Apparently, lists are out of style.
You know what I mean: “The Ten Keys to Success,” “The Five Ways to Open Your Heart,” “The Seven Ways To Rock Your Lover’s World.”
Everyone has written a list, criticized other’s writing lists, written a list of why they hate lists. With ongoing and utmost respect to writers who are passionate about this topic, I have no strong feelings on lists.
I do, however, have some pretty fierce feelings about two things I have been practicing lately. (And by practice, I mean attempt in my struggling, sometimes half-hearted, sometimes full-forced, imperfectly human way.) Unfortunately, these two items could constitute a mini-list, so please bear with me if you are a list-hater.
A benefit of re-entering life in sobriety is you get a fresh look, a brand spanking cut-the-tags off start at this amazing, blow-your-mind daily world (who am I kidding, benefit? This is a ridiculous gift, nothing short of a miracle). A more challenging aspect is that you have no flipping clue how to live.
How to adult.
I’m fully committed to this whole living thing—(I am forever blown away by the whole aspect of how a day can encapsulate so many wonders and disasters all at once) so I’ve had to change my behaviour, learn a few survival tactics.
As in—when faced with a full-blown crisis, I have find a way to deal with it, while still parenting and maintaining my human form, rather than downing a 26 ounce bottle of vodka in the Starbucks bathroom and wandering around the streets, stupor-like, in lizard form.
Survival Tip #1 (if we call them tips, is it less of a list?): Be, totally, brutally, honest.
Don’t be afraid to admit defeat. And by defeat, I mean admit you are at your wit’s end and you don’t know what to do. At first, I was horrified to admit to anyone that I was struggling.
Not struggling with drinking (that hasn’t been an issue, but if it was, I think the same advice would apply)—but with panic, anxiety, immobility in the face of life in all its busy, throw-as-much-on-your-plate-as-you-can glory.
Being vulnerable is hard. Admitting you are basically not coping is unbelievably hard. Be brave in telling the person you need to tell—your husband, your friend, your boss, your teacher—(obviously within reason) your issue, what you are struggling with, why you were late, sick, not up-to-par or feeling like a failure.
In retrospect, the most brilliant part of this being honest business is how often people relate—having been through a similar situation themselves. It has caused me to wonder how often must we struggle alone, carrying a burden we feel we are the only ones to have ever carried, and pass, so many other souls out there, carrying similar burdens, hungry for connection.
Be bold. Tell your truth. Ask for what you need. If you don’t know what you need, say that. Whatever you do, just be honest.
Survival Tip #2: Celebrate everything.
And by everything, I mean all of it—whatever you need to celebrate that day. Finishing a big school project (I am a returned, aged student) constitutes a full-on dance party in my house with my eleven-year old, but I’d probably dance if I was alone too—while we’re being honest.
Everything means celebrating when you simply get out of bed on one of those days when the world is bleak and daunting and your sleep was haunted with grief. It means swinging your feet onto the floor, looking at the step you made, and saying to yourself, even in the tiniest, saddest voice your inner self can muster: “Good job.”
Celebrating it all means rejoicing in the days when a clean kitchen is an out-of-this-galaxy accomplishment, and it means not being afraid or ashamed to be proud of yourself. You are unique. Your journey is unique. What is immense for you may be simple for someone, and vice versa—and the most awesome part is that is totally and beautifully okay.
For me, my personal celebrations are as diverse as the life I lead. Today, my hurrah comes from drinking coffee in a favorite shop, being alone, writing. One day I may celebrate climbing a mountain.
Some days I have to celebrate simply taking the next breath, and the next. Eating a nourishing meal can be a pleasure-filled celebration explosion in itself. There are days when breathing is hard, and there are days when you will run with the wind and leave your goals in the dust.
Joyously, ecstatically, celebrate them all.