“Where would I find enough leather to cover the entire surface of the earth?
But with leather soles beneath my feet, it’s as if the whole world has been covered.”
When I am in the midst of a struggle against something in my life, I can feel it in my body and hear it in my thoughts. My struggles usually center around similar themes.
- Something isn’t happening for me when I think it should be happening
- Something is happening to me that I don’t want to be happening
- Someone isn’t doing something I want them to do when I want them to do it
- Someone isn’t giving me what I want/need when I want/need it
- People, institutions, places, organizations, etc. are not doing, behaving or acting like I think they should be
These struggles can be intensified when I notice that other people are getting what I want or receiving what I think I need or influencing the behaviors of others in ways that I am not.
The specific people, places, and things that I struggle against change from day to day or year to year. I remain the only constant in all my struggles while the actors and landscapes change.
When I was drinking, I often stayed in my struggle because my solution usually centered around getting someone else to change, having some circumstance of my life altered, or being able to get the carrot dangling at the end of the stick out there in front of me. My solutions were often of this variety:
- When I have a certain job title or degree, then I will be satisfied
- If only my husband, mother, friend would behave differently then I could be happy
- If only this thing wouldn’t have happened to me, then I would be at peace
- If this group would just act “right” then the world would be better and I’d be okay
- If my kids would just be a little different then I would be alright
- If everyone I loved would be okay, then I could be okay
- When I have a baby, I will be complete. When my babies grow up, then I’ll reach my goals.
My environment seemed to be full of sharp edges and dangerous spikes (emotionally speaking) and I spent so much time and energy trying to cover each pointy surface or to turn the sharp to soft so that I would be comfortable. This was/is a never-ending and exhausting endeavor and there is no guarantee of its efficacy.
Recovery has taught me how to strengthen my own soles so that I can move through a pointy, spiky, uncomfortable world with more comfort and ease. Recovery has helped me to understand that the surface of the earth (the people, the places, the institutions, the ideas, my current situation) is less important than my internal state as I walk my path.
This doesn’t mean I have to like everything that is happening – but I do have to work toward acceptance of the present moment because it cannot be anything other than it is in the now. Then I can figure out what my next right action is based on my own truth, acting with honesty and integrity, setting boundaries, being brave, being vulnerable, asking for what I need but not necessarily expecting anyone to give it to me and then re-evaluating where I need to walk from there.
This means that I actively turn my attention toward what is good in my life, what I’m grateful for, and try not to feed the dissatisfaction monster. That means I work on controlling what I can control in any given situation (which is mostly just my attitude) and realize that the rest of how it goes is beyond me. That means I take action that is meaningful and true to me but I try not to spend too much time ruminating on the outcomes or what people think of me.
If I could reclaim the time I spent, and still do sometimes, trying to manage other people’s thoughts about me… I could have a Ph.D. in hypersensitivity. What an endlessly tiring and stupid use of my time. But it used to consume me. And now it doesn’t. My soles got stronger when I learned, “it’s none of your business what they think of you.”
Recovery has helped me learn how to pull forward an internal state of peace, presence and power even when I’m in the midst of a storm.
I still fall back into old patterns on a daily basis. I still try to make myself more comfortable by changing things outside myself. Recovery is recognizing it sooner and adjusting course so that I remain in the solution and know that the only real solution comes from within. Recovery means wasting five minutes obsessing over a problem or stuck in blame or fixated on someone else’s shortcomings instead of wasting three days or a week trying to get right by looking outside myself.
I’m wondering if you think this post is too generic, too meandering, too abstract?? But I’m only going to recognize that as a thought, hold it briefly, notice I may be judging myself, and then let it go and hit publish