The bad news is that I still have the flu. The good news is that I have finally accepted it as a permanent condition.
And so has Dave.
It’s been fun to watch him adapt to our new lifestyle. I lie around the house wearing a luxurious faux fur robe (think Leona Helmsley), while he waits on me hand and foot. He brings me roses, buys me Kleenex, shops for food, cooks the food, cleans up the mess, walks my dog Edmund in the freezing cold and picks up his gifts—
But I digress. It’s just that watching Dave like this… it’s such a beautiful thing!
Anyway, since my new life as a professional sick person keeps me very busy staring off into space with my mouth hanging half open (so I can breathe and drool), I don’t have much time or energy for work or writing lately (why was I wasting my life that way?!).
Fortunately, anything important I want to say about addiction has already been said. For example, if I didn’t already worship God or if God wasn’t the jealous type (he is), I would worship at the feet of the late Gerald May, who wrote, Grace and Addiction, my all-time-favorite book on addiction.
One of the most important things I learned from May has to do with the myth of fulfillment. The idea that if we are good people living life rightly, we should not experience deep discontent. I think this myth is especially powerful in a Christian context. I can’t count how many times I asked myself, ”How come I’m not fulfilled? How can I feel thirsty or spiritually empty when I’m supposed to have a river of life flowing out of me?”
It wasn’t until recovery that I came to understand the river of life Jesus spoke about is not a river of bliss.
For an alcoholic or addict, this myth is especially significant. Long term recovery depends on our finding healthy ways to view and cope with our nagging feelings of discontent.
But enough from me. May writes:
“In our society, we have come to believe that…feelings of distress, pain, deprivation, yearning, and longing mean something is wrong with the way we are living our lives. Conversely, we are convinced that a rightly lived life must give us serenity, completion and fulfillment.
The truth is, we were never meant to be completely satisfied. …To live as a child of God is to live with love and hope and growth, but it is also to live with longing, with aching for a fullness of love that is never quite within our grasp…
We need to recognize that the incompleteness within us, our personal insufficiency, does not make us unacceptable in God’s eyes. Far from it; our incompleteness is the empty side of our longing for God and for love. It is what draws us toward God and one another. If we do not fill our minds with guilt and self-recriminations, we will recognize our incompleteness as a kind of spaciousness into which we can welcome the flow of grace.
To claim our rightful place in destiny, we must not only accept and claim the sweetly painful incompleteness within ourselves, but also affirm it with all our hearts…
Somehow we must come to fall in love with it.”
—Addiction & Grace by Gerald G. May
What May suggests is of course easier said than done. How do we fall in love with our longing? How do we make peace with our feelings of incompleteness?
I think every book May wrote was trying to answer this question. Maybe it’s what this blog is all about, too.
I don’t have a single, easy answer. I only know it has to do with surrender. I only know that my pain becomes more bearable when I stop resisting it and try to sit with it quietly and let it be felt. And sometimes when I do this, that hollow ache inside of me slowly softens and melts until the emptiness itself feels enfolded in God’s great compassion.
Other times, my nose starts to run and I realize that my Kleenex is calling. So, if you’ll excuse me…
(P.S. Actually, I think I’m on the mend. But sssshhhh….mums the word. Dave doesn’t need to know that yet.)