I haven't felt like blogging lately, at least in the vein that I normally do in this space. That's not to say I haven't been writing, because I have. And it's also not to say that there's lack of things to expound upon and I haven't developed a case of apathy for the general state of the world. But I am aware that just having a blog, a slightly above average vocabulary, and a need to string words together just to feel like I'm not wasting space on the planet are not enough to drive me to comb through all of the comb-worthy things happening in the world to lay out my opinion on them.
This could have something to do with the fact that I just turned 45, or with the fact that I recently got my 90 day chip from AA.
From Inferno, Canto 29, engraving by Gustav Dore'
Part of the process, other than being able to sit in a room of other People Like Me and say "Hi, my name's Mick and I'm an alcoholic" is examining both the impacts and causal relationship of drinking in your life. It's taken me forever -- 90 days, actually -- to get a sponsor I trust enough to let be my sponsor... which is to say, I found someone whose experience and opinions I trust so that I can release myself into the life-long process called sobriety.
My sponsor is the Virgil to my Dante in this journey. And yes, being in the process of maintaining my sobriety feels more like a circle of hell than a ring of paradise these days. Even though I've been really productive lately in my professional life and doing a pretty okay job of keeping my house in order, the fact it there isn't a day that I don't obsess over drinking... even if I'm just obsessing over not drinking.
When you're not in recovery, or if you're not one of the 10% of the population with this particular allergy to alcohol, it sounds absurd. I know that. I also know it sounds equally absurd that as I am engaged in the process of my sobriety, I know that relapse is built into the disease.
As Virgil says... my sponsor, that is ... it's never a question of IF we will relapse. It's a question of when.
In last two weeks, two people I care about very much, people in my recovery community, have relapsed. They both struggle hard with their addictions... for them it's drugs and not booze, but the disease is fundamentally the same. The most recent of them relapsed on his 90th day of sobriety. It's hard for me not to think about that in terms of the dumb luck that's kept me sober for 90 days. Dumb luck or faith, depending on what day it is, how I feel, and how I feel about myself. Today it feels like dumb luck. Tomorrow, with any luck, I'll still be sober and feel differently about it.
Part of being sober means I feel things differently... which is to say more. One of the reasons I drink is that I get really worn out on feeling things. Working in homeless outreach and seeing what people go through, or what they put themselves through, or what they have no control over, hurts my heart. It makes me angry when politicians and some so-called religious folk dismiss, ignore, and erase the suffering of people. School shootings make me scared for my friends who are teachers, for kids, and for their parents. That people place the need to own a death machine over the lives of children enrages me. That Kentucky's governor can only dismiss violence by blaming video games, only to commit economic violence upon teachers and students in the name of a balanced budget deepens my mistrust of governments, of institutions, and of people in positions of power.
There's so much to write about, but I'm not convinced that being one more blogger in the blogosphere makes a damn bit of difference. I'm not sure this is a time for bloggers. But I know it is a time for poets and artists. That's one arena where the fight is and that's where I'm going to be... and yes, some of it will get posted here. It's not like I'm going anywhere. I'm just shifting my process and step work to something more productive.
I've written before that everyday is a title fight. And it is. I've written before about fighting my demons, and I'm sure I'll write more. But no one talks about the fact that we end up fighting our angels, too. And contrary to popular belief, angels and demons aren't always on opposing sides. Sometimes they tag team. And sometimes faith wins. Other times it's dumb luck. Because we're just people, and flawed, though, it's sometimes damn hard to tell the difference.
But the fight goes on, anyway.
By Gustav Dore'
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The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches. - e.e. cummings
Only a few go mad.
The sky moves in its whiteness
Like the withered hand of an old king.
God shall not forget us.
Who made the sky knows of our love. - Kenneth Patchen
Since we hit black ice a few weeks back and totaled (effectively) my car, I'm finding myself more reticent than usual to go out into the weather. It's nothing near the random anxiety attack I experienced before crawling up into the eaves spaces of our house to fix a hole in the roof. No lights spots, heart palpitations and sweating, or vertigo. Nothing like that. Something like that might be acceptable ... at least more acceptable, anyway. An anxiety attack feels more like a condition -- and therefore not my fault -- than just having to admit that I'm scared.
It's not like I haven't slid on black ice before. I once spun a car 360 degrees on black ice in in the middle of a major intersection (if there is one that can be called that) in Mount Carroll, Illinois. My only saving grace then was that
it was a small car
it was late and so there was no traffic, and
I didn't hit anything.
I was in the car with my second ex-wife. We were driving home from having dinner out (I think) and when we hit the ice, I did what I always do in that situation: I took my foot off the gas, avoided the break pedal and tried to steer out of it.
Luckily, we did. But we did rethink going out in weather after that... if for no other reason than that Chevy Aveo was not built for northern winters.
I remember that one being more fun than frightening, though. It's not that there wasn't an element of danger. We were close to houses and electric lines and things that make little plastic cars crumble when hit head on. I suppose I could blame bravado on my part, or the fact that my second ex-wife never really knew how to handle any displays of fear or sadness -- probably because I used to police those kinds of reactions religiously and when I didn't, she was taken so aback that she thought I was a pod person. It could also be that the only thing the men in her family cry about is when the University of Kentucky loses, and I've never been much on college basketball.
This wreck, in some ways, not much different. We were in what is normally a high-traffic area (I-71 southbound near the Kentucky River) , when we hit a spot of black ice and the rear end of the car spun out in front of me. Luckily, there were no other cars around, but there was a guardrail that stopped us before I could manage to spin out of it entirely and straighten the car.
Amanda and Stella were both in the car with me, and other than a few bruises, we all walked away from it without injury. And for that, I am eternally grateful,
But I find myself more than a little hesitant to go out when there's even a little snow or ice. Not having a vehicle with 4WD is part of the reason. Mostly, I worry about other people's driving to the point that my stomach turns into a rock and I have to avert my eyes from road just to stay mostly calm.
I've had nightmares since in which the incident did not have such a positive outcome. And I find it difficult to block them from my mind when the topic of going out into the weather, even for the best of reasons, comes up.
The part of me that wishes I were wired a little differently tells me I should just be grateful and embrace the fact that we are all still alive. And I am grateful. I'm even more grateful that Amanda and Stella weren't hurt.
Perhaps the oddest thing about sorting through my emotional reaction to the incident is the fact that the only thing I'm afraid of is losing them. Politicians and powermongers don't impress or scare me, in spite of their reach and in spite of how difficult my indifference to their perceived authority sometimes makes my life and the lives of people I love. What scares me the most is losing them. That's not the same as being alone. Being alone doesn't bother me. Being without my family -- or even the thought of it -- scares me more than I can articulate. I'm scared of losing them, and scared of the rage that loss would unleash. A rage that, like love, is all consuming and would burn the heart and soul right out of me.
Which is why, when pedantic, small-minded people like Vicki Aubrey Welch try -- badly -- to wield political power like a Tammany Hall gangster, my initial reaction is incredulity.
That's also why it doesn't surprise me that the local Democratic Caucus, now bound to support the incumbent that was not groomed for the position like a puppy farm poodle, is working on every back door plan it can to make sure they don't have to support him.
Endurance is patience concentrated. ~ Thomas Carlyle
A man on a thousand mile walk has to forget his goal and say to himself every morning, 'Today I'm going to cover twenty-five miles and then rest up and sleep. ~ Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Seven days before Christmas I was knocked on my ass by some version or another of the annual winter crud. And I'm sure I've written about it before... and I'm I sure I will write about it again.... but I don't do sick well. I'm a lousy patient. All I want to do is wallow and wait for the sickness to pass and that's pretty much what I end up doing.
What happens then, though, is the part of me that can't bare to sit around -- call it my shark brain -- realizes that all I'm doing is sitting around and proceeds to annoy the shit out of me with all the stuff I could be doing, all the stuff I should be doing, and all the stuff I probably would want to do if I wasn't stuck with a low grade fever, uncontrollable chills, and a nasal cavity leaking like a Louisville water main break.
Someone reminded me today that I almost always get sick this time of year. Back when I was teaching, and I managed to get sick between semesters, I considered it good luck -- even though it usually meant I was sick over the holidays. At least I wasn't sick while class was session. Now here I am, it's three days before Christmas, and I'm once again trying to convince my body that I am not on an academic schedule anymore.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that being on an academic schedule or not has nothing to do with whether or not I get sick. It's the seasonal change, or the fact that I still need to get a flu shot. It's the fact that everyone and their brother seems to be falling ill to some variation of the same crud and that this time last year, it was some other variety of some other super crud that was going around that no medical means could cure or alleviate.
That's not the way it really works, though. The human body has a sense memory, like animals have
instinct. We use it everyday, for things as simple as making a cup of coffee to driving a car. Our bodies learn things and remember them for us.
And my body learned a long time ago that it was ok to get sick at Christmas. Whatever else is going
on, maintain until mid-December. After that, it's perfectly fine to fall into a snot-dripping, fever chilled mess in the den binge watching old episodes of Monk on Amazon Prime.
Luckily, because I'm used to being sick the week before Christmas, I attacked it with an aggressive treatment of vitamins, cold and flu medicine, and a lot of frustrating laying about. You'd think that level of commitment would help my body relearn NOT TO GET SICK near a major holiday.
No, I don't have gout. But I do understand the artist's POV.
Because in addition to an annoying susceptibility to various ol'factory and respiratory, I am also perennially at war with my own feet.
Which is why, when my right heel decided to balloon up for no reason at all and make it impossible for me to walk without brain splitting pain, I didn't panic. It's usually my left foot that gives me that kind of problem. I mean, I've become accustomed to nearly perpetual low level pain when I walk, which is made tolerable by inserts and accepting that it's not worth the savings for me to buy cheaply made shoes.
I didn't panic. But I did recall that around this time last year, when I was working in catering, my right foot decided to take me out for about a week during the busy season.
Sense memory can be a bitch.
And, Dear Readers, let me tell you... it can also hurt.
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Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.~ Pericles
Politics is the attempt to achieve power and prestige without merit. ~P. J. O'Rourke
The day of the interview, we sat in the 3rd floor conference room at city hall along with the other distinguished candidates. Everyone -- well, mostly everyone -- was friendly and polite. Chase Gardner had his game face on, and John Witt ... a notorious Beechmont crank -- sat in the corner as if he was worried about something rubbing off on him. But the presumed front runner, Nicole George, brought a box of chocolates, which showed not only a certain amount of class but also that potential political appointees and recovering addicts have something in common; namely, both groups rely on chocolate as a way to curtail the cravings. And apparently chocolate works both for booze and for blood cravings.
I mean, who could have guessed? It does give a kind heart hope.
The pleasantries dissipated quickly after initial greetings and meetingsthe hopefuls broke off into their subsets: the political movers, the local activists, one crank, one cop's wife, and the rash outsiders. George and former horseman Bret Schultz, the lone Republican, commiserated over the ineffective advocacy of $500 per plate political fundraisers. The activists banded together to talk about everything but politics and the unspoken competition for a metro council appointment that might, if levied correctly, help any number of causes. Witt sat in the corner and spoke very little, except on points of procedure. At one point the topic of South End economic development came up and Witt said only that he was opposed to more traffic and liked being able to get to the grocery store without dealing much with it.
The rash outsiders -- Amanda , me, and Nikki Boyd sat over at the end of the table, having very little to say about $500 plate dinners or the various and noble projects and organizations we should be involved with that the three don't know about because we're ensconced in our own projects and organizations.
I knew I didn't have a shot. Not really. The odds were so far out there that only a gambling addict would put a borrowed quarter on me. Amanda didn't think much of her chances either, though I thought that between the two of us, she would have the better chance for a whole host of reasons. Nikki Boyd just seemed genuinely happy to be there and was, from what I could tell, a very nice person who also questioned her chances simply because of the number of politicos in the room.
Then the interviews started. We were sequestered until our turns so no one would know the questions asked by the metro council members who came out to see potential appointees kick at the clouds as they hanged.
I was nervous when it was my turn. I don't get nervous speaking in front of politicians. I've spoken before Metro Council twice before as a concerned citizen, most recently in response to the city's treatment of the homeless population. But I wanted to put a more conciliatory foot forward. After all, I wasn't there to try and admonish or cajole them. In spite of the long odds, I felt like there was a real opportunity to be in a position to help not only the neighborhood I live in, but the homeless population I serve.