Emergence

Slowly, very slowly, the world is rediscovering itself. We have gone through over a year of quarantine, lock-down and isolation. This is one of the few, perhaps the only news items that has touched literally every continent, country and county on Earth. More people on the planet know about Covid 19 than know about the Pope, US president or, dare I say, Cher. As a result, I believe that nothing will have a greater impact on those of us who have lived through this than any known global event. It has changed us in so many way. For me, one thing is certain: this has changed our social relations forever.

There has always existed distrust of others, especially strangers. It’s a protection mechanism that’s wired into our DNA. We hold back initially, until we feel more secure. However, now there is a fear of being physically close to people, even people we know because they ‘might’ be carriers of this virus. People’s anxiety levels have risen. In an effort to keep ourselves informed, many of us have become over informed and have heard so many opinions that we don’t know where to turn. This has been a year that has upended so many social conventions and regular norms that our social emergence and rediscovery will be long. It will take a long while before we can feel comfortable again in our own skin, let alone being close to the skin of others. We have spent a year looking only into the eyes of people that we see on the street, in the shops and at work. We’ve often had to guess the reactions of others from only the upper part of their face. Many times I realized that the polite smile I was offering to people on the street or in the grocery store was shielded by my facemask.

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I know I am not alone in the feeling that my personal space has been ‘violated’ more often this year but that’s because my sense of what is a ‘proper distance’ has changed. People we would have given a hug to in the past now receive a polite nod, an elbow bump, perhaps a bowing reverence. We screen who we allow into our homes. We screen places where we must enter asking ourselves if they really have ‘disinfected’ the place and wondering exactly how they did it. Do I have my facemask on correctly, have I sanitized my hands with washing or alcohol? I can’t imagine the challenge for parents of young children who are want to touch and lick almost everything they see. I’m sure some children think their real name is ‘Don’ttouch’ and ‘Keepoff’.

As time has passed most of us have come to terms with the health precautions and we have adapted ourselves to what we consider our own personal level of risk. While I haven’t returned to being the hugger that I used to be, I do hug some people who are close and with whom I feel a level of comfort. And I am perfectly fine with others choosing their own level of comfort. It’s a very personal and family choice. While I don’t feel it’s yet time to get rid of the masks, it’s not my job to go about policing others in their choices. Most of the members at the gym I attend do not wear a facemask while working out. It’s not mandatory here. The staff has opted to wear masks and so have I. And that is okay. If it really bothers me, I have the option of not going to that gym. I don’t have to impose my will or what I think is the ‘correct’ thing to do. Same thing at our twelve step meetings. We sit ‘socially distanced’ and it’s up to the individual whether or not they choose to wear masks. It’s not up to me to judge the actions of others. My opinion is not necessary and not necessarily wanted.

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I suspect that even after we receive the ‘all clear’, if we ever do, there will be people who will continue to wear a facemask when out in public. That is their choice. It wasn’t that uncommon to see a person in the streets wearing one before the pandemic. How we greet others in the future will probably not go back to the effusive hugs and kisses for most people either, which for some will be a great relief anyway. Our sense of personal space will also be much greater for many years to come, especially when meeting someone new.

Give people time to adjust to their new sense of what’s right, appropriate and comfortable, even with families and close friends. Our sense of trust has been altered, perhaps for the next generation. We will need to be sensitive to the needs of others and learn to pick up on new social cues as to what others are comfortable with. It’s probably a good idea to ask before lunging in for a hug. If you’d like a hug, ask for one.

Humans need physical touch to thrive. These past 14 months have put a great strain on everyone, all around the world. It’s going to be a long while too before we adjust to these changes in how we relate to each other in this new emergence into post-Covid living.

Without Fear

The Fourth Step of recovery asks us to take a ‘fearless and thorough moral inventory’ of ourselves. I didn’t really want to do a Fourth Step for two main reasons. First, I had never done anything like that  before and second, I was kind of afraid of what I might find if I looked to deep into myself. After all, I had spent so many years and a lot of my resources doing my best to avoid finding out who I really was and where I was in life. Knowing who I was and how I functioned, that place deep down inside me was not a place I wanted to go. 

And I knew I had to.

I had seen the results of the program in other people. I had been to a good number of speaker meetings so I heard the stories of what it was like, what happened and how things were now. There were a couple of men in particular, one of whom was my first sponsor, and it seemed impossible to relate who he was before to who he is in recovery. And it was by working the program that he achieved this impressive change in who he was.

And I wanted that change in me too.

One of the things that happens in early recovery, when your main pursuit is no longer to escape, is that you have to face life as it comes. And you relate to it pretty much in the same way you used to but now without the cushion of a drink or a pill that helped to soften the sharp edges of challenges in life. And just like the acronym, S.O.B.E.R., Son Of a Bitch, Everything’s Real, I was discovering that my skills here were sorely lacking. Along with this I was discovering that my interpersonal skill in relating to others were also falling short: I could really be a jerk.

I needed to follow the program and that included the “Fearless moral inventory”.

I often say that it took me six months and two days to complete my Fourth Step. Six months for hemming and stewing and worrying, and two days of actually sitting down and writing it out. I thought of ‘fearless’ as being like a soldier of the Light Brigade. I had to put out my chest and valiantly face my past, come what may. However, when I read it in Spanish, it translates to simply, ‘without fear’.  There was no great nobility infused into what I was about to do. I was just to do it honestly and calmly without letting my fears stop me.

It wasn’t so much ‘fearless’ as it was ‘without fear’.

There was no great feat of prowess in my Fourth Step. The change in translation removed it and took it back to what it was. Just like the shop keeper doing an inventory of goods, I was finally taking a deep look at myself and seeing what was there. Who was I? What was I really like? What are my assets and my liabilities? In my attempts to understand the program I had forgotten the simple truth: trust this simple program for complicated minds. I just had to put my fear aside when doing the Fourth Step, and I would be fine.

 

Self Sabotage

Somehow addicts and alcoholics have a way of doing something very well, until a certain point. Then, just when they are about to have a great success, they go on a party spree that completely ruins their chances at success. In the movie “Flight” with Denzel Washington, just when his character was about to be free and clear of any charges, he has that fateful drink and drinks the complete mini bar in his hotel room. This is very typical of an addict before recovery and once in recovery as well.

Why is it that when I am about to make changes in my life that are going to be beneficial to it I suddenly stop doing those very things that will help to improve me or my life? Why do I give up just when it seems that most of the work has been done? Why do I sabotage my success?

It comes down to feelings of self esteem and self worth. I don’t feel that I deserve to reap the benefits of what I do. I don’t think I am good enough to be doing whatever I am wanting to do. I feel that I should accept my lot in life and not ‘tempt the gods’ or make notice of myself. These feelings of self esteem were planted in my in my early years by family, friends, community, religion, school and self. I do not blame anyone for how I feel today because I also know that I have the ability to make changes in how I think and feel.

Also wrapped up in this is a fear of success as well as fear of failure. If I fail I am sure I will feel depressed about it. And if it’s successful? Then that implies changes in my life and I’m not sure about what the changes will be and how that will affect me. I might have to step out of my comfort zone. I let myself focus on all of the negative aspects and fall into the vicious circle of lots of thought and no action.

I can change how I relate to the world and how I allow it to affect me. I have done that through my recovery and working the Twelve Steps. I know how to recognize when I am in my ‘moods’ and when I can change them. I can recognize when I am acting in a manner that is not in keeping with how I want to be acting. I can focus on the positive and stay away from the negative. Do I always do these things?

I wish the answer was yes, always.  But that’s not so. I fail to live up to my standards, too often. I know from listening at meetings that I am not alone in this spiral of negative thinking. So I focus on one thing a day. I don’t have to accomplish everything right now. Just one thing. Ask someone a question. Do the investigation. Write part of the report. Once I get down to the task I feel better about myself and realize that the fears I had really are unfounded. One small step today. Another small step tomorrow and in a week I can look back and measure how far I have come. I know there is still more to be done but I look at the gains I have made and those can help me to take today’s step forward.

It all starts with just a small action: mine.

hand pen writing plant

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