with lingonberry preserves

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.

[s]he who aspires to paradise

Yesterday I was feeling insecure. The details matter little, but I laid awake a bit last night and felt that old, old – OLDE – Impending Sense of Doom. I used to live with it all the time. I would smash it flat with all kinds of Ego exercises. I had enough of these exercises to write thousands of words describing them (but I won’t, right now). These activities worked until they didn’t. And then I suffered a lot.

Today I do occasionally hurt, and sometimes I don’t know why. Usually I can get to the bottom of it, but other times – like yesterday – I don’t understand why I suffer. I have learned to be patient. I won’t always feel this way, I can remind myself. Sometimes I can set the self-critical thoughts aside. Other times they run rampant and punish me a bit.

Today I received an email from someone who wrote some very nice things, telling me that reading my words made quite a difference in her life. This was wonderful to hear, and I look forward to writing her back and getting to know her better. And tonight after a meeting a woman told me she thought I was “awesome”… and that after listening to me over the last few months she thought I was “the kindest person [she’d] met”. She told me when she hears me speak, that she – and at this juncture she let loose a deep sigh of contentment. “Because I’m not kind,” she said.

I have to be very, very kind to myself. I have to exercise this as rigorously as someone who has to take medicine daily – or die. Not surprisingly, kindness towards others flows from kindness to myself.

I will have to practice this until the day I die. It is a practice, not a feeling, nor a permanent attribute. I will never be perfect at the practice of kindness. But I hope to practice it every day.

Tonight while out with a friend, I saw someone from my Recovery community, a lovely young man I care for a great deal. He was buying a tall can and I know a bit about what that means for him. Another relapse of increasing depths. More self-harm. I worry about the extent of self-harm this particular person may commit. I love this man and I care about him. And yet I’m powerless to do anything except tell him, I miss you.

I hope to see him again.

Please make sure to tell people if you love them, or appreciate them, or admire them. Bold words, spoken in truth and love, are never wasted.

i might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for twenty years

dharmaFarm

Spencer's Truck

We’ve had wonderful friends helping us move. With only one more truck-load tomorrow we are officially out of the previous house. Today Ralph worked his ass off tidying everything up and I said goodbye to a little over two years living there.

I’m feeling melancholy today. Every now and then my volunteer work gets to me. Ralph asks me for details over lunch, and (without naming names of course) I tell him some of what I’ve seen.

Enough said. It’s OK to feel sad for half a minute.

>

Thou high on the tips of branching boughs / I on the ground a-creeping!

Today after coming home and starting dinner Nels runs in and excitedly reports Josie-kitty has a bat. Or a bird. “Or a moth,” my son adds after some consideration. “It’s shaggy,” he tells me. By the way his missing teeth means he has the best voice, and lisp, ever. “Moth” is “moff”. He has the most kissable little mouth and cheeks.

A minute later my feelings of fondness for my son evaporate as Josie is at the back door, desiring to come inside with her prize. Despite the limpness of the “shaggy” little finch in her mouth, wet and broken from the cat’s predation, to my horror I discover it is alive but very badly injured. The cat darts to and fro and clearly wants me to take her kill. I pick up the bird, who is barely moving and only giving a faint gasp now and then, and hold it under water in my sink to drown it. The pulse of the creature lasts a surprising time but it has nothing in itself to struggle. The kids watch intently and Phoenix says, “Mom, you’re crying.” Then: the creature is quiet in my hands. Faint as the gasp was, when life leaves it is obvious. I remember this vividly from watching my father die.

I feel worse about this than makes sense. Only a few seconds after death I think maybe I did the wrong thing. Maybe I should’ve ignored the cat’s attempts inside and let the whole mess take place how it would. Maybe I should’ve taken the bird away and put it somewhere in a darkened shoebox to languish. I did what seemed most merciful at the moment but it didn’t feel good to commit murder.

A few minutes later the kids and I walk the delicate limp creature, wrapped in cotton – and we bury it in the muddy earth. We come inside and make an offering and have a moment of meditation and say a few words. The kids move on. I mostly have, too. Mostly.

I’m also feeling a bit sensitive as for the second time in the last week I talked with a young man in my volunteer work, an alcoholic and an addict. I meet new people in this avocation every week and it’s good work. But sometimes.

You know drugs and alcohol don’t ruin lives. Yes, the disease of addiction causes much suffering. But the lives in the rooms of Recovery aren’t “ruined”. No life is ruined. Even death has its place, although it is very sad to watch a manifestation as beautiful as a human being kill itself. There are so many, many ways to kill ourselves, and some people walk around doing it while they still have a pulse. We kill off ourselves with our Ego, with our addiction. It is breathtaking how many ways there are to do this. All of us are doing it all the time. I am mostly okay with all that – meaning I accept it as an aspect of reality.

But every now and then I run into someone who makes me hurt and I’ve not yet figured out how or why. I know with regards to this young man, although I am not quite old enough to be his mother, it is partly a maternal thing. He is a very beautiful young man, many tattoos, soulful eyes and the most precise manners, the most consideration and kindness. Maybe it’s because I’ve met young men like him before and it’s the sameness. Maybe because I anguish about all those Lost for so long. Why isn’t anyone there for them?

I don’t know why things hurt today, but they did. Really despite pain, I had a wonderful day though. I did my early housework with a great deal of contentment and joy. Then the kids and I were up and about, and they sat through half the meeting at the Treatment Center (usually they don’t, but they were rained out fo the park at first). After their park play we re-met and the three of us had a lovely lunch date. Later in the evening Ralph and I got to work on the house and the kids came in and out. Phoenix had gymnastics class and Nels’ BFF came over for him. It’s almost ten now, and we’re having a late dinner and movie night. Tomorrow I hope to get up to some of the last sewing I’ll be doing in this house. Unlike other times I’ve moved, I’ve felt a fondness and a serenity for the house we’re in these last few days, although I am very much looking forward to our move.

Life is good.

KING OF THE JUICEEEEEE XAXAXAXAXA

The day was at least half-over by most people’s standards when Ralph and I agreed to get up to painting at the new house. Yeah, that’s just how we Hogabooms roll. While doing our typical thing – caring for kiddos, ours and other people’s, and cooking, and doing housework, and dealing with cats, and a meeting I get to chair at the Treatment Center on Sunday nights – we also shopped for supplies and got our gear to the house. Ralph and I cleaned and taped three large rooms and primer-painted two of them, getting home a little before midnight. Yeah, even though the house had white walls we had to primer, and grey primer, because like a total pain I opted for deep, vibrant, lovely colors, none of this taupe or melon or whatever. So that’s like, a thousand gallons and many many coats of paint. But I think it’s going to look lovely. I just need to do that trick where I am patient, mindful, and apply myself to the task at hand without letting my mind race on to the many things that will need to be done, to be settled in. GUESS WHAT, being sober helps with this A LOT.

The cleaning was big-time, at least in the kitchen, which is my opinion the (potentially) dirtiest room in a house. It was cheering though to scrub on a new domicile we’ll soon be occupying. We had music, and coffee, and hot water and lots of rags. We listened to Lady Gaga and Pink (while Phoenix was there; she quite helpfully unscrewed all the light-switch plates), and then Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, then some Springsteen, and then when it got to the late-night painting with Ralph he suggested one of my favorites, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, which I love Times One Million. And I told Ralph, “If you don’t sing along to JCS you’re fired,” and he said in a hurt tone of voice, “I don’t know all the words!” and I said, “Get. Out.” But actually I needed him because he did all the painting up high where my tiny forearms can’t reach.

But yeah, it was an honest day’s work, and of course there was some excellent, and shrill, rock opera emanating from my golden pipes. You shoulda been there. No I mean I really could’ve used the help.

Now I’m going to soak my feet in a hot bath and get my ass to bed.

shaken, not stirred

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!”

Goodnight!

burn it as fuel for our journey

This summer while waiting for a friend I sat in a sunny living room and talked with a young man and his mother. The young man was a little more interested in my conversation than his mother seemed. He was watching a documentary I’d seen not two weeks before and had really enjoyed. He and I had a brief but interesting discussion and I thought how pleasant it was to talk with someone who had such a spark and such an intelligent mind.

Today that young man committed suicide in that same home I sat in a few months ago.

I know the family. They are friends. If I sit here and feel stunned and think maybe there could have been something, some clue, something I could have done, I can only imagine what his close friends and family must feel. As a mother it is painful to consider the implications of today.

We are all, each of us, such crystal-clear and breathtakingly beautiful phenomenon. The idea that someone can suffer so much as to end such a living breathing unique manifestation is quite sobering to comprehend.

Today, the 27th, is the monthly date anniversary for sobriety. I had forgotten until I saw the date in a book. My friend gave me a little gift. Afterwards I took my children to the Y to go swimming and, while they cavorted, attended a Board meeting for the local Buddhist group where I was indoctrinated into service. I picked up lunch for the children and met another friend back at the Y and we ate and talked and enjoyed each other’s company.

Today is a day for holding tight that which we value.

then I got to listen to a lot, a LOT, of Lowellian cursing

Brrr!

By the time I’d walked a mile in an absolutely wet, windy, and rainy blizzard through piles and piles of snow, and waited and waited and waited for a bus, and given up after making phone calls and texting and other plans, while huddling wet and cold against the icy brick contemplating a plan, and realized I’d be unable to make my meeting, and finally gave up and headed home,

I admit, by then I felt a few tears rise in my throat. I mean after all the whole business was about two hours exposure without relief (yes, in light of certain anniversaries today, I know I am whinging, big time). And what was funny is to think as I first set off through the snow, I was wondering if maybe taking a few hours out of my day to make one meeting where a solid half the clients are nodding out from Suboxone, and I thought maybe I’m a fool, maybe I’m wasting my time. Well it seems the Universe was beating me into humility because after all that I didn’t even make it. Well, the Universe isn’t so unkind, I guess – it was my choice, I could either re-learn humility or just be pissed and cramped. I elected the former.

But at the beginning of the “adventure” I had a nice walk with Ralph. Our gonads were frozen solid by the time we got to the barren comfort of overhead shelter:

FROZEN

(Given GH Transit wait times the “No Loitering” sign seems a bit… ironic.)
(Actually, as previously discussed, I’m unsure what “irony” really is. Yes, I’ve looked it up.)

Ralph ran across the way to grab me a coffee; he went by himself in case the bus came by and I missed my opportunity. This was back when I had a backup plan of sipping the coffee and holding it close for warmth, while I waited. Back before he’d left and I’d gone on to wait an hour before a bus came, a bus that wouldn’t have gone near my destination, meaning there would be no time for me to make my appointment, and I had to give it all up. Yes, back when I was so naive. I had a lot of growing up to do.

Ralph Ventures To Get Me Coffee

I was bundled up well but the rain had soaked my jeans and that was my downfall. Wet jeans. Holy Shit.

So I eventually went home and the exercise, plus the high of dodging scary drivers sliding on ice, worked off my aforementioned upset.

And then after I got home it took a long, long time to warm up. I watched Reel Injun while waiting to feel my face again.

 
Then I watched The Fighter (although I’d already seen it a year ago) while finishing up the details on the last homesewn item for the upcoming magazine spread.

Several kids came and went, wet and getting fed and getting re-dressed in dry clothes. We washed and dried and hung things up. Ralph made a lovely dinner of turkey sliders on homemade buns, yellow tomato and avocado dressing with lemon, carrot sticks, and potato chips, and we fed whatever children ran through the house.

Then we set up all the outdoor stuff to dry in time for more snow adventures tomorrow.

Boots Upon Boots

Made me pine / For the lamplight / Where you lie

Sometimes I wonder if those reading here, this last year’s open self-identification as a recovered alcoholic, guess at the nature of my previous drinking. Like how much secret guzzling did I do, quantaties. I’m going to get to that in a minute but first I wanted to say some things about my day.

Today I got myself up early after a very poor sleep in order to make the commitments I said I would.

Today I cared for my son and daughter by putting away laundry and getting breakfast ready and pareparing the house for a calm and nurturing environment, and by driving my son the special place he wanted to go.

Today I texted a sick friend and offered to bring her something if she needed it.

Today I drove in the car and smoked a cigarette and sang along quite joyfully and felt so happy to have a car and gas money.

Today I made time to meet with and talk to another friend about something that was troubling her, because I care and I hoped she trusted me enough to talk, and I hope she didn’t later regret that in any way.

Today I asked after a man’s health and heard he’d been having a hard time with a rather scary event. I listened and we talked a while about his physical ailments and his perceived dangers of semi-longterm prescribed narcotic medication.

Today on two separate occasions I gave a man a cigarette. In one case, the fellow needed one. In the second case, I’d remembered the young man likes the kind I smoke. Directly after this transaction he asked for a hug and I gave him one, and today it was a loving and completely comfortable and genuine hug, because today that’s what I really truly deeply have to offer.

Today I talked with a practitioner who felt compelled to come out to me, although she told me she hadn’t yet done publicly or to her employer.

Today I took a phone call and laid aside plans to listen to and discuss someone with a long-standing serious health issue that had recently come to a head.

Today I asked my mother about her day and took a few minutes to give her attention.

Today when I came across my husband during our various activities, I asked him, “How are you?” or “How was work?” and I genuinely wanted to hear, and I listened as best I could.

Today I assisted another woman in Recovery in the way I understood that woman wanted my help.

Today I answered an email from across the country about a parenting/family issue that was giving the author some grief.

Today I coped with my physical pain by expressing gratitude for those who help me (the practitioners, family, and friends) and accepting that Ouch, It Hurts.

Today instead of the sewing I’d longed to do, I recognized my pain level and instead watched an old B-movie while I rested.

Today I apologized to a friend for a careless mistake I’d made.

Today I treated my children well.

I do not write these items out to try to look good for others. I write them because they are directly related to the quality and experience of my sobriety. To respond to my inferences earlier, I used to drink, mostly starting around dinner dime, for medicinal effect. If you ever came over you’d see how I drank, I didn’t get too sloppy. Maybe I even looked “normal”. I certainly had many people express surprise when I came out as alcoholic and needing help.

But man, it had nothing to do with how many glasses of wine or how many fingers of Jack. See the days I worked hardest to be a “good” mom (warning on that link, ranty), or deal with the latest setback, or my anger at my husband. The days I tried to do things to make my friends happy. You know, I had less quality friends then and fewer friends, than I do now. But anyway back then I had to wonder about how those friends felt about me. I felt I should “fix” them if they were in trouble. I felt I had to perform as a “good friend” just like my “good mom” stuff. If I made a mistake I felt humiliated, too much show to make a good amends. The friends who behaved toward me in ways that hurt, I ended up avoiding them, effectually cutting them out of my life.

None of that is how I live today. The difference may not be something that loud and evident but is experienced so deeply it is truly a revelation to write.

I don’t give the list of the things I did today to brag. Or to try that Sisyphean effort of being “good”. It’s to remind myself of the woman I am today, of what my actions evidence. That’s not who I used to be.

Now I take everything as a good sign, because I’m in love / I take everything as a sign, from God

OK, this may seem like a nonsequiter, but please go directly and read the most awesome About blog page I’ve ever seen. I just happened on it three minutes ago. I am ROTFLMAO, it is just so so wonderful. No, I did not know my daughter had a dream to be a blogger like me.

***

So. Personally? Watching someone go through heroin withdrawal feels really, really horrible. But it’s not nearly as bad, I may positively state, as going through heroin withdrawal. There’s not much I can do in this case except speak kindly to this person and listen to this person thrash and whimper and sob. So that’s what I do. Then I come home and make an incense offering and dedicate a prayer to this person.

Today was a lovely Sunday.

Nels + Harris

Nels slept in and finally woke only the second time his BFF came to our door (to hear the BFF’s parents describe it, weekend mornings the boy is scratching at the door like a mad dog wanting to come over). He and this little guy run around the neighborhood, getting fed at our house and getting up to I’m not sure what at the other house. I hear them laughing and see them coming down the sunny walk together, absolutely on top of the world.

Besides some family time and two meetings, I performed housework and had coffee with Ralph. I tried to make an orange candle and failed (it’s still sitting on my counter all soggy and misshappen). Ralph, Phoenix and I went to Tully’s where I was pleased to see they’d finally jumped on the Awesomesauce of Salted Carmel coffee drinks.

Phoenix educated us on Lyme Disease.

Phoenix, Hot Chocolate, & Education On Lime Disease

Phoenix, Hot Chocolate, & Education On Lime Disease

Phoenix, Hot Chocolate, & Education On Lime Disease

We visited the Gallery and their new show – “ReUse • ReCycle • ReArt”. It was even almost warm for half a second. The sun was out and that felt good.

I spent much of today sewing (yay!), but cannot post pictures (boo!) as they are slated for publication in a real magazine (yay!). Good news: I have my new snap press which I get to play with, and I am slowly marching my way through my magazine requirements. P.S. when it comes to stitchery WANT FOUR YARDS kthx. What a lovely fabric; and the album referenced (one I was raised on) was exactly what first came to mind.

Friendly

***

Nels had taken to calling me Honeycomb. As in, “I love you, my honeycomb” [*kiss*]. Several times a day. He comes up to me and puts rings on my finger. Those little clippy ones for hanging curtains.

It was a beautiful day.

Morning Mess