Baggage: lost, found and in need of disposal.

18Sep09

lost baggage, copyright ©2009, all rights reserved

Thunderstorms. Canceled flights. Wildly incorrect flight notifications. Lost luggage.

The travel gods were against me last Thursday, as I attempted to fly to Virginia for a reunion and football weekend with my college girlfriends.

It began as I sat on the tarmac for three hours at my home airport, while the pilot waited for clearance to take off for DFW. Communication from the cockpit was scarce, though I did get a continuous stream of flight status texts from American Airlines. They helpfully notified me that my flight from home had already landed at DFW. On time.

In my drinking life, this would have been justification enough to slam a cocktail or two. When it became clear that I was going to miss my connection and needed to reschedule my flights for the next day, that would have earned me another coupla drinks. On Friday, when both my rescheduled flights were delayed and my baggage was nowhere to be located on the eastern seaboard — well, that would have justified my own personal re-enactment of The Lost Weekend.

But as a recovering alcoholic, throughout this minor ordeal I knew there was only so much that was within my control. So I did what I could. I called American to find out my flight rescheduling options. I called my friend P. in Virginia (several times) to warn her my flight had been delayed (several times). I filed a claim with the baggage service, and then…I accepted everything else. There was nothing I could do about the weather, the miscommunication from American or their baggage handlers.

Once I’d finally landed in Virginia, getting to the town that’s home to my alma mater was a relaxed and pleasant journey. As P. and I drove in, I became overwhelmed by its beauty and charm — the neo-classical architecture, the brick buildings and walkways, the lovely green grounds — all framed by scenic, mountainous landscapes.

So many places that held so much history for me. So much beauty. So much opportunity.

Had I squandered it? If not all of it, a good portion of it?

I felt certain that I had. The weight of this regret pressed down upon me throughout the evening, as eight of us reunited over dinner and drinks. I hadn’t seen some of these women for nearly 20 years, and would consider myself close with just two. Only P. knew I was in AA; I felt a bit self-conscious when bottles of wine were ordered and I stuck with my sparkling water.

The AA meeting Saturday morning – a circle of warmth and welcome – was a helpful booster shot. But I just couldn’t rid myself of the regret that nagged at me.

After the meeting, I walked with P. and M., another friend, around the grounds. We visited our respective dorms, passed by the lecture halls and dining rooms, admired the landmark buildings and gathering spots. I saw posters for interesting clubs and volunteer programs and social events. I know these weren’t new to the school; I’m sure there had been plenty of similar offerings for me to experience 25 years ago. But I hadn’t taken advantage of them.

I’d spent too many evenings at parties and bars, too many weekend mornings sleeping off (or drinking away) my hangovers. For four years, feeling insecure and longing to fit in, I’d gone in search of confidence and self-esteem at happy hours and fraternity keg parties. I’d latched onto people and relationships that weren’t particularly healthy, many that were even harmful.

As a high-functioning alcoholic, I still managed to get good grades and graduate from this well-respected school with just a few hiccups. I landed good jobs throughout the years, and I guess you could say I’ve been successful in my career. But could I have done more? Could I have explored more, learned more, contributed more, enjoyed more, helped more?

Perhaps more importantly, could I have done less, too – less harm, less damage?

Did I waste too much being wasted?

The discussion topic at the AA meeting that Saturday was “acceptance.” I had an easy enough time accepting all my travel travails and letting go and moving on. But those deep feelings of regret that my visit stirred up and dragged to the surface — they haunted me throughout the weekend, and upon my return home.

At my home group meeting on Wednesday morning, I shared a bit about my trip, and how I looked forward to hearing the 9th Step Promises read at the end of our meeting, something we do every week. In particular, I look forward to one promise that always jumps out at me:

We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.

I know that I had to experience everything I have experienced to get me to where I am today; I tell this to myself and others constantly. I just haven’t reached that point of acceptance yet. I’m sure the fact that I haven’t completed my 9th Step has a lot to do with it.

I look forward to the day when that particular promise will be fulfilled. It just hasn’t come yet.

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5 Responses to “Baggage: lost, found and in need of disposal.”

  1. Just keep showing up. The Promises do come true. I promise 😉

  2. Oh how I struggled with so many regrets from the past. I was certain that if the promises did come true, that there would never come a time when I wouldn’t regret my past. Someone pointed out to me that even God can’t change the past. For me, the acceptance has come from knowing I can’t change it. I was exactly where God wanted me to be then, and now.

    I hope you finally found your luggage. I’m traveling across country in 2 weeks and I’m hoping this isn’t a message I’ll be needing to remember if all doesn’t go as planned! :o)

  3. 3 Sharon

    Thanks for so candidly sharing your experience of regret…. it is so real and powerful.

    I read somewhere that we do the best we can with what we know at the time…. that resonates for me in my soul. Regret is reliving the past with a twist. It is looking at the past through our current lens of judgment and “shoulds”and not the lens we had at that time. Hindsight will always be 20/20 😉

    For me, when I feel regretful, I journal gratitude about what could have happened that would have been a disaster, but didn’t. I also focus on what I did do right not knowing what I know now…. I cam amaze myself sometimes with how much I did right. College drinking is so socially “normal”… for me, I can’t see how I could have possibly known what I know now without having experienced the spiritual bankruptcy drinking causes.

    I also love… “We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.” Regret seems to me to be a waste… can’t do much about what has happened… the bell has rung… but I can learn from it and do it differently as I move forward, IF I don’t shut the door on the experience, but see what I need to “see” with new eyes 🙂

    Something else, I order cranberry juice with tonic water and a twist of lime. It feels like more than just sparkling water when others are drinking.

    LOVE your blog… thanks for the time you put into it!

  4. 4 Mary W

    For someone in the beginning of sobriety, you did quite weel with the airlines and their faux pauxs! Not regretting the past, nor wishing to shut the door on it is a whole other thing. Which takes many, many 24 hours to master.

    I have found that when I am in a space that bothers me, I need to inventory why. I can’t change my past. God can’t either. What I can do is accept that what happened was the best I knew how to do at the time. And learn and grow from it. What true sobriety, at least for me, is me not doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. I HAVE to change. Which is far harder than anything I have ever done in my life.

    Baggage seems to hang on for dear life even as we grow in sobriety. Kind of the ‘this I will NOT give up’ attitude that keeps us from growing by doing Step 9. Which eventually becomes Step 10 as we grow in the program. We are never going to be perfect. Life happens and we have to act accordingly. When I keep my expectations low and my acceptace high as well as living in the momemt, I seem to do far better than those days when I am straddling yesterday and tomorrow.

  5. 5 kberman

    My sobriety date is 11/24/76 and I have found that for me most of my problems happen when i forget the difference between my ego and my soul. I mean how can I have regrets over my soul? I can’t, so it must be ego. I, too, think that you did amazingly well. You continued to do the next right thing. Really that is all we ever can do. Self forgiveness is the hardest. I have spend years regretting some of my sexual choices but I can’t undo a single one. Life is so full of choices that some of them are bound to be bad. “For we are not perfect.”
    I’ve added you to my blogroll. Please visit me sometime. Love, Kathy kathyberman.com


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