My son goes on a Kairos Retreat with his school later this month. It is a spiritual retreat, and the kids receive letters from people that most influenced them. This is a secret, and the kids are not supposed to know about it, so I’ve been secretly contacting people in his life that I think have most influenced him, cared for him, and have shown him love and have been asking them to write him a letter.
One such person was a teacher my son had in elementary school. This woman got it. She not only took care of her students’ education, but she looked out for them emotionally as well. She had a bunch of 5th graders meditating on a daily basis! And my son loved her and she loved him. So I asked her to write him a letter for him to read at the retreat.
I met her for lunch on Friday to pick up the sealed letter. I felt like one of her students, just loving to be around her vibrancy, warmth. We hugged, and when she hugs you she does it deeply, and she has this earthy, pungent delightful smell. I’ve always remembered that smell, and it is so her that it is something you will never forget.
Usually when we’ve seen each other over the years it is at a school fundraiser, function, or with a group of people. This time it was just the two of us, and we talked and talked and talked. She’s a great storyteller, and she told me stories of the kids in her classroom, how my son and his buddies always stayed in her room and had lunch with her. She always let them, and she said that’s when she learned about who they really were. They opened up, and talked about things that sat at the top of their hearts and it would teach her how to help them, understand them, and to protect them.
We ended up moving the conversation to adult things. She led the ebb and flow, and I followed around, wanting to absorb all these moments with this woman. She told me about her life, about how her husband was an alcoholic and they suffered in the early years because of it. She told me he gave up drinking while her kids were still young, and how she fought so hard for him to do so so the cycle would be ended. She told me stories about how one of her sons, despite having this amazing woman as a mother and a father that gave up alcohol for their family, still fell victim to prescription drugs and became an addict. God took this family in his hands though, and through 4 months in inpatient rehab he was able to get the help he needed, and was able to put together a lovely life in time.
I was quiet, and just took it all in. It’s amazing what we can learn from other people. All these years, in my mind, I never would have thought this woman had so many problems. I saw her as this free spirit, with a perfect marriage, who loved her adult sons and has always shown so much pride in them. When I would meet with her, or other teachers at the school, I would feel like a wounded dirty bird. That although I was dressed nice, smiling, and saying all the right things there was a deep hurt behind my smiling eyes. I used to wonder if people could see it, because I could. There are many pictures of me that if I look close enough I can see a sadness that is buried deep inside me. As I left that lunch feeling warm and grateful for spending such a lovely hour with this woman I began wondering if she shared with me her stories that were not made up of fairy tales of a perfect life because she knew all along that there was something not quite right with me, that there was a hurt, and in her wisdom by sharing she was giving me a gift.
To be honest with everyone I have not been completely alcohol free lately. I am slipping here and there, and it has given my husband relief, but it is making me feel terrible about myself. I feel in limbo, trying to decide how I can do all of this because I really don’t want to cut out my dear dear friends that make me feel loved and a part of a life we have created. We have a wedding next Sunday that is over 3 hours away so I have volunteered to be the designated driver for everyone because we will all have to drive home that night so we can go to work on Monday, so I am shielded from that event. But I can’t shield myself forever, and I know I need to get back in a better frame of mind. I don’t want to just sit around thinking about not drinking, and I’ve received many sage words of wisdom from you women, letting me know this will get better. That it becomes a new normal, that I won’t be consumed with these thoughts. I love knowing that, and I’m probably foolishly trying to speed it up just by shear willpower. But I think I have learned that shear willpower cannot last forever. So I’m going to go back to basics today. I’m going to take it one day at a time, and I will not drink today. I am going to going to go to work as I finish out this last week at my old job. I’m going to take the time to go to the gym on my lunch hour, and I’m going to yoga after work. And I’m going to be grateful for a new day.