What Lies Beneath the Current

Ocean’s Depth

January 25, 2021

Dear Hope Nation,

As is often the case, I’m willing to embrace a metaphor without fully understanding the original image. In rhetoric, metaphors have two parts, the tenor (the subject of the metaphor) and the vehicle (the thing the tenor is compared to). For example, in the sentence:

As a teenager, my face was a bag of melted caramels

“my face” is the tenor and “bag of melted caramels” is the vehicle. In this example, I do understand my face and melted caramels, but that’s often not the case for me.

For example, I know almost nothing about oceanography. I’ve been on the ocean, I’ve been in the ocean, I’ve been across the ocean, I’ve been (insert your favorite preposition here) the ocean, but I don’t really know the ocean or have any scientific understanding of its nature. Still . . . I think of my life as being like the ocean, with lots of swirling and waves and storms on the surface, but a steadiness and continuity underneath.

The raft in the Pacific Ocean faces a lot of change and upheaval. The water six miles below is relatively tranquil. My day-to-day life, like that raft, is tossed about, faces keeling over and is subject to forces outside my control. My deeper life, my spirit, my soul, though, especially in recovery, is much more stable and can absorb whatever is happening on the surface. Today, I’d like to do a deep dive, and look at some of that security underneath.

  1. I am loved and able to love. Just as I don’t expect the people in my life to be perfect, the people who love me don’t expect perfection from me. In fact, they’d likely be freaked out if they saw perfection creeping in.
  2. I don’t need to drink or drug, no matter what’s going on at the surface. Fourteen years ago, I would never have believed this statement would be possible to say with a straight face. If you’re in early recovery, don’t drink or drug and don’t die, and anything is possible.
  3. Feelings aren’t facts. My feelings are like messenger cables coming down from the surface. They’re important and they matter, but they respond to everything I experience. Just because I feel depressed does not mean I am alone, unloved and doomed. It just means I am feeling depressed.
  4. I have much to offer the world, and the world has even more to offer me. My natural bent is toward solipsism, the notion that anything outside of my mind is unprovable. When Descartes said cogito ergo sum, he didn’t necessarily mean for us to retreat from exterior experience. “I think, therefore I am,” doesn’t rule out the validity of other thinking beings. My thoughts and deeds matter, and so do yours.
  5. I am going to be okay. Anxiety has never really been a problem for me. I don’t say that to brag—one might as well brag about liking the taste of cilantro—but I don’t experience unease or worry about imminent events. I have traveled with depression as a surface storm all my life, a feeling of worthlessness and shame, but deep down, I know I am going to be okay, no matter how it sometimes feels.

I hope you feel these same things. Really I do. If you don’t, please reach out and talk, either to someone at Hope or to anyone who can help you find a place of stability instead of fragility, warmth instead of heat or bitter cold, calm instead of turbulence. Life can be comfortable, and you can live at peace in your own skin. To review what we learned about rhetoric and metaphors,

Life (tenor) can be a home rather than a boarding house (vehicle)

And that should be your birthright.

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith

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