty.) The old me would’ve never spoken to him again; the “new me” lashed out at him with a taste of his own medicine (essentially by repeating verbatim what he said to me in front of everyone in the office) and slowly but surely, we’re on speaking terms. We actually had a conversation today and he reminds me of myself when I was 19 and thought/knew/was fairly certain that I knew everything.
I’ll end with this passage from Natalie Cole’s 2010 short memoir entitled ‘Love Brought Me Back’. In the book, Natalie talks about beating herself up for her Hep C diagnosis brought about from years of heroin use 30 years prior to her diagnosis. The book is half about her emotional/psychological/spiritual struggle, and the other half is the story of the girl whom she received a kidney transplant from. I don’t want to tell much more about the book except that I had to quit reading it at work yesterday because hot tears were streaming down my face. Natalie passed away this past NYE, five years after getting her kidney transplant. I grew up listening to her cassette ‘Unforgettable’, and she truly is.
Natalie ended the book with four principles her older sister (and essentially surrogate parent) Cooke taught her, before her sister passed away on the same day Natalie received her kidney transplant. These are adapted from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book ‘The Four Agreements’.
-Be impeccable with your words.
-Don’t take anything personally.
-Don’t make assumptions.
-Always do your best.
I can’t top that. Happy Fall to everyone–brt