being a Helper

Shrine

Every pay cycle I purchase flowers, for my shrine, from a local florist. I can only set aside a small amount, but as time passed the parcels quickly bloomed into larger, and lusher, arrangements. The experience has become a spiritual lesson, for me. Because: spirituality doesn’t make sense. It isn’t logical. I “can’t” afford flowers and the florist surely “can’t” afford frothing arrangements worth at least twice what I pay.

And yet. Week in, week out. A subtle, fluid heartbeat in my life, no matter the season.

***

I know the man involved in the ongoing police standoff, here, in South Aberdeen. As “police”/military presence continues to escalate, and as mounting pressure is put on this man – who just lost a loved one before the incident – I experience fear for his life.

About a year ago he and I spent a few months volunteering assistance in recovery meetings, at the Treatment Center. We went on at least one roadtrip to Seattle in this capacity; I remember that day we saw a double rainbow, and that he helped out tremendously when my car ran out of gas on the drive back. He was particularly close with another friend of mine – they became fast friends in the first months of her sobriety. My heart is with her today, too.

Last night in the first few hours of the standoff, I mentioned it to Ralph. He remembered ___ and said, “I was impressed by his intelligence”. As more and more guns and uniforms and heavy artillery surround his house, I feel less and less certain he will be allowed to live.

And if he lives, what then? Surely he will be locked up. If he lives, will I be able to see him, I wonder? If he lives, is there any way he can return to his community? If he lives, who will be helping him grieve his loved one – and heal from this scary experience?

***

The day before yesterday we took in the refugee kitty Peppy – one of the residents displaced from Emerson Manor. I knew the kitty’s owner also – again, from my volunteer work in the community. But when we picked up her kitty, I don’t think she recognized me. Many of the residents in the Manor, all low income, live with mental, physical, and emotional disabilities. Peppy’s owner was near beside herself at having to be separated from her feline companion. The rescue liaison, my friend Deb, told her I knew what I was doing. That felt a good to hear.

The wee kitty Peppy is on day two of hiding out. She’s under the bed while my son has a lie-in. Hutch sleeps only a few feet over; he is a perfect foster-brother dog as he is so wonderful and gentle and loving. Peppy’s care isn’t like that of No-No’s; Peppy is old enough to be quite frightened, and she isn’t feeling that up to cuddling. Yet.

So family life is busy, as per usual. My car is still locked up in a shop and I fear the repair cost, which I will be hearing within the hour.

It’s funny how people say nothing happens in small town life.

No. You just don’t know how to see.

it’s so late it’s morning again,

and my son is quietly playing Legos a few feet away while I mess around with a few more electrons, sending out these last few bits of minutia and miscellany from my day, to God Knows Who and God Knows Where (I haven’t checked my analytics in months). My boy doesn’t realize in a few minutes I’m probably going to “make” him watch some incredibly bad “sci-fi” television and if that gets boring, I’ll pick up my thick-as-a-brick Dickens novel, before dropping off.

Last night I had twice-a-night sleep, which along with my Chinese herbs and cold remedy (raw honey and garlic) has left me refreshed today. This double-sleep, when it happens, dovetails nicely with my son’s growing-boy loonnnnng lie-in schedule – we rise at the same time for a peaceful (enough) morning of coffee and yoga then a shower when I’m finally fully awake. And at the other end of the day, in the late hours, it is pretty lovely to have the company of my son, all to myself. He makes me special origami, whispers harshly to me while we watch goofy Bigfoot documentaries (as his real-life Sasquatch father slumbers soundly on the other side of the bed), and makes conversation without the relentless questions and spirited talk that so characterize his daylight hours.

***

I am feeling a bit somber and a bit reflective, at the moment. As most who read here know for two-plus years I have been putting time in, on a volunteer basis, helping addicts and alcoholics new to Recovery. Tonight in my endeavors a man was brought into the meeting I was chairing; he was still dressed in a medical robe, so he was very new. He was shaky enough to be escorted by more than one of the personnel, and for a moment it looked like he was going to fall. Ultimately he was not well enough to stay, and he left again. I gazed upon him while he made up his mind and after he left, I returned to the business of the group. “Not feeling well,” I said quietly and the rest of the group murmured in compassion and shared pain.

When I left a little over an hour later I saw him again at the end of the hallway, receiving medication and some medical ministrations. As I walked down the hall I realized suddenly that I knew him, knew him by name, had known him while clean and sober and listened to him speak on several occasions. He had been entirely “normal”, entirely cheerful, entirely functional when I’d know him before. It had required two sightings on my part for me to recognize him.

As often as I’ve seen this very same thing, it still can be a shock.

My alcoholic career was about the briefest and most merciful that I’ve yet heard of. This is rather extraordinary because it didn’t feel brief while I was living it. But now I’ve had some experience and have seen so many living with the disease I know many drink (or drug) after it no longer serves them – usually for years, and often for decades (a dear friend of mine drank over sixty years before getting sober)!

Of course, this “brief” alcoholic career was a living Hell such that I hope you never see me belittle it in any way, here or elsewhere. I see others I know who seem to be living the same kind of low-level shit out – a private Hell they don’t even know they’re living, mostly because they hide their innermost selves and try to put on a good face. The autopilot, the anger, the stress, the driven-nature of their day in and day out, the blame and shame and victim-role – these things feel normal to them, yet somehow circumstantial, somehow just what life is like yet somehow someone’s “fault”. They have a list of bellyaches and resentments and sarcastic asides but deep, deep down… they blame themselves. Somehow … somehow.

I know it too well and I hope to never go back. I gotta tell you, living in that pit for even a few brief years was long enough to, figuratively, bitch-slap me awake.

I forget sometimes I am the Walking Dead, and that my path could have landed me elsewhere. Today I get to live a normal, healthy life and participate in my community, and with my family, and even give a little – sometimes a lot! – of time to “strangers” who suffer from this particular malady.

I don’t moralize addiction or compulsion whatsoever (well… I try not to!) and so tonight after I get over the initial shock of seeing this young man in the state he is in, I hold him in my heart like a cancer patient who’s very ill from chemo (another experience I’ve had). He is very ill and I’m sad to see him in the clutches of illness; moments like this my drinking doesn’t feel like a lifetime ago, it feels recent. At these moments my heart breaks open in compassion and if I didn’t have a husband and children and furry critters depending on me, I think I’d devote my Life to the care of these individuals.

In the car, off on a date with my daughter and husband, it takes me a while to shake off the work I do. I am glad to be Me and glad to live my life, more glad than you can probably know!, but my heart is with those who suffer because I know that although I can Help, I cannot Cure. Sometimes I get mixed up and think somehow I’m supposed to be Curing, supposed to be Fixing. It’s incorrect, but nevertheless it’s a powerful and compelling illusion, and it is often quite disconcerting.

We drive down the hill and toward the cheerful lights of the grocery store, past boarded-up windows, past prostitutes out in the cold, past sadness and cheerfulness and want and need, and onto our errands.

My husband tells me: “You look mad. You look beautiful, but mad.”

“I’m not mad,” I tell him.

what hath night to do with sleep?

It’s cold and I’m cold on the ride home. I’m cold on the bike most the year, especially on my return trips. I think I get chilled on the trip out, then I sit in my own sweat a bit and get clammy indoors, then back on the bike. Barring proper cycling gear that’s just how it is. For now. I was bringing quarts of hot water which helped a little but not much.

Just after eight, before I set back off to Hoquiam, my friend Charlie accosted me about biking. “You got any protection?” he asks all surly. He means like, a firearm. He’s seventy-something, grew up in the Appalachian mountains, and he is hardcore. He still plays with guns. He’s been shot. By friends and enemies both, I think. Anyway now he says he’s worried. “I”m worried someone’s gonna grab ahold of you,” he tells me. Yeah, I’m thinking. “It hasn’t happened yet,” I tell him, hiking my leg over. “No – but it could!” He is stubborn. He’s a little pissed. “Yeah…” I say. “There are a lot of sick people out there. – Goodnight!” and I’m off.

The streets are cold, crystal-clear, a great big moon. Near-deserted. Past Myrtle and there’s a loud altercation. I can hear angry screaming, abuse, for a full mile. I am sobered at the thought of all the suffering in the world.

Across the bridge and I pull up to Simpson and a red light; another person on a bike is waiting as well. He turns in partial profile and I recognize him. I got to know him a while back when he had a spell clean and sober. He’d put on weight and lost the hardened look in his eye and he was becoming that sweetheart he is, the one that lives within.

Now though, he doesn’t look great. He’s attending a huge plastic garbage bag with presumably all his belongings, somehow balanced on the bike’s handlebars. He turns and I smile at him and greet him by name. He’s trying to figure out who I am and I notice with a crystal-clear delight two items in his overstuffed backpack – a pair of miniature dachshunds peeping me with large, liquid eyes. I ask about the dogs. He tells me their names – mother and daughter. He asks me how he knows me and I tell him. I tell him I have an eighty-pound dog and can’t pack him in a backpack.

The light turns. I tell the man to Take Care and I’m off into the night. Amber streetlight. Smell of ozone and deep green grass. Almost home.

I pull up to my house to a crumpled dog hair-infused afghan swaddling a huge pile of leaves on the porch. Fancy, I think. And sure enough when I walk in the door my nine year-old tells me: “Mama did you see the leaves I put on the porch? Because they are fancy.”

I lean the bike against the coffee table and stride into the kitchen and greet my husband. And I stand at the stove and eat like three lentil tacos and take a swig of Mexican Coke.

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.

A "Fancy" Porch

this friday night / do it all again

FRIDAY LINKS! AW YEAH (if you’re new, please read my Comment Policy before posting)

The definitive response, or at least an incredibly good one, to the TIME magazine assery.

What the world eats, a week’s worth of groceries. h/t Jen G. who reminded me of this article.

From the archives: “Craft pr0n and how it’s killing America” at Underbellie. This two-year old post was recently brought to my attention as a few of my tweeps were diggin’ on it. By the way, only a few months ago I finally found the “affordable and well-made, probably used” dining room table I write about here.

Sea and Land by J. W. Buel, 1889. Do you even know how much this is my thing? Or how much I want this book, and to embroider plates from it? A LOT. My favorite was probably the Japanese spider crab, which turns out has recently been fascinating my brother as well. Oh, and it’s very real.

The Japanese, or spider crab.

Obama blows it, big time:

And yes. I laughed so hard I cried.

Ashely Judd on her “puffy” face, at The Daily Beast. (Did I post this already? I don’t think so. Anyway. Here it is. She rocks!)

SCIENCE figures out what really causes ice cream headaches. In the comments, admit it if you’ve had one in the last half year even though you’re a grownup.

Literally the Best Thing Ever: Fictional Rich People of the 1980s at RookieMag.

Hey, I missed James Brown’s birthday! Here, have some dancing lessons. Just be careful on what life lessons you take from the man.

Girls Gone Wild: Female Sex Addiction and the Internet at The Fix.
Readers looking for titillation will instead find a thoughtful piece written by a sex addict (yes, that’s a real thing). I’m not a huge fan of The Fix being as its for-profit motives mean well, what you might think. But this was a good article.

“The greater your shame, the more you do the thing that gives you shame. You feel bad about yourself, you’re lonely, you feel low self-worth, you don’t have enough endorphins to make yourself feel good, so you go back to the addiction because it pleases you and punishes you at the same time.”

This awesome dad takes awesome pictures of his awesome daughters, plus with extra awesome.

“I’m not ashamed to dress ‘like a woman’ because I don’t think it’s shameful to be a woman.” – Iggy Pop

“Talking About Independent Learning” at Natural Life Magazine: a schooled and non-schooled young adult discuss the differences in their learning environments. What a beautiful interview. “Maybe self confidence is something that doesn’t need to be built as much as it needs to be protected.” I’d say the same for critical/”free” thinking, compassion, and work ethic… you know, those things people are often saying need to be drilled into kids.

My favorite tweet of the week.

“I’m sorry the information is so scanty but I’ll send you up more as I get it. Blake out.” First, he is acting the hell out of this cut-rate scene in a Z-grade film. Second, his looks and mannerisms are uncannily that of my brother! Third – SCANTY. The information is SO SCANTY.

Speaking of my brother! A picture of him from 2005. Adorable.

Babies thrive on real meat!

“why is partying and having a good time bad?”

Friday links! Short and sweet.

I set up my next blood donation appointment online (here in Hoquiam/Aberdeen there’s one at Walmart on August 11th). All types are needed. Red Cross has been assclowny in a few ways in the past, but their online setup is pretty good.

“Amy Winehouse: Death and Addiction” by Kendra Sebelius (who is also @VoiceinRecovery on Twitter and writes on eating disorders; she does great work).

“Addiction is a serious issue, one that requires serious discussions. I feel people still have the tone of “well, she had a choice to stop.” Choice is such a hard word to even address in this whole thing. […] Rehab didn’t keep me sober, any more than it does for many people. […] This doesn’t mean a person is bad or a failure or unwilling to get better. It means it is hard to not only get sober, but to stay sober. I had to change my environment, ask for help, and find a new way of doing things. Rehab is just a starting point. You don’t go to rehab and automatically get better.”

Further on Winehouse: apparently a HuffPo article was needed because so many don’t understand alcohol withdrawal. This is kind of rattling to me.

OK, onto lighter matters: Special Report: Star Trek The Next Generation: A XXX Parody; even from giggly curiosity I can’t bring myself to watch something like this. But the review? GOLDEN.

Common rumors about lesbians I would like to dispel

The Just-So Stories complete text poster. Pretty fabulous. I’ve acquired this book and a few other Kipling tomes for my kids; they love them.

From M’s blog: “Mistakes”; a wonderful post about a child’s ever-broadening assessment of the world around him.

Make: Cucumber Lime Mint Agua Fresca at Simply Recipes

And – guess what? Babies thrive on real meat! From vintage-ads on Livejournal:

Babies thrive on real meat!

Babies, on behalf of parents everywhere, I’m really sorry if anyone offered this to you.