Experience, Strength and Hope (my story continued – ten, eleven)

After my mother married the landlord of the house we had been living in, we moved back into that house. I went back to the elementary school I had left after first grade, and I went to fifth and sixth grade in that school. I remember these as being fairly good and happy times. I had knee issues, and I had at least one of my surgeries then. I may not remember this well, but I believe that I fell behind in math at that time, maybe because of the knees. I’m bright enough, but I had no talent for math. I can speculate if it was nurture that added to this, I’ll never know. I know my kids are super excellent at math, so if there’s a math gene, it may have been dormant until them.

I had a group of friends at that time. They were nice enough. They were good kids, and also bright. Nothing like the Carol of my past.

And I don’t know what else to say about them that would explain what came next. I’ve always thought something happened that I didn’t know about. I can’t for the life of me remember or make sense of it. I wasn’t in touch with my friends over the summer between sixth and seventh grade, between elementary and junior high school. In junior high, three elementary schools combined into “teams” of seventh and eighth graders. The very first day of junior high, the way I remember it, my old friends weren’t my friends anymore. They weren’t hostile or awful or overboard, they just weren’t my friends.

For the two years previous, I had been invited to sleep overs and shopping and that kind of thing. Not anymore.

I’ll end this with a disturbing memory. It disturbs me so I don’t want to write it. Best to get it out and done. For one of the those birthdays, maybe the first one when my old friends weren’t my friends anymore, I invited a new group of girls. These girls were probably my friends’ equivalent from a different elementary school, so smart, nice girls. My birthday is in May, so I must have been going to classes with them for almost an entire school year. They all accepted, and I chickened out. The day of the party I faked losing my voice, and my mother refused to call them, she made me do it. I called them all and called it off. I was too afraid to go through with it.

Writing this has actually brought back another memory of another awful birthday party. I’ll record those memories next time – wait, there’s two. Oh joy.

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Meme (A Diversion)

Invisible Emma http://invisibleemma.blogspot.com/ tagged me randomly from a blog roll to do a meme. I’m new to this blogging stuff, so I’m not going to tag someone else, but I’ll answer the questions as best I can. And if someone can point me to clear instructions about how to make the links words, I will be grateful.

Five things found in my bag:

Several sample size lotions.  I have terribly dry skin.

My wallet made from recycled tires.  I find second uses to be wonderful.

A small notebook.  Written on the first page are three things:  “Make me a channel of Thy peace” written to my wife at an AA meeting when a very jerky guy was speaking.  Turned out what he said was introspective and awesome.  “636.7 M588 Body Lang.”  I’m guessing that’s a call number for a library book about body language, perhaps?  It’s in my writng, but I have no memory of writing it there and I don’t know what it’s referring to.  And no, I haven’t been drinking.  Then there’s an email address of someone I used to see at meetings, but don’t see much anymore.  I don’t know why I have her email address and I’m afraid I’m supposed to email her something that I’ve forgotten about.  And no, I haven’t been drinking.

Rubber banded cards – bank cards, credit cards, AAA, health insurance, some current, some out of date, some not yet activated. 

A mirror.  I don’t wear make up.  It’s to check on my very dry skin.

Five Things Found in my Room

A huge stack of winter clothing.  We keep out of season clothing in bins in the attic, and I change them over dreadfully slowly (according to my wife).  While I’m emptying one, the clothes that will go into it get stacked.  Wherever.

A big orange chair that is covered with a green slip cover.  The slip cover is slipping off, and is covered with hair from my big black doggie.  She is not allowed on the furniture, but she claimed this chair as her bed when we first brought her home.  She was literally deathly ill, and we let her have it.  She moves back and forth from this chair to the floor beside my bed all night.

A chewed up, small toy cat with a rattle in the tail.  My daughter said her first word, “cat,” referring to this thing.  Years later, one of our cats carried it around and washed it like a baby.  My current (very big) dog kept taking it off of my dresser, and she eventually tore out one of the eyes.  It’s now sort of out of her reach.

Two stacks of books, one I’m reading, one I’m waiting to read.  I read several books at once.  One is usually too boring for me.

Lots of Hillary wear.  T shirts, sweat shirts, buttons and even earrings.  We’re supporting Hillary.  In a big way.

Five Things I’ve Always Wanted to Do

I want to visit Europe, especially the places my grandparents came from, and I want to do it without flying.

I want to sneak into a really old, abandoned, interesting “modern ruin” and really look around.  I look at these often from the outside, and I’m afraid of dangerous people and loose flooring.

I’d like to go somewhere very far from artificial light sources and see the starry sky.

I can’t think of another, and these were hard to come up with.  I’ve done most of what I want to do.

Five Things I’m Into Right Now

Blogging!  I can’t believe I’ve kept it up.  And by extension, recording what it is to me to be an oldtimer.  And learning what memes are.  And things like that.

Training my dog, mostly to walk nicely on a leash, but also to obey!  Me!!  The leader of the pack!!!

Internet message boards dealing with baby names.

Planting a hedge to block the view of the street so the dog doesn’t bark like a nut.

Netflix, especially series:  The Dog Whisperer, Six Feet Under, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

 

So, like I said, I’m not tagging anyone.  It’s interesting learning all this.  I kind of wish the internet had been around when I was a kid.

When Gluttony is Less Than Ruinous (Step Six continued)

When gluttony is less than ruinous, we have a milder word for that, too; we call it “taking our comfort.” We live in a world riddled with envy. To a greater or less degree, everybody is infected with it. From this defect we must surely get a warped yet definite satisfaction. Else why would we consume such great amounts of time wishing for what we have not, rather than working for it, or angrily looking for attributes we shall never have, instead of adjusting to the fact, and accepting it?

This sort of goes along with what I was thinking about feeling superior to other people. I don’t really know what is meant by “taking our comfort.” We wouldn’t use that phrase now. Too much of a good thing, though? I know the desire for that is not limited to alcoholics. Gluttony is less than ruinous as I want more. Money. Food. Cats. Dogs. Books. Clothes. Shoes. Cigarettes. Leisure. Pet supplies. Cars. Children. Grandchildren. Siblings. Electronic gadgets. Friends.  I could go on and on.

Again, it seems to me we are practically born this way. Instincts gone awry again, this I can understand. I’ve heard it explained that we enjoy fat and sugar, for example, because these foods bettered our chances of survival in famine. I know that many people in the world are starving today. I don’t know the last ancestor of mine that had trouble obtaining enough food. As far as I know, my grandparents and great grandparents always had enough to eat, though some of them lived through very tough times due to World War II. Why do I have such a hard time turning down the goodies when I know they compromise my health? My desires oppose the grace of God, surely and obviously, in this way. God’s grace would probably have me do more than be healthy, I bet it would also have me share more of what I have with those who have not.

To apply it to my present circumstances, I am unhappy with the way my work situation is playing out.  I want more.  I have these two women, ex and again partner and ex new boss, in my life in different ways.  Ex and again partner works with me every day, and she is still a friend, but something important and deep has changed, and from here it looks like the change is not for the better (though I know I can’t see the whole picture).  Ex new boss is only a friend.  Not “only” a friend.  She’s an important friend, and I’m blessed.  IF ONLY I could work with both of them and be friends with both of them.  I want more than the excellent and special relationships I have with these women.

I do spend great amounts of time wishing it was different.  I know even as I do it that wishing isn’t right, it isn’t good, it isn’t productive and it degrades what is real today.  It’s not something I can work for, it’s not something I can ever ever have.  Do I get a warped yet definite satisfaction from this?  I really don’t think so.  Mostly it’s just painful all around, it’s like poking the sore tooth with my tongue, I can’t stay away from these thoughts, even though they hurt.  Although these thoughts aren’t attributes, adjusting and accepting are the things I have to do to be at peace with this.

Experience, Strength and Hope(My Story Continued – Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten)

Two other important things happened in my life during those years, and they intersected in a very dysfunctional way. At some point, my mother started dating, and she dated two men. I don’t know if that was at the same time or if they overlapped a bit. One man was fairly wealthy, but old. I don’t know how old. If I was six when my father died, my mother must have been twenty eight. Apparently she said of this man that he was sure to leave her widowed once again, and she did not want that.

The other man was the landlord of the house we rented, where my father died. He was also older than my mother. He was from Brooklyn, he was divorced and had two children who were older than me. He had built the house we rented as well as the one next door. At that time, and for the rest of his time up until now, he built boats for a living. Very big boats of the type people can live on and race. He and my mother got married when I was around nine, so approximately 1971. They are still married today.

I’m not objective about this man. I should say that neither he nor anyone else physically abused me at all ever, not until I was sixteen years old. And when I was sixteen, it wasn’t my mother’s husband who abused me. He wasn’t abusive in that way. He was, however, a very “loud and aggressive” person of the type that Desiderata brings to mind.

The other thing that happened is that one day in fourth grade, I went to kick a ball in gym class and fell flat on the floor. They called an ambulance, and when the paramedic rolled up my pants leg I saw that my knee was in where it belonged. It was completely dislocated, and that began three years of casts, crutches and finally surgery on both knees that fixed the problem. Something about the bones that keep your knees in joint is wrong in mine, and supposedly it is very rare to find two knees like this in the same person. Also, the knees don’t usually dislocate until a person is older. The first doctor that my mother took me to didn’t know about the corrective surgery, and my right knee went out a few times and got looser and looser. By the end, I had a brace with hinges and strict instructions not to run. When we went for a second opinion, the second doctor performed the surgery that if I remember correctly is about 85% effective. So they may go bad again before I’m done, but so far, so good. The doctor actually was waiting until I was older to do my left knee, but when it dislocated when I was eleven he sent me straight to the surgery.

So my knees and my mother’s husband came together in a very bad way one of the times I dislocated my knee. I had been at a slumber party when it happened, and it was painful because I landed with the knee in a bent position, which hadn’t happened before, and the ambulance people were confused about which town I was in, which took some time to sort out. After all that, I was in the hospital waiting for my cast to dry when my mother’s husband went on and on about how inconvenient this was, happening in the the wee hours of the morning. After a while I said a smart, “You didn’t have to come, you know,” to which he replied that he was done speaking to me forever. From then till now we have not spoken, though he is still married to and living with my mother, and I lived with them until I was twenty two.

What, doesn’t this happen in many families? No? No, I haven’t met anyone who managed a situation like this for as long as we have. Dysfunctional, to put it mildly.

Sober Parenting (the early years)

Of all the blessings of sobriety, my children have got to be the biggest, best, and most important. If, as a young adult, I had been told I could have only one thing in life, I would have chosen to have children. I always wanted them. My ideal fantasy life would have been to be a stay home mother of around four. Complications…. My only child status has much to do with this. I have always hated being an only child. I still do. It’s much more common now, and that must make it easier, but I still think it sucks as I am the only child of my mother still. There’s no one to share her with me, and if she becomes someone to be taken care of, that will be all on me. There’s no one who shared my growing up experience and I’m alone with many of my memories. Of course I understand that many people have siblings who are a negative presence in their lives, or worse. The siblings I mourn are the idealized, Brady Bunch siblings but also the average and special siblings that many people have, appreciate and enjoy.

There’s lots of infertility in my family, and one reason I’m an only child may be because my mother couldn’t have any more. I think she may have tried with my father and then with her second husband. When she was around 40 she was diagnosed with endometriosis and she had a hysterectomy. Her sister, my aunt, was never able to have children. She speculates that the endometriosis prevented my mother from having more. That aunt adopted two children. Their other sister, my other aunt, neither had children nor did she adopt. Her husband is, to say the least, a piece of work. I remember my grandmother saying it’s best they didn’t have any, since he’s such a nut. I don’t know if they tried to have one or not. I would guess they did, but I don’t know. My grandmother, their mother, had four children, with lots of miscarriages and a premature baby who died after a few days.

All of that factored into my desire to have children as soon as possible once I was an adult. I felt I had to finish college before having a baby, and I did that. I would have liked to have owned a house, but not badly enough to wait to do it. I got sober in May of 1984. I met my kids’ father around that time. I graduated in August, got engaged in September, married and pregnant in December, and my daughter was born in September of 1985. This is not recommended, but I had been going to meetings for five or six years at that time, so I wasn’t really new.

Many of those details will fit better in “my story.” For the purpose of this topic, I’ll say that I think being pregnant had much to do with my ability to stay sober this time. I DO NOT recommend that, and I realize that many, tragically many pregnant women are not able to stay sober even though they are pregnant. And of course the last time I was pregnant was 21 years ago, so it did not keep me sober.

I remember the frightening thought that I HAD TO stay sober at that time. My drinking had been so bad, and I had tried so many times to moderate, that I knew then the baby had a good possibility of being damaged or killed by my drinking. Still, that thought was fleeting. I don’t even remember ever considering drinking for a moment with the second.

And so, babies, toddlers, children. Many of the tenets of AA thinking do not fit or work with your own children. We do not “live and let live,” “let go and let God,” “take our own inventory.” We guide, teach, punish, reward, shape, control, and socialize our own. Or try to.

During my kids’ early years, I moved many times, living in each place for usually a year or less. That was difficult, and I at first moved far away, so the only family support I could get was over the phone. I never stopped going to meetings, and even with giving birth, I don’t think I stayed away from meetings for an entire week until recently, actually. I took my daughter with me until my son was born, then I left her with her father, and later a babysitter for them both, in order go to meetings.

I could list endless awfulness that having an active alcoholic parent brings that thankfully my kids didn’t experience. I remember a particular sermon in church when the pastor asked what kind of legacy we had been left, as well as what we were leaving for our children. I thought of my experiences with my drunken father and the fact that my kids have never been endangered by my drinking. I still of think of that often, with so much gratitude there aren’t words. We had moments when their wellbeing was threatened, but not by that. At times I find this difficult to share at meetings because so many people have suffered the consequences of drinking around their children and grandchildren. I often tell young people that this experience makes all that goes with sobriety well worth it.

Self-righteous anger (step six continued)

Self-righteous anger can also be very enjoyable. In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticize; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness.

I’m reading a book that cited a study that said something like three quarters of what ordinary folks say in ordinary conversation has to do with other people. Surely much of this is informational. When we talk about people in the news, say, or people who we deal with in our day, maybe there is no judgment there.

Self-righteousness is a difficult concept for me to wrap my understanding around.  Maybe at the base of it is right and wrong.  I am right, THEY are wrong.  Yes and no.  I do believe I see shades of gray especially with the people who are close to me, people I love.  My conflicts with them often involve situations, desires and opinions that are neither right nor wrong, just mine or theirs.

Within the past three hours, I conflicted with my wife over three things that I remember.  First, she left the living room curtains open when she went out this morning.  The curtains are hard to manipulate, and I’m not tall enough to open and close them.  Since our dog will bark loudly at anything passing by, we keep the curtains closed as a visual barrier when we’re not home, so that she doesn’t bark, make herself crazy, and especially disturb the neighbors.  Almost every time I see my wife open the curtains, I’m mildly irritated, thinking she will forget to close them.  More than that, I will prop the curtains open with pillows on the radiator.  That way they are easy to close when I leave.  She thinks the pillows wrinkle the curtains.  I think so what?  The curtains are old and plain and came with the house and should be replaced anyway.

So around and around we go.  Why don’t we replace the curtains with new ones that open and close easily?  Why don’t we train the dog not to bark?  These and many other questions swirl around us, meanwhile I am right (prop the curtains) and she is wrong (don’t prop them and forget to close them).

Then there was a political sign she had taken from the campaign when we did “honk and wave” last week.  She was to return it to the campaign, but while she was waiting to go to headquarters, we hung it on our fence that overlooks and main street in our tiny town because it’s cool, yes, but more importantly so that people will see it and be influenced to vote our way.  Today (the day before the primary) she asked me what I think about her guilt over the fact that she has not returned it yet.  I told her that I think it would likely sit somewhere at headquarters, this way people see it, and if our candidate doesn’t do well tomorrow, the campaign may be no more.  In that case she more than paid for the sign with her time and her money.  It’s likely these things will be thrown away.  She asked for my opinion and she got it, yet she continued on with her guilty feelings and need for confession and restitution.  I am right, she is wrong, though in this case both our opinions are probably just about equally valid.

Finally (and this all occurred during the 90 minutes we spent together before she went out) she ordered pizza for dinner and got it with extra cheese.  I don’t like extra cheese, and pizza is my favorite food.  The past few times we’ve gotten it we’ve gotten two, one my way and one her way.  This is time it was just her way, and it annoys me.  She asked if maybe we could take turns having it our own way, but I think getting two is better.  I am right, she is wrong.  Why should I have pizza her way when I can have it the way I like it?

Again, these are little things, and my anger isn’t very much.  Even at work, where so many of my problems reside these days, I’m not usually angry.  I am, however, self-righteous.  There are especially a few people who I have judged in my heart, and I have judged them harshly.  I think they don’t do their job, don’t work, aren’t nice, are often mean.  They are selfish with their time off (taking choice days before anyone else can get them), they see others doing the job they should be doing, but they just don’t.  They miss work all the time, leaving others to suffer, and they don’t seem to care.  They are unkind to new people, or to people who aren’t as capable as they are.  They are all these things and more, and I feel superior.

I’ve had an interesting time with gossip at work.  Purely to protect myself, and yet still give myself and outlet, I had adopted, years ago, a tactic of being “Ninety-nine percent gossip free.”  I only gossiped to one particular person, my ex and now current partner.  It was completely self serving.  I trusted her not to repeat stuff, yet I didn’t have to keep secrets to myself.  Now that she’s back, and I’m the bitter, dried up person that I’ve become, I don’t gossip to her anymore.  I do mention the behavior of our supervisor, since it effects us, and that has shades of gossip.  And no, I’m not trying to help the supervisor by talking about her.  I don’t think I’m trying to proclaim my own righteousness ……..

Bottom line – I get angry, probably daily, probably several times a day.  I can fall back on the knowledge I have of the concept that when anything bothers me, the fault is mine.  Justifiable anger should probably only appear for a very brief time, when a very obvious wrong has taken place.

As for gossip I’m not sure when it’s OK to talk about someone else.  When someone has a baby, or gets a job, or graduates, or other good things, certainly it’s OK to share.  When someone is coming or going or doing someone mundane, again OK.

I’m looking, in my emotional disturbances, for the places where my desires and instincts are opposing the grace of God.  I will also look for where my self-righteous anger is making me feel superior, and where my gossip is my attempt to point out the fact that I am right.

Experience, strength and hope (My story continued – Seven, Eight, Nine)

We lived in that rented house for about three years. I went to second, third and fourth grades there. Although it was the same school district, it was a different school, and it could have been a different planet as far as that was concerned.

I keep thinking of things that happened during that time that may be important. I met a new friend, Carol. Carol lived with her mother and sister, her parents being separated or divorced. She is probably the first person I knew not living with both parents. Her mother worked. So did mine, and a few others, though mostly mothers didn’t. She had an older sister, and I can’t remember precisely but I think she may have been in high school at that time, or working somewhere. So even though Carol had no father at home, like me, she did have a sibling, and I didn’t.

Carol and at least her mother were heavily into “mind control.” They actually went to a store front type place that was right out there in the middle of suburbia to practice and learn mind control. Googling it now, I see that it was used back then for many nefarious and scary purposes. As far as I know, Carol and her family did not go beyond trying to telepathically transmit to other people the pattern on a card, or trying to see ghosts. I tried along with them, and I don’t remember any success greater than chance for knowing what pattern they were looking at, nor for seeing ghosts. I remember on night, walking through the streets with Carol, looking in people’s windows for ghosts, she saw an old woman undressing. I tried and tried and tried to see what she was looking at, and I couldn’t see that, either. Not the ghosts, and in that case not the live people either.

I played hooky one day with Carol. I slept over her house, and we pretended to go to school the next day until her mother went to work, and we went back to her house. This is mixed up in my mind, and I don’t know if this was two occurrences or one, but we also turned in a false alarm to the fire department. We called and said there was a fire at a school mate’s house, then we called back to say it was under control, but the fire company went anyway. This was the early 1970s, so no caller ID and no way to trace it, really.

I’m mixing or combining these in my head and I know that I had to confess at least one or possibly both of these to my mother. Carol’s mother got a call, I think, and so I confessed to my mother before she found out elsewhere. I told my mother that I was confessing because of the “funny feeling” I had from being guilty. In thinking about it now, I bet the hooky got reported, not the false alarm.

It seems important to record something else about Carol before I stop for now. She got a puppy. I went with her and her mother. I don’t remember if her sister was there or not. We went to a huge flea market type place I hadn’t been to. I don’t remember where it was, I know it was out of my experience. There were puppies for sale, I believe, and her mother bought her one. Shortly after she got the puppy, I moved back to the house where my father had died (details on that later), and I kept up our friendship a bit by riding my bike to visit her. It was a different time back then, truly it was, and dogs roamed free and when a biting dog would get lose, we’d all scream and run and climb a tree but no one called the authorities. I remember Carol and her mother was being clueless around this dog. The thing never stopped biting – nipping, as puppies do, undisciplined it turned into biting. I fell out of touch with Carol and I remember hearing that they had gotten rid of the dog, as it was unmanageable.

Carol moved some time after I did. She moved completely out of the school district, so we didn’t meet up in junior high and I heard no further word of her. I’m temped to Google her now, just to see, but I don’t remember her last name. Something long and Italian, starting with a D.