Learning how to salt the Earth
I have a friend who just landed in Paris a couple of days ago, then traveled to the picturesque castle in the south of France where she will spend the next two months vacationing with the family who employ her as their child’s nanny. About a month ago, she vacationed in Jamaica with them, as well. Dude. I’ve always wanted to travel, but the most exotic foreign vacation I’ve had was when I walked across the bridge to have dinner in Piedras Negras, Mexico, about 10 years ago. And she’s getting PAID to do this! The pictures she’s been posting on Facebook look like they’re straight out of the travel brochures entitled “The Most Beautiful Countryside on Earth.”
And I couldn’t be happier for her! Yeah, I’d much rather be spending the summer playing hide-and-seek in a French castle than sitting at my desk or braving the 106 degree Texas heat right now, but I also know where she was just a couple of months ago. Before she got this job, my friend had dealt with a series of jobs working for families who were more inclined to take advantage of her and treat her like a second class citizen. She was frustrated and ready to give up when God blessed her with this amazing family and such enviable opportunities. Today she recognizes this blessing and is full of gratitude. And I share in her gratitude.
Working through the steps has helped me to identify my insecurities and fears which cause me to be jealous of others. Working with others has helped me to overcome my jealousies. Though I hate to admit it because I’m not a big fan of Catholicism, the Catholic church and the ACTS retreats I have been involved with have gone a long way toward giving me an even better understanding of community than AA alone has. By allowing myself to be open-minded to others’ experiences and generously sharing my own story, I have seen how we cease to be individuals, but we carry bits of each other around with us everywhere we go. We become living, breathing salt covenants. There is no jealousy because I am you and you are me.
Okay, so that sounds a little new-age-y and weird, but bear with me. I’ve participated in two actual salt covenant ceremonies in my life and they were each explained differently, but I will share to my best interpretation the basis of the covenant. In Biblical times, people would carry around pouches of salt for food and health purposes. (Historically, salt has an incredible significance. Even the word “salary” is derived from “salt”, but I’m not going to go into all that here.) When two people wanted to make a pact, they would each take a pinch of salt from their pouch and add it to the others’. Just as impossible as it would be to go back into those pouches and separate out the individual grains of salt back to their original owner, neither could the two break their pact.
In the same way is my life no longer my own. The movie Cloud Atlas puts it this way: “My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.” When I look at my recovery, I know that absolutely none of that is my own. On my own, I am an utter mess. However, I have pieced together bits of recovery from the sharings of others to create a program which works for me and has given me a life worth living. I can pinpoint exactly who gave me many of my most profound and important bits of wisdom that guide my life today. In that way, these individuals will live on through me. Likewise have I provided bits of wisdom that are being carried far beyond my own mind and body. Stand Up Guys says it like this: “They say we die twice. Once when the breath leaves our body, and once when the last person we know says our name.” One friend who gave me the gift of my first serious sponsee is today sharing a bit of my salt with the French countryside. This weekend, my blog received its first reader in mainland Asia, which means that just through this medium, my salt has spread to 5 continents. (Seriously South America, what gives?)
So, if I share my experiences, or my salt, with those I interact with, how can I be resentful of them when they carry a bit of me everywhere they go? No, I’m definitely not completely free of resentment and jealousy. I could write whole books of fourth steps over my ex-husband and how he gets to spend more time with my kids than I do. But that is the separation I create between him and myself. We have countless shared experiences. Our children are quite literally the embodiment of our lives combined. As far as salt is concerned; as far as God is concerned; I am he and he is I… even though we are separated, we can never unravel our lives and so to hate him is to hate a part of myself. To be envious of his life is to say that I receive no benefit from it. When I look at us as enemies, I can’t see any benefit to myself. However, when I look at us as a community, I see countless benefits. Any benefit to my children is a benefit to myself, but the fact that my children have a loving, involved father is just the tip of the iceberg that I often don’t want to look at.
Tonight, I will give a birthday chip to a woman who impacted my early sobriety far greater than she will ever know. The chip I will give her is one given to me by someone I’ve never been overly fond of… but I still carried his bit of salt with me and I am honored and blessed to have received, as well as to be able to pass it along to someone else. He reminds me that good can be found in the most unlikely places. While I carried this woman’s salt through recovery these five years, she carried mine through a horrific relapse. By recognizing the me in her, I am able to remain humble. By recognizing the her in me, she knows that she is loved and celebrated today… and welcomed back home.
Today, I am blessed to recognize that we all are the salt of the earth.