Category Archives: Music is Everything, Ya’ll

Zacky V and the Christmas Tree

Dear gods does that ever sound like the beginning of some misbegotten piece of real person fanfiction that I probably would have gleefully written at age 14. Probably did. [Insertnameofprobablyabassistordrummerhere and the Christmas Tree].

However, that is not what this is.  “This” is all the way at the bottom of the post if you want to be that reader who has to know the end first. This is also a story of an improbable day that begin with a 20-mile run at 5:30 in the morning that would be the end of several very, very dark mental days.

The run, for the record, kind of sucked, though it was in one of my favorite places, and I could see the ocean. For those who may read this who also follow me on FB, you know I spend about a quarter of my time working south of home. You know when I am there because I torture you with pictures of sunrises taken while I watch surfers and drink coffee. My spirit animal/place/thing (yes, I am being deliberately vague. Why should become clear).

After my 20-miler (that, though it sucked, I finished at a 9:51 pace for the final mile–suck it, brain), I walked back to my (other) apartment (don’t I sound fancy? It’s a room. With a Murphy Bed and not even a hotplate or coffee maker, don’t get all excited), which is about a mile and half from the shore (which makes up for the small and non-hot-plateness) if I head to my favorite coffee shop (which makes up for the no coffee maker). Which, of course, I did.

Wandering to my favorite  post-run resting place for coffee-guzzling, I look up and see Zacky V on a ladder, Christmas lights in hand. I know good and damn well that my big ass deathbat tattoo is visible (running shorts!), and I have this intense and possibly ridiculous concern about making him uncomfortable (you know, no one who likes the band lives in the same area. Of course), so I sidestep to keep my leg hidden, but catch his eye nonetheless.

He’s fucking beaming. Hanging lights and looking utterly beside himself. I congratulate him on the fine job he’s doing, and he says “Thank you, man!” He’s gleeful. I’m a bit gobsmacked.

I should explain something here, because I wasn’t just sucking up. I love Christmas lights. Most readers (since most of you do, indeed, know me) will realize that this is merely an offshoot of my love of all things gaudy. Sparkle is my friend and close companion. Sequins are next to godliness. My aunt sent a picture of a pink Christmas tree to me this year, not because I love pink so much, but because it was tacky as hell and would look FABULOUS with a couple carefully arranged flamingos.

1381761_10152421932219968_244002480_n

Peacocks and feathers? You should have seen my mantle a few years ago, to say nothing of the AMAZING wreath I had at the time.

Oh, wait! You can!

Because I am such a klutz and so bad with heights, I’ve never done much with exterior lighting, so I deeply appreciate those who do.

Where I presently reside (3/4 of the time), there aren’t many kids and, I suppose as consequence, not much in the way of holiday exterior decor. But, in my spirit animal/place, there is much, much, much to be found. Like dozens and dozens of Clark Griswolds (there is one corner about two blocks from the shore that I could just stand on and stare at the exterior lighting battles going on for hours. I didn’t, but I could. I wasn’t there for more than like 20 minutes. Really.) all over the place doing battle for the most holiday spirit via lights, garland, really big balls, and reindeer. When I walk around (which I do quite a bit of when there), I talk to more people than I ever do in my daily life. And during the holidays, I chat up the decorators, because I am so very pleased and grateful.

To wit: there is a house, and I now know the true meaning of picture window, by the way, with two giant stuffed reindeer artfully (because how else) arranged in the picture window. They are so freaking big and realistic (and wearing bells and whatnot!) that I had to get uncomfortably close to the house to assure myself these were stuffed animals and not taxidermy. I am still not sure, and I confess to having been a bit concerned about approaching the artists involved.

So, back to the story.

Because of the brain crap, I hadn’t even been arsed to put up a tree. In fact, as I came to find out, I had thrown my fake tree away last year. I think because I had donated just one too many quarts of blood to the damn thing. I grew up with fake trees. I have nothing against a fine fake tree. In fact, the faker, less tree-like the tree, the better. Hence the flamingo pink tree my aunt found. I never quite got used to having real trees, so I abandoned the notion when I moved out here (well, after the cats broke the last real one, but that’s another tale).

In my real life, I haven’t been able to even get my tree up (or discover that I didn’t even have a tree anymore), and here I am watching a man just absolutely delighted in Christmas lights. Utterly, visibly delighted. I was kind of expecting him to start skipping.

I sat in my favorite coffee-guzzle space, which is still in sight of the decorating festivities, and marveled at the whole affair. As was pointed out by one of the other local decorators, a curmudgeonly soul near the coffee shop, my offering of cheers about the decorating meant I had to come back when the lights were all on to really see the awesomeness.

So, after dinner, I wandered around looking at all of the places I had seen getting set up. Candy canes, santas, icicle lights, and that starshower thingy they’ve been advertising of late (there were a shit ton of those around). It was fabulous. And, because I had to see the end result (and because it was on my way unless I wanted to add a whole lot of walking, which, having started the day with 20–remember that?–I wasn’t especially inclined to do), I walked back to Zack’s.

It was dark (as you do if you want to see lights) and a weird hybrid and warm/chilly that had me taking off my hoodie and putting it back on over and over again. As I come around the corner, who should I spy but Zacky himself, admiring his work. I asked if that was what he was doing, and he affirmed that it was.

We talked for a bit, and the jist of it was how happy he was. He was clearly proud of the work–it was, he said, the first time he’d done this by himself–and, in spite of the dark, I could see the sparkle in his eyes (aided, no doubt, by all the Christmas lights). I don’t know jack about anything else in his life, save what he chooses to post, but I do know that he had one of the happiest lilts in his voice that I’ve heard in a very long time.

And, weirdly, it broke through something.

I’m now back to my 3/4 home. And I have a tree up. A gaudy, unmistakably me tree. And while I can credit the glee in his voice for kicking something over in my head Saturday night, let me assure you that the gaudy is all me. His lighting scheme is not, granted, the pent-up WASPy candle and wreath in each  window and white lights only thing, but, it is also not as delightfully tacky as my 6.5 ft silver tree with multi-colored lights and a Star Wars blanket as a tree skirt. That sucker is all me.

It also lacks stuffed reindeer, for which I think I am grateful, where it equals both his exterior decor (and if he has giant stuffed reindeer indoors, that is both his business and my delight to NOT know) and my townhouse.15391087_10155695169399968_7229143992720904047_n

Anyway, that’s the story of how Zacky V saved Christmas shared his joy with someone who, clearly unbeknownst to him, really, really needed it. Consequently, he bears some responsibility for the big-ass silver tree, covered in sparkly (and, um, not-quite sparkly) ornaments, now in my living room.

Thank you, man.

Gimmie a Pepsi, Just One Pepsi!

I probably should be careful about titles.  Any more “gimmie”s and I’ll be over with Darby Crash, and, yeah, the namecheck is disturbing to me too.  But, as my punk aficionados are no doubt already aware, there is a reason for the Pepsi-ness here.

“Institutionalized” was before my time–sort of.  How about before my punk time?  I’ve been trying to remember when I first crossed paths with ST–I’m fairly certain that it was during the “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow…” period, though the first image that stands out for me is this one, from “You Can’t Bring Me Down.”  I do recall that my first complete recording of ST was “How Will I Laugh,” and it was a copy dubbed off a CD (I think) by my best friend CR, shortly before some hideous teen falling out or another.  I listened to that tape until it’s untimely demise at the hands (?) of my mother’s Pontiac.

Ah, the good old days.

I never really expected to see ST live, though I wanted to, so I was delighted to see them on the Orion lineup last weekend.  I swear–barring the dude’s arm in the way–does it get more Mike Muir than this?  Dude has so fucking much energy.

******

I started this post in July–and then didn’t write another word.  And not writing, as I’ve shared before, is not a great sign for me.  I kept hearing that truth in different ways, but last night a friend’s pain drove it home.

Write or die.  Get the words out of my head and in front of my eyes or they remain shadows that can be dismissed.  I recognize how dramatic that sounds, but it is as accurate as I know how to be.

I’ve rearranged my title again–couldn’t let go of the truth of the disease, and particularly in light of the recent news of a new non-pathology (I love when the stuff in my head gets named! /snark) and the continuing struggles with chronic fatigue and its assorted foolishness.  But it’s beautiful, dammit.

I know I’m sick again/who’s gonna be my friend when I freak out?”

So back to the navel-gazing.  And, as an act of contrition (and also truth, since I tend to forget how bad things get.  I do the euphoric recall thing about everything), I’m going to make myself record my most recent disease-borne adventure in food, having been recently ordered to exclude:

  • Dairy (allergic)
  • Wheat (sensitive)
  • Corn
  • Oats
  • Soy
  • Eggs

Which left me wondering what I can still eat.  Seriously.  What do I eat for breakfast, having lived on oatmeal?  And is this the excuse to eat Brussels sprouts more often, to my family’s great horror? I’m also very, very grateful again to Isa Chandra Moskowitz and the Post-Punk Kitchen, where I’ve been getting my Gluten-free recipe suggestions for a while now (vegan cooking allows me to not worry about at least two of the above).

One thing is certain, Pepsi is not on the list of consumables.

Does that destroy any punk cred I might have had?

[ST was awesome, of course, BTW.  Fucking awesome.  As was Avenged, but that’s a story for another day.]

The Future in Falafel

Working on a post about Suicidal Tendencies and the wonder of Mike Muir, but I have to ask this first.  When did this wonder of wonder happen at rock shows?   I can’t say I’ve ever actually enjoyed eating at such an event, but this falafel and veggie wrap was DIVINE.  And not just because I was hungry post-pit.

Strikes me as a good sign, you know?

Truthfully, I shouldn’t really attempt to comment on food at shows (festival or otherwise), since it is entirely possible that this is the first such show that I have ever attempted to eat at–or given myself the time to walk away from the crowd and chaos to eat.  Imagine that–substance over stimulation. I’ve seen what backstage food can amount to–and rider requests demands really can be things of wonder. Though, especially in the age of the internetz, how much of that is meant just to spin up the fanbase is anyone’s guess…Red Vines, indeed, sir. Indeed.

My next festival is Mayhem, later this month.  I’m having a very difficult time imagining the breadth of cuisine availability that was at Orion, and I’m not sure I am prepared to commit to trying concert food just because it’s there (in fact, that seems sort of dangerous).   The lineup is sufficiently old school to suggest greater possibilities: Slayer, Anthrax, & Motörhead, in addition to Slipknot.  They will be joined by a host of others bands, many of whom will no doubt be on the “young and hungry band on a dollar a day” meal plan (ah, summer festivals).

I’d technically be behind in doing a rock show food summer showcase in any case, since I did not eat at the casino in CT, where I caught A7X before Orion (a show that, weirdly, probably saved my job, as I was in the one place that neither my mouth nor my reactions could get me in trouble during the phone conference–phone was on mute, and yelling might have gotten me booted, so I was as professional as was required to ensure that I got to see my band, rather than, say, actually professional on the matter).  And the casino had Krispy Kreme, so that set a pretty unique bar right there, along with the Swarovski shop that (while also selling wholly inedible items) just sort of freaked me out.

But, summer rock show food could totally be an adventure.

Right?

Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire

A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. (Benjamin, Theses IX)

Much of this blog has been devoted to backwards–to history as the storm of progress blows ever forward.  Yes, I think I did just compare myself to the Angel above–twisted, backward starting, open-jawed complex that it is (Klee’s painting can be seen here).  I’ve always thought it looked more than a touch avian, perhaps more so than an angel “ought” to be.  Avian Medusa, at that.  I’ve decided that I want to turn around a bit–stop gazing at the pile of wreckage (though undoubtedly not forgetting it) and move into a future that I cannot see and certainly cannot control.

Life has changed radically since last I posted here, and, with the exception of fangirl (and, in truth, even that has had to reshape itself), each of my most-used masks–mother, wife, professor/admin, daughter–has been called to court.  After a very difficult year, Tough Guy has successfully graduated and moved out on his own (I have a lovely grandog now)–motherhood is a very changed art these days.  My professional life is…unclear on the best of days; through forces utterly out of my control (as if they were ever in it), everything at work is changing.  I have a job, thankfully, but I don’t know from day to day what it will be, require, demand, or steal anymore (and while this is necessarily vague, it is not, for once, a matter of being dramatic).

And so on and so forth.

As a matter of self-protection, I’ve locked some of my most private posts, and have pulled the majority of those that remain open and deal with alcoholism under the old title of this blog, Beautiful Disease, which chronicled much of the aforementioned wreckage.  Pieces I use primarily for classes are grouped as Everything is Academic. I’ll still lead my students here–as before, I will not shy away from the facets of my identity that bore this blog–as a matter of survival even–but also because alcoholism is a defining feature of my past, present, and, as likely, future.  What I’d like to do is use this space as a vehicle for finding my way through dreams and aspirations–maybe even a place to grow up (though, uh, I sort of doubt that).

So, the title: this dawned on me while standing at Orion Festival last weekend, in a wildly mobile pit waiting for Avenged Sevenfold to hit the stage (I think I’d kicked it around before, but it felt right in the moment).  It’s true–had I my druthers–I’d be a roadie.  Why?  Part of the shitpile of my history is music.  I am not much a musician–I surrendered playing music to my mother, who ridiculed my voice, and I worried that she’d do the same with any other musical language (and, in fact, that fear was borne out), even though I had wonderful friends who offered to help teach me. I channeled my adoration of music through dance in my earlier years and through the pits in my later years (and, er, current ones.  I have a shiner as we speak from a FABULOUS pit last Friday night).  I channeled by becoming a fangirl.

It’s also an homage to Berkley Breathed’s Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things, which had almost as much of a shaping effect on my life as his Billy and The Boingers Bootleg.

Bill and Opus, man.  All the way.

But, I love shows.  I love the trappings of shows (I love that I typed shoes twice before getting the word correct as well).  Pyro, smoke, stairs, lights, cords (and chords, ahem), you name it.  But, what I really adore about being a roadie (at least in my idealized vision) is the thing that I only rarely get to touch at work anymore, but the one thing about which I am most passionate: creating the space for creativity to unfold and be shared.  In those spaces, I can touch justice in the universe.  I don’t know why, don’t really care why–I just know it happens.

That is what I want out of life–to create, protect, and maintain creative space.  So, this is my space to do that–my own creative outlet, pointers to the outlets of others–whether musical, textual, or otherwise.  A space devoted to creative energies moving forward. I’ll be honest, even when it feels like I’m jumping off a cliff.

If asked today what I wanted to be able to do someday–when I grow up?  Tech work, sure, but I’d love to write a bio of Avenged Sevenfold (nobody could possibly be surprised by this).  Why? I am absolutely fascinated by the ways in which they have (mostly successfully) controlled messages about who and why they are–while managing to remain apparently authentic (and done so through their stage show, at that).  I’m curious about the hows and whys–how Zacky manages to manipulate and control his image again and again (and in such ways that make the fangirls–and boys–swoon).  Is he even aware of how good he is at his own PR (surely he is)? How they have shaped their image–collectively and individually–and how they look to continue to do so musically, visually, and textually.  And, yeah, I owe them something–a thank you, mostly.  They created a space in which a miracle could happen, even for me. A miracle on Bader Field; who would have imagined (I’ll try to recount it sometime, but right now, I”m just savoring it)?  And moreover, why?  Why the hell not?

Yeah, theorizing favorite bands is like a sport to me.  Been doing it since GnR.  Probably won’t stop soon.  And, at least at the moment, I’m thinking I’ll use the space to flex my theory-brain…break out the old Benjamin and see what happens when I let that fangirl mojo back out of the cage.

Work-in-progress, game, survival, creative spirit, fun.  Hope to keep some of you along for the ride.

Induced Euphoria: Yet More Fangirling

(Warning for the faint of heart: what you are about to see may forever warp your vision of/for me.  Continue at your own peril.  And certainly mine.)

This is a sobriety post, though it may take a while to look like one.  It’s also a bit all over the place.  Apologies for the scatteredness.

A few months ago, I wandered into tumblr.  I don’t recall now how it happened.  Probably it was some sort of livejournal bourne accident…though, having said that, I’m not so certain that is a rational assumption.  Livejournal is far more engaged in navel-gazing than tumblr, so the link going that direction seems somewhat unlikely.  Tumblr posts can manage to mention livejournal, insanejournal, greatestjournal, journalfen (okay, so probably not this one), mibba, and facebook in a single rant. LJ does well to post about other LJ communities [and this from someone whose own LJ points specifically to a number of fanwank communities (best non-LJ example)] .

However it happened, I stumbled in and upon in.  Around that time, I began posting my horror via Twitter*–horror mostly at the fansites I was tripping across and the…um…how do I put this?…internal logic that drives them.  Internal logic like:  Why do people mourn band member X; he wasn’t Kurt Cobain.

Actually, the internal logic is rather more closely akin to the internal logic of, say, Twilight.  For those of you blessedly unfamiliar with Twilight (how??), here’s an example of Meyer’s, er, logic, courtesy of one of my favorite, terribly amusing tumblrs, Reasoning with Vampires:

 

Meyer is scary, no?

 

 

Tumblr–perhaps because, in part, of the particular nature of the microblogging there–tends to have this kind of logic floating about (Meyer’s book, not Reasoning’s).  Not exclusively, mind; I’ve seen a number of awesome feminist debates and some excellent addiction support.  I’ve also seen a professed desire to be “raped” by (fillintheblank celebrity).  And a whole kettle of “OMG, I hate this fandom!” wanks.

One other thing I’ve noticed is my own tendency to retract from laying claims–including to my own desires and opinions.  Increasingly, I’ve noticed myself doing it in my real life (that is, I’ve noticed it more, I don’t think the overall rate has increased).  I’ll make a claim and then hedge to make the other person comfortable.   And I do it all the damn time, even on subjects about which I am both knowledgeable and confident.

Part of this is an honest desire to refrain from steamrolling conversations.  Much of it stems from fear and shame.  And those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

The feelings of fear and shame associated with elements of my life I adore have been around for a long while–at least since 8th grade (I distinctly recall being rather more bullheaded in earlier years, and I’ve nothing specific to point to–like getting my ass kicked (though I did get a fairly solid punch to the head on about 8th grade)–as the cause of this switch, not even boy-craziness, because I was pretty far gone in that regard well before age 13.  Many of the early exchanges were about music.  While my experience in that matter is hardly unique, it was memorable–getting yelled at (why did we rely so heavily on raised voices?) classmates for my music obsessions (GNR included).  Sadly, I came to be at once strident and ashamed about my musical habits (I could get into knock downs, but eventually learned to hide names and favorites unless I meant to be deliberately provocative).  Well, when in public, music was a guilty pleasure.  My bedroom walls told a different story (both in what covered them and what they “heard”–I imagine that those walls still retain the memory of Appetite for Destruction, for as often as they heard them).

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

The door-length Skid Row poster on my closet door that was, as it turns out, completely visible to those on the street below, is another story.  I’m sure you can imagine what else, as it turns out, was completely exposed.

Rather than own up, I turned bandom into innuendo,  like the time three of us stayed overnight in Trixter’s hotel rooms (they guys had moved on to the next city, but took pity on our not-even-18-nevermind-the-21-needed-to-rent-a-room-there selves and left us with the keys).   I vividly recall how I told that story after T and I waltzed in during 3rd period, and I assure you the parenthetical remark was not included.  I elided my shame about the band I was then obsessing over by turning to allusions to sex–because it was more comfortable to be imagined whore (for there was little in the way of sex-positivity among the seniors of my high school class)–than fan.

Better whore than fan.

You should hear the Danger Danger story sometime.

Better whore than fan.

Jeez.

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

So, when I read the groupie-blogs (of which there are many) or the naming-themselves-as-wanting-to-be-groupies blogs (of which there are more), I get it.  I get the drama and the cat fights.  I get the odd pieces that look a bit daft to the outside world.  Trust me.  Been there.  Moreover, I understand why it happens in a semi-anonymous environment.  When I read the fangirl chatter, I get it.  I even sort of get the absolutely-hysterical-now-that-I’m-here-but-probably-was-just-as-bad reactions to band marriage and (as happened this summer) the dreaded thirtieth birthdays.

As a result of whatever drives my habits of mind, even in my adult life, I tend to separate my desires from my reality.  The difference is that I now correct people who call me a groupie (seriously.  At least two colleagues, in perfect innocence, replied to my remark that I was going to follow Avenged Sevenfold for a couple of nights by remarking with glee “oh, you’re a groupie??” In high school, I might have said yes.).  I maintain separate blogs that, in theory, won’t meet, so that I can fangirl away in one and remain relatively academic (if occasionally fangirling.  and academic is likely the wrong word for this joint) on the other.  Tumblr is a neat, strange world (as is Twitter, if you dig too deeply), full of imagination (and role-playing–fascinating.  Also, terrifying) and play.  But it is also a place of fear and shame–hiding and pretending and hoping never to be discovered.

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

Music is essential for me in sobriety, both the aural and physical sensations.  I mentioned this here before–and to my class this week–that music is very much a physical experience for me.  I need to feel it.  And in my descent into alcoholism went alongside a separation from music–particularly live music.  When I am in the moments of my music, I don’t feel fear and shame.  I feel…whole.  Together.  And not because my brain turns off (though that is clearly true at times).  I was very much engaged in music and–yes–fandom before I went off the rails.  In some ways, it answered the nagging lack–performed what AA calls the spiritual awakening–in my life for years.   I need music in the way I need meditation and community.

Another colleague mentioned last night that she’d heard an Avenged Sevenfold song on the radio for the first time in the days before–she’d simply never heard them before (and how, after knowing me, I’ve no idea).  She asked her husband, before hearing who it was, if this was a Dream Theater or Rush (?).  She then looked at me levelly and said “I can see why they appeal to you.  The drums.  The dramatic guitars.  It’s so you.”

As a matter of being honest, I do have a tumbleblog (or however the fuck you spell that), and it can be found here.  Should you be brave enough to look, you will note a decided, though not exclusive, influence.  I apologize for nothing, including (especially?), the rather untoward fangirling over a non-curl.  And over a vocalist, a fact I simply don’t know what to do with.

That said, the blog is, like A7X for my colleague, so me.


*Clearly I am playing the “how many social networking sites can I mention in a single blog post” game.

Held Together By Duct Tape

I sat down Monday night and realized that I had song lyrics in my head that I had not heard in forever.  It was a song I wrote with a friend of mine (we’ll call her Ryan for amusement’s sake) my senior year of high school.  I recall the specifics of when we wrote it because we composed (that is far too kind a term) the piece on the way to Raleigh, NC to register me for college classes.  I was a couple of days away from graduating from high school.  The song humorously captures some of the oddities we witnessed on our drive down: the town of Bullocksville (which to our punk hearts was the funniest thing ever), some very cold fries from Hardee’s, searching for a copy of Playgirl that had a guy who looked like Pete Loran from Trixter, and a Budweiser truck (which, as I recall, was actually a Coke truck, but Budweiser sounded way better in the song).

The particular lines that got stuck on auto repeat were, in part, the title to this blog post, which literally described a guy we drove along the highway with for a while in NC.  His car had Saran Wrap windows and was largely held together by duct tape (personally, I would have used gaffer’s tape, but to each his or her own when it comes to personal auto repair).  As I recall, he was towing a relatively new BMW.  You can see from all this, I’m sure, what inspired a song called “I Don’t Give a Fuck” (well, I think that was the title–it was the chorus.  And someone was referred to as a duck along the way.  For poetic purposes, you understand).

I initally had no idea why a song I co-wrote more than 15 years ago popped into my head unbidden on Monday.  By Tuesday, however, it dawned on me why, as I had yet another emotional breakdown–this one inspired by TG’s departure for his summer with dad.  At some point that night, I realized that I was barely holding myself together–and it felt physical.  Like I was, yes, held together by very cheap, albeit necessary, means.  Me and that car, man.

“Held together by duct tape” is a pretty fair description of my day-to-day existence, wherein I am doing whatever it takes just to keep it all in.  Not just keep it together–keep it in.  “It” here primarily refers to emotions, but also to thoughts and ideas.  I have spent a lifetime building walls that look and feel terribly solid, but are often as flimsy as Saran Wrap and duct tape windows.  These walls are meant to drive away pain, people, and fear (or, rather, hide away), and, moreover to keep me from causing pain–so I shut anything that I think might cause you anger, discomfort, or harm behind a wall.

And then I fight to keep them all standing.  I can feel the fight viscerally.

Even so, I can touch one of those fears right now.  Two of the three times I have relapsed were during the summer months.  Both were in the second summer of sobriety (or perhaps alcohol abstinence is more accurate); I’m only in the first summer of this surrender.  But I am scared.  I know that the summer opens alcohol’s doors for me because for a few weeks I am not the every day parent–I am not responsible for anyone other than me.

Every summer, during those weeks, I imagine doing something for me–a something I don’t normally have time or energy or whatever to do: hit the beach by myself, get a tattoo or piercing (admittedly, G might fire me if I get another of the latter), go to concerts (all the metal shows are in Europe in June, so terrible timing), get a massage, hang out with friends–things I normally deny myself (I don’t deserve, don’t have time, don’t have money, G won’t like—yadda, yadda, yadda.  Excuses, I’ve got them).

And all the self-denial, all the exertion of control over my emotions and desires eventually manifests as a desire to drink, which is the only form of excess and release from control I typically allowed myself.  Of course I drank alcoholically; in addition to the genetic component, it was the only time I gave myself permission to be out of control–and I ran with it.  Oh boy, did I ever run with it.

Music, my only other outlet for release, I couldn’t give in as freely to, since I am nearly always driving or running when I’m listening (both activities requiring a modicum of attention).  Of course, I started letting myself go to concerts again this year, as I’ve mentioned before–and those moments of surrendering control to the music and musicians.  Felt fucking fantastic.  And, as a bonus, no hangover, no shaking, and no need to worry about what might have occurred during that blackout.  Brilliant!

But, I’ve no concerts right now to help me pick at the binding tape, owing to an inability to take a quick jaunt across the pond, and I am knee-deep in trying to figure out ways to let go in healthy ways (and identifying what those even are).  So the specter of relapse is haunting me right now, pretty brutally.  I’ve got a better toolkit now, certainly, but it doesn’t change that I am terrified.  I don’t want to relapse again.  I don’t want to forget.  And I don’t want to be so scared and brittle and controlled (an awesome combination, I tell you) anymore.

I want to surrender the duct tape, but I am so scared to do so.

Turn It Up So Fucking Loud That I Can’t Hear My Mind

Credit for the title goes, of course, to Mötley Crüe.  From time to time, I’m asked why it is I listen to music–particularly the stripe of music I lean towards–so loud and so often.  One of the myriad reasons (besides the whole love music thing) is that music can help me drown out the committee in my brain for a while.  Now, it’s not always this reason, and I can’t afford to use music strictly to hide, as I did with alcohol, but I vividly recall practically living on Godsmack’s “Whatever” while fighting with my first major professor while writing my Master’s thesis (and, if I recall correctly, before my comps for that degree).*

In the course of meditating, I’ve found a couple of repetitive habits of mind.  There are, naturally, song cycles, often dependent on what I’ve been listening to recently, but, and not infrequently, the iZazen™ will queue up something that I need to hear, but have been ignoring in day-to-day life.  Sometimes I even get blessed moments of silence, when the committee decides to cease commentary for a few moments.  Stuff that I’ve shoved into my HP box–you know, the stuff I’ve turned over?–will generally pop up, particularly if there was something I kind of hoped would come of an event or action, even though, in theory, I shouldn’t concern myself with what happens, since that part is outside my limited sphere of influence.

Also, I will almost always–particularly with longer meditation sessions–think about blogging.  Some idea that at that moment is guaranteed to be THE MOST IMPORTANT THOUGHT EVER (those of you who have made forays into psychoactive substances may find this particular habit of mind quite familiar.  To quote a favorite guitarist**, “I cure cancer and then  forget how I did it”).  I think (I can’t be sure, since I don’t look at the clock) that this particular habit pops up when I’ve been sitting for at least 15 minutes–about the time my brain decides that we’ve had about enough of this madness, thank you, go do something!

Invariably, I can’t really recall what it was that seemed so necessary to write, or, as with today, the I recall the topic, but not the particular flights of utter brilliance.  See also Shel Silverstein:

I wrote such a beautiful book for you
‘Bout rainbows and sunshine
And dreams that come true.
But the goat went and ate it
(You knew that he would),
So I wrote you another one
Fast as I could.
Of course it could never be
Nearly as great
As that beautiful book
That silly goat ate.
So if you don’t like
This new book I just wrote-
Blame the goat.

Or, for the more Romantically (yes, that is capitalized on purpose) minded of you, go check out Coleridge’s preface to “Kubla Khan”.  In other words, I can’t possibly be held accountable for this drivel.

One of the other habits of mind is not altogether unrelated from something my sponsor told me the other day.  “You know,” she said in her terribly calm, perfectly poised way, “you really shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.”  It happens that, though when she said it I had to stop myself from crying like a hormonal 16-year-old fangirl (I know something of that particular stripe), the LOVE OF WHOSE (whom’s??) LIFE HAS…(oh, just fill in the blanks.  Got married, had sex, fired a band member, been fired, you name it.  All met with similar flights of tearful rage).  I stopped myself because we were in public, and I do try to not scare the straights.

My response to her remark struck me as a tad odd (though, on the whole, I’m feeling about as raw as the above mentioned hormonal 16-year-old), because I don’t necessarily think of myself as exceptionally self-critical (except, you know, when I am) because I tend to regard myself as too lazy for self-criticism.

Go ahead.  Read that again.

While I am meditating, my resident librarian, who is also, of course, trying to get me off my duff  (smirk) to do something, also pitches all manner of things to remind me of how much I suck.  How lazy, thoughtless, unkind, you-name-it-I’ve-got-an-example-of-it I am.  I should, for example, find something meaningful to do with my life (not that I have any concrete notion what meaningful is supposed to be, but apparently it has a great deal to do with martyrdom).  That I simultaneously regard myself as too lazy for self-criticism and engage in it constantly shouldn’t surprise anyone, since I am fully capable of believing contradictory thoughts; for example, I’m not smart enough to have a Ph.D.  Let’s unpack this for a second, since I do, in fact, have that particular degree.  My assumption about myself necessarily implies that I was either brilliant enough to snow my graduate faculty or that they were equally stupid, suggesting as much misanthropy as self-criticism.  Or (this is a personal favorite), I’m not worthy of his love.  This particular assumption holds at its heart an incredible devaluing of someone else’s capacity for love and or judgement.  Again, either I’ve snowed him (’cause, you know, I’m so good at that) into believing I’m someone else entirely** and/or he’s a fool.  Again with the misanthropy.

One can extend that to whomever and however.  I can completely melt down over an assumption that someone is only pretending to like me (and, imagine what this suggests about them and me–why would anyone bother?  What in the world do I have to offer that would  necessitate or encourage such mendacity?).

And I know that I am not what I think (that was a stunning realization for me)–these thoughts crop up, but if I let them go, they really will wander off of their own volition.

So, my confession (which ya’ll already knew, but I’m supposed to say these things): I can’t stand my Self (whomever that may be), even though I find my Self to be, at times, appealingly (or, at least, amusingly) quirky.   So, now what?  How in the world do I work toward coming to terms with self?


*I wrote this paragraph last, so this example is a pretty good one for the remarks that follow.  We were eventually told that we clearly could not work together.  Yeah.  Understatement.

**Yes, guitarist.  I do have one.