It’s 40something degrees. I’m sitting on a sunlit porch in a coffeeshop in Atlanta GA sipping an oat milk latte. If you’d have told me at 26 that this would be my life, I’d have called you a liar. But, also, I’d have been (secretly) wildly intrigued. My 20s were chaotic (a blatant understatement), and this kind of calm seemed persistently out of reach. A state of being for other people, one that I could only admit that I even wanted in my most private, wistful moments.
I’ve always chased balance.
I like to think my balance-seeking is a result of my sun placement being so close to Libra. But who knows? Maybe that’s the trouble with balance: maybe you can’t really chase it at all. Maybe it’s earned? Found through a lot of deep searching? All I know for sure is that balance doesn’t feel as much like my birthright as I might wish.
But this moment, utterly content to be alone, not looking to escape (not into my phone, not into someone else, not even into a book), this is what I’ve been working toward for the past 14 years*. This ability to sit still. To be present, listening to cars cruise by on North Avenue–and to not be making mental list of all the stupid things I’ve done or said in the the past few weeks, days, hours. Sure, some of this is calm is that–by simply not drinking–I’ve cut down on the stupid shit I say by about 95%. But some of it is that I’ve really managed to get down to the business of being human. And that is messy. Wildly messy. There is actually no way to be perfect at it. And stupid shit that people say and do (myself included) is part and parcel of it all. So is saying I’m sorry. With humility. And I’ve found that the people I respect the most aren’t the ones who don’t make mistakes (those people are mythical anyway) but the people who will own them and apologize for them. I’m trying to hold myself to that same standard.
Cradling my latte in both hands for warmth (it is cold, after all), I also discover that I appreciate the sunlight in a way that brings me joy. It seems like such a small thing, to have gratitude for sunlight. But it means I’ve hopped out of my head long enough to enjoy the warmth on my legs, then to bother to stop and turn my face toward the sun. Then to just sit and wait, for it to warm me. Or speak to me. The sunlight can really get a lot said. There’s so much to listen to in the pauses. And I used to miss most of it. Because the shadows scared me. Who knew what I might find lurking inside if I was quiet enough and slowed down enough to hear it?
I met my future self in a meditation recently. Not like an apparition. That was the assignment: to call forth your year-from-now self. So I did (I do still like to be valedictorian of things). And she looked–a lot like me. A little more bohemian. But also there were cargo pants involved. Anyway, she was grounded. Calm. Unflappable. And very deeply loving. To herself. To the folks around her. I like that she’s given me something to work toward. I can be short on grace sometimes–for me and everyone around me. But she was very willing to meet me right where I am.
A good friend of mine–one of my best ones—reminded me recently that I am an expert grudge holder.
Not because she’s wrong. She’s not. It just isn’t who I want to be anymore. Pick people who will reflect your true self back to you. They are guides. They are a pain in the ass, but they are guides.
Ultimately, what I want is to feel shit deeply then let it go. To offer grace. To choose to love people–each individual, messy, quirky one–more than I love being right. And to keep moving toward balance. Toward more mornings that involve lattes, sunstreaked porches, and Atlanta in all its autumnal glory.
*Lest there be any confusion: I wasn’t 26 fourteen years ago. But I did get sober 14 years ago. And the work I’ve done in sobriety is significant and has gotten me here (where I really like being).