"We'll hear no more about my compelling crate of forbidden mystery!"
I often think I somehow had more energy when I was drinking. It seemed I could get up in the morning, take quantities of coffee, and put to use intense reserves of power – cleaning, cooking (a great deal of cooking, wonderful dishes), writing, sewing, active parenting, and constantly hatching up those plans and dreams – taking future trips into all the great things I’d do or become.
I haven’t had a drink in almost three years and in that time I’ve stepped on a path of spiritual practice. I’m sober which is a rare way of life, at least in the country I’ve been raised in. For me, it’s a life more vibrant, more unexpected, and altogether more wonderful than I could have dreamed Life to be.
Still – now it seems I get less done, I have less to show for myself, my parenting is no longer “supermom” and is instead much more the role of a mentor, much more about unconditional love and steadfast faith. Admittedly the house is still relatively tidy and the meals are delicious but a great deal of that is courtesy of my partner – who has more strength and joyous energy than any person I know. You ever watch our big dog Hutch running, bounding with his big muscles and exuberant body language? That’s Ralph. He can run and run and run – figuratively, and literally.
I have changed, though. It is said alcohol numbs us somehow. I think that is true, and I’ve spent years now studying, and I try to observe rather than analyze. I see the end results of the drinking lifestyle in those who’ve come to see they have a problem, and want to recover – those like me. I see the desire for “numb” in the social media posts and the casual conversations of those who still drink – they drink to relax, to feel better, to “reward” themselves after a hard day, to believe they are enjoying themselves. I don’t know who’s really enjoying themselves and who has that deep pit of awful in their belly, and a head full of angry scribbles. It’s not my job to know, it’s their job. Here’s what I know: many never figure it out in this lifetime. All I can do is be here for those who want help, and love all people unconditionally. That job keeps me busy enough.
Leaving drinking behind changed my life – second only to having children. I would have told you the quantity and frequency of my alcohol consumption didn’t have a significant effect on me – but I would have been wrong. This is the great mystery of living in denial. We believe we are okay. We believe other people have the problems. We are blind to our own selfishness.
Now that I’m not taking alcohol or mind-altering substances, I sure get to experience more reality! This reality keeps unfolding before me and it’s amazing, exhilarating – and often, exhausting. My feelings are stronger than I knew; my body aches here and there and I seek to “fix” it but my doctor says it’s because I’m getting older. Even my kidney disorder, one I was born with – this mysteriously had a near-complete “remission” from symptoms from about age 17 to age 34 – which corresponds to when I was actively drinking.
This morning I put together a cake for friends; I cuddle my at-home child when he wakes, briefly, from a distressing dream. I’m folding up tattered towels and washing dishes in soapy hot water. I am writing emails to a few dear friends who are struggling. In a few moments we are going for a swim, and then taking lunch. I am traveling out to Wishkah to cook alphabet soup with a classroom of sixth grade children. I’m letting my dog in the car although my daughter groans and rolls her eyes when she has to share a seat with him. I am meeting up with a friend in the evening; I am holding space for her. Tonight I hope to put my arms around my husband, and pet the cat who jumps on my lap the moment I sit down.
My life changed because over time I began to Want What I Have. Even now my feelings and my aches and pains, I get a little friendlier every day, a little more peace, a little more clarity.
It took a long time getting here and I hope I can stay here a bit longer.Read More
The man swimming in the lane adjacent to mine has beautiful thighs. They are a comfort as they flash in strobe against his small dark Speedo suit. He and I keep the same clip for a few laps. I don’t know about him, but I’m not trying to go faster or go slower; I definitely have too far to swim to mess about. “You do you and I’ll do me,” as the adage says.
That said, it’s hard not to speed up or slow down when someone adjacent makes pace.
Outside it’s balmy and warm. Spring it starting to flicker at the edges. The blossoms are out and the pavement smarts from the sun’s sincere warmth.
Winter habits are hard to break. Last night, on the agenda: Ralph and I watched Shark Attack III: Megalodon. Yeah that’s right, I watch terrible movies, on purpose, and I can’t seem to stop. SEND HELP because two weeks ago I cockily made a bet Ralph couldn’t stay up to watch all of Snowbeast (2011) with me. I was begging for death by the end. As for Megalodon - and unlike Snowbeast – the film is definitely in the, “so bad it’s good” category; the poor dubbing in particular makes it a surreal, cheese-tastic experience all the way through. The film weasels around for a full hour by trying to sell a regular-style shark before it finally heaves a big sigh and pulls some crumpled-up special effects from a dirty trouser pocket: the so-called “megalodon” – which is kind of like, the icing on the ass-cake.
Watching the film Ralph is like: “What’s with that guy? Is he drunk?” Me: “I don’t think the character is drunk if that’s what you’re asking.”Read More
A few months ago Ralph emulated this really terrible voice, saying really awful things, by way of demonstrating our rabbit’s internal monologue. What Ralph said – in an awful, high-pitched scream-voice – was so foul that I will not write it here.
And of course, the children heard. And of course, one of the children, I’m not saying who, let’s just say this child’s name is “Nels H.”… no wait, that’s too obvious – “N. Hogaboom” – anyway, ONE of these children delights in how incredibly naughty Ralph was with his Bun-Bun impression so this child has been parroting this shrill, mean voice and repeating this really rude thing. And – well, I mean, I try not to laugh. Because when you look at our rabbit – who helped me knock out a mango and a blaxploitation reboot yesterday evening – and how he hunches down with this serene but hostile expression like he might straight up CUT you, then we’re like, Yeah, that’s what he sounds like alright.
The Hoga-critters are settling down a little bit now that foster-kitty Peppy has gone off to be spayed and returned to her mama. I’m kicking at the grass a little, because “losing” a foster placement is weirdly tough. You wouldn’t think so, and yet – there it is. It’s like I keep thinking how I’ll never see the wee girl again. But the whole point of helping I guess, is to help, and then let people (and animals) off on their way, wherever they need to go. There’s no real payoff, anyway, or at least not in this lifetime. It’s just a practice, like everything we do, whether we think of it as practice or not.
This week sort of gradually slid into the toilet. I tried to avert this a time or two but finally, I just kind of let it happen. Yesterday I was obliged to cancel my afternoon cooking session with Phee’s class; I ran out of gas (or more specifically, gas money), and I was ill-prepared to buy food for the session. A sunny day Friday gave way to a fierce, soggy, surly one today. Our venus fly trap caught a moth and it took the insect a full twenty four hours to die a gasping, vampire-death.
Misread cues. Physical pain. Fear. A friend injures himself, goes into hiding. The painful, pinched twinge returns to my right knee – even after all the care and TLC I’ve afforded it. My pajamas are falling into shreds at the heel; my underthings aren’t much better off. The car’s brakes can’t be put off much longer. The pantry is downtrodden and uninspiring.
Still, there are bright spots. I find a recipe for a Victoria Sandwich, and buy butter with small change; the confectionary is put together, it rests overnight, and is devoured with delight by the family. My mother buys Nels lunch a few times, which keeps him in happy spirits and hearty nosh. On one such outing I tell my mother a story and I laugh so hard tears stream down my face; she is confused, but after a bit she begins to laugh as well.
In bed, and Ralph turns aside to set his alarm. I take this cue to silently and fiercely tickle-attack our son, who has snuggled between us. Nels ripples out in laughter – his particular musical, effervescent laughter – and he tries to yell for his father. Ralph turns around – slowly (he already knows what I’m about), and as he turns I pull away from our son and I affect an innocent air. “Dad! Dad! She attacked me!” Nels is twisting, rolling about, grasping at me with fists, giggling helplessly. “What?” Ralph asks. “What are you talking about?” Nels is delighted and exasperated. He loves games like these.
We continue in similar fashion, a few more rounds of stealth-tickling (by me) while Ralph finds a pretense to look away. Eventually, things wind down. I’m tired from wrestling my son – who grows stronger and stronger each day. I roll back to my side of the bed to journal; Ralph returns to his work online.
It is silent a beat, then Nels says, “Dad. Dad. Turn around again.”Read More
It’s cold, grey, and rainy outside. Nels and I sit in the still-warm car with the engine off; waiting for the arrival of my daughter’s school bus.
My son climbs over and lays across my lap. He has just told a sly joke, re-shared a funny moment of a film we watched the night before. He loves making me laugh almost more than he loves anything. I kiss the top of his head; I smell his hair. We have a new shampoo for him: sugared violets. The sweet grittiness mixed with with the smell and warmth of my son, is incredible. I hold him for a while but I know he’ll move any moment. I hold him because for a brief bit I can feel wonderful, amazing.
I’m a bit down, this afternoon. It seems I have been surrounded lately by the plights of children being raised, and schooled, according to the Poisonous Pedagogy – a worldview so rooted in at least Western society that, until I began to awaken to it, I didn’t believe it was very real, very much alive! Today I was exposed to several examples, several reminders – the specifics are not something I’m interested in recording, just now and in this space – and I am a bit discouraged. It is incredible how quickly I start to feel isolated in my desire to provide something better for my children, for the world’s children, for all who suffer, and for my grand- and great-grandchildren and so on.
When it comes to my children, and the world’s children, I teeter out of emotional balance often; it is easy for me to be overwhelmed at how much we’re failing at our responsibilities. I can feel sick when I think how much our children depend on us; and how vulnerable they really are. I can feel so angry when I see an adult promoting and then defending manipulative, or even cruel, methodologies of child stewardship.
It is easy for me to get out of emotional balance, indeed.
Today, I am committing to addressing my imbalance. I am committing to re-subscribing to a journal that I find edifying (and, probably, I will resume my career writing for it, if they’ll have me). I am committing to taking more care in the consumption of communities, individuals, and conversations purporting strategies I don’t want to enact, and ideologies I don’t promote. I am committing to deepening my practice of humility, and to enjoying my own family (“minding my business”). I’ve worked hard to do right by my family – my own little spiritual community – and the fruits are self-evident.
I am re-committing to Buddhist parenting; I am so glad it is there for me to take refuge in.
I am aware that over the years I have helped many parents to find their authentic self; to turn away from violence, cynicism, cold-heartedness, and callousness. If you’re one of those adults and you are reading here, know that I’m doing the best I can to practice the self-care I need, so I can keep up the general effort.
And thank you, as always, for your support.Read More
Today my oldest child turned twelve. She and I took a wonderful morning swim together; then Ralph and I treated her and a few of her close friends to a turn at the rollerskating rink. We brought the kiddos home for gift-opening followed by one of her favorite dinners – spaghetti and meatballs with green beans and homemade garlic bread. Ralph made up a delightful cake. All in all, a day on the quiet.
All in all, a good day.
But – I’ve felt this odd sense of sadness as well.
A decade ago my first counselor predicted I’d go back through my own childhood, as I watched my daughter grow. This was true as she reached age two (which was an important age for me); and while I watched this unfold, I remember thinking it might happen around age thirteen, as well.
I hadn’t thought about that conversation, or that counselor, for several years. But now the day has arrived, and the time has come.
Twelve years old, things were getting rough for me. They didn’t get measurably better for a very long, long time.
My daughter is not me, though. She is herself. I remind myself of this.
Yesterday Phoenix and I joined Ralph and Nels at a local brake shop; we were seeking a quote for his car. The moment, and I mean the moment we arrived at a table to sit, an older, odd-looking fellow came right up to our daughter – RIGHT up to her – and started speaking at her presumptuously. She huffed this angry little huff and turned her back right on him and walked away. It couldn’t have been a more pointed message had she said something aloud. The man kept talking, and raised his voice to get her attention – but she didn’t turn around.
I stood between the man and my girl, my heart. I said aloud, “I guess she doesn’t want to hear what you have to say.”
I could easily see how my daughter had responded; at the same time, I felt stunned. I was surprised at her unfailing intuition. I know I didn’t have it, not at her age, and not for many years. I am still rebuilding it. I’d been trained to listen to any old (or young) creep who wanted to bend my ear, or tell an overlong story, “flirt” or “compliment”, or talk at me in whatever way he pleased. I learned this not at my father’s knee (he wasn’t such a boor – thank God); but I’d learned it from other elders. And as the fellow finally stopped talking and drifted away again, I had an odd feeling of disconnect observing my daughter’s instincts.
A little while later, she and I leave the shop. As we step into my car I ask her: “You didn’t do anything wrong – but I’m wondering, why did you walk away from that man when he began talking to you?”
“I have a right to when I feel uneasy,” she replies simply.
I put the car in gear and blink back tears. She is her preternatural calm, as usual. She is that fierce ice storm. She is that loving girl who slides her left hand into mine, and finds the New Wave pop tune she loves on my iPod. She says, “I want to sleep with you tonight.”
My wish for her isn’t just that she is loved, and cared for, and fed, and kept safe – but that she is kept safe where it matters most; in her own heart. When it comes down to it, she will be the one keeping herself, she will be the one caring for herself. I will be gone some day but maybe I live on in her breast.
She is growing herself up, and everything is as it should be.Read More
My wee daughter turns twelve tomorrow.
We made up a wishlist today, for her friends spread out near & far who might want to send her something.
She is a wonderful, generous young woman.Read More
Every pay cycle I purchase flowers, for my shrine, from a local florist. I can only set aside a small amount, but as time passed the parcels quickly bloomed into larger, and lusher, arrangements. The experience has become a spiritual lesson, for me. Because: spirituality doesn’t make sense. It isn’t logical. I “can’t” afford flowers and the florist surely “can’t” afford frothing arrangements worth at least twice what I pay.
And yet. Week in, week out. A subtle, fluid heartbeat in my life, no matter the season.
I know the man involved in the ongoing police standoff, here, in South Aberdeen. As “police”/military presence continues to escalate, and as mounting pressure is put on this man – who just lost a loved one before the incident – I experience fear for his life.
About a year ago he and I spent a few months volunteering assistance in recovery meetings, at the Treatment Center. We went on at least one roadtrip to Seattle in this capacity; I remember that day we saw a double rainbow, and that he helped out tremendously when my car ran out of gas on the drive back. He was particularly close with another friend of mine – they became fast friends in the first months of her sobriety. My heart is with her today, too.
Last night in the first few hours of the standoff, I mentioned it to Ralph. He remembered ___ and said, “I was impressed by his intelligence”. As more and more guns and uniforms and heavy artillery surround his house, I feel less and less certain he will be allowed to live.
And if he lives, what then? Surely he will be locked up. If he lives, will I be able to see him, I wonder? If he lives, is there any way he can return to his community? If he lives, who will be helping him grieve his loved one – and heal from this scary experience?
The day before yesterday we took in the refugee kitty Peppy – one of the residents displaced from Emerson Manor. I knew the kitty’s owner also – again, from my volunteer work in the community. But when we picked up her kitty, I don’t think she recognized me. Many of the residents in the Manor, all low income, live with mental, physical, and emotional disabilities. Peppy’s owner was near beside herself at having to be separated from her feline companion. The rescue liaison, my friend Deb, told her I knew what I was doing. That felt a good to hear.
The wee kitty Peppy is on day two of hiding out. She’s under the bed while my son has a lie-in. Hutch sleeps only a few feet over; he is a perfect foster-brother dog as he is so wonderful and gentle and loving. Peppy’s care isn’t like that of No-No’s; Peppy is old enough to be quite frightened, and she isn’t feeling that up to cuddling. Yet.
So family life is busy, as per usual. My car is still locked up in a shop and I fear the repair cost, which I will be hearing within the hour.
It’s funny how people say nothing happens in small town life.
No. You just don’t know how to see.Read More