They say it comes in threes

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I am headed to a memorial service this afternoon. The day before my birthday, we got the news that my husband’s uncle passed away.  He was a good man with a bad problem or problems.  He looked for comfort at the bottom of a beer can and his body couldn’t keep up with the constant grind on his body.  I found out at dinner, before a group of friends was about to go and watch the celluloid bump and grind that is Magic Mike. Suffice to say that I had to bow out and I made my way home teary eyed and saddened by the loss.

Earlier today I got the news that the husband of an old co-worker lost his battle with prostate cancer.  He’d been diagnosed right around the time that I was dealing with my father’s last days before his death.  While my father’s health took a turn for the worst, he rallied and his wife began the razor’s edge dance of trying to care for a critically ill spouse and making the shaky transition to primary breadwinner.  After two years of chemotherapy, surgeries and periods of respite, they’d found that the cancer had spread and he took his steps into the unknown.

As I sit here taking advantage of a quiet moment before we all climb into the car and make our way to the next town over, I can’t help but think of the old saying, “Death always comes in threes.”  On brighter days, I can laugh at silly superstitions  Today, I am reminded that each of us has a tenuous hold on this life and I find it a little harder to thumb my nose at Old Lady Death.

Image courtesy of raw-multimedia.com

I’m quitting you

I’ve decided to back away from the social construct that is Facebook for a while.  I’m tired of how good it is at masking how isolated so many of us are.  It’s particularly dangerous for me since I can literally stay home and not talk to anyone other than my husband and kids for days on end.  It can veer towards the unhealthy very quickly.  My natural state leans towards the melancholy and depression runs deep in my family.  While people are proclaiming how they are searching for their bliss, there are lots of times that I am  dangerously close to only treading water and going through the motions.  It’s okay, and I don’t say this as a cry for help.  I say it with the same mater of fact tone that comes with sharing that you have hypertension or diabetes.  It’s just one of the things that makes me who I am. In order to stay healthy I have to pay attention to how I’m feeling, eat well, exercise, sleep enough and everything will be okay.

In a few short days I will turn 39.  I am nearing the end of my sabbatical from work life. School and a new career are right around the corner. It’s an exciting time for me.  I’m still young, but like the old saying goes, once you realize that you are still young, you are in the twilight hours and enjoying the last moments of it’s warm glow..or maybe I just made that up  in the churning wheel that is my imagination.

I’ve been off of Facebook for about a week and I’ve read three books, taken two day trips with my family and have begun to enjoy the silence that has started to replace the constant din of hundreds of opinions and memes, written by other people for the sole purpose of succinctly explaining exactly how the masses feel in one sarcastic, cynical sentence.  I’ve had the opportunity to read and absorb news at my leisure and to form opinions away from the outside influence of people who reside outside of my day to day circle, and whose thoughts, I frankly don’t really care about.   It feels good to reclaim the notion of not giving a shit about what other people think, and the freedom makes me feel more like myself.  I wouldn’t say that I’m a follower, but I subscribe to the concept of  good manners ( which I believe still exist!)  and I do tend to operate with a certain level of consideration to those around me. I don’t like to offend people, which would be a shock to the girl I was 15 years ago, and it gets tiring feeling consideration for those who probably have no thought of me. Well, let me rephrase that, I don’t like to shock people unnecessarily, and if I do, I’d rather do it to someone’s face.   It’s a strange paradigm. I do get tired of reading  bullshit ideas, regurgitated  canned media blurbs about how one should feel when you join the grown up gangs of “liberal” or “conservatives”. It makes me laugh to consider how these ideologies remind me so much of a less cool version of “soc’s” and “drapes”.  It’s all so silly when you think of it through the lens of high school cliques and gangs.  All of the old players are still there and it makes me yearn for the simplicity that was supposed to come with the dawning of the milestone age of 40, where you are confident in yourself and who you are and are able to shake off the opinions of people that don’t matter.  I think that perhaps the old paradigm has shifted and social media has made it easier to reside in a sort of arrested development, where it’s easy to get caught up in what Suzy Q is doing and how other good and respectable folks are spending their time.  In the end, who cares what everyone else is doing and what everyone else thinks, just as long as you can feel good about how you spend your time and you end your days feeling satisfied that you are at least living on your own terms.

I’m rambling, but I’m trying to get reacquainted with the concept that an idea can take more than a few words to communicate.  If you’re reading this off my posting on Facebook and we are friends, please forgive me if I’ve not commented on any of your postings or photos. I’m not trying to blow anyone off, just looking for a little quiet and peace. I’m still interested in how people are doing, what funny thought you had while in line at the bank or how that snarky waitress pissed you off when you were out with your friends, the only difference is that I want to hear it in your voice and watch the expressions on your face change when you tell me that you wanted to scream or pull someone’s hair out. I want real human connection, not a numbers game where we get to pretend that we’re popular and relevant because our likes  and friends count tell us that we matter.

Tired of thinking of what I am *not* going to do

So the main goal of my Sobriety Challenge is that I want to clear my brain and adjust my perspective.  Not drinking is one facet, but being more productive is something that I’d like to focus my attention on. I don’t want to obsess on what I am not going to do and I know that my time is better spent thinking of what I would like to achieve.  Writing everyday is high on my list of priorities. Thlis blog is a testament to that.  A little everyday, no matter how mundane.

This morning finally activated my Writer’s Market account to hunt down places to publish a couple of stories that I have written. No more dragging ass. It felt good and I have already found a couple of places that look promising.

My to do list for the day:

1. Gym- This endorphin rush is important!

2. Lowes: We are remodeling our bathroom and it’s finally time to paint.  I also need some small clay pots and soil for a small garden that I am starting.

3. Home school lessons with the minion. If we don’t work for at least 30 minutes a day, we get behind and spend too much time playing on the computer, watching television and doing everything else that rots the brain.

4. Laundry. The endless battle, but as a perk, I get to watch Empire while I do it.  I love you Cookie!

5. Edit. Killing my darlings and doing some rewriting.  I’m looking forward to this.

Challenge progress: Day 4 underway.  So far so good.. Chris was craving a burger and a beer when he got home from work,  so he took us out to dinner last night.  We went to BJ’s and I had the best N/A Bloody Mary. The bartender garnished it with a celery stalk, a dressed glass and two plump olives. It was the prettiest drink I’ve seen in a while and I felt fancy.  The best part of all was that  I ate my dinner not overly concerned about a calorie overload.  Having a short list of favorite mocktails is going to be a big help as I go through this challenge.  Best of all, the tab was lower than what we usually spend, which made our wallet happy. First time out at a restaurant successful.  

Breakfast with a ghost

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You would have turned 60 today.  Somehow, though, you knew that you weren’t going to be long for this place.  Its been two years since you’ve been gone and I still feel an dull ache in my chest if I let my mind linger too long on your memory.  I can still remember your face, your voice, and the thick callouses on the palms of your hands. Those never went away…not even after you’d been sick and at home for so long that the idea of a job seemed alien and ill conceived.

I’ve been grumpy and sleep deprived these past few days. I’ve  felt like something is missing or off kilter, needing to be fixed, like the anxiety caused by a crooked picture begging to be straightened, only the edges that need to be aligned are out of reach and invisible to the eye.

You’ve been visiting me in my dreams and lingering at the breakfast table as I sip my morning coffee, enjoying the brief moments of quiet before the kids wake up.  You called me on the telephone asking about Mom and hung up after only a couple of sentences, only wanting to say “Hello” and “I love you”. A conversation so typical of the daily calls that we shared when you were still on this plane with me.

I hate tradition until it concerns you.  Today I will burn candles, whisper prayers and sprinkle flowers at your grave, hopeful that this will be enough to keep you from pulling my toes as I try and coax myself to sleep. You were always able to keep me tied to the old ways and your influence pulls from beyond the grave.  I guess I have always been a daddy’s girl.

I miss you old man, and I’ll be visiting you in my dreams.  Stay close to the telephone. I want to call you and say “Happy birthday.”

Sobriety Challenge- 1 day down

Yesterday I poured out half a bottle of my favorite red wine.  That was tough.  I spoke to my best friend and told her that I was quitting drinking for a stretch, to which she exclaimed “Good for you” and then changed the subject to the world of parenting, parent/teacher conferences and worrying about your kids.  She wasn’t dismissive, but she’s had long periods of sobriety and doesn’t think that it’s that big of a deal, and it’s not, I guess. I shared my last post via Facebook and got a couple of “Good luck” responses, a small smattering of likes. I saw a couple of my friends post funny memes about the virtues of wine drinking and other testimonies to their Bon Vivant lifestyles. I didn’t think that they had anything to do with me, but for the first time I was hyper aware of the drinking culture.

So I took a moment to think about why I want to stop, aside from the vanity issues and I realized that I have moments of sheepish embarrassment when I think of my less glamorous sloshed moments. The slurred words, glazed eyes and staggered gait that is more Anna Nicole and less Keith Richards.  I thought about how I am scared that I won’t be fun, easy and free without a glass in my hand.  Then I realized that what a complicated relationship I have with booze.

So I’ve decided to chronicle my thoughts on the issue from time to time. I know that being too earnest is eye roll inducing, but this is my journey, and I’m a writer, so it’s important for me to write things down.  I made a list of what I would like to achieve and I feel pretty hopeful.  I’m a reader, so I started a book called Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety, which is funny and honest.  I’ve dived into abstinence as enthusiastically as I have embraced my excesses, because that’s how I roll. I’m an all or nothing type of girl and when I start something new I try to learn all about it. I want to be ready for anything.

I also told my husband that I don’t expect him to quit with me and that I am ok doing this on my own.

So here I am. Day one. I would have counted Sunday, but technically I was having a double Crown and diet at midnight. Oh well..day 2 here we go.

Drying it up in the land of the thirsty

1950s Bar Restaurant Lounge Men Women Smiling Drinking Vintage Photo

I am going to quit drinking.

Just typing that sentence seems daunting and a little nerve rattling. I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t drink too much, or too little.  I may have a glass of wine or a beer one night during the week. On weekends, I have beer with dinner or if we visit with friends. I am the Queen of the comfortable buzz. If I pass the ever shifting border between buzzed and drunk  my biggest offenses usually include laughing too loud, corny jokes and borderline bad manners in the form of disregarding personal space.  I am a happy, celebratory drunk.

So why the sudden decision to change? Well, there was no hitting bottom or getting drunk and cheating on my husband. No embarrassing story of throwing up on myself at a PTA meeting, smashed on Pino Grigio in the middle of the day. The problem is that my body has started to disagree with my happy relationship with alcohol.  While I like how a beer will take the edge off, two beers is enough to ruin my sleep for the night.  I fall asleep quick enough, but I am restless and wide awake at 2 a.m.  My doctor has me on a diabetes prevention program and I don’t like how quickly my blood sugar levels will spike and drop when I imbibe. Having crazy insulin swings is worse than a hangover, and I don’t like how it affects my body and clouds my brain.  It also feels like a sham to bypass pastries and desserts only to indulge in drinks that are the equivalent of a few cups of sugar. Which brings me full circle to the lesser issues of empty calories,acne,  weight gain and beer bloat.  I’ve been working out 4 to 5 times a week and I’ve started to wonder how much more dramatic my results would be if I would just hop on the wagon.

So I’ve decided to quit.  At least for a couple of months, as an experiment and an exercise in will power.  I’ve quit before. I have two children that I nursed and I quit during those times, but those periods don’t really count, since they were periods of forced sobriety.  I’ve  done cleanses and once a Whole 30, and have quit for short periods, so I know that I can do it voluntarily.  I want to give sobriety a go in an attempt to clear up my thinking ( and my skin) and to improve the quality of my sleep and my health.  I’m in good company. I have some really good friends who are sober and they are some of the dearest people within my circle of friends.  My brother in law hasn’t touched a drop in over 5 years and he seems to have survived it.  A few months seems like a pittance to those who have made long term decisions.

What worries me is maintaining my resolve, which is why I am putting it out there for the world to see. I’m in a band and we play at bars, so it’s easy to rely on  a beer or a drink to ease your nerves.  I’ve also come to depend on the socially lubricating qualities of a nice shot of whiskey.  It’s going to be hard to walk away from the ritual of hunting down the perfect bottle of wine, popping the cork and savoring that first sip. I love the romanticism and glamorous feeling of wine and cheese and nice crusty bread.

Thank goodness for TopoChico and coffee. I’m not giving those two up without a fight.

Photo courtesy of Google Images/Photog Unknown.

Bad Vibes, warts and curse words.

I’ve been hiding and feeling a little blocked lately. It’s not that I haven’t had anything that I want to write about. In fact I’ve felt exactly the opposite.  There are a million things that I want to write about, real blood and guts things that make me feel like I am sitting naked in the middle of the room and everyone can see me, warts and all.  The thing is, I’m kind of a private person and I haven’t quite worked out how I feel about posting about my personal life in a way that leaves the people around me feeling exposed.  I don’t want to let out anyone’s secrets, but rather let out my own secrets, which I think might make other people feel uncomfortable.  Some of the things that run through my mind are nasty and so I am immobile. Do I approach the monsters in  fiction, talk about them on this blog, or both. I didn’t have this struggle when I was young and single, but now what I talk about can affect others.

I’m increasingly aware of the carefully curated image that so many of us create as we post on our Facebook and Instagram accounts.  Cool, artistic, intelligent and cynical with quick acid wit that can cut to the bone…that is if we weren’t all “blessed” and “taking the high road”, drunk on forgiveness and awareness.  That stuff is all well and good, but in terms of art, it feels fake and a little put on.  This is my struggle.  Figure out a way to talk about the raw feelings that are left after you’ve been betrayed, back stabbed, fucked over and mistreated   Being scared. The feelings that happen when you can see the high road, but you feel much better hoping that nothing but bad things happen to people who have crossed you.  When forgiveness isn’t an option because you know that sending out an onslaught of bad vibes and ill intent to someone who has done something bad to you is how you find your way back to the light.  I want to talk about how we all know that forgiveness can be overrated and when we hear about something bad happening to someone we don’t like, we smile a little on the inside. Not our finest moments, but real ones nonetheless.  I need to be able to examine the ugly and appreciate the beautiful, because we all know you can’t have one without the other.  I also know that as a writer, I’m full of shit if I can’t pull back the filters and show the full picture of what really happens as we try to make it through this life.

So I’m still here…pondering.  Thinking about how and when I am going to talk about the boxes(s) that take up space in my head.  It’s my baggage and I don’t mind it.  I think that I’m going to get in embroidered with my initials.  It’s made me who I am today, but  I’ve gotta  figure out way to shuffle them around a bit so I can make some room for other ideas to take up residence here.