You never know where Open Roads will take you…

Archive for May, 2010

Winners Never Quit…Or Do They?

Okay, I was afraid this was going to happen. It’s been two and half months since I posted. In the world of blogging, this is a big no-no. You have to keep ‘em coming—keep things stirred up, otherwise, people lose interest and think you’ve quit. I had a reputation as a kid for being a quitter. I don’t have to dig too deeply to uncover memories of my older sister’s angry cry, “MOM, MAKE HER FINISH THIS GAME!!!” And sometimes she would; I suppose Mom, from the Solomon’s Wisdom School of Parenting, would discern which child needed most to prevail. There were times when she saw my powerlessness, as the younger child, against the direction of an older sibling who was way smart, whom I adored, and to whom I was beholden as my guide and protector in that confusing world of adults. And she let me walk away. Other times she determined I just needed to stay in the game—see it through, regardless of how much I hated to lose.

Ouch. The voices can still be heard; they mostly whisper but occasionally speak sharply about a lifetime of quitting, or the more passive version, just not following through. It’s important for me to make that distinction because that’s the one that so insidiously permeated my life. As an active alcoholic and drug addict I just didn’t have the wherewithal to follow through on anything—except scoring my next drink or drug. I wasn’t one of those hide-in-the-closet-and-drink kinda gals, my goal was oblivion and I didn’t care who knew it. Many years of sitting in AA meetings acquainted me with a different kind of drunk; the ones who spent their lives battling with themselves to maintain a “normal” life while in enslaved to the booze and/or drugs.

I heard them say, “I never lost my job, my home, or my family.” And they’d go on to describe the utter and complete hellish lengths to which they went in order to appear normal (read functional.) I had no such sense of responsibility; my favorite hat said “WORK IS THE CURSE OF THE DRINKING CLASS”. In retrospect, I see that I had some top-of-the-line enablers, that literally supported me in every way, which freed me up to drink as much as I wanted.

But then I got sober. I was shown at every turn where my active addiction gave sanctuary to my unwillingness to take responsibility for any aspect of my life. As I traveled the road of recovery, I saw where my growth stopped when my drinking began at age 14. (Some days the maturity of a 14-year-old would’ve been a vast improvement.) Working a recovery program, using spiritual principles, I was able to take an honest look at all the things in my life left undone; I followed the wreckage of my past into the wreckage of my present.

And so I began tying up the loose ends of my life. After a 17-year summer vacation, I went back to school, attending the local community college. I started the Associate’s Degree program, which I never finished. I took a detour into the Automotive Analysis and Repair program, where I got a degree, but I quit turning wrenches before I ever got started because I developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. My next move was into carpentry, working as a helper with a friend on a project. I could’ve continued down that path when the job ended but I quit. I went to work as a counselor in an addiction treatment center and was encouraged to continue my education so I could move into being a case worker (read more responsibility, more money.) But I quit because I wanted to open a chili shop. And I did, but I quit that, too, when the shoestring on which I was operating broke. And then, and then, and then…you get the picture.

I continue to have experiences that seem to be a direct result of things I never finished. Like the frustration I feel when playing my guitar; I could probably play much better had I stuck with taking lessons and practicing. A friend mentioned to me recently that she’d been teaching for 40+ years and my immediate response was, “I’ve never done anything for 40 years except suck air.” There was a time in my life that would’ve translated into “see, you never could stick with anything—you’re just defective.” And perhaps that’s in no small part because I’ve encountered many people who’ve expressed that opinion of the likes of me.

I now see those times I “quit” as simply changes in direction. Perhaps my soul was leading me in a direction my limited human self couldn’t justify. I see “unfinished” as creative potential—unlimited possibility. Perhaps finished isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Here’s a secret; I don’t care. There’s not a human on this earth that can judge me as harshly as I’ve judged myself, who can heap any more shame, blame, and guilt on me than I’ve heaped on myself. And I’m over it. Hallelujah, praise Jesus, I’M OVER IT! No one has to live in my skin but me and that gives me full authority to run my show in any way that makes me happy. I never have to finish another thing in my life if I don’t want to and other people are free to think whatever they choose about it. No one else has to be happy about my choices. No one has to agree with me, no one has to “support” me, no one has to believe in me, no one has to do anything any different in their lives. I’m okay just the way I am.

And so are you, which means I can give up running your life. It’s no longer urgent that you hear my opinion of the decisions you make and I’m now confident you’ll survive without my sage (and often unsolicited) advice. I trust you’ll get along fine without my benediction.

The real news here is love doesn’t care either; it just IS, without condition, without judgment.

And that, my beloveds, is freedom.