Category Archives: Learning to Write

Academics and Assorted Musings on Mental Health

So, read this charming piece in the Chronicle today. It fairly well confirms one of my favorite descriptions of graduate school–that it isn’t for the sane. Yes, indeed, studies indicate that graduate students are a mentally unhealthy bunch:

Social isolation, financial burdens, lack of structure, and the pressure to produce groundbreaking work can wear heavily on graduate students, especially those already vulnerable to mental-health disorders.

Studies have found that graduate school is not a particularly healthy place.

You think?

Before I left for graduate school, one of my profs sat gave me a piece of sage advice that I fear I took far too well. “Choose an addiction now,” he said, “because every English professor has one, and usually at least three, of the following addictions: sugar, sex, alcohol, or narcotics. Pick your favorite and focus on it.”

Now, I admit that I belonged to a fairly…um…unhealthy discipline. Comparatists are not known for their sanity, patience, nor humility. Generally, when I introduce myself as a comparatists, I get some form of the following reaction: Slow eye blink. “Oh. Wow.” The remark is inevitably followed, depending on the relative experience of the speaker with either “That’s a really demanding program,” or “I’m sorry.” The sorry, not incidentally, regards the atmosphere associated with most comp lit programs–we are often not exactly the most well-regarded department on campus. Troublemakers, every single one.

My fellow grad students and I observed (as grad students are wont to do) that most of us were given to depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental distress. In fact, academics in general seem to be drawn to academia precisely because it is one of the few places that tolerates our more unfortunate behavioral patterns. Take the classic “absent-minded professor” type; I’ve met several, and I can say with absolute seriousness that academia is the only place for them. I cannot imagine what happens to those who don’t end up teaching. In any event, many of us are somewhat less than socially graceful, and as the article notes, a whole vat of us belong in therapy (as to whether we seek it or not…another story entirely). My dear former therapist, himself a retired prof, remarked once that he thought that a year of therapy should come with every PhD granting, seeing as how most of us are in dire mental straights by the time we finish.

Which suggests perhaps that the sane folks get the hell out of the program, right?

So, I’m wondering (thinking about Sixx’ remark that I blogged on earlier this week), are we born academics? I don’t mean anything regarding intelligence here (indeed, one might make an argument against the wisdom of those of us who choose, perfectly willingly, to submit to the whims and demands of other people who survived the whims and demands of their own professors and have chosen to take it out on students for the next 40 or so years); rather, I wonder about the type of personality that is driven into grad school…

What comes first: grad school or insanity?

Perhaps my prof was on to something about the nature of the addict, or, at least, of certain addictive personalities. Few career paths really celebrate the ability to obsess in great detail on a single subject that, quite potentially, no one else in the world really gives a damn about. Well…except at comp lit conferences, when minutiae become the stuff of the finest of cat fights. Seriously, though…could I function in an environment that wasn’t friendly to odd behaviors and habits? An environment that was comfortable with the socially inept and the compulsive?

A for instance: one of the great complaints among faculty is that students don’t read the course catalog and prepare themselves for advising. Leaving aside the fact that we no longer print catalogs, one of the images often used in such discussion is the “dog-eared” catalog that so many of us faculty carried around and read, highlighted, and memorized during our undergraduate years. It turns out, though, that the then proto-faculty were the weird ones, and we have a tough time seeing why normal folk don’t obsess over which English track to follow or whether to take Milton or Advanced Grammar this semester, while we are taking that freaking Literary Criticism course. Our students aren’t defective. Our students are normal.

We are obsessives.

So, are we born academics? Do we attract and protect the unstable…providing a sense of place for some and a sense of incredible stress and displacement for others? Other than the stresses of graduate programs, why is there a high incidence of mental illness in academia (because it doesn’t magically disappear after grad school)?

You can tell I’m having one of those weekends, yes?

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Seriously Useless Emotions

I think the title fairly well sums me up right now; I should have recognized that my rather manic energy toward writing last week was the precursor to…well…this week, when I am too Sullen, Angry, and /or Depressed ™ to even muster up gratitudes for my list.

Something I would do well to return to, I imagine. Fake it ’til you make it and all that.

I finished Book Three in the Lenten Discipline readings–Karen Armstrong’s Islam. Fabulous overview of Islamic history–a tad…preachy?…toward the end, but given her audience, I can see why she leaned in that direction. Finishing Islam means I got to start the Brad Warner book last night, which I’ve been looking forward to.

Mostly because I enjoy being insulted.

Kidding, of course. I do enjoy Warner’s books and blog and various commentaries on life, punk, Zen, etc.

Reading his blog this morning, I ran across this rather wonderful description of the uselessness of anger:

Anger is energy. But it’s not very useful. It squanders your resources and makes you behave stupidly. So it’s best to avoid. It’s energy the way eating Pixie Sticks or shooting speed is energy. If you’re right and the other guy is wrong, you need to deal with that situation without anger — if you’re truly interested in resolving it and not just interested in proving yourself right. It’s no good to be complacent in the face of a situation that calls for change. But it’s no good to scream and yell because that just builds up the other person’s anger and exacerbates the situation.

Call this a “terribly obvious point that needed to be made” or what you will, but I think he nails the problem with stewing in ones own juices….such as I am doing this week. As with an addiction to, oh lets go with alcohol, shall we?, an addiction to anger is an energy hog. Addictions of all variants sap the addict of strength for engaging in life. For me, this most often manifests as a malaise that stops me from writing and planning (did not get so far as not reading, thankfully). The addiction to stewing, to anger, to self-pity is at least as harmful as any substance addiction, at least psychologically, because it manifests similar problems: self-centeredness, feelings of isolation from the human enterprise surrounding us, contempt for humanity, and so forth. This addiction, like those to substances, can trigger depression in some people–even a suicidal or homicidal one (and, yes, I am speculating here; I have no hard evidence in support). And, as Warner observes, lashing out in anger only serves to make the world a more aggressive place. Of course, he also rightly points out–good punk that he is–that changes that we wish to see in the world must be confronted. Sitting on my duff (boy did that sound weird in the context of this blog!)…sitting around and stewing not being active in change is equally problematic.

Ah…it’s that balance thing again, isn’t it?

As to why I’m struggling with anger and energy releases: I can’t run right now because I’ve injured my calf (mildly–it should be okay in a few days, I think–then back to action), so I’ve extra energy, all of which is being consumed by irritations: not being able to run, not being able to get the tickets to Seattle–or even be able to say I can go with confidence (situation out of my control and I lack the confidence that my wants and needs will be protected–>my temper tantrum self says “Dammit, I am going anyway”; my conciliatory side dictates that I will patiently await the decisions that must be made), and so forth…thus, anxiety and anger. And, rather than stewing in the anger, I need to redirect the energy to something useful. I’m not blowing my top thus far, but I don’t want to end up in a rage caused by suppression, either.

And as I type this, a co-worker makes me laugh hysterically. Two blessings of thought in a single day. I do indeed have much to be grateful for….really need to work on giving voice to those.

Addiction Sources

Running update: Ran the 5K yesterday…did not reach my speed goal (yes, those hills on Saturday apparently did kick my butt significantly), but I did learn some valuable pieces, not the least of which is the hills in my neighborhood aren’t so much hills as sweet little rises out of the earth and therefore unacceptable for “hill training.” Also, wear sunscreen. I have brilliantly red arms right now, courtesy of that minor omission. But, I did finish and TG cheered me on in the end (he, of course, finished about 7 minutes before me), which was very dear of him. TG ran very well–finished 11th overall. Way to go, TG! We’ll follow-up with a 5K at the end of the month which my cousin and partner-in-musical-crime, we’ll call her Rikki (and she’ll know why) has selected for our running adventuring.

Rikki also found out that Mötley Crüe is heading this way in the summer, so many kudos to her for finding race dates and for plotting summer music madness for us to attend to.

Now, on to the rest of the story*.

I read Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times as part of my Lenten spiritual discipline**. I chose Chödrön’s book because 1) I’ve been meaning to read it for some time now and haven’t set aside the time to do so and 2) because the notions about which she writes, seeking to engage self and the world compassionately–even in times of strife–appeal to me.

In the margin of one of the early chapters, I found myself scrawling that I didn’t quite buy her assessment of addiction and noting that I should blog on the comment, to see if I could work out my hesitations and concerns. So, here we are. I should note that by the time I finished the book last week, I had come around to what she was getting at, and I can see where the source of my hesitation was, too.

Interesting trick for me–finish the book BEFORE shooting my mouth (fingers?) off about it. I wonder if I could finish Gravity’s Rainbow that way….Perhaps I’m finally listening to those Romantics I teach all the time–“spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” recollected in tranquility (Wordsworth). Yes, I know I’m not writing poetry here, but isn’t blogging fundamentally similar? I mean, when I dash off whatever is vexing me, without careful consideration (or, often, editing), I often find that the post is less than satisfying…and difficult to read.

In fact, that was true of the original version of this post. Fortunately, I had the sense to stop and reflect and…yes…finish the book.

Unfortunately, I don’t have Fall Apart in front of me at the moment, so I’ll paraphrase now and update with the specific quote later. She remarks that in her mind the source of addiction is an unwillingness to remain in places that are at the edge and undefined and to deal with the world as it is. Now, part of my initial reaction was, I think, resistance to her overall premise about the world and its impermanence (which was a bit odd, as I do agree with it–at least intellectually). I’ve written before about what drove my addiction, sort of, and I’ve written about the relationship between fear and recovery. The other part of the response was precisely the topic about which she writes–the human tendency to avoid painful feelings and put up walls.

In reading further (and in reading another book of hers–mentioned in the notes below), I came closer to being able to face her intent. She considers addiction in a pretty wide range, including an addiction to avoiding pain and seeking pleasure (another way of stating her source, I think); for all addictions though, she cites the source as an unwillingness to experience the pain (or, in the end, pleasure) of real life. Initially, as I mentioned, I resisted this suggestion, thinking that this was not at all why I drank. Surely it wasn’t avoidance. Upon reflection, and reading the posts from last year as I first publicly discussed my addiction, I realized that the terminology I used–“flattening” and “deadening” were not altogether different from what Chödrön was writing about.

I also recalled a remark made in Carolyn Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story, wherein Knapp realized that she was considering her problem backwards: rather than assuming that we drink because we are unhappy, what if we are unhappy because we drink (186)? I cannot articulate precisely the effect this remark had on me two years ago–it was like the cabinet slid open for the first time, allowing me to see that I was looking into a mirror and not into a dark void. Bang! I think I even said something profound like–“Holy shit.” It seemed so obvious.

But, in all of this pondering, I never really examined the first part of the remark–why I drank. Nothing in the twelve steps, at least in my mind, really forced me to account for this. I suppose that Step 4 might have led me there, if handled differently, but it did not at the time. I tended to stick with the blame game in my lists–all of what I had done wrong, rather than including what had triggered the alcoholism in the first place.

So, Chödrön got me on task with such an inventory, so that I could examine my experiences against her assessments regarding the roots of addiction. While it is true that I have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, I was absolutely aware of that when I began drinking, so I tend to discount that as a “why,” even if it perhaps made the situation more threatening. As I have mentioned before, I drank in high school–though not terribly often, as I was often the designated driver, so I didn’t abuse that trust. I did tend to get wasted if I did drink–both in my teens and in my twenties. I can’t really say why that was–I know I enjoyed the feeling of losing control because that remained a constant throughout (ah, the plight of the control freak). Certainly, as I have observed before, I was trying to slow my racing thoughts. I know that alcohol tended to become an obsession–when I wasn’t drinking I was often thinking about alcohol, though I tended to imagine I was being intellectual about the whole thing, rather than craving (this, not incidentally, is a pattern for me. My pseudo-intellectual pursuits are often outlets for my various obsessions–imagine that, eh?).

What I came up with, in searching for what I was avoiding (now, that was a weird sentence) was the following. The words in bold are the main ideas of each:

I tend to crave control, but I also crave being freed from responsibility, and alcohol provided the license to do so;

I tend to be emotionally walled-in, often by choice and habit as much as anything else, and alcohol provided the means to pretend I was escaping those walls. In reality, of course, I was simply making the walls higher and stronger through deception. While I might appear to be more in touch with my emotional side when drinking, I was not. I was more likely whining or pretending to intellectualize some particular obsession; I was certainly not capable of making better emotional connections with other people. Indeed, alcohol exacerbated the problems I have to that end normally;

When I was bored, I drank. Boredom is serious problem for me because I can’t easily redirect the mental monologue when I am bored. This doesn’t mean I can’t relax, by the way, I just have to have fairly directed relaxation–which is one of the reasons I read so much. Thus, the fact that my reading, writing, and musical pursuits taper off when drinking should be no surprise. Getting wasted is so much easier than learning and thinking–far less energy required (though, in the end, drinking takes up far more emotional, physical, and spiritual energy than anything else I engage in);

When I was manic, I drank. I’ll use that term because I do think it fits best when describing the crescendo of my excitement levels, though the term is actually quite terrifying to me, as my mother is bi-polar, as was at least one of her siblings. Uncontrollable moods are my greatest fear, so I tend to make them worse by worrying.

When I was scared, I drank. Scared of the dissertation, scared of graduation, scared of gainful employment, scared of…well, you name it. So, in short, I was doing precisely what Chödrön discusses–I was avoiding the source of the fear by drowning it in false pleasure.

I often made conscious decisions, especially when angry (and, as we know, the root of anger is fear), to drink to excess. I would specifically purchase more wine than necessary for a single night in order to ensure access and become annoyed if the access was limited in some way. Outwardly, I lied about why I bought so much–oh, it’s for the whole week/weekend/trip/party–whatever, but I always knew exactly what the plan was. Self-destruction 101.

The roots of the fears (and, anger) appear to be responsibility/control (even the mania…maybe boredom) and emotion (probably a fear of, what, exposure?–perhaps this is also a responsibility/control thing). It seems to me that having processed this list, the next stage is to figure out how to avoid repeating those steps–even when sober (because, as we have seen, I am imminently able to substitute addiction and obsession***), in order to live outside the fear…no, that’s the wrong phrase. Live with the fear? Of course, knowing what the fear is/fears are would me helpful, so that will constitute the next phase. Fortunately, Chödrön has a number of meditative methods in her books to help that process.

Since I have more free time this week, I’ll try to catch up on the Learning to Write posts a bit (need to clean up my tags too). I’ve got at least two more rolling about the brain right now–one on storytelling and one on some of Chödrön’s other notions–including one post that I will likely title “Hard-Hearted Bitch,” because it really was exactly what popped into my head when I considered my own responses to her suggestions.


*Homage to the late Paul Harvey and to Rev. Dean, whose sermon yesterday set me to thinking about storytelling. Perhaps later this week. It’s Spring Break, so I have far more time than is healthy.

**As many of you know, I read very quickly, so I have five books in this list (I’m hoping those will take up the whole of Lent–if not, I’ll need to find a pinch hitter for the last week). The others are Chödrön’s The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, Karen Armstrong’s Islam: A Short History, Brad Warner’s Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, and Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. Places is for the same reason as the other Chödrön book, Armstrong is for intellectual expansion, and Warner is for two reasons: a) I really get a kick out of his books (not terribly in keeping with discipline, I realize), and b) reality check–I spend at least half the time arguing with him in the margins of the pages and I really like that experience, especially when I disagree with a particular premise but can accept that and keep moving, rather than rejecting his notions outright. He’s linked at right–Hardcore Zen. The last book, Taylor’s, is a follow up to her Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, which I read two years ago in the first sobriety gig and at Rev. Dean’s suggestion. He was correct that the book (by an Episcopalian priest/professor) would speak to me–it did. I look forward to seeing how she maps her faith journey in this account, and I am especially intrigued by the sub-title to this one.

BTW, the sixth book would be the beast, GR, because, while it lacks the ideals of spiritual development, I do place a great deal of emphasis on intellectual development in the spiritual process and, dammit, I need to finish that book…it keeps popping up in the most nefarious of places in my mind. Must exorcise the Pynchon.

***And, as I have mentioned, I don’t think that such substitutions are necessarily a bad thing. If I can accept–without judgment– that I tend towards obsessive and compulsive behaviors, then this acceptance of myself is compassionate, and such compassion (I totally agree with Chödrön here) will help me to be more compassionate toward others. I don’t see a need to change that trait, so long as it can be directed toward healthy endeavors–running, reading, writing, learning, etc., but I do have to be disciplined in staying directed, lest I get bored or anxious or overconfident in sobriety and do something foolish. Compassion and discipline must come hand in hand for me, and, I would have to say–for all of us.

Lent: A Primer

How odd that I spent so much of my professional life dealing with religious fasting. I’ve written several papers either specifically dealing with fasting or that in some ways touched upon it; even the Dissertation-from-Hell™ touches on it tangentially, as fasting is a form of penance and penance is one of the steps on the “Redemption Path” in nearly ever variation of it.

Incidentally, if you even want to really fear or appreciate (depending on your mood) the nature of humanity–read some medieval penitentials, the books that housed the catalogs of sins and the various means of penance* associated with each sin. Such penance ranged from mere public confession (this example is a later one–not medieval) to permanent wandering exile (hence part of the significance of the Wandering Jew stories)–and some assorted oddities (heck the sins listed are at least half the fun).

So, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of one of the major penetential seasons–Lent (Advent being the other)**. Check out this Time article from 1946 on the subject of Lent; I am really intrigued by the remark about the contemporary European Christians: “large parts of the Continent have been fasting, wearing sackcloth, and living amid ashes for several years.” This in the years after WWII, of course-a haunting image of the events that laid waste to so much of Europe.

Contemporary Americans tend to see the day before Ash Wednesday through the lens of Carnival and Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday!)***, rather than Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras is celebatory excess before the penance of Lent; Shrove Tuesday signified confessions before the penance (which was a tad closer to traditional Penetential Rites, which are to be preceeded by confession).

Sin–>Confession–>Penance–>Salvation.

Depending on your worldview, Grace should probably be part of the step between penance and salvation, as not all sinners who follow the track (if we look at literature, anyway) achieve “salvation,” as in a number of Faust texts–that is one of Christopher Marlowe‘s major themes, indeed: why act in good faith if the deck is stacked against you?

So, today begins one of the major penitential seasons. Many will begin the season by receiving a mark–usually a cross in ash (made from the palms from the previous Palm Sunday). The mark signifies the perceived “otherness” of the christian wearing it–beyond the world. Marked as different; marked as one of Christ’s own. Others, just as true of faith, will not begin the season in this fashion, often because the worldly demands of their lives prevent them from so doing. My church has the Ash Wednesday service at 12:00, for instance. Of the years I have lived here, I’ve been able to attend precisely once. Could I alter my professional life in order to more fully participate in my spiritual one in this instance–perhaps. But, I also know that part of my work here in the world is to assist students and this week (Advising and Midterm) demands my presence here with them–and I think that demand is an equally important part of my faith. To say nothing of the exciting information that gets dropped in my lap from time to time…yeee gads.

Many of you will give up something for Lent. Usually it is a vice that we surrender–real or perceived. Cigarettes, alcohol, meat (possibly the origin of the word Carnival: carne vale–“farewell to meat”), chocolate…anything that we can deem or isolate as “sin,” “sinful,” or “worldly.” I even have a friend who pondered giving up Facebook. Her rationale is solid–she wants for more time with her family, so she’ll give up one of her distractions and learn to live without it. After Lent, then, she could enjoy it in more balance.

Lent as a teaching moment. Now that’s a good use of penance (one is supposed to learn during penance, after all).

Another school of thought, oft championed by our own Rev. Dean Smith, is “taking on” something for Lent, rather than giving something up. Again, the theory is sound–many old penances involved taking something on in order to–again, learn (and also to signify–as with the ash cross, though for different reasons–otherness). One might take on a hair shirt or a cross or chains or self-flagellation…you’ll notice a pattern here. Most of the things “taken on” were painful or uncomfortable. One can do this intellectually, too–take on something you’ve not ever read or something you’ve rejected in order to learn and understand it better. I’ve often heard people decide to “read the whole Bible” for Lent, or to take on the major religious text of another religion for study (I’m particularly fond of that).

And, no, I am not going to read Gravity’s Rainbow for Lent. That would constitute cruel and unusual punishment…well, maybe it could be a hair shirt kind of deal.

Anyway, I thought about this on my runs recently; I don’t have much in the way of vices these days, what with the whole sobriety thing. Already I don’t smoke, drink alcohol, take illicit drugs (heck, I don’t even take Advil), consume vast quantities of sugar (marathon training, after all), have illicit sex (*snort*), cheat on my taxes, nor anything else especially nefarious, save for the swearing (and I am not giving that up, thank you) and caffeine (hands off!). I could probably be safely accused of other bad habits, but I can’t think of any right now. Not going to forgo meat because I fare better with it on the training schedule than without it (though, note-to-self: Cajun sausage produces nausea the next morning at about mile 1.36. Avoid.).

My major vice’o concern™ is anger…and it’s a fairly sizable one. But, it is also just a tad difficult to “give it up” wholesale, much as I would like to. So, I think that for this Lent, I am going to take on means of stemming the anger response–meditation (daily–since I rather got away from it last fall), reading books that address anger and fear, and making a gratitude list every day for the next 6 weeks (until the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring, or Easter Sunday, for you mortals<–I didn’t even have to look that up–that’s some geekdom right there). Running will probably serve this well, as I’m usually too tired to bother getting angry at night. The objective is to “negotiate” situations that frighten me (fear being the source of anger) in more productive ways, so that during Lent I can learn and after Lent I can continue the process and maybe, just maybe, give more of my life to God and family than to fear and anger, which sounds like a pretty good deal. Best wishes today, all. Peace, Your Occasionally Intrepid Runner


*Holy Mother of…wow…a website devoted to Tertullian. And to think I spent months digging around in the library to read the same stuff. That is what I get for not googling Tertullian….which sounds vaguely nasty, come to think of it.

**Yes, Rev. Smith, even this recovering Episcopalian sees Advent as penitential. I do understand your concerns about “rushing to the manger.”

***My family included. We have red beans & rice, sausage, veggies, and King Cake every Mardi Gras. MB came home wearing beads yesterday, which seemed…I don’t know…an odd thing to be distributing at school, no?

On Living in College Towns

Confession: I live in a college town.

I won’t go so far as to say that the town lives and breathes education in the way it does, say, football, but it is definitely a college town.

Where else can the remark: “I drink to release my inner orange,” following a long discussion about research practice and millennials, possibly make sense?

If you’ve ever lived in one of these fine semi-urban establishments, then you too have seen the college-student theory of partying: get wasted on Thursday and sober up (maybe) on Sunday. I can’t count how many students have come to class inebriated or confessing their various vices of nights past. Indeed, one of the primary distinctions between my former job, where I taught at a residential college, and my present one, at a commuter school, is that students come in (or don’t) complaining of hangovers…the residential students were still drunk. It is a matter of degree, I grant.

Anyway, I started mulling this in the grocery store on Friday night. I hate going on Friday nights because I am often so exhausted from the week that having to make a decision in the store becomes a chore. Too, as any fellow alcoholic knows, tired is not good. And tired is particularly bad when faced with availability of alcohol.

There is this trait among alcoholics where we begin purchasing our drink of choice at various locations, lest any one catch on to how much we consume. I was never very good at this, owing in part to the relatively small community I live in, but also because I didn’t really have to be concerned…because I live in a college town with a serious drinking problem; I was merely one of the faces in a crowd.

Of course, at my worst I was still paranoid about being shoved out of the closet, as it were. I did purchase at various grocery stores (mostly out of convenience, though), and that was another way to hide, I suspect, because who looks askance at the wine in the grocery cart? Could be for any reason. Even if buying in large quantities, one remains anonymous–merely that person who must be giving a party.

And, being in a college town, this makes perfect sense. Have party (especially during football season)? Will drink.

So, weekends remain the most difficult for me; I’m tired and often frustrated. I often find myself shopping on Friday evenings to stave us over until Sunday, so that the three teenboys aren’t forced to eat the countertop. And as I wander through my grocery store, I will inevitably be near “the aisle” and I will consequently have “the argument” with myself.

So far, logic prevails. The joy of waking up without hangovers prevails–hell, the joy of sleeping through the night (mostly) prevails. And I muddle through.

And I worry about the kids I teach, when they miss Fridays and/or Mondays. I worry about my colleagues who come in with the glazed expressions of hangovers. I worry about me and my arguments and what I will need to do to remain sober. And I worry that I live in a college town as an alcoholic with Tough Guy, who has the genetic equivalent of an IED waiting to be tripped…who asks me about marijuana and Amsterdam and alcohol and heroin. And I am grateful that he asks. Every day, I am grateful that he asks and doesn’t slink off silently.

Perhaps I need to work on another grateful list–and reread my old one. Recreate my shame list and reread my old one. Stay thankful and stay realistic.

While I worry in this beautiful, tired, cranky, struggling, brilliant college town.

Bits and Pieces

How funny to open Seattle Weekly’s site this morning and see this: Athens Pop-Fest Canceled. Not funny because of the cancellation, of course, just…surprising.

I’ll work on the Punk Post (post punk??? ack!) today, but it probably won’t be up until tomorrow….In the meantime, there is Krist Novoselic’s piece on the miracle that is music. Enjoy. Or this funny as hell slideshow on “unromantic album covers“–number 14 rocks. And, if you are feeling really punchy, here’s Duff’s thoughts on dating. Number 6 is my favorite.

Sea Gals??? Oi.

Pain, angst.

Anyway, so, I think I’ve got G on board with a Seattle Marathon in June. Confirmation will come this weekend. Went to a 5:30 am spin class (motto: “real spinners do it at 5:30.” This simply does not live up to the thespian motto of “thespians do it on stage” or Duff circa 1989 “rockers do it. (pause) Ya know?”)…said class was good–tough, I’ll grant–but good.

So, all is well. Hope the weekend is kind to all of you.

<–ETA: OMG…the cover of Seattle Weekly

Clouded Vision

One of the most annoying elements of alcohol consumption, for me, at least, is the insomnia. I recall vividly the first morning two years ago that I awoke at a totally normal time, rather than the then-standard 2:35am. Now, those who know me well are likely already aware that I have struggled with insomnia for eons anyway, but alcohol certainly made it more predictable. Pretty much irrespective of how much I drank (even on the “good”–single glass–nights), I would wake up around 2:35 and stay awake for about two hours.

Thinking…or something approximating thinking at any rate.

So, sobriety brought with it this really cool thing where most nights, anxiety-riddled ones not withstanding, I would sleep from 11:30 or so (falling asleep tends to take a good while) until at least 5:30. This is a Good Thing.

Last night, however, was not Good, in so far as even without alcohol, I was awake…more or less…for hours last night. So, I am a bit more befogged today than I would prefer, but the serial jumps my brain was taking indicates that Ms. Hyperactivity is awakening at home, which is Good. I wasn’t worrying or thinking especially clearly, but I was in that unfortunate space between asleep and awake, and I was completely aware of that the whole time. I can only assume that the caffeine intake late in the day did me in.

Or, perhaps that I went to bed irritated. I know better, of course, than to do so, because trying to sleep while annoyed is even more difficult than sleeping while intoxicated.

Here’s what got me riled: As I mentioned, I have decided to run the Seattle marathon. Why Seattle? Well, mostly just because, but also because (go ahead, laugh at me) my running shirt says “City of Seattle Marathon,” and it just seems right. Other positives? I’ve never been there, and I’ve long wanted to visit, but I recognize that I won’t necessarily be in the mood to traipse around the natural sites that G and I would normally visit on such a quest (like, wandering up a mountain). And the city offers plenty of non-hiking things to do in the time we would be there. Confession: I did not discuss with G my goal before setting it, a stupid mistake, so I know I need to be flexible on the matter.

G, on the other hand, wants me either to run locally or he wants to go to Kona, HI. Now, I’d like to go to Kona someday as well, but I’d really rather not do it when I probably will want to do anything other than, say, climb a volcano. I really want to climb the volcano, I do; I just realize that will probably not exactly go hand-in-hand with 26.2 miles or 13.1, for that matter.

I’m not really sure what the opposition to Seattle is…and I didn’t ask. Nope, I just got peevish because he’s mucking with my goal. So, the task for tonight is to fess up and work with G to find a place of mutual amusement for next November. You know, together and stuff. I am so terrible about this.

Maybe I’ll sleep better afterward.

Training is going reasonably well–>did 40 minute runs yesterday (remember, we’re in week one–give me time) and today in the neighborhood between 5:20 & 6:00 am. Fortunately, the weather is cooperating and it is quite warm (hooray!), and the switch to a white sweatshirt does seem to make me substantially more visible (hey, a Yeti!) Did yoga last night to stretch the limbs before bed, since I am clearly starting to head toward that field of old I’ve heard so much about. Will run again tomorrow and spin on Thursday morning, then rest on Friday.

So, all is well, generally. And, as for the goal-setting, even if November has to change, there is this other marathon in Seattle in June….