undefeatable; not by their nature, but by your approach

Sticks & Sticks

I haul my daughter out of the house full of kids, and one parent in the back room smoking pot. I’m pissed even though I know this person is just getting by. It’s nothing personal and has nothing whatsoever to do with me. That said, in my field I do with regularity hear about the kind of stuff that goes down in homes where the adults in charge are Lotus Eaters, and heck I lived a bit of it. Are my kids in danger? Probably not much. Possibly not at all. But you’ll excuse me if I’m not always entirely sanguine about it all, 24/7. Sometimes my tolerance is a bit low. My kids are still little, remember?

Just getting by. I get it. Today I got a text from another friend, relapsed/relapsing, out drinking and/or drugging as I type this, asking for a ride earlier – I suspect, to find more substances to put in his system. Lest you think this isn’t a big deal, it is my opinion this young man may very well die a young age. Or he may never drink again and live a long fruitful life. Anything could happen. I’m thinking of him as I lie on a cold slab getting a picture of my insides. The x-ray technician and/or radiologist and I talk a bit, and pretty soon we have a few laughs. She is sweet and kind. As per usual when I leave, she wishes for things to get better. This is a lovely thing. You’d think people would get bored or apathetic but usually medical staff are kind. Usually people are kind.

Later in the day at an appointment with my specialist he laughs handsomely and tells me the latest about my kidneys. It’s not great news, but it’s much better than it could be. For this I am grateful. While he taps on the laptop I notice a striking piece of jewelry; I ask if the feature setting is an opal. He tells me it’s an elk tooth – “elk ivory”, he corrects himself. “Oh, did you take the animal down yourself?” I  ask. He tells me yes. “With your bare hands?” He laughs again. He probably thinks I’m being a jerk. But I am just irreverent at times. He looks like a stock photo picture of a handsome doctor, and I like the image of him grappling like a caveman.

Home, and in the afternoon four kids from other families streamed over at our house. Arts and crafts! One of Phee’s very off-hand dragons:

Phee Draws A Quick Dragon

The children all did a lot of drawing (Each child is so expressive! It’s cool.), and then they played this game where they said existentially-silly sentences and then laughed with much gusto. Nels was in the forerunning with, “I don’t believe in soup.” I thought that one was pretty good. And let me tell you, the kids played this game for several minutes running. I’m folding laundry now and a bit later I hear my son regale the crowd with, “I forget to close my eyes when I run into walls, because I’m allergic to semen.” So at that point I think maybe we should have a walk, play a different game.

Nels, playing Terraria in his sister’s pink robe:

Nels, Late Night, Pink Robe

Today. A pretty good day.

riverfronts & parks

I meet E. about a year ago now. A highly intelligent young man, at one time gainfully employed but when I meet him, reduced to jobless couch-surfing. E. is polite and well-mannered. But he is also depressed, angry, private, and resentful. He calls me, drunk, a little time after we’d got to know one another. This is before I knew the whole, about ten percent of alcoholics get recovery business. This is back when I thought people would get sober and stay sober. Before I knew how common relapse was. Before I knew how many people could die pretty quick instead of kinda slow (average age of alcoholics, 52). If you didn’t know already, I come from that whole, “kinda slow” crowd of family and friends. Long lives of denial then pre-cognition and ugly, ugly alcoholic behavior into retirement age or older.

Anyway a year ago E. is talking and talking and telling me he’s sure no one in our program of Recovery gives a shit about him. I remember taking slight umbrage to that statement. I told him for one thing he never talked or shared in group (“I’ll just listen today”, day after day), so some people might be letting him be private, thinking that was his preference. I also told him it was unfair for any of us to hold others accountable to anything when we haven’t made ourselves vulnerable and shared what is bugging us, within a setting of accountability. Yeah, that’s right. Because here’s the thing most people don’t want to admit, no one is responsible to read your mind. And if you’re honest in sharing your thoughts and feelings, you run the risk of having some feedback. Maybe stuff your Ego doesn’t want to hear. Imagine that.

I’ve spent the last year being as kind as I could to this young man E., giving rides now and then, but mostly just the odd conversation or hug. He didn’t seem particularly interested in my friendship, and I respected that. And you know, a year ago I thought he was at the end of his rope, and ready to admit defeat. I was wrong. Because I’ve watched him deteriorate in a way I couldn’t have guessed at. The details are not ones I’ll go into here.

Today he calls while I’m on the way somewhere, and I can’t tell if he’s sober or not. He asks for gas money to pool so he can go to a new town and work. This request is kind of surprising as he’s never so much as directly asked for a ride but I figure maybe he’s taking advice, asking for help while sober, before drinking. Now this isn’t the kind of help I give everyone, but I have a nice little series of simple guidelines to go by when asked something like this. Don’t rob myself, don’t rob my family, then give help when asked, and whatever happens it’s none of my business. I tell him I’ll check in with my husband and I’ll call him after my appointment. He tells me he’s going to pay me back. I laugh and tell him to pay it forward. I think of how many people I’ve seen doing just that.

After I pick up some cash from Ralph I have a few minutes to think about it and I figure E. is probably drunk. A while later I meet him, with a “friend” up at the park. They’re ostensibly playing frisbee, but they’re really just waiting for money. I can tell they’ve been drinking and/or using. E.’s walk to my car is that of a doomed man. He doesn’t want to walk to my car and take money and put it in a bottle, but he has no choice. I know this. I get it. He gets to my car door. Now a few minutes before I’d been unhappy about meeting E. and a friend alone, even though we’re in a public place. I know he’s capable of assault while drinking, even if I’ve shown nothing but kindness I am not immune.

But when I see him up close every thought I had flies out my mind. His face is flushed but his whole body is too. I have never seen so much shame suffused in someone’s face. He takes the cash and he pauses and the kind of crying I’m seeing is like nothing I’ve ever seen. He looks at me and we look in one another’s eyes. I say, “Good luck.” Then, “take care.”

And I drive off.

Alcoholism is an ugly disease; also, water is wet.

***

Later in the day the kids and I take the car to get the brakes fixed. I hadn’t planned on dropping the vehicle off today, but my brake pad parts got in to the shop. I hadn’t planned, this means I hadn’t set up a ride home. The kids and I walk the two miles home. I feel okay about not bumming bus fare from their piggybanks, as they’re perfectly happy to walk, and it’s nice for me too.

Sumner Avenue is a drag to walk on, only because the highway traffic is loud and there are no significant trees to muffle the noise. The three of us pass overgrown lawns and step over mossy cracked sidewalks. Finally the riverbank, scotchbroom and dandelion and poppy and vetch.We see a harbor seal in the river, delighting the children. My kids take turns holding my hand and they put their arms around me. They’re so tall now I only have to bend a little to smell the sunshine in their hair.

Nels says, “When I get older I want my mom to buy me a housssse… with a million kitties and a baby alligator, and they all stay in different rooms and no one trespasses. And a bunch of trained wasps. And a WOLF!”

you know our kids are huge now but still curl up on our laps, at home & in public

Phoenix = "Rockstar Pirate Witch"

There is something indefatigable about an intimate family life, something most beautiful when things are darkest, or most absurd. It’s like, the cynic in me, the girl-then-woman raised in a “militant agnostic” home (my father, anyway), some of the reasons I’ve written here for years is an attempt to communicate what it’s like to live my experience. The more I’ve written, the easier it flows, and the happier I feel. I mean often I don’t even think how valuable or interesting this might be to others, I’m just compelled to try to tell you about it if you want to read. I think there’s a lot to gain in relating to one another.

But yeah, there are these great moments in a family that are kind of … terrible moments. Like yesterday while we drove out to a birthday party, with three kids packed in the back of the car, one kid holding a cake and another a cat in a carrier (for a “pet show” of sorts), and suddenly the cat starts puking. Like you can really hear the chunkage, back there. And then there’s this sudden silence from three previously-rowdy kids and my daughter silently rolls down the window and somberly says, “You in the front: you’re lucky.” I mean I felt terrible for my kitty – who ceased vomiting upon arrival, only hours later to start up again as soon as we got back in the car – but it was one of those deliciously ridiculous FAILmoments that is best experienced with those you love, love, love.

Cake and birthday wishes. An honor to share them with others:

Birthday Cake

“Pet contest”, Harris was given special consideration for his sadness. Those are my two kids at left in the eared-hats.

Harris Really Wasn't Feeling Well

Life has been lovely the last couple days. Today I’m having another painful series of episodes with my kidneys. That is never encouraging. I have accepted my illness in full (except for one nagging caveat, see below), and I am grateful for these repeated bouts of pain as they have taught me a great deal about acceptance. These experiences have also taught me a great deal about unconditional love, to wit: I receive it from many of my friends, and all of those in my close family.

Having this ailment has taught me a lot about humility.

I know it seems like I wouldn’t have anything good to say about a supposedly zero-sum illness, but I do. Still, sometimes the remnants of denial rear their head. I keep thinking, Why me? (not out of self-pity, just a genuine bit of confusion), or thinking, any minute I’ll be “cured” and this won’t be happening any more. Still, these are only blips on my radar, persistant as they are. To the extent I am serene and genuinely grateful through such a puzzling experience, I can put that at the feet of first my alcoholism and then my resultant experience in Recovery.

I know I’m going to learn more about why I’m sick in this way – if not the nuts and bolts or a scientific explanation – and one day I’ll be able to tell you, Why Me.

***

By the way. In honor of Father’s day I’m re-linking a couple posts about my father’s influence on my life (and my thoughts on his death), recent writings if you didn’t see them the first time around. If you have seen them, apologies for redundancy. I didn’t need to write another piece, so soon, and I didn’t make time to write one about Ralph or any other fathers in my life.

“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”

One of the first things that happened this morning when I got my shit together, I open the door to let some kitties in while holding a hot cup of coffee. Up looks Josie, her perfectly-lovely little white paws very dirty from soot (WTF chimney-sweep), and cupped around some tender prey – an odd rat/mouse-like creature. I rushed the cat off and found the rat/mouse wasn’t too quick on his or her feet. He/she was very wet but looked intact. I huddled him into a box with fleece and sent out a tweet asking for any advice.

I like being an at-home worker. I like waking up too early with my son, getting laundry done and making up some hot breakfast cereal, then taking a bath with him (“I love you so much mama… more than anything”), and huddling back to sleep a few more hours. I enjoy being able to write, sew, rest, do housework, play with kids, or participate in Recovery – on more or less my own schedule and that of friends and family. I like being available for those who need help, family, friends, and people I just met and may never see again.

I enjoy even the simple task of grocery shopping and then buying my kids that chocolate milk at Lunch, the version the owner always makes extra-fancy for Nels (like – ridiculously fancy). I enjoy taking Phee in to the doctor’s (diagnosis: swimmer’s ear, probably from the several times a day the kids went swimming in an overly-chlorinated pool at LIG) and watching my little girl manage her own health plan. I enjoy seeing people in the community and having the time to talk with them, and make eye contact.  I like living in my body, in the rain and the lovely strains of the radio, instead of living in my head.

I really and truly and deeply love this kind of stuff. This year marks the ninth I’ve been at home and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

By the way, the little rodent was all dry and very spry later in the day, so we released him/her without further assistance. We also dipped Josie’s sooty-paws in some water so she’d feel compelled to do some self-hygiene. She remained, as ever, bitterly composed with that moderately-irritated expression on her face.

cinemagraph

friday links: “But I’m a test pilot and you’re just a lady!”

Despite being ill and all, I had to get you some Friday links. Here’s hoping you kick back and waste some time!

Are You There, God? It’s Me: Period Stories by Tami at Clutch Magazine. (slight spoilers for the TV show “Mad Men”).

An illustration and discussion of “The Real Drinking World” at HuffPo. As a high-bottom functional, or “almost-alcoholic” (I just prefer the term – alcoholic), I think this is excellent, excellent reading. I’m grateful I had a doctor point out my [“almost-“] alcoholism, but I also support the dignity of those who’ve reached full-on alcoholic dependence in the ways, you know, the movies like to portray. Just heard a story the other day about a man who ended up in his bathroom on the toilet with constant diarrhea, and who made up a bed in his bathtub and stayed in there and drank. You don’t have to end up there to get help, and I’m glad articles like this are popping up here and there.

Sexist media: in media reports on women’s issues like abortion & birth control, men are quoted 5 times more than women.

“Behind the scenes at James Bond auditions”, a photo slide retrospective. I was raised on Bond films and despite all the things you could rightfully claim (sexist, racist, homophobic, campy, et cetera) I have a special place in my heart for that cheesiness (and yay Pussy Galore!). This little series was fun and cute, and gave me a newfound appreciation for Lazenby, whom I’d previously pish-poshed.

Cinemagraphs! A cute concept. We’ll be seeing them everywhere soon. Unless you already are, because I’m usually behind the times. Here’s a question. What movie, and what actor, and why do I like him?

cinemagraph

A little bit of animated fun: if you thought movie trailers cheapened Carmina Burana O Fortuna, check this out.

A million shades of grey; or, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”, or – and this is my favorite – “Ken Wilber said, ‘Sometimes you need to allow things to hurt you more, but bother you less.'”. by Ingrid Mathieu.

Open Thread: Erykah Badu & The Flaming Lips Team Up for a NSFW Vid – Are You Feeling It? at Clutch Magazine.
I have my thoughts about this video. I’ll share them. I think this is a beautiful song. Audio-wise, I like the cover. I like the video, too. I think it’s pretty neat. However I’m a li’l tired of the same naked bodies being used in the same ways. Call me when we see a nude dude – not being portrayed as silly – and yeah, full cock-n-balls, for one. Update: apparently the whole thing is a big mess between the artists. I have some thoughts on that too, but I’m sick, so I’m done.

high as a kind of crumbly, low-flying kite

I’m quite suddenly on a few medications for my kidneys: Percocet 5/325, an anti-nausea to combat the effects of this painkiller, and a prostrate medicine (tee hee!) to help my body pass stones. I also continue to take potassium citrate – I’ve been on this chemistry-correcting salt since fall last year. Oh, and finally in the world of What I’m Up To, I get to strain my pee on a little stone-finding mission, so they can analyze the stones. It’s like gold panning, but not so glamorous.

I was reluctant to be on pain meds and had quite the discussion with the friendly be-ponytailed physician yesterday. He convinced me otherwise, and an ER trip for pain management is uncool in my book for several reasons, so I came home and started dosage. But Recovery seems to have affected me physiologically, not just mentally and emotionally. Because even at the minimum prescribed dose of Percocet I am nauseated and high. More nauseated than high. As in, I can’t move around too much or ride in a car, or I feel I’m going to throw up. Boo. Because let me tell you, when I’d get some pain meds I used to enjoy the effects – and drink on the effects – and I never, ever got sick. So a little over a year’s worth of Recovery has left me intelligent with regard to prescription misuse or abuse, but with a staggeringly low tolerance. I suppose I’ve known this about myself for some time, I’m pretty sensitive to drugs. Probably one reason why I didn’t end up an addict or even an abuser. Yet. I hope never to end up there.

It is a bit difficult for me to rest most the day. I mean a lot of resting. Take a shower, rest. Then get a ride to a meeting, briefly. Then rest. Rest and more rest. Bad vampire television, and rest. Eating ice cream and steak, drink cup after cup of tea, and rest. Yes, I know many would love a day off like this, but this is hard for me. I have a sewing project I’m wanting to get to, more than anything. It would be a mistake in so many ways, to try to do it. At this point I’d like the relief of doing dishes or going thrift shopping. It’s funny how only two days of inactivity is hard for me. But, there it is.

I am fortunate because I know this is temporary. Isn’t everything? Soon I will likely feel better, and I’ll get to sew. And that will feel wonderful. Today I tried to reflect on enjoying my life today. Not waiting to enjoy it, not enjoying it ONLY if I felt better. Whatever handicaps, whatever setbacks I might have: can I enjoy my body, my mind, my family and friends?

The answer today is “Yes”, and I’m glad that’s true for me.

“I am the Earth Mother and you are all flops.”

Today marks my one year sobriety date.

I’m fortunate, because I remember quite a bit about a year ago and the days in between (many who get clean and sober don’t have that luxury). May 27th 2011 I was frightened, dried up, spiritually-desolate. I was ill at ease. I was angry, defensive, confused, resentful, and in pain – and (more relevantly) I was unable or unwilling to continue to hide my real self from other human beings. I experienced cognitive dissonance for the first time in a deeply profound way. I realized my outsides didn’t match my insides and I was done pretending they did. Distressingly, I found I couldn’t prove to anyone how much it hurt but I also realized I could never, ever prove it. I had people to blame for my problems but I suddenly knew in my Knowing Place that whoever’s fault, whomever was to blame, I was the one with the problem today, and no one was going to rescue me. I would have to accept my reality and stop relying on others to validate it. It was the most lonely place and one of the bravest moments in my life.

See, nothing was that unique about me, being an alcoholic, and nothing is that unique about me today. I could still pick up, if not alcohol or drugs, which are only symptoms, then the armor of self-sufficiency, the veil pretending I am separate, different, better or worse than other human beings. I could still pick up the act that I’m Fine and not a mess. I could still start to put a system in place and start the bullshit, it goes something like this: I might have little problems but not BIG ones like the rest of you, I feel sorry for you all, et cetera. Alternatively, my problems are SO BIG and I’m a victim and you just don’t understand! Ad infinitum.

All Ego.

I am not alone, but I am relatively rare in admitting publicly my life wasn’t working out, the way I was doing it. Many people suffer and continue to willingly suffer day in and day out. They stay in pain and play the victim or play the martyr or the provider (however precisely they may blame others or rationalize these strategies), not because they enjoy pain but precisely because like everyone else they have carefully crafted and manufactured and held an Ego-self and claimed it as their true self. I believe the Ego is neither bad nor good but rather self-growing, an entity that will keep us separate from one another and from God, or if you like, the incomprehensibly wonderful and powerful forces larger than ourselves that offer us a wellspring of healing the moment we stretch out our hand.

Yes, to the mind the experience of the Ego feels so good, it’s a high itself. And yet it requires all sorts of compromises, far more damaging to us than Surrender really, but we ignore or minimize this self-injury, numb our pain by chemical or process addictions.

It is the mark of strength to admit we will not willingly continue on our path of suffering. As I heard today in our last Unschooling talk, “Acceptance is not for sissies.” Slightly misogynistic terminology aside, this is true. Acceptance, surrender, forgiveness. Cornerstones of my Recovery. Not for the faint of heart. Not for those who want to be assured that they’ll come out looking good after all is said and done. Or as I’ve heard said, “You can’t save your face and your ass at the same time.”

Today I took a trip outside the hotel as I have daily. Far from home and those who helped me in early sobriety, I had known I’d be a li’l homesick on my anniversary but didn’t realize how much. Still, of course, I was cared for. People who hadn’t laid eyes on me today hugged me and gave me a coin and one woman sixteen days sober (who remembered me from yesterday) brought me a balloon and candle. I was asked to talk a little bit. One thing I said I’ll share here: “When I came here I was as small a person, I wasn’t even a person. I am a person today.”

I don’t have adequate words to sum up how I feel today. Gratitude and humility and a joy at being alive. No fear, and a sense of having a place in the world. That’s all I got, for now. The individuals who’ve helped me, far too many to name here, so I’ll make sure to keep saying “Thank You” on a daily basis. I’ll continue to pay it forward as best I know how.

I’ll leave you with a clip from one of my favorite films. Loved it since I first saw it at age seventeen.

to be loved means to be recognized as existing

I gotta talk about something important to me, and that is: my drinking. Or no wait, my non-drinking. My life in sobriety, a life without self-medication. And how it’s important to me and how, even if others don’t understand, it has everything to do with this current challenge: the most sensory-saturated, busiest, most (potentially) frenetic and active vacation my family has ever, ever taken. Hands-down.

I gotta talk it out because it’s how I stay sane and maybe, just maybe, it will help someone else to read.

Look, in my former life this conference would have driven me to drink. Not because it’s bad, but precisely because it’s mostly a whole lotta good. It’s exciting. There are literally a hundred things to do in just a few days. There are kids, mine and others, having a great time but also needing some TLC. There are smiles and laughs and more people to meet than one could possible remember. There are hundreds of things to buy and there’s three meals a day (ish) to find. There’s swimming and park playdates and walks and hot baths and hotel room straightening out and keeping track of clothes and phones and computers et cetera et cetera.

So this is all wonderful. No doubt. And yet there are potentially very dark sides to all this. First, I’m surrounded by people, and in most my life I am very used to having my own space on a daily basis, day in and day out. This is a huge, huge difference from my typical day. Second, I’m meeting new people (some of whom knew me or had internet-acquaintance with me) and this carries all sorts of potential awkwardness or weirdness – the potential for one or the other party to feel snubbed or out of sorts or hurt or betrayed. The potential for me to disappoint those who thought they might like me, but change their mind once they met the real thing. (In fact just tonight I was remembering another IRL meetup from several years ago… one that went in a most socially-disastrous fashion and resulted in more drama than I was able to gracefully handle.)  To my surprise, a handful of people here have known me or known my writings (or in rare occasions, my reputation!) and introduced themselves, and I often am at a disadvantage, given my blog and Twitterfeed (et cetera) all carry my somewhat memorable name. And this isn’t exactly the kind of environment that lends itself to an intimate cup of tea with each one of these individuals. Um, at all.

Now I can tell you in my previous life I would have been a wreck. Yes, had fun – but been a wreck, and by turns. Desirous to be liked, trying to cram everything into this experience. Needing my kids to behave and to therefore “prove” my good parenting (this is not a character trait I’m proud of). I would have been nervous and hoping to make a good impression. I would have been trying to people-please. I would have been judging other parents and children and I would have made sarcastic remarks to my husband, likely in earshot of my children. I would have overthought and over-engineered and stressed over the class I signed up to teach – and likely the class my daughter signed up to teach, too. Another small but significant example: I would have been very embarrassed when I got myself and my daughter and a luggage cart caught in the swanky revolving doors, in front of a few dozen people. Instead it was just funny. Because yes, I am a Dumb-Ass.

Yeah. Another one. I would not have listened to other people very well. I would have tried, but it would have been like static in my ears.

And I would have had a drink in the evenings. Or more than one. Every night. To calm my nerves. To relax. Whatever. In my case: like so many people and like all active alcoholics/addicts, I want what I want when I want it. And for some time before Recovery, I demanded chemical peace of mind. Yeah, sure, I didn’t think of it that way – who would want to? – just as I didn’t think myself a people-pleaser, I thought myself above those kinds of servile traits or supposed weakenesses. Et cetera. Yeah, I was in denial. But I was also ill, and coping the best I could with what I had.

As it is, though, today, I am quite a bit less ill. I am quite a bit happier, sure, but more importantly I have a serenity that passes at least this human being’s understanding. This serenity has carried me through so much in the last year, but especially now, what otherwise would have been an overwhelming experience (more than one grownup has admitted to having a crying jag at this conference).

I am rather tired, so hopefully I can articulate something important to me before I sign off. I could not be where I am today without the help and support of so many people, some who read here now. Financial and emotional support made this conference a reality, and my family is forming memories and learning skills that are going to bless us and help us the rest of our lives. The support and kindnesses of friends and family and those in Recovery have sustained me and grown the good parts of me this last year. Like I’ve joked before, if you like me now, you might not have liked me then. If you don’t like me now, you really wouldn’t have liked me then.

And finally: I don’t need to be liked by anyone in particular, nor to hear my progress report especially, because I like myself and in general my progress is self-evident. Heck, I have no control over how much others like me and I never did, although I used to backwards-somersault myself in order to be liked (with some success, probably). More than increasing my good experiences or the loving people in my life, my hope for my future is that I don’t abandon myself, because if I do I am little help to others. I am unskillful and unkind.

People come and go, but I will live with myself the rest of my life. Still, I never want to stop saying: I am so grateful for friends, family, and the kindness of strangers.

It’s meant a great deal to me.

the room is spinning, because of all the radsauce

#Awesomesauce At #LiG2012

 One of the many mamas here, being awesome.

Listen. It is SO WEIRD to be in a public space with public kids, where the kids are free to do their thing. I’ts like free-range Hogakids but, EVERYWHERE and LOTS of them. I hardly have words. It’s like a different planet from the one I’ve been used to. Kids go where they need to go and even in a big hotel with tons of rooms, the children, even rather tiny ones, don’t get lost. Everyone is smiling and helping one another and I haven’t seen a fight. Today Ralph overheard a five, fourteen, and sixteen year old talking about whether the term “midget” was offensive (the five year old initiated the discussion because he said it was, and although he could barely pronounce the word “offensive” the conversation proceeded with civility and aplomb). People of all ages getting along doing exactly what they want to do.

I mean I’ve seen some crabby parents speak rudely – one rather terrifyingly so – and I’ve seen some kid meltdowns but, things are entirely different. Just one example. You’ve heard me complain about the #HQX YMCA and the weird pool rules? The hotel pool rules here are not regarded but it’s still a respectful, fun place. More fun than the Y, even though the Y has a larger pool. Kids are doing cannonball jumps and flips and tiny kids get in the hot tub and no one dies. Heck, our family can see the pool across the roof from our room (and our kids average swimming twice a day), and all is smiles until late into the evening.

It’s busy and the normal chaos happens. Some kids (and adults) lose track of their items, but other people find these items and leave them at the Lost & Found Table. Some kids don’t clean up after themselves and don’t have an adult with them to assist, after (Phoenix taught a class today, but she and Ralph and I made sure to clean up – still, not everyone is able or willing to do so, so volunteers do their part). Some parents/carers have small children and are clearly a bit overwhelmed at times, but this is about the most tolerant and loving place for something like that to happen. The sheer amount of NON-GLARING at children for being kids, is incredible!   Babies are breastfed and worn and allowed to toddler around. People are courteous to one another, to a degree I’ve not seen in a public space. It’s really incredible.

It’s not a utopia. People are people, and some are crabby and/or are having a bad day. I know there are shennanigans and I know there’s drama. Besides the meltdowns (which are, again, a lot less than you typically see in a large crowd) there’s the same ol’ darkness that plagues the human race. Today I heard a few moms talk about how much they drank the night before; one of them said her son complained about it. (And speaking of which, yeah I’m finding a Recovery meeting daily while I’m here, kthx!)

But really, it’s incredible. My kids have been swimming and playing and swimming and eating and cleaning up and doing art and teaching classes – all day.

#LiG2012 Various Art Projects

A note for Phee from her “Fairy Godparent”, plus a vajazzled tampon 

Lunch!

Lunch today, Greek. All four of us had a wonderful time.

Phoenix ate a lentil soup and Nels pwned a large chicken gyro.

Good times. Now? Time for bed!

people have asked me, “what happened to you, anyway?”

Post-Burial

There’s no point in my hiding it for any particular reason. I’m coming up on a year’s sobriety. A year! I feel so full of thoughts and emotions I could write on and on. Sometimes I worry about writing it out, because readers might be bored. But you know what, I think some readers have been bored over the last year as I’ve gradually become less angry, anxious, depressed, angsty, sarcastic, mean, and primarily operating out of my head-space. Or at least I think some people have stopped reading. I don’t know for sure, I just kinda feel it. So, there’s that.

I can’t fully articulate the joy of living clean and sober. And you all know I’m fairly articulate. It’s just, hard to describe.

You know, it was a doctor who told me I needed to get help for my alcoholism. At first he didn’t say I’d need to stop drinking entirely or what I needed to do specifically, he just said I needed help. I remember thinking, okay. I was ready to hear more. I tell you this, but understand in that moment I was the Saddest Li’l Camper on the block. So he asked me if I’d ever tried to quit drinking. I told him yes, and told him about how long I’d managed to stop, then I said, “But my life didn’t improve, so…” I can’t remember what else I said. The truth is, I just gave back in to drinking, and continuing to manage how much I drank and when. It wasn’t wrecking my life like in the movies, and I couldn’t stop anyway, although I kept pretending I could.

He said, “Well think of it this way. Think if you were a heroin addict and were to stop using heroin. Would your life improve?” Now I’ve never so much seen heroin in real life but I knew enough to respond, “No.” He said, “You don’t get help so your life will improve. You get help because you have a disease, and it is your responsibility.”

You could print those two sentences on a bumper sticker and it would be like, “This Is How You Saved My Whole Entire Life, Good Sir”. I absolutely heard him in that moment. I needed no more Knowing. I was terrified, upset, felt tiny and horrible and shameful, but I knew I would take responsibility. Holy cow when I think how scary it was to contemplate living without something I couldn’t live without. Saint Pete was I freaked about admitting to having a highly stigmatized disease, not even a disease in many people’s eyes. Sometimes I forget what that was like. It was pretty bad. Scariest day of my life, HANDS DOWN.

Spoiler alert. Because ironically my life did end up improving (or maybe not “ironically”… what’s irony again?), and pretty fast, but I had no way of knowing this at the time, and no guarantee. (I still have no guarantees.) Still, with all the fear and confusion and shame (the Shame was the worst), by the end of that appointment (there was more, and I could tell you it all pretty much word-for-word if you ever want to hear it) I had accepted I would have to stop drinking. I had accepted that I would get help. It wouldn’t matter if OTHER people thought I had a problem (no one did, far as I knew), or if other people understood (many people haven’t), or if my life got better or worse (it got better, but I put work in every day!). I was committed. And scared. I’d grabbed a cobra by its tail and it was that split sickening second, a gut-deep knowledge of imminent danger.

Tonight a woman with something like twenty-five years sober told me, “You have sobriety beyond your age.” I’ve heard this kind of thing a fair bit. I also know what people mean, I think, when they say these sorts of things to me. I know, because I’ve seen what other people have gone through in sobriety. I know I was given something amazing. I’ve wanted to keep it if possible, so I’ve tried to help others. Every day I ask myself, what I can do for the person who is still sick. Every day I light incense and make an offering, and I say my prayers. And then I do what I’m supposed to, and an important part of that that means asking for help when I need it. Sounds simple – it’s too bad so many don’t do it.

So anyway, since my wee anniversary is coming up, I’m going to make a mix CD and I’d like anyone who wants one to submit info to this form and in a little while I’ll grab a random group. No, I won’t use your data for anything else except to pick, randomly, maybe ten? people, and send them mix CDs. Because I’m happy and I want to send music your way.

ETA: Form entries closed 05/22/2012. Thank you for all who entered; you should be getting an email soon. For those who missed out, come back next year and pick up the second mixtape. God Willing, but I have to be willing too!