Tuesday, February 28, 2012

on becoming a dick

When I was a baby in sobriety, I used to hit a meeting in Pratt, Kansas, before heading to my parents' cabin at 99 Springs. It was a discussion meeting, not my favorite kind, but the droning of my fellow travelers gave me plenty of time to think. And one of the things I pondered at length was the meaning of a sign on the wall. It said "When you're off the beam, you don't know you're off the beam, because you're off the beam."

Although "the beam" is mentioned several times in the body of AA literature, the sign always struck me as ridiculous. In AA clubhouses and meeting rooms across the planet, there are all sorts of signs plastered on the walls. "Think, think, think" is one. "Don't think" is another. (I know, but it makes sense to us.) I've never seen the beam sign anywhere but Pratt.

To me, the on-the-beam, off-the-beam, sounded silly. And the last phrase, almost a taunt, "because you're off the beam." Nah nah nah NAH nah. So there. Like that.

Just this week, though, I have received from the Universe the perfect lesson in being off the beam, and not knowing it, because I'm ... well, off the beam, and so I couldn't know, could I? As a result, I've lapsed into being a dick. An asshole if you prefer. A jerk if you want to keep it clean.

I have been argumentative, calling others out for their condescending tone or words, while condescending myself in presuming I know better than they do. I have been judgmental, quickly pointing out to others their judginess against those I felt sure couldn't defend themselves. Hellooooo condenscension, my ever present friend. Of course, in my view, I have been on the side of angels, but the truth is I've just been an ass, and worse, I have been smug (oh! I hate smugness!), certain that my own beliefs and experiences are superior to those of others because, you know, I'm right.

I am right. As I write that, I'm hearing the echoes of sponsors past, "Would you rather be right? or happy?" I'd like to be both, please. I want it all, the joyous righteousness of being correct, and oodles of happiness to boot. I want it all, always have, forever after, I always will.

But they were right, those men and women who helped me along the way. If right becomes an argument, there's no happiness there. And why have I been so wrought up in being right anyway? Me, who for years made the case that any version of a Power is fine, that a Power is a Power is a Power and it's our personal definition that's the key, the key to freedom and joy and happiness. I have been the greatest booster of find-your-own-way thinking. What's right for you is right, that kind of thing.

Along with my recognition that I'm off the beam, I've figured out the root cause of my recent dickishness. It's perfectly correlated with Mike's good and bad days. It's my form of projection and protection. All of the anxiety I feel about being unable to help / control / make perfect his health, I project out into the world and I pick fights and by God, if I can win there, then I've won and that would ... oh hell, I don't know. In my new on-the-beam-ness, I see the stupidity in the thing, but who ever said the brain will always make sense? It won't, at least not mine. And picking fights with strangers won't make Mike well. Winning won't make him okay. Or me.

And if I keep it up, things will still not be okay some days (and some days, thankfully, they will) and I'll be a dick for real. Because my dickishness right this minute is a temporary state of being. Like all ugly habits, it could become permanent if I feed it and make it grow and allow it to settle in.

Today I choose not to, and I'm grateful to the Universe for this little lesson, and eternally grateful to the people of Pratt, Kansas for that goofy little sign that captured my imagination 28 year ago. Some of us are slower than others and sometimes I learn things again and again and again before I actually learn them. One thing I know for certain is that I don't want to be a dick, whatever happens to Mike. It's not fun and it won't make the sun shine. It's just a distraction from getting back on that beam, and that, my friends, is the place for me.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Universe is a patient teacher.

February 28, 2012 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Diana said...

I have seen that sign once, at a conference in Nevada. It's been years. Thanks for the smile.

February 28, 2012 6:40 PM  
Anonymous News From A Broad said...

I have to confess two things before commenting. Between your recent post on FB, and some of our private conversations, I thought I was about to read a commentary on how the dicks taking away our vagina rights was leading to dick transplants. I was a bit ready, stirred up, and stewing, and ultimately, a bit let down when the opening line wasn't a rant. The Universe does indeed give us exactly what we need. I use to tell the kids I worked with to reach into the corner of their pants pockets. Each time they thought they were about to lose it over anything, especially insults made about their mothers, they could use that little piece of lint stuck in the corner of their pocket like a worry stone. We often forget, only to remember that a little piece of lint can set our balance right. My favorite quote, from one of the greatest fathers I have every known, is "Be Kind - Not Right". I'm shaped very much like you - I want both. When it comes to making a choice between the two, I'm going with kindness. Thanks for being one of my Secret Messages of Love. XXB

February 28, 2012 7:25 PM  
Blogger BigAssBelle said...

I am happy to be a secret message of love. I've found my happy sunBEAM today and it feels just right. Nothing in this post, however, takes away my right to rant about the atrocities committed by the right wingers who hate women. Some things need to be ranted about and that's one. For all else, I'll try to remain calm and non-dickish. It's a happier way to be.

February 28, 2012 7:32 PM  
Blogger LSL said...

SO wonderful to see you here again. And thanks for the much-needed reminder. :)

February 29, 2012 2:23 AM  
Blogger more cowbell said...

Oh girl, I so hear you. It was one reason I had to get the hell out of Seattle. It was sucking the life out of me, and turning me into someone I didn't much like. The last year was the worst, dealing with the decision whether to move, to completely upend my life, dealing with the foreclosure of TOMFH, all the stress ... one of my dear friends in particular paid the price for my spectacular bitchiness as she was roommating with me that year, and I still look back and say, "Gotdamn, but I was a pretty awful bitch," Thank goodness she was able to understand. Like you, I saw it happening. And that's what's important ...to not get sucked into permanent dickdom. Because nobody likes a dick. Well, wait ... oh hell, you know what I mean.

February 29, 2012 9:16 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I get it, and you called it perfectly...not good for our personal lives for sure...I've been so guilty myself lately because I'm not getting everything I was expecting out of retirement!! Just don't give up all of your dickishness and ranting when it warrants it!! LOL!!

February 29, 2012 4:23 PM  
Blogger BigAssBelle said...

LSL, SO nice to see you. And you HAVE been writing! All this time! You, I need to catch up with, vagabond woman. I checked quickly and you've flown off to Hawaii and I am deeply envious. Thanks for dropping in.

Tiff, yes, yes, and YES, I do know what you mean :-) Really, since that house, I've had periodic dickishness, but wow, nothing like the last month or two. Overall, I'm getting better, or so I thought. But maybe I just applied pressure and heat and refined the thing to a point, so I was just a dick, not awash in restlessness and other wretched feelings as I was last summer, early fall. We shall see. I imagine tropical climes will pull all of it out of you permanently. I have the sense that I could be cured instantly by sitting on the front terrace at my real home in Yucatan.

Chris... never stop ranting about the important things, even though it does no good. If not, we'd pop, right? I am so sorry to hear that you're not getting what you want out of retirement ... are YOU writing?

I'm getting the sense that blogging could be fun again. I've missed you all here. Facebook really isn't the same.

February 29, 2012 5:50 PM  
Anonymous YucatanMan said...

Great post. You've said it. Yes, we can all be Dicks, but some people are permanent ones and others just having a bad day.

The permanent ones can get us down, but those having a bad day will get back up to their regular person-ness again and be all the better for it. We have to let out some of the frustrations of life, after all.

Take care!

March 04, 2012 9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love reading your blog

March 05, 2012 9:21 AM  

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