Time (Time Takes Time)

Looking for a picture to illustrate something about time, I found this one.  This kitty is 20 years old, and on Thanksgiving we thought he was going to die that day.  He didn’t.  At this point it looks like he will greet the new year with us.  My kids were 2 and 5 when he joined the family, and he’s been there through their entire schooling.  And 20 years of my 26-year sobriety.  This cat has never seen me drunk!

I’ve previously written about Phyllis here, here, and here .  Carole learned that they are not going to treat Phyllis’ cancer any further, and that they give her nine to twelve months to live.  Phyllis is someone who came to the program at age 70, after a life time of drinking, and while she didn’t stop drinking or using drugs completely, she had some periods of sobriety.  And while she didn’t work the program completely (or even very much), on reflection at this point, if this is really to be the last year she has with her family, I believe sobriety and the program has made it and the last several years better than the years before.

We’re neighbors, and before Phyllis presented herself at our meeting, we witnessed several scenes of police or bar friends bringing her home, too drunk to get herself there from a bar a few blocks away.  We heard some of her husband’s shouted pain at those times, and that hasn’t happened since she started coming to meetings.  One of her sons also became the father of twins last February, and Phyllis has been able to participate in their lives as much as her health has allowed, which is a lot.

My “time” sits heavily on my shoulders, at times, and the sober mother I’ve given my kitty (and of course my children) is a blessing beyond measure.  I would never ever down play it.  For some reason Carole felt it necessary to tell me about some of my drunken awfulness that my mother had shared with her.  There are years of my life I don’t remember.  I was truly on the edge of functioning.  My transformation is a miracle.  That first life I was given, with genetics or predisposition or the behavior I learned from my father or the coincidence of being someone who cannot stop drinking no matter how desperate the situation becomes was ended and I was given a new life I don’t deserve.

In that way, I can’t compare my experience as a sober alcoholic in AA with Phyllis’ life as such.  We have very little, yet everything in common.  If I could go back a few years and tell Phyllis at that first meeting that a few years from then, she would be facing terminal cancer, what difference would it make?  She couldn’t have fast-forwarded through her struggles with the program, and worked it better or more completely.  She did what she did when she did it – when she was ready, and not a moment before.

December 8, 2010 (this day)

Hectic, busy, hectic, busy!

  • Worrying about my daughter, far away, not calling much, and maybe buried in snow.
  • Worrying about not walking the dog enough, as we don’t have much snow, but we do have much cold.  And I’m afraid of slipping and falling if I walk the beast.
  • Unhappy about a big bad bruise on my cheek, which somehow happened during my teeth cleaning last Thursday and makes people gasp and stare and ask questions.
  • Wanting to give the program to someone who isn’t an alcoholic, so that she can have the same ideal of serenity that I have.
  • Wondering how I’ll get through the work parties, and other parties coming up.
  • Wondering about a work drinking occasion I’ve been invited to and told, for the first time ever, that I am “expected” to attend.

But if I could remedy just one of these situations, I would know how my daughter is doing in the snow  and it would be because she called me, not because I called her.

We May Often Pass Through Twelfth Step Experiences (Step Twelve continued)

We may often pass through twelfth step experiences where we will seem to be temporarily off the beam.  These will appear as big setbacks at the time, but will be seen later as stepping-stones to better things.  For example, we may set our hearts on getting a particular person sobered up, and after doing all we can for months, we see him relapse.  Perhaps this will happen in a succession of cases, and we may be deeply discouraged as to our ability to carry A.A.’s message.  Or we may encounter the reverse situation, in which we are highly elated because we seem to have been successful.  Here the temptation is to become rather possessive of these newcomers.  Perhaps we try to give them advice about their affairs which we really aren’t competent to give or ought not to give at all.  Then we are hurt and confused when the advice is rejected, or when it is accepted and brings still greater confusion.  By a great deal of ardent Twelfth Step work we sometimes carry the message to so many alcoholics that they place us in a position of trust.  They make us, let us say, the group’s chairman.  Here again we are presented with the temptation to overmanage things, and sometimes this results in rebuffs and other consequences which are hard to take.

But in the longer run we clearly realize that these are only the pains of growing up, and nothing but good can come from them is we turn more and more to the entire Twelve Steps for the answers.

I don’t have much to say about this.  I often see things go awry, and like I’ve written before, I question the need and usefulness of a sponsor beyond the newcomer days, when someone needs to have the steps and the program explained to them.

This Too Shall Pass

It doesn’t resonate for me the way that it once did.  I remember it being a revelation, that everything bad, and everything good, never came to stay, it always came to pass.  Feelings and emotions also.  It was comforting, at one time, to understand for the first time that this state I’m living in right now will not always be the way I live.  This feeling I’m feeling right now won’t always be the way I feel.

I’m sure that for me, my waning comfort has to do with aging.  I am, we are, all more vulnerable than I ever realized.  We’ll all suffer, we’ll all die.  Sure, suffering isn’t my normal state, but big bad things do loom on the horizon for me.  I think, for example, that if something awful happened to my children, I wouldn’t be able to cope.  In some ways I’d never be happy again.  The experience of knowing people who this has actually happened to confirms it for me.  Having had my little dog killed while I walked her confirms this for me.  I remember, shortly after that happened, someone at work asked me about something else that had gone my way, not related to the dog.  “Happy?” she asked.  “I don’t think I’ll ever be happy again,” I answered.  I do remember that.  In some ways it is true.  That is a shadow I can’t imagine ever getting away from, ever again.  Not ever.

The acute pain passes, though it comes back, and life is well worth living anyway.  The experience with the dog, taken as an extreme example, makes me anxious and glad to go on and treasure the dog I have now, as well a future dogs I might have.  And of course really grasping that present happiness will pass, and grabbing it, and experiencing it without being maudlin that it too shall pass is one of the best lessons of life to learn, and one I will always struggle with.

December 1, 2010 (this day)

Today I took my mother to the airport, and this afternoon I got my car back from the transmission guy whose office had terrible, terrible pictures of Barack Obama – nasty stuff.  I really hope they didn’t do anything to my car, my 2001 (that I bought used) with the vintage Hillary and Obama bumper stickers.  The Hillary sticker is, by the way, bright and beautiful, while the Obama sticker has faded terribly.  NOT metaphoric.  Personally, I love the president.

But anyway, now my mother and my daughter and my daughter’s cats are gone.  My days off of work are gone, though tomorrow I have a very nerve-wracking two hour meeting followed by shopping (which I hate), followed by the dentist.  I’m having the second half of my gums scraped, and now I know that it takes more than hour, it hurts like hell, my hands and feet will go cold after so long, and if I choose to get a shot in the front gums of my mouth, that will hurt like hell.  And it costs a lot, as well.

This morning we had rain that turned to snow, and I’m entering the time of year when I’m afraid to walk the dog sometimes in the morning, because I’m afraid to slip and fall.  Of course in the afternoons it’s too cold to hang out outside, and it gets dark early.  I really want to adjust my mental attitude better about this.  I see it coming, here it is, I have to cope better.

So over the Thanksgiving holiday, a loved one engaged in some very very high risk behavior, and I spent those hours not knowing if she would be OK.  My 20-year-old cat also seemed to be not long for this world, and on Thanksgiving, we really all thought he might die.  He’s perked up, strangely, though he loses skills all the time.  He’s now not able to put himself on the couch anymore.  He walks so very stiffly, it’s painful to watch.  But he still loves his food and loves to be pet and seems to be enjoying life well enough, for now, I guess.

I don’t know if I recorded here that I “won”  Nanowrimo.  I wrote just over 50,000 words during the month of November, and now I have to think about what to do with those words.  I finished a few days ago, and I truly do miss writing it, but it was grueling.  My story isn’t anywhere near finished, and I could easily keep going.  I guess I have to decide if the amusement is worth the time.  One thing I enjoyed immensely about it was that if there was something I wanted to stop obsessing over, I could easily turn my thoughts to my story.  I liked that a lot.

Another sort of odd thing came up.  My mother had put money away for my kids’ college, and through a boring set of circumstances, they may not use it all, and they promise not to have kids to save it for, and some of it may belong to me.  I can take the money out and pay the penalty, but a few years ago, I was seriously considering going to school for a professional certificate.  I could use the money for that.  I put that on a shelf when things changed for me at work, but I’d still like to do it.

I am filled with gratitude for all the things I’ve mentioned here (and thousands I haven’t), whether they fill me with anxiety or even pain (dear dentist and crazy car repair people).  I want to be less angsty in the new year.  And I can do it.  In 2010 I read 33 books (so far, with a goal of 25), crocheted  20 something scarves (and some blankets), I slightly lengthened my morning walk with the dog, flew very far away and back with no drugs and without alerting the media, and I did something I didn’t even set out to do, which was begin to write a terrible novel.