Happy First Birthday
I get to collect my one year chip today, the symbol l that I made a full trip around the sun without one drop of alcohol in my body. Like an ultramarathon, I got to this arbitrary finish line not because I signed up, but because of a hundred thousand steps in the same direction.
Some of them I cruised, some I tripped over, some were in the lonely hours of the morning, some I went the wrong way and had to double back, and so on. I count them all. Like an ultra, I ended up in the same place I started from, but I am different by the end.
Also like a race, today is a highly sought-after victory I've imagined a hundred times. But it's not really real until you hold the buckle. We run these wildly long endurance events to do something hard, and we are awarded with a gaudy prize that, personally, I never (ever) wear. But I love my buckles. Looking at them lights up memories for me: a sideways grin, mountain summits and storms breaking, the swelling feeling of competence. They are the battle spoils.
I've lived long enough to realize that, aside from a few exceptionally lucky encounters or magical people who briefly sparkle in our lives, everything valuable is won with diligence. Slow-ass persistence.
That sums up my year: slow-ass persistence through all of the terrain, all of the relationships and every bit of change.
I write a lot, more than I'll share now. I am all drafts. I have no sermons, no pep talks. Just a quick lesson: the four stages of healing in the human body.
Hemostasis: stop the bleeding.
Inflammatory: destroy the bacteria, remove the debris.
Proliferative: the wound fills, oxygen-rich vessels build beneath the skin, tissues reconnect, the wound margins contract toward the center.
Maturation: new tissue gains strength and flexibility.
My story is stark: a year ago I was brought into a hospital by the Fargo police. My body was bruised and left pink smears on the hospital bed. Worse, I was bleeding out emotionally.
I checked into treatment. The next thirty days I pursued and submitted to thorough internal cleansing. I had to finally do what needed to be done. Once, when I was in high school, I ripped open my knee on frozen gravel. The nurse put a wound irrigation shield around the gash and shot water directly into it to wash the rocks and sand out before she stitched it up. I stared at the wall with buzzing vision and hot cheeks because goddamn that hurt. I left rehab red and raw, divorced, sterilized.
Now I am scabbed over. I proliferate. I reconnect. I read books and essays and clinical studies, I work, I laugh and I cry. I do both of those last two more than I have in a long time. I text my sister just to say hi, not because I'm drunk and lonesome. I read poetry, my most intimate love. I fill journals without filter. Sometimes I don't pick up my phone for hours, for days. I pick up my paintbrush. Holy hell, I sleep. Not to brag, but I can even sleep all the way through the night. I do not fear the calorie. I run less, and that's ok.
I feel shielded while I sort out what things need to grow back and fill in underneath. My wisemind quietly tells me you're not ready yet, just keep doing this. Walk another ten thousand steps and see where you are. Walk tired miles, clumsy ones, turn around when you veer off. Walk hungry. Walk in lockstep. Walk into the dark and keep walking until the sun rises again. Trust.
When this scab becomes itchy and foreign to me, I will scratch it off and maybe it'll bleed a little more, but probably it will reveal a shiny newness. I hope to open more then, when all I have left are the white lines marking where something traumatic once happened.
I think that's a different kind of buckle.
If you desire healing,
let yourself fall ill
let yourself fall ill.