I am coming up on an anniversary this week. On Saturday (the good lord willing and the creek don't rise), I will not have had a drink in seventeen years. There are drinks that hadn't been invented yet when I stopped. In all this time, I have fallen in love, fallen out of love, gotten married, gotten divorced, had cats, given up cats, had a baby and watched him grow. People have lived and died and wandered in and out of my life. I have done the same in many of theirs. I have moved: physically, spiritually, emotionally. I have been lost and found and left and recovered. I am not the same person I was.
My God! Seventeen years. Had you asked me, as I sat on that beat up old couch in that beat up old AA club, crying and tense and scared and lost--- had you asked me then if this is where my life would be, now--- I would have thought you were crazy. I couldn't see where my life would have been in seventeen minutes, let alone seventeen years. While I may have understood all the words you used individually, I would not have had any clue when you strung them together into a cohesive statement like "where do you think you will be, what will your life be like in a decade and a half or so?"
Of course, I may just have thrown up at that point, whether from fear or being hung over. Take your pick; I think I've finally realized, after all this time, that there is little difference between the two.
Seriously: it's taken almost seventeen years to learn that fear is just like a hangover. Or, at least, fear is what drove me to crawl inside a bottle and set up camp there for a few thousand years. Fear wrapped its icy fingers around my heart at a young age: fear of failing, fear of success. Fear of being alone or unloved or wrong or not enough or too much. I was so sure that everyone got The Rule Book (at birth, or maybe earlier), and so knew, effortlessly, everything that I didn't. And that lack of knowledge was going to kill me. Or expose me for the fraud that I was--- which was a fate worse than death.
The first time I drank, it was as if I could breathe for the first time in my life. I felt that vodka (mixed with grape kool-aid, a combination I learned (that very day) to stay away from) burn a trail of fire down my pre-teen throat and I knew I was home. Finally. The noise stopped. The fear was driven to the smallest corners of my head, held at bay by that burning, heady liquid. And I felt dizzy and free and I loved it all. And I wanted it. More. And again. Just as intense. Just as powerful. Just as liberating.
And I spent the next couple of decades chasing that same thing. Not surprisingly, I never find it. Not for lack of trying, mind you. It seems, though, that the harder I chased, the more elusive it became. And one day, just about seventeen years ago, I realized the chase was done. I was done.
And here is where I get stuck. How to explain the glory and the struggle and the raw and the sacred of the last seventeen years? It has been all those things and more. I have embraced my life, cursed it, prayed for a soft landing and a softer heart. I have found God, lost friends, restored my credit and ravished it all over again. I paid rent, mostly on time. I paid my mortgage, mostly on time. I paid off debt and created a whole new pile of bills. I finally realized nobody wants my money; they all just want theirs. I learned to feel: to laugh and cry and fear and love. My God! I learned how to love! To open my heart and allow myself to be vulnerable and open and trust. And still I have been hurt. And still I have hurt. I am intense and impatient and naive. I have looked for redemption and I have found forgiveness.
I stumble and I doubt and I struggle. But I have learned to dance along the edge of my pain, put one foot in front of the other. I remember to breathe, even when I am most afraid. I sing, even when I am most lost.
I have learned that it is not what I pray that is important; it is that I pray that amuses God and makes him (her?) laugh. And I pray, every day. I talk to God, and yell and whine and demand and plead and, softly, in the small of night, when it is dark and lonely and cold (because it can still be all of those things, and more), when I can taste the ghost of liquid fire again, when my fear coils like a lover around me and whispers my secret shame--- I find God all over again, and I remember to ask for help, and I find some small measure of grace.
I have been given such gifts! And so I laugh, in the midst of my fear. And so I love, in the heart of my solitude. And so I live, in the hope of joy.
- I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.