The conclusion that I’m reaching is that I had to run my life completely into the ground to learn that I won’t be winning a Nobel prize for going to work, that I won’t get the job I love because it doesn’t exist, while at the same time hanging on to what’s either a delusion that Santa Claus exists and will give me what I want as long as I’m good, or else a mustard seed of hope that something better than I dreamed possible is out there waiting for me. If someone else can publish a book, then why can’t I? Other people exist who do the so-called impossible every day, so why not me? When my sister did the impossible and got sober, a seed was planted in me that whispered, Sobriety is possible, even for me, a woman who got drunk every night after work, usually in the privacy of my comfortable home. If I can get sober, then surely anything is possible, and the ninth step promises come true, specifically the one about knowing peace and how fear of economic insecurity will disappear. The question is, what do peace and economic security really look like?
One of the things we talk about in AA is how our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics. I think, sure, my primary purpose in AA is to help other alcoholics, but my purpose in life is to somehow make a decent living doing what I love, which is to write about subjects that matter to me. In this dream life I write about my amazing adventures. I live different lives and write about the people I meet. The realization is finally taking root that I can—and should, and may have to—write in my spare time while working at whatever job I can get during the day. This means that my two purposes collide as the amount of my spare time narrows.
What I’m also trying to understand is what acceptance really means. Accept life on life’s terms. But what is life, really? Does this mean that life sucks and then you die (because if it does, I don’t accept that, haha!), or is acceptance only about what I already know intellectually, which is that we can’t control other people, places, or events? Does it mean that I don’t get to become a published writer, which is all I’ve ever really wanted from life, or does it mean not everyone can become President of the United States, which I’ve never cared for? Because I know I can’t become President. But why can’t I be a writer? If a writer is who I really am, why can’t I be me? If “to thine own self be true” is my mantra, why can’t I live that life of honesty?
One answer—maybe the only answer—is that fear holds me back. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of economic insecurity. So I have to ask myself, Why do I really l want to write? Do I just want fame, for you all to love and accept me? I know that I want to communicate and connect with people on a personal level, and writing is the easiest way for me to do that. God forbid we talk—that leaves me vulnerable. I’d rather post someone else’s song on Facebook than tell my best friend she hurt my feelings. The consequences are the same—I feel vulnerable–but I can hide behind my computer when writing and don’t have to deal directly with a person. And writing also helps me process my thoughts and feelings, and I don’t have to deal with the anxiety of providing an immediate response to someone else’s anger, sadness, or whatever emotion that comes, because as an introvert, I need time.
Then I have to look at what’s really important, and I know fame is not it. Fortune is not it. Connecting with others, yes. Accepting myself for who I am. Accepting others for who they are, which is human.
But what about all the stories I read about people who’ve turned their lives around by changing their diets, getting a regular workout routine, getting sober? Oh yeah. I’ve done all those things. But now I want life to be better. As an INFP on the Meyers-Briggs, a #4 on the enneagram, and as an alcoholic (but sober, in case you’re not reading closely—God forbid someone think I’m drinking), I’m always striving for more. Rarely am I satisfied. Never have I gotten the relationship, the job, the house, the whatever, and then thought, Now life is perfect. Now I can relax. Now everything is exactly as it should be.
Life is not meant to be a veil of tears. But if there’s no Santa, then what is there, and how can I be happy if everything that I’ve learned is a lie? And if happiness comes from within, how am I supposed to find it in there, amongst all the wreckage from the past, where I’ve built armor for protection? I don’t want to be vulnerable.
And what does it really mean to surrender? Am I surrendering my dream of becoming the only thing I ever really wanted, and if so, then who am I supposed to become? Is the white picket fence really just about finding a plot of land and being happy with your own little family? Could it be that those people are the ones who’ve figured it out, who know what life is really about, while I–who always dreamed that happiness was about adventure and traveling the globe, and not about marriage and family–was the one who was wrong. Because really it’s human nature to want to procreate, and maybe something is just wrong with me because I don’t want to do that.
Maybe that’s why some people pursue money. They know life is hard, and money allows us to afford creature comforts. Maybe that’s what the picket fence is all about. It’s not some image of keeping up with the Joneses’, though it may turn into that, but the idea is to get a plot of land, a house to live in, a family to love, and live life.
Intellectually I know that the answer lies somewhere in between and around these possibilities, and I feel that I’m on the brink of getting this message into my heart, but I’m also in a place of truly understanding on a deeper level than before that I really, really do not know anything. This is life. You live it.
And I guess I’m really just becoming myself. I hope.
Here’s another song by Heartless Bastards, which I listen to on repeat these days.