As long as I can remember I was told to set a goal and try to achieve it. At times I honestly thought I had no goals. Then when I set goals it felt like all I did was set them and fall short. Now I see that “being done” never fit with my larger world view; don’t get me wrong, it is important to have goals. How else would you finish a job, get into college, and even achieve sobriety? But the issue is not goals as much as the perceptions that goal achievement is the only thing of value. The idea that the goal’s end result is more important than what you learned on the way seems absurd. For example, there has never been a bloom more beautiful than the bud that produced it or the seed that germinated it and, for that matter, the soil that enriched it. Goals have a time limit that the evolution of nature does not necessarily follow.
I feel the same way about Recovery. When I began I had one goal in mind: not drinking. When I achieved that I set another: being restored to sanity. When I finally committed to the goal of “turning my will and my life over,” I started to see that I would never be done. When I read the words “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly” I felt how I too was something growing, something evolving, and might even bloom. And while I have not bloomed every year, I have grown.
You might argue that the bloom is the only goal, but that would mean that the green grass, the early buds on trees, the bulbs breaking ground would have no value without the finished product we call blooms. My daily encounter with nature reminds me how short-sighted it is to live only in the artificial deadlines of my goals. The real key is to live in the presence of my growing no matter where I am in the process – allow myself, if you will, to see the whole forest of trees.
We will never be done. At significant times in my life, like finishing graduate school, the illusion that I had finished caused me great pain and I fell into a long depression. A finished product means you are done, and I was left without purpose. In many ways the ultimate goal is simple: to grow. And if a second goal is needed: to grow despite or because of the obstacles.
Go to any garden or wood. Look for the flowers and trees that were blocked by the sun or in a particular year lacked water. When you do, tell me that they are not the most beautiful and complicated organisms you have ever seen. As Mary Oliver says, “each life as singular as a flower and as rare.”
And of course, the root of our Recovery programs makes is clear – humus or humility is what we must be grounded in to grow. And to grow is to know who you are in the moment, not in the future. To evolve in Sobriety and “practice the principles in all our affairs” we must be firmly planted.
Just for today forget be about being a finished product. Accept the progress you are making and do not get detracted by the bends and burl you encounter on the way.