Someone I know has been sober for nearly fifteen years. When he realized scotch had become a destination, the reason to get through the day, the carrot on the stick, he found his self-respect and gave it up. He swears that once he hits his eighties, he’ll start to booze again. After all, why would it matter then? That’s what he thinks today, in middle age.
My mother just turned eighty. She admits to being confused by the mandate to live each day of her life as if it were her last. If today were the last, she told me, I would eat a giant piece of chocolate cake. And another. And if I did that every day, I’d blow up like a house. And my last day would be soon! Now why would I want to do that?
I adore buttery baked goods. Muffins, scones or donuts—as long as they are stone ground, made from locally sourced butter churned from home-schooled cows, I consider them fair game for my digestive tract. If you’re anything like me (or like my mother), if your attitude towards yourself (when left unchecked) is strict and critical, this type of inner permissiveness can feel liberating. Not to mention delicious.
Darling, have the croissant, you deserve it.
And yes, I worked hard; I worked out. And so I do.
The fancy pastry melts in my mouth. It offers sweet and sticky love for anywhere between two and six minutes—my short term guaranteed path to immediate emotional nourishment. Furthermore, if I’m aware and focused, I can use this experience to develop a pattern for being kind to myself in other ways.
But here’s the real sticky bit: I’ve learned that the attitude and skill-set needed for muffin-munching is not easily transferable. If it were, voila! I’d offer myself rich dense portions of support, love and encouragement when it comes to developing new ideas, working at the craft of writing, or taking the arduous steps necessary to build a new business. Those pursuits take grit, which positive psychologist Angela Duckworth defines as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.” Possessing grit supports us“to show up again and again and again,” in the face of adversity or in the face of simply not being in the mood.
Over the last twenty-five years, my Processwork practice has taught me that we are all addicted—to the promise of being our most whole, most creative and fulfilled self. The substances and behaviors we engage in compulsively and/ or addictively, bring us into altered states and experiences that we need. And the more we need them, the more we eat or take or do. And the more we eat or take or do, the less fulfilled we ultimately feel—in the deepest sense. Yes, we get that short-term pastry high. That yummy state from chocolate cake or scotch. But we haven’t used the grit it takes to get there on our own. And then we just want more.
My sober friend loves his life, as it is today. Why not be sober at eighty?
Robust and active, my elderly mom leads a writing group. To keep in shape, she walks in water. Why live as if today’s her last, if that would make her hate herself?
I suggest we think of it like this: Consider that today might be your last. Then discern what really makes you high. Get to know the deepest experiences that you yearn for, the destination you wish to reach when you eat, take or do. Now get into it! Live that fully and consciously. And live it up, as if today’s your last!