Thursday, October 12, 2006

Regretting the Future

We know about The Promises. We know that the Promises appear after Step Nine in the Big Book and we are told that placement is no accident. You do the work you get the reward. Work the steps, especially those harder ones, and promises do come true.

One of the best promises is:
We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.
Now that really is freedom and I have experienced that promise coming true. But recently I have become aware of a new promise—or a new habit of thinking that needs attention. I am ready to invent this promise for the next layer of recovery:
We shall not regret the future.

Now’s here's how I got there. I’ve been tossing and turning lately about my work. Do I do my art work? Should I put more energy into my business career—also known as my day job? Should I make an effort to network more—oh dreaded term, dreaded concept—deliberately manipulative superficial interactions with others. OK, I guess I gave away my true feelings. Oh well. But when I look at my friends or colleagues who spend more time on career-building activities: networking, Chamber events, board work and purposeful volunteering and I think, maybe I should do that too. But then look at the artists I know who are achieving some success and I see the hours they put into their studios or at their desks or living the life of a starving artist and I think, well maybe if I really threw myself into that part of my work….

Now, it must be said, it is only through sobriety and recovery that we can get to a place where this tortured debate is even possible. I mean when we were drinking we didn’t have jobs or we lost them and the only art work we did was on a cocktail napkin at a bar. This then is another AA paradox: AA gave me hope and allowed me to dream and to imagine and also taught me to work, but in this wanting there is still something unmet, still, well, wanting.

But, that being said, the upside and the downside of long recovery is that I want more of this good life and so I torture myself with “What’s it gonna be?”

The real hell in this is that I am afraid I’ll make the wrong decision. If I give my all to the business work then maybe I’ll have some successes there but will I later really hate that I sold out my artist? On the other hand, if I go the “dedicated to art” route will I hate it that I don’t get accolades in the business community or maybe even look like a bit of a slacker to some?

I call this my Anticipatory Regret Syndrome. I regret the future no matter what it’s going to be.

So there is still more healing needed here. If the promises come true I’ll need healing toward this one I just invented: We shall not regret the future and we won’t torture ourselves with what it might or might not be.

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