Not Knowing is Half The Battle

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My life would make the worst “very special episode” ever. You remember those. A family sitcom or kids show wherein a lead character makes a serious mistake, learns an important lesson and vows to never make that mistake again. Sometimes these lessons were so ridiculous, they become iconic for how silly they are and not really for their powerful message. Jessie and the caffeine pills on Saved by the Bell, anyone?

Other times the “serious issue” itself was so bizarre that it made you question how necessary the entire exercise was. Monroe’s rape and abduction on Too Close for Comfort illustrates this quiet well.

Often these ratings-grabbing sobfests featured special guest stars like Tom Hanks as the alcoholic uncle on Family Ties.

But it didn’t matter if it was Blair smoking weed on The Facts of Life or Punky Brewster shoplifting, the whole mess was always cleared up in 30 minutes (sometimes 60 if it was a really, really special two-part episode.) This is where The Sean Show tanks at very special episodes. See, no matter how many years I have sober or how enlightened I become, my problems are rarely solved in 30 minutes and most of them come back. TV executives must have figured out early that watching a person do the same thing over and over again isn’t entertainment, it’s insanity. although my own experimentation with caffeine pills, wine coolers and a junior high dance only happened once. Jessie would be proud. I mean why mess around with No Doze when you can have cocaine? Now, I’m moving into Kelly Taylor territory. 

Anyway, my own issues are thankfully of the” normal, boring and wouldn’t make for a good sitcom” variety these days. Even more undramatic is the way my problems get solved (or don’t get solved as the case may be). Very special episodes of The Sean Show, much to the dismay of television viewers everywhere, would end with me sitting at the kitchen table having a glass of warm milk like they do in TV World and saying “I don’t know” after the kind dad/concerned coworker/mom in fuzzy bathrobe asked me how I was going to handle the problem du jour. Roll the credits and the theme song. Really. That’s my answer to all the life problems I get these days. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. And I don’t have to. By saying I don’t have the answer or know how to fix my problems or the world’s problems, I’m free to be open to real solutions and ideas that the universe will provide even if I don’t have a very special guest star or feature a hotline at the end of the broadcast. Not knowing, to me, means I’ve admitted I need help from a bigger authority. When I’ve reached the place of I don’t know, it means I’ve admitted my ideas won’t work. This is what enlightenment tends to look like in my life today. Not knowing. Who would have thought?

I’m reminded acutely of how little I know when senseless tragedies like the one which happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday. I don’t know why anyone would do that. I don’t know who would be behind such a thing. I don’t know how people rally and take care of each other during these moments. I don’t know how to even process these kinds of things most of the time. But I do know that we’ll get through it. I do know that, contrary to the mounting evidence, people are good. To quote the theme of another sitcom that was far too smart to ever need a very special episode, love is all around and we are going to make it after all.


12 Days of Blogmas: Tough Cookies

Jeeze. Talk about bad timing. On our 8th day of Blogmas, I should be happily tooting my own horn about the release of my new my Christmas essay A Tough Cookie Christmas on Smashwords while posting today’s offering Oh Cookie Where Art Thou?

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Instead, like the rest of the planet, I’m feeling kind of bad about the state of humanity. So in order to keep my shameless self-promotion on the more sensitive and compassionate side, I’ll simply say this. I’m proud of a Tough Cookie Christmas because it reminds me that goodness is still possible, change can happen and when in doubt have a cookie. Love is the only thing that gets us through times like these and hopefully my story carries that message too. I’m also proud of it because it’s my first self-published ebook, something I would NEVER have had the guts to do if I wasn’t sober and if I didn’t have the love from you people at this little ol’ blog.( By the way, UrTheInspiration readers get a shout out in the back of the book. It’s the least I could do since you save my life on a daily basis.) If you buy it at Smashwords, you can read it on your Nook, Kindle, iPad or on your computer’s desktop!

But that’s enough out of me.Read the story and the old blog post if you need a little fluffy diversion and I hope I can make you laugh for a minute. Tragedy forces me to be grateful and I’m grateful for all of you, wherever you are.

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?”

Whitney

It’s so alcoholic of me to turn the death of someone else into a blog post about myself. I remember going to a meeting the day Michael Jackson died and all anybody could talk about was how hard  the death of a person they didn’t know was for them. We’re such a dramatic and self-centered lot. Therefore it is difficult not to talk about Whitney Houston. As an addict and alcoholic and fan, it’s hard not to take her death personally.

As the news is still fresh and many tears are still not dry, when it comes to Whitney Houston’s death over the weekend there is so much we still don’t know. It’s tempting to say it was drugs or booze that killed her. But the fact is we don’t know. As a person in recovery,  I can assume she chose the final and tragic Door Number 3. They say there are only three options a life without recovery has for those who cannot stay sober–jails, institutions and death. My snap judgement is that she is a victim of the third option.  It angers me because I’ve seen friends die because they couldn’t stay sober. But again, we  just don’t know. So the best we can do is mourn her, appreciate her talents and pay tribute to her.

But is that truly the best we can do? After the decades of Judys, Jimmys, MJs and Amys when do we stop co-signing the behavior and acknowledge that these brilliant tortured souls died of a fatal disease?  With MJ, we blamed someone else. With Amy, we ignored the obvious. If it does turn out to be drugs and alcohol that killed her, maybe Whitney’s death could be an invitation to an honest, global conversation about the reality of addiction. Kate Middleton has taken on the project of alcoholism and addition in England. Diana’s pet project was AIDS. Middleton clearly sees the issue as serious as any other major, fatal health epidemic. And that’s what it is. Houston admittedly tried to get and stay sober for years. To honor her memory with education and honesty, would be truly awesome.

And yet we just don’t know. I saw Whitney Houston in concert in 1990. The reason you went to a Whitney concert back in the day was to see that freakishly amazing voice come out of this beautiful woman. She didn’t disappoint. That voice was her special effect. That voice was the superpower she had over millions. In life that voice could change minds, inspire and give you chills. There’s no doubt her voice will live on for decades. We’ll remember that gift and maybe not talk about the demons that so clearly plauged her. And even when we do know more, we’ll just focus on the good stuff. Because we think that’s the best we can do.