If you’re not on the micro-email list, then you missed this email I sent out last week. It got a LOT of feedback below. Thought I’d share it here today.
Saturday April 12th
Mr. Belle and I took a day-trip out of town today. Just got on a train and went ‘over there’ – to walk around, eat greek sandwiches, share pie, sit in the sun, and enjoy being away from home.
The French would say “j’ai profité de l’après-midi” – or, literally, I “profited” from the afternoon. I found benefit. Found something.
I think I found money.
Here’s what happened.
[And this can only happen because I am sober. I am certain of this. When I was drinking I did not think like this. At all.]
So we’re sitting in the sun, drinking tea, eating pie. And I have a flash. Literally a moment of clarity.
Before we left the house this morning, Mr. B had said that he needed new clothes (which is true) and I agreed that I also hadn’t bought anything for months.
And I said to him “I’m sorry. I didn’t count on us being poor.”
I didn’t say this to make him feel guilty. We are in complete agreement that what we’re doing now career-wise is the right thing for us. We could move so that he could find better work, but we’ve decided to stay here and for him to make a go of the self-employed thing. But we’re in our 40s. We were used to being a double-income no-kids family.
So here I am, eating pie in the sun. And that phrase comes out of nowhere, what I’d said this morning, it starts to replay in my head like an audio recording:
“I didn’t count on us being poor.”
And it think, well yes, I guess I did count on it. I mean, I grew up poor. I have in my life started a few one-person companies, and I’ve always earned ‘enough’, but not really super gigantically successful. And frankly, I’ve always considered this to be an improvement on how I grew up.
Like, once you surpass the socioeconomic status of your parents, you can stop.
(And really, looking at how we grew up, that’s honestly not a very high bar.)
So yeah. The pie. The sun. The relaxed-away-from-home moment. I didn’t count on us being poor.
OK, first off, we’re not poor. It’s dumb for me to even say that.
Then I realize – here’s the flash – this is a message that I tell myself that is not based on reality. It’s one of the ‘stories’ that I tell about my life. It’s something that I just ‘say’ but it’s not real. It’s some kind of old, well-ingrained reflex.
And my flash was this:
What if I am in charge of not being poor. What if I am in charge of how great my life is. What if I am not limited by the income my parents made (or didn’t make). What if being sober has provided me with a gift, a space, where I can really and truly put down the backpack of rocks that I’ve been carrying all these years about my ‘poor’ childhood.
Who will I be if I stop telling this story?
Who will I be if I use this sober stretch of life to put down the backpack and do something else, something different.
In my weirdly defensive way, I’ve always said things like “I only work as hard as I have to, to maintain the standard of living that I want, and then I stop. It’s a work-life balance thing.”
It sounds good.
That sounds like noble poverty, doesn’t it.
But is that even true?
Or is it more likely that I’ve stopped myself right at the edge, every single time in my life, over and over. I’ve stopped myself from going further. Because I’ve set the bar too low. On purpose.
You know, in the past I was always more interested in wine-o’clock than I was in life-o’clock.
And today, I had the first really clear flash that it could be different. That I can be different. Sobriety has given me a gift of clarity.
Sorry. Long email.
And for some reason this seems too personal to put on the blog just yet, so I’m sending it by email instead. Weird. Yeah.
What about you? What’s in your backpack of rocks that you’ve been carrying around that you could put down? What have you been carrying for a long time, that’s not even true, that sobriety could help you fix/uncover/resolve/grow?
I think for me it’s uncovered an assumed level of noble poverty. I “profited” from the afternoon. Holy. Can’t stand my own jokes.