Love and Wonder

I loved technology when I was a kid. In middle school, I entertained myself for hours by teaching myself HTML code and photo manipulation. While the internet ultimately played an integral part in my addiction, it was also a creative outlet and a tool for inspiring positive change. I started my social media campaign, Human Too, in that same spirit of positivity and I feel incredibly blessed to have creative license in my career as a web content manager. However, the drawback of working with social media platforms is that you actually have to use them.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some element of futility in trying to harness social media for benevolent purposes. The part of me that teeters on the edge of needing a tinfoil hat -but I don’t think is too far off the mark – cynically believes that technology is not only a drug contributing to the achilles’ heel of civilization, but also a means by which the masses can be easily manipulated. That’s some serious 1984 or House of Cards shit, but it’s tough to refute. The difference between me and other cynics is that I still think it’s possible to live a contented and meaningful life in spite of the disillusionment.

When you turn on your TV set or scroll through your newsfeed, it seems as though the world has collectively gone mad. And maybe that’s not far from the truth. The world doesn’t make sense. There is an element of absurdity to the whole concept of human existence. But when you unplug and stop to consider the realm directly outside your window, the picture is likely to stand in stark juxtaposition. Maybe you hear the traffic or the crickets. Maybe you watch your neighbor get the mail or water the garden. Maybe the breeze blows. Maybe someone on the street coughs or waves or speaks indistinctly. And maybe, in that moment, everything is okay. So which version of reality is the most accurate?

If you choose to invest yourself solely in the digital narrative, it’s easy to view the world as an angry, hostile place. And sure, people are angry…but mostly we’re afraid. I can only speak for myself, but my buttons are most easily pushed in terms of my identity as a gay person, a woman, and a police wife. “How will you hurt me? What will you take from me?” These are the questions behind my own personal brand of rage. My fears are immediate and acute and frequently supersede my consideration of my global brothers and sisters. We are all self-preservationists in our anger. We are driven by and united by fear.

All of that is not to say that self-preservation is bad. The instinct to survive is what makes us human. Fear is human. It is merely an observation that we share a common ground.

In a climate saturated with the threat of nuclear war and simmering racial tension, it’s only natural to feel like our existential terror is somehow unique. But millions of people have experienced or are currently experiencing the heaviness of wartime. Millions of people have experienced plagues, famine, natural disaster, genocide, and the collapse of civilization. Millions of people have held their lover and wondered what kind of earth their children were destined to inherit. We have been fearing the end since the beginning. It’s part of the package deal when you occupy this planet.

I used to get very upset by the idea that there is no life after death. I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I think it’s highly likely you simply cease to have consciousness. I believe our energy leaves an imprint on a place. I also believe in the fabric of the Universe – a divine thread connecting all living things – but beyond that, I cannot say for certain.  The only reason the uncertainty bothers me now is because I can’t bear the idea of not seeing my wife. I guess if we don’t have consciousness, we don’t know the difference.

These are heavy thoughts. Perhaps you’re thinking: “What’s the point?” And here’s where the cynics and I diverge. The point is that you are conscious in this moment. The point is that you have the ability to love and to be filled with wonder. Our purpose, in my view, is to love and wonder.

Early in my college career, I spent about five minutes as a philosophy major. Looking back on my notes, I found a page that declared “the meaning of life is awe”. If you can maintain your sense of awe, you have unlocked the secret of living. It’s hard to say how that bit of insight came to me, but I have subscribed to the ideology ever since.

Addiction numbs our consciousness. Our drugs of choice block us from feeling love and wonder. We die prematurely.

There’s a reason Buddhists strive to be “awake”. There’s a reason yoga and meditation advocate for the present moment. The “now” is all we have. It is the only time in which we are able to love and be loved. It is the only time we have to consider the profound and miraculous beauty of our delicate existence. The precariousness of our position is what makes it breathtaking.

I don’t think anything needs to “come next” for this flawed and absurd life to be more than enough. We don’t need to do anything for life to have meaning…we need to simply be. I have often sat by the ocean and reflected sadly on the idea that the dead no longer have the capability to inhale the intoxicating air. It is a gift to experience the wonders of this wild earth. I think the real question is whether we receive it or we reject it.

The activity of appreciating the morning light is not just for poets and painters – it’s for humans. If all I do with the rest of my days is exuberantly behold the sunset and love as much as I can, I have achieved the “it” for which mankind toils. If all I do is celebrate wildflowers, a good meal, clinging rain drops, a shy smile, cool summer grass, and all the other remarkable minutiae…it is enough.

I am sober. I am awake. My being vibrates in the truth of the moment.

The cards are stacked and it’s hard to say how the deck will scatter. I don’t know if anything I do will ultimately make a difference. But I know that my being has purpose. I want my voice to be a whisper in the din: “Wake up”. Don’t die without living. Don’t live without meaning.

A Loose Cloak

There is a layer of dust coating my laptop. There is also a layer of dust coating my blog. It’s high time to get out the polish…literally and figuratively speaking.

I thought long and hard about whether or not to renew my WordPress subscription. Between my day job and dreaming about a summer wedding (yes, I am engaged! Yet another miracle of sobriety…), my creative goals have taken a serious backseat. They say you have to suffer to do the things your soul calls you to do and I would tend to agree. It takes sacrifice and commitment. I am a work in progress in that department. In all departments, when one gets right down to it.

As I weighed the pros and cons of keeping “Not Otherwise Specified”, I was finally swayed by the following questions: What if someone searches for content related to alcoholism and addiction and something here is helpful? And, by deleting my blog, how am I being true to myself?

So here we are…it’s been over six months since my last entry. But I’m going to forgive myself. Hopefully you will too. Either way, I’m excited to get back to sharing some of the awesome stuff I have learned in recovery.

One thing I have found to be true over the years is that “a grateful heart will never drink”. Like most things, however, it is easier said than done to maintain a grateful heart. The biggest threat to my sense of gratitude is – SURPRISE! – other people. I will demonstrate with an example:

I was in a bookstore cafe yesterday and I couldn’t help but overhear some of the conversations around me. A teacher was sitting at a nearby table. She began by telling her friend a story about a student in her class. The teacher meanly said the student’s occupational therapist deserved to be disrespected by said child because she wasn’t attractive enough. To add insult to injury, the teacher then went on to brag about how wasted she and her fellow teachers like to get, making jokes about leaving cars in inappropriate places and starting a fire at the bar. I happened to be sitting with an impressionable youth and I was completely disgusted by the example the women were setting. Was it a private conversation? Absolutely. Should they have been aware that there were kids around them? Yup!

My faith in humanity was diminishing quite a bit at that point but the Universe decided I hadn’t had enough. A rowdy group of High School-ish aged kids arrived. They were all males. They appeared to be trying to recruit a lone female at their table to work as a prostitute. I shit you not. I almost fell out of my chair. (It’s important to remember that although the city I live in is small it is also rough).

By the time I arrived home, I was furious. What is the point, I wondered, of being a person full of love and peace, when the world around you is a pool of shit? If you can’t beat ’em, why not join ’em?

Maybe it’s easy to empathize with my reasons for feeling upset. But at the end of the day, the people out in the world are not responsible for my faltering gratitude. I am. When I don’t mind my own business, I allow other people to make me feel world weary. The other issue is that I have a gigantic ego. What gives me the right to judge other people or dictate how they live their life? I am not an all-knowing, omnipotent being. And I need to be reminded of this fact at least two times a week. I am clean and sober but my mind is still sick unless I am diligent about treating my illness. Left to my own “good thinking”, I could very well be working the streets, being a mean, stuck up bitch (oops…there’s the judging again!), or driving drunk and setting fires.

I know I have focused on the difficulty of dealing with negativity in a troubled world in at least one other post, but I think the difference this time is acknowledging the importance of being “right-sized” in terms of my ego. We’re all human. If I elevate myself to a level of holier-than-thou it only makes me miserable. It doesn’t help the situation at hand.

I recently heard someone talk about “wearing the world like a loose cloak”. The idea inspires me so much. If I wrap the world too tightly around me I will suffocate. I can be a channel of peace and love if I leave enough room for grace.