I imagine there’s something in all of us that believes that we’re unconventional, that although I may be like others in many ways, there are many ways that I am exactly just like me. Our day to day patterns usually benefit from a radical new approach, and we tend to run up so well, only to get nervous and go back to the same old same old because it’s easier and autopilot-y and known.
As someone who tried for 25 years to quit drinking and then quit via unconventional miracle I am uncomfortably familiar with that way of doing things.
You may not know how I quit drinking, so I’ll tell you. I quit by deciding to never drink again. It happened one desperately hungover noon time on December 7, 2012. I had a vision of my future self and my life shifted permanently. I’ve not really pushed that out into the world because I am fearful of looking foolish or of not being believed. The evidence is here: me. Sober.
It was a radical new approach to getting sober: I decided I quit forever. I wasn’t going to one day at a time, AA, or rehab. I was going to look online and see what I could find. I decided to create my own way of quitting drinking. I found Mrs D and Tired of Thinking About Drinking. Belle and I were pen pals for several months. I invented my own sobriety, not by following known rules or proven methods but by listening to myself. It is working. I see it working for others, which thankfully makes me feel more real in some ways.
Being unconventional takes skill. It takes finesse. There’s a lot of trust involved- trust that what I put out into the world is from a place of interest and curiosity. Believing in myself in ways that seem impossible and so hard- almost like I’m trying to convince myself how to fly. Pretty much exactly like that. Individuality is tough- it’s like going to the grocery store naked. Sometimes you don’t really want everyone to see that, and sometimes other people don’t really want to see that either.
When our ideas are different from the way things have always been or what makes people comfortable we can dismiss ourselves readily. That I think differently from the more vocal people in the world is evident to me: by that I mean to say that if you put me in a group I’ve learned to stay more quiet because I just don’t want to justify myself. Perhaps that’s lazy..perhaps protective, maybe even me being precious about my ideas.
There’s so much humility for me in my work, finally a measure of curiosity that begets more questions and less hiding. Less need for a degree that tells me I am allowed to come up with valid ideas. Not so much absolute thinking, but more learning.
I notice this makes people uncomfortable sometimes, and now I feel up to the challenge of hearing what they have to say, that the discomfort of difference isn’t a blow to my self esteem but a way to build my own interest in humans and how they behave, our patterns, the outdated habits that lend a quality of numbness to our lives. It boils down the bullshit so I am clear about what I’m talking about without it being an unchangeable state of mind.
A radical new approach is dedicated, dignified, and opens things up: that we use our own words, our own thoughts, our own methods of shaping ourselves and our lives. That we aren’t so concerned about avoiding discomfort by carefully choosing our words and actions but that we continue to build trust by allowing care and carelessness. That we learn each other through actual learning and not assumption.