March 10, 2009 (this day)

For the first time since I started carrying it, I forgot to take my “let go and let God” rock to work with me in my pocket.  A while ago I did send it through the wash, and the words mostly wore off.  I asked Erika if Sharpie on glass would stay and she said it would.  She works in a lab and they use it there.  I tried it but it wore off quickly.  Still I carried the rock and clutched it at pertinent times thinking “let go and let God.”  But today I forgot it.

I’ve been mostly on my own at work the past two days.  My partner is on vacation for the week, and the supervisor has been out sick.  That’s left me mostly in charge by myself of 20-25 staff and responsible for all the clients.  In many ways, maybe in most ways, I actually prefer being on my own.  But ultimately I don’t like the feeling of all that responsibility and no one to share it with.  It can be a good feeling that I’m able to play a part in bringing everybody successfully and safely through the day.  But I much prefer taking care of people and the writing that I do at work to being any kind of cop.

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I find these posts about my day very difficult to write.  To say what I did to stay sober today (beyond writing this) – I read The Sermon on the Mount before work.  I read As Bill Sees It at work.  I clutched my key ring in place of my let go and let god stone.  I read a prayer at noon and thought many times that it’s actually currently someone at work I am concentrating my prayers and attention on.

Thinking about it, I did not do these things to stay sober.  Drinking didn’t enter my mind today till just now, writing about it, and most days it doesn’t enter my mind at all.  There was a terrible accident in the middle of the night in which someone was driving on the wrong side of a divided highway.  I thought alcohol might have been involved in that.  But I didn’t have any other thoughts of it.

I did those things to improve the quality of my sobriety and to achieve more serenity.

I just helped Erika take some pictures she’ll use to try and sell hemp necklaces she makes on ESTY.  I’ll read and maybe clean a bit, read message boards and blogs and try not to eat too much.  And try not to let good old menopause wreck the evening.

If If We Would Live Serenely Today and Tomorrow (Step Ten continued)

february09-034If we would live serenely today and tomorrow, we certainly need to eliminate these [emotional] hangovers.  This doesn’t mean we need to wander morbidly around in the past.  It requires an admission and correction of errors now.  Our inventory enables us to settle with the past.  When this is done, we are really able to leave it behind us.  When our inventory is carefully taken, and we have made peace with ourselves, the conviction follows that tomorrow’s challenges can be met as they come.

Although all inventories are alike in principle, the time factor does distinguish one from another.  There’s the stop-check inventory, taken at any time of the day, whenever we find ourselves getting tangled up.

Whenever I find myself getting tangled up, I usually do go to the inventory pretty quickly.  Sometimes.  Usually.  Often.  After a while, when my negative emotions subside a bit, I do remember that at the bottom of my distress is me, and something wrong with me, and something that needs to be changed within me.

One thing I’m struggling with is how to know if tolerance is the same as acceptance.  What I decide is wrong with me at times could be that I just need to accept that people suck.  But I think that may be missing some of the point.  I don’t know right from wrong all the time.  I don’t know what’s best all the time.  What I’m reaching for is something different within me, that’s wrong, that either thinks I’m superior and know what’s right or that fails to recognize that I don’t see the whole picture and that I’m actually the same as everyone else, not (in this case) better.

Terence, This is Stupid Stuff! (literature as a tool)

I can’t imagine that anyone would be as enamored of this poem as I am. I can’t remember the first time I was exposed to it, or if it held the same meaning for me then. It may have. I drank through lots of school, and tried AA through lots of school, and was sober through lots of school.

And I’m tickled to think of “unpacking” it.  It’s by A.E. Houseman

‘TERENCE, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.

I’ve taken the fast eating of victuals and drinking of beer as a sign of good enough mental health.

But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.

Not sure what to make of the cow, but it seems to me that the things Terence writes are painful to listen to, almost to the point of death.

Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’

The writing is sad and insane, and the readers may keel over from it. The friend is asking for happier stuff.

Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.

The writer says the point of the poetry was not to make the reader happy, and for happiness, other things work better than reading poetry.

Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.

Alcohol will work better than poetry, even up to justifying God’s way to man.

Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.

I love the line about fellows whom it hurts to think. I’ll sometimes lovingly tell someone who says, ‘I have to think’ or ‘let me think’ not to hurt themselves. Drink in order to see the world as the world is not. But you have come down eventually.

Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

I’ve been drunk, and happy, till I woke up or came to, then I saw the tale was all a lie. I love the line ‘I was I, my things were wet.’ And then, what to do? To do it over.

Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.

Learning to deal with difficulty will help us in life.

’Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.

The poetry was written from hard experience, and it may help you when things are difficult.

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
—I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

This king was allegedly unable to be killed or commit suicide by poison, since he was immune to it. The big things or the little things won’t destroy us if we deal with them a bit at a time.

I love this poem! I wish someone I knew in real life loved it too. But through the years it’s given me pleasure to read. It has many things that ring true to me, put in such a fanciful (for my time at least) story. Drinking often makes things appear to be better, though they’re not. My own drunkenness always got out of hand and made me sick. The aftermath left nothing but more of the same. It actually prevented me from developing life skills that would help me live rightly.

I was I, my things were wet.

 

I love that.

Literature as a Tool

akron08-040This is me, in Akron, Ohio, in the house next door to Dr. Bob’s house.  The pictures are of pioneer AAs, and the books include many of the books they used to form the program or that greatly influenced the founders.

My attitude about this is skewed, and I have an agenda.  I am very much in favor of reading and writing, in all cases.  The place where I live and participate in AA can be, at times, insular, and I’ve heard admonishes against reading or supplying literature that is not “AA approved.”  Not often.  I don’t often hear people speak against it.  But sometimes.

I offer the picture and the idea that AA was founded upon literature that was not AA approved because there was no AA to approve anything.  Yet the way our civilazation is passed down and developes is through literature and the written word.  I believe that reading is good, and that bad literature won’t hurt people or jeopardize their sobriety.

I read the Big Book at meetings and from time to time on my own.  I had the Big Book on tape, and I really like that.  I need to get it on CD now that cars won’t play tapes anymore.  I read the Step Book at meetings and on my own.  I’m working my way through that whole book line by line.  I plan to read these for the rest of my life.  There’s no other literature I can say that about, including of course the Bible.

I rotate and switch among meditation books in my desk at work.  Right now I have As Bill Sees It there.  I read other books that have to do with AA, alcoholism and spirituality.  I just finished The Camel Knows the Way because it was given to me to read by someone in the program.  I’m currently reading The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox.  That was given to me to read when I was new in the program, and I’m reading it again.  I also recently read Not-God, which is a history of AA.  I mostly liked that book.

When I was new I read Living Sober and Came to Believe. I recently reread Stools and Bottles and I’ve also liked The Little Red Book. I’ve never been harmed by a book and really I think even a bad book is good to read.

I’ve considered writing several posts and making Literature as a Tool a category here, and maybe I will.  For now I will transcribe one of my favorite poems for sobriety.  My undergraduate degree is in journalism, and my master’s is in secondary education, English.   I’ve read a lot, and I enjoy it, and this poem is just about too nerdy for me to share but I’m going to anyway.

LXII. Terence, this is stupid stuff
TERENCE, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’
Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
’Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.
There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
—I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

A. E. Housman (1859–1936). A Shropshire Lad.  1896.

Life on Life’s Terms

february09-035I’ve got to get a better grip on this.  Life on life’s terms, not life on my terms.  Life’s terms include sickness and death, unfairness and suffering, dishonesty and cruelty.  Whether our higher power has made it this way, or it just is, doesn’t matter.  I can’t be happy without accepting that this is the way things are.

March 2, 2009 (this day)

This day this week this month this year.

As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening at one point to a prayer over the phone.  The woman spoke of Jesus’ fast of 40 days, and how he would not turn a stone into bread afterward.  Just then, a very very very strange operator type voice said, “I’m sorry, zero is not a valid option.  Please try again.”  Right in the middle of the prayer.  I hung up in FEAR.

A few things are coming together as I approach my 25th sobriety anniversary, which will be, barring any unforeseen circumstances, May 1.

The regular stuff.  My daughter is living on her own, my son is in his junior year of college.

I’m most certainly having (no matter what the professionals say) perimenopause, on my way to the real thing.

My work situation has come full circle again, and I have to decide what to do about it again.  I have to decide to act, or to refuse to act.

My mother truly seems to be losing her eyesight.  She is 69, and lives with her husband, far from me.

I really need to change my name.  I have the name of my ex.  It isn’t an awful name, but it isn’t mine.  I hate my “maiden” name (as well as I hate that term).  My birth name.  It’s not attractive, and I have no connection to that family.  I was glad to give it up when I had the chance, and I don’t want it back again.  Which causes the dilemma of what name to choose.  I think it will be my grandmother’s “maiden” (birth) name.  The only thing that’s stopping me, really, is that it feels somehow embarrassing, like I’m taking myself too seriously, or doing something goofy.  Ego, that’s what it is.  My ego is stopping me.  But I’m going to do it.

I’m reading a book by Germaine Greer about the “change of life,” menopause.  I just started the book, but already I’ve loved where she points out that women of a certain age who spend tons of time and money trying to look younger, are trying to look like girls, and this is a sick thing.  She also says this is the time for me to plan the rest of my life.  She says that if something is lacking, there is still time to get it.

I want to get a certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis.  I have the means and the time, and if they’ll have me, I’m going to get it.  If not that, something else.  I want to go to school.

A while ago I was saying something goofy to someone, something about AA, and I said, “I don’t want to sound like Miss AA.”  A friend said, “Well, you are!”  So I’ll confess it here and regret it later.  At work today, I was taking a walk with someone.  This is someone who can’t take a walk without me or someone else giving him very close supervision, meaning someone has to be right there all the time.  I was turning some of this around in mind, wondering what I should do specifically with the work situation.  I have known for a long long time that AA tells me I am to serve God and my fellow human beings, that I am to be useful. In the past, at work, I have even voiced this exactly, that I want to do what it is that is most useful for me to do.  I sort of said to myself that I don’t know what is useful at this point.

Now that’s true, I don’t know what is useful.  I don’t know if some of my actions, for example, cover up the fact that someone else isn’t doing his job, and that this is a bad thing, because he won’t be found out and he’ll continue.  I don’t know if I should try again to make the situation right (according to my definition of what is right, of course).  I don’t know if I should wait to see what others think would be best, or if I should put my opinion out there, as someone who has been working there a comparatively long time.  I don’t know if the lessons of the past say that nothing changes – same song, different verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

But standing in front of glass doors with streaming sunlight and a happy person who I was enabling to take a walk, I pictured for a second Bill Wilson himself saying something to me like, “Really?  You really don’t know if you’re being useful?”

So that’s really odd for me.  I’ll blame it on the fact that I’ve been reading As Bill Sees It every morning, so maybe I tend to think in terms of his voice speaking.  I hope.

I’m going to hit publish now before I come to my senses.  Zero is not a valid option.

february09-021