Taking InventoryIt's been a while since I've written anything except thank-you cards. Elliot just turned 6 Sunday. What a great little kid. His brother, too.
The past 3 weeks have been a time of deep soul-searching and moral inventory-taking. I've really been enjoying the process--mostly.
I stumbled upon some really intensely personal revelations in my recovery work. True gifts of the spirit. Much of it is too personal for this forum.
The cool thing about doing a searching and fearless moral inventory is that I can see the dysfunctional and self-sabotaging parts of my life much more clearly. The other--and frankly much cooler thing--is that I can also see what does not belong to me but what, perhaps, I've been dragging around as if it did.
I took a trip to the Huron river, set a list of the latter on fire and watched them fall as ashes into the flowing water. I lit them with my cigarette, mind you. Hey, what can I say? I like self-destructive irony. And to quote my friend Khalid Hanifi "I'm not above killing myself slowly for art's sake." But not to despair. I shall quit again. But numbing behaviors such as smoking sometimes do resurface when the tough stuff bubbles up. And I'm okay with it. Apparently, it's okay not to be perfect. Who knew? And anyway, it's not a permanent address. Just a temporary lean-to under which I can rest and retool until the metaphorical and metaphysical rain passes.
There is a time/space between when I have outgrown old and unnecessary ways of being and new and more life-respecting and affirming modes of living take firm hold. This time/space is lonely, dark and uncharted--but there it is. Like Henry's favorite early childhood book "Going on a Bear Hunt" says, Can't go over it, can't go under it, got to go through it. Out with the butts in with the wheat grass juice. Frankly, I'd rather go on a bear hunt with a butter knife than drink wheat grass juice.
It turns out that sharing some of my earlier stuff on this forum has been incredibly beneficial. Not just for me, but for some of my friends who have chimed in to tell me so. Something about the story of a struggle, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, taps into us at a primal level. Much more so than talking about the damn weather or our accomplishments. I know I want to believe I am not alone in my patched-together quest for meaning and purpose. And I am most definitely not. Thanks to all for the company while we collectively stumble down this path toward...only God knows where.
I don't want to throw my parents under the proverbial bus or anything but I did grow up with a couple of hysterically inaccurate and downright erroneous beliefs that, frankly, have not served me well and those that I have off-loaded recently. Now let me preface this by saying that these beliefs are common to my parents' generation. They are not alone. This is their collective zeitgeist. They were either the children or youngest siblings of the Greatest Generation. A group of people whose collective history is so overwhelmingly fraught with loss, grief, accomplishment, war, famine, tragedy and triumph that it could never be overstated or, apparently, dealt with. So they just willed it to the next generation to deal with. Thus we have the strong silent titans as parents. They should be called the Formidable Generation. They live on Mt. Olympus.
The first erroneous belief (passed down to at least me) was that there was really no such thing as "love." My Dad once told me that love was nothing more than a "neurotic clinging." I think that has to end up in a movie because on its face it's a hilarious thing to say to a kid. It has a cinematic quality. It would make a funny scene. The problem with it for a little kid is that I saw my parents commit many a loving and selfless act throughout my life--and they continue to. So it was confusing to me. If you're not doing all these things out of love, then what? But in my little kid brain, I just didn't get that my dad was basically talking smack and kind of full of shit. I think he'd agree to that statement at this point about this point. Because you should see him with us and his grand children. Giddy, doting and playful are understatements.
The other erroneous belief that I learned from my dear Mom was that "feelings are overrated." What I realize now is that in order to feed, clothe, entertain and keep alive 6 children, she had to override her feelings of fatigue, hunger and the all-to-familiar loneliness of a mother of young children. Now, don't get me wrong there are shreds of commonly held recovery tenets intrinsic to both of their statements. But in the program we rephrase them as "feelings aren't facts." However, feelings are, in fact, feelings. Apparently, no less important than facts. We just try to delineate the two. It helps to parse out, well, everything. And to my Dad's partially true statement I say, that's not the whole truth about love. I mean the very popular love song "Grenade" by Bruno Mars perfectly illustrates my Dad's point that love can be a neurotic clinging--a dangerous one when you're catching grenades for people who rip the brakes out'your car. But it is also the power behind everything meaningful.
I learned that little nugget from my parents as well.
The Formidable Ones. You know the ones on Mt. Olympus.
I love you guys.