"it works if you work it" -slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous

2 10 2009

i have been getting up early to get to my desk by 630/645 a.m. on monday, wednesday, and friday to write for 4-ish hours before i have to leave for school (i’m getting an MFA at sarah lawrence). tuesdays and thursdays i am out of the house early for work.

i have never been a morning person. i seem to do my best sleeping in the hours right before i have to get up. so the task of getting up feels herculean and especially so when i don’t “have” to get up quite that early.

i think i mentioned i am writing a memoir and am (finally!) working with a terrific editor. i have wanted to write the story of my journey for many many years, and now at almost 45 years old, events have conspired bringing me to this point of intense action. it’s no longer an idea or a wish or something i do on the side in secret. it’s actually happening. my goal is to write about 300 pages in 18-24 months, starting two weeks ago.

last night i was having dinner with a friend whom i had not seen in awhile and who, for the last two years, has been dealing with a partner who is working with his brand new sobriety which has not been an easy thing at all for him to attain or hold onto too. he is literally in a fight for his life.

among the hundred really moving and inspiring things she told me about him, was that he goes to an A.A. meeting every morning at 6 a.m.

she said the alarm goes off at 5.15 and he struggles out of bed gets dressed and then walks ten blocks to the meeting getting a coffee on the way. she said it’s getting colder and darker now with winter coming and she doesn’t know how he does it. except that this is what he must do in order to stay alive. the stakes are very high.

when i think of the people who are walking the path of recovery from addiction, i honestly don’t know how they do it. have you ever tried to quit sugar? or floss twice a day without EVER missing? or tried to change an aspect of your personality that feels hardwired into your dna?

i asked her how many people are at that meeting, thinking maybe there would be six or seven people ( i was thinking about early morning yoga classes that i have taught and taken and there is maybe five people), and she said there was about 30 people. i was shocked.

i pictured all these people on the upper west side of manhattan with their alarms going off while it’s still dark, getting dressed, leaving their apartments, and showing up at this A.A. meeting for an hour. it must not be easy or pleasant to get up so early and go admit every day that you are powerless over a disease first thing in the morning, yet this is precisely what saves millions of people from addiction each day. they get up and go to meetings. it is a moment by moment discipline. a moment by moment choice towards life, towards not having your life run by those voices in our heads that tell us we are never going to get there, that our dreams will never happen, that life is just a long hard road that we have to hoe.

i’m sure there are mornings this guy is soooo tired all he wants to do is stay in bed and go to a meeting later.

i was thinking about my own journey to write this book in light of this guy trying to stay sober. i find it somewhat similar. as dramatic as it sounds, i feel like if i don’t write this memoir, i will die. it’s just something that i have to do. i have avoided it for years, tried to do other things, and it persists.

to do anything, one needs a steady discipline applied toward the thing one is attempting to do.

the thing about discipline is that at first, it is very very painful. and we are not creatures who like pain. if it hurts, we usually stop and say, “i can’t”. we are resistant and have millions of excuses because we are afraid to change our habitual ways of being, even when those ways of being are not really working for us.

i have felt an actual physical impossibility to wake up early and get out of bed at times, and the mind chatter of justification of why you don’t really need to do the thing you are trying to do is stunning in its convinceabilty. i have avoided sitting down to write with an astonishing regularity.

what if we approached the things we want to do with the underlying discipline and urgency of the people working with sobriety? what if we framed our dreams and goals for ourselves with the focus and motivation of our life depending on it? because as much as we talk ourselves out of them, we all have dreams for our life of what we want to do or who we want to be, that feels like we will never get there, and for me, i know it’s a bunch of crap that i listen to and often believe.

for me, the key is committment. committing to myself and then sticking with that committment no matter what.

in A.A. they say, “even if your ass falls off, don’t drink.” i’d like to apply that type of thinking to getting to my desk and doing the thing that i want to do, but am afraid to do, or think i can’t do, the thing i know i must do, and that i let myself be talked out of time and time again.

i think i have underestimated the level of committment it takes to do something bigger in my life. what i have learned from people in A.A., is that if you do what is asked of you which is to “work the program” then you have a shot at sobriety. “it works if you work it” as they say.

i am reaching deep inside myself to build a stronger muscle of discipline and focus towards these three early mornings of being here at the desk and doing what my editor is asking of me. and i am thinking about my friends partner and all the people out there who must do the hard thing in front of them.

when my alarm goes off at 6, i will be rising with all the other people who are working the program–they at their meetings, and me at my desk.

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7 responses

2 10 2009
Kate

Wow Bindu! Reading this made me cry. You are so right on. How often do we avoid something because it’s hard and “not urgent”? Thank you for reminding me today that our dreams are just as urgent as sobriety or anything that your life depends on. Because our life does, in fact, depend on them. A beautiful Friday afternoon “kick in the ass” as it were. So happy to have met you and to now be reading you!

2 10 2009
julie

wow, such a beautiful and inspiring post….I will send it along….I know it will be welcomed support….xoxo

3 10 2009
Pip

Can relate to all sides and made me cry. But what if we do not all have dreams for our life, what we want to do or want to be? We just want to be.

3 10 2009
Pip

Grace will have you rise, remember the sound of the Conch and the beat of the drum?! It is your destiny to rise and write. xoxo

5 10 2009
Helen Kim

Loved this. What a great way to live, as if your life depended on it…..

9 10 2009
Tracy

Thank you. Helpful words, powerful reminders. Cool that we are all family, and encouraging that many of us are pushing through this same “anti-dream” energy. I recently heard that emotional feelings will pass after 90 seconds if we don’t latch on. I am going to breath through that painful resistant feeling and do it anyway; see what happens. xo T.

4 12 2009
Fearless

You are an amazing writer! This site is a blessing to discover. I found your site via whitehottruth.com, and it was literally exactly what I needed to read right now. My husband just began AA three weeks ago and it’s been a rollercoaster, dealing with all the stresses that were “medicated” with alcohol. All the wisdom on your site is so soothing and thought-provoking. Keep writing that memoir — I’m sure it’s going to move many people.

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