Riding the Cyclone (Another watershed moment)

The tired, old “Webster’s dictionary defines such and such as …” is such a cliché that I can’t believe people use it anymore. It is such a cliché, in fact, that my using it right now is going to be retro-cool! Like a man-bun or a Millenial wearing a fedora. And I got my definition from Google, not Webster’s, like the kids do.

Recently joining a Facebook TBI group has been a mixed bag. I have some experience with 14 years living with a TBI and almost 7 as recovering alcoholic, so emotional maintenance and regulation is by now old hat for me. I try to assure some members that suffered their TBI very recently that this journey, this saga, this Homeric odyssey (see what I did there?) is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to allow yourself months and years and decades to adjust to this new normal. Well, Homer’s Jupiter must have been watching me and decided that I needed to be taken down a couple pegs because in rapid succession, he (or is it He? Not to be confused with Him , but do you capitalize a pronoun to apply to a Roman god [or is it God?] or is that a grammatical trope reserved for the Judeo-Christian God [I have to capitalize that “God” because I was raised Catholic and my father occasional reads this blog and Da didn’t raise no fools]) dealt me a 1-2 punch of emotional fragility that I could only ride out like Dorothy’s tornado.

Except this wasn’t a tornado. It was a cyclone, and the Google definition of cyclone (I didn’t lose you I hope) is “a system of winds rotating inward to an area of low atmospheric pressure; a depression”

It’s right there in the definition: a depression. I have been on an SNRI for a couple months now and it seems to be helping with the aftermath of my ex-girlfriend dumping me and me having to go on the family dole until I get some financial quagmires resolved in order to pay for a new apartment on my own and the 4 grand of expenses that go along with moving into a new apartment. But the first month went relatively well. Moving sucks and I hope to never, ever have to do it again because I’m not 23 years old but 43 years old and geographic mobility is pretty low on my list of priorities right now. But I worked out a custody agreement with my ex over the Golden Retriever we got as a puppy together. I originally wanted to give him away to a family of our choosing via some websites I had found but she wasn’t having it. After recalling all the research I’ve read that says people who live alone are much happier if they have a pet, and my new place and my stack of duckets not being big enough to get the Russian Tortoise I have wanted for years, I acquiesced after a couple weeks. Prudent move on my part, especially given incidents like the ones I’m going to tell you about.

 

In the interests of brevity, I’m gonna post the Facebook post I shared in the new TBI group. Here it is:

Hi all. So I have something I need to vent about and then I have a question about depression and anti-depressants.

 I had a really hard week, and for reasons that *were not* as a bad as I took them. Sunday I went out on a date with a woman I met online and it was just kind of a blah date. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasant conversation and of course we both did the “we should do this again” thing before we parted company. Then she texted me 2 days later and said she enjoyed meeting me but that we weren’t compatible but she was sure I would meet that ”special someone” (word of advice: Don’t ever use that phrase if you’re trying to give someone the brush off. Ugh) Relieved, I texted her back and said I agreed with her, there just wasn’t a spark there and to take care. She then texts me *crucifying* me for *everything* from my dress to my conversation skills to my teeth (!) and she wasn’t interested in hearing any reply beacuse she wouldn’t read it as I would just be defensive and combative. So, me being me, I replied a very snide, snarky reply and then hardly slept that night. Then I broke down in the supply closet at work, doubled over in tears, the next day because of the things she had said to me. I mean most people would just shrug it off, right? Then I spoke to a resident at the facility and she assured me that it wasn’t me and given what I had told her (which was nearly everything about this brief romance) that it sounded like this woman might be more than a little unstable and I should be thankful I dodged that bullet. Suddently, I was perfectly okay again.

 Until last night when I had an epiphany. I have lived alone many times in my life and never had an issue with it. The reason why I never had an issue with it is because I was a drunk and the bottle was a great roommate. Now, with almost 7 years sober under my belt, it occurred to me yesterday afternoon that the reason I was dreading being home alone was because the loneliness, the hulking black elephant of loneliness I knew was coming. So, instead I went to an AA meeting, only I got there 30 minutes early and the other person at the meeting house said the meeting would most likely be canceled anyway for a reason I won’t go into. So, after determining that there were no other meetings in town I could get to last night, once again, I broke down into uncontrollable crying for 10 minutes. Luckily, my parents lived in the same neighborhood so I went over there and they talked me off the ledge.

 I take Cymbalta for mild depression, but this wasn’t mild. This was a lot worse over 2 things that were not a big deal! I hate taking an anti-depressant in the first place but most of the time, it seems to work.

 I guess my question is how prevalant is depression among TBI survivors? I mean shit, my TBI was 13 years ago for God’s sake. Why did I get so upset over 2 things that were pretty minor, all things considered? Should I up my dosage? Try something else? Like I said, I hate taking “happy pills” but they do seem to make a difference, just not in these 2 instances.

 Ugh. Okay, end of rant. Carry on.

 Now, this is a closed group on Facebook, meaning outsiders don’t get to see what members post. But suffice to say that everyone in the group was so supportive and understanding and it was truly an occasion of overwhelming humility for me. Not just because of the meat grinder that this woman put my ego through. Not just because of warm blanket of inclusion I felt in getting support from total strangers (a phenomenon I have felt before on Facebook) This was different. This had the exact same feeling as walking into an AA meeting. Suddenly and overwhelmingly, I felt these people got it. Got me. All the haughty, slightly-overconfident self- assurance I’ve enjoyed lately because of my choice to work with other TBI and spinal cord injury survivors was thankfully shattered into a million pieces. At the same time, I have been overwhelmed with the sense of duty and obligation I feel towards other TBI survivors to get my new blog up and running because I want to provide my community of recovering alcoholics and TBI survivors with a completely informal, working-man’s sort of sanctuary they can go to and share in the lessons I have learned in my journeys and share their own. I want an interactive element on the new site other like comments and probably a Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/LinkedIn element where my fellow alcohlics an TBI survivors can interact with each other safely and free of judgement.

In keeping with the new normal way of doing things I have adopted in sobriety, I am choosing the positive spin on these episodes and soldiering on. I really hope some of you, dear readers, come with me.

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TBI, writing and circling the wagons

Recently I joined a Facebook support group for TBI survivors. Over the last week, I’ve been reading the posts regularly and its eye-opening how many TBI survivors there are out there in the world. I got so excited when I was accepted to the group that I almost immediately started posting links to this blog. But I never really gave a thorough explanation of who I was and why I and, notably, this blog should be in a group focused on positivity and encouragement for TBI survivors. I mean let’s be honest, this blog can be pretty dark at times, especially when I write a post about Him. But we’ll get to that.

See, I’ve lived 14 years with an ABI. I should note that it is simply inexplicable to me why there is a distinction made between an Acquired Brain Injury and Traumatic Brain injury. I mean, aren’t all brain injuries acquired? In fact, they are and this is the web site that proves it.

It escapes me why there is a distinction made between and acquired brain injury and a traumatic brain injury. I guess because the word “traumatic” gets your attention, by God. Anyway, this post isn’t about the minutiae of all that. It’s about writing and my journey. This blog has always been about my journey living with a TBI for almost 14 years and being a recovering alcoholic for almost 7 years. It has served as an important safety valve for me because I have been putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as it is these days) for a long time. Until, that is, I suffered my TBI in 2005. Then the wheels fell of the wagon.

When I had my first neuropsychiatric evaluation done a few months after the craniotomy to remove two abscesses from my brain, it was determined that I was markedly deficient in every category on the test, yielding an IQ that was drastically lower than before I got sick. I then embarked on an 8-year bender through the tunnel of alcoholism that lead me to my parents’ door where my then-girlfriend had deposited all my stuff and told my parents to deal with me because she was done. My parents presented me with two options. I could go to rehab or I was on my own. And, as I always say, the stinkin’ thinkin’ of my already-damaged alcoholic brain led me to actually ponder this decision for a moment. Here were these two people, who had taken a very big gamble two years before by cutting off contact with me because they couldn’t watch me continue to spiral down to my bottom, willing to foot the bill for me to dry out and get better, and then there was the option of … what? I didn’t know. So, defeated, my father and left shortly thereafter for a treatment facility where I spent the next 28 days. You can read a little about that experience here .

After I got out of rehab, I moved into a ¾ house where, a few months after I moved in, I enrolled in the veterinary technician class at a local community college. One afternoon, I was having serious doubts about whether I should have taken on such a heavy burden when suddenly, I had a vision. That vision took the form of a persona I’ve come to call, simply, Him. He represents the part of my psyche that takes my TBI, my alcoholism, my insecurities, fears, anxiety and dread and tosses them all in a blender and basically pours me a tall, cold glass of suck. He shows up when I go over to the Dark Side and the reality of my alcoholism becomes very, very real. Any recovering alcoholic will testify that it’s this torturous state of mind where we can’t drink but we can’t not drink because the suffering of this reality is just a little too overwhelming. And the people who have racked up any amount of time sober, whether it’s a week, a month, a year or multiples of years, will, to a man, tell you that this state of mind passes but while you’re in it, good freakin’ luck pal, cuz you’re on your own.

If you have read this blog and this post in particular this far, I salute you because this is where I start telling you things you might not already know. My ability to write somehow made it through the bacterial meningitis I suffered 14 years ago and, I have been told and kinda think so myself, made it better.

At the present time, my mom is working on her half of the book we are writing together about this whole, long sordid affair starting with the phone call she received one day about my then-fiance taking me to the hospital. We still don’t really know what the manuscript is going to look like when we are done but we do know we’re going to self-publish it. And I personally know that revisiting this painful time in all of our lives (because when you suffer a TBI and/or horrible alcoholism, it effects everyone close to you. It took me awhile to even acknowledge that, which kind of explains at least part of the alcoholism in the first place.) We also know that my memories of the past are so mixed up and discombobulated sometimes that we’re gonna have to have a disclaimer right at the start of the book that absolves me of any responsibility to anyone at all ever who may remember things differently because they are probably right and I’m probably wrong. That’s not the point. The point is what I write is my perception of how things went down; it’s testament to how sick I was.

But really, that’s only one of the points of writing the book. If I have learned anything from suffering a TBI, it’s that the reality that the rest of the world experiences is often very different from the way my mind perceives it. Hell, I spent at least 20 minutes in a broom closet at work yesterday weeping uncontrollably about something anybody else would have just shrugged off and gotten on with their lives. I honestly couldn’t tell you why I was so upset about something that later took 5 minutes of conversation with a friend to resolve in my mind. But it did. Sometimes, all the Zymbalta in the world ain’t enough to keep the demons at bay.

My contribution to the book is my world. It is reality according to me when really, He was doing the talking. And anybody who has suffered a TBI will know exactly what I am talking about.

Meanwhile, I trudge through the grunt work of my own project. By the end of the year and hopefully sooner, I will launch a knew website with an adjunct podcast and YouTube channel that will hopefully be of some value to others who have suffered a TBI and/or alcoholism. The TBI portion will include everything from TEDtalks to articles to books and podcasts I have catalogued so I can share them with other people who have suffered a TBI. The alcoholism portion I’ve still got some work to do fleshing out but will include personal journal entries as well as input from other alcoholics (with their permission of course) and what I have learned leading a sober life thus far. He will appear all across the website because He was my first proof that I could still write. And He also represents, in different manifestations and different forms, the Dark Side of every other recovering alcoholic and addict who faces the specter of battling addiction every day. The third component of the Blog-to-be-Named-Later will focus on meditation. For reasons I won’t go into here but you can read about here.

I have been a practicing Zen Buddhist for 6 years and meditating every day, often more than once per day, has opened my eyes in so many ways to the beauties of this world that only be experienced sober.

So, members of the TBI Facebook group I joined a couple weeks ago, I hope that explains my story better than just posting links to this blog. Sorry about that. I just got a little excited. Please poke around this blog as not everything is all TBIish serious. I’m a pretty good writer I think, that’s my one special thing as Dirk Diggler would say. There’s some pretty good stuff here. At least, I think so.

 

Genesis 34:1

Good morning!

I’m not saying that as a salutation or because I actual mean it. I’m saying it in place of “Jesus Christ” or “Goddamn!” because those phrases wouldn’t fit a series of Bible analyses because they’d be too literal. Plus, I’ve taken to using “Good morning” in place of “Good God” or “Goddammit” in an effort to anesthetize my mouth as I’ve become middle-aged and I aim for my blogging voice to be more user-friendly in general. Hence …

Good morning! “A revenge is a dish best served cold-blooded bedlam-style” is the best description of the havoc wreaked on Hamor and his son Shechem in Chapter 34. After reading this story, to say the nation of Israel had a chip on its shoulder the size of Gibraltar may be a tad hyperbolic, but not by much. Chapter 34 deals with not only the loose sexual norms of the Old Testament but also makes you realize two things: 1) Horny knuckle draggers with most of their brains below their belts who still somehow earn their peers’ respect have been around for thousands of years and 2) On the cover of every Old Testament ever published since Gutenberg invented the printing press should just be a big phallus. I mean, protecting their sister’s honor with a good solid ass kicking would have been a proportional response, but Simeon and Levi and the rest of Jacob’s boys took it to a whole different level. Check this out.
In Chapter 34 (Named The Rape of Dinah so you’re pulled in and intrigued, although this is hardly the first case of sexual deviancy in the Bible thus far. Even if you take out the incest, you’ve still got the polyamory and there is a whole lot of “ and then Horace took Brenda for his wife” which essentially means exactly what you think it means and it doesn’t mean Horace and Brenda had a destination wedding in Aruba) Jacob’s daughter Dinah goes out for a walk one day to visit some of her girlfriends when Shechem, Hamor the Hivite’s son (I include this factoid because Genesis’ author includes it. I have no idea if there is any significance to Hamor being a Hivite except than at one point, the Hivites’ do get the shaft from the Hebrew God [Joshua 3:10] so maybe this is literary license to give the reader the head’s up that Hivite’s are school in the summer time anyway) rapes her, but then (I just love this) and only then decides she is so hot that he actual wants to make her his wife and “endeavors to win her affection.” Pretty backasswards way to go about doin’ that Shechem, but alright. So he goes to his dad and sends him off to talk to Jacob, but then thinks better of it and decides he should probably go to talk to Jacob himself considering he already raped the guy’s daughter and the least he could do is do a little groveling himself. Jacob’s sons are out working in the fields when Shechem and Hamor go to Jacob to plea their case. Shechem even offers to pay Jacob as high a “bridal price” as he sets because old boy really has a thing for Dinah which, if you really want put some psychoanalysis on it, is remarkable since a man having his way with a young maiden and then wanting nothing to do with her post-coitus is and has been part and parcel for a good chunk of human evolution right up to the present day. But Shechem is smitten with the girl and so Hamor steps in and tries to schmooze Jacob.
“Listen, my son has his mind set on your daughter and this can work out well for both of us. You let him marry your daughter and I’ll give you some daughters your boys can um, ‘marry,’ and you can live among us, maybe buy some of my land, and we’ll just forget about all this rape stuff. Sound good?”
But when Jacob’s other sons get wind of what happened they are furious and so, behind Jacob’s back, come up with a plan of their own that they think would be a proper execution of justice and bring a suggestion to Hamor.
‘We could not do such a thing as to give our sister to an uncircumcised man. That would be disgraceful to us [Dinah’s brothers do not, I should interject here, present Hamor and Shechem with any feasible circumstances in which the fact that Shechem does not, in fact, have part of his penis removed would be made known to anybody other than the parties already mentioned and therefore come to bear on her brothers’ honor but can you really blame them for trying this ruse? I mean, so far, the hapless Hamor is just covering for his rapist son who wants to make good on the fact that he did already rape the woman he now wants to marry, so I’m betting that Shechem isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with and he doesn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. A gift horse that already gave, as it were.] We could not give out sister to an uncircumcised man, so here’s what’s gonna happen. You and your son and all your other menfolk in town agree to be circumcised. Then, with God as our witness, we will settle in your town and take …er… buy some of your land and we’ll eat and drink and be one big happy clan.”
Here’s where it gets bizarre even for the Old Testament. Not only does this proposition seem perfectly fair to Hamor and Shechem, but the two go back and have a meeting with the town council who also think it’s a reasonable request because Jacob and his sons apparently have a lot of livestock that they would all share in and because Shechem “was deeply in love with Jacob’s daughter. Moreover, he was more highly respected than anyone else in his clan.”[Italics added by me]
One wonders who the other guys in the town council were that Shechem the Rapist is the most highly respected guy they can find. Frankly, if Shechem is the best his clan has to offer, I don’t feel the least bit bad about what Jacob’s sons cooked up for them. So the town council and all the other men agree and Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s two oldest brothers, cut off part of the penis of every man in town. Then, on the third day when everybody is still in agonizing pain because they just had part of their adult penises chopped off, Jacob’s other sons slaughtered the lot of them.

I’ll say that again. They killed all of them only after they chopped off part of their penises. That’s some Keyser Soze crap right there.

“Then the other sons of Jacob followed up the slaughter and sacked the city in reprisal for their sister Dinah’s defilement. They seized their flocks, herds, and asses and whatever was in the city and in the country around. They carried off all their wealth, their women, their children and took for loot whatever was in their houses.” Then Jacob goes to his sons exasperated and says “You numbskulls. Now everybody in this city hates us and if they come at us, we’re toast! Did you think about that, like, at all?!”
Simeon and Levi just looked at each other and shrugged.
“Our sister’s no whore.”

As Jacob walked away from his sons, God taps him on the shoulder and tells him to take his whole operation to Bethel and build an altar to Him there because of the hooskow with Esau. He bailed him out of. So Jacob packs up shop and moves his whole production to Bethel and “then, as they set out, a terror from God fell upon the towns round about so that no one pursued the sons of Jacob.”
No mention of what the “terror” was. None. Dust storm? Hurricane? Roving band of stark raving mad cannibal Hivites? We’ll never know. To quote from The Usual Suspects, just like that … their gone.
On to Chapter 37. And friends, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Him (Reunion)

“What, you’re crying already?” He is sitting in the chair Da’s friend gave me to put in my living room. I’m sitting on the couch and Zimmer the Golden Retriever is snoozing beside me. Poor guy. He had a long day. Started with the first trip to the dog park of the year in all its muddiness, then a bath at day care and 6 hours romping with dogs. My man is pooped. It’s 8 o’clock on a Saturday night and I’m a newly-single 43-year-old man sitting here on my couch and my lower-middle income apartment writing a blog post. Poor me. Poor me. Pour me …

“Another drink?” He says as He pulls a brand-new midnight blue flask with black trim out of His pocket and unscrews the lid. “You should really think about it this time. Because this …thing you’re doing with your mom is gonna hurt.”

He’s referring to a conversation I just had with my mother 15 minutes ago. We were talking about finally writing the book about my almost 14 years living with a traumatic brain injury and almost 7 years sober.

“Ah ah ahhhh,” He says, Maker’s Mark still swirling around his tongue. “Not 7 years yet buddy boy. And you know how your precious Program feels about counting your chickens before they hatch.” He lights an American Spirit cigarette and draws on it deeply.

“Go outside on the balcony if you’re gonna do that,” I say. “I’m not smoking in the apartment.”

“Yes, but I am,” He says and smiles wickedly. “Take your new rules for your new place you had to get because Kim kicked your ass to the curb because you bloody made her want to drink and stick’em all where the sun don’t shine. M’kay?”

We lock stares, Him smiling, me definitely not.

“That’s not why she broke up-“

“Please. Just say she dumped you, because that’s what happened.”

“Fine. That’s not why she dumped me,” I say. “It was a lot more complicated than that.”

“True, it was more complicated than that,” He says and pulls the coffee table over to the chair. He then kicks off the reading glasses and Blogging for Dummies and Squarespace for Dummies book and the Bluetooth Speaker and crosses His outstretched legs. “She dumped you because there was a whole host of things about you she couldn’t stand and very few reasons to keep your sorry ass around.”

I come forward to sit directly across from Him. Sighing deeply through clenched teeth, I take a deep meditative breath. “No, she said the age gap is too big and we’re just at different places in our lives.”

“Right!” He said, pulling on the flask again. “Your place is you are a freakin’ janitor and her place is financially stable and she was tired of carrying your broke ass all the time.” He says. “Can’t say I blame her, can you? She decided to cut her losses and send you on your way. Let your parents worry about supporting you instead of her.”

I resist the almost overwhelming desire to grab Him by the collar and toss Him off my 3rd floor balcony. True, He’d just be there sitting in the chair when I turned around (fictional figments of the imagination are peculiar that way) but it would be momentarily satisfying.

“You need to leave. I have work to do,” I say and put my laptop back on my lap.

“Watcha doin’?” He says peering at the screen (He’s sitting next to me now. Told he was nimble.)

“I’m reading over the first draft of the manuscript we’ve written so far,”

He raises his eyebrows. “Wow,” he says and claps my thigh. “I didn’t know you guys had started without me!”

“Trust me, you’ll get your chance,” I say as I read.

“My chance? You mean I get to be in it?”

“Well, you are the reason I discovered I could still write even better than I could before I got sick.”

“Ha! I’ll be the judge of that!”

“Yes, actually you will, because you only exist because I created you. And I’m gonna need you. So I have to get you out of the closet, dust you off and we’ll go skipping hand in hand back to 14 years ago when I really started my journey of living with a Traumatic Brain Injury and my affliction of addiction and how my parents and my sponsor and Alcoholics Anonymous and Zen Buddhism and my friends in the Program all saved my life.

“Saved your life up until now, you mean,” He said and put His arm around me. “Considering how you felt tonight before you wrote this post, I’d lay even money that this book you’re gonna write with your mom is gonna take a hefty toll on you. Lonely nights like this one are going to get more frequent and honestly, I don’t think you have it in you. To revisit all the pain, the suffering, the isolation, it’s gonna be too rough on you pal. And let’s be frank. You don’t have the grit to relive it all again. And you certainly don’t have what you need to go toe to toe in a rematch with me. I’ll emotionally and mentally beat you black and blue,” He gloats as he shakes us both side to side.

“But, if it means I can draw you back in and make you go back out and start drinking again, I’ll be happy to contribute anyway I can!” He says as He stands up heads towards the door. “And you needn’t worry.”

“About what? Where are you going?” I asked.

He smiles as His eyes flare a fierce yellow. “I’ll bring the booze.”

Expect Delays (No Longer!)

Man, I hate when that happens.

I write a blog post and I publish it and in my heart and soul I’m thinking “Ha! Okay, now that that one is outta the way, it’s going to churn out regular blog posts from here on out!”

And then like a month goes by and life happens and I move into a new apartment and my town experiences the worst blizzard it has seen since the Innuits wore short pants and it snows more and Zimmer the dog has a torn ACL scare and it snows more and I have to call my printer manufacturer to set up my printer again and it snows more and Mary from work asks me to play piano in the musical production the residents are putting on at work and gives me 3 pieces of sheet music to learn only one of those pieces was written as a duet for two pianists at the same keyboard so I have to buy new sheet music and it snows more and my boss needs me to work a bunch of Saturday shifts and I agree because I am poor and it snows more and …

You get the idea. Suddenly it’s a month later and I haven’t written the blog post that was supposed to come a mere day or so after the last one.

And so it goes.

So, let’s try that again shall we?

I’m going to begin blogging on a regular basis. On this blog. Y’see, the name and concept of the new blog is so good, at least I think so, that I figure I need to incorporate blogging into my routine with this blog so that when the new one (along with, eventually I hope, a contingent podcast and YouTube channel) goes live, I’m already in the practice of doing it regularly. This has always been an issue for me because there’s a lot of things I’ve wanted to incorporate into a daily routine that I simply couldn’t because an existing part of my daily routine as recently as a few months ago was worrying about whether or not I had done something wrong or undesirable in Kim’s house that would push her further and further away from me. As it turns out, I was and I did and now I’m living in a one-bedroom apartment with part-time custody of my dog.

 

The strange thing is, the whole experience with Kim seems like a blur one moment and a long trudge down the road to my abysmal failure to be an adequate partner the next. Now, mind you, my assessment of being an “adequate partner” means an adequate partner to Kim. Back living by myself, I’m back to just being my own partner, which I’m hella good at. But I did learn some valuable lessons during my time living with Kim. The first is my personal well-being is paramount and there are things I need to do to reach a state of equilibrium in order to maintain that well-being. Beyond obvious ones like the gym and meditation and time with the Z (After I had proposed we give away to a loving home, I then realized a couple weeks later that I love the 70-pound adorable nitwit and also know about the multiple studies that affirm that many people stave off the often overwhelming burden of loneliness that comes with living alone by having a pet,) the other is writing. I have always known this and I always forget and then I write for awhile and that reminds me of how much I need it. Any artist knows this. Just like any artist knows that if you grow lax in your practice, it slides up onto your leg like a serpent and burrows into your head and begins eating your brain while you wonder about that strange tickle in your ear.

So, in order to really invest in blogging to the point where it becomes as much a part of my routine as meditation or the gym, I decided to start with a subject that was light and playful. And I can think of no other subject matter as light and playful as The Bible.

There is no other fodder more rife with opportunity for an irreverent, jolly fellow like myself to play with than the Bible. I’ll be clear. I’m talking the whole Bible. Growing up Catholic, I was drenched in the New Testament. But when was the last time you heard anybody riff on the Book of Judges or really delve into the underlying meanings of the book of Esther? Never, that’s when. I intend to comment on these things as well as Samuel, Samuel 2, Daniel, Joel and Amos (didn’t even know about those books, did you? Well, you’re gonna!)

This will be my experiment in writing more often and constructing better copy to prep myself for the new blog on a new platform with a cohesive message entitled …

Hee hee hee. Silly rabbit. Can’t tell you yet. But it’s coming. Finally. As Red says in Shawshank, Andy needed a new project. The meager momentum I gathered when I lived with Kim was derailed. Well guess what? The train’s back on the tracks kids. I’m also engaging with a new project with my Mom. She has been gently poking the bear of writing an essay or book or novella or hell, I don’t know, Do-It-Yourself manual, about our respective parts in my journey back to world in the last 13 years since my Traumatic Brain Injury and then getting sober. We will be publishing it ourselves, so no editor can mess with the format, which will be kinda all over the place. It will include her experience of me in the hospital, her thoughts on prayer, personal journal entries and things of that nature. My half will be replete with references to Him, the persona I created to represent the dark side of my psyche that routinely tells me that I’m nothing but a no-account alcoholic with a brain injury that messed him up something fierce, as well as accounts of the 4 jobs I went through to get to be a janitor at the very same facility I started my rehab at after my surgery, the process of getting sober and on and on.

It’s going to be a helluva ride and I’m looking forward to it.

So yeah, the new blog/podcast/YouTube channel and the book to be named later.

As Paul Newman said in The Color of Money, I’m back.

Into the Ether

Into the Ether

It’s hard getting started.

Especially when you don’t know where to start.

I’ve written about my break-up with Kim on this blog. I don’t want to or need to really pontificate on the emotional, mental or geographical havoc it wreaked on my life. That time is passed. And its not worth going into anyway. It happened and I’m nothing if not respectful of other people’s emotional responses to what I choose to put out here in the world. That’s a lesson I learned from Kim. And my Mom. I put out a FB post that I thought would be humorous yet tragic and I thought it was a little self-deprecating, a little self-congratulatory and altogether real and … well, let’s just say that it got less than rave reviews from Kim so I took it down. Similarly, I wrote a poem I put on this blog that I wrote right after I woke up that encapsulated what I felt that morning. Much of the literature about writing recommends that you write at least a little right when you wake up because that is when you at your most raw, core, and unfettered. The conventional wisdom among writers is not, however, that you necessarily have to put that on your blog so the whole world judge you. And your mother. So I took out the line that implicated Mom and let the rest of the poem stay.

The extremely valuable lesson about this and any other blog or book or other media phenomenon I decide to put out into the world is this:

Be careful. Despite my thinking it was raw and unfettered (and it was) no interactions I have with anyone should be replicated for the entertainment of my readers, such as their volume has, is, or will ever be. Doing so is just wrought with peril because despite how I want to be totally honest in everything I publish, other parties may have something to say about it and if it’s another party very dear to me, I must think long and hard about whether its worth the fallout.

 

Even with a penny-ante blog like this one, where my readership is mostly people who know me, people read my compositions and get from them what they get from them. I have no control over this and need to be ready to face the fall out whatever it is. As he says in Biloxi Blues, responsibility is my new watch word.

In light of all this, my plans for the new blog/podcast/YouTube channel have not died. In fact, in light of my new digs, they have amplified because I have total control of my physical surroundings.

So, I got work to do. Let’s get to it.

A Lesson, but Learned?

What is a “lesson learned?”

There are many from the same experience

Don’t believe everything you think

And be picky about wisdom

Glean from an experience

Only what is really there to be learned

And beware of false prophets

Be careful with your mind

Love it, but with a healthy distrust

A hug from a stranger

With a pistol at your temple

Give the maiden of your dreams

A passionate kiss

As she dangles from the ledge

By a single finger

Our Familiar Bed of suffering

Today is Thanksgiving.

“Just another day” as he says in Platoon would say.

I’m so tired of struggling.

Life is struggling.

Life is suffering.

Suffering means discontent. That’s what the Buddha meant.

I’m discontent. I will always be discontent. Unless I want to huddle away like a hermit

Like a mole.

Like Yoda? At least I’ll have my own planet.

Like someone who is afraid of the world. Because in the end, the world will break your heart.

I want to scream out at the world that I m suffering. But the world has its own problems.

I have to get over my wounded ego.

The brain injury totally fucked my life.

My life is good.

My life is suffering. It is discontent.

We all suffer from discontent. That is the nature of life on this planet.

On this world. In this world. Our world.

My world. The world as I percieve it. That’s all it is.

Everybody has their own world.

Everything is subject to experience. Memory is faulty at best.

Being kind to one another is the only way.

Would I be dead or in prison or in an institution if not sobriety, my family, my youth, my childhood?

I would. Wouldn’t I?

Would I not also fly to Kenai this morning, dine with pixies, grow different wings? Copulate with a school of fish?

This is my world. This is my suffering. This is my discontent.

I will not feel guilt anymore because of who I am.

I’ll just quit smoking.

Man of Constant Sorrow

For in this world I’m bound to ramble,

I have no friends to help me now

–        The Soggy Bottom Boys

 

I’ve been meditating a lot more than usual. There’s a simple for reason for this. My relationship with Kim ended a couple weeks ago and I thought it was all my fault. My sponsor set me straight on that one though. He said something very simple that threw the curtains back on my view of things. He told me when a relationship ends, it is only half your fault.

 

And he is right. It is only half my fault. The other half is for her to deal with. But when you strip back the rage, self-pity, confusion and despair that always accompanies two people splitting up in a half-way healthy relationship (which I like to think Kim and I had), the stripped-down, stark reality is that I have to look at the things that I was guilty of, own them, and figure out if, when, and how I might correct them.

See, Kim stated that I was too self-involved. Not selfish, but self-involved. The reason for this is pretty simple. Since I got sober 6 years ago, I have been on a personal crusade to make up for the 8 years I spent in what my brother oh-so-accurately described as the Waste Land. I first strapped on my boots and started my journey into the Waste Land 13 years ago when I started my recovery from my traumatic brain injury. And it took until I got sober 6 years ago to fully realize how completely, totally and catastrophically I had messed up my life. But after I first forgave myself for getting sick (which thankfully first happened when I was still in rehab in O’Neil, Nebraska and continue to do at least once every couple weeks since then) I embarked on a personal journey to try to make sense of my life in recovery. Along the way, I discovered Buddhism, kicked my personal exercise regime into high gear which culminated in running a half-marathon a couple years ago, reformed my diet and eating habits, acquired an adorable puppy named Zimmer (who is outside patiently waiting for me to finish this post and meditate so we can go for a good long walk), changed jobs 5 times, enrolled in Vet Tech school, dropped out of Vet Tech school, and moved in with Kim. Little did she know (and, to be honest, little did I know) that adhering to my personal agenda would ultimately be the death of our relationship 2 ½ years later.

And it’s okay. I quoted “Man of Constant Sorrow” up there with half of my tongue firmly planted in my cheek (I say that metaphorically of course. In all my changing, adapting and evolving, I didn’t also evolve into a bizarre half-man, half-snake shape-shifter, although how wicked cool would that be if I did?) No, I am not a man of constant sorrow, although being a 42 year-old, single janitor with a college education who lives with his ex-girlfriend because he is too broke to afford a new place (hell, I’m too broke to afford a new pair of boots right now) is certainly grounds for feeling sorry for myself. But if my parents have taught me anything (and they have taught me an awful lot) it’s that you are on your own in this life. So yes, it is completely understandable to take a half-hour or so for yourself to let the misery in, feel sorry yourself, cry rivers, punch walls and anything else I gotta do. And at the end, I wipe away the tears, spackle a patch in the dry wall, put on your shoes and buck the hell up because I am in control of my own happiness. If I want to feel sorry for myself and burden others with my misery, mope around all day just yearning for someone to ask me how I am so I can unleash a torrent of my own personal chaos on them, I can certainly do that. But you won’t win friends that way and even the ones you have will probably stop calling.

 

I love Kim. I don’t think that’s going to ever change. But I am not in love with her and she isn’t in love with me. Not anymore. I don’t know when that ended, but I know how it ended and I’m absolutely terrified to examine my personal dossier to find out if and how I can alter myself enough to fully let myself allow another person in to my own rigid personal regimecfor fear that I will lose the person I have so carefully crafted myself to be in these 6 years of sobriety.

But I have to. It’s the nature of my reality. Because I have also learned that connection and community are so important for the social beings humans are that to eschew them is its own kind of death. I just lack any tangible idea of how the hell I’m gonna that. So, for the time being, I’m going to secure a second job, move into a new apartment, stick my TV in storage and continue to study up on the blog/podcast to be named later that I hope to release by June.

As far as me and Kim are concerned, we still live in the same house with relative peace and harmony. I don’t know if there actually was a harvest moon the night she finally ended our romantic relationship (it would be so wicked poetic if there was) but after we had “the talk,” I went to the gym and as I roasted in the sauna, the song “Harvest Moon” by Neil started playing in my brain and it summarized exactly how I was feeling about Kim and still do:

 

When we were strangers

I watched you from afar

When we were lovers

I loved you with all my heart

But now it’s getting late

And the moon is climbing high

I want to celebrate

See it shining in your eye

Because I’m still in love with you

I want to see you dance again

Because I’m still in love with you

On this harvest moon

 

I am still, in a peculiar way, still in love with you, Kim. I want to see you dance again, see the moon shining in your eyes. Turns out, we have to go our separate ways for me to see you dance again. So I will watch you from a far and be thankful I could be such an intimate part of your life, even if only for a short while.

What Do You Want From Me?

So in order to pare down or build up or spread out or whatever is the future of the Blog to Be Named Later, this is the 2nd attempt at my appeal to my (meager, but hopefully building!) audience to know what, if anything you would like me to research, who you would like to (try at least and then, hopefully) interview, or what you just want to know about the three topics I know best. Originally, I was going to call the new blog/podcast/YouTube channel “I’m No Expert” because, well, I’m not an expert at anything really (except for, so far in my life at least, extreme mediocrity.)

 

Be books, products, articles, workout regimes, movies, knitting needles, toothpastes or whatever, I will be relying on YOU to tell ME what you want to know or what my opinion is on all things that relate to addiction and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, Traumatic Brain Injury and Meditation (I consider myself a Zen Buddhist, but the topic of mediation in general is a fascination/obsession of mine and I’m always looking for new ways to explore, examine, criticize, scrutinize, hypothesize and verbalize it.)

So let’er rip and let’s get this new project of mine moving.