“with all associations broken, one forms new ones, as a broken bone thickens in healing”

I hear the tail end of the young woman’s sentence. She’s crying: “… it’s how you guys make me feel!” My friend M. speaks in to her in low tones, but is quickly interrupted: “It wasn’t even you,” the crying young woman says. “It was her.” I can feel her accusatory tone all the way down the hall, I swear I picture her finger stabbing at me.

Who wants to be her? Not me. I am aghast. I’ve been doing this work twice a week for almost two years and this is the first time I’m the sonovabitch, or more accurately, I can hear someone saying I’m the sonovabitch. And who wants to be the sonovabitch? Again: not me.

This is a time of transition for me. I am moving into a different set of responsibilities in some of my volunteer work; I am leaving behind other duties and letting other parties take them, just when (of course!) I was starting to feel comfortable, like I had half a clue, like I was halfway decent at this work. It makes a kind of Universal Sense I’d get this kind of jolt tonight, someone forming a grudge. It’s an apt, ignominious footnote a period of my life I’d come to treasure, and the finale of this episode. Because I’m going to miss going up to the treatment center, never missing Wednesdays, never missing Sundays unless I was in the hospital or out of town. I’m going to miss it a whole hell of a lot and I would write on and on here about it, if I didn’t think it would be breaking the trust of those I work with. So without saying more, let me just say I’m in mourning. I think there was this little bit of me who was clinging on to the thought of never letting go of it because it was becoming a part of me. But I think the right thing to do is grow a little more and try something new and put my ass on the line a little bit more.

***

I remember the first time I heard it, really heard it, when a very wise friend of mine said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” I had this instant sense of revulsion and fear upon hearing this because at the time, I knew what other people thought of me mattered so very, very, very much and I hated that it mattered like it did. I tried hard, so hard, to be a good person (wife mother sister daughter friend citizen) but how hard could I really have been trying, when what I never wanted to hear was someone’s disapproval. It drove me absolutely crazy, and I could absolutely fixate on myself and my mistakes (fancied or real); even worse, I could fixate on their character faults (fancied or real). That kind of thin-skin or self-absorption or whatever, well the practice of self-improvement is seriously compromised when you’re living that way.  Other people’s irritation was a bit scary, probably scary like the Normal Amount most people feel when someone is irritated with them – but outright hatred? My only guess is I was more affected by the abuse I’d survived than I realized; I still carry the memories within my body, not just my mind. Still carry that fear of other people; not so much the people as the Hate itself. Hate still frightens me so, but usually only when it’s directed at me or I perceive it is. If you knew my whole gory history (and some of you know a bit of it), you’d probably understand. It’s no excuse; it’s just where I’m at some of the time.

Driving home tonight I feel pangs. On reflection, I wouldn’t have done or said anything different than I did, even though it apparently did not please this one individual. & yet, I know that the pain this woman is feeling has almost nothing to with me; rather it’s a lot of horrid shit that’s gone down in her life, and her own self-pity. I know because I’ve been there and I try to treat people the way I wanted to be treated then, and want to be treated today. With kindness and directness. You know, both those things aren’t as easy as they sound, especially when like me you’ve got a goddamned brain disease. Yeah and again. I’m not trying to make excuses, just saying there are days it’s rough up in this bitch.

Yeah. Good days versus “growth days”. “Growth days” is a nice euphemism for, “here’s a wee cockpunch!”

painting [him] to the senses

I’ve been sober almost two years and I’ve probably had a drinking dream a half dozen times. These episodes have a similar pattern; gradually I realize I’ve been drinking, having no idea how I started. I discover a glass in my hand and realize I’ve only had a little. I know I must stop, but I feel I’ve made a grave mistake. The sudden onset of hopelessness and shame is profound.

In last night’s dream, I was drinking some form of moonshine – undoubtably this was influenced by the episode of “Archer” we were watching last night. But in the dream this moonshine tasted far better than any liquor really tastes – it tasted of what we imagine these libations to taste like. Something out of this world, intoxicating yet poison, delicious poison. It’s the mouth-feel of that first drink, the one we chase. That first hit at the end of the day, before that moment when the futility strikes like a tuning fork in our heart. That sense, however slight, however we try to push our knowledge away: the sameness, the chase, the craving and the revulsion, that sense of drowning. The cycle of grasping and flight and gasping for air and succumbing.

Just because I don’t have to live that way doesn’t mean I don’t remember how it works.

But: it is, in this case, after all, just a dream. An illusion. I wake up and know I’m still clean and sober and I feel such a calm gratitude. I make an offering at my little shrine and get on my knees and thank the Universe and submit myself to its care, once again.

***

My son is getting fitted for braces on the 10th of next month. I have feels about this. I like his messed-up teeth and I think he looks wonderful with them. As a young person I didn’t receive orthodontia, nor my husband, so braces are a new territory for us. The bill, well all I can say is this first round of treatment will be paid off before he needs more. What else can I do? It is satisfying to have priorities. I simply care for the children as best I can, no matter what.

But: my son isn’t worried. While we wait for the technician to prepare the equipment to take a tooth mold, Nels looks at me. “So I need braces?” he asks in surprise. I nod and his eyes darken and his brows knit, and he says, “Bring it on.”

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

the air that I breathe & to love you

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

The sun is out and there’s something about the air; it’s still got a bit of chill especially as the evening falls but I find I’m feeling restless for the summer. We’re down to one car and we’d better fix a few things on that or we’ll be down to zero (sorry to talk about the cars again; it’s just where we live, family-of-four life without a car is no joke). I turn the engine over and the Mercedes belches out grey smoke and coughs for a while while it warms up. This car. The missing muffler and the screaming belt. I am serious. It’s funny. Sorry neighbors. I still love it, though.

It’s the sunshine and the car trouble so I say something out loud before I’ve thought it through, I don’t know if we’ll get a vacation this year, and I’m okay with it, just thinking of hot sand and doing nowt and just picturing the little pots of money moving them back and forth, more than enough to feed us and shelter us so no worries. But:

“It will be worth it,” my daughter says. “We’ll have sent a family to the unschooling conference.” That’s cool. It’s like as a parent you make these decisions as best you can, and you bet we made this decision as a family, informed consent, but it’s cool the kids aren’t backing down even while I’m teetering on feeling like an ass.

She continues: “They’ll have a wonderful time.”

I say, “We had sixteen families apply for our scholarship. They are all great applicants. Would you like daddy and I to make the final decision, or would you like to help?”

“Oh, I’d love to help!” Her response is immediate. We talk about it a bit. We share ideas about criteria for selection. I put the car in gear and we head out to take her to swim team. My son puts his hand on my arm and tells me he loves me.

***

Later, Ralph’s out of town, I walk in the falling shroud of darkness, wet and cold, I’m with the dog, off a little over a mile to pick up my daughter. In the backpack I’ve a couple rolls for her to eat, a big woolen hat and a coat. Hutch trots at my side, HAPPIER THAN ANYTHING EVER just to be along with me. Even after his massive weight loss he is still a big dog, and despite his obviously friendly, mild body language, sometimes people cross the street when they see him. In fact, walking at night alone as a lady, I don’t mind having a huge dog alongside. He is the gentlest creature ever though and I have no idea how much he’d protect me if I were accosted, that is unless my assailant was a giant hot dog.

Over the bridge and across the deep, dark river, which fills me with terror. I love the evenings, people hurrying home or perhaps off to parties or out of town. I’m alone but others are awake. I’m wrapped in a big scarf and my plastic jacket. My body feels good and my mind does as well. Every day as my last drink recedes from me, further away, I am profoundly aware of my gift of sobriety. I hate to talk about that so much too but, it’s on my mind and in my heart, often and daily. Every day I work with people and I see how many don’t keep a continuous sobriety, and heck those are the ones even trying to get help, “tip of the iceberg” doesn’t cut it. Every day I know less and less about Why for all of it. There’s nothing that sets me apart as being so fortunate but I am and so I don’t piss it away by being ungrateful or unconscious.

“If you don’t drink today, you’ll never drink again.” I heard this today. I tell my husband. He doesn’t quite understand. I explain it a little but it’s okay if people don’t understand. I understand.

My daughter is pleased to see us. She is out of the locker room at one minute past seven; she is on time. We both thank one another for being punctual. She bites the first roll and then tears off a chunk for the dog; he CLOPS it up and then CLOPS, CLOPS in gratitude or beseechment or both. We travel to the store by foot and buy two bananas to fulfill requirements for a loaf of banana bread; we have two quarters and the sum total is 49 cents and I’m pleased. Later Nels will eat the bananas without asking about them first, then he apologizes. For all his devilry he takes it very seriously when he makes a mistake or inconveniences others, probably too seriously. And so I’ll send Ralph to the store to get some more bananas tomorrow, so he can bake a quickbread for our daughter before she gets up.

so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars

From an email I wrote, today:

Finally I would like to add a personal story of mine. I was raised in a family of drinkers and drug users. They were “functional”, they worked, they didn’t get into trouble with the law, and they were very stylish (or at least, I thought so!). Nevertheless as a child I felt an intense fear they weren’t “with it”, they weren’t there. After they began drinking they were floating off on a cloud and they weren’t there to care for me. I was aware of this, I had this perception (real or imagined!) at a young age. By the time I was twelve this fear had grown into a spirit of resentment. By this time, I perceived them as indolent, sloppy, lazy, Lotus-eaters and my heart smarted at abuses and neglect I’d suffered.
 
I became an alcoholic. The thought I might be an alcholic started to occur to me as a young mother, not that long ago really, and I was baffled. I didn’t drug, and I drank less than my family of origin, and my pride smarted at the thought I was anything like them. After all I had a “perfect” family life, we were nothing like those people! And yet I could tell this thing was hooking me. I didn’t want to be an alcoholic. In fact I wished desperately for almost any other kind of problem, because being an alcoholic was intolerable to me!
 
But one day I admitted to my innermost self and to a handful of people in a room I was an alcoholic. This was my first sober day. I remember it was like the Biblical quote, “something like scales fell away from [my] eyes”, as I perceived in that moment that no matter what my family did, no matter if their dysfunction, however severe or mild, had “caused” my problems, I was the one with the problem. I was living out, or continuing, the Problem within my family, and they could no longer solve it for me. It was down to me. I remember having a vision of being a small child and receiving an inoculation that gave me this thing, this addiction. It didn’t matter where I got it or how, it was as my doctor would later say: “What are you going to do about it?”
 
I have been sober some time today; I am a medical anomaly if not miracle. Despite this, every day I know less about why I’m an alcoholic or how I “got” it. I used to have fixed ideas on the subject; now I don’t. I am just incredibly grateful I perceived my problem and I took responsibility for it. I’m incredibly grateful this problem changed from something that was “done to” me (as a child) and became something I could do something about.

my heart beats like a drum

One hour at the roller skating rink for the kids; I help them lace their footwear and gather them into my arms again before I go. Their hair falls across my cheek and smells sweet, dusty and dry and delicious. As they get older these embraces mean more and more to me. My children, in skates, are nearly as tall as I. They thankful for the two extra dollars I give them for candy or pop and do not complain about the small sum. They have spirits of gladness and gratitude; by the time I was there age these things dwelt within yes, but they were eroded and corrupt.

A few minutes later, at home, my phone rings and it’s Nels. He excitedly informs me his sister is dominating in the rink’s game of tag. “She is doing so good, I wish I could take a picture,” he chirps. I hand the phone to the other ear and take out the rising yeasted bread, flip the oven on. I thank him for calling and put the phone down. My children are half a world away, competent and enjoying themselves, all at once vibrant and alive yet strangely vulnerable and precious to me. This cold weather even with the sun, I have a sense of wherever they are and I hold them close and I want them provided for at all times. Ralph comes home to a house full of fresh bread and new lightbulbs, then he’s back on the road to pick the children up along with a u-bake pizza for later tonight.

Later tonight,

dark now and at the side of the road, the car idles as my friend in the passenger seat applies her baby to her breast. I no longer even feel the ache, the letdown an infant’s cries, and the huffing-little suction sighs the child makes are familiar but they are from a past that sometimes feels another era. The mama’s breast glows milk-white in the dashboard lights and she is unselfconscious and I think good for her, I’m a bit tired but a respect and a gladness throbs within me, all the more so as she’s close to a year off meth and she’s doing her thing pretty good. I fiddle with my scarf and we talk a bit and I wonder if these memories of early sobriety will be fond ones or if she’s one of the many, the most, who will go back into the night and get lost for a little while

I’m contemplative, this evening.

Home and finishing up a soft shirt for my daughter. Ralph and the kids play Dungeons and Dragons at the dining room table

– hot water and lemon and honey –

 

creatures of the night

"Raquel" On Her 2nd Night Hostessing
Ralph aka “Raquel” in night two of MCing at a mini-drag show at the Theatre. He was by far the most beautiful and elegant lady there.

Movie Night

Up late; old movie. Warm blankets and wry quips.

Phee, Ready For Bed

 

Phee: my nighttime snuggle date. Drawing, sketching as per usual.

***

This afternoon:

Pressure cook beans and then I kept them on too high and vented pressure and it went nuts; formed like a bean-water spa, but since I’d rinsed them well after soaking it was a rather pleasant smell / carefully set outside on the porch and then:

Slice up carrots and garlic and the leftover ham; carefully dice canned whole tomatoes making sure no stem or skin passes into the soup, seasoning and broth and raw spinach stirred in at the end /

a cast iron skillet of cornbread

bowls on the big table, set for however many kids were running in and out. Cutting a paper pattern and answering the phone, helping other alcoholics stay sober for Today

washing dishes in hot soapy water and listening to Promise and the Monster

life in a northern town

Today:

I drive a gal, and her infant child, up to the treatment center where I do my Wednesday volunteer thing. I remember her coming through treatment, pregnant. She’s still clean and sober today, and she looks and sounds amazing. More wonderful still, she has a beautiful baby and watching her haul that little one around town while she does her thing is just – inspiring. Fucking amazing. A few minutes after we arrive upstairs she slips out and returns with a blanket over her shoulder, breastfeeding. It’s a real sort of stunningly-beautiful thing. Words can’t describe. She has so many things against her but she is meeting the world with a smile,  and she’s pulling others out the Pit. For real.

An hour later: my kids gird their loins to receive influenza innoculations. The nurse comes in and tells them they can opt for the nasal spray. They’re thrilled. I snap a picture (Nels is saying, “TRoooooOOOLOO!“):

Jubilation

In the afternoon: we travel to the pharmacy where I get my influenza vaccine – an injection. The kids crowd in the little cubicle with me and give me comfort, full of beans now that their vaccinations are over. Tomorrow I give blood; another needle. Ugh!

In the afternoon: I find out someone I care about is staying sober. Sort of, I amend my statement, as I think they’re smoking pot. This person is opening up to me more, probably because they know I don’t look down on them for what they’re going through. It’s wonderful because I have the freedom to just enjoy today, just enjoy this person when I see them, not start plotting their life or figuring out their problems. Not taking territory that isn’t mine, that wears me out. It’s hard to let people have their problems, though. Well anyway, it’s hard for me.

Later: my kids, mother and I walk the dog along the bay. It’s cold as hell and the wind has picked up. Hutch is happy to cavort in frost-chilled terrain. Our dog has lost forty, that’s 4-0, pounds. He is a MAGNIFICENT SON OF A BITCH, as it were.

Tonight: a friend comes over so we can show her how we make pan cubano, and share a vegetarian meal. Neighbor kids come in and out, and sometimes I lose count of who is over until we set the table which is when I gotta figure it out. A girl from a block away joins us for dinner and it’s so cool to listen to the kids’ world, how they see things, what’s important to them. Phee lectures our younger guest about proper etiquette and hygiene during the flu season, including differentiation between a live and killed vaccine, and guidelines for family members who have infants in the home.

After dinner my daughter does the dishes and my son makes up a large labeled jar for us to deposit spare coins; passionate about gaming, especially platform games, he hopes to buy a Wii U. A few minutes later and Ralph and the kids are out to take the dog on his last walk of the day.

Life is really good.

Cuddles

***

We are still accepting donations through Paypal. I have been using these funds through my new Paypal card, which means I am buying groceries and food on the same days we get donations. It is a fabulous system and every dollar has been a dollar received and spent, in gratitud. (As far as I can tell though, I will need to seek paid employment; I have to write about this and soon, too!). The support has meant a great deal to us in a month with a doubled-up electricity bill (and yes, we know about the averaging program and have used it in the past).

Long story short: this means if you’ve donated here you are “the village . Raising not just my kids, but the neighborhood kids, the people I (try to) help, the community I’m a part of, and now so are you.

So: thank you.


verily i say to thee, No Shit, Sherlock

The terror sets in about dark. I can breathe through it, smile at it, or I can succumb to it. It flutters in my chest when the evening sets on and car headlights appear; so in the winter, it begins about five PM. Driving home late and my eyes spy an “OPEN” neon sign, whether at a cafe or an auto parts shop: I get a false start of hopefulness – then I realize once again it’s errata because No, soon everyone will be abed and I’ll be up and alone. Alone. Tick tock. 10 PM rolls around and my family begins to tire; yet my non-sleep hours stretch ahead of me. Baffling, stunning in their aridity, a desert landscape of suffocating sameness.

I have limited options. Lying awake “trying” to sleep for a bit, before watching television programs, the more mind-numbing the better. I learned years ago not to “try” to sleep in the dark for long, nor get up and do a bunch of work and risk re-activating the Mind. I get to be with myself. It’s like the ultimate enforced meditation. Torture at times.

A lot of the addicts and alcoholics I know used to bypass these sleep issues by the use of chemicals. Of course! You can ensure you sleep (i.e. pass out). Or you can stay up for days and fly high, keep that mojo (not a Scientific Term) going so you can work without pain, emotional or physical. A far cry from the image of an addict as a selfish monster, most of those I’ve met in Recovery who were staying up and sleeping little were very earnest in their desire to perform well-intentioned tasks: cleaning the home, working a job or two. The intentions were good, and relatable to any human being, really; but the individual stories can be heartbreaking. A friend of mine told me about a home improvement job he’d been working on for three weeks at the time someone dear to him in the family was dying. He just kept working on this very exacting, very specific task. Clean and sober a few months at the time he tells me, it had pained him to return to the home improvement project and see it for what it was. While using, though, the focus, strength and power he’d felt had kept him going.

This is one of those incidents I might, MIGHT be tempted to say those who aren’t in Recovery, simply do not understand. Coping with sleep is tricky while drinking; try it sober! Tonight I read online: “[A]lcoholics can continue to have sleep problems for many months after they quit drinking […] [P]roblems with sleep onset may be more pronounced than with sleep maintenance […] [M]any former alcoholics had sleep problems that predated the onset of alcohol dependence.”

LOLOL it’s as if someone peered into my noggin and my life the last eight years or so.

As has been true for me for some time, my sleep problems like all of my problems become not “problems” at all, only a lesson I am listening quite intently to. I have already learned a great deal: to wit, a continuing acceptance that I am not a “bad” person, but a sick person. To wit: I did not “cause” my sleep issues, and I may never know why I have them. To wit: I may always have these issues, and I can accept that and no longer feel frightened, angry, obsessed, or depressed. To wit: I can learn how to care for myself with great intelligence and diligence that I might care for others – and for my own self, if ever I have a more protracted illness, or the prescient knowledge of my own death.

My “problems” transmute quickly into not being “problems” at all. Suffering can not be avoided, and I take comfort in that knowledge. Not-sleep is not something to be angry or anxious about; merely another opportunity.

some things never seem to fucking work

Christmas is over, and people ask me how my holiday went. The truth is, I am tired. Christmas was a lot of work for this single income family: two children, a fair number of loved ones, five animals, visiting friends and family, the household bills and fun stuff like that.

Lately my thoughts adhere to taking something I’ve heard called a “staycation”, in that I might get to stay home and enjoy time by myself while the other members of my family absented themselves. As it is, I get very little alone time in my life. While I am not complaining about this precisely, I recognize a lack of balance. I am mindful that whenever possible I should make some allowance to rest and have a period of little responsibility to anyone but my own self.

In addition, I have my work in Recovery, which I am starting to realize can take a toll on me in a way that is hard to explain. One key aspect: I have not allowed myself to write as fully about this as I would have liked and like we would have benefited me. I don’t picture that changing any time soon.

When I got started in this field a little while back, helping other alcoholics and addicts, I refrained from writing a great deal of detail on the work for several reasons. Foremost and final concerning this post at least, I reflected that even if I was very careful to not use names, or details that would reveal the identity or circumstances of any individual I was working with, it felt exploitive to with regularity write in all frankness the experiences I was being exposed to. When I mentioned this difficulty to my friends who know how much I like to write, some of them suggested I focus exclusively on my experiences, therefore maintaining a scrupulous set of ethics.

I have not yet found a way to do this that is not problematic according to my own sense of right and wrong.

I’ve spent hundreds of days in journalistic silence when what I wanted most was to communicate to the world what I was experiencing.

Believe me, if it had been at all possible for me to do as I was advised, this writing space would have been filled to the brim with what I consider today the absolute cornerstone spiritual experiences of my life. However, I have known for some time it is at least theoretically possible anyone, and I mean anyone, could happen upon the words herein. As much as I want to communicate what has become some of the most important work in my life, I cannot yet bring myself to risk someone might read here and have even a glimmer of doubt, the faintest inkling, that I might be exploiting their most personal and private struggles here for some kind of egoic gain. I must continue to write in a general way, then, even though it often seen those writings do not resonate with my readers, nor do they engender the kind of intimate narrative that my previous years of blogging has provided me, personally.

In a general way, then, I will share a bit.

Perhaps it would be different for other people, but I am finding that I cannot do this work without relying daily on regular prayer, meditation, and spiritual study. Last night I spoke with someone close to me as they described their spiritual experiences, and their relationship with God. To me what they were describing were incidents episodic, infrequent, infused with emotion or sentimentality, and discrete. Weather in a chapel or on a river bank, these experiences sound familiar: a human being is suddenly overcome with powerful, usually positive emotions. They sense there is an order to the world, or goodness to the universe, or even sometimes a Grand Plan. These experiences seem to be emotional yet powerful and they sound genuine. I am familiar with these experiences and have had a few of them in my life.

However, I am not strong enough, patient enough, intelligent enough, gentle enough, or wise enough to rely on these kinds of now-and-then experiences to get me through the difficulties I face on a daily basis. My budding spirituality has been built almost entirely on Action. Every day, I take a series of actions that I have come to believe are necessary to sustain my faith, my sobriety, my usefulness to and my quality of life. If I were to rely on positive feelings, or a positive thought-life – well, to put it frankly, I would be a dead man. What may indeed work for others does not work for me.

I have almost nothing to offer. I have my faith practice and today I can give this body of work the macho head nod of acknowledgement because honestly, it’s not too bad. My primary asset is a willingness to “suit up and show up”, as I have heard it said. Each day I take a series of actions that I believe increases my use to others, benefits the rest of the world, and keeps me from going crazy and/or drinking; a series of actions that keep me from being swallowed by despair or impotent rage or crushing anxiety – since, frankly, I apparently never learned how to take a flight into Apathy, another common defense I see in others. Most of these actions I mention are not ones I necessarily feel all groovy doing, and none of them bring the sorts of reward that people are often running after – that is, fame, money, sex, power, or material security. My willingness and my action, therefore, is a little special, and it keeps me a little sane. For I am NOT especially immune to the drives that cause us to run after the various intoxicants I describe here.

I am willing to learn more, and to seek more teachers. I am willing to explore further. I have almost nothing else to offer. I do not have the answers to why human beings have the capacity for, and apparent will to, suffer so intensely. I bring up suffering because although I have known of suffering my whole life, never has it been more obvious, more direly manifest, more destructive, more myriad in form and function  as I have witnessed since coming into Recovery (and not just in the alcoholics and addicts I work with!). My work daily brings me stark confrontation with suffering and I am consciously aware of this confrontation. In contrast, it seems to me that many people trying to ignore suffering – unless it is their own, in which case they make this the center of their Being. Many people try to avoid suffering at any cost, and many people, when confronted with the suffering of others, respond with the strategy – and it isn’t much of a strategy – “better you than me”. Very few people I know would own up to having that worldview, but I think it is very common indeed.

“Better you than me”  was my reflexive response to others’ suffering for quite some time. I am still healing from a lifetime habit that was probably formed when I was very young and could not handle some of the realities of my life. I am still healing from the habit energy of that lifestyle.

Well I remain employed in my practices, trying as best I can to meet my responsibilities to myself, my family and friends, and the world at large, I am building my own personhood. In my case, my principles, my logic and intelligence, my opinions, my emotions and sentiment, we’re not enough to build this personhood. I had to rely on faith practices – that is, taking actions in hopes of a kingdom not seen, almost impossible to describe, and absolutely impossible to “prove” to others. As the product of a skeptical, dysfunctional upbringing, my clumsy-ass clay sculpture of a spiritual life is still, you know, not too shabby. I’m good with it.