Not long ago I was in the 7-Eleven in Geneva. There was maybe three other people waiting to pay. One of the guys was five-ish years younger than me and barely-stand-up drunk. He was having a party of one, talking to himself, and talking to the other people even if they were doing their best to: not encourage him. To ignore him. And wait out his staggering around non-sense. Like when you tough out a deep cleaning at the dentist.
7-Eleven had their ambient classic rock playing over the ceiling speakers and the drunk dude turned around and asked the guy in front of me, “Who sings this song? Damn, this is good. I can’t remember what they’re called.” The second guy is like, “I don’t know who sings it” in all out pretty much disgust with drunk dude.
I was softly clanging around on the MIDI keyboard the other night and came up with a couple of melodies. I couldn’t really find any words to go with them so I decided to look up what was in the public domain.
I knew this guy once. Well, I still kinda sorta know him now but we’re not really friends. I’ll call him Tim even though his name wasn’t Tim.
Why am I thinking about Tim on this 4th of June? Because these awful hostilities would come out of his mouth. And sometimes they were directed at me and sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes I could tell their direction and sometimes I couldn’t.
Driving to work this morning I was letting my minder wander, just absentmindedly thinking about random stuff. As I do. And today I was thinking that I used to drop a lot of hints. Boxes of styrofoam peanuts without anything tangible inside.
When I was newly sober, having a list of amends to make was like having a big pile of bills to pay. And I hate that feeling: a stack of checks to write and a list of people and places I owe. It’s just always on my mind, lingering in the back row like somebody murmuring behind you at the movies. When I stopped drinking my conscious woke up and I start hearing the voices of remorse.
And then there was that one time when I was in high school that I stole a whole bunch of books from the public library. It was way back when shoplifting was easy. Go in with a nearly empty backpack, load it up with Hobbit adventures, and walk out. Just be careful and it was really that easy. I didn’t feel any guilt at the time because for whatever reason in my head, the world owed me.
Well into my way of twelve step recovery I confused the word “practice” with “perfected” somehow.
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and had perfected practiced these principles in all our affairs. — Step 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous
I thought that because I’d worked all the other steps and had arrived at number 12 that I should be over some hump. Passed the bump. Made the jump. Maybe even overflowing with love while walking with spiritual principles or whatever.
Like I had crossed some finish line because I had had a spiritual awakening.
It wasn’t something that I consciously thought. I knew the step used the phrase “practiced these principles”, similar to applying them but for whatever reason I was holding myself to a “perfected” standard. Below the surface. Like not holding myself wide awake in front of my eyes, but more like how that creepy horror show music playing softly in the background holds you.
Of course then would feel like I was coming up short and imperfect. And not know why.
But… Just because I’ve had that spiritual awakening that doesn’t mean I’ve perfected anything. I have to continue to practice the principles much the way Maggie needs to practice her cello.
Granted with working the others steps and making it to twelve I have been elevated to a new plane of existence but I’m not cured or healed. By any stretch.
Okay that “elevated” part sounds a bit arrogant. But I have changed.
It’s funny how our minds can know something but then deeper down in the canyon we believe or feel something else.
If something’s bothering me, I should investigate. Even if it seems minor.
If anything is making me feel bad about me, something’s off. No matter how slight or subdued or subliminal it may feel.
I need to have a look under the covers to see what’s going on, see what’s what. And in this case then discard that ridiculous notion of perfection. Just because I got to a certain point in life that doesn’t mean I’m going to stay at that point. I need to continue to do those things that got me there.