The fall is suddenly upon us, and it is indescribably wonderful. I’ve felt this exact autumn in my bones most of my forty-one years and I could recognize it with only a handful of my senses. I remember the last ninety-plus degree day, just a short few weeks ago, and then suddenly the temperature dropped. It is still warm enough, with rich rains, sometimes violent ones. My husband kept watering our sparse tomato plants right up until last week, although I told him there was not enough summer warmth left to coax the green fruits into ripeness.
My computer – an expensive piece of equipment, and one I rely on utterly – seems to have died. I try a cold boot, I try a PRAM boot. Nothing. My husband comes home in the evening and although the computer is important I have enough discipline not to worry; I set the problem aside. We also have dinner to make, and a kitchen to clean, a garment to finish sewing, a dog to bathe, teenagers to wrangle, and company this evening.
So at 10:30 Ralph tells me after taking a look at the Mac: “I don’t think your computer has a discrete hard drive I can remove.” I ask him, “Can you boot it as a slave?”
“I might be able to do that,” he says; then, “And I am impressed you’d suggest such a smart idea.”
“I tell you, when it comes to computers I’m like my dad. A savvy caveman.” My father was like that. He’d have a problem and he was calm about it. And when I was available to take a look he’d tell me, “I notice it only ___ when this is blinking,” and he’d point to something onscreen and it was always a relevant clue. And he’d nod like, this thing works on moonspells and snakeblood and I don’t quite understand it but I give it some respect.
Today it would have been my father’s 75th birthday. I know we would have done something special for him. I would have made him a cake. He’s been gone ten years. I don’t believe his presence is here. But his presence isn’t entirely missing, either.
I meditated this morning after reading some of the Dhammapada. It calmed me a great deal. Returning to regular meditation is essential; and more importantly, I am ready to recommit. I am ready to be here again, and more often, and calmer while I am.
The 27th is my sobriety date. It doesn’t matter much, I know, but I do reflect on it every month on this date. For one thing, it is still an awkward and clumsy nut-punch that my blogging career changed so quickly. One day I was like, “write the theme tune sing the theme tune”, just living my life and documenting it as much or as little as I felt like it with a lot of detail, being as circumspect as possible regarding the feelings or experiences of others, and believing I did a good job not being an ass online about those I rubbed elbows with. And the next day BAM! I’m involved in work I can’t write about at all really – or I guess I could, but I don’t want to, most especially because it involves other people’s lives (and yes… I did start up a totally anonymous recovery blog, but I’ll never tell you about it!) and people sharing in spaces that are safe spaces. Yikes. It really felt like a muzzle and it came out of nowhere.
So, you’ll hear me say this again: I wouldn’t want to go through my first week sober. I was really scared, confused, foggy and exhausted. Baffling and yet very real, I’d been diagnosed an alcoholic by a kind but direct physician – the first time in my life this label had been applied by anyone but myself – but I didn’t know what, if anything, could be done (deep down I thought: nothing). More humiliating still, I’d never consumed the quantities alcohol that others can and did and do get up to (believe me… I checked into it), nor had troubles with the law, nor done a lot of the things pop culture (and my uh, family) liked to label as Alcoholic. It’s like you could have paraded my accomplishments, my attributes, the wonderful things in my life, and how many people loved me. And I would have heard you and maybe even felt a bit moved, but I was mostly just so profoundly confused. Nothing made sense. I had no compass and no sense of proportion. I was all habit energy. Some good habits, some bad. Kelly was lost to a depression and confusion more painful than she’d experienced. Yeah. I was lost.
I am not confused these days. I am not lost. I am rarely set back, angry, anxious, depressed, or resentful. When any of these feelings surface, today I often can know it, and I can figure out why. Today I have the help I need and I seek it out without hesitation. I have so much help, so much support, and a clearer conscience and vision. My life is very different. I am grateful and when I am not grateful, I am still profoundly okay.
I certainly don’t have to drink any more.
On Monday, I made amends to someone for something I did when I was twenty. That’s fifteen years ago.
This morning I was up and resting with a cup of coffee when the children awoke. Nels proudly skipped into the living room wrapped in a blanket, with his most-recent lost tooth in hand. The children were bright-eyed and happy, fresh haircuts and coming from a clean warm bed. It has always given me tremendous pleasure to care for our children. I have made a lot of errors and missed a lot of opportunities, but on many occasions I’ve also had the gift of perception to make the most of it. Time flies quickly while raising children, but the moments can be reduced with the most stunning clarity when I breathe and experience the moment. I am so grateful for the many wonderful experiences in my life, and for the hard experiences too because pain has been a great motivator. Pain and love, one or the other. I can seek to study the latter first so that the former is not so harsh a tutor when she arrives.
Tonight I had a lovely group meditation. And now I’m typing after dinner guests left, late. Like a little cooking show, I taught them how to make the spaghetti and meatballs (here’s my recipe). The kids trounced around and made all sorts of chatter with our guests. Nels, touchingly, has memorized birthstones and likes to tell people their stone and the stone’s meaning – if they are so inclined to listen. Phoenix brought out her little leopard gecko but held it at a circumspect distance from a guest not too keen on reptiles.
Our home is a peaceful and well-lived in one. I have been working too hard, and I hope to avail myself of some comforts the next few days. I’ll take pictures so you all can get a window view.
Sitting for twenty five minutes entirely still, and entirely silent, it’s not for the faint of heart. I elect for the cushion as I haven’t given the little meditation stools a shot yet and sitting cross-legged just flat-arsed for that long, without moving at all, well it is not for the ill-rehearsed. I have learned to observe the cold in my extremities and the occasional pain of sitting and fall into the trance of observing, of “resting in the breath”. In short, it feels good to meditate.
But what there is to observe, sometimes it’s not all that happy-clam. Tonight as I sit I almost fall asleep. I come to an awareness I am sick, and tired. I’d known I was sick (a sore throat and slight head cold) but hadn’t realized I was tired. That kind of bone-tired, an inexplicable exhaustion. And the longer I sit the more I realize the extreme discomfort I’d been ignoring, pushing my body past. The habit of a lifetime, or at least since pretty early childhood. Anyway I tell a friend later and she asks if I rested after this discovery, and I said Yes in fact, I even cancelled something in the morning so I could sleep as long as I needed.
The children, my children, are incredible. I call Phoenix on my drive home and ask if she’d turn up the heat in my sewing room and she says, “Gladly!” Her vocabulary is exquisite. Both kidlets are growing so tall so quickly that almost every outing, a friend or acquaintance comments on this. Our Halloween was a four-day extravaganza of parties and silly Halloween food and costumes and spooky movies and friends over and one hundred thousand candy wrappers. Yes I have pictures, and yes I will be posting them.
It’s cold, the coldest Halloween I’ve ever experienced. I buy a new hat at the thrift store for $1 but somehow it shrinks, despite being a nonshrinking fabric, so anyway that’s for Phoenix I suppose (as if my kids need more hats!). What I really want is one of those Irish tweed handmade hats, they have them out at the beach. I have a cash stash and could buy one but I keep the money in my cigar box, unsure of what really to do. Our rent, electric bill, everything is increasing and my husband’s job faces mandatory furloughs.
The early winter weather brings a great sense of gratitude; for a job, food, a warm home, and for one another. Tonight I was watching my daughter in bra and panties brushing her teeth and I thought how I don’t think I’ve once resented the work of raising children. I’ve been alarmed at how much this has entailed, and I’ve been tired out – but let’s face it, I’d likely have tired myself out as a childless singleton if that’s the way I’d gone. I feel only gratitude, if a bit humbled, picking up what must be the four hundred millionth wet towel off the bathroom floor, and treading back to our little laundry room, and time to wash up and crawl into bed and watch “River Monsters” until everyone’s sleepy but one of the kids cheerfully gets up and turns the program off and we fall into one another’s arms and sleep very soundly.
Today amongst lots of your typical daily activities most everyone does, I also made time to practice meditation. I held a guided session this morning in my home* while my youngest child slept (my oldest child stayed at her grandmother’s last night). The second meditation practice occurred in a group setting and was mostly silent – my first time in a group, sitting still and without sound for a half hour.
I am amazed at how much more quiet and calm my mind can be these days than it used to be. Meditating, I soon find myself in a semi-trance, not sleepy and not unaware. As long as I make myself physically comfortable, I do not resent the time sitting. So far I am relatively successful at dismissing the part of the mind that attempts to call this practice a waste of time. I can collect myself from whatever I was doing and relax into, and enjoy, the practice. This is relatively new. It’s pretty wonderful. In moments during a guided meditation the experience feels like work; while I illuminate the “inner enemies” I can feel weary and tired and sad. But finishing the process (which includes the fire of meditation and eliminates these burdens), I have a great deal of energy afterwards. Energy to take care of others, to serve, to be kind. To be patient. Joyous, loving, and free.
Or more specifically, to clean the bathroom, finish the laundry, practice asana, make snacks for children, bake bread for my family and for friends, drive my son out to a playdate, return phone calls, sew, pick up my children and then play with them, fix food and clean up after, mail a letter, drive and sing happily to music, pick up coffee, give a ride to someone who needed one, buy groceries (and help my daughter in learning how to shop), ask my husband about his day and really listen, assist with dinner and cleanup, and listen to and talk wtih a friend regarding a recent personal setback.
In between my meditations and while doing these other things, the mind occasionally attempted to make this a bad day. The mind also tried to tell me I Wasn’t Good Enough (oh… that old chestnut! I’m almost starting to feel fond of it!). The lowest point: In the midday I tried to do some work and found I was very tired and had little energy for the task. I felt angry and ashamed of myself – and anxious, as the work I wanted to do is something I need for the weekend. But I accepted my situation and sat down and watched a bit of an entertaining-enough film (hint, Hugh Jackman taking a shower outside) and, as I couldn’t quite accept a total resting moment, I knit. But I promise, I knit in as relaxed a fashion as possible. When it was time to rise up again, I was ready.
And now? It’s just about time to lay down. After a slice of that pan de los muertos. Which turned out perfectly – and was a joy to make.
Life is pretty good.
* I have been using Harshada Wagner’s classes; his teachings and meditations have been incredible gifts.