"Spirit" embodies the way I feel about the 12-step program of sober living that saved my life. I am part of that group. It stays with me, an even glow from within, when I am not physically with the group sipping a coffee while listening to someone describe his boss's reaction, her feelings about her kids, their very lives. In theory and based on history, none of us should be doing as well as we are. Most of us should be dead or institutionalized. We share the same sense of norms and concerns about surviving this day. That sense is my spirit.
My dad was my idol. He was tall and good looking and a mechanical engineer who worked on saving the environment. But as head of the household, he was a teacher and not a father. We were so divorced from the concept of love and kindness that I didn't know how to be the slightest shard of nice without deep concentration and premeditated thoughts about being "nice". But I was a math savant from age three on. I was convinced that nice meant that I was a phony and for me at that time, it did. Math stood by my side when I entered the center of the fire.
Captivating thirteen year old me at the first invite, "spirit" was describing how I regarded my high school. That sense I had then of "spirit" encompassed the entire school body, the school grounds, the sporting events and the parties. It lent me access to the football team parties, cheer leading tryouts and girls field hockey. It simply meant that I felt like I belonged there despite my insecurities over my classes being different, how I looked, and how much money my family had to spend. I could disregard that day's sense of high-school-girl-without-expensive-clothes kind of awkward. I learned to live with that dichotomy thinking I would someday magically grow out of it and become comfortable in my own skin.
I never completely lost the feeling of unease but it's acceptable to me now. I am used to it's fleeting performance. My sense of belonging has remained and maybe even grown.