As was our habit, the Professor and I were headed out to a light dinner Saturday night. Sometimes the evening includes a meeting (sort of a Sober Safari -- we'll thumb through the Meeting Directory and randomly pick an AA meeting neither of us have been to. It's good to go outside our usual orbits), or a film or what-not. There had been some discussion of going to a mutual acquaintance's sober anniversary bash, but I voted for a low-energy evening, having just returned home after attending a sober convention many miles away.
On the flight back I caught up on some articles I'd bookmarked. The bounty of the internet -- aside from showing us all that somewhere, someone is into you (it's just that they're generally five thousand miles away) -- can make for an eclectic and lengthy reading list. Especially for a borderline ADHD like me.
It takes some discernment, too, to sort out maybe the more scholarly writing from the "some guy with a blog" essays (**coughglasshousescough**). I would say that one thing about having written Mr. SponsorPants for very close to seven years now (dear God!) -- even if some of my output has lapsed into "here's a thought for the day" observations rather than more considered posts (And does "considered" sometimes equal verbose? Oh, to be sure!) -- is that I have developed a keener ear for when someone may be writing just to fill column inches versus someone who has a real thesis to explore. (Even if that thesis is based on pop culture frippery. Life can be tough. A little frippery is a welcome relief.)
This particular article was an exploration of the "Outgoing Introvert" personality type. And it included a quiz! I love taking quizzes which are supposed to reveal some new insight about myself. (Helen? Is that you?)
If you Google "Outgoing Introvert" you will get something like 365,000 results. Many of which are articles in the "list" format -- another type I love! There are 8 Signs You May Be, 6 Reasons Why You Should Date, 8 Things You Should Know Before Dating (better flip the order on those last two...). 18 Challenges..., 20 Famous...
Some interesting observations and maybe lots of column inches being filled.
Having read the list and taken the Quiz (I got a high score! Fist pump! Woo!) I decided that I was, indeed, an Outgoing Introvert.
(Never underestimate the appeal of a new diagnosis to an old alcoholic. It's almost like getting a congratulatory telegram from the American Medical Association! "On behalf of the AMA, hearty congrats! Here is a Brand New Way you can consider yourself special and unique. Feel free to view this as a Previously Undiscovered Wound you can lovingly explore. Be sure to indulge in lots of self obsession disguised as new insight!").
The Professor picked me up and we negotiated our dinner destination. Flush with this new information about myself, I proceeded to answer his completely unasked question as to why I preferred a quiet dinner over a party:
Mr. SponsorPants: I read the most fascinating article on the plane. I think it revealed a new...
Professor: Oh God. Here we go.
Mr. SP: Hey!
PROF: Sorry. Sorry. Go on.
He said this with perhaps a slightly more theatrical sigh than was completely necessary, but I decided to take the higher road and ignore it. Plus, I was in self-obsession mode, and not to be distracted from sharing this new insight regarding my favorite topic: Me.
Mr. SP: So anyway, I realized, based on reading this article, that I am an Outgoing Introvert! That's why I didn't want to go to the party!
The Professor responded with what can only be described as a derisive snort.
PROF: Well that's nothing. We're all Outgoing Introverts! Go through any meeting and you can see that there's not a person there who isn't one to some degree.
I was stung. And crestfallen. And, like any child when you take their new toy away from them, a little peeved.
Mr. SP: Well you didn't have to snort at me.
PROF: I didn't snort.
Mr. SP: Yes you did! You dismissed me with a derisive snort.
PROF: Well I apologize if I was rude, but maybe some things deserve a derisive snort.
Mr. SP: Fair point. Maybe they do. But you are pretty free with your snorts.
Now he looked slightly peeved.
PROF: Maybe so.
A mildly frosty silence played out for several minutes.
Can you explain a little about how my Higher Power can be "anything?" In meetings I'm pretending I understand this, but to be honest I'm a little at a loss...
Seeking But Faking It
I have to admit, when I was new this one through me for a loop as well. It's almost like, if you hand me a blank piece of paper and say, "draw a tree!" I can draw you all kinds of trees. I can draw you great trees, ugly trees, badly drawn trees, fantastic trees... whole forests of trees! I may be angry that you're telling me what to do, or think that I'd rather draw clouds or castles or one of the Three Musketeers instead of a tree, but I can draw you one if you want.
(Sidebar: A musket is a gun, right? So why did dudes whose club was named after a gun pretty much always use their swords? Puzzling!)
But if you give me a blank piece of paper and tell me to draw whatever I want, I might just as easily stare at the paper, perplexed and a little blocked by the complete freedom and lack of direction.
And then of course there's all those people who go on to add, well intentioned though they may be, "Your Higher Power can be anything you want! You can even pray to a doorknob!"
This did very, very little to either help or reassure me. And it feels like when I was new I heard this a lot. All the time. I began to suspect that there was a secret doorknob worshiping cult hidden within the 12 Step fellowship. (And of course their High Priestess would be Aunt Clara.)
(sorry. either you get that or you don't. Google it.)
I think the best starting place with this concept of "any HP you want" is to come from the other direction. The point made (eloquently, in "Bill's Story" in the Big Book) is that you don't have to use whatever idea of God you were raised with, or that someone else feels strongly about, when you ask God to help you stay sober.
Frankly, you don't even have to have ANY idea of God when you pray. You can just say, "God, I have no idea whatsoever of who/what/how you are, but here's my prayer anyway..."
I think the main thing to remember is that any concept you've been given that frightens or bothers or angers or intimidates you does not have to be how you think about God now, in sobriety, and that the 12 Steps will work for you regardless of what your idea of God is.
My own concept of how the Universe -- or the Multiverse, for that matter -- and God -- works has gone through many evolutions, much of which I've blathered on about in other essays here on the blog. I invite you to click around and see if anything here is helpful, and I encourage you to explore the concepts of many faiths and spiritual thinkers to find what feels right for you.
There's no "wrong" way to believe, including not believing.
But if you're really, really at a loss, you can always pray to Aunt Clara!
Ignorance is not stupidity. Basically, ignorance means that I'm uninformed; that literally I do not have the information. But when I am ignorant my knee-jerk emotional reaction is to feel stupid. Those are two separate things! If I haven't lied or misrepresented myself in a situation, there's ultimately nothing to fear in saying "I don't know."
My mother suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis -- especially in the latter part of her life. She was a good patient, though, and of the generation which viewed the Doctor as a sort of Higher Power. No patient advocacy for her. If the doctor said "take this pill" she took that pill. She was diligent about her meds and whatever treatments were recommended. Thus she did experience some degree of relief from her arthritis pain. But once in a while she would wince and hold up her poor, mangled hands, moving her fingers with what little flexibility remained and say, "I took my medicine today but... today my arthritis pains me." I think the same can be said of alcoholism. You do the deal, go to meetings, follow direction, read, pray, meditate, be of service... and in so doing you get a real and substantive result. But some days... some days are just rougher than others. On those days I think of my mother and I say to myself... "Today... today my alcoholism pains me." Ain't no big metaphysical thing. I sit tight, and eventually it passes.
Procrastination is an act of sabotage. The proverbial -- even cliche -- self sabotage. It is the most pernicious and toxic character defect I continue to struggle with. I know it comes from my fear and (strangely sometimes) my sense of entitlement, tag-teaming me in a slow motion water ballet, constantly, with almost elegant rationale, pushing my head back under the water. Sometimes when I despair of ever making real and lasting progress in this arena I think of St. Therese, (which is maybe an odd thing to pop into my mind, but there it -- she -- is) and how at one time, after a long run of feeling very close to God -- almost ecstatic in the way of those who are (supposedly) profoundly connected to their Higher Power -- she fell into a deep, dark despair. In today's parlance we would likely call it a clinical depression. By most accounts, finding herself in this state, she felt abandoned by God since she had been such an impassioned ecstatic before. Finally, she decided that this darkness, this despair, was in fact a gift from God. I don't believe from what I've read that she saw it as a punishment for some unknown transgression -- or even a test, exactly (though those ideas occurred to her). But instead she decided to treat it as an opportunity to offer the purest submission she was able: If this was what was happening inside her, then God wanted this for her, and she would embrace it, offering her acceptance to God as a special calling. That's a broad paraphrase of what I've read -- and I'm not certain I always agree with her chain of reasoning -- but I think of that when I struggle and pray about procrastination -- such a destructive and shame-inducing part of me. And I consider that if this is the way I am now (still), and if I seem unable to make much real progress (for now), then this is the way I am, and instead of entreaty I offer submission and acceptance to my Higher Power. When (if) They offer me more assistance in dealing with this issue then They will do so in Their time, and until then I will submit. I will not quit. I will address the issue when it comes up (regularly irregularly, if you follow) but I will also try to accept myself with this deep, self destructive flaw, until with Divine assistance I truly transcend it.
The mind thinks thoughts that we don't plan. It's not as if we say, "At 9:10 I'm going to be filled with self hatred."
Restore your attention or bring it to a new level by dramatically slowing down whatever you're doing.
The embodiment of kindness is often made difficult by our long ingrained patterns of fear and jealousy.
To offer our hearts in faith means recognizing that our hearts are worth something, that we ourselves, in our deepest and truest nature, are worth something.
You may have heard the old story, usually attributed to a Native American elder, meant to illuminate the power of attention. A grandfather (occasionally it's a grandmother) imparting a life lesson to his grandson tells him, "I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, deceitful. The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful and serene." The grandson asks which wolf will win the fight. The grandfather answers, "The one I feed."