Friday, April 16, 2010

“Being Present”

(This blog is second in a 4-part series, “Sharing 101”)

This past week has been full, to say the least. Good, bad, and all the spaces in between. On Saturday, I watched my sister get married. My baby sister. She’s 30 now, but in my mind she’ll always be sort-of frozen at a freshman in highschool. The ceremony was held outdoors and it was beautiful. There was a point where I found myself so grateful that I was able to be there and be sober for it. I remember when my grandmother passed away a few years back and I was stoned out of my mind for the funeral. It was a real blessing to be present for this event.

I took an old friend with me to the wedding. She lives in another city, but will still see each other pretty regularly. Last time we visited, she took the bus up to see me. I offered to go and get her this time around, seeing as she was my date and all. On the way to get her, I got pulled over by the cops because the registration on my car was expired. At first, the cop threatened to impound my car, which would have left me stranded far enough away that the chances of making the wedding would have been slim-to-none. As it turned out, he only gave me a fix-it ticket. But I wasn’t loaded and I didn’t have anything illegal in my car. There was nothing to be paranoid about.

As the possibility of my car being impounded hung in the air, I didn’t even feel the need to have an imaginary phone call with my sister telling her I would miss the wedding. When I’d seen the cop pull in behind me, lights flashing, I was calm. As I talked to him, I was courteous, even apologetic. There was no need to have hysterics. There was no need to yell at him, or explain frantically about the wedding. In the end, it may have even been that calm demeanor which helped me out. And what was there to say, really? My tags were expired. I hadn’t been responsible. Throwing a fit wasn’t going to change that, and it didn’t even occur to me to try.

When I stop and think about how different that is from the way I used to handle things, I am amazed—almost to the point of being dumbfounded. I was the guy who was always going on and on about 5-0. I played with a hip-hop band for a couple years, and we saw our share of cops being cops, and we relished in our hatred of them. I can’t claim to like the police very much, but I can admit now (however grudgingly) that they are just doing their job. And, after all, my tags *were* expired.

My friend and I had a blast at the reception. We talked, joked, and laughed. It truly was a celebration of joy. I made a point of taking my sister aside and letting her know how happy I was for her. Being able to relax, enjoy myself, and have a good time was truly a blessing. After the reception, I took my friend home, then continued my drive on down south to where I had a music commitment the next day.

I love playing music. I’ll never forget the feeling, after getting sober, of being able to still make music—and that I did it every bit as well if not better than I had when I was loaded. This gig I did on Sunday is one I do a couple times a year, usually. They’ve gotten to know me and I always get nice compliments. For me it’s another way of being of service. I get to go down there, give them a little something different, and give their regular guy a break.

I’ve played piano nearly 25 years, and doing this particular gig isn’t a struggle. But the reason it isn’t a struggle is because I go in a couple hours before I’m supposed to start and practice. I start off with my scales. I rehearse everything I’m scheduled to be playing that day. I improvise a little and see what special flavor I can bring. It’s because I have the discipline now to practice that things go well. When I was getting loaded, I’d just show up and wing it. Sometimes things would go alright, sometimes they wouldn’t. Now, they almost always go very well. Again, it’s the difference of being present, and having the presence of mind to do what I need to do in order to do the best I can. And more is my joy for a job well done.

On the way home, I stopped by my sponsor’s place and spent a few hours with him. Even though we talk on the phone almost every day, I don’t get to see him as often as I might if he lived closer. We took a hike and talked about all kinds of stuff, including the step work I’m doing. He’s been a great guide and always encourages me to work towards having balance in my life. He gives me that extra push when I need it, and helps me to remember to give myself credit when I deserve it. When I’m stuck inside myself, he’s always there with a different perspective and more often than not I’m able to see it. Asking for help, and following the advice I’m given when I do ask, can still be a struggle for me at times. But the fact that I don’t stay stuck anymore, damned and determined to do it my way even when it clearly isn’t working, is nothing short of a miracle.

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