From Living Brave. . Finishing Strong
Margot, 54 and in the 3rd quarter of life, answers the question:
Who Have You Become and What Continues to Motivate You?
I have lived two lives, and I don’t mean that in a weird, psychedelic drug-induced way.
The first life was pretty tumultuous. My father was killed in Vietnam when I was two years old. Six years later, my mother—still grieving and feeling ill-equipped to raise two children on her own— joined a psychotherapy cult in New York City. The cult believed parents and children weren’t good for each other and should live separately, so my mother sent my sister and me to boarding schools and summer camps. For the next thirteen years, we rarely saw her. She never explained why she shunned us.
My sister assumed something was wrong with our mother. I assumed something was wrong with me. I went about my life trying to fill a gaping hole in my soul, searching for what was wrong with me so no one would ever reject me again. I stole, cheated, lied and, starting at age twelve, drank and drugged my way out of emotional pain.
I became sober at the age of twenty-two. That’s when my second life began. It has been guided by principles of a twelve-step program that, over the years, has given me structure. It helps me to continuously assess my own character, form and strengthen a connection to a higher power that helps me every day, and change my attitudes and behaviors so I may stay sober and be of service to others. I have to say it takes a lot of practice, but it’s a requirement so I don’t drink or use drugs again.
I’ve also tried to look more outward, so I am not thinking of myself so much as seeking connections with others. I have connected with people by knowing my interests and passions and finding my tribe. They consist of other recovering alcoholics and drug addicts; people who love food and trail running; and fellow admirers of good novels, films, plays, and deep, beautifully constructed stories. Because of this effort to focus on others and not just me, it also includes Vietnamese sons and daughters whose fathers died fighting for the opposite side of the Vietnam War. I grew up thinking Vietnam was the place where my father died, that the Vietnamese were simply the people who killed him. Today, it is a country I long to go back to. I have laughed and cried with the Vietnamese people and have come to love them.
I am now a woman powered by the personal connections I make and receive. I no longer wonder if there is something wrong with me, or brace for rejection. I know my place in the world and why I’m here: to fuel connections between people who also have that gaping hole so, together, we can fill it with understanding and love.