Tuesday, August 28, 2012


1) Admitted we were powerless over people, places and things outside of ourselves...
2) Came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3) Made a decision to turn our lives and our will over to the Care of God as we understood God.
4) Made a searching and fearless inventory.


A searching and fearless inventory?  Faith and bravery is what that will take.

Faith and bravery.

Grab a cawwwfffee and tawk amongst y'selves.

I've been feeling like ass lately.  Inside and out.  So I thought about this last night.  What do you do when you feel like ass?  I mean what does a sane person do? What would Jesus do? What would Gandhi do?  What would my awesome and inspirational friends do? 

One of them says 'lean into the discomfort.'  One says 'breathe into the discomfort and it will ease.'  One says, 'get some sleep when you're sad.'  One says 'acceptance is the key to all our problems today.' One says 'be afraid and do it anyway.'  Those are all good.  But the one that came from someplace beyond voices was this one.  It simply said:

Don't 'give up'. Surrender. There is a difference.  Now go to sleep.

Miraculously,  I'm doing much better now.

Don't give up....surrender...to a power greater than myself.

There is a difference.

The difference feels like a warm embrace vs. being dropped down a well and falling infinitely.

Well I'm blond (sort of) but a warm embrace sounds better.  Waiter, I'll have the warm embrace of a loving God.

And hold the falling-down-a-well-infinitely please.

Some Pellegrino, too. Tall glass. No ice.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mixed Metaphors

Day 2.2

In the program there is a core philosophy of keeping one's own side of the street clean.   Chop wood, carry water, basically.  Also, mind your own damn business, one might say.

Another little pithy quote they often state in the literature is that one should not "go to the hardware store for milk." 

I subscribe to this website called flylady.net.  She sends out daily email reminders of where you should be in her system.   It's fantastic.  It's based on cleaning in small spurts using a timer.   Her philosophy is that you can do anything for 5, 10 or 15 minutes.  So that's the system I use to keep chopping wood and carrying water.  Timers are the antidote to perfectionism. When the timer goes off, you're done.  No matter what.  My side of the street is pretty clean.

Milk, to me, represents basic sustenance.  The hardware store represents the cold hard metal reality of the world.  It's also like that old Aesop's Fable:  If you need a hug, don't go to a scorpion.  Go to a trusted friend.  If you happened to have taken up with a scorpion, well, still go to a trusted friend.  Scorpions are people, too. They're just not going to get you across the river as in the old story.  You'll both end up at the bottom.   Don't go to the scorpion for milk either! And whatever you do,  don't let the s.o.b. hitch a ride. 

The Scorpion and the Frog

  A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the 
scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The 
frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion 
says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

  The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,
the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of 
paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,
but has just enough time to gasp "Why?" 

  Replies the scorpion: "It's my nature..."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


My son Elliot made me promise to never, never, ever, ever, ever, smoke again yesterday.

I finally told them both that I sometimes smoke, had quit and then relapsed and started smoking again.  Elliot looked into my eyes with such concern, "but Mama, you're going to get yourself on fire, aren't you?"

Well, now.  If that didn't stop me dead in my tracks.

So, Day 1, anew

Our kids are great at reminding us about promises.  They really show clearly how painful it is when we break them. They don't hide behind decorum when we disappoint. They feel their feelings, let us know and then, miraculously, let it go and move on.   Oh, I might hear about it later how this person punched this person in the neck, or that person spit on that person. But, really, if I give my kids the space to feel their unpleasant feelings about even grand disappointment, they usually get over it quickly.  I'm not going to fix their unpleasantness or argue with them about it. I'm just going to allow them the dignity to feel like crap for a while.  Oh yeah, and apologize when I'm wrong or I have hurt them.

I'm reading Love and Logic again--the one for kids 6-12. It's great. I wish I had read these things when I was pregnant.  But now is better than never. I was a helicopter parent at the beginning because of the kids' ages and safety concerns.  But now, eh, I'm a lot more willing to let them have consequences.  Now I'm working on the subtext messages that I send them both.   It's much more nuanced, this parenting business.  It requires that we be aware of what we're saying all the time to everyone.  And it requires that I have my own shit together spiritually.  They are not about me.  They came through me.  I'm lucky and humbled by the task of raising them.  So far, they're doing fine but Man have I got some work to do.  The funny thing is, it's mostly about letting go.

Speaking of letting go, my helper and right hand of 5 and 1/2 years, Andressa Da Silva, left us this week to pursue school full time. (It's no wonder why I hate school so much.) Her schedule no longer permits her to be with us on Monday and Wednesday evenings as she has been forever.   Heartbroken doesn't not even begin to cover how I felt when she delivered the news to me while I stood in Plum Market.  I just began to weep.  And in writing that, I've just begun to weep, yet again. 

To say that she is a babysitter, just doesn't capture her.  She's great.  Great person, great sister figure to my kids, great daughter to me, beautiful inside and out.  I toast Dressa in her future.  I hope she'll be back with us at some point if her schedule permits.   (I have to say that to myself because I cannot fathom life without her right now).

Other areas of life as I have known it for the past 11 years or so have begun to crumble a bit, as well. As a result,  I've had to turn to my Higher Power more. What do they say, rock bottom is good solid ground? I only wish I were more prone to seeking God during the good times if for no other reason than to thank God for all that he has already bestowed upon me.  He has been generous, to say the least.

Another promise I made to myself was that I would teach the kids how to do the same--lean on God during the rough times---by praying with them at night.  First we say a prayer asking for forgiveness, then one of thanksgiving and then a prayer for others and our world and finally a prayer for ourselves and our family.  It is so cute.  Some of the things they say just melt me.  Try praying with a little kid on your knees all lined up by the bed kneeling really close to them.  Precious.

A prayer for Andressa, a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for the strength and tenacity to keep all of my promises.

Day 1, indeed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Taking Inventory

It's been a while since I've written anything except thank-you cards.  Elliot just turned 6 Sunday.  What a great little kid.   His brother, too.

The past 3 weeks have been a time of deep soul-searching and moral inventory-taking.  I've really been enjoying the process--mostly.

I stumbled upon some really intensely personal revelations in my recovery work.  True gifts of the spirit.   Much of it is too personal for this forum.

The cool thing about doing a searching and fearless moral inventory is that I can see the dysfunctional and self-sabotaging parts of my life much more clearly.  The other--and frankly much cooler thing--is that I can also see what does not belong to me but what, perhaps, I've been dragging around as if it did.

I took a trip to the Huron river, set a list of the latter on fire and watched them fall as ashes into the flowing water.  I lit them with my cigarette, mind you.  Hey, what can I say? I like self-destructive irony.  And to quote my friend Khalid Hanifi "I'm not above killing myself slowly for art's sake." But not to despair. I shall quit again.  But numbing behaviors such as smoking sometimes do resurface when the tough stuff bubbles up. And I'm okay with it.  Apparently, it's okay not to be perfect.  Who knew? And anyway,  it's not a permanent address.  Just a temporary lean-to under which I can rest and retool until the metaphorical and metaphysical rain passes. 

There is a time/space between when I have outgrown old and unnecessary ways of being and new and more life-respecting and affirming modes of living take firm hold.  This time/space is lonely, dark and uncharted--but there it is.  Like Henry's favorite early childhood book "Going on a Bear Hunt" says, Can't go over it, can't go under it, got to go through it.  Out with the butts in with the wheat grass juice.  Frankly, I'd rather go on a bear hunt with a butter knife than drink wheat grass juice. 

It turns out that sharing some of my earlier stuff on this forum has been incredibly beneficial.  Not just for me, but for some of my friends who have chimed in to tell me so.  Something about the story of a struggle, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, taps into us at a primal level. Much more so than talking about the damn weather or our accomplishments.   I know I want to believe I am not alone in my patched-together quest for meaning and purpose.  And I am most definitely not.  Thanks to all for the company while we collectively stumble down this path toward...only God knows where.

I don't want to throw my parents under the proverbial bus or anything but I did grow up with a couple of hysterically inaccurate and downright erroneous beliefs that, frankly, have not served me well and those that I have off-loaded recently.  Now let me preface this by saying that these beliefs are common to my parents' generation.  They are not alone. This is their collective zeitgeist. They were either the children or youngest siblings of the Greatest Generation.  A group of people whose collective history is so overwhelmingly fraught with loss, grief, accomplishment, war, famine, tragedy and triumph that it could never be overstated or, apparently, dealt with. So they just willed it to the next generation to deal with.  Thus we have the strong silent titans as parents.  They should be called the Formidable Generation.  They live on Mt. Olympus.

The first erroneous belief (passed down to at least me) was that there was really no such thing as "love."  My Dad once told me that love was nothing more than a "neurotic clinging."  I think that has to end up in a movie because on its face it's a hilarious thing to say to a kid.  It has a cinematic quality.  It would make a funny scene.   The problem with it for a little kid is that I saw my parents commit many a loving and selfless act throughout my life--and they continue to.  So it was confusing to me.  If you're not doing all these things out of love, then what?  But in my little kid brain, I just didn't get that my dad was basically talking smack and kind of full of shit.  I think he'd agree to that statement at this point about this point. Because you should see him with us and his grand children.  Giddy, doting and playful are understatements.

The other erroneous belief that I learned from my dear Mom was that "feelings are overrated." What I realize now is that in order to feed, clothe, entertain and keep alive 6 children, she had to override her feelings of fatigue, hunger and the all-to-familiar loneliness of a mother of young children.  Now, don't get me wrong there are shreds of commonly held recovery tenets intrinsic to both of their statements.  But in the program we rephrase them as "feelings aren't facts." However, feelings are, in fact,  feelings.   Apparently, no less important than facts.  We just try to delineate the two.  It helps to parse out, well, everything.  And to my Dad's partially true statement I say, that's not the whole truth about love.  I mean the very popular love song "Grenade" by Bruno Mars perfectly illustrates my Dad's point that love can be a neurotic clinging--a dangerous one when you're catching grenades for people who rip the brakes out'your car.  But it is also the power behind everything meaningful.

I learned that little nugget from my parents as well. 

The Formidable Ones.  You know the ones on Mt. Olympus.

I love you guys.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Failure and Triumph

This quest for a bit of recovery from my anxiety-based issues of smoking and attachment to weighing has brought me so much insight. I've gotten insight into myself but also into the underpinnings of my anxiety--the roots, I guess you'd say.   This has informed every relationship.   It's been a gift beyond measure.

This past week was a watershed time for me.  I time of upheaval and of stuff surfacing that had remained quietly under wraps and also quietly sabotaging my personal success and happiness.   I quickly realized that it was time to exorcise the ghosts and demons both psychological and spiritual that were sucking the life out of my life.  I spent a lot of time at church and in prayerful meditation and talking to trusted confidants and friends about all of it.  

It's personal some of the stuff I encountered. Deeply personal.  Some of it I can wave off with a smile and a joke.  Some, not so much.  It's much more than a scale and a cigarette,  I always knew that.   I just didn't know how much more it was. But it turns out that the scale and the cigarette are the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Like if K2 were an iceberg, kind of thing.  It's the kind of stuff I want to talk to my friends in Alanon about.  It's not currently stuff I want to discuss here. 

This forum makes me visible and, with courage, compassion and resilience, I could openly share some of what these insights have meant for me--later on.  But right now I seemed to have hit on something that requires a bit more of an inward quest.  So, I'm going to forgo talking about the weighing.  I didn't mind relapsing on the weighing, but I really minded smoking.  I went 87 days without a cigarette. Then I choked when big stuff began to surface.  I've smoked 5 and half cigs in 101 days. All in the past 2 weeks.  I sure wish I could be telling you that I went 100 days without one.  But that's not the truth and the truth is very liberating if not equally uncomfortable.

I have a lot of budding peace about my imperfect execution of my stated goals and then the public sharing of that failing.  I figure it would have only been a true failure if I didn't learn anything, which I most certainly did.  The only kind of failure is really the failure to try and stretch myself a little further.

This is always such a great transition time--a bit sad for loss of the long, hot summer days.  But the possibilities of a new year are so enticing.  I still always equate the beginning of a new year with school and the smell of pencils, fresh paint on cinder block walls and brand new tennis shoes squeaking in school hallways.  I always thought I hated school and I probably mostly did.  But I also did always love the idea of a fresh start, "this year will be better" I would tell myself.  

I think this year really will be better.  And I may even make it back to school.

Who knows? 

Here's to 2012-13.

Monday, August 6, 2012

 Mousse Au Chocolat from the Waldorf

The last time I took medication for my anxiety/depression was in 2004.  We had suffered a series of miscarriages.  The medication turned out to be a disaster on top of misfortune.  After 3 weeks of a state of what can only be described as "an unrelenting and uncomfortable highness"  I swore the crap off from that point on.  Until 2 weeks ago.  Recently, I had become more and more dissatisfied with the buzz of anxiety that accompanied me everywhere.  I was willing to try medication again. 

So I spoke with my doctor and she gave me something that turned out to be more like an elephant tranquilizer than a subtle mood stabilizer.  I have never slept as much as I have in the past 2 weeks.  It's great to catch up on my rest and everything. It's not so great when the accompanying dreams turn into deleted scenes from Alice in Wonderland, rejected for their sheer oddness.  After 5 short days, the meds have softly landed in the trash.

Wrestling with my personal anxiety demon has grown wearisome.  I mean really wearisome.  So much so that I thought I could chase it away with a legally administered pharmaceutical.  The one upside to having ingested chemical restraints was that, during the 3 or so waking hours of my day, I was finally able to sit and read a book from cover to cover for the first time in years.  Anxiety is a monkey that rarely will let one rest long enough for such benign and fulfilling pursuits.  The book I chose to read is called "Planting Dandelions." It was written by a woman -- a mother-- who just happens to be a ferociously talented writer.  So talented, in fact, that I swore to gnaw off my fingers at the second knuckle lest I attempt EVER to write another blogpost, letter, memo or even permission slip as long as I should live.   I'm currently typing with bloody stumps.

So back to the blog.  To blog or not to blog.  That is the newest question.   I was really enjoying babbling on about life and kids and my personal quest for sanity.  Then I stumble upon this ace.  She really nails it. I mean, I don't think her life is any more or less poetic than my own. But her prose would suggest she has mastered the art of turning every single mudpie her kids serve up into a Mousse au Chocolat from the Waldorf.  She even spun the tail of a torrid crush she enjoyed with a fellow writer into something remarkable and not at all untoward.  If I had written about something like that, I'd be defending it in a court of law--certainly not accepting a Peabody for it.  I mean how dare this b**ch turn domestic life and all the shitty little nooks and crannies of it, into art.   I mean serious art.   Where the hell does that leave me?  I'll tell you where: in a corner, rocking back and forth, staring at the crumbs on the kitchen floor, eating my hair and mumbling to myself,  'That was supposed to be my job!'

Then I think, maybe there's room in this vat of maternal insanity for more than one voice.  Perhaps my un-medicated voice is less somber, grammatically correct, tempered and thoughtful and just funny enough.  I don't know. It's the only voice I have.  I mean besides the other ones inside my head (just kidding).

'Anxiety' and its bastard B Side 'Depression' are energy-robbing cads of dubious integrity and origins.  Not to be trusted to medication in my case, I'm sad to report. They're the enemies I keep closer than friends lest they sneak up behind me unawares.   Medicating me only makes me less capable of managing them.  Perhaps less restrained but also less funny.  Which, let's face it, is the only way the whole thing works.  I'll leave the talented writing to the artful b**ch. 

I got the lunatic rants, the cheap seats and the low road covered.

And I got 403 horse power and 4Wheel Drive.