“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”
– Stephen R. Covey
A little over a week ago, I went to dinner with an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years. We were never close, in fact, I’m not sure she even remembered meeting me before. She was different than I remember her, too. She was more stripped down. Her face was bare of make-up, her hair was loose and unruly, and her eyes glowed with a genuine eagerness and happiness to see me, so very different than the usual polite reserve almost-strangers usually present to each other. She had been persistent about us getting together because I had done her a small favor and she wanted to thank me. She also wanted to see me again, she insisted. She and I, our significant others, and another couple, carried on through the meal and afterwards as though we were old friends who rarely see each other and didn’t have near enough time to catch up. The wine (Diet Coke for me since I have been observing Dryuary for almost 80 consecutive months), the words, and the laughter flowed freely and loudly. So much so that the other patrons of the restaurant were shooting us dirty looks-don’t you love it when that happens? So much so that her significant other turned to her and urged her to quit laughing so hard, to take it easy, to calm down.
No, he wasn’t chiding her for being loud and embarrassing him as my significant other used to chide me when I was drinking and getting loud. Instead, he was looking out for her. He didn’t want her to harm herself. In blunt terms, he didn’t want her to choke.
See, my friend-yes, I now consider her more than an acquaintance because she showed me life is too short for people to remain acquaintances-has ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Every morning, she wakes up not knowing what simple ability will be taken from her that day, so she’s holding on to everything she can with all she has left. With her ability to walk and talk, to breathe and laugh being stripped away from her second by second, she’s been stripped down to a keen sense of what is important.
A week ago, over a million people in Hawaii believed they had only minutes to live. For 38 minutes, they scrambled for shelter of which there was none. They frantically uttered words into their cell phones they never dreamed they’d be saying that day. They ended their calls way too soon so they could call the next person down the line of importance. One man told of how his two children were on opposite sides of the island and how he was faced with the choice of which child to spend his final moments with since he couldn’t be with both. How do you make that decision? How many precious seconds do you waste trying to decide?
These people, too, were stripped down while faced with the decision of what and who were the most important in their lives. Who did they need to fit into those final moments? I’m sure the task seemed impossible, but, stripped down as they were, I doubt their minds strayed for even a second to the unimportant.
During this month of Dryuary, we, too, have been stripped down. We’ve been forced to put other things back in front of alcohol in the hierarchy of importance. Maybe we’ve been surprised by the realization of how important alcohol has become in our lives. Maybe we found we had put it ahead of some things, or someones, when there should never have even been a contest. Maybe we discovered that alcohol dulled our sense of the important and, stripped down as we’ve been, we can see more clearly now what is important.
Dryuary will be drawing to a close in a matter of days and we will enter into February with a keener sense of how much of a priority we want alcohol to have in our lives. Maybe we should continue to live our lives stripped down As if we knew with certainty that tomorrow when we wake up, something very important to us might be diminished or gone. As if we continually only had the next 38 minutes to decide what is important enough to include in every moment. And, only letting alcohol back in our lives as long as it remains where it belongs, as if it were unimportant to us.
Post Submitted by: Kary May, Author Of:
Neighbor Kary May’s Handbook to Happily Drinking Less, or Not Drinking At All-Quite Happily: With the help of the online recovery community.