So I took the better part of a year to complete the 12 Steps (for codependents).
I thought finishing them would crack my life wide open.
There were days when it did. My hope was enormous. My good feelings became at least as intense and vivid as my bad ones, and they rushed right in. I felt like everything was about to start fresh – new work, a new single mom’s life, a windfall of new sources of inspiration.
But my life didn’t exactly crack wide open.
The friend that walked me through the 12 steps died. I felt myself stall. I grieved for her. I grieved for the person I thought I was supposed to be at 41 (again). I waited for the school year to start. I fretted when it did, inflating myself into human lifeboat for my son’s first grade transition. Meanwhile, several other people I care about have continued to deal with real things, like life-threatening illnesses and debilitating depression. I felt like I had no business worrying about the state of my ordinary things while extraordinarily bad things happened to others. Other times I felt like my ordinary things are all I should be worrying about, because I’m right here and for now, I am breathing. If the last year or two have taught me nothing else, it’s that being here and breathing are nothing to take for granted.
I joked a lot with people over the last year that I had “a high-maintenance emotional hygiene regimen.” I read my meditation books. I went to my step study. I went to Al-Anon meetings. I started meditating more. I even built myself a better, healthier body. I’m strong enough to hug you hard and punch you even harder. (Cue Lifetime Channel for Women movie montage video with inspirational music.) Give me the chance and I will. (Hug you, I mean. I’m not all that punchy.)
I thought I would write about shifts and struggles and steps and changes here more often, but I’ve been processing a lot of it out in the world, where I’ve grown much better at touching people, looking them in the eye when I tell them that I love them or what they mean to me. A few of those relationships are a direct or indirect result of this place, or have been deepened by things I’ve shared here, so I’m grateful to it.
A friend asked me if all this work has actually made me happier a few weeks ago. The answer didn’t come to me until a day or two later.
“I used to think happiness was something I might be able to figure out how to sustain, but I realize that’s not possible” I told him. “Now, when I’m unhappy, I can see that I have so many more routes back to happiness than I used to. It’s not as scary to be unhappy anymore.”
My life has cracked wide open. It’s just not what I expected, thank goodness.