A cat named Mustache

a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives

The last few days I’ve thrown myself into new work with addicts and alcoholics, giving rides here and there, buying breakfast for the flat-out underemployed, caring for other people’s kids, teens and pets, taking a friend on a birthday date, and helping those who have a hard time making ends meet.

Plus all that other stuff of caring for my own kiddos and husband and pets and household as best I can. And having a bit of a social life, and a sewing life, to boot!

So, I am behind on both writing here, and responding to comments. I apologize.

One thing I want to point out is the few people I’ve helped recently, or a handful of them, have given me a valuable lesson. A friend I took a dozen eggs to yesterday because she didn’t have food money until today, the difference between she and I (back when we couldn’t afford food and utilities and our lifestyle, and were bouncing checks and igorning collection bills because it was all so overwhelming), is this friend asked for and accepted help. Asking for and accepting help, in appropriate ways and from appropriate parties, has been a new(-ish) cornerstone of my life. Let’s face it, without help I was flailing at best and often a Toxic Asshole either running from, or attempting to selfishly dominate, many of life’s challenges.

The Toxic Asshole part of me is still live and kicking and surfaces more often than I’m proud of, but there’s another presence within that I like a lot more. She’s like a Baby. Baby Awesomesauce. Baby Awesomesauce is growing up just fine, but things take time.

Of course giving back gives me immense rewards so it is in itself a selfish activity of sorts. One of the hardest things going right now is to know when to give freely to others, and knowing when if I were to do so, it would rob my family of something I should be giving them (time, groceries, mostly).

I put my faith in the path set before me and I know that one day I’ll look back and see with clarity where my life is heading, and why.

***

In lieu of Friday links I have two pieces of local interest:

First, Ralph and I put together a collection of my sewn pieces for sale at the On Track Art Walk tomorrow. I would love to earn money for my craft, to have my pieces find gleeful homes, and – most of all, to find a sewing community. If I had a dream it would be to be involved with a community center/studio where I could create, and help others do the same. I don’t have the resources to start this myself, but perhaps someone out there does. In any case, I’m ready to be Out There a bit more.

Second, our local town’s annual festival came out with their official t-shirt. Many HQX residents do not endorse the shirt and are taking actions, including boycotting, writing letters to the editor and City etc, and printing a better shirt and donating profits (you can read more about it here, if you have Facebook).

From my G+ post here are some of my thoughts:

“I love my town and I love my country. One thing I love about both is the right to protest ideas and products that are violent, offensive, and bad for children and grownups and probably even small puppy dogs. Yay local Jokay Daniel who’ll be selling the alternate shirt & donating profits; also J. for being instrumental in creating alternate shirts.”

Reading the comments in the Facebook group is pretty darn cool and makes me proud of my HQX peeps.

***

And finally, something to ponder:

A cat named Mustache

We cannot control the evil tongues of others; but a good life enables us to disregard them

Outdoors

I am not as strong spiritually as others may think. Case in point, it is still alarming for me to hear adults’ negative opinions of our lifestyle through the commentary of these grownups’ children. This can’t be avoided, really, for a lot of reasons – one of which is our lifestyle and parenting philosophies are different than many families – and many people respond to perceived challenges with attitudes and positions of fear, judgment, or anger. Also, many families struggle with a variety of issues and doubtless lash out; they are truly in some sense miserable enough to do so. I can understand this on a cognitive level, but try telling my heart it’s all Okay.

For me, who I am today, the friend or “friend” who is unsupportive or speaks ill of my family is a painful party to consider. Given my weakness, I would rather they just ignore me than shit-talk, back-talk, or judge. And this is made all the more odd as I have little or nothing to hide and life is good in our home. It’s something about others harboring Hate, however tiny, directed at myself (or perceived as such), that makes me feel about a quarter-inch tall. As I told a couple friends earlier tonight, its’ not the subject matter itself at all. When it comes to living without compulsory schooling, even the familiar and repetitive questions by strangers (“But what about socialization?”*) seem at least direct and (usually but not always) put forth in good faith. It’s something else to consider a friend actively holding a resentment.

But the occasional times I receive a negative bit of gossip, or hear our life and our parenting drug through the muck, my response shows me I haven’t yet learned the lesson – you know, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” And I note as well I’m not sure what special privilege I seem to think I deserve that I should be immune to people’s Assery.

Daily I evaluate the life we live: myself, our family, my friendships, my role as a citizen and friend to the world. I do the best I can with what I have. Pondering the pain I feel today, I am glad for something recent in my life: see, a while back it became obvious to me I needed to stop speaking ill of people, even when “safe” or near someone who would not dispute nor challenge this sort of behavior (or even someone who themselves would feel relief in a few moments of gossip, that delectable dish). This life is lived not to be “good”/”nice” nor to try to bargain karma, or even to be a good friend (although it does make me a better person), but to quit making myself Sick, because Sick indeed I have been. Even with my husband I counsel him to be cautious what we say, for our own sakes’ as well as that of our children who stand to learn our attitudes. Even in the privacy of our own home.

For much of my life I have not lived this way. Months ago I would not have thought this was a possible way to conduct myself, nor even relevant. But today it’s a major cornerstone of my life.

“Never speak disparagingly of others, but praise without distinction… Pollute not your tongues by speaking evil of another.”

I do take this seriously, as hard as I find to live it sometimes. I thank my life’s experience and my Higher Power for the lesson.

* More awesomesauce here.

the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding

 
I have recently committed to a path of Honesty. This may sound easy to many on first read, but rigorous honesty is something entirely different than, “I don’t steal from my employer’s till” or, “I don’t tell bald-faced lies, or at least not that much, or only when it doesn’t matter.” It means no longer telling any lies, even those by omission – and excavating where I’ve been lying while lying to myself by not admitting I was doing so.

Deeper still, honesty to me means no longer accepting the tacit bargains of codependency and hardened hearts. It means being present in the moment (this is hard); it means caring about the other party involved in a way almost transcendant. It means risking hearing the other person’s response when I speak up with things previously unsaid. It means no longer lying to myself that omitting information isn’t dishonesty – when it really is.

Relevant to the last few days, I have committed to being honest about my thoughts and feelings with my friends – specifically when something they do hurts me or affects me adversely. Everyone is different, and some people (though I suspect, not so many) do not have this difficulty in their relationships; however, I historically have. What I have typically done in the past is either held my feelings inside (and thus developed either resentment or anxiety, or both) and/or perhaps committed to avoiding or turning off to these people – cutting off or curtailing friendship. I’ve often thought a version, a lie really, not so specifically spoken, of “easy come easy go”. It has been my softer, more cowardly way to let go of a possible intimacy than do the scary work of growth.

You can imagine how hard it is to live this way with husband and children. I’ve caused a lot of suffering for them and myself.

And finally, I am of course of severely diminished use to anyone else – everyone else – when I live this way.

Yes; when I live this way, growing active cultures of Anxiety and Resentment, I become Fearful and Angry. I don’t necessarily complain too vociferously to other people about the party who hurt me; but of course I have spoken evil about individuals. I regret this as these behaviors accomplished nothing good. I don’t want to do this any more.

My avoidance tendencies and my responses due to deep-seated fear of being cut off (from affection, mostly) were developed and perfected over a period of many years, as a result of my upbringing and as a survival mechanism. While understandable responses as a child, I have spent years parcelling my mind, heart, and spirit into ever more narrow and frightened spaces. I’ve outgrown the usefulness of these strategies and they now hurt deeply – and not just me.

So I am honest now – to the best of my abilities – and it is not at all the freeing experience one who hasn’t committed to fully might guess. It is quite terrifying. Implicit in telling someone, “Ouch, that hurt” is every single Boogeyman that kept me from saying it for years. The possible responses: “See you later, I don’t need this shit”, “Come on, you’re making a big deal of nothing!”, or “Well now that you’ve opened the floodgates let me tell YOU just what I think about YOU!” – exactly the results I’d feared so much and for so long. It risks everything I hadn’t been willing to risk before – all this at a time in my life, now, where I am learning to cope with life on life’s terms; without the evening cocktail to obliterate the pain.

See, telling someone I’m hurt is the opposite of a Control thing; no, Control was what I’d tried to maintain earlier by my dishonesty. Speaking aloud these truths is not done to secure a friend’s future behavior nor demand anything in particular from them, but to be honest about who I am – today – and what I think and feel. I don’t require people change, and I could not force this result even if I wished to; to the best of my ability I merely tell them in as direct and brief a way possible (seriously, like one sentence) what they did and that it hurt. Then I wait to see how they respond.

Turns out, so far, some people don’t like this kind of honesty much. Most recently, someone I care for very much literally stomped out of my house. I won’t write down the things this person was quite quick to talk over me and claim about my character, but they were many and they weren’t complimentary.

After the person left it felt so tempting and familiar to think of attempts to “take it back” – to apologize if I hurt their feelings – to diminish what I said as if one or two sentences were too much for me to claim. But I can’t apologize for other people’s experiences (or feelings). And at the same time I am brave enough to be honest, I realize there is no friendship I absolutely need – there are many I want to keep, if possible. What I need is to love others unconditionally, and to instantly forgive them when they wrong me – even if they never apologize.

I am no longer going to deal the way I used to with those who respond poorly to me; even those who outright try to hurt me. I can’t afford to hold a grudge or cut them off from my thoughts and prayers.

The one time in my life, that I can remember, that I earnestly wished for death – I sat in an AA meeting in early sobriety and even my final barrier, that I could never physically destroy my body for the pain it would cause my children, in that moment even that barrier was removed – a man shared and at one point he said, “No one owes you a goddamned thing for getting sober.”

His words were like freshets of water and they give me strength now.

But, unlike the words of my mentor and virtual life coach Dalton – I find pain, really, does hurt.

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.

 

suit up and show up

Tomorrow marks a particular anniversary of my sobriety date. It’s been a wonderful journey, unlike any period in my life I can recall. It’s hard to explain. It has been like being born again, or being a child. I am less sure of myself but more secure and serene. Rigorous honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness.

I had the Willingness from day one, and for this I am so grateful.

And like someone new and picking through garbage, making missteps and being brave regarding things I’ve been frightened of – yes, there has been pain involved. My worst moment sober, however, has been hands-down better than life while I was employing other methods to cope. Depression, anxiety, fear, resentments, anger, over-excitement, a head spinning like a top, resentments (I put “resentments” twice because they are a Big Fucking Deal)… these things have been dashed to the rocks or at least incredibly reduced – in such a short time. All because I was ready to do a few simple things which I won’t detail here – but go into any of the rooms of Recovery, stick around, and you’ll hear all about them.

Life is beautiful. My children are the most incredible gift and to be frank, I don’t deserve them. So I just give Thanks. Daily they venture forth, these days with very little interference from me, and with a confidence and a joy of living and a love and care for other people. They remember names of strangers, they hug friends, they share their ice cream or their clothes. They are loving, caring people and it is a genuine pleasure to spend time with them.

At night my husband makes dinner and does the dishes and I have a few minutes to sew or knit or write. He takes better care of me now and (I truly believe) he takes better care of himself. Our family has changed. We are kinder to one another. We are more honest. There hasn’t been a yelling match or a nasty fight for quite some time.

But today one of the things that sticks with me is how precious and incredibly fragile life is. How all the days we can go about on the treadmill and be spiritually dead, or at least suffering so much our turmoil is loud in our ears and people say, “How are you?” and we say Fine, fine, and maybe we even think we’re fine, but we suffer so much. More scary still is the result of our confusion and isolation and quietude: others do not know know how much we suffer, how lost we are. In the last few days how many emails, how many people have expressed astonishment I had any kind of problem at all?

I am not going to diminish the mother of my children by negating all I did and accomplished, who I was, or how I incurred and attempted to patch up my bumps and scrapes (many of which I’ve written about here, publicly). The woman I was did the best she could. The woman I am today does the same. This woman, when the chips are down, I see her character and I like her just fine, about as much as God does I suppose.

May I always see her in this light.

***

By the way, I couldn’t wait until my Friday links to share this with you. Definitely NSFW, by the way. It made me laugh so damned hard. It also reminded me of my grandma, may she rest in peace.

better to travel well than to arrive

At times it is almost agonizing how lovely some of my readers and friends and family can be. At a certain point I can only say, simply, “thank you” – thank you to the people in my life, thank you to the Universe and the power that flows through me and every being on the planet – just; Thank You. There’s no way to give quid pro quo for what has been given me. Deepest, deepest gratitude. Humility. A joy in living. A real life to live.

I have received so much support from so many since I began disclosing my journey in Recovery. As pertains to this space, I wrote a brief post and received some wonderful email (and it’s still coming). I opened myself up, I gave myself in honesty, and in turn others have shared with me; supported me and stood by me.

My friends who aren’t in Recovery, who I’ve shared with over the past months – well, they’ve given me so much too. I was at a party the other night and every woman there was drinking a cocktail or a beer. And for a moment I felt a panic – not that I would drink, but precipitated by how alone I felt, no one would notice if I slipped off into the deep end. Just then my friend D. turned to me and said, “How are you doing? Does this bother you?” She looked right at me and she was calm and she cared. I answered her (truthfully) I was okay (no individual or circumstance can “sabotage” my sobriety), and I thanked her for asking – but the important lesson was:

I am not Alone. People do care. It is Unrequited Bullshyt that they don’t. I’m only as Alone if/as I segregate myself.

By the time I stopped drinking I’d become about as limited as I’d ever been. And yes, in an essential way hidden even from myself, I believed I was alone. I knew I was sick but didn’t now how, exactly. I didn’t think anyone could understand, nor help.

So anyway, I wanted to clear up a few things. Regarding my online journal, my sobriety, and my recovery, those in any 12 step program know it’s group policy not to share publicly what happens in the rooms. For myself, when not implicating or fucking about with others’ lives, I can still write and I will. Or as I wrote in an email response to one of my friends:

“I’ve always felt I owed it to my readers to be as honest as is possible and practical. I need to start talking openly about Recovery because it is such a big part of my life. I only hesitated for so long – well, primarily – because I can’t write the things I hear in the rooms (according to AA traditions) – this is also due to the fact locals read my blog and stories/people might be recognized. I’m sure that makes sense. I will be writing about myself and my recovery as long as I know it’s within the bounds of what’s appropriate! Not always easy to know.”

I’m treading with caution.

On the flip side of the coin, my problems were – and still are – physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. The moment I admitted I was sick, the power of any social stigma became laughable to me. Still, I don’t owe a performance to anyone. Last night another dear reader wrote me, in part:

“I see from that [Ebert’s article] it’s enshrined in the practices of AA that ‘nobody has to speak.’ I am glad that you staked that claim for yourself in today’s post; it should be as true of the blogosphere as it is for that intimate room, and maybe even more so. Your blog is already a very, very generous document. Nobody should be going after any sliver of you that you’re not willing to give.”

What a lovely and supportive thing to say!

I dunno. When I started journaling publicly years ago I thought it would be fun – and exciting, and a way to vent, and a place to be honest about the things I was afraid to be honest about. I guess this is all still true. But other things have changed so much over the years. I’ve received so much support, so much love, so many Thank Yous, and my sense of Independence is near shattered. This so-called “generous document” you’re reading now developed a life of its own. I suppose I know I will write as long as I’m able; but I was foolish to think others wouldn’t read, and care, as much as they have. I’ve been on the planet long enough to know how wonderful people can be.

The world can be a painful place to live sometimes, and so many are living miserable deep down, hardened and diminished by Fear and Fear’s panicky manifestation Anger; eaten up alive even as they walk and breathe.

But we are not Alone. I just want to impress upon you that.

Back to regularly-scheduled programming tomorrow; I hope!

***

Today, a river (sorry, no pictures). One year ago, a lake:

Sunset

when you starve with a tiger, the tiger starves last

Ed. – comments are turned off for this post. I indicate this here since I rec’d an email from someone who thought maybe they weren’t smart enough to figure out how to comment, or maybe I didn’t want to receive ANY communication on the subject (untrue). So I’m clearing that up with this prologue. As per usual calls, emails, DMs, IMs, in-person, snail-mail – all is appreciated and welcome, as always. Thanks for your readership and support!

***

Hi, my name is Kelly and I am a recovering alcoholic. In my case one thing this means is I do not drink alcohol anymore. At all. But of course that’s only the very beginning of a life in sobriety – as anyone who’s had a lasting and positive sobriety will know.

It’s been too hard to write on the blog here and omit this massive part of my life, from one to three hours of peer-support a day, so many phone conversations and book-studies and readings, so I’m giving that up. That doesn’t mean I’ll write much here. I won’t. Anything specific – or rather too specific, or risking disclosing anything about another alcholic – I’m password-protecting to share with one other person (so far anyway, and it’s none of your business who).

That’s about it.

It disturbed me a bit that when I started feeling compelled to keep Recovery entries on my journal online – but wouldn’t/couldn’t write publicly – a few people complained about password-protected entries. I mean it was almost funny considering this is a life-or-death issue for me (and the others I’m responsible to!), and I owe no one any particular thing when I write here – but fine, that’s their baggage.

On the other hand it touched me, those who took the time to ask, “Hey, are you okay?” (thank you). One friend worried aloud if I had a stalker – which is one reason I’m making public my experience. And on that note, most my stalkers have been rather benign as far as I know. But, yeah, I keep Recovery entries private and if people don’t understand why, they’re free to ask me, in person would be best, any time. I’m not going to go into it here and now.

I used to hold a lot of cynicism about those in Recovery culture. Of course, I was almost entirely ignorant too. I’ll spare you my specific prejudices as they’re boring and anyone could think of what they might be. I’m reporting today I was wrong regarding every bias I’ve had. Recovery has saved my life in the deepest sense of the word; not just kept the physical destruction of my body at bay or at least not in an accelerated capacity but in the way LIFE means an every day experience, the moment, every relationship, even now typing.

After a long talk today a friend said to me, “I had no idea you were suffering.”

And I said, “Yeah. I held my shit together pretty well.” A while back I found this incredibly sad about myself but today I can laugh. It’s pretty funny really.

My life is utterly different than it was, and I am glad.

***

A rather famous person outed himself as a member of AA after long years in sobriety. He wrote something pretty damn good. I’ll let you read it, since I’m not going to write more.

of melancholy and patchouli

Happy Father's Day, Dad

Aw, I miss my dad so much. There’s so much in my life I didn’t get to share with him. He didn’t get to share the journey we’ve had in not-schooling our kids. He’s missed my sobriety in adulthood. He’s missed knowing my kids at an older age – and they’ve missed knowing him. He and my husband had a wonderful, wonderful friendship. Now that I think on it I’m not sure Ralph has had a friendship like it before or since.

I have a lot of my father’s nature. I am intelligent and I have a good memory. I have his beaky nose and tiny angry eyes. I have his suspicion of human authority and for many years I had his slightly pessimistic agnosticism coupled with a rather sedate moral code. I have his confidence; a confidence in my ability to do things well, if I want to do them. I have his knowledge of Choice, which lends me to playing the victim a little less than I might otherwise. Things are changing within me lately – and I am becoming calmer and less afraid – traits I associate with him. He was pretty calm. And he was pretty gentle in most all the ways that mattered. I’m not sure how many people have grown up with a gentle father.

I also, sometimes, display the dark and nasty sense of humor he had. A few weeks back my mom and I were in Olympia looking for a park for the kids (which they’d mowed down for office buildings, I think, bravo!). Mom and I saw this little wine shop she instantly adored. My mom exclaimed, “Oh look, that place looks very cool!” and I said without skipping a beat, “It’s probably full of baby boomer douchebags.” She laughed and swatted at me and said, “Okay, David!” It’s true, I’ll occasionally hear something come out of my mouth like that. My husband comments too. It’s pretty funny really.

Dad, I really, really miss you. We had so many laughs, seriously (seriously!). I remember I’d walk over and you’d be in the yard pulling a weed and you’d leave the weed where it was and come inside to sit with coffee, because you didn’t give a fuck much about weeding. You’d sit at the kitchen table and play solitaire with cards so soft and old and rounded-edged that new cards have always looked obscene to me.

By the way you were someone who gave me the right advice, and I haven’t found someone else to replace that relationship. That sucks.

I’ll love you fiercely until the day I die at the very least.

I Was Nine Months Old

Nine months old.