Here are thousands of [sober] men and women, worldly indeed. They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves… there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking. In the face of collapse and despair… they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them.…Is not our age characterized by the ease with which we… throw away the theory or gadget which does not work for something new which does? We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people— was not a basic solution of these bedevilments more important than whether we should see [an ad for some new gadget]? Of course it was…Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did.-Alcoholic Anonymous, pp. 50-52
Category Archives: Happiness
Paul Johnson was not an alcoholic, but he was extremely unhappy. One night he drank a bunch of booze and took a bunch of pills then went up to his attic, where he hung himself. Some time later his wife found him – quite dead. She struggled to lift his body but failed; she had to go downstairs and get her son, the two of them panicking in their efforts to get the body down. Though Paul’s face had turned black and he was without pulse or breathing, his wife gave him CPR for five minutes.
Then Paul took a breath.
Paul’s consciousness, far from ceasing to exist, had become exceptionally clear during the time his body was dead. He found himself in darkness, approached from the right by four shadowy figures who showed him a review of his entire life. “Thoughts were instantaneous. When you asked a question, you would instantly know the answers.” In a Scrooge-like transformation, Paul returned from the dead absolutely overjoyed to be alive: “I had this vivid memory, extremely vivid, and it shouldn’t have been vivid at all for a guy that took a couple bottles of meds and drank two bottles of liquor. Yet it was so vivid and so real. I was so happy to be alive, and to have a second chance to fulfill the things pointed out to me as being important.”
I’m in the process of editing a book of interviews with Near-Death Experiencers* – people (including me) who have died, experienced the other side, and returned with memories. Paul is one of fourteen of us interviewed by filmmaker Heather Dominguez, who has amassed the footage for a television series and is raising the money to produce it.
Unlike the rest of us, however, Paul did not go to the Light. He went to blackness – a void where he existed without a body. Far from feeling inundated with infinite love, he sensed that the four figures “wanted to take me to a darker, more horrible place.” But as he watched the scenes of his life go by, Paul felt overwhelmed with loss. “My biggest regrets were that I didn’t travel and see the world, and I didn’t do the things that made me happy. …It wasn’t that I missed this wedding or didn’t get this job… [It was] that I didn’t enjoy my life like I really wanted to… As I realized that, I thought: ‘I wish I wasn’t dead!’ In that exact moment… [the experience] was over for me.”
Today, Paul lives in the Philippines with a new wife and her extended family – all of whom he loves. He changed everything about himself and is now a man decidedly happy, joyous, and free.
Alcoholics who choose to live experience a shift analogous to Paul’s – if they commit to rigorous spiritual work to effect an internal change. Paul’s moment of choice strongly reminds me of a favorite Big Book story in the 2nd & 3rd editions of Alcoholics Anonymous, “He Who Loses his Life.” In it, an honors student and “boy wonder” in business named Bob has drunk his life into the ground despite plenty of intelligence and self-knowledge. All his city friends alienated, following yet another binge he crashes in the country with a doctor he’s known since boyhood.
We worked in five below zero weather, fixing on an elm tree a wrought iron device which modestly proclaimed that he was indeed a country doctor. I had no money – well, maybe a dime – and only the clothes I stood in. “Bob,” he asked quietly, “do you want to live or die?”
He meant it. I knew he did… I remembered the years I had thrown away. I had just turned 46. Maybe it was time to die. Hope had died, or so I thought.
But I said humbly, “I suppose I want to live.” I meant it. From that instant to this, nearly eight years later, I have not had the slightest urge to drink.
Bob threw himself into working the 12 steps in AA, which led him to great happiness.
Such lasting happiness can be found only by learning to love reality as it is. To do this, we need to bring about major change in ourselves – something we can’t accomplish without help from the steps, from our fellows, and, most of all, from our god.
When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, drugs had just sprung into mainstream popular culture. As a kid listening to Beatles songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” or “Tomorrow Never Knows,” I imagined that drugs brought a higher awareness than just plain old consciousness – which was, for me, terribly uncomfortable. As I grew up, I embraced not just alcohol but “recreational drugs” – as if crippling my brain created anything. I don’t know about you, but I dared to chase that vision, to venture far into the mysteries of the universe – so I sucked chemicals into my mouth and nose and lungs that essentially shoved my head up my ass, and from there I tried to marvel at the view.
It was dark. It was lonely. It was pointless.
I had to hit a bottom, to despair almost completely, before I could begin to see that in my search for “something cooler,” I had rejected life. In my greediness to be loved, I had rejected loving. And in my obsession with self, I had rejected a humble consciousness of my own soul and spirit – connection to god.
Deep down, every alcoholic knows they are committing a little bit of suicide with every drink. We know we’re turning our backs on goodness and truth even as we laugh and whoop it up. We vaguely sense that we’re completely full of shit, but we somehow can’t see a viable alternative. It’s life. Honing awareness in sobriety, I have found that plain old reality… is a trip. It’s huge. It’s rich. It’s mind-blowing.
To love what is takes courage. To love others without a parasitic agenda takes strength. And to see clearly into ourselves takes humility. I, of myself, have hardly any of the above. But I borrow them (and more) from my god day after day, breath after breath. I choose joy.
*I’ll let you know when it comes out 🙂
When we hit bottom in our drinking careers, we’re pretty much forced to change. We’re truly sick and tired of being sick and tired; we recognize, however faultily, that our way is not working. We become teachable. That is, we’re desperate enough to try out AA’s approach even though it feels foreign, artificial, and disorienting.
For me this meant giving up the belief that I knew everything. I’d always felt sure I could perceive the lay of the land in a snap and choose the best course, which I then acted on with chutzpah and a dash of fukitol. Drinks made me feel better, so I frickin’ took ’em. Certain designated figures, also known as cool people, carried what I craved, so I chased ’em. Responsibility and integrity felt cumbersome, so I shrugged ’em off – free to follow my whims wherever they might lead!
And where was that? Loneliness so lethal I wanted to scream for eternity and futility so rampant I wanted to break and trash and burn every fucking thing that ever touched my life – that’s where my knowing everything took me.
AA – the supposed solution – seemed as silly as a cake walk. The 12 Steps, anyone could see, held no more wisdom than a hopscotch grid, and yet all these AA dolts claimed that if you sincerely played hopscotch, if you landed in each arbitrarily chalked off square, you’d bust through to frickin’ Narnia or something – whatever they meant by this “4th dimension of existence.”
But since a U-turn could lead me only back to the hell, I went ahead. I gave up control, followed directions, did the dance. And I commenced to change – to heal and grow and behold countless unexplored and rich possibilities hitherto invisible to me.
From somewhere inside me, I began to sense a direction besides my thoughts. They – my thoughts – were still as dumb and which-way as ever, but this new chord, this voice within – it began to lead me instead of them. Guidance I heard and talked about in AA aligned with this voice, but did not constitute it. Rather, I had “tapped an unsuspected inner resource” previously drown out by all the fears, demands, and clutter spewed by my ego.
I’d experienced a psychic change. I’d begun to develop a spiritual life that edged out my craving for booze.
Toward Life Itself
“Our liquor was but a symptom,” says the Big Book, of our messed up approach to life. If we merely take away the faulty solution of drinking, life hits us full force and feels unbearable. The lasting solution is to live on a spiritual basis which flows in tune with reality rather than fighting it.
Spiritual evolution is not a matter of content. That is, it’s never a matter of learning X, Y, and Z, passing the quiz, and graduating. Rather, it’s a habit of cultivating open-mindedness and reaching for growth. In other words, the conditions for continuous growth are the same as those that freed us from compulsive drinking: I elect not to buy into my thoughts, not to obey my ego, not to fall for the idea that my way is right. Only by turning away from these easy-to grab reflexes can I open myself to another voice – the more fundamental guidance of a higher power.
Day by day, growth happens at the juncture between what I’m exposed to and how I react to it. In that immediate crucible, I make more tiny choices than can possibly be noted, but collectively, they coalesce into a “gear” for my outlook. I plop into good-ole self-pity or reach for seemingly impossible gratitude – though I may end up somewhere between. What matters is whether I ask my higher power to guide those tiny choices, and whether I commit the incremental shards of my awareness to pursuing that guidance.
Growth can’t happen when ego takes over. The world becomes scary, because if what I’ve decided is supposed to happen doesn’t, I’m gonna be screwed. There’s never enough, so I lock into my plans. I get tunnel vision – which means I’m sealed off from potential good outside my will. I consign myself to stagnation.
The openness of faith reminds me life is always a collaborative effort – mine and god’s. Sure, I still plan and take action, but with built-in acceptance of whatever plays out. Even if things fuck up and fall apart, I’ll still be okay. My “enough” originates not from stuff or status, but from the power of god’s love flowing through me, the strength to generate and nurture and delight.Consider some dear friends of mine who moved to Wimberley, TX, last year only to lose everything they owned in a recent river flood. One day things were dandy, and next their home was was missing two walls and contained only mud and somebody else’s overturned couch. They had no renters’ insurance. Can you imagine that? I mean, can you really imagine losing everything? Yet these are two happy and thriving, not only because they’re sober, but because they live on a spiritual basis. They don’t lament. They have their precious lives, their energy, their love – a flow that’s providing all they need to rebuild what was lost, even as they pitch in to help neighbors… or support a faraway friend (me) processing a painful break-up.
The psychic change to living on a spiritual basis means we accept life’s uncertainty, taking our best shot and leaving the results to god. Failure’s fine. It happens. Floods happen. Betrayals happen. We can only keep listening for the voice within and trying to follow it toward good actions and good people, but with no guarantees. Because, while it’s true we each reap what we sow, it’s also true we’re scattering seeds from an unmarked, mixed bag. What will take root and flourish depends, we know, as much on the rain and sun as our work. Yet we do it anyway – and cheerfully.
I want to describe a moment of insight, but to get there, I’ll have to take you on a little odyssey with me. The Enchantments are a chain of lakes carved out by glaciers in Washington’s Central Cascades – a series of cirques in pale granite amid jagged peaks so lovely you need a very elusive permit to visit in summer. But this year, with the snow level so low, I decided to seize the chance to see them before permit season began.
I invited along a friend who recently completed the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage, walking 500 miles from St. John, France, to the cathedral of Santiago, Spain – with virtually no money. I chose Kacie not only because she’s sober and a skilled through-hiker, but because her connection to God is knowledge rather than faith. Though she’s Christian and I’m non-religious, our spiritual convictions align perfectly. At 33, she’s an absolutely beautiful soul. Here we are, starting out our trip at Colchuck Lake.
I wanted Kacie with me not just to help me tackle this trail, but because I knew she could help me along a second, inner trek. Maybe I’m trying to tell too much in one post, but for me, this trip was more about healing than hiking. I recently posted about having discovered that for two and a half years my alcoholic boyfriend concealed an ongoing affair with an alcoholic girl half my age – named KC, ironically enough. Though I’m glad to have escaped with my sobriety, there’s much grief to process in losing someone you thought you loved for nine years.
Early on, I asked my Kacie for her take on my “happy” memories from those deceit-filled years with Grayson – our teasing as we played ping-pong, comparing cloud pictures as we lay in the sunlit grass, decorating our tiny Christmas tree. She answered straight up: “You need to let go the lie before you can embrace the truth. That was manipulation, it was false, it was poison – every minute of it.” I knew she was right. Her words solidified the ones hovering in my thoughts for weeks: emotional robbery, abuse, even molestation. Because, yes, to con someone into prolonged intimacy, fully aware the truth would both horrify and repulse them, is that bad.
We hiked on. I’d heard a lot about the dangers of climbing Aasgard Pass, with its 2,000 foot near-vertical gain. We didn’t reach the base of the chute until 4:15. There’s no trail per se; you scramble amid sliding talus and scree; you search above you for cairns – stacks of rock people have left to mark a course – praying nothing falls on you. Chest-high boulders with divot toe-holds demand you heave yourself up them despite the 35 pounds on your back and hundreds of feet below you to fall.
We climbed for an hour. Two hours. The wind picked up, and we began to encounter pockets of ice and snow. There were times I thought I’d lost the way completely, boxed in among boulders, until I’d sight a cairn someplace seemingly impossible to reach. Then I’d pray, find handholds, pretend I wasn’t exhausted, and heft Louisa + pack one more time. Ten minutes later, repeat. Finally, three and a half hours into it, a moment arrived when I rounded a rock face and recognized from the outlines of slabs against the sky that we were nearly there. To Kacie, over the whipping wind and cataract tumbling to our right, I shouted, “We’re almost there! We’re gonna fuckin’ do it!”
That’s when the tears came. Thank you, god. Not just for getting me here, but for showing me I have what it takes to do this. In the past, on all our toughest climbs, Grayson led. But no one led me this time, not even a frickin’ trail: just god and the bright life it kindles in me.
While the sun set amid 20 mph winds and the temps dropped below freezing, Kacie and I made camp at about 7,ooo feet. Kacie was so chilled she began dropping things, getting confused. Our stove wouldn’t light at this altitude and the winds snapped at the tent as we pitched it. But we were never scared – not really. I gave Kacie all my extra clothes and released enough gas from the canister to blow up a small dog before my lighter finally ignited it. Once the water boiled I told Kacie to go eat inside the tent while I made her some hot water bottles and picked up for the night.
Neither of us slept much because the elevation throws you off, but in the morning we encountered this, along with the delicate music of snowmelt everywhere running down to Aasgard Lake:
and lots of these guys:
After breakfast, we packed up and set off again, like this:
We covered about 10 miles that day, talking on and on about god, about how god has built right into us our capacity to see, feel, and appreciate beauty as a spiritual language to connect with Him/it. Here’s are some glimpses of what we saw, did, and loved:
Among the many things Kacie said that struck me deeply was this: “The only thing God asks is that we participate in the relationship. It’s like if I were going on this hike saying, ‘Hmm… Louisa might be with me on this hike. That might be her I see ahead of me, that could be her voice…’ but I ignored you the whole way because I wasn’t sure you were real. I mean, what’s more hurtful than just ignoring someone who loves you?! We do that to God all the time, and yet He just keeps loving us. He keeps saying, I’m here when you’re ready.”
Eventually we began our descent to Snow Lake, where we’d spend our second night. That’s when I felt something welling up in me, stronger with each step I advanced between the huge rock escarpments toward the meandering valley below. Thoughts churned. Why did it still hurt that Grayson had ignored my love? Why was it so hard to love myself ?
Here came the revelation: I understood, as I started bawling silently, that to love god in these mountains was to love god in me as well. So I began saying silently to each beauty, however tiny or vast: “I love you, god. I love you in this flower. I love you in the tops of those trees. I love you in that tremendous and intricate stone wall above me older than I can conceive.” Each time I sent out this energy, whatever came back seemed to redirect my inner periscope just a tiny notch or two – away from Grayson’s insult and toward my own wealth of spirit, away from the story of what happened and toward the openness of whatever might.
I crossed some threshold. I saw my journey was on course, that god had sent me a precious gift through every person I’ve ever loved – including Grayson. In the thousand-plus miles we covered together, he taught me most of the skills that embolden me today, skills that let me dare to venture out and meet my god in the rough and dangerous beauty of the wilderness.
What a gift! Not just for me, but now through me to Kacie. “Churches are like big, fancy worship bathrooms,” says Kacie. “I want to be here. God’s Cathedral is here.”
The next day we were met at the trailhead by kind, sober friends who drove us back to my car. The minute I got home, I showered, threw on a dress and heels, and drove to a downtown restaurant to celebrate another sober friend’s 50th birthday. We sang to him as he blushed. Love – that same echo of god’s goodness – rang in our voices.
“God is such a show-off!” I remember Kacie saying as we hiked. “He is! Because He has infinite beauty to show off! Fucking infinite! He pours it into the mountains, into this stream, into us! He wants it a-l-l to be felt!” We joked about the fears that make us check our inner share of god’s beauty, like a bird halting in mid-song for fear of fucking up. This blog is part of my song. I’ll show off, I’ll sing, I’ll fuck up, and I won’t apologize. Because god put inside me what it wants me to share.
If you happened to see last week’s blog, I was pretty hot under the collar. I have plenty of beliefs about anger, but none of them seem to show up when it’s flaring in my system. “Anger rises up in defense of something sacred,” I’ve been told, which was certainly true in this case – AA is precious to me, and I felt it had been attacked. But that anger’s gone now. Gabrielle Glaser makes some good points. AA is not for everyone. Some heavy drinkers do have a mere “bad habit,” and no clear line distinguishes their condition from the sort of fatal alcoholism that has ravaged so many lives – which I do believe only a spiritual experience can conquer.
In other words, for some, Glaser may be right.
“Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” That question, often voiced in AA and Al-Anon meetings, has always bothered me a bit, because I don’t experience the two as a direct trade: being happy may not come in exchange for releasing my grip on rightness. Today I settle instead for the peace of being uninterested. That’s why I prefer to frame the choice in these terms: “Do you want to be right, or do you want to just be?”
In the heat of anger, my world shrinks down to two dimensions: right and wrong. Only one of us can claim the “right” end of the stick, and the loser is left with the “wrong” end, because they’re… well, a loser. But life is way more complicated than that! If I can keep my mind open, I can drop the stick and say, “I have this perspective, which differs from yours.” That way, I open an avenue to peace. I may argue and stay pissed a while, but either way my goal is to move on, to continue with the business of living my life while you live yours as you see fit.
The largest single organism on earth is currently thought to be a colony of honey mushrooms living in the Blue Mountains of Oregon which occupies an underground area about the size 1,665 football fields. It’s a system of genetically identical cells communicating for a common purpose – i.e. one living thing. Now, if I were to pick a single one of these mushrooms and contemplate it as an individual entity – that would be analogous to assessing the behavior of a person in a particular situation.
Because behavior is only the tip of the shroom colony! Sprouting that person’s choice is the vast underground network of family, culture, and life experience that has cultivated that person’s principles and beliefs, along with the vast simultaneity of feelings and motives churning beneath their surface in the present moment. But I don’t consider all that. I see only something that contradicts my own ideas.
What do I want to do when I feel someone else is wrong? Judge and gossip. But, no, wait! I don’t judge – I morally evaluate. I don’t gossip, I process verbally with people I trust. The temptation, in any case, is to “prove” that my truth beats the hell out of that asshole’s skewed rationalizations. In the process, I can get downright mean. In my Glaser rebuttal, for instance, I resorted to sarcasm: “Gosh, Gabrielle, that’s right! …Oh, I see!” I could have made the same points without mockery.
An even crazier response is trying to change the person, also known as “trying to talk some sense into” them by driving home something that will make them see they’re wrong “for their own good.” What I’m trying to do is uproot the entire underground spore system by yanking the “right” way on a single mushroom: it’s just not going to work!
I do wish my boyfriend would give up his traveling job and go to AA. I also wish he’d quit saying “oriental” and badmouthing Obama. Having told him these things, I get to decide if I want to accept him as he is – or leave. In the same vein, I wish my siblings would live by the principles of Al-Anon, practice loving kindness, and respect my sobriety, but I can’t make them do so. What I get to decide is whether I want to hang out with them.
My job is to build my own meaningful life. That’s it. You get to do the same.
In Herman Hesse’s novella, Siddhartha, the young Siddhartha abandons everyone close to him in his search for truth. He leaves his father, the monks who’ve taken him in, his best friend, and even the Buddha himself, eventually landing in a life of material and sexual indulgence that slowly sickens him. A few decades later, after having “awakened” from this stupor, he’s built a new life of spiritual purity assisting a simple river ferryman when his illegitimate son comes to live with him. The son is a major asshole: spirituality’s a bore, dad’s a loser, and he runs away as soon as he’s old enough. But when Siddhartha anguishes that he can’t teach his son how to live, the ferryman sets him straight: “Have you forgotten that instructive story of Siddhartha…? Could his father’s piety, his teacher’s exhortations, his own knowledge, his own seeking, protect him? Do you think, my dear friend, that anybody is spared this path?”
I take two points from this story. The first is that I can’t impress my views on anyone who isn’t open to seeing them. But the second is to live my own life fully, to blunder ahead at times as I blaze my own path of learning – along which, really, there are no mistakes!
There’s nothing wrong with being “wrong” sometimes. Accept difference? Are you kidding? Of course I’ll still get pissed off! Of course I’ll think I’m right and those assholes can stick it where the sun don’t shine! Screwing up is part of being human – part of how we steer the course of who we do and don’t want to be. That’s why Step 10 exists – because the process never ends.
I’m certainly no saint. But loving tolerance remains my North Star, the direction in which I seek to move a little further every day. That’s the point.
Active alcoholics, it seems to me, often crave action, adventure, glamour, and a lot of craziness, usually as ways of getting attention. I know I chased all these things – and loved to mentally flip off anyone who told me to settle down. I see this tendency still in newcomers and chronic relapsers. Hell, yeah, mothahfuckah, I’m a bad ass! I’m wild! Carpe F-in’ Diem is my middle name!
In my addiction memoir, I talk about the god-inspired (and abrupt dog-death inspired) aha moment when I realized the Pied Piper of the ultimate party, a phantom I’d been chasing all my life, was actually a demon who would lead me to my death. Another face of that demon is dissatisfaction. It’s discounting all that you have as not good enough while elevating the lure of something shiny – a party, a romance, a feat, some moment in the spotlight – as the prize that will fulfill you.
I’ve written before about the crisis that washed over me in 2012 with the one-two punch of my siblings venting emailed rage about my memoir (I was a narcissistic, AA-brainwashed liar dishonoring our family) and the news that I had breast cancer, both in the same month. I’ve also written a bit on the way the intensity of that pain/fear acted on me like a forge, recasting me with a changed outlook. Pain, the Big Book tells us, is the touchstone of growth, and all of us have to pass through our own to gain wisdom. But the view from this side is something I can try to describe – something that may be of use.
Back in the day, I was constantly trying to fill the gaping hole in my chest with SOMETHING. Alcohol, drugs, relationships, excitement, drama-analysis, food. I knew my life shouldn’t be what it was. I could read our culture; I could perceive what was rated glamorous or worthy; I understood the goal. Media of all kinds broadcast examples of who and what was interesting and enviable. I internalized all that and judged myself inadequate.
And yet at the same time, I drank to rebel against all that shit. Drinking made whatever the hell was going on now just fine. Sitting home alone or at a dive bar, I was a rugged individual who didn’t give a rat’s ass what anybody thought of me. One of the best magical spells worked by alcohol was its jacking up my ego ipso facto. I didn’t have to do anything but swallow to render my life a poignant drama worthy of attention.
So… I’ll be 20 years sober in two weeks, on the 29th. I’ve walked a long road since those days, calling on god and gradually strengthening that relationship, so that while I used to “check in” with god through prayer, now god and me hang out 24/7 (although I think now more in terms of my guardian angel). In any case, with spirit filling that hole, what life is about becomes a whole lot different.
To love life itself is an active enterprise. Love flows only one way – from your heart outward. But the marvelous thing is that it bounces back as reflection, whether from people, physical things, or even memories. The more you love, the more love fills your life.
At some point, I realized how deeply in love I am with ordinary, boring, day-to-day life. When I take the time to consciously love it, even the most mundane details reflect back their beauty and infinite preciousness. Why infinite? Because life is a chunk of a few decades cast against eternity. Though I believe our spirits live on beyond our bodies, I also think that being in our bodies – spirit made flesh – is an amazing trip, a hybrid 3-D extravaganza of multi-tiered awareness. Consciousness itself is a wild ride.
My cancer was caught early. For a lot of people, like my sister and friends, it wasn’t. I get to be here. What tremendous fun it is to make a pot of tea! Will you look at this cozy I crocheted for the tea pot? It’s yarn of bright colors, blue and yellow, and stained under the spout. A little slice of living; the way things work. The trees out my window are earnestly being trees – those same things we drew as children, the green ball on the brown stick. God, I love them! My rug is worn threadbare from all the life that has tramped through this house – my son and I, friends and sponsees. I have to go to work. I don’t like work. But I love the whole experience – getting to be a person who says, “Shit! I have to go to work now…” A person who drives just like everyone else. Who hopes to be liked and to understand things and yet worries. I buy apples and bring them home. All the tiny chips of this life mosaic grab my attention one by one – but only for this little chunk of years.
I guess words are failing me as I try to describe this shift from taking everything for granted to seeing it, living it, loving it. Mindfulness is the noticing of everything. Gratitude recognizes the good things we have. But to really savor life is to go beyond both: it’s to notice each detail and call it good, delight in the sheer fun of it. It’s to adore the whole kit and kaboodle.
I still like wild fun and adventure. It was an adrenaline rush to zipline through a rainforest canopy on my vacation, to be the first in our group to jump from a 200 foot platform and shoot down the mountainside. I love wilderness hiking, treks that some people would call extreme, either alone or with my boyfriend. (He rode his bicycle alone 1800 miles from the Yukon Territory to his home on an island north of Seattle – that’s a bit much for me.) I love dancing advanced ballet (and well), sweating alongside teens who could be my granddaughters. In all these things, the stream of stimuli comes fast and thick. Sometimes overload still thrills me.
But it’s not what I live for anymore. Today, I live to be alive.