The Face of Sanity

When we last met, my sponsor asked me to consider the following question:  what does sanity look like?  I have–no kidding–been pondering this for nine days.  Well, no, that’s not quite accurate, as I have (clearly, since I am just now sitting down to write this) engaged in as much time NOT thinking about it as I have mulling the question over.

What does sanity look like?

My initial, off-the-cuff response was something rather profound, along the lines of “how the fuck would I know?  I’ve never been sane.”  I’m fairly sure I kept that specific phrasing to myself and stuttered out some facsimile thereof (likely without liberal application of my favorite expletive). Truth be told, knowing me and my dear-god-please-let-me-please-this-person habits, my actual response was likely fairly insipid.  I’m almost positive I responded without making eye contact with her–staring at either my tea or the counter.

Which is how I got the question for homework, as she very kindly said that I should probably reflect on the question over the course of continuing Step 1 and wading into Step 2 (have I mentioned that I let her set the pace?  Yeah.  SLOW.  We’re at day 103 today.  Slow is, I grant, probably for the best in the long run, given that my own habits of mind haven’t been exactly…successful).  So, I’ve been equal parts toying with, deeply pondering, meditating on, and blithely ignoring the question for the last 9 days.

What does sanity look like?

I carved out a few examples of what it isn’t, but that is not what she asked, and I suspect with good reason.  It goes without saying that I know what insanity looks like: I’m an alcoholic; insanity is my default setting.  And, let me tell you, I can engage in some seriously insane thinking [grateful to be somewhat more aware of it–and able to redirect it (er, sometimes)–these days].  So, I set those aside.  I picked up the 12 & 12, the Big Book, my Zen & recovery books, and my handy notebook & pen.* I read, reflected, looked at examples of people I perceive to be sane and tried to craft a description of the perfect** sane person.

Which was not, let us agree, the task either.

And then it dawned on me–nay–whacked me across the back of the head, Sledgehammer-style (cue Peter Gabriel).  The answer–at least my answer–is the one I’ve been circling the whole time and not stating:  I don’t know.  I don’t know what sanity looks like, nor what it feels like.  Moreover, it doesn’t matter if I can’t describe it.  Perhaps it is enough to believe sanity exists–even believe I can achieve variation on the theme.   I’d liken the struggles I am clearly having with “restore us to sanity” to the ones many folks have with the other half of Step 2–the Higher Power.  So, it isn’t all that surprising to me that my conclusion is similar: I’m willing to believe that I may come to know sanity through this program.

After all, it’s the only chance I have.


*Old school technology rocks.

**Default setting B: perfectionist.  Corollary:  when perfection cannot be achieved, fuck it all and run away.

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2 responses to “The Face of Sanity

  1. You could always go the Scalia route: You’ll know it when you see it.

    Personally, I think everyone is just a little insane; as it should be – and the ratio of insane:sane varies from person to person (as it does during different times in one’s life). I think it’s just knowing yourself well enough to realize when the scales are tipping too far in one direction. With me, when I find myself going too far in the insane direction, I have to retract myself from the world and regain my bearings – sometimes that takes longer than others. For me, it’s know what parts of me are sane and what aren’t.

    Totally sane is boring and bland and totally insane is, well, not good.

    I hope some of that made sense.

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