Never. Forever. Whatever

I’d like to be able to pinpoint and then appropriately blame whatever television show or movie or crappy book that I swallowed whole as a child that infiltrated my mind and tricked me into believing that everything needed to be forever. Jobs, relationships,dreams- all had to be forever. More than that it all needed to be happy and pretty forever. People always blame Disney for these kinds of notions. I don’t think Walt’s totally to blame in my case though. I mean I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when Disney movies sucked and were kind of weird and/or depressing. Like thank god I never wanted my relationships to be like the Fox and the Hound or The Black Hole (although I certainly could accurately apply either title to different periods of my life). No, my  warped sense of forever and never most likely comes from my lifelong distorted sense of reality made worse by ingesting boatloads of chemicals.

When you’re high and drunk for years, forever isn’t too hard to imagine. Time stops and achieving an infinite sameness is something that happens accidentally.  After ten years of daily drinking, I remember feeling like I lived in a rerun. My life was in syndication and on any given day you could catch the episode where I got drunk, did something idiotic and created some bullshit to get myself out of it. I know. We’ve all seen that one.  But in this pursuit of keeping life the same way forever and evah, the rest of my life rotted. My bills, my relationships,my teeth, my soul. After a while, I craved change but was paranoid of what would happen if this corroded museum exhibit I was living was exposed to sunlight and people saw it for the hot mess it really was. Forever horrible or daily uncertainty became my options and neither were things I wanted. Never was a big ole cup o’ crazy all its own. “I’m never drinking like that again!” or” I’m never buying drugs again”. The ‘nevers’ were never-ending and never panned out either.

Admittedly, I still lean on never and forever. The hot tempered Irish person in me likes to hurl absolutism gauntlets whenever life is tricky or difficult or even exuberantly joyful. I”ll never talk to whatsherface again, me and whatshisname are gonna be together forever, I’m never eating whatever that skinny celebrity gave up ever again. I have to laugh when I starting spouting off this nonsense. I mean I’ve stared at “One Day at a Time” posters in church basements for nearly 4 years! You’d think I would have figured out that I’m not allowed to live in “Never” or “Forever”. The whole luxury of one day at a time is being able to cross of these absolutisms off the list and simply focus on the here and now.

Nothing helps me let go of never and forever like rewriting and editing. All the jokes and clever characters and witty one liners that you were sure would go down in literary history get slashed, thrown out and killed in the blink of an eye. While currently editing my new play and tinkering with my book, I’m humbly faced with the reality that there’s a lot I need to let go of and a lot I still need to learn. And this is a fabulous place to be, honestly.

It’s better for me to get to a place of “whatever.” Not whatever in a bitchy teen girl kind of way. But more in the Doris Day “whatever will be will be” spirit. Gay sera sera, if you will.  Seriously, if I’m in a gleeful state of being open to “whatever” my days seem to be more fluid and happier in general. Whatever amazing idea, whatever cool person to collaborate with, whatever spiritual concept, whatever piece of knowledge I didn’t have before. Whatever!

So here’s to a Monday where I can live here in the right now, not worry about forever and embrace whatever comes my way. May whatever comes your way be fabulous too!

minutes & moments matter

“It’s like you’re giving birth to a big sober baby!” a friend of mine told me when I was about to celebrate nine months of sobriety back in October 2009. I laughed at her metaphor but it was kind of true. Whatever was growing inside of me was not the same hopeless drugged-out, eternally hung over monster that I was before. The longest I had ever gone since the age of 20 was five months. At  age 36, 9 months seemed like an impossibility. You don’t see that chip handed out at meetings very much and based on my own hellish days in early sobriety, I understood why. At seven months, I received my HIV-positive diagnosis, had a cyst yanked out of my face by the thorough yet sadistic Dr. Wong, attempted to piece back together my life after leaving a long-term relationship and basically tried daily not to drink or kill myself. Just getting to 9 months was like winning a race. Even though I knew I hadn’t graduated, the fact I made to that moment, really meant something.

It is strange that the life of a drunk, so free of schedules and oblivious to the concept of timing, suddenly becomes sensitive to every second when they stop drinking. Personally, I clung to tiny  little glimpses of joy as proof perhaps this hell wasn’t going to last forever. I collected happy minutes and hours, reflecting on them, leaning on them when times got dark. Coloring with my nieces, devouring big slices of pizza on beach by myself, random laughter with friends in recovery-  kept the lights on and kept me going. In Southern California, recovery milestones are met with lots of clapping, sometimes singing and cake. In the beginning I rolled my eyes and snickered at this stuff. After a few months, I found myself singing, clapping and even crying like my life depended on it.

Currently, I have people in my life counting days and collecting moments. Restarting sober lives, waiting for difficulties to pass, changing for the first time, learning to live without someone. Seems to be going around. And thank God.  Hope, for me, exists largely in the human capacity for change. Also, watching others hang onto moments and minutes forces me to be grateful for my own. Mainly, it gives me the strength to keep growing and changing too. Fears and difficult stuff didn’t vanish in a puff of glitter just because I stopped being a drunken dipshit. Quite the contrary. But if I try to love this moment and be thankful for the happy minutes, it’s amazing how much easier it all seems.

You’re always a day away

The movie Annie was seminal in my life for several reasons. First off, it was the launching pad for a game called “orphanage” in which me and my cousins would wait for nice people to adopt us. I’m sure a psychologist could have  a blast in analyzing why childhood me from the alcoholic home loved playing that game. Second, it was the movie that briefly inspired me to play the piano. I learned how to play “Tomorrow” which was a nice accompaniment to the only other song I knew how to play, “The Rose.” That’s right,  my entire piano act consisted solely of a Bette Midler song and a song from a musical. By the time I played those songs a billion times, I’m sure even our piano was ready to come out of the closet. Lastly, the film made me realize that I need to live somewhere where I could have servants, preferably ones who sang.

I’m thinking about Annie today because much like the curly-headed orphan, I’m thinking about tomorrow. I’m having a hard time being in the now right now and thought if I blogged about it, it would pass faster. It’s not tomorrow specifically but January 2nd that’s heavy on my mind. Unless I get kidnapped by terrorists or crushed by a speeding bus, I will celebrate 3 years of continuous sobriety on January 2nd! This is fantastic especially since year 2 has been a challenge. No one bothered to tell me until I was about six months in, that the second year of sobriety is notoriously tough and commonly referred to as the terrible twos. Thanks for the warning! Even still, I managed to overcome the self-doubt and struggles to say in the program during year two and I’ve stayed sober. My life is amazing right now. I just married the man of my dreams, I work full-time as a writer, and my first play opens in a month from today! My life is mind-blowingly awesome and I have the program and getting sober to thank for all of it. And yet… my alcoholic brain sends me shitty messages like “you don’t deserve any of this” and “you’ll never make it” and of  course that number one hit song played on repeat since 1972, “You’re not good enough.”

So I listen to that garbage for about ten seconds, do the things I’ve been told to do that always make me feel better and I breathe and give myself a break. I always get itchy before birthdays and I know that’s what this is. And maybe Annie wasn’t living in the future. Maybe the little orphan was saying it might seem crappy now but there’s always tomorrow. Or as they say in the rooms, “this too shall pass.”  Here’s to clearing away the cobwebs and the sorrow, indeed.

PS- I realize these are “quality problems” so thanks for indulging me.