I and i

When I first started this month of rehab, I imagined that on March 1st, I would go to the bakery and the liquor store.  At the stroke of noon I would sit down at the table. Holding an entire loaf of Italian bread in my hand, I would tear into it with my teeth like a pirate who just pilfered a village. I would wash it down with huge gulps of Guinness from a giant stein, breathing heavily, wiping my mouth on my sleeve, and possibly even saying arrrrgh a few times.

This image sustained me through weeks 1 and 2.

But I wondered if I would be able to stop once I started.  Would I be thinking about making up for lost time, drinking beer after beer all night? Waking in the morning to eat a croissant, a bagel, and an English muffin?  Would bread become a part of every meal again? Would I go right back to my old ways?  Back to my old self again?

It would be easy to say yes, I will probably go right back to my old habits because that is just the way I am. I am a bread eating beer drinker.  I can blame it on my addictive personality, and laugh it off, saying that’s just me.  That’s just how I am.  But that isn’t me. Not really.  It’s not what I am.  It’s just something I do, because of ideas I have, and judgments I make.

What I am, what I really am, is The Big I.   Nothing needs to be after the phrase I am.  It is a complete sentence.

I am.

That’s it.   I am.  Anything else that tries to attach itself to that sentence is just little i nonsense.  (Bear with me now, grammar-nazi friends, as I use the phrase “i is” repeatedly)

The little i is all of the other things we say we are, things that can change from moment to moment.  We can say I am happy,  I am sad,  I am miserable.  But those are not really things we are.  They are things that we do or feel because of ideas we have, choices and judgments we make.

The little i is all of the roles that we take on.  I am a mom. I am a son. I am a teacher. I am a friend.  Those are not things that we are.  Those are  things we do or feel, because of ideas we have, choices and judgments we make.

The little i is the crap that gets piled on us throughout our life. I am an optimist. I am a smoker.  I am lazy. I am a drinker. I am smart. I am overweight. I am a perfectionist.  I am easily distracted.    Those are not things we are.  Those are things we do or feel because of ideas we have, choices and judgments we make.

The little i is the shit that separates us from one another.  I am a liberal. I am a christian. I am an atheist. I am an American.  Those are not the things that we are. Those are the things we do and feel, because of ideas we have, choices and judgments we make.

Sometimes, maybe most times, it’s hard to see the Big I, the real I beneath all of the other nonsense.  We constantly put other words after the phrase I am, and we start to believe the things we say.

Every time we go through a change in our life, by choice or by force,  we realize the little i stuff doesn’t really matter at all. It can all be stripped away, bit by bit, until nothing is left but I am.

Moving through this month has reinforced that idea for me. I no longer have visions of a table filled with bread and beer, and I am in no big hurry to get to March 1st. I know that I don’t have to go back to those old ways.  I can continue to make changes and let go of things if I just forget all of that little i crap.

I just have to remember to forget the little i crap.  And be the big I.  I can be the big I.

I am.

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