Before dawn Saturday, a sheet of freezing rain covered our driveway.
I was up early because I’m a notorious non-listener.
It haunts me during the holidays—a real ghost of Christmas present. “Don’t you remember?” and “We talked about this” occur daily. I reel in retreat. “Of course, I remember that the kids on the block are coming over to make ornaments” or “Yes, right. My parents will be in town Sunday.”
With the weekend before Christmas upon us, I thought to get my meeting in at dawn Saturday, before the family wakes up, hoping it would anchor me in the sea of surprise events that wouldn’t have surprised me if I had only listened.
The mid-Atlantic can never make up its mind about winter. Warm coastal winds converge with cold northern fronts for a season of wintry mixes. Freezing, but rarely frozen over, that’s our weather. As a result, we don’t handle snow well, or any winter weather for that matter. Our lack of experience leaves us helpless. Had I not spent four years in New Hampshire, I would not have known how ill-equipped we truly are.
I stood in the driveway, a sheet of ice covered my wife’s car, as thick as a thumbnail.
Enter Mr. Fuck It. Mr. Fuck It is the nemesis to all my progress. Mr. Fuck It saw the ice and said, If your car weren’t in the shop, you could make this meeting. Then he brought to my mind the vision of a fresh coffee pot, the fireplace, and my current book Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout that waited for me back inside. He followed that vision with another thought, By the time you scrape all this ice off, you’ll be late to the meeting anyway.
I stood in the freezing rain, after hearing all that he had to say. I was enticed, no doubt. Mr. Fuck It was once the leading voice at my mind’s negotiating table. He always provided an easier, more comfortable way out of things. So convincing was Mr. Fuck It that I gave him dominion over my action.
“Well, I’ve had one. Fuck it, I’ll have another.”
And then, “Well, Fuck It, what else you got?”
People in recovery have shown me another way. Those clichés like Do the next right thing, and First things first have their seats at my mind’s negotiating table. In fact, I’ve learned that the right thing to do—God’s will for me—is usually as simple as choosing the more difficult or uncomfortable course of action. Sometimes it’s the long way home. Sometimes it’s a short-cut uphill. But I can’t recall ever doing the right thing by taking the easier, softer way.
I have realized that doing the right thing is a muscle, atrophied by years of addiction. I can exercise the right thing, strengthen it into a reflex, and make the muscle stronger than Mr. Fuck It’s feeble, limp temptations.
The wind picked up. I took the scraper out from the trunk and put some muscle to the ice. It took me ten minutes to clear the car. I was five minutes late for the meeting. But, I heard exactly what I needed to hear.
Mr. Fuck It tries to freeze me with indecision, make me second guess the good decisions that should be easy to make. The habit of simple action melts away the freeze, and gets me where I need to go.