When my youngest child went to full time school I joined a morning Pilates class. I loved it. It was held in a village hall some twenty minutes drive away and I went with a friend, so we had a chance for a really good catch up in the car, coupled with an hour and a half of concentrating on physical effort. I went to the class for, perhaps, two and a half years. One of my favourite exercises, because I could see how I was progressing, involved standing on one leg, with both arms outstretched, with the other knee drawn up. In order to keep balanced it helped to focus on a point directly in front of you. In my usual place in the class there was a nail in the wall facing me. Once I noticed this and placed myself exactly just so, I could focus on the nail, and really sink down into the position. Eventually I could move my non supporting leg quite freely, without disturbing my strong sense of grounding and balance. Because I was focusing on the nail.
In adult life I have struggled for balance in many things. Relationships, work, food. I thought I had found my nail in booze. I remember clearly first hearing the phrase ‘functioning alcoholic’ and recognising myself almost with pride. Because for me the important word was functioning. For fuck’s sake. I was managing, I was doing this, I was coping with everything life could throw at me because my eye was always on the goal, on the end of the day, on my wine. Until of course the cracks began to appear, because booze will do that to you. Being a poisonous, highly addictive substance and all.
And so then I took booze out of the equation. I gave myself a new focus. The 100 day challenge. I concentrated on that, desperately, not knowing whether it would work for me, not really believing it could, trusting the people ahead of me who told me that it would and it could and that life would be immeasurably, unrecognisably better.
And it did, and it has, and it is indeed all those things.
So where, now? Being sober is still a goal, an objective, a focus. It has to be or the risks of falling flat on my arse again are too great. But there is more to life than staying sober. And, conversely, I have a hunch that the ‘more to’ bits are what will keep me sober after 100 days and 180 days and 365 days and so on until I am a wrinkled husk turning down a glass of sherry in the nursing home.
In looking for a new nail, a new focus, it would be easy to pick on an external, measurable goal. Lose x pounds? No no no no. I am so, so soul tired of ephemeral goals. I need a less specific focus. More of a measuring stick by which I can assess possible actions and judge whether they are right for me.
I think that my new nail is going to be whether I am being true to myself. By which I mean, whether my potential actions are in accordance with what is most important to me. I want to be balanced, truly centred, standing firm at the hub of my own existence.
In her book ‘Gift from the Sea’, Anne Morrow Lindbergh describes this as a woman being ‘as still as the axis of a wheel in the midst of her activities’. This is what I want: to create my own stillness, peace and tranquility amidst the beautiful mess, clash and clamour of everyday life.