Saturday, September 5, 2009

One Heartbeat at a Time



"Anyone can carry his burden, however heavy, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day," said Robert Louis Stevenson.

When I was younger and more self-indulgent than I am now, I thought difficulties would kill me.

It was mainly grief that I thought was deadly. When my father died, I was 27; I thought: No one will ever love me again the way he loved me. It was true; only one's father loves one like a father does. But it hurt so much, I feared that the feelings would make my heart stop.

So I self-medicated. That's how I thought of it: medicating myself to prevent death. Taking a handful of pills, nursing a bottle of booze--it was all about numbing the sensation of pain.

When someone I was in love with decided we would no longer be lovers, my reaction was a similar panic: I'm going to die of a broken heart. So take a handful of pills and nurse a bottle of booze. I failed to see the irony, that medicating with substances could actually cause sudden death, whereas emotions themselves are not deadly. And sometimes I didn't care if I lived or died, because life felt so hard that any kind of peace was welcomed.

In recovery, I've discovered that the "broken heart" is just a cliche, not a deadly medical situation. Sorrow is simply the natural reaction to loss. It might be overwhelming; it might even be a permanent state, as it is when someone you love dies. But one day at a time, one breath at a time, I can go on and once again find joy in living.

The trick is to not become embittered. I have to look for joy; it doesn't come knocking on my door, asking to be let in. I need to be willing to see with eyes that believe in goodness and mercy. Here is a poem I wrote about having such eyes:

Robins Abroad in a Sad World

A pair of robins
red-breasted and proud
live like lords on my land,
fertile with worms
and a gourmet’s delight
of insects hidden
in a century’s layer of mulch.
I watch them sometimes
when my mind is full
of dire news, fed
by a river of sorrows
unending
except when I watch
the robins strut
and pluck the strands
of their living harp,
masters at the art
of being.


Chris Alba (c) 2009

2 comments:

David said...

Well said and expressed, my dear friend. I look forward to your blog...your heart.

Hope said...

"Sorrow is just a natural reaction to loss."

That's a simple yet powerful sentence. It took a long time for me to be okay with sitting with sorrow instead trying to numb it, or run from it or repress it.

Albert Einstein Quotes