We were sitting on a retaining wall around the corner from the restaurant. I was on my lunch break, though it was later in the afternoon, sipping some coffee and waiting for the Skateboard Pup to get around to saying whatever was clearly on his mind.
Mr. SponsorPants: Haven't seen you in a bit.
silence for a couple of minutes. I sip my coffee and wait and see.
SKATEPUP: Yeah. Sorry.
Mr. SP: s'okay. But it would be a courtesy to return a text when I ask if you're ok.
silence for a couple more minutes.
SKATEPUP: Yeah. Ok.
My coffee cup was mostly full, there was a cooling breeze and I was sitting down. For a big man who loves coffee and runs around all day at work this was 'nigh unto Heaven. I was content to sit and let this unfold however he needed it to.
Mr. SP: I'm glad you came by today. I have something important to tell you.
He hunched down a little, and I mentally cursed myself for not front loading that it was not a negative important thing. I've never met a newcomer to AA who didn't expect every bit of new news to be bad news.
Mr. SP: I put my notice in at work. I'm not going to be at this restaurant any more.
This caught him off guard.
SKATEPUP: You're not? Why? What are you going to do?
Mr. SP: Well, the short version of the story is that I have some savings and I'm going to take some time in my life to write full time. If I can make a little bit of a living at it, great. I'll look around for some part time job to pad my savings maybe, but I'll be okay for a little while. If I can't get any traction after a couple of months then I'll find another gig and try again.
SKATEPUP: That's... well, ok. Good luck I guess.
Mr. SP: Thanks. But this means we're going to have to get together someplace else. And you might have to be a little better on the phone/text thing.
SKATEPUP: What did they say when you told them at work?
Mr. SP: You mean when I gave notice?
Mr. SP: Well... I may have led them to believe that this was an offer to write for someone else more than something I am doing on my own. And since I'm not leaving them for another restaurant they are mostly happy for me.
He looked at me and narrowed his eyes.
SKATEPUP: I thought AA was about rigorous honesty and all that.
Mr. SP: We are.
SKATEPUP: Well, "led to believe" doesn't sound rigorously honest to me.
Mr. SP: It's not. I was afraid if I told them the whole truth then I would not be able to come back if I really needed to, or I wouldn't get a good reference, and it would be a much more hostile situation. So I ... well, I guess in work situations sometimes I believe it's okay to play a good game of chess.
SKATEPUP: Sounds like b.s. -- you didn't play chess. You bluffed.
Mr. SP: Ok. I bluffed.
SKATEPUP: That's poker.
Mr. SP: I guess so. I chose chess because I think of it more as a small strategic move. And I'm terrible at poker.
He looked at me sideways.
SKATEPUP: Somebody once told me you should never play poker with someone who says they are terrible at poker.
Mr. SP: That, sir, is very good advice. Do you play poker?
SKATEPUP: Yeah. But I'm not very good at it.
We looked at each other for half a minute trying not to crack a smile, and eventually both losing.
Mr. SP: Uh huh.
SKATEPUP: So we'll have to meet somewhere else.
Mr. SP: Yeah, but we don't have to figure that out this minute. This was only a temporary situation anyway, we couldn't really get into the Big Book hanging out at my job.
SKATEPUP: So... you lied.
Mr. SP: I guess, strictly speaking, I did.
SKATEPUP: Why did you tell me?
This was not actually the next question I was expecting, so it really caught me off guard.
Mr. SP: Well... it never occurred to me not to tell you I guess. I'm not entirely comfortable with what I did, but I also feel that it was prudent, given the need to keep my options open and safeguard either a good recommendation or coming back to work for them some time -- though I really, really hope it doesn't come to that. I talked to my sober friends and I wrote about it and that's how I decided to handle it. Might sound like a rationalization -- it IS a rationalization I guess -- but we're not, as the Big Book says, trying to be saints. The point is to grow along spiritual lines. When I was drinking almost every thing I said was such a gross exaggeration or minimization or just plain crazy story that I half the time didn't know what was true myself. Now I am rigorously honest the vast majority of the time. Probably 99%. For a once compulsive liar like me that actually feels like a miracle. Hell, now I am careful to make sure I don't even tell little social lies.
SKATEPUP: Social lies?
Mr. SP: Yeah, like making harmless little excuses to get out of doing something you don't want to do, like saying you have tickets to a movie so you don't have to go to a party you don't want to go to or something like that.
SKATEPUP: What should you say, then?
Mr. SP: When?
SKATEPUP: Like you said, when you're invited to something and you don't want to go.
Mr. SP: You can just say "No thank you" in a pleasant way. Explanations are not required.
He looked doubtful.
Mr. SP: Yeah, sometimes people push, and sometimes people aren't too happy, but being honest as best I can keeps my head from getting too loud.
SKATEPUP: Except when you need to at work.
Mr. SP: Well, it sounds a little harsh when you put it that way, but obviously I can't argue that. I guess you can focus on either the fact that I shaded the truth with them or that I was honest with you. If you want a perfect sponsor, there are guys out there who are pretty sure they are and would be happy to oblige you I imagine.
SKATEPUP: I hate it when you do that!
He spoke with sudden, real heat, and I was surprised.
Mr. SP: Do what?
SKATEPUP: You're always offering to let me go or saying stuff like I can find someone else or like that!
Mr. SP: Well, on the one hand, I'm sorry if I'm giving you the impression I don't want to be your sponsor. Look at me.
We were sitting side by side, so he turned and looked at me.
Mr. SP: I want to sponsor you. I like sponsoring you. I imagined if you want me to I will be sponsoring you for a while -- though we probably need to get our shit together about a few things in this department. But I'm not telling you I don't want to sponsor you. At the same time...
I trailed off for a minute
Mr. SP: At the same time, there's no obligation or debt between us. You don't owe me for my time with you, and I choose freely to spend it. Stay if it works for you go if it doesn't.
He thought about it for a bit. I sometimes think all this is made clear early on, up front, and I forget that either maybe it's not as clear as I assume or that sometimes people need to hear it more than once -- or even regularly.
Mr. SP: So... it feels like we got a little sidetracked, as we often do. I would have sworn there was something on your mind earlier that you were maybe wanting to talk about. Am I right?
SKATEPUP: Well... yeah.
Mr. SP: Ok. So... would you like to tell me what it was?
He looked down, then looked at me with a crooked smile.
SKATEPUP: No thank you.
I shook my head and chuckled.
Mr. SP: Fair enough.
I checked my phone for the time.
Mr. SP: I've got to get back now. I have a request.
Mr. SP: For a little while... the next couple of weeks anyway, either call or text me every day, ok? Since our routine is going to change I think that would be a good habit for you to try and build. Ok?
Mr. SP: But here's the thing about that. If you miss a day, don't get all crazy behind it. Don't go, 'Oh, God, I screwed it up! I was supposed to do it every day and I didn't and now I can't ever call or text again since I blew it.' Try not to miss a day, but if you do, just get you shit back together the next day and call or text. Deal?
He had started laughing a little as I detailed this.
Mr. SP: You laugh because...
SKATEPUP: I identify.
Now I laughed.
Mr. SP: Right.
SKATEPUP: Okay then.
Mr. SP: Okay. Later.
SKATEPUP: Later. And... thanks.
Mr. SP: You're welcome. And thank you.
He cocked his head a little and gave me what I have come to recognize as the "you're silly, old man" look.
"It’s easy to minimize a person’s hurt
without understanding the nature of pain.
People often like to
categorize how much a person should or shouldn’t hurt about things. For
example, when someone is upset about something, they say, “At least
you’re not paralyzed, or starving in Africa.” While it’s imperative to
be grateful for what we have, I think people often mistaken the nature
of pain, when they ‘categorize’ in this way.
The criteria for how much
something hurts is not dependent on the thing itself. It is dependent on
1. The strength of the attachment.
2. The level of Divine help.
Therefore to minimize the devastation of pain:
1. Don’t be attached to (dependent on) temporary things.
2. Seek Divine help.
And don’t assign judgement for people’s pain."
-- Yasmin Mogahed
Context helps me keep perspective. As an alcoholic I am prone to inflating my concerns -- and my pain -- to an extreme degree. Or, to put it another way, when I am out of balance my ego distorts my vision so that all things Me are much bigger than anything Not Me.
So context which compares whatever troubles me (or someone else) to something much bigger can provide a kind of spiritual/psychic ballast to pull my perspective back to center (or maybe "right sized" is the better turn of phrase there).
BUT, to sometimes use the larger comparison to minimize how I feel in a dismissive way -- and that's certainly something I've done to myself -- that's no help either.
(I'm not saying that is what Ms. Mogahed is talking about in this, I'm just riffing on what this quote brings up for me, viewing it through a 12 Step Lens and one in which I am cognizant of how my alcoholism can impact my thinking.)
One thing I think needs no riff or exploration: "Seek Divine help."