A week ago I began a post to mark the 40 years since Al-Anon saved my life. I wrote about the friend who finally got me to the first meeting and how she, her name was Jean Patterson and she has been gone for most of those 40 years and anonimity would not be an issue, convinced me to leave a poisonous marriage by simply getting in the car and driving away. I deleted the essay, it was just too real.
By beginning that story, I managed to call up all the feelings that nearly defeated me so many years ago; one of the ways my body had been shrieking at me then, which I misunderstood, as did the family doctor who should have known better, was with a chronic and disabling intestinal ailment, now I believe it is called IBS and I have been free of it for almost four decades. As I wrote and relived the details of my escape, my stomach began to hurt and, for a brief time, all the symptoms were back, as though they had never left. Let's call that revelation unnerving. And the lesson I took from it was this: we never know what alien vestige is still feeding off some part of our soul until we drag it all out into the light. While exerting what I believe was its final, punishing attempt, it was forced to let go. In its aftermath, I have felt tired yet peaceful and very much surprised at the ability of our life experiences to retain a great power, for good or ill, regardless of how long and deeply we've worked to exorcise them. We are the amalgam of all our moments.
Which makes me wonder if the most potent (again whether seemingly beneficial or harmful) of these events, when borne over a long period of time, transforms us on a cellular level; I believe so. In a way, we are mutants, life forms which differ from our original states. That in turn makes me consider that mutant is simply one of the names for our individual evolution. Is there, for each of us, a specific destiny, one which can only be reached through what I could call trial by ordeal, the bearing and surviving of the various dark nights that mark human existence? I think that is somewhere close to the truth, or at least what feels like truth to me.
Perhaps my gratitude is owed not only to those who led me away from peril but to the fact that my life has not been, shall we say, smooth and consistently lovely. My mother used to speak of trying times building character and I'd ask myself, under my breath, just how much character could one person need. For today I can accept the blessing of illumination, continue to find willingness to acknowledge that life is just life, be truly relieved for situations in which I no longer have to live and ask for the courage to keep looking back, to be sure no one was left behind.