do they make a brita filter for your brain?

Weathering the non-stop, roaring rapids of information can really wear me out.There are only so many tweets about Kate Middleton’s baby, only so many Facebook posts about some politician I’ve never heard of and only so many unimportant emails I can handle before my brain feels like it’s about to collapse. I’ve come to believe that perhaps its better that I don’t know all the details of a divorce currently being shared by someone from middle school whom I barely remember? Maybe its okay if I never see pictures from your spleen removal surgery? I just think I liked people better when I knew less about them. Says the guy who routinely talks about his drug use and once sent a tweet about his anal pap. But what I do is art, so it’s different.

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Recently, I’ve discovered in lieu of forcing the entire internet to change (I mean, I asked. But I haven’t heard back), I had to change myself. Wait. That sounds like I’m wearing adult diapers. You know what I mean. My endless bitching about the Internet and adding crap to a conversation online or otherwise is something I can change. Maybe it wasn’t the planet’s never-ending onslaught of negative communication that was the problem but my own. Duh. My problems, much like a Scooby-Doo episode, always end up the same way. The person behind the mask causing all of the haunted shenanigans isn’t a ghost or a demon but me. And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.

Anyway, over the last week I’ve been trying to practice filtering my conversations, emails and thoughts before I vomit them out. I’ve been trying to write about resentments and get my thoughts clear before going to others and wreaking havoc. I’ve been trying to pause before I indulge in the critical buffet and trying to say, “No, thank you” when they pass around the tray of invites to the shit-talkers VIP lounge. This a communication revolution to be sure. But I use the words “trying” and “practice” because this is some difficult stuff. immediately, the narcissist in me says, “I don’t NEED to filter myself! I speak the truth!” This is usually said with a lot of finger waving, by the way.

20obquWhat I’m discovering especially when it comes to my writing and my relationships I don’t have to share everything in order to be myself.  This doesn’t mean I have to repress my sparkle, however. In fact, filtering out the inner-crazy or negativity has let my actual personality come out. And there are Non-Ninja things I can do to make communication more positive like turn off my instant chat or listening instead of talking. Or not answering emails from lunatics.Or not commenting on every thread that annoys me. Or simply thinking of others and reconsidering my wording before I hit send.

It sounds ridiculous but it feels like a genuine start. Staying true to my personality while running it through the filter takes some considerable faith and skill.These are not easy habits to shatter. But I’m going to keep practicing it. Otherwise, I’ll be back to haunting old amusement parks and tweeting about the toenail that’s about to fall off.

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people (insert head shake and deep sigh)

The songstress in the photo below once crooned, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” While the inherent codependency of that lyric could be undoubtedly discussed until my computer exploded, I guess the 1960’s wisdom of ‘needing people’ to express not isolating from others is sweet. Yet seeing what a pain in the ass they are, people who tell other people to go screw themselves might be luckiest people in the world.

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Now relax, I’m not going to launch into a post about how people suck and how wronged I’ve been by the entire planet beginning with my abusive 1st grade teacher(affectionately known as Sister Snake Face) leading all the way up to the cashier at Starbucks from last week who ignored me (affectionately known as “douche waffle”). Sadly, recovery has forever tainted my bitch sessions about others. I’ve been programmed to look at my part first and to have compassion for crazy people and to pray for people I want to kill. Really takes the fun out of the whole ritual. As a drug, people really suck. Next to slamming Robotussin, no other substance provides such an unreliable high and such a flaming hot headache. As former grand marshal of the codependents parade, which never happened on the account of all of our time being spent worrying about each other, people addiction is something I know a little about. Listen, like I said, if drugs or a bottle were available I’d gladly take them first. But people were more like cigarettes. Not a fast high but a habit that would make me sicker and crazier the longer I did it. Just how I like my habits to behave. A year and half away from romantic relationships and some gnarly soul-searching helped me kick my people drug. However, that detox was a slower and more slippery one. I never had normal relationships. Like ever. So sliding into crazyland behavior like trying to control when people call me, not eating in hopes that we’ll go out to dinner together and generally trying to manipulate people into spending time with me was incredibly easy. It took my several failed friendships in sobriety and months of dating hell to realize, I had a long way to go in building a health relationships with these ‘people’ Babs was singing about.

I bring this up today because people as they are known to do, have been a disappointment lately. And by lately I mean since that whole Garden of Eden fuckup. Seriously, my relationships get complicated and that’s a blessing. Really. My relationships these days are real and authentically human with actual people. Which is terrific for somebody who use to refer to friends who he knew from nightclubs as “We Hate Her” and “Snaggle Toe”. The flipside of these real relationships is that always  sometimes people let you down. Again, they’re an incredibly dicey drug. I’d be better off with a pack of Kools and a box of wine if I wanted to check out. Thankfully, I don’t want to check out today. I also know that humans being human is a two-way street. I let people down too. I screw up constantly. And , yes, 12-steppers, I’m usually to blame, at least partially, for whatever issue I have with people is. Sigh.

I heard Barbra say in an interview she always thought the lyric should be that “people who don’t need people are the luckiest people in the world” as it expressed the heartbreak her character in Funny Girl went through. I get it. But it seems like that song turned out okay. I know that if I just let things happens, just forgive people for being people and just be grateful for having the people in my life that I do have, I’ll be okay too.

Is it too late to become a penguin?

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I only ask because after watching a documentary on the Patagonia, I think penguins could teach me a thing or two about compassion, loyalty and direction. Seeing these waddling little characters travel thousands of miles every year without getting lost and then finding their mates nest with no specific markings is beyond impressive especially when you consider they all look identical. But somehow the couples find one another, year after year. And unless we kill them all (people suck.) they’ll keep it doing it and we might not ever know how or why. Maybe Google should hire penguins to help with mapping. Anywhoo, their affection and loyalty is as impressive as their built-in GPS. These penguins stay mated for their whole lives and wait for one another while the female goes and searches for food. If you asked most singles what they want in a relationship, I could bet it would sound a lot like the penguin life I just described. At the end of the day, we want somebody to be there when we get home, to do their part to help the machine run and to help us protect our chicks so they don’t get eaten by sea lions. Okay maybe not that last one.  For more proof that penguins rule, may I present Cookie?

I think with all the news, it’s easy to believe that as I mentioned earlier (jokingly) that people are the worst. I mean they don’t really try that hard to refute that theory. Ain’t that right, Paula Deen, Paul Ryan and all of Washington? A friend in the program once wisely told me, “No matter how great they are, people are gonna let you down.”  Yet there’s something freeing too in knowing that people, myself included, are going to screw up and do so royally. Maybe in a covert way I can even take the lessons of the penguin to help me be a better person. It sounds crazy but trust me I lived in LA for 15 years and I ‘ve certainly heard of wackier spiritual solutions. Hey, that’s not a bad idea.  Finding Your Inner Penguin: Waddle Your Way to Your Ideal Relationship coming to a Marriott conference room near you!

I’m actually happy being a person, despite all of our flaws. Besides, if I was a penguin, I would have  had to spend my childhood eating regurgitated fish. Yuck. Like I don’t have enough issues already.

inappropriately appropriate

I was told four years ago by a mental health professional that perhaps a future goal of mine should be having “appropriate relationships” with people. Say what?

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This meant behaviors like blackmailing friends to do what I want, co-dependently controlling those around me and defaulting to martyr people pleaser mode would have to stop. Also getting the heave-ho in this quest for appropriateness? One night stands, relationships built on substances and friends acquired because of their status.They would have to be replaced by giving to others without wanting something in return, not dominating conversations with overblown emotions and generally being more considerate. This all seemed pretty difficult especially not letting emotions steamroll my whole life. When you grow up in alcoholism land, explosive crying, insane rages of anger and non-stop arguing are just kind of the norm. I learned it early and practiced it all throughout my 30s. Emotions, either of the crazy variety or the extreme repressed flavor, could become weapons in relationships and I wasn’t afraid to use them to get what I needed. Also, when you’re high and drunk for a couple of decades, the concepts of normal and appropriate become incredibly warped. You mean not everyone throws electronic devices at their boyfriends? My bad. So re-learning how to be a better friend, husband, brother and son has been a journey just like my recovery.  The biggest thing I’ve learned and have to relearn pretty regularly is that not everything is about me.

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Hard to believe but it is true. Dominating situations with emotions, personal drama and personal wants is the oldest of old behavior and something that needed to go. Teenage histrionics were something fitting at the time but in my late 30’s they were just pathetic. I’ve learned this isn’t about ignoring how I feel. Quiet the contrary. It’s about breathing and honestly assessing situations before I let emotions drive my bus into the Grand Canyon. The other thing this mental health person told me was I had to remember that no one could make me feel anything. What. A. Revelation!!! If I was in charge of my emotions, I could no longer blame others for making me feel certain things and therefore escape accountability for my actions. Again, this was another tall order. But if I wanted relationships built on love and honesty, I had to knock it off.

Today, being the married man I am, I have lots of opportunities to practice (and forget) these lessons. While my small group of friends and I indulge in the occasional bawdy, inappropriate conversation, I’m proud to say these relationships are appropriate. Free of guilt, ridiculous expectations and questionable motives, my friendships are simply allowed to be fun, supportive and precious. In my day job, I do a lot of social media marketing for clients on Facebook, Twitter and the like. I recently had to explain to a client the difference between ‘personal’ and ‘social”. Social is a lively Facebook thread about something timely from pop culture, for example. Personal, and therefore maybe not the kind of thing you should post, would be things like posting photos from a recent neck boil operation or the details of your divorce. As we discussed this delicate art of being able to express personality and humor without crossing into inappropriateness, it dawned on me I was the one being asked for advice on this kind of thing. Me, the former master of disaster relationships! Talk about a change. My friend the mental health professional would be so proud.

12 Days of Blogmas: The Odds are Good

Greetings! on our 9th day of blogmas ,we’re talking all about my failed attempts in early recovery to become a “ho, ho ho.”

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The post The Odds are Good but the Goods are Odd is my pick for today for a few reasons. First off, every so often as a writer you get write something that makes you laugh and entertains you first without worrying about the readers, this was one of those posts. Thankfully, others seemed to like it too. Secondly, the photo of the  cheesy Ken dolls is one of my favorite images on this blog.  It just worked. It’s not the above Ken dolls however. These beauties are from an Etsy card entitled “Fairy Christmas”.  Uh. Yeah. So there’s that. Lastly, this post made it in to our celebration of blogs because its one of the only ones that talks about dating and sex in early sobriety. Hmm. Why is that? Oh right that’s because I wasn’t exactly a hot ticket in my early days of sobriety.  Or as the post puts it, ” My life was a hot mess and I was fucking nuts. So no, my toxic, curdled milkshake did not bring all the boys to the yard.”

Love and dating for anybody is tough but in early sobriety the whole thing seems like a huge puzzle. Granted, I have a laugh in the post and the sentiments expressed there are the truth but I was also really lonely. It felt like things were never going to get better and I was never going to be “dateable” again. But the writing was on the wall: I had to deal with my issues before real relationships of any kind were possible. It took a lot of work to get where I loved myself and was okay with myself. Once that happened, a better quality of guy (i.e my now husband) started to show up on the radar.

Yet it is hard to deny the comedic nature of  sex and romance and thus our 9th Day of Blogmas post was born.I’m lucky to come out of the other side of feeling miserable and lonely and be able to laugh about it today.  Here now is another chance to read The Odds are Good but the Goods are Odd as well as a photo of me with a giant pink Betsey Johnson-designed Christmas tree from the Plaza Hotel in NYC. Just because.

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Crazy pants

The very minute I start to research how apply for guru status in hopes of becoming this country’s new gay, white Oprah, is the very minute something happens that reminds I’m not in fact some all-knowing sage mystic sitting on a hill in Sedona. Yes, all it takes is one encounter that could have been avoided to confirm that I am indeed still batshit after all these years.

Without getting into the insane yet mundane details, I can tell you I had a meeting that turned into a screaming match. I’ve had a disagreement with a work collaborator for months and earlier this week things finally erupted.  It went from 0 to Housewives in 2.5 seconds. I sprung a Nene Leake, if you will. While these kind of explosions make for great television, they don’t really fit in with the way I try to live my life. Besides on those shows, the overdone screaming broads are usually nursing a kiddie pool filled with Pinot Grigio when one these kind of things happen. At 10:30am on a Tuesday morning with 3.5 years of sobriety, I didn’t have that excuse.

These days at Sean Inc. where the living being I encounter the most is my cat, yelling at another adult with my finger waving is not something I make the habit of doing. I mean, I’m supposed to be sober. I’m supposed to the kind of person who doesn’t yell at people anymore. But there I was screaming like a lunatic and I stormed off. Actually leaving was the smartest thing I did in that entire 10 minutes.  Yes a mere 10 minutes. It only took that long to turn me into a total lunatic.

I quickly discovered, as I rage-walked to wherever-the-hell I was going, that “letting someone have it” or “giving them a piece of my mind” doesn’t feel so good any more. In fact, it feels horrible. But what did happen, as the result of the crazy exchange, is that something dysfunctional finally ended. Would I have preferred to end this arrangement with an impeccably handwritten note on rose-scented monogrammed paper? Sure. Alas dignity and manners were tossed out the window  in favor of a ghetto “cuss a bitch out” type of exit. Oh well.

The good news is that I didn’t hang up the phone and go get drunk. Which was how I dealt with the aftermath of confrontation before. Instead, I called people in recovery. I went to a meeting. I told on myself for acting insane. And yesterday, I apologized to the person on the receiving end of my crazypants bullshit and made a real amends. This is truly an improvement and proof positive that even though my crazypants still fit me, it’s up to me whether of not I want to wear them all the time. Besides, my crazypants are out of style,  look ridiculous on me and have no place in current my spiritual wardrobe, so to speak. A few days after the blow-up, the fallout has been cleared and I feel better. It’s freeing to say, “Yeah, I’m fucking nuts but I’m working on it” and then carry on with the promise to try harder. Owning your insanity, I’ve heard it said, instantly makes you a little less crazier than you were before. If that’s the case, I’m on way to be becoming the poster child for mental health miracles!

Clean Up on Aisle 9!

It’s painfully clear to me that I am becoming a homosexual of a certain age when things like vacuuming and picking out a toilet bowl cleaner have become truly soul-satisfying experiences. From licking cocaine off of the  private parts of strangers to Windexing my glass coffee table while I’ll listen to the Stephen Sondheim Pandora station– if my dealer could see me now! Granted, I’m not insane about cleaning. Cleaning didn’t become my new tequila. No, I’m still gleefully disorganized and live in a romantic state of what I like to call, “writer messy.” Still, working nearly full-time from home does require me to be a little more put together and it’s easier to create when my desk isn’t doubling as The Tiny Scrap of Paper and Dead Pen Museum.  Considering my old drunk house had a sunroom filled with water damaged yet empty appliance boxes, VHS tapes of bad 80s porn and mysterious toenail clippings, I do okay today in the cleaning and organizing department. If only the upkeep and cleaning of my personal life was as easy.

We are told in recovery that if we don’t drink, trust a higher power, help others and clean house, we’ll do alright. The clean house thing is always a struggle for me. Drunk me always liked to shove it in a closet and shut the door when it came to actual and emotional messes. Out of sight, out of mind. Out of control. This method of avoidance maintenance, unfortunately, no longer works for me. At three-plus years of sobriety, I can run but I hide. I’ve had little personality flaws, flaming character defects and some shitty habits show up on my doorstep recently. Instead of facing the music and dancing, I’ve decided to sit this one out and wait for a song I like better. In other words, I’m dealing by not dealing. As previously stated, this kind of shenanigan can’t go on for long. After being really uncomfortable and causing a fair amount of personal drama, I had to grab the metaphoric broom and mop and clean my shit up. This involved but was not limited to such delightful activities as admitting I was wrong, listening to someone I hurt without getting to attack them in return, and owning some really awful behavior. Ugh. I’d rather cleanup the toenails.

Unlike a sparkly clean bathroom blinding with it’s whiteness and smelling like a bleach bouquet, the benefits of personal cleanups aren’t always immediate. Usually for me they require a change in attitude and action. A week has passed since my mess was uncovered and the cleanup process began. This so-called major overhaul and shameful mess hasn’t been so bad. What I thought required an emotional forklift really just needed some honesty and humility. (Which by the way is not in the same aisle as paper towels and Ajax. I looked.) Sure, I’d like to be able to shut the door and say, “Nothing to see here, move along!” on my personal disasters. But as a person in recovery, it’s a luxury I no longer have. Today, I get to face stuff, clean things up and continue to change. And that’s pretty terrific.

So  pass the Pine-Sol and pump up the jams!

Inspiration for August 21st: ‘Friends’ by Bette Midler

Standing at the end of the road, boys,
Waiting for my new friends to come.
I don’t care if I’m hungry or poor,
I’m gonna get me some of them. 

Like myself, the album The Divine Miss M was released in November 1972. The record featured the above ditty which went on to become a standard for Bette Midler and a song she performed during the 80’s as an homage to friends she lost to the AIDS epidemic. Midler was sensational in the early 70’s and attracted top claiber talent like Cissy Houston, Barry Manilow and Melissa Manchester to work on The Divine Miss M.

Midler’s own friends, Buzzy Linhart and Mark Klingman wrote the song and gladly turned it over to her after seeing her perform it in one of her legendary shows at New York’s Continental Baths. Despite it’s melancholy under tones,  to me, “Friends” is a rousing and intellectual song about the importance of human connection. And it’s this message that inspires me today. As a writer, it’s so easy to live as an island and not connect with others. But as an addict and alcoholic in recovery, isolation is the worst possible thing I can do. It’s all about finding a healthy middle ground.  I used to hoard friends and have boatloads of shallow relationships with lots of people. Today, I have a tiny handful of people I love and consider friends. And I’m good with that. As August 21st winds down, I’ll use the rest of the day to be a friend to myself and others. I also have a list of people I’m dying to talk to and so perhaps I’ll call some of them or reach out to them tonight.

So my friends, thanks for reading. I’m so happy we found each other. Just because I love you, I’ll leave you with the Muppets version of the song.

The Odds are Good but the Goods are Odd

When I heard there were hundreds of gay AA meetings in the Los Angeles area when I first got sober, I thought to myself, “Great. I can make my life all better and pick up a boyfriend while I’m here. Fabulous!” I mean you might as well multi-task, right?

So I showed up to my first gay AA meeting in Santa Monica expecting good things. I figured since sober gays didn’t hang out in bars to meet people they must have come here to find hookups and boyfriends. As the meeting started, however, my plan crumbled. First off, there were a lot of lesbians there. Which is fine. In fact, I’m kind of a lesbian groupie. Later on in my Santa Monica sobriety, I befriended all of the coolest lesbians in the program, watched their dogs and even had one as my sponsor. But that didn’t help with the boyfriend item on the agenda. Secondly, the people in this place were really jacked up. I know. Fucked up people at a 12 step meeting–go figure! As they went around the room and shared. I heard these kinda cute guys tell stories of DUIs and suicide attempts. My heart went out to all these men who were battling to stop drinking and just to stay alive. But hitting on them after the meeting seemed highly inappropriate and just wrong. Around that time,  my friend Sarah passed on the wisdom that when it came to the men in AA, “The odds are good but the goods are odd.”

Lastly, and this was the worst part, I realized I was like them and therefore in no position to date. Bummer. That didn’t mean I couldn’t look, no? Seriously, thank god for all of the alcoholic actors and models in AA. They made a lot of boring meetings more enjoyable. I remember when I was looking for a sponsor, I went to a meeting in West Hollywood in the middle of the day. When the time came for the, “Would anyone willing to be a sponsor” announcement, a dozen or so guys who clearly just stepped off the Gay Porn Express all raised their hands.  Well, that wasn’t gonna work. I’d spend all my time trying to figure out how to get my sponsor to sleep with me instead of getting sober. Hence why I wound up with an ass kicking nurse and later a loving lesbian as my first two sponsors. But I digress.

My crazy ass actually wondered, on several occasions, why I wasn’t being hit on at more meetings. Like didn’t they know how hot I was? Weren’t they dying to break off a piece of this? Um. No. And I can’t say I blame them. My life was a hot mess and I was fucking nuts. So no, my toxic, curdled milkshake did not bring all the boys to the yard. And perhaps I wasn’t getting hit on because most people at meetings aren’t there to hookup. They were there to get better. What a concept!

As the wild ride in recovery continued, I realized I needed these meetings too and I needed to stay alive and I wanted my life back. I eventually started believing that maybe one day somebody could actually want what I had going on. And maybe, if I did the work and stopped drinking, even my goods could be a little less odd.

Sorry State of Sorry

Being me in a relationship means spending a lot of time apologizing, coming clean, admitting to whackadoodle behavior and saying sorry. I do this to catch myself and to call myself out and mainly to prevent myself from acting a fool in the future. Yet every so often I’m a human being and I act like a total jackass and no mea culpa can get me out of it. Yeah I’ve recovered from alcoholism and addiction but I haven’t completely recovered from being a self-obsessed, ego-driven jackass. Take last night for example. Please.

The husband and I had a misunderstanding that snowballed into a flurry of hurt feelings, definitive “I quit!”- type of declarations and general huffing and moping. In addition to being married to one another we collaborate on theatrical and artistic projects. Most of the time we work well together. Last night was not one of those times. As I piece together the recent  history of my assholery, I can see exactly where things went wrong. He was already in a bad mood when a work topic came up late last night after a day of rehearsals from Satan. Instead of just agreeing or offering to table the talk until later, I wanted to lock horns. Translation: I wanted to be right and wanted him to feel bad. Well as you can guess that worked out fabulously for me and we didn’t really talk until late this afternoon after spending several hours feeling horrible. I apologized last night. But it was kind of a Splenda apology, you know not the real thing. I was sort of like “I’m sorry but you suck because of …” Yeah not a great apology especially from somebody who routinely has to say sorry for the stupid things they’ve done. The fact is I was in the wrong for verbally jumping down his throat but I was too pissed off to admit I was wrong. This morning,  he went to a work thing and I stomped off to a meeting. As I walked home, I felt sad that I was horrible to my best friend and sad that I allowed myself to act like such a tool. I don’t have fights or drama or ‘stuff’ with people anymore so when I do it really makes me feel awful. Luckily, we cleared the air when I returned and after some veggie pasta and reality TV, things got back to normal. I even apologized for my crappy apology and gave him the heartfelt, real thing.

The lesson here was one I seem to have to keep learning: I’m not done. I’ll probably have to keep saying sorry and admitting when I’m wrong and praying for willingness to change as long as I live. And that’s okay. It sure beats bitching in a bar somewhere about how the world is out to get me and how I’ve been done wrong. Talk about a sorry existence.