I haven’t got time for the pain

My rule of thumb when it comes to headline grabbing, locally based tragedies is this: when people I went to high school with are posting their thoughts on everything from Jesus Christ to gun control on Facebook, I officially have nothing to add to the conversation. Seriously, what can I say? I barely know how to ask vegans what they like to eat for breakfast much less have a genius diatribe about peace and understanding ready at the drop of the hat. Instead, I tend to go inward. I look for answers in music. I know it sounds crazy but hello- no crazier than the shit that has went down over the last week. Usually this musical introspection takes me to the 1970’s.

Cat & Carly

Trust me, I wanted to sit down and write a blog about the tragic shooting in Aurora and perhaps even tie in some Greek Mythology all the while having the entire post really be about me and how sensitive I am. This magical blog post would not only explain the messed up events for readers everywhere but it would inspire them to follow me on Twitter or send me fan mail. No such luck. Instead, all I want to talk about is Carly Simon.

The other night I was making brownies (Baking relaxes me. It’s like Bikram yoga for junkies and drunks) I had the Linda Ronstadt Pandora station on. In addition to the ditties of La Ronstadt, the station features songs from “similar artists” who maybe aren’t so similar but were at least popular in the same era. Carly Simon was one of the artists chosen to accompany Linda and me on our musical baking adventure. In addition to learning that Carly was the daughter of Simon of famed publishing house Simon & Schuster (who knew?), I read that she was one of the era’s confessional singers like Carol King, James Taylor and Cat Stevens. The idea of Carly being confessional is one that appeals to me. I think that’s what always appealed to me about 1970s music and even film. The really good stuff (Daniel by Elton John, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and You’re so Vain by Carly Simon) all felt like your were listening to someone’s diary or watching the real lives of people you knew. It told the truth and for a child of delusion and addiction, artists that could pull that off have always been my heroes. Anyway, Carly’s song “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” came on as I poured my brownie batter into the pan. The words “Suffering was the only thing that made me feel I was alive. Thought that’s just how much it cost to survive in this world” hit me like a ton of bricks. I can identify with mistaking living in calamity as actually living. I too needed pain or suffering to give me pulse or get me out of bed. That’s an intense realization to have, especially for an old soft rock song they now use on pain reliever commercials.  The power of being confessional, as Carly proved, is that sometimes your truth belongs to other people too.

When horrible fucked up shit like this used to happen, we would all meet at my favorite dive bar, play the jukebox and get really, really loaded. We’d do this when nothing fucked up happened too, by the way. Today, how do I deal? Well I have a cry. I bake something. I sing a long to songs from my childhood. But mainly, I have to stay out of the grudge match. I can’t battle with my opinion anymore or obsessively watch CNN in search of some answer when I know there isn’t an answer.

But maybe there is an answer. On a separate kitchen session in the same week with the same Pandora station, I heard Carly again. In her totally underrated song Coming Around Again from the film, Heartburn; Carly sings and almost chants, “I believe in love.” She sings it over and over again. I needed to hear this message on repeat. Because I do believe in it. I know that awful, hideous occurrences can only be healed with love. I know that it isn’t the easy path. I know that it frankly fucking sucks waiting for love to heal. But I know that it works. Yeah, I believe in love because, as Carly sings in the following line, “What else can I do?”

little old normal me

“The important thing is to go below the clichés to touch the texture of your experience. Your mind is hungry to be alive. You give us that gift by laying down your true mind on the page. We read it and you open up fields of our own imagination.”

Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away

Sometimes I need Natalie Goldberg to write. I always need coffee. I  always need to shower first.  I often need music. But only in tricky times do I call on the writing goddess that is Natalie Goldberg to help get me started. And she always delivers. The quote above this Pegasus thing (initially chosen for its title but made the cut because I actually started to like it) is in response to a student of her’s who worried that she couldn’t write a memoir because her life was too “normal.” In a way only she can do, Goldberg assured this student and then readers of her book that all  true experiences have worth. This passage, entitled “Ordinary”, really spoke to me today.

I’m in the process of reorganizing this here blog and my web presence in general and naturally when projects which require sensibility and objectivity arise, I like to slip into something less comfortable like my old buddy self-doubt. Like the student in the chapter, I’ve been worried about being normal. Now I’m secure enough to know my multiple diseases and inherent sparkly self are enough to keep me out of permanent beige town. But what if I’m too quirky that it becomes annoying? Or what if I run out of clever things to say (perish the thought!). What if my life has stopped being crazy and I have nothing left to write about? Goldberg answered all of that and essentially told me to “shut up and keep going.”

And if you think about it-normal is an adventure for people like me. After decades of self-created drama, the challenge today lies in living the truth. Things like calling people back, following through on plans, paying bills are out of the norm for me. In addition to honoring my day-to-day experiences, I need to embrace “normal” life and go against my programming to be, dare I say it, happy! Talk about drama and the ultimate fish out of water story! I owe it to myself to keep going because this normal adventure is really interesting.

So if you just paid your phone bill or cleaned your house or showed up to work on time today, congratulations! If you are used to living in calamity and uncertainty and today your life is pretty quiet, I salute you! If you can now be counted on and trusted, way to go! You are deliciously, unabashedly normal. And I think that’s pretty spectacular.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Human beings are capable of many wonderful things. But mainly we’re really great at generating some truly horrible ideas. Yes, yes we the people are filled to the brim with great innovations and life changing ideas too. Yet for every polio vaccination there’s 100 bottles of A-Spray and 3,000 truck loads of Doritos Locos Tacos.

bad-80s

Take me, for example.  I,myself, have had some earth shatteringly bad ideas in my nearly 40-years on this Earth. From wearing acid wash (although I never had the full-tilt boogie fringe ensemble as pictured above) to falling in love with unavailable, straight, meth addicts, my bad ideas are as majestic as the Grand Canyon and as puzzling as the film career of Jennifer Lopez. Perhaps I was born under a bad idea sign because as far back as I can remember I’ve cooked up one harebrained plot after the next only to have it backfire and explode in my face. As an early forger of report cards and author of book reports on titles that never existed, the shittacular schemes knew no bounds.   If there’s a Bad Idea Museum, I’m quite certain I’m a shoo-in for the curator position.  Although I reckon each of us could more than qualify for the job at one time or another . The anatomy of bad ideas, as far as I can tell, stems from the corny “live and learn” concept. We have awesomely horrific ideas, we experience hell on Earth because of them and we never ever have those ideas again. And herein lies the problem for your’s truly and other slow to learn addicts like myself.

If the “live and learn” concept was one I adapted, I would have only fell in love with just the one unavailable, straight, drug addict. Not four. And as much as the first experience of taking Special K (ketamine, not the cereal) made me feel like my heart was going to explode right after my face was going to melt off, it didn’t stop me from doing it about a jillion other times and even offering at as party favor at my Grammy party. I must have been out of Cheez-Its. To be fair, though, it was the trannies I worked with who brought it. Anyway, when it came to drugs and drinking, the ideas, which were already being cooked up in a crappy idea kitchen, were escalated to new hilariously awful heights. Like the time I shimmied across the gangsta tin awning which hung over my neighbor’s blind and endlessly barking dog en route to my open bathroom window where my tequila soaked body landed in a thud in the bathtub, all in an effort to break into my own house. Too bad I discovered my front door was unlocked the next day. I repeated the wasted at home break-ins, crazy financial espionage and other stupid plans over and over again. Compared to my life, the average episode of Three’s Company seemed full of plot twists and surprises. My inability to learn from my mistakes made for a fucking boring existence after a while.

I laugh at my mistakes and bad ideas today. Why? Well a.) I’m okay with the stupid things I’ve done b.) now that I’ve actually learned from them, some are pretty funny. Plus many  of the funny, bad, sober ideas of today turn into the great ideas of tomorrow. But mainly, laughter has healed me. I’ve stopped beating myself up and now can see the absurdity and humor in old stories that used to mortify me. And the more I talk about them and more I laugh about them, they remind that getting sober was the best idea I ever had.

Extra Crispy Crazy

All of Colorado has been on fire.  For days. Having lived in California for a long time, I’ve gotten used to ‘fire’ being the unofficial fifth season.  Still, these 100 + degree temperatures and the fallout they cause are alarming to say the least. My personal fires, thankfully, are easy to put out.

Before I go any further, I guess I should clarify that this will not be a post about me needing some kind of medicated ointment to soothe an awkward rash. Not that I won’t ever write about such things. Just not today. No, the discomfort I’ve been feeling is of a far less straight forward nature. I’m what my AA BFF Johnnie and I refer to as “crispy.” Dry is when you are sober but maybe not the most spiritual or mentally sound version of yourself. Dryness can be extremely uncomfortable but many people can live dry for many years. Crispy  is dry turned up a thousand notches. Crispy individuals are crazy muthafuckers who’ve decided they are magically all better and can do this life thing without any help from anybody else, thank you very much. Crispy people are not drinking but their crazy attitudes, short tempers and erratic behavior are certain to make those around them run to the bar. So just call me Crispy Turlington.

The last year and a half has been a challenge for my recovery. See, on paper, it looks like The Sean Paul Mahoney Story wraps up nicely with me never drinking again, marrying the man of my dreams, getting the career I always wanted and galloping off into the sunset on the back of a lavender unicorn, living happily ever after as the picture of perfect mental health. The non-addicted rightfully think that we go through recovery, we get better and that’s it. But the journey of recovery doesn’t ever get tied up neatly. At least from what I’ve witnessed. As I have mentioned before, my brain likes to send me these messages like, “Please, bitch. You’re fine.” After awhile if I’m not going to meetings or doing the work, I believe these messages. Mainly missing from my life has been a steady diet of prayer and mediation. Goodbye trusting the Universe and thanking God. Hello Crispy City. A practice of meditation and prayer is essential in my recovery. Does everybody who is a drunk or junkie need to pray? I have no idea. I just know it works for me. I pinpointed my issue of self-reliance last weekend after a series of irrational reactions raised a red flag. “I’m a disaster and I need some help”, I thought to myself. Now, I’m not drinking or on the verge of relapse. The thought still grosses me out and I still have the ability to play the tape through. But as an alcoholic I’m acutely aware of patterns of behavior that are not okay and I’m aware of what I need to do to get back on track.

So I recommitted to going to more meetings. I’m looking for a new sponsor and I’m willing to do whatever to feel less crispy.  Thus far it’s working and I feel better.  And yet for alcoholics and addicts this is pretty much how it goes. As far as I understand. We struggle to stay on top of our disease. We live one day at a time. We get better. Some of us relapse.  A lot of us don’t. Some of us do it with a program. Some of us do it without. Miracles happen in our lives and so do tragedies. What I do know is that recovery is possible and something I still want. Even the parts of this state I live that are now burning will eventually recover. Life comes back and even thrives. This gives me hope. Even my crispy self is actually okay. I still want to be not crispy and that right there is the moral of my deep-fried bucket of insanity. Unlike the people who have lost everything due to the wildfires, I have an easy clear-cut solution. One that has worked in my life for the past three and a half years.