My Stolen Life

what was SUPPOSED to be. i’m not kidding, even down to her Chucks it’s perfectly me in another lifetime but in THIS lifetime that brown bag was filled with rotgut whiskey instead of fresh daisies and the bike was actually a police squad car

Of course sobriety is awesome, and of course I wish I had found my way here sooner . . . MUCH sooner.  I try very hard not to play the “what if” game because that ends well for NO ONE but as a flawed and imperfect human being, I cannot help but obsess over what COULD have been sometimes, instead of what was and is, even though I’m beyond grateful that my story is one that I’m still privileged to be here to tell.  That is, I’m alive.

While in Germany I was able to escape to Amsterdam for a few days and it was mostly awesome, when it wasn’t completely chaotic and anxiety inducing.  Busy folks everywhere.  Tourists and locals meshing together through the canals and side street eateries.  Pungent and competing smells from every bodega and bakery. Public trolleys and trains whizzing by with spaghetti-like crossing tracks and no discernible patterns. I watched a young gal peddling her bicycle through the cobble stone streets, with her groceries placed neatly in her front basket and a small short-haired dog in a little seat on the back.  She donned a straw hat and was wearing a vintage yellow embroidered dress.  She looked carefree and full of promise.  Naturally, my first instinct was to quickly glance around for the movie cameras that were surely going to be visible to me at any moment, as this scene was just too sublime to be real, but I assure you, it was real, and my disbelief quickly turned to jealousy and simply put, sour grapes.

You see, THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ME.  She is clearly living MY LIFE.  You know, the one I pictured in my head while I was sitting upon all those bar stools, spending money I didn’t have, telling tales that weren’t true, sleeping with people I didn’t know.

My gaze burned holes in her as I recalled every single minute of my life I’ve spent sitting behind a desk staring at a clock and willing it to move faster.  I quickly recounted all the days and months and years collectively I’ve spent hungover and ridiculously useless. How pathetically accurate AND ironic is it that the word I’m using is wasted? Time I’ve wasted, money I’ve wasted, and that doesn’t even touch the POTENTIAL I’ve wasted, and save getting me started on opportunities. They were wasted, because I was wasted.

my amsterdam bicycle experience was a tiny bit different

Some people never recover so in the great big scheme of things, of course I’m grateful for every single second of every moment, but I also can’t help but look in the rear view mirror and wish hopelessly for a “do-over”, and I know that’s not a notion specific to drunks.  I’m certainly not saying my life is one big regret, not at all – quite the opposite.  My life is so freaking ass-kickingly awesome that I am furious at myself for not getting to it sooner.

And here’s the thing, I’ve done my share of living, believe you me.  The point is not that I wish I could go back and make completely different decisions, but of course that is absolutely true as well.  No, what I want is to go back in time with the knowledge, compassion and clarity I have now. I want to see those “missing” years through SOBER eyes, not just as blurry memories like dirty streaks on a window where you can only see the vague outlines of what actually happened.  If only I had hit rock bottom sooner.  If only I had given sobriety a shot years ago.  If only I had LISTENED to all the warnings and advice.  If only.  Let’s also remember that I am still new to sobriety.  I don’t have everything figured out, not even close. Many would argue I wasn’t near ready back then and I wouldn’t have listened, anyway, and they are one hundred percent correct.

It’s not that I think if I’d gotten sober years ago I may have invented the fucking Kindle or cured Cancer or anything as fruitful and contributory as all that, but I can’t help but wonder how different my path would have been, if we had been introduced earlier.  As it turned out, I had to be introduced to some policemen, a few jails, multiple courtrooms, a few counselors, and ultimately some grim yet realistic liver Doctors who told me I was going to die before I would hold out my thin yellow hand to shake hands (tentatively) with sobriety.

Here’s my simple summation; my fear of dying outweighed my fear of living sober, but ONLY JUST.  It was a barely discernible amount, but that was all I needed.  A half ounce of hope.

It’s hard to forgive myself, but most days I still try.  Some days things still just aren’t far enough away in that rear view mirror, you know?

*sigh*

I’m not unique.  We all have a little bit of “woulda- coulda -shoulda” in us, I believe.  But I also believe it’s where I go from here that counts now, and that’s a darn good thing because as luck would have it, that’s all I have; this moment and forward.

That’s all we have.

So, tell me.  Do you guys lie awake at night and re-live every regrettable decision you’ve ever made and replay things over and over in your head like a terrible b-grade movie until there are tears running into your ears as you stare at your ceiling fan and wonder where thirty years of your life went?!?

No!?

Never mind.

Jumping to conclusions is not actually exercise.

As a temporary worker I flit about to a lot of assignments of varying degrees.  The life of the temp is an inconsistent one and from one day to the next I sometimes have no idea where I’ll land.  Recently I found myself sitting next to an older lady as part of the reception team at a busy downtown office.

She’s mostly no-nonsense but we’ve had a friendly rapport during my tenure. She’s been at her position a very long time and I’m sure she’s suffered through many a ridiculous Temp, present company definitely included.  This close to retirement, I imagine it’s a pain in the ass to have to train and re-train dolts like myself over and over again.

Last week we were making polite conversation about our respective weekends.  When she asked me what I did over the weekend, I hesitated.  I had gone to the Pride Festival with my family, of course, but wasn’t sure if that was a detail to be shared.  Why not, you ask?  Well, that’s what I’ve asked myself repeatedly SINCE this happened, but that’s another conversation.

I decided in .03 seconds that I would, in fact, mention it.   After all, it is WHAT I DID THAT WEEKEND.  I’m not entirely sure why I was changing MY story to make HER comfortable, and I’ll just get right to the rest of the story because as you’ll see, I clearly know nothing about anything.

I told her we had gone to the Pride Festival and parade and took our children.  I told her we also bought some peaches and cream corn at the Farmer’s Market and on Sunday, we did yard work.

She listened politely and didn’t flinch at any of my weekend details.  After sharing her respective weekend activities with me, we resumed our regular morning routine at work.  I silently patted myself on the back for being authentic.  I mean, who was SHE to judge ME, right?!?  If she would like to have a conversation with me about why I support equal rights for ALL humans beings and gender equality and am anti-homophobic and believe love is love and abhor the asshat in the White House, then that is just fine by me. . . BRING IT ON, OLD SOUTHERN WOMAN.

As she got up to get her morning cup of joe, she turned and looked back at me and smiled. “I’m delighted your family attended the Pride Festival.  My grand-daughter is transgender.”

Well, the good news is that for once in my life I did NOT have to pry my foot from my mouth and/or apologize for having no filter or common sense or etiquette.  The bad news is that it turns out I’m just as judgmental and speculative as the next doofus and I have to work on my pre-concieved assumptions just like everyone else.

I’ve never been so happy to have been so wrong.

You guys I bought some fancy schmancy leave-in conditioner to repair my ridiculously dry and straw-like hair and instead of having shiny luxurious locks like Gloria in Modern Family, I look like the victim of a low-flow shower head.  Remember that episode from Seinfeld?  When Kramer goes “low-flow”!?

low flow is a no-go for Jerry and the gang

Anyway.  That’s what I’ve got going for me today.  It’s a holiday week with the Fourth of July and all things USA taking place. I’m not sure how patriotic I feel, especially after just returning from our trip to Europe. I guess I just don’t feel we have a whole lot to be proud of these days.

With the holiday festivities and all that goes with that, naturally the subject of temptation and relapse has been popular in some of my recent discussions.  The topic of relapse is always swirling around in the circles in which I run now.  Whispers in hallways, slow nods in meetings, and heartbreaking embraces in parking lots alert me in to their presence and unwelcome intrusion.  Like death over our shoulders, the threat of relapse is ever-present, promising twice the doom and bowel shaking destruction as before we quit,  vowing to take us down with it this time. I personally have not suffered a relapse. . . YET.  We drunks love to use the word “yet”.

  1. “Well, I haven’t gotten a DUI….yet“.
  2. “My spouse/family/children/lover hasn’t left me…yet“.
  3. “It’s not like I drink during the daytime…yet“.

It may seem overly dramatic but it’s the truth, Ruth, because if you do in fact have a drinking problem and do NOT get the to root of things, it WILL continue to progressively get worse and THAT I CAN ASSURE YOU LIKE I’M SITTING HERE TYPING THIS.

The other day I was listening to another alcoholic wax poetic about his impending relapse.  I use the word impending, because he used it as well.  Over the years I have heard many a drunk express FEAR AND ABJECT TERROR at the thought of a relapse, sure, but never have I heard someone casually mention the inescapability of its IMMINENT arrival, prior to actually having done it.  I’m using the word casual but he wasn’t what I could really call casual, he was visibly upset and anxious about this blip on his radar screen that only he could see.  As I listened I was somewhat incredulous. If you can foresee a relapse than ostensibly, you can prevent it, right?  Not always.  Therein lies the insanity, you see.  YES, IT IS INSANE BUT NOW I GET IT, BELIEVE ME.

“Sometimes you have to fight a battle more than once to win it”

– Margaret Thatcher

People say that a relapse begins LONG before you pick up the drink. It can be a break or a snap in your psyche, your heart, your serenity, your situation, your mood/feelings/spirit/soul, WHATEVER, it starts LONG before you find yourself clutching a bottle of cheap vodka while sobbing and watching “Under the Tuscan Sun” for the zillionth time as you scream into your pillow about how you’ve wasted your entire life and every single opportunity you’ve been given.  Say, just as a completely random and unrelated example.

I know when I’m getting “twitchy” and that’s my word for it.  Some of you out there know what I mean.  You’re just “off” a wee bit. It’s sensing that whisper and attending to it that prevents it from steam-rolling over any last thread of rationale you have, a week or a month later.  I don’t care HOW you’re getting sober, if you SENSE that twitch, pay attention because like the Divine Miss O says about the Universe and communication; it will start as a whisper, like a feather gently dusting over your intuitions, and again as a soft nudge as it gains strength, but if ignored long enough, it will result with the feather transforming into a mace protruding with rusty spikes and it will beat you within an inch of your life.  This, I know.

He ended his observations with a terrifying final thought.  “I don’t think I’ve had enough pain”.

I knew what he meant. For years and years the consequences of my drinking didn’t outweigh my desire.  I had a lot of “YETS” still, you see.  In a larger medical sense, I’m certainly considered lucky, and some would even say somewhat of a miracle, if you believe in those kinds of things. Early on in my recovery,  I joked about how I hadn’t really “lost” anything due to my alcoholism.   I mean, I still had my husband, family and job, after all.  Another alcoholic looked at me wide-eyed and confused.  “You have Cirrhosis.  You almost died.”

Oh.  Yeah, that.  I almost lost my life. You wouldn’t think you’d need folks around to remind you of that sort of thing but I’m here to tell you, YOU DO if you’re an alcoholic because ONLY another alcoholic will understand the fundamental insanity of that last paragraph.

I will continue to reach out.  I will continue to remember my pain.  I will do the work. I will try to help others when and if I can. I refuse to keep tripping over things in my past but I cannot let myself forget it, either.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my damn hair because I look like that thing that crawls out of the well in The Ring.

 

We survived Germany and it seemingly survived us, and as Forrest Gump would say, that’s about all I have to say about that.  I am here to tell you that the Germans really enjoy their meat. Further more, they enjoy boiling their meat.  Can I also just mention that it was the hottest June it’s been in twenty-five years so that said restaurants that also enjoy boiling their meat also have NO air conditioning and THAT can be a somewhat challenging environment in which to dine, say, without barfing.

I’ll admit to eating my weight in german chocolates, Amsterdam waffles, and pastries of every variety.  Deliciously ripe strawberries and cherries were everywhere we turned. There’s also another little season that’s quite a celebrated event and that is Spargelzeit!, which is white asparagus, a speciality to Germany in the month of June and evidently worthy of quite a celebration, because it too was everywhere, always looking somewhat undercooked and sickly.  It’s more fun to say out loud than to participate, really.  SPARGELZEIT DAMMIT!

minus the ham and you’ve got a mushy plate of yellow, trust me

This is evidently what the hell I ordered but since I am NOT a big meat eater I asked them to hold the ham and well, then all you have some spargel and taters.  Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with that . . .for your first seven meals.

Continuing on with the topic of things that were out of my control on this journey, let’s just lump everything together.  Europeans still smoke. A lot. There is no ice. THERE IS NO ICE. Most places do NOT have air conditioning.  These are the top THREE things I heard on repeat for the first three days we were in Germany from my incessantly complaining uber-observant husband. This began to wear me and my annoying optimism rather thin,  and I ended up bursting into the frustrated tears of a near nervous breakdown whilst strolling through the fairytale-like village that my Uncle calls home.  As the failed liaison of the trip,       I  got overwhelmed and emotional.  That happens in sobriety, so they tell me.  Feelings aren’t facts, this we know, but sometimes they’ll bubble to the surface when you’re not doing Jagerbombs to keep them muted and hidden away. This happens more often these days.

headphones, glasses, journal AND waffle?!? CHECK.

An overseas family trip of any type is stressful.  Couple that with finances, time off from work and schedules in general, it’s no small feat. Then you throw in extended family and a second language and a foreign country and you’re bound to have a little confusion here and there, amirite?  YES.  Yes, I am.  

I am here to tell you that I came the closest to losing my sobriety THUS FAR.  I knew I wouldn’t drink, but I have NEVER EVER WANTED TO SO BADLY since my liver decided it had had a little bit of enough in 2015. You know, murderous rage. The kind of slow burning resentment and slow building fury that you can ONLY have with someone that IS a spouse, a sibling, or a parent.  

We had to limp away and heal a little bit before we could come back to re-assess the damage, you see. Have you ever had something go so completely wrong that there was actually a point where you remember thinking that there’s no coming back from this now and the best you can do is hope to sweep your remaining shit into a pile-like mound and use every last thread of your sanity and composure to weakly push it through the door?!?!  HAVE YOU!?!?  Because I have.   On a scale of one to Handmaid’s Tale, I went FULL ON Aunt Lydia.  My husband got sick*, like flu-sick, and then I got sick. Our bank cards got canceled.  We missed trains.  I over complicated EVERY. SINGLE. THING.  If something COULD get miscommunicated, it did. We got lost daily, and not in a good whimsical exploration-y way.  In a “if I circle through ONE more roundabout I’m going to punch the first goat I see” kinda way.  

Did I mention it was hot?!?  You know what?  I DIDN’T HAVE TO BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE DID EVERY FIVE MINUTES.

I should also mention that we took in countless breath-taking views, visited the legendary Cathedral in Cologne, dodged bicycles in Amsterdam, and spent some lovely and memorable times with some family members I rarely get the good fortune to see, so that, in itself made the trip absolutely priceless.  

statue depicting Anne Frank outside her home in Amsterdam

The other part, was, well. . . a learning experience?  My husband and I have both “owned” our behavior and we both know we could’ve done better.  Really, a lot better. A few week’s ago he cut his ring finger on his left hand rather badly and has been wearing his wedding ring sporadically since, so I asked him why the other morning.  “Well, every single time I put my ring back on, it tears the scab off.”  

Well, honey, now THERE is an accurate metaphor for marriage. Maybe our future doesn’t hold a future of international travel, but I’m glad (mostly) to be the one in the seat next to you.

 

*I actually looked into shipping a dead body back to the USA versus just cremating him and plopping him in the vineyard behind my Uncle’s property and then decided he could rot like fat white asparagus for all I cared.  FYI, this was DAY FOUR.

 

Better pack a traveler, as my Mother would say.

So on top of all life’s other requirements these days we are also approaching an overseas trip that has been planned for almost two years and to tell you the truth, I never really thought it would happen so I didn’t allow myself to worry about it and, well, now…it’s fucking happening.   Don’t get me wrong; I am not bitching about a trip to Europe, because that would be entitled and ridiculous – I’m simply mentioning that this generous and amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity also comes with a LOT of planning and organization.

So while we’re over there being kind and benevolent ambassadors of the United States, and more importantly, the South, I’ve been trying to come up with some things to bring my relatives that are indigenous to my home state, besides moonshine and meth.  Now, it’s important to note that I have not met some of these folks, so there is a bit of a gamble on picking out appropriate and tasteful gifts.

nighty night from your second fave marsupial

A cute and cuddly stuffed possum, is a no-brainer, is it not?  Who wouldn’t want to curl up and spoon with one of these nocturnal garbage eating rascals?!?  I only wish this one could hiss and spit like they do in real life.  Oh well, bummer.  My cousin’s little girl is going to squeal in delight!

 

So, my cousin’s wife (whom I have not yet met) is from Paris so you KNOW she’s skinny and fabulous and probably wears high heels while she’s sipping champagne and eating pistachio macaroons. Since I know already she’s going to be totally fashion forward (she probably really wears a beret you guys!) naturally I thought a piece from the states would compliment her collection of haute couture.  After much thought about what her “go-to” pieces might be, I figured no-gal-about-town would be caught dead in the fashion district of London or Paris without her Confederate Flag hoodie!

I bet we are gonna be BFF right from the start, I can just feel it.  Now, my aunt and uncle do indeed have everything so they were a little bit harder to shop for.  My Mom had suggested a nice hand carved wooden wind chimes with some sandstones perhaps, to hang outside on their veranda, overlooking their vineyard.  Well, I found something EVEN BETTER.

im not so sure about the spelling either but wtf do I know about art?

Now, I know you can pay top dollar for these things in states like Arizona and New Mexico but I have never seen one indigenous to the South, so this very well *may* be a collector’s item.

 

Now my cousin is also turning 50 this year, so I can’t leave him out.  Obviously we did not grow up together but I feel pretty confident that he’s going to LOVE this t-shirt as his birthday gift. See what they did there with the BIG RACKS?!?!  SO FUCKING CLEVER. I mean, I’m no worldly expert or anything, but I feel pretty sure the Europeans love their guns and hunting (and boobs) just like we do, am I right?!?

 

I know America is getting a pretty bad rap these days and I think I may be correct in assuming most of the other countries pity us but I hope that I can go over there and be a beacon of light and hope for the residents of other countries.  We are famous here in the South for our hospitality so I’m just gonna pack that shit right up and take it across the pond, y’all!  You know, like Dolly Parton, the Patron Saint of the Smoky Mountains – I’m just going to sprinkle love and kindness all over everything, you know, like glitter.

omg i am SO ready for Europe

I thought about getting off the plane sporting a MAGA hat but I seriously don’t want to give my international family a collective stroke.

My cousin  DOES know I’ve struggled with a drinking problem the last couple thirty years of my life, so I’m sure he doesn’t know quite what to expect, but I hope to assuage his fears.  The last time he saw me it was 10 days after my liver surgery, and I don’t remember much. I recall trying to make jokes while shivering uncontrollably while also praying that my liver wouldn’t shoot out of my asshole. I mean, come on, after THAT, how bad can I possibly be?!?

Gone Girl

hopeless, idk but this quote is awesomeness regardless

So after an eight-week run I’ve been extracted from the temp job in the projects and not a MOMENT too soon because I’m pretty sure that my cohorts there thought the royal wedding had something to do with Queen Latifah.

I’ve had mixed feelings since then but I reckon it must be the right thing because I haven’t spent much time looking in the rear view mirror, if you know what I mean.  I’ve been placed at a new assignment that is located in a very swanky downtown office. I used to sit at my desk at the other job and wonder when, (not IF) a bullet was going to shatter my office window and part my hair, or alternatively, when someone would come into my office and beat my white privileged ass. Now I sit at my desk and ponder (with almost as much concern) if my foundation properly matches my neck. One could say there’s a vast difference in these two assignments.

The post before this one resonates with uncertainty, shame, guilt and regret. Sometimes it’s hard to see your way out of something when you’re so deeply entrenched within it, you know?   This is where you *attempt to* put one foot in front of the other and take a deep breath and keep. moving. forward. Last weeks relocation filled me with sadness but also with renewed hope.  I have to be willing to concede that maybe that wasn’t where I belonged. My pal Gregg says that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime and I feel the same way these days.  I think that everything falls and fits into place sometimes with a thunderous clank and often it doesn’t look like you thought it would.

The other morning my goddamn garage door wouldn’t go up and I was unable to override the system and manually lift it, so for about ten minutes I just spun around my garage frantic with my freshly ironed hair flying into my crimson-stained lips (it’s all very devil-wears-Prada at this new assignment so who knows I may roll up in a beret one of these days, #notjudging) while I ran up and down the stairs to and from my kitchen while simultaneously trying to call my boss while also trying to decide HOW THE F I AM GETTING TO WORK.

Also,  I “may” have phoned my husband (THREE time zones away – who was attending a business conference) to press the magic button somewhere from within his hotel room so that our garage door would rise unceremoniously and let me go to my assignment already.  Alas, it did not. Not only did I wake him up at 4:30 AM, but he was sweet enough to consult Mr. Google to ascertain that yes, I was indeed screwed as the proverbial spring had sprung on our garage door. So on a day of many firsts, I also took an Uber to get to work.  A SOBER Uber, you guys. It’s a different experience than say, when you’re wasted to your pits and tits on warm vodka (interspersed with shots of Jack) after singing in the rain all night at an outdoor Indigo Girls concert, for a random yet completely falsified example. Again, two VERY different comparisons, much like my temp jobs.

So, I took the damn Uber. I actually arrived BEFORE my twenty-something co-worker, which kind of cracked me up.  LOOK AT THE WOEFULLY RESPONSIBLE 50-YEAR OLD LADY, YOU GUYS!  She took an Uber to GET TO WORK, can you imagine?!?!  The Uber cost more than what I’m being paid hourly but that’s really another matter.  ANYWAY.  My point is that I bet their matte polished toes would curl up in horror at the path it’s taken me to get here and I’m NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT THE UBER you crazy millennials!

Sometimes I think life is just a series of destinations and states of beings and although the adventure is clearly sometimes in the journey, we all inevitably land where we’re supposed to.  Is that naive or childish? Maybe. I landed at work, sure.  How I got there was unconventional, I suppose.  Often things don’t go as planned, but they seem to work out anyway.

So, in summation, I will leave you with my final sage quote from the projects:

She from Africa. For real. She run with lions and shit and now you tellin’ me she afraid of my little dog?  Bitch, please.

I’m not going to miss all aspects of that assignment, but I will miss these little pearls, I’ll be honest.  There was a hum-dinger last week involving the phrase dookie-turd which now seems awfully redundant, but it was a whopper and if I can recall it “correctly” you’ll be the first to read it, I promise.

Here’s to the next adventure.  I hope you’ll join me.

 

Pity…party of one? Your table is now available.

So as the universe and life continue to duke things out in my current existence, I can’t help but try to maintain my sanity and my authenticity by NOT hurling myself into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a Hoarders marathon, but to attempt to handle the stress and anxiety with a calm and realistic approach.  One could argue that I’ve never been either; calm OR realistic.

Shit happens.  This we know.  People go bankrupt, divorces wreck families, people get cancer. There’s no shortage on hard times and I certainly don’t have the worst of the lot, by any means.  However, there are times when things are on more even keel than others.  This is not one of those times in my life.

Of course, for almost three decades my coping mechanism came in liquid form. Over the rocks, in a shot glass, or straight outta the bottle. This was always the answer when life threw me the hard questions. Knee jerk reactions of anger, blame and resentment. Lashing out at everyone and everything, save for MY part in the wreckage. Well, it would seem those days aren’t quite over. Despite my best efforts, I found myself up to my tits in a four-alarm meltdown on Friday evening over a situation that I myself, caused.  Trust me when I say I caused it because I spent the better part of the day desperately trying to find a deserving target in which to direct my anger and more importantly, the BLAME for said wreckage and only came back to my own reflection.

Shit.

So, did I put into place all the healthy and sound coping mechanisms I’ve learned in the 1,016 days I’ve been sober? No. Did I take a deep breath and focus within and press the pause button?  No. Did I immediately panic and spiral into a ferocious and tearful/fearful shame cyclone?  YES I SURE AS HELL DID.

And to show you how hard wired the ‘fight or flight” response is within me, my first reaction was to tell my husband that I was going to retreat for the weekend into a cheap bed-bug ridden hotel where I would remain under the jizz-stained faded bedspread while repeatedly telling myself what a non-deserving loser I was and why I really don’t merit any happiness or comfort in this world and all I do is screw things up. We drunks have a penchant for the dramatic at times.

I circled around and around this dark abyss and freaked out for the better part of three hours and the best most painful thing about this was it was just the SAME THING on repeat. No solution, no way out, just a endless downward spiral of shame with a dash of self-pity sprinkled in for irritating measure. NOT HELPFUL.

When I did finally press pause (with the help of my husband, my stalwart and rock-solid anchor) I was able to see the situation for what it truly was; and naturally, it was not remotely close to life-threatening.  Life on life’s terms. That’s what it was, and I had to look for my part in it and move forward from there. You know, like a GROWN-UP, dammit. We do the best we can with what we’ve got and sometimes your best is better than average, and sometimes, notsomuch.  My point here, if I have one, is that you have to forgive yourself for being a human being sometimes, warts and all. I reacted poorly, yes. I behaved selfishly and childishly and if I’d had the floorspace and flexibility to throw myself onto the ground in a fitful tantrum, I would have.

Years ago, after fucking up a situation at work, an old co-worker once remarked to me, “Hey kid, we’re not packing parachutes here, we’re all gonna walk away from this” in a hilarious comeback to my dramatic and apocalyptic reaction to my mis-step. And you know what?  He was correct. No, it doesn’t take away the feeling at the time when your chest tightens and your heart beat quickens and you feel yourself spinning out of control, but in reality, that’s the truth.  In some situations a freak-out of biblical proportions is indeed a justified reaction, but sometimes you just gotta check yourself before you wreck yo’self.

My situation is still not resolved and you know what?  That’s alright. I have no idea how things will shake out, and that’s okay too. I just have to keep doing the next right thing with the right intentions, and I know it will work out like it’s supposed to.  I know this, but sometimes while you’re on the way to the principal’s office you gotta shoot a few spitballs, am I right?

You know I can’t say anything in 500 words or less, but in summationlet me close with this; life is hard, guys – go easy on yourself.  Oh, and totally go for the Ben and Jerry’s* – it may not solve your issue, but it couldn’t hurt.

*I suggest their awesome flavor, Phish Food. Trust me, it’s waaay better than their music.

 

Gentle Joe

My Father would be 96 years old today.

I wrote about him a lot over at my other pre-sobriety site; Girl, Corrupted.  I was knee deep in it back then, dealing with his disease and physical and mental atrophy, as well as his death and post-funeral fall out.  I was a Daddy’s girl, through and through, and the last years of his life were more painful than his actual death and I’m sure some of you can sympathize with that bittersweet loss.

I’ve talked about his brash, hard-drinking, stubborn, fearless and heroic persona many times and I have brothers that can back up that bravado.  He was bigger than life, and not just to me.  He was a large man and had hands that would engulf yours if you were to shake hands with him, and I mean grown-ass men.  My Mom would lament that his feet were just as large and we were forever stepping over his giant mud-covered work boots in the garage.  Dad was a master handyman and could fix and/or build anything, really.  If he needed something and he could build it, well then, that’s what he did.  A garage.  Shelving. Tables or bookcases. I grew up with sawdust as a constant and yes, why that IS a post-hole digger, thankyaverymuch.  He had almost every tool or implement there was and if he couldn’t fix it, well, then it was a piece of shit in the first place.

He was a Marine.  He was a proud Irishman. He liked to fight, he liked to drink, and he liked to swear. More than that, he liked to laugh and I think he and I shared a belly laugh each day we were together on this planet.  He was my biggest fan, and I, his. His blue eyes would light up when I entered the room and his booming voice would yell “top o’ the morning, shitbird!”  Shitbird was a term of endearment, naturally. I loved it when he called me that; he was feeling kicky.

Today though, I’d like to take a minute to tell you about the other side of Joe.  The side that not many saw, but if you did, consider yourself lucky. The above picture was recently given to me by my Mother – I’ve never seen it.  This picture was taken at my high-school graduation.  My parents were among all the other families in the bleachers in my hot stuffy school gym since the weather that day didn’t cooperate.  She couldn’t remember much about the young boy’s family, only that he had grown so sleepy during the commencement ceremony, that he had unconsciously fallen over onto my Father’s lap and been fast asleep for the duration.  My Father, without a word, simply put his arm over the boy and waited it out while his only daughter was accepting her diploma. As the Grinch is famous for saying, my heart  grew three sizes when I heard that.

This was also the man I loved. The gentle and kind man that was always underneath the raucous braggadocio. Sure, he once punched a guy’s lights out in a McDonald’s DURING BREAKFAST, but he also rescued countless stray kittens and rabbits and baby birds.  I have many sweet memories of my Father holding an eyedropper filled with milk while nursing one of God’s littlest creatures back to health in a shoebox lined with a dishtowel. Don’t get me started on his love for dogs. Well, not all dogs.  He did take more than a few “for a ride” back in the day but that’s a post for another time.  He once told me that he hoped to die before our German Shepherd, Thor, because he didn’t want to imagine his living day to day without him. I didn’t take that personally.

To my absolute horror in my early twenties he showed up at my work with a picnic lunch.  Y’all, I mean a PICNIC lunch.  Complete with blanket, basket, fried chicken and all the fixings.  He had plopped it down in the grassy area of our parking lot and I was MORTIFIED. I went along with it though (thank god because we alcoholics can dwell on shit like that for decades) and now it’s one of my fondest memories.  What I wouldn’t give for him to pull up in his pick-up outside my work now, with a goddamn picnic lunch.

You better believe that if someone was on the side of the road with whatever the hell wrong with their car, he’d start signaling to pull over as soon as he saw them. He never sped past someone needing assistance, no matter how he was dressed or where we were going. It was just what you did.  Oh, and how children loved him. He put the fear of God in many a grown man, but children would flock to him like lepers to Jesus. He’d pull a magic trick, tell a joke, or have a piece of candy in his pocket. He was FULL OF IT, so of course kids and (most) adults loved him. He would spin a yarn  and have everyone’s rapt attention-he was a master storyteller. He would do most anything for a laugh and adored a good prank. He once balanced a bowl full of water on the ledge of my cracked bedroom door to catch me coming in late on my curfew. Upon tip-toeing into the house thinking I was home free, I gently pushed my bedroom door open when the bowl toppled onto my head, soaking me in the process, and sending a shocked scream into the night, notifying my Father of my late arrival. Lucky for me he was so tickled that his snare worked, I didn’t even get in (much) trouble.

I could write until dawn and I wouldn’t run out of anecdotes. It’s done my heart good just to jot these down, and my eyes brim with proud tears at these happy memories. I think of him often and a giant grin always spreads across my face.  My husband says that my eyes light up when I talk about my Daddy.  Of course they do. He was larger than life in every way, he was immortal, and he was the bravest and strongest man I had ever encountered. Now though, I want you to know the gentleman that he was, for that side is equally as important, now maybe even more so.

He was my Father, and he was a gentle man. Happy birthday, Daddy. Your shitbird sure misses you.

Milestone

 

 

I’m not sure where to start.

Staring at the above picture sends a ripple of mixed emotions through my veins. I could go all triumph over tragedy on your asses, but I won’t. I don’t feel that way. . .not today, anyway. This picture fills me with quiet hope and solemn pride but also really packs a ruthless and sickening gut-punch.*

Jesus take the damn wheel did that green shit really and truly come OUT OF ME?!?!

Yes. Yes, it did.  The other fun fact about the above photo is there is yet another pitcher of neon green goo to the right of the FULL one.  Swear.  I remember asking the technicians in the laboratory if I could take a picture, and how they looked at me with soft eyes, staring blank stares at each other.  I also remember thinking back then that they probably just couldn’t believe my bravery and my exemplary sense of humor, but since then I’ve realized that they were staring at me because I was dying.

1,000 days.

For the last one thousand days I have chosen life.  Life with all of its imperfections and flaws, as well as its joyful surprises and rewards. I’ve chosen love, and I’ve experienced unconditional love as well.  I have witnessed grace and forgiveness. I have screamed at the skies and collapsed in sobs.  I’ve experienced terror and uncertainty, and shame and humiliation.  I have formed bonds with a tapestry of humans  that linked their arms together in unison to catch me when I threatened to plummet into the seemingly hopeless abyss of my own self-created destruction.

I know I’m usually the first to make a joke of things or go for the easy laugh, but not today.  Today is a day of reflection, pride, and yes, some triumph. But some days it’s just still so raw.  The wolves still circle at my door, y’all – don’t get me wrong. But these days, if I do the next right thing and keep my intentions true, they’ll lay down for a spell and stop their anxious and restless pacing. I have to live in my truth and some days are easier than others.  I know this is the same for many of you and I honor the warrior in your spirit, as well.

They say that without the darkness, we wouldn’t see the stars.  Well, I can see the stars now, and they shine with an ethereal brilliance that sometimes blinds me.

They’re lighting my way, you see.

 

 

*My sincere and heartfelt thanks to all of you for letting me share my story with you.  And now I have to make one itty bitty joke because after proofing this post I couldn’t help but think that “gut-punch” is totally what I should caption the above picture.  GET IT!?!?  It’s the “punch” from my guts! WHO WANTS A MARGARITA?!?  See?  I really just can’t help myself.