With everything [terrible] happening in the world, I believe there's something imperative about returning to the scale of the individual life. Not simply because that scale is more digestible, but because it speaks to what compels, captivates, enchants, and inspires the human heart.
I found myself returning to Lorri Gottlieb's "Maybe You Should Talk To Someone" earlier today, where she reminds us that an essential part of therapy is knowing the self that we are. Part of getting to know ourselves is unknowing ourselves. Specifically - we have to let go of the limiting stories we've told ourselves about who we are so they do not trap us. And can finally live our lives and not the same [sob] story we've been telling ourselves about our lives.
Similar to [Joan] Didion's, "we tell ourselves stories in order to live." I'm fascinated by the narratives that we tell ourselves and others and how those narratives are continually disrupted, sometimes wildly and painfully.
One of the joys of getting older is we're able to laugh at how wrong we were, and perhaps even over our previous naivety. But many of us blur the line between discernment and becoming condescending [ego-driven] skeptics in that learning process. So while there's absolute truth in knowing that we tell overly simplistic stories, and it's important to interrogate those stories, it's crucial, vital even, to be wary of the dismissal and skepticism that comes with that interrogation.
Being wary of both sides also speaks to the elegance of a higher level of conscience, which is how AA meetings work (or should if you've ever been to one that's a trauma competition). That collective (or group) conscience works by a room full of experts on their own experiences who are simultaneously learning that they aren't the exact experts they thought. Nobody has all the answers. So, instead, you come to a discussion meeting, for example, and you say, "I'm having this problem." Then 10-20 other people offer their iteration, experience, approach, and hope - and by the end of the meeting, the group conscience, or the chorus, becomes the expert.
I think that's part of the reparative work that is often first attempted with clichés or platitudes. And if you're able to get beyond telling that person to fuck-off, perhaps, even for the super self-conscious, hyper self-aware person, part of what the cliché can do is meddle and overturn our senses of expertise and dominion over our lives. Or suggest that a more straightforward explanation that feels incredibly trite of banal has something to teach us that we might not already understand.
One of the things I think is delightful about how expansive recovery has become (i.e., Glennon Doyle, Brene Brown, Leslie Jamison) is that I'm never quite sure what is an AA cliché or just a cliché. I will forever adore "sometimes the solution has nothing to do with the problem" because it is such a valuable antidote to my natural impulse to solve a problem by thinking about it hard enough or deconstructing it intellectually over and over. The notion that maybe the answer to my problem was getting coffee with a stranger, instead of analyzing a part of my life to a sickening or excessive degree, continues to be valid. Sometimes I need to get out of that self wrapped up in the cognitive distortions caused by shame and grief.
I also like "feelings aren't facts" [now, I hated it until my 30's], even though I speak and write about them endlessly. I used to believe that there was truth in everything - I just needed to dig deep enough to find it. It's a dumb allegory, but I thought shame had roots that I needed to dig up and cut out, but shame isn't something that gets uprooted. It's feculent. It's the murky/diseased water that poisons the well. What it needs is exposure to the light. Then it can be drawn out. And that's something no one can do by themselves. It [literally] takes a village.
[I'm almost done with the cliches now.] I know it's trite, but "one day at a time" remains essential because the number of times I've had to invoke it to help me through the moment is infinite. When I first got clean, I couldn't wrap my head around even the remote possibility that my life was just beginning. Until almost age 26, I connotated joy to the absence of pain because that was the limit of my experience. And since that was the limit of my experience, I had an incredibly limited (and stunted) imagination. And now, over a decade later of living into miracle after miracle - all I can say is, "thank goodness for how deluded I was."
The beauty of recovery, especially the second step, is its power to restore us from a myriad of hopeless states. Initially, I needed to be restored from insanity, but now - now I can be restored from grief, shame, depression, and trauma. And through recovery and therapy, I can return to that proverbial wasteland of the past to find those rejected pieces of myself that were never really broken, just under-developed, or incorrectly utilized. And those outcast parts of ourselves, when utilized correctly, can become instrumental in connecting with others. To mirror Rilke: "The emptiness inside you allows you to vibrate in full resonance with your world. Use it for once."
Or more simply - there is so much room for us to grow into, if only we could learn how to fill it.
Recovery and therapy both fundamentally teach us what can be filled (and how). And anything that we cannot fill can be bridged. That's the whole point of meeting someone halfway.