“I am clay and I am water
Falling forward in this order
While the world spins 'round so fast
Slowly I'm becoming who I am”
Margaret Becker, Clay and Water
I recently I had a series of very emotional conversations that generated disappointment and a short bout of depression. In my recovery journey, it often seems that two steps forward is followed by not by just three steps back, but a kick in the gut, a blow to the nether regions and a crowbar to the cranium. I found myself struggling to believe that my efforts in recovery and my sense of calling were not worth my effort.
The danger of such thinking is that when I focus on one or two events, I fail to see the overall trajectory of my life. I mistakenly believe that one set back is a black mark on any progress I may have made. I realize that much of this is because I have expectations in my life, recovery and work that can both be appropriate and naive. Unmet expectations are the playgrounds from where my addictive thinking refuses to come in for dinner when mom calls.
Perspective on these things comes from pausing long enough to get in touch with my feelings and motives. This is what is referred to in my program as a tenth step. While my feelings do not determine my reality, they do indicate what is really going on - inside me. Never a fun journey but always a necessary one. I discovered I had to own some of my personality traits which often come across in a way I do not intend. I also had to be open to push back from my spiritual mentor, my coach, and a few trusted fellows who love me enough to speak the truth, even if it hurts.
The more I work my recovery, the more I am convinced that I have to be honest with myself that on any given day, my motives are mixed. Much of my tension exists in that space where the mix occurs. In recovery circles it seems that we often strive for transparency, humility and surrender yet value discretion, mistake confidence for ego and ignore that recovery (and life) requires effort. I am convinced that there needs to be a new movement in recovery circles where we talk honestly about such things and stop pretending that we must live under a burden of defeatism. We must also be willing to see the joy others have as they recover and not become killers of God’s new work of grace.
The spiritual life of recovery, for me, acknowledges my shortcomings while remaining focused on the journey of becoming. I have benefited from the gift of honesty with myself about who I am, how I think, my selfish desires, and mixed motives. Being honest about these things does not mean I have to exercise them. Rather, it means that I can only address them as I recognize them. I cannot heal from something I cannot name.
As I examine my motives and feelings I have to take care of what is on my side of the street, and if necessary offer an amends to those offended. I also have to choose to not pick up any item on someone else’s side of the street in an effort change their perceptions of my character. Basically I cannot enable them nor be the victim of their projections. I am, at best, imperfect in my efforts. I am reminded of the promise in the lyric above that I am a created being who is prone to mistakes and falling short. But I can rest in the promise that as I recognize that and cooperate with God, I can become who I was meant to be.
That will break the back of depression every day.