I’m always looking for a sign. I am partly superstitious and partly insecure. By insecure, I mean, I sometimes want to know that I am traveling in the right direction, doing what I am meant to do, soaring on the correct path to happy destiny. I utilize all of my senses in order to discern where and how my sign may arrive. Around me it appears that everyone is living their dreams, their truths and I want to make sure I am living mine, dammit!
Taking a nice, early morning walk I look for clues. I examine the stones around me, the leaves noting their gracious colors, textures, and all their individual characteristics. The best part is that even though I have not come across any shaped liked Jesus’ head or Buddha’s toe, I still enjoy the walk and all of its early morning gifts with my senses. I actually did find a heart-shaped stone at the beach (see photo below)!
Sometimes while at the beach, I will wade in the white, foamy ocean shore, placing my feet into the numbness of the cold ocean, my toes sinking in the frigid sand. I look into the ocean, as far as my 40-year-old eyes can see (which is not as far as I would like, actually!). I want to catch a glimpse of a ship that sailed hundreds of years ago or maybe a white orb shaped like a cross floating across the ocean, only to disappear quickly so I am totally sure that it is an apparition before I go running to the Boston Globe to report it.
Recently, however, I have had a mini-epiphany. My learning and adventures and work on myself in my sobriety has allowed me to open my mind and heart to a place that is always there, always within my reach. I am not required to travel to the depths of the ocean to find a glowing sign. I often walk out of my front door, and there it is. I see that I am alive (miracle #1), that I am sober (miracle #2), that my door was locked by either myself or my wife and not by a stranger with a set of giant set of keys, slamming a large door that will be locked without my permission. This got me thinking….did I need a giant fluorescent sign to know I am right where I need to be?
It is the small blessings every day which are truly the larger ones for me. In essence, the word gratitude comes to mind. I would balk when others discussed their gratitude lists and suggested maybe, I, too could benefit from one. “You don’t even know me!” I would think. “How is a list supposed to help me and guide me?” I would become enraged at recovery meetings when I would hear people identify themselves as “a grateful, recovering addict and alcoholic.” Um…are you kidding me??? Am I on candid camera? Who in their right mind would be grateful to be an alcoholic, recovering or not?
With time, patience and more grace than I cam imagine, I learned that focusing on myself and reflecting upon my own gratitude does indeed help and to quite a large extent. I am blessed with so much and I absolutely feel these blessings with all of my being. You see, being free from all substances and having done some bit of work on myself has allowed me to feel the internal gratitude, sometimes without even writing a list or keeping a journal.
This is not to say that I do not have years and years of more work to do. Essentially I have come to believe that gratitude is something that is a part of me, my healing and my world. Even when things are rough, trails seem bumpy and narrow, and I am unsure if I can make it out of bed, I truly believe that I am where I am meant to be. It took a lot of years of practice and faith. Things are not always perfect, but I actually live and not just exist as a shell of a human being. I live in an imperfect world where grace exists in shadows, tiny moments, and hugs, and I am happy about that.
Sometimes it would be nice to reach into a bag of potato chips and find a Jesus-shaped one to sell on Ebay…or bust into a bowl of Cheetos and pull out the one that looks like Virgin Mary with a tear coming out of her eye…and know that I see it clearly and not from an acid-induced hallucination. (I will neither confirm nor deny that this one actually happened!)
The people around me, in my life, are also forms of love and gratitude. My wife, who accepts me, when I eat too much or cry for no reason, shows me this truth. My walking partner in the mornings who is relentless at being on-time, predictable and truthful in her actions and words and always shows up is another means to see my life as blessed and beautiful. The love around me at meetings, the support of my family and friends, my nieces and nephews big hugs and kisses all fill my heart with joy. No potato chip compares to that!