This little phrase is one I have heard a lot in the last few months. Jodi started saying it first and it really was specific to a few developments in our relationship. More recently though it seems to encapsulate so much of the way our lives have unfolded and, for that matter, been voluntarily shaped.
When I think back on how nervous I was on our first date--how I rattled off a list an arm's length long of all the reasons she probably wouldn't want to go out with me; how I fumbled at the restaurant's entranceway not knowing where to sit or whether or not it was table service, almost having a precious little fit when it took forever for a waitress to come over and take our order, only to find out we were expected to order at the register. When I think of these things and the first few months of getting to know each other and then look at where we are now--able to say almost anything to each other; laughing over our previous romantic blunders and could-have-been's; knowing how much cream and sugar is the right amount in each other's coffee; and never for a second feeling that the word "love" is too strong--when I think of things like this I often muse to myself ... "My how far we've come."
It's been two years since I had my last drink. Actually, it's been two years and five days. December 27th was when it all went down. It went down and then it stopped and my life changed forever. And I began the process of learning how to love my life without secretly coveting death.
Two years ago, on a snowy January day, I began to write the journal that you are reading now. It was an incredibly different existence for me then. I remember my strained relationship with my aunt and how tense things had become. I had so much history of failed attempts at getting sober. I couldn't comprehend at the time that to make things better meant to take action, and not just to proclaim abstinence. I thought that just not doing was enough.
Thank goodness she stuck with me and stood by me. I used to wonder if she could ever get so upset at my constant failures that she'd just give up, throw her hands in the air and say "Oh well, I guess he's never going to do it." In fact, in all the madness I used to hope that someday she would just leave me the hell alone, and then I could finally do what I liked and just drift off. And all I can say to that is that it's a god damn good thing that I got my shit together and made it stick because within nine months and a week she would be gone from my waking life. I could never have known that at the time. But I was smart enough to understand that I was losing my grip and I had no real choice but the one I made.
I had plenty of help along this path, but it was a fortunate thing that I at least knew what lay ahead if I were to do it properly. I knew the unfortunate reality that abstinence was truly an ambiguous process. There was no finish line. There was no end. There would be no party to signify that I had successfully completed a life without drugs or alcohol.
That was not an announcement that I would ever hear.
But for a guy who lived life checking his watch every night before the liquor stores closed, planning, plotting, borrowing, and pleading (with the store owner) for a favor on occasion, living a life of alcohol abstinence seemed as far fetched as falling in love.
And now I am in the middle of both of those developments in my life ... and I can't see how I lived it any other way.
My, how far we've come.
It seems to me that every year just before New Year's Day, for as long as I can recall, I've heard people around me proclaiming "Good riddance to _____. You were a crappy year and I'm glad you're over with. Bring on _____." And for the last five of them I have had to agree.
But not this year.
In fact, I was sad to see it go.
This year I tightened my grip on my direction in life without drugs or alcohol.
This year I settled into my new home. I decorated it in such a way that pays homage to where I came from, and indicates firmly the direction I'm heading towards--a clean, modern, sensible, handmade world with fixtures focusing on attention to detail, walls and ceilings painted with colors chosen for their effect, and furniture that lets me think like I do on my feet, while resting the rest of me closer to the ground.
This year I made strides in handling the ownership of my mom and aunt's house--not an easy feat by a long shot. Both of them were organized, intelligent people. But the belongings of three generations of Johnson's are all under my guardianship, and the dwelling that they are housed in is all mine and I have to make sure it stays safe from two hours away.
This year my relationship with my friends hit new strides.
I watched as some formed musical groups expanding their imagination and developing solid skills on the instruments that make them happy.
I watched as others embarked on the process of starting a family--some by adding children, others just by adding each other.
And that brings me back, once again, to Jodi.
This year I found my true love. I found a woman who can be with me but not be above me. I found someone who can know I'm smiling just by the way I put my arm around her. I found someone who, when she leaves the room, takes a little piece of me with her. And I found someone who knows me so well that she can find me even when I'm a little lost, and let me know that she's right there ... that she came back for me ... and that she's returned the little piece that was missing.
It's been a good year.
By the rules of the planets we have to abide by the calendar.
It makes sense to have an order.
It makes sense to have a process.
It makes things work.
It lets us collaborate.
It helps life go on.
And in time if the problems get solved and the anger turns to understanding ... if the anxiety fosters preparedness and the unbelievable becomes something we couldn't picture living without ...
That's when we can look at each other and say with a heavy sigh,
"My, how far we've come."
Happy New Year and thanks, as always, for reading,