There is a feeling I’ve discovered from time to time in a sobriety, a sense of comfort and peace and happiness that, when I have it, inspires people to ask what I’ve been doing to seem so centered. To be honest, I don’t know what I do; I just know what doesn’t happen in the days preceding that feeling.
I don’t gossip, express ill will, or hope anyone will die (even in jest). I don’t criticize my body or my habits. I don’t worry unnecessarily about things outside of my control. I don’t hide or stuff my feelings, either good or bad. I don’t isolate in silence. I don’t spend the day in bed. I don’t let my physical pain limit me. I don’t yell or snap at anyone. I don’t watch hours of television in one sitting. I don’t let library books become overdue or forget to mail checks. I don’t ignore the problems I have, but I also don’t let them overwhelm me.
Before sobriety, every one of these “don’t” statements escaped me. If I thought I could imagine a life without those negative things, it would have been for someone else. Someone who had a better, different, more magical life than I. Someone with shiny hair, skinny thighs, a perfect husband, a $50k car, children who didn’t talk back. Someone who didn’t have my struggles. Someone who received the breaks in life instead of the burdens. Someone who wasn’t broken.
Today, I know the blessings of quiet solitude without isolation, of friendships without drama, of making commitments without feeling smothered. I have exactly zero of the things I thought would mark me as a successful person but an infinite number of the things that have turned me from an incorrigible and broken woman into a grateful one.
Days like today, when I have that glow that causes people to ask what I’ve been doing to get it, I want to weep from gratitude. The life I always wanted is the one I have today. That it doesn’t include a man or the perfect little puppy dog or a thousand other things only makes the contentment and peace I feel that much more amazing. I am witnessing — have witnessed — from the inside the process of becoming a complex woman with many experiences rather than a grieving woman who can’t figure out how to move ahead from a singular heartbreaking event. Jack’s death — and, more importantly, his life — will always be in my heart, but I don’t have to be dragging him behind everywhere I go.
For those who have never experienced it, I cannot begin to explain what this feels like, but it is good. It is a life without the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am immensely grateful that I was able to recover after putting those burdens down. I know not everyone gets that chance. Me? I’m not going to waste it. Namaste.