Category Archives: Sanctuary Should not be Underestimated

Lent III: Calling Names

I encountered someone yesterday who was deeply horrified by mental illness. Now, I don’t know that she meant mental illness generally or the particular variety that televise well in a 24-hour news cycle, but I suspect the latter. Her barbs, framed as questions, merely cast around the term “mentally ill” and “you know what they are like” an variations on that theme. To her defense, she was terrified for reasons it took me 45 minutes to draw out, but I feel for her–living in that kind of terror must be exhausting.

As she spoke about mental illness and the inherent dangers therein, she, at one point, assuming I agreed with the discussion generally I guess, called me reasonable. This was the kindest of the name-calling that would happen in this discussion. I sat there, rather unable to say anything directly to her for a few moments. Mentally ill is dangerous. I am reasonable. Even in the midst of my compassion for her terror, that obnoxious imp in my brain made me make eye contact and think: “oh, honey. If only you knew.”

I am pleased that after all the training and medication I have received, I did not say it.

It isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this rhetoric in this particular place. I’ve found it in surprising enough people that I found myself seeking out a trusted, gentle soul to make sure this wasn’t as pervasive as it felt. That discussions of forced medication on a general population were the stuff of misunderstanding, misinformation, and, as with she of yesterday, fear. That the names I heard where only matters of ignorance.

I was shaking after the 90 minutes with her, even as much as I had been months ago when I sought out my friend. While I would like to say that my reactions are about the nature of social justice in this particular realm, many of them are entirely selfish. Self-protective. Hey, what about me? Am I dangerous because? Do I get a free pass for being white, female and well-educated? For being, apparently, reasonable?

Bringing in a diagnosis in the midst of such conversations is merely a gotcha and pretty useless as rhetoric goes. So, I don’t. Or, so I like to tell myself. It is also a matter of safety and of fear–if I tell, what will happen? Consider the framing: lock ’em up, medicate ’em, keep ’em away. I have the privilege of access to medication and medical assistance and the ability to pay for it (I’ve seen what those meds cost without insurance. Yes, privilege–but that seems too weak a word for this). My crazy (usually) can be packed away when it creeps out with a long, fast run. Or a phone call to someone who will call me back to reality. Who knows my name.

Ok, I admit it, I never thought I’d find myself referencing Maxine Hong Kingston in the middle of this (read Woman Warrior. No, seriously. Go read it. Then read Tripmaster Monkey. Because everyone should).

When I was diagnosed, I can’t say anyone (myself included) was surprised. Perhaps the only “surprise” was that I accepted it, since I had fought for years to avoid, deny–I had bought into some manners of fear. I preferred to consider myself odd. Weird. Which is not to say that neither of those is true, mind. When I told one of my closest friends of the diagnosis, her response, in her fine and wonderful deadpan, was, though I have forgotten the exact wording, “you think?” She’d seen it. She could have probably predicted the swings–she could damn sure identify them.

When appropriately medicated and engaging in self care (sleep, for one), I am relatively ordered, mentally speaking. When either of these are not the case, I am various shades of mentally disordered. I have a treatable mental illness and the means to engage that treatment.  But the encounter with this woman leaves me contemplating these gifts–having moved from a place of “you think?” to relative peace.  I am not quite sure where to move from here. Another set of teachings and teachers tell me I need to pass on a message of willingness to seek help–as the mentally ill or as the afraid.

How can I reach my hand in to help to stem the fears? My voice to call their names?

For 90 minutes her entire body appeared to be filled with terror over the images her mind insisted that she see. I could see her trying to hold her shaking body still in spite of that terrible fantasy that she wrapped herself and draped over her face. A fantasy-world built on an event that has come to define her every interaction. Every assumption. Every action. My heart hurts for her. I wish I could give her the gifts given to me–you don’t have to listen to your own head. Let the thoughts go by. Let them go. I hope she has someone who knows her name. Who can call her back to a reality not so soaked in blood and fear.


Zacky Vengeance playing "Seize the Day"

Zack, Knoxville, TN. May 2014

I think I’ll call this one contemplative. It captures more or less how I feel right now, save for the whole onstage with guitar thing. I mean he looks deep in thought, doesn’t he?

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Lent II: Still Joy with Crows*

*with apologies to Tom Robbins.

It is entirely possible that I will never get the final song in Sons of Anarchy out of my head. In many ways it captures the joyful spirit of some hymns (not the dirges that are supposed to be joyful but are too mired in minor keys or, worse, choirs and musicians who insist on the funereal, since that is all that they ever heard, even in joyful compositions. See also Eddie Izzard on the matter.  I’m pretty sure I reference him every Lent).

The finale itself was, of course, entirely telegraphed from the beginning, even if Jax had more agency than it ever felt to me like Hamlet did (or not. The biggest what if the show will always be–what if Jax just didn’t listen to Gemma–either the one in front of him or the one in his head– then? Or then? Or that other time?). I’m going to have to parse that one more, since, however much I knew what was coming…I still watched in horror until I could not watch–I covered my eyes.

It’s not surprising that joy can come in lockstep with horror. That’s part of what Lent is preparing for, isn’t it? However much Easter looks to lift up in joy for believers, it still follows horror. Christological symbolism having been rampant in the show, and nowhere more than in the finale, where Sutter took a sledgehammer approach, I wonder how much Lent I just watched.

Watching the finale on Ash Wednesday may have been weirdly appropriate.

The show makes me want to write–to dig and turn over, which is a pretty nifty thing (oh, look, joy!). I’ve not looked to see what has already been pondered over the years, largely because I didn’t want to trip across spoilers. I’m not sure I totally want to now, because I know I will trip into SOA fanfiction, and as much as I love me some fanfiction, I do not want to go there right now.

Maybe because SOA has a alt-universe fan fiction quality to it? What if Hamlet had been in an MC? Should it have come with an alt-universe warning?

As always with Hamlet tales, I am curious about Horatio. The keeper of the stories. The one who survives to tell the tale to the armies at the gates. In this show, it’s the latter (the armies), that give me pause because those who will be getting the story are not the obvious armies. And that they become the vessels is far more disturbing than the armies at the door (since the obvious armies–the other outlaws–will never, if Jax’s machinations are this time successful, know. Granted, most of the other plots blew up in his face).

But, Hamlet. See, I was (and I hardly claim to be alone here, since it was the point of the show) utterly fascinated by Jax Teller, in the same way that I am utterly fascinated by Hamlet, particularly as imagined by Kevin Kline. I don’t know why, perhaps because Kline played Hamlet in the most joyful way I can recall (if a joy covered in derision). He doesn’t play Hamlet as the deep, oppressive, christian-hymn-solemnity that is so popular among those who wish to be counted as a “great” Shakespearean ACTOR. Or someone in high school. Charlie Hunnam usually didn’t play over-the-top unnecessarily (at least as I read the character). He had far longer to vacillate than poor Hamlet ever did, and boy did he let himself do so, right up until he stopped–which is when (as with Hamlet) everything came apart.

But, still, a twisted joy (relief?) permeates Hamlet. It’s over. It’s finally over. One that Sutter mirrors in Jax as the story winds to a close.

I used to love to teach Hamlet (still would). I would love to pair Hamlet with moments from SOA in class, the way I did with Odyssey and Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Not anything born of particularly unusual insight, but ways of seeing the same stories told in image and music. Even when blood runs across the stage, the death itself hidden from view, the music can insist on something more than mere horror.


Since I made the joke about trying to do this…

Joy:

Matt Sanders laughing on stage

Matt, Augusta, Nov. 2011

Lent I: Giving Up, Giving In

I need to write. I need to write. I need to write.

I guess that because I grew up within the Western Christian liturgical calendar, I tend to hit Lent with the feeling that I need to do something. The giving up, the taking on, goodness knows I’ve done both–though I left the institution long ago at this point. But my head still finds its way to that cycle.

Advent is the beginning. Lent is, among others, preparation (as is Advent, in truth). And it is often associated with (or practiced as, celebrated (?) as…) fasting. Giving up.

It is inevitably a period when I do, in fact, give up. Often on whatever it was I gave up or took on, but I often do give up. The same is true of whatever New Year resolution I think I’ve made, but Lent is particularly noteworthy for this.  Possibly obscenely.

Wow, this sounds ridiculously serious. It shouldn’t be. There is something freeing about the giving up. And the taking on. Again. What the hell.

Avenged Sevenfold guitarist smiling

Syn, Honolulu, Jan. 2015.

So, how about a happy-guitarist picture to set the Lenten mood. Looks pleased, doesn’t he? (aside: happy to see him smiling on stage–very different from the mood during the Nightmare tour. Wherein he, of course, was trying to recover from a nightmare and wore the grief so completely.) So, different mood here as well. Happy-guitarist-playing-solo mood. I feel that I have a particularly intimate acquaintance with moods so as to be able to provide a more nuanced accounting than “happy.” So, happy-guitarist-playing-solo it is. Difference? That man is onstage, in the place and space he clearly loves, playing a song of his own making, existing within his passion. And, yes, getting attention for it.

Having said that, I am wondering if I could manage to use my live photos of this band each post to represent a mood…This is probably a terrible idea. I have sufficient photos to never repeat during that time, but I’m pretty sure I’ll come up short on facial expressions.

So, I’ll give up and give in for Lent. Give up, if not the coffee I should give up, then the traditional meat.* I’ll give in and write. I’ve mentioned that I need to write, yes? I’ve resisted this space for months. Written in my journal each morning, but not here. And I like this space. I like that I have–in the past–been able to spread out my thoughts. Turn them over and stare into the connections. Write in some vaguely academic way about the things that excite my head. And I’ve put aside that part of my brain in learning all this new of late in this life I have been granted.

So, give up the easy, give in to the need. The good needs. Some of those needs that saved my life: writing, researching, and meditating. Creatively. Playfully. Because that’s what I have and that’s what keeps me sane. And in the aforementioned mood.

After all, I like sanity. It’s kind of cool.


*Funny–my worst enemy in these efforts is inattention. For instance, the day was all of 12 hours old when I walked into a lunch meeting at which there were chicken wings that smelled really, really good. While I ate none, it was not until I left that I realized that I’d not thought once about the Lenten commitment. I just happened to not get any because I’d brought my lunch with me. *headdesk*

 

Dear Nikki

I’ve not been around as much as I’d like.  No particularly good reason, just brain swimming, I think.  Occasional bouts of way too much too-much-time-spent in the old noggin, but otherwise generally making it through.  And, boy, the recovery reading.  It feels much more significant than grad school, but, man, does it ever feel like grad school sometimes.  I was hunting for my copy of the Tao Te Ching yesterday as a part of my reading and wondering why I’d never gotten around to getting the Tao of Pooh, so, yes, very much like graduate school in hunting for references and wondering how I made it so far without reading THAT (whatever THAT might have been at the particular moment**).   One day at a time, folks.  One day at a time.

Mired as I am in the readings for my particular, hmmm…. philosophical group, I wanted to spend a few moments on an open letter that has been batting about in my head for a week or so.  It’s only nominally related to the recovery readings (and mostly because the two exist in my head), but I’d like to try to get the letter out of my head and into print.  So, here goes.  An open letter to Sixx.

Dear Nikki:

I appreciate that you apologized for the rape remark, and I’m particularly glad that a friend pointed out that you did, since I don’t follow you on Facebook, only Twitter.  I’m glad you rethought your position, based on the reactions of people–and, as you put it, “people you respect” in particular.  Whoever those people are, would you please extend my gratitude to them?

That said, I wanted to unpack the comment you made on Twitter (and, I assume, elsewhere), because, well, you and I share experience in a particular philosophical (oh, okay, fine.  Spiritual) mode and tradition that asks of us to consider only doing the next right thing.  And putting this in print feels like the next right thing, even if the outcomes belong exclusively to a power far greater than me.

And, too, “Oh My God” is on your album, so, yeah, you get it.  You get that the world can be a better place. And if “Oh My God” and “Skin” can be there, and you can humble yourself to ask forgiveness, then, well, I have some hope in the matter.

My first reaction, upon reading your tweet about raping Santiago, was irritation, though not exactly the irritation the offhand use of the word rape normally inspires in me.  More of a, really?  That was the best metaphor you could come up with?  Nikki, I’ve been listening to your songs for, oh hell, 25 or so years; you came up with better metaphors in the WORST of your hazes. Which is not to suggest that your current way of life automatically makes you a better, more creative person, but there you go; I was annoyed, in part, because you were so very pedestrian.

*sigh*

But consider what you wrote for a moment (yes, you apologized, and I hope you’ve already heard this.  Irrespective, it needs to be said).  “Rape Santiago” suggests, though I don’t think you meant for this implication to be part of what you were saying (which is another reason rape was not the appropriate term), that you expected the concertgoers to be unwilling participants.  Which seems…odd.  Yes, odd, at best, given that it seems safe to assume that most everyone there is wanting to see Motley do your thing.

Also, you know the nice thing about concerts, as opposed to rapes?  You can walk away pretty fucking easily.   Also, for the love of HP, please tell me you didn’t mean anything like a Luke and Laura storyline.  *shudder*

Now, as with other terms in the English language, rape has a number of meanings, one of which, yes, is “to delight or rapture,” though, so far as I can tell, that particular usage died off somewhere in the 1850s (and likely before as the previous such usage was over a century prior), so I’m thinking that’s not really what you were going for (it’s worth noting that even the OED calls this usage obscure).  “Rape” can also refer to “carrying off (a person) by force,” which really doesn’t seem to fit, or “to plunder or despoil,” which, again, doesn’t strike me as the mood you were going for.  And certainly, current usage doesn’t have that particular suggestion, even if the Cleavland Plain Dealer as late as 1994 would care to suggest that rape is “To take or seize (something) by force” (in this case, it apparently referred to a fire: “To think you can have your happiness raped away by three kids playing with matches.”  I think, had I read that particular remark at the time, I’d have been equally irritated).

No, I’d like to believe (see remarks on your songs above), that you meant to suggest something about the power of your concerts, and while rape is certainly a matter of power (rather than sex), the term is not appropriate to what you meant (I hope) to convey.  I’d assume, at least you expect that concertgoers want to be there with you–want to share in what you are giving away.

That’s not rape.

You know it, I know it, and can we agree that the world might be a marginally better place if we didn’t conflate the joy of a concert experience with rape?

Oh my God, I’m so ashamed, /When we try to close our eyes and make this go away.

Yeah, that.

Our shared philosophy also reminds me to say thank you.  Thank you for your willingness to listen when a group of indeterminate size and voice spoke out to you.  Thank you for not closing your eyes and hoping it would go away.  And, as ever, thank you for your willingness to share parts of yourself with us all.

Peace,

K


* Note: We’ll leave aside that 3, yes, 3 different hits came to this blog yesterday for “Pete Loran’s wrist.”  I have no idea.  Clearly a joke needs to be made, though.

* Bonus note:  I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men last week, at the behest of TG, who read it for class.  While I still have no particular love for the author, this novel is an excellent example of a THAT.

I Know it’s (Almost) Lent Again…

‘Tis Mardi Gras today, which means the Lenten Season is almost upon us.  On the one hand, I’m a little surprised that I’m paying the season any mind, cut off as I have been of late from christian religious practice.  But, as Rev. Dean often reminded me, I’m such a dyed-in-the-wool Episcopalian that I could claim atheism and still find myself planning for the spring fasting season.

In keeping with tradition hereabouts (a catch-all summary and links for you), I am committing to two disciplines for the season: one for mind and one for body, the union of which, I hope, will provide fertile ground for a bit of spiritual growth (notice I’m setting the bar kind of low on that measure).  For the mental discipline (stop laughing) last year, I looked over  a theme of Radical Transformation, courtesy of Rhyte’s suggestions.  This year, I can’t say my reading has a particular theme, other than possibly “Somehow this needs to connect to the SACS prep at work,” which is vague to the point of being useless.  But, I have four books I’ll be wallowing in and wandering through for the season:

  • bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
  • bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom
  • Pema Chödrön, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
  • Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

I suppose I don’t need to mention which ones are directly related to work, eh?  But, getting my head around other ways of teaching and communicating seems worthwhile in my personal space as well.  And, yes, the last is a bit of a cheat, since I already started the book, but I figure 6 weeks might give me a chance in hell of approaching a finish, though, given my progress thus far, the halfway point seems about manageable.

For last year’s physical discipline, I gave up consuming meat (the single most oft read piece on this site, Embracing My Inner Hippie: Vegetarian Eating and Barefoot Running [which this week was brought to folks who searched “are all hippies vegetarian” and “vegan hippie eating” (*giggle*)].  This time, I’m picking up a morning cardio and whatnot ritual (like GEB, it’s not new, but it is getting a greater focus as a result of Lent).

I’m going to try to respond to my readings here fairly regularly, along with the occasional complaint about what the heck I think I’m doing to myself at 5 am every morning.  Hope to see some of you all come along for the ride!

Seeking Authenticity

Brief aside: better than last week.  Down, but not out.  It took me a bit, but I recognize that all the weight right now is temporary and wanting it to be gone NOW is only serving to produce a fantastic amount of suffering.  As someone reminded me the other night:  “Pain is obligatory; suffering is optional.”

As some of you may recall, I left the church I had attended for a bit over a decade a year ago (many of the posts under the “Sanctuary Should not be Underestimated” category are my attempts to work through the last hurrah of my years there).  G. hasn’t, at present, left that church, though he is looking around for other options, stymied a bit by the relatively low number of Disciples of Christ churches in the immediate area (he’s very committed to that particular denomination, in no small part because of the weekly celebration of the Eucharist–I’ve suggested the Episcopalian churches, but that’s would be a pretty big swing for him, particularly the move to the creed-based denomination).

Anyhoo…where was I?  Oh, yeah…

I’ve not returned to a church–and at present have no particular desire to do so.  Part of the reticence comes from the specifics of my withdrawal from the church last year, but some of it is far more long-standing, as I’ve while I’ve never had a particular problem addressing a Higher Power as “God” (well, until recently), I’ve also never believed that the particular denominations–or Christianity for that matter–were the only route to…whatever.  Insofar as I believe in anything that might be called heaven or hell, I believe they are of this earth and of our own construction and of now, not a hereafter.  So, I was comfortable enough in a DoC church (at least the idea of one) because of the community it offered, and, especially, the community it offered to Tough Guy.

Comfortable enough until I wasn’t.  I played the roles I was expected to play, including leader, until I couldn’t do it anymore (and even then I kept trying for a while).  So, I get why G is looking for that kind of community; I understand why and how it remains important to him.  I hope I will get to a point that I can rejoin him in such a community, because I know that is important to him as well.

At present, I’ve returned to meditation*, which is a spiritual practice and discipline that particularly appeals to me as it requires that I not think and not do.  So, when the idea for this blog post popped up mid-session, I had to set it aside and not worry over it, think about it, obsess that OMGifIdon’twriteitrightNOW… I acknowledged that the thought came, noted it for what it was, and let it go off into the ether (I got lucky, it stayed in relatively close ether).  My brain is rather unwilling to shut up most of the time, including during zazen (my meditation practice of choice), but I accept that and try to just–for 20 minutes–let worrying about my brain’s obsession du millisecond go.

20 minutes.  That’s it for now.  20 minutes of relative calm.  No getting up to fix this, no running off to write that, no jumping up to correct whatever my brain latches onto. 20 minutes of a commitment to be here and be compassionate (even to myself).  It occurred to me that this particular practice is not just a bit like a marathon, in the vein of “it’s not supposed to be easy.”  And I think that is part of what is so appealing.

That last thought sounded way less cracked in my head than it appears on the screen.

I think this is all part of the attempt to figure out who I am–to wend my way through the various masks and personas and assumptions, which is a rather odd experience.  As I understand it, such a journey is not at all unusual to the alcoholic in recovery nor to the thirtysomething, but it feels for all the world like another brush with adolesence, which was, for me, abruptly ended when I chose at 17 to keep the pregnancy that would end in TG.  So, perhaps normal with a dash of “oh, I never finished this part.”

The only “I knows” I have right now are: I know I want to be sober today, and I know I want to learn authenticity, compassion, and accountability** in my spiritual practice and in my daily interactions with life.


*I’ve meditated on and off for several years, usually while trying to convince myself that drinking wasn’t the real problem.  Sober zazan is far more interesting, I must say.  More on this later–I’m reading a book on this at present.

**As a matter of accountability, I had my sobriety date (December 28) tattooed on my foot yesterday, so that I have to see it every. single. day. It’s a major part of who I am.

Lent: Musings on Control

I have, and this is not an exaggeration, been mulling this post for a week.  I have written nearly a dozen versions in my head, but each time I get to the keyboard, I can’t translate the braindroppings into something even vaguely readable.  In this, an attempt to exert control over even my (want to guess how many times I’ve started and restarted this sentence today?) public face, I manifest one of the most significant, and troubling, aspects of my personality: the absolute need to be in control.  Unsurprisingly, my Lenten readings are already dancing around this topic, much as last year’s seemed to coalesce around anger (significant personality flaw #1).  I finished Chodron’s Comfortable with Uncertainty (I’m not.  But, as she reminds, I am starting where I am) and Al-anon’s From Survival to Recovery last week, and though I am certain I’ll be back to Chodron before the season is out, I have some preliminary thoughts on the particular for radical transformation seems to be coming into shape for me.

Control as Excess

Now, I’ve known for most of my existence that control is both a problem and an integral part of who “I” am.  I joked, even as a teen who was trying desperately to deny her burgeoning addictions, that I’d never be much of a drunk, because I couldn’t stand to be that much out of control (commence laughter now).  The only space I allowed for a modicum of release was in music–particularly live music, because in the atmosphere of a concert, I could, would, and did, let myself physically and mentally, for lack of a better term, flail.  I simply gave into the music.  Part of this was a gift from my years of dancing, screwy as that seems as there is little more controlled than a tap dance routine; dance afforded me a mental connection with music that tends to manifest as a desire to just move and be.

Now, before CD jumps down my throat with CK right behind, I am NOT arguing that music is itself not highly constructed.  I would, however, argue that the language of music transcends the rigor of the music grammar, or, at least, it can.*  And for me, it most assuredly does; I should also add a note of gratitude here: it was the two of you who gave me the gift of that grammar and the rudiments of musical theory that later afforded me the opportunity to study music theory in much more detail as a graduate student.  My thesis (which meant so much more to me emotionally than my dissertation would), in other words, was both a gift from the two of you and an homage to your importance in my life.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When I finally came to the point that I could admit my addictions, I became rather more aware of the ways in which I used alcohol to escape control; moreover, I’ve come to realize that the more I try to gain control over the world, the more likely I am and will be to succumb to addictive behaviors.  Counterintuitive?  No, not really.  When I try to maintain control over life–over which I have NO control, no matter what illusions I allow myself to wallow in, I open myself to a dangerous path of needing to escape the useless control I’ve attempted to assert. As Chodron reminds, “the basic ground of compassionate action is the importance of working with rather than struggling against.” (95).  She repeats in this book, as she does in several others, that another key to compassionate action is to let go of the storyline, rather than trying to shape life into a familiar, comfortable narrative, wherein we can be the victim, the hero, the whatever our desires request in the moment.

Lessons in Control Narratives

I saw a great many connections between Chodron and Al-anon, thought their ends are different: for Chodron, the path is the goal and for Al-anon, happiness (that’s highly, and unfairly, summative, but there does seem to me to be a more nameable goal involved in the 12 steps for Al-anon than the 108 teachings in Chodron, however similar the phrasing tended to be).  When I first read the Big Book for AA, I identified immediately, but, then, I’d already confronted and acknowledged my addictions at that point.  I was far more resisting to Al-anon, though I kept thinking that, “Hmmm….TG should read this.”  But, I also recognized myself in those pages, and not just in the stories of the alcoholic and addict.  I saw myself in the Al-anon stories.  I wasn’t surprised, exactly, though I was (and remain, I admit) resistant.  I am the child of an alcoholic whose own parents exhibited symptoms of the same (though, honestly, I don’t know enough about that set of grandparents to really say).  I was expected to be perfect, in order to relieve my mother’s suffering; I don’t say this to be flip or insincere.  As a then undiagnosed and therefore improperly medicated bi-polar patient, my mother was suffering tremendously.  And through various means it was communicated to me that I was to be easy on her–take care of her, be good, be an excellent student, and so forth.

Was I?  Oh hell no.  I was a bratty, angry teen who simultaneously wanted attention and wanted to be left completely alone and assumed that she was easily forgotten.  But, the direction to be perfect was internalized enough that I felt paralyzingly guilty for everything I did wrong (not that I stopped doing wrong–but I did try to hide most of it).  As I aged, and myself became a parent, I demanded more and more control over my situation and became increasingly angry when that control didn’t come or when the illusions of control collapsed.  I can see in the readings though, that the permission given to the loved ones of alcoholics to NOT be in control (Step One) over the alcohol or the alcoholic, must come as a terrible relief.  I do wonder how I would have engaged the world differently in my 20s if someone had granted me the permission not to be in control of my mother.

All of my attempts to control my world (or my mother or my son or my cats or my “drinking correctly” rules)  not only don’t work, but they create further suffering, not only for me, in many cases, but for those around me.  Since I function in metaphor, let me offer this: what I want for the year, what I would like to learn (yes, still controlling, but starting where I am), is to begin to engage the world in the way my 15-year-old inner rocker girl engages music.  She lets go; she’s fabulous in that way.

2010, so far, as been a model year for lessons in letting go of control.  To say that the year sucks so far wouldn’t begin to describe it accurately, but, for the first time in, well, ever, I’ve encountered each event knowing, without question, that I had no control over the situation.  And, in at least one case, the control I *thought* I had has been removed (I grant, I realized in the end that I never had it to begin with–it was totally illusory).   Thus, I think the lessons in these books are not insignificant right now.   I’m still depressed, but I recognize it, and I recognize that there is nothing I can really do in any of my current situations beyond compassion.  And, if that is all I can be right now, if that is where I am, that has to be enough for right now because there is nothing else, and the constant reaching creates little more than pain.

For all of her troubles–and boy did she have them–my inner 15-year-old rocker chick has something to teach me.  In the face of a depression that would soon manifest as a debilitating physical illness and some incredibly poor choices, she knew how to stop being the center and be carried off into a connection forged by music.  My body still retains memories of those moments; I can feel the pulse and promise in the General Admission pits that I threw myself into in order to be no where other than there in that moment.

Right now, my readings and my year are screaming (even oddly, Attali) I need to learn to be present again.  Here.  Right now–not past, not future.  Present.  All I can offer the world and myself is compassion; control is irrelevant.


*Rather like, um, literature, sayeth the lit prof.