Happy anniversary, my love. This below gift is from Ralph; he went with irreverent. I went with sincere – a tailored waxed canvas coat with brass snaps – and thoughtful: a Botch LP.
Happy anniversary, my love. This below gift is from Ralph; he went with irreverent. I went with sincere – a tailored waxed canvas coat with brass snaps – and thoughtful: a Botch LP.
I bust into the bathroom to pee and then wash my hands. The sink is full of puke. Someone’s not feeling well, I think mildly. And then there’s no toilet paper. I make do with one of those sterile paper seat covers, which will always remind me of a joke Sharpie’d in a stall some time back: “Free Cowboy Hats!”
And BAM it hits me. I feel more at home in the places I go to help drug addicts and alcoholics, than I do almost anywhere else besides my own actual residence. Even in the latter, sometimes I feel oddly disconnected from my domestic exploits, like my life is a series of sensible activities to take care of my body and the bodies of the ones beloved to me (husband, children, dog, cats, gecko even, friends, family…) – even my artistic exploits, as much as I love them, can feel more soothing to mind and body than anything else. But where my heart and soul find resonance, are these places where pain twisted us to shit in a crucible, where we were finally defeated and broke in half and we learned the profound and utterly brilliant experience of complete demoralization. If you haven’t experienced enlightenment through this means, it probably sounds unpleasant. Or maybe bogus. I used to want to explain it over and over because it’s so incredible. But today, I don’t try to convince anyone much. I have a brain disease and not only that, it got bad enough the symptoms made themselves noticeable in a big way and then I had to fight myself out of a pit like nothing I could have conceived and today I’m standing on the edge still grinning down. If you haven’t been there, you don’t get it.
I sit down and the clients walk in, or shuffle in, and I greet them and smile. I couldn’t be more in my element. Except I’m hot from hustling my ass up the hill on my big heavy bike. And instead of the room being the typical preternatural cold (I think to keep people from falling asleep; many are on medications that keep them drowsy) it’s warm and so I’m not cooling off. I fan myself and I say hi. Every week, dozens more. Some people I already know from before, back out, back in. I’m glad to see they’re alive. A pretty young woman says to her friends, “There’s my sponsor!” and comes and sits by me and tells me she’s out Monday. Some look all sleepy and are in full-on naptime a few minutes into me talking. I’m thinking of one woman I saw a few weeks back, she introduced herself by name and said she didn’t know how much time she had sober… She slowly said, “I don’t know how I got here.” Anyway the sleepy ones, I’ll see them again in a few days probably, and they’ll meet me for their first time.
I tell them a little bit about why I’m there and start talking about what I’ve experienced. When I’m talking a lot of people are relating, nodding, or laughing with that kind of relief, I’m not the only one. There’s a few sleeping and there’s probably a few who find me annoying as fuck. One of the ones who is listening, a dark young man across from me, nods in recognition when I talk about being a “high bottom” and what kind of mess that gets you, and then when I talk about how it hurts to watch someone you love still in active practice. Later, reluctantly, he shares – after the group asks him to. He says he spent all this time locked up in a few forms of treatment facilities and immersed himself in Recovery culture and said he walked and talked Recovery and kept a smile on his face, always. And he collected a bit of time that way. But he says he never dealt with the pain, and he relapsed. He doesn’t say this but it seems like he’s dealing with it now. He says slowly, and to no one in particular, looking at the floor and the words are like a birth: “if you’re having fun right now, you probably don’t get it. The fun doesn’t happen until way later.” To me he reads like he’s in deep, profound pain. The truth of his words pulls from my own gut, and I know what he’s talking about. And I think to myself what a blessing, what a manifestation. I recently read in a book: “human consciousness is light perceiving light.”
The joy I experience in this work is deep and unshakeable. And it’s not hyper or even blissful, it’s just joy. It’s impossible to describe and what’s the point? You have to experience it. Get a little and you can start to recognize it in others, and you definitely recognize its absence in others.
An hour and a half later I’m leaving and a big man says to me, “I really respect you for what you’ve shared.” And I’m like, “I respect you – you said you didn’t want to talk then you get started and you’re dropping all this wisdom.” Wisdom is found everywhere in those I work with. It’s actually other places, almost every other place, you find people sleepwalking through life, going through the motions. It’s like this secret no one wants to own up to. Nothing to be ashamed of, we all sleepwalk at some time or another. We can all wake up, but we can all fall back again too.
This work keeps me awake while I’m doing it.
This might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re planning a vacation may I suggest TAKING my kids with you? I am entirely serious. They are simply delightful. Since getting here they’ve been spending all their time swimming (with or without clothes – Nels just came in from the twilight, stark naked and grinning with all his teeth splayed, and announced “I went skinny dipping!”), boating, fishing, and eating. They are even forgetting to snuggle, until very late in the day (sob!). They are 100% agreeable 100% of the time, and say “thank you” for everything – when we help them with a fishhook, when we make them cocoa, when we serve them food, when we hang up a towel to dry. Just “thank you”, thank you thank you.
At dinner tonight we sit around an outdoor fire and Ralph brings plates heaped with food to the kids’ adirondack chairs and Nels crows how he is being treated like royalty (coming out a bit later I hear him courtly-like, addressing his sister as “my princess”). As we dine, both children discuss the food and how wonderful it is. “The grilled pork is hot and also delicious!” Nels beams at his sister. They are so happy and I feel so grateful for their presence.
Only a few years ago I found vacations a bit stressful as it seemed so much work was involved – packing and planning, managing the kids’ safety and their food and their behavior and their clothes. Over time I’ve come to trust the process of kid-growing, and rely less on my own efforts, egoic desires, and manipulation schemes. In time I came to believe a lot of my “management”, specifically with regards to behavior and manners, was likely counterproductive – although in my defense all this effort was entirely well-intentioned and was forged in response to very real cultural and familial pressures. Mostly these days I notice I have a parenting hangover. My state of constant vigilance left me exhausted and oddly less effective than I might have been. Water under the bridge; I know. But I write it here to let you know, if you’re raising young children you can learn from MY mistakes – you don’t have to make your own.
But despite my errors, and Ralph’s as well, the children have grown into amazing human beings. Two people I’d rather spend time with than anyone else. That’s pretty wonderful.
Today’s vacation photographs courtesy of Nels:
My daughter and our kitty:
Phoenix fishes. She’s already put a solid 8 hours in. She is very patient. It would be really cool if someone who knew how to fish, would take her somewhere where you can catch fish.
Hamilton. Very pleased with herself:
And a few pictures from me. First – the laundromat in Shelton today. Is it just me or is that woman only pretending to read a newspaper, for God-knows-why reasons? & yes, Nels is wearing a sailor’s cap.
Paddling in the duck boat, a weird little craft we’ve had around here forever.
Another lovely day.
Today I plunged myself into Sucktown as I had two sewing projects, in a row, go poorly. Actually, kinda, three. A week ago two wee infant dresses I had a vision for ended up not quite working out to my satisfaction. Then the Western-style shirt I finished today gave me fits from start to end. The end result, I admit (pictures tomorrow) is adorable – but my ass is haunted by how difficult the project was. I was even seething with, well not rage, but high-degree irritation at points. And today, Sewing Assery #3? I took a series of shortcuts on some pants for Nels figuring it wouldn’t be a big deal but, you know what, the project really suffered from me doing so. Enough I know, as I sit here, I’m going to totally tear out seams and fix the mess even though damn I so do not want to re-sew on pants.
I’m not sure how many people who read can relate to how much I can struggle when my sewing goes poorly. When it comes to this craft I am used to things going my way, and when they don’t, I have a hard time making a learning experience out of the business. I end up believing I’m wasting my time while I could be benefiting others in some way. It’s a horrid mind-suck. Oddly I am less exacting when it comes to my writing – more likely, in that case, to give my best, whatever I have, and let it lie.
This last week or two I’ve also been struggling with some Old Business that very rarely rears his head any more: the (unrecognized) work of the domestic. Today I got up, fed cats, cleaned the bathroom, washed, dried, and put away clothes, washed and dried dishes, made up home-cookin’ for the family, fed the cats, cleaned up after the cats, sent off emails. I do stuff like this every day. I am really fortunate I have my head and heart in the work and I experience gratification from performing the basics with mindfulness. But sometimes this little doubt creeps in, You Do Shit Work And You Don’t Matter. I remember what it was like to have more status’d work and the praises I used to get. Yeah, it was false pride, and yeah, it was a life built on (my concepts of) other people’s esteem, and I freely admit I like my life a lot better today. It’s just that sly voice and I don’t always have a defense against it. Ugh.e
Writing this out I realize the mind has just found another way to criticize my personhood. I relate this quite hand-in-hand with life as a so-called recovered alcoholic. The self-criticism is a hell of a thing for most people, and I have some familiarity with the various methods people use (not all of them chemical) to drown that narrative out. Today I cope with feelings and with reality without self-medicating through the rituals and chemicals of drug and alcohol use. And the cliche is true, my worse day sober is well and away better than my best day using. Life sober might be painful here and there but the suffering is vastly reduced. Today I have the courage to publicly admit what’s going on (I will note I had this courage, here and there, before sobriety) and today I have a degree of bravery and serenity that I didn’t used to. I am glad to live my life sober even at its hardest, truly glad to live this way, despite occasional difficult circumstances originating from between my ears.
I will add I had a lovely time, before the sewing debacle, with the children. I packed up this morning (oh right, another handful of “chores” I forgot to mention) and we hit the YMCA for swimming this afternoon. Swimming with my kids is really amazing because, of course, it feels good and life without school is like a holiday, always – but also, because their energy and resiliency is just astounding. Even the days I’m not quite right, they seem to be. The children inspire me in a deep and satisfying fashion and it’s funny… I didn’t plan it that way, it just ended up happening. My children and my family life have been the most unexpected twist, and series of adventures, in my whole life. The life I’ve had is not something I thought I’d have in store for me ten years ago, that’s for sure.
In my wildest imaginings I wouldn’t think I’d have it so good. I hope my kids are a legacy for that kind of life, well-lived and worn-in, joyous and free. It really is at least part-accident I’ve done so well by them, or maybe that I didn’t do so well but they thrived anyway, considering what a mess I’ve been here and there.
“May these beings be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and may they look after themselves with ease!”
Have a look at this beautiful motherfucking car. It was last seen being awesome in my huge ass driveway which is where it is right now being awesome as usual.
Today was busy-busy-busy. I had to drive my new (used) car around town and not turn it off for a few errands because A. I had to make sure to get supplies for an event I’d committed to today, see below, and B. my new car was sold to me (deliberately) with a bad battery that had to have been sneakily kept-charged rather than the dealer just buying a new one (oh, expect a scathing online review. Actually, more a matter-of-fact one) and it was so bad I would need a jump at any juncture.
As of today I’d already YouTube’d up how to get to and examine the battery (it’s kept under the backseat! there’s a positive terminal in the engine for jumps though!), something I figured out that my husband hadn’t and the car parts dude hadn’t. The car parts dude (a big strapping fellow) wasn’t going to help me switch the battery out because of that seat thing, and when I told him it was either that or jump me, and by the way the seat was no big deal, two spring-loaded clips, I wasn’t strong enough but my husband had done it the night before – well then the dude jumps up and whips my battery out there and yanks on the seat and helps me switch out. Sudden wellspring of altruism or indomitable male ego? We’ll never know, but I drove off after a nicely-purring startup and a weight off my mind and a fair bit of cash spent. As well today I have jumper cables and the thorough knowledge of how to do jumps, since I had the pleasure of performing several the day before.
The stereo’s anti-theft code didn’t come with the car (and seriously? Retrieving one’s code is a PITA) so Ralph suggested upgraydding the stereo and I said Okay, knowing entirely the expense this might incur. Luck was with me as the shop I chose (the one my dad had frequented) had their little Euro antennae adaptor etc. and we had it all done this afternoon. The fellow who installed the stereo was named Roscoe and I found out he is a champion basil grower – I shit thee not (as in wins Grand Champion etc. at our County Fair). I had been querying him about car stereos and a few other things and sat practically on his lap watching, and he humored this (and the soft brass semi-stripped special-five-sided-hex-key-required bullshittery to remove the factory install), but when I asked him about the basil he brightened right up. We talked for a while and he ended up sending me home with four plants, including a lemon basil and very explicit instructions to get the best out of the plants – and how to start new ones via cutting (his preferred method).
Fucking Hoquiam. It’s just great.
We had a Doll Picnic today at the Gallery as part of our Childhood Perceptions show (this was the abovementioned event I was required to bring food and drink and do some work at), including a professional dollmaker and many readings and a very large dressup game and food and drink – all orchestrated by our show’s co-curator Jeanne.
The event included many of Barb Shillinger’s dolls and her expertise and willingness to talk to children about them.
Phoenix chose an alter-ego for an hour (“Fern”):
… while during cleanup I quite sensibly was waylaid by children wanting to climb in my trunk:
And then there was Robin Moore’s Charles Bukowski hand puppet that I thought was stellar:
I was pulled and pushed all ways today but I got through the day and had some lovely, lovely moments. As you can see.
I can’t quite express how happy I am to no longer be forcibly car-free. It has made life easier. Maybe. I prayed a lot while our cars were out – prayed not for a car, but for acceptance, patience, humility. I am in a way more worried now because cars cost money, and we haven’t in the past had money set aside for car bullshittery, so it’s been hard. And perhaps most relevant to this story, everything I’ve done involving cars, I’ve had to learn shit the hard way. Seriously. And I’ve been a slow learner.
But today I can pray in gratitude, and give this new responsibility to God, and enjoy our good fortune.
And on that note:
“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” ~ Charles Bukowski
Today a doctor prescribed me two anti-depressant medications, on low dosages, to begin immediately. I filled the prescriptions (well, the Lexapro was provided as a gratis stack of samples, but – anyway) and I plan to give it a go. The physician had initially described another medication by way of referencing the television ad associated with it and, when I didn’t recognize the ad, describing it in detail – to his own highly-evident amusement. P.S. my husband calls this particular physician “the Pill Catapult”, because he’s happy to prescribe drugs, and really that is what many doctors mostly do, and I knew that going in.
This is only my second (formal and legal) pharmaceutical venture into managing anxiety, depression, and onset insomnia (these days I’m concerned more regarding the former than the latter two). About a year and a half ago I briefly tried Ambien as a sleep aid (suck-tastic side effects, so I stopped). And of course, in the last year I’ve been busy messing about with lots of other avenues: the allergy elimination food plan, alcohol, pot, a host and I do mean host of supplements, various teas, and a rigorous exercise program (and of course, a combination of several of these). Interestingly, the exercise and the alcohol have been the most effective, although hardly problem-solving and in the case of booze, with self-limiting side effects. As it stands today, besides these new pills and a home-blended tea at night and considerable doses Acceptance and good humor, I am also planning on securing a consultation / session for EMDR as soon as possible. Oh, and a new haircut, when I can find someone I can trust to give me the right hint of faux hawk. (¿ideas, gente locale?)
So, by the way, how Acceptance works for me, I’m keeping wide and calm eyes on the path I’m choosing. I’m okay that maybe I’ll look back and wish I’d tried this sooner, I’m okay that maybe I’ll look back and shudder and say, “mistake”. Today I accept this is temporary – because everything is. Today I also accept the gladness I feel for my friends and family and supporters but also, wonderful and strange, a gladness and a sense of surprise and gentleness with regards to my own self. I keep sitting here trying to type what it’s like but it’s eluding me, for now. Some time soon.
Oh and I want to point out, sitting an hour waiting for my doctor, it was pretty fun to have a phone to fuck with.
After my doctor visit, Phoenix hopped out of the truck and set off to a friends’ for a playdate. I took a slightly diffident Nels to Javier’s International Barber Shop, which ended up being one of those super-fun micro-adventures you wish you could have every day, but they allude us in the pursuit such that we only find them just when it’s right. Javier was a pretty excellent barber – especially in relating to my seven-year old companion – and I saw, for the first time, Nels having fun while getting a haircut. He (Javier) also complimented my Spanish and said I spoke it better than his wife, which gave me a laugh.
Home and Nels joined his sister at their friends’. I got an incredibly rare opportunity to do some cooking by myself, music up loud (Peaches), making cucumber-mint raita and banana pound cake with caramel glaze for tomorrow’s menu, and if I had a slightly less meager (in size) kitchen, well that would have been the only thing to make the whole business better.