At a meeting a few months ago I took a black poker chip meant to symbolize Resentment. This thin plastic disc is about 1.5 inches in diameter with furrowed edges that make a zippy noise under my fingernail. It is unremarkable. It tends to sit in my pocket, or on my dresser, a talisman to protect me against my mind’s tendency towards self-pity and blame, the seeds of Resentment. When my hand finds the thing in a pocket I realize what it is by touch, and I scan my day for that negativity, the entitlement, the longing to be left alone. The scan just takes a moment, but it frees me to focus on lovinger things.
My chip continues to do its work. It continues to help me watch out for some classic negative thoughts. However, its use and its meaning seems to have evolved a bit. Maybe I am dealing with the other side of the chip now. I find that there is something comforting in it too. I think about the other people at my meeting who watched me take the thing, who understand how critical the inner work is. I feel like my chip helps me to bring them with me, a cloud of witnesses. I was folding some pants last week and my chip fell out onto the floor and I saw and heard what it was and I said out loud, with more than a little warmth and gratitude, Aww: my Resentment. I can’t imagine that I am really glad to see this frailty, this stumbling block. I think I am glad to remember that I am not alone.
One day, maybe, I will bring my chip back to my meeting and trade it for a hug and a chance to tell a short story about my Resentment, how I am moving beyond my deep eagerness to please people and to preserve the peace, even when things in my relationships are not so terribly peaceable. More likely, though, I will lose my chip. Resentment, and its cousin Anger, will remain with me, signals themselves of something untenable, unjust. My chip may roll away from my possessions and references, but I am left with a new habit of checking in with myself, and listening to my life. Forgetfulness is such a shiny lure. How funny is life that an inert piece of plastic can help Re-store a man, can help me to Re-member, to practice memory and attention! And aren’t all my possessions referential if I take the time to Re-call, to practice memory and attention? The things we have, the things we touch, can link this breath, this moment, with something (or everything!) that has gone before. And maybe all of these things can be part of a deep and joyous (but not painless) Recovery.