Sunday, October 31, 2010

60 Minutes: Overtime (with Zenyatta)

This clip is nice personal aside to tonight's segment. Worth watching for sure to "catch a ride" on Zenyatta training over the track at Hollywood Park. You can see what they mean about "bob that head!"

Oingo Boingo: "Dead Man's Party"

Aw c'mon, you KNOW I had to post this one on Halloween.

Julie Brown: "Another Drunk Chick"

"Dude, we should do the Twelve Steps." "No, I can't take the stairs right now."

Another parody of popular culture by comedian Julie Brown. (Still, it reminds me why I truly HATED getting drunk. Don't. Miss. That. At. All.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Zenyatta: The Best Racehorse Ever?

Don't forget to catch this segment on 60 Minutes tomorrow night. Her perfect record is all on the line one week from today.

Ross the Boss!

Oooh, the shirt honoring my boyfriend has arrived! I'm all decked out in my game gear and awaiting today's third game of the World Series. You know, I'm of two minds regarding today's game. In a way, it would be less interesting if the Giants went in, won two games there, and the Series was finished there in Texas. So a part of me kind of wants us to lose two games there so that the Giants can win here in San Francisco. On the other hand, I really don't want to root for my team to lose. D'oh. Sometimes it's rough to be a Gemini. We never know what we want.

So, I'll just say, "Go Giants!"

AA Destroying the Social Lives of Thousands of Once-Fun Americans

AA Destroying The Social Lives Of Thousands Of Once-Fun Americans

Ya gotta love The Onion.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Homemade Implants

Because gals, you really SHOULD try them out in different sizes before you commit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Calls 'Im Smiley

I think Cody Ross's nickname is actually just "Smiles," but I call him Smiley. He's unlucky number 13, which I just adore, and when he grins, I just want to pinch his furry little cheeks. I know all the straight girls swoon over catcher Buster Posey (imagine, being a rookie and going to the World Series), but this old lesbian has a big ol' old-school crush on Smiley. Chelle has even ordered me a "Ross the Boss" t-shirt. Get 'em, slugger.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don McLean: "Vincent" ("Starry, Starry Night")

This is a well-made video featuring a montage of Van Gogh's most famous paintings. The song "Vincent," written by Don McLean in tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, has always moved me for two reasons. The first is personal: my father once told me this song reminded him of my mother, whom I've blogged about here. The beautiful thing about this song, for me, is the part that goes: "But I could've told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you." My mother was strikingly gorgeous (of course I look just like my Dad!) but suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, taking her own life, so I can totally see why this song would have reminded Dad of her.

The other reason is that I've always loved Van Gogh's paintings. I think, really, he might be my favorite artist. In fact, "Starry Night" has been my wallpaper on this laptop for a little over a week now, in anticipation of the Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, and Beyond, exhibition going on at the deYoung right now. I'm trying to arrange seeing that with Chelle's mom on the 30th of this month, or maybe the day after Thanksgiving (or as Pat quipped, "why not both?!") I sometimes catch myself staring at the photograph of that painting; it's very easy to get lost in the brush strokes and the reflections of light. For an enchanted moment, you think you're seeing the world through Van Gogh's eyes. This particular painting, on loan from the Musee D'Orsay, is in this exhibition and I'm anxious to see it. I know it will be special.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Blessings of Sobriety

I’ve been writing lately about people (and I’m at the top of the list) who’ve wandered off the right path somewhere along the line, and of what a struggle it can be to get up, brush off the seat of your pants, maybe pick out some brambles, and set off anew. I thought I’d write today about the many people who have now entered or re-entered my life and inspired me, moved me, surprised me.

When I first got out of rehab, I really didn’t know what to expect. Frankly, I was terrified. I’d been sober for only a month and my mind was still pretty fuzzy. I did realize, with the help of the counselor who’d been assigned to me, that I’d been doing a lot of acting out because of perceived frustrations with my wife. After talking it out with her and with Chelle (she did counsel us both on one occasion), it became pretty clear that there were darn good reasons Chelle had distanced herself from me and some darn good reasons Chelle at times would attempt to control my addiction (which I had read as “trying to control me”). We shared our letters from the heart with each other (Chelle’s can be found here) and it was plain we had some major work to do to repair damage done to our relationship.

But none of it was anything my counselor hadn’t heard a thousand times before. Alcoholics, and how our loved ones deal with us, are all fairly predictable. In fact, when we left her office that day, my counselor said, “Honestly, I don’t see much resentment between you two. I see mostly love. I think you’re going to be fine.”

Chelle and I kept talking; I started the adjustment to living a sober life outside the safe walls of Mountain Vista Farm. A few weeks later, I started up at work again, picking up with my classes I had just missed half a semester with. It was a period of rapid adaptations and facing a lot of stress while learning to do so without a drink. I went to a lot of AA meetings, where I found a lot of strength and support.

It took about another month before I was able to find the courage to fill Chelle in fully about all the things I’d done behind her back, all the lies I’d told when I’d been drinking. I was ready to accept the consequences for those things and braced myself for the possibility of being kicked to the curb. But it didn’t happen. The fact was, Chelle admitted I’d been a lousy liar and she pretty much knew what I’d been up to (she’s no dummy anyway). We talked it out, figuring out where, exactly, I’d broken certain agreements we’d made when establishing the rules of our relationship. We re-established those rules, making some of them clearer. And this time when I promised to abide by them, I actually meant it.

(Oh, I’d “meant” it before—it’s just that I allowed life to come along and persuade me to mentally move boundaries… when unexpected things happened that changed the way the game was shaping up, basically what I did was reinterpret the rules to suit me, without consulting her about it first. In other words, my promise was only as good as how convenient it was for me to keep it. That’s hardly a promise! It’s akin to those people who blithely will tell you they’ll love you always, no matter what may happen. Yet, the minute you piss them off about something, they’re actually always the first persons who will show you the door. Life is full of such ironies.)

But Chelle surprised me—though really, you know, I should’ve seen the forgiveness that was already in her heart. For god’s sakes, this woman pulled out her Amex card and paid, up front, the $9000 for my rehab when we had no clue if Blue Cross would reimburse us for any of it (and they haven’t, gah). To this day, Chelle still says it’s the best nine thousand bucks she’s ever spent. This is the woman who drove two hours both ways to visit me in rehab every Sunday. This is the woman who wrote me every single day I was in rehab, without fail, and every Saturday or Monday, depending, I’d actually get two items to make up for the fact that no mail was delivered on Sunday. My bulletin board next to my bed in rehab was covered with cards, postcards, photos, sweet notes that Chelle wrote me. In retrospect, I see now that our relationship was already healing before I even received my 28-day chip.

This time, when we repeated our vows and reestablished the agreements of our marriage, I made it clear: under no circumstances will I ever budge from these rules for any reason, even if I think I have a good reason. If it is indeed a good reason, then what’s to fear? Chelle will hear it out and agree to a rule change or relaxation. But I shouldn’t be making that decision for her. And this goes both ways. Everything between us is out, open, and clear.

I have abided by these rules, quite easily, actually, for over a year now, and it’s working. Chelle and I have not argued even once since I went into rehab. Not once has either of us raised a voice to the other; we’ve never gone to bed with an issue left hanging unresolved; we simply calmly talk things out. She is an amazingly reasonable person, and I no longer live in fear that if I say something she doesn’t like or agree with, that this is going to automatically make her not love me. (THAT impression is one that was a hangover from my childhood and wasn’t actually based on anything Chelle ever did.)

And it’s not just Chelle. It is also a handful of dear friends, my sponsor among them, and another friend I’ve known for years and reconnected with, who have reminded me of just what a true friendship is all about. My sponsor I’ve blogged about several times before—how her wisdom, ability to listen without judging, and her ability to cut right through bullshit to the real shit—have made her my rock. She’s very good at pointing out when I’m rationalizing or making excuses or just being dumb and has a way of doing so that makes me feel simply human and not evil or stupid. My other friend can only be described as a gift, even a soul mate. What makes people friends, after all? We make each other laugh; we recommend books to each other and talk about them (right now we’re reading The Reader); we share music with each other (a good many of the videos lately that appear on my blog are artists she’s actually turned me onto). She’s a paramedic and just today, I was pulling into the garage when my cell phone rang. I answered, and there she was: “I’m at the hospital, but I just had to call you quickly to tell you what just came over the loudspeaker: I swear, they just paged Dr. Ta-Ta.”

It just feels so good to belly laugh.

It just feels so good to hug people.

It just feels so good to have a group of friends, all of whom have been there & done that, in AA.

It just felt so good today to say to a student, when she dropped by the lab to brainstorm with me about her next essay, “Hey, guess what? You got an ‘A’ on your last paper” and to see her eyes light up.

It just feels so good when colleagues now stop at my office door to say hello and ask how I’m doing.

It just feels so good to have repaired my relationship with my ex Lynn so much that last night I texted her to tell her to be sure to watch “Nature” on PBS at 8pm. There was a show on that I knew she’d like. Her curiosity piqued, she said she would. And today I got a text from her thanking me. She has an affinity for crows and ravens.

It just feels so good to have my friends on Facebook responding to certain of my blog posts, asking for clarifications or adding to the story with their own experiences or even offering further suggestions.

God. What a relief. It just feels so good to be here, to be fully connected.

The blessings continue to unfold. I am blessed, and I am one grateful alcoholic.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Damien Rice: "The Blower's Daughter"

If this song doesn't move you, then, well, something is just wrong with you.

Childish Adults

In response to my Hornet’s Nest post the day before yesterday, a friend on Facebook remarked that she knows even sober people who act in the way I described. Actually, so do I.

I explained that if it’s not alcoholism that’s the cause of childish behavior in an adult, I just mentally insert "or whatever their addiction is" in its place, because most people are addicted to something (painkillers, food, sex, shopping, gambling, adrenaline rushes, relationships... something) that acts as a buffer to keep us/them from clear thinking and acting in an adult manner. Addicted people just never really grow up. I think it happens something like this: at some point, we discover a substance or a feeling or an activity that makes us feel better when life bears down on us too heavily. We start using that thing as a crutch, and though it may make us feel temporarily better, it also emotionally arrests us. We stop growing. We stop learning from our mistakes and start reaching for our crutch instead. It’s hella easier, and makes for more interesting stories, too. (Well, until the crutch stops serving us at all. Then the stories start to get ugly.)

If the crutch becomes an obvious one and a problem, some addicts may even put it aside, but they may still ACT LIKE addicted people. They’ve gotten so used to not learning from their mistakes or processing their experiences or are so afraid of dealing with the pain of a searching moral inventory/self-analysis, that they just stay emotionally and mentally where they are: stuck. We call sober alcoholics such as this “dry drunks.” They’re an alcoholic in every way; they’re just not using. That’s why alcoholics who successfully quit drinking still need Alcoholics Anonymous. We need to do all the step work that helps us break the old childish patterns of thinking and behaving that we’ve developed over the years. In many ways, AA is a lot like life coaching in how to truly be an adult.

Every last person in AA is simultaneously a childish asshole and a supremely sensitive, beautiful human being.

Then another Facebook friend interjected that hey, it can also be fun to be child-like and want to play. Who wants to live a somber, always seriously boring kind of life? Hang onto to childhood as long as you can; don’t be an old fart.

But of course, you can be child-like as a sober adult. There is a huge difference between child-like and childish. To be perpetually child-like is to experience joy, to have an insatiable curiosity, to delight and wonder at new things, and all the wonderful stuff that kids do and express. Hey, it’s why I love Tigger, his bouncy-pouncy enthusiasm.

Being childish, on the other hand, simply means acting and reacting solely from a self-centered place ("I want what I want and I want it now"). You can have brilliant, talented adults who are frustratingly childish; they can rationalize every last thing they do with a series of reasons until they’ve talked you into a corner, but when you boil away all the rationalizations and look only at what they DO, voila. It amounts to “they want what they wanted and they wanted it now. “ To hell with you, to hell with the rules, to hell with the consequences; what I want outweighs any collateral damage. Indeed, the sickest of these will not only not care about the collateral damage, but will also talk themselves into believing that those they have hurt somehow deserved it. It’s how they live with themselves, I think, because deep down inside they truly aren’t lacking in compassion. They’re simply disconnected from most of us. Consequently, their relationships tend to the shallow side, because once they stop getting what they need (and it will inevitably happen, because their need is so vast it’s an empty hole that can’t be filled), they will be on their merry way, on to the next person they believe can remedy their ills.

Don’t get me wrong. We ALL get off track and we all do childish things on occasion. It’s part and parcel of being human. It’s just that some of us do it way more than others, and usually there’s a colossal ego residing in these folks.

So, what can we do about it? Only do the best that you can. Don’t sweep your crap under the rug. Own it. Learn from it. Experience all the resulting feelings. And don’t do it again. Then you truly will become old and wise, and you will gain from this life whatever it was that God had in mind for you to learn this time around. You will finally achieve what you’ve always wanted—happiness and fulfillment on a permanent basis. Before, you were merely going about it the wrong way.

Otherwise, you’ll just be old and childish and doomed to repeat the same damn mistakes over and over--until one day you get it, if you ever do.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Glee: "Let's Do the Time Warp"

A very passable salute to Rocky Horror. This isn't the trailer that's been going around on Facebook; it's the whole song. Love that pelvic thrust!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Even the Human Athletes Adore the Equine Athletes

Here's wide receiver Terrell Owens of the Cincinatti Bengals (a tiger? coincidence? I think not) visiting the great Zenyatta on the backside at Hollywood Park this past weekend. The full story is at ESPN here.

Owens is a tall man, so he got a view of her that we didn't get. See the difference?

Now, what did I whisper to Zenyatta? It's a secret. But she did tell me to not fret about the Classic this year. If I understand Horse correctly, it was something like "Piece o' cake."

For those who may not know, Zenyatta is 17.5 hands, taller than even Secretariat.

Long-legged mares: I love 'em.

UPDATE: Be sure to catch Zenyatta on 60 Minutes on October 31st. More can be found here.

Anita Hill Told The Truth - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Anita Hill Told The Truth - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

I'm with Andrew on this one, and we're both with Anita.

Clarence Thomas's wife's recent call to Anita Hill asking her to apologize was just bizarre. Sounds like a drunk dial to me, except it was early in the morning, right? Well, that never stops some people.

Sitting in the Hornet's Nest

I mentioned the other day that I've been mulling over something my sponsor told me. We've been friends a long time, so when she first met me, I happened to be an alcoholic with my disease under control (so to speak). I didn't drink often in her presence, and when I did, I didn't drink to excess (and if I saw her raise an eyebrow, I'd stop). But then I moved away for a year to Spokane, where I lost control, and when I returned to the Bay Area, I was pretty much well into my downwards spiral. We've talked before about why she didn't then intervene, and the answer is, basically, that it wouldn't have done any good. A person has to hit their own bottom. She just had to wait until I hit mine. Then she knew she'd be there to help pick up the pieces.

Here's the thing that drew me up short. She confessed it got to the point that she simply knew better than to call me after a certain time of day. "Because," she said, "I knew it wouldn't be YOU anymore."

Amazing to think that the Drunk Joyce is so drastically different from the Sober Joyce.

I've also blogged before about how, even during those periods when an actively using alcoholic is briefly sober (ie, between benders), they're still not themselves. That has everything to do with altered brain chemistry, stinking thinking, delusional thinking, reactive and distorted thinking, and constantly being in chaos & crisis mode. An alcoholic has to be sober for some months, and maybe even longer, before they start returning to the person they really are.

The realization doesn't come without some cringing. For instance, the knowledge that anybody I met or dealt with solely during, say, my return to the Bay Area to when I stopped drinking, never really met me. All they met was a shell of me: a suffering, sick person who acted out a lot and did stupid things. Maybe they saw glimpses into me. But they saw, mostly, the uglier side of me: the selfish, acting out child who wasn't dealing with life's challenges in any productive way. I was stuck in a mire of griping, feeling sorry for myself, pinning blame for everything on persons or situations outside of myself, and doing nothing about those things that so frustrated me.

And then, the longer I was sober, I came to realize yet another layer: the things that made me gripe were largely things my own drunk brain had invented.

I wonder how many more layers there are.

Yet there is beauty in simplicity. When I look back on things, when I was drinking, my tendency was to not just look at the facts of a matter but to get all tangled up and lost in the "but I didn't know this" or "I didn't know that" or "but it was different in this case because of blah blah blah" or "they told me this or that." What was my intention, what were my motives, what I was getting out of it, why did I involve myself, who was I serving, etc.? I'd get lost in that stuff. Ultimately, none of these things matter, not one bit. They're all excuses; they're all the rationalizations people use to justify their behavior. All of it amounts to nothing but a red herring.

You want the TRUTH? Just look at a person's actions. Screw their explanations. To hell with all the talk. Look at what they DO.

Do they do distasteful things? Are they cruel? Are they malicious? Do they make fun of people? Do they gossip? Do they lie? Cheat? Steal? Do they break laws? Agreements? Do they cross boundaries? Not just once every now and again, but all the time?

Let THAT be your answer. (Even serial killers can offer you "good reasons" for why they murder.)

When I was drinking, I did a lot of things I'm not so proud of because I let myself be driven by two things: selfish, rationalizing self-talk and bullshit I was fed by others. Some of the others were people who were enablers or who were in denial themselves about my own alcoholism; or people who had some of their own self-interest served by conspiring with me in bullshit. (I'm not thinking of a single person here; I'm thinking of a handful of people who did some of these things, sometimes quite unintentionally.) I am not pointing fingers of blame. Really this is more of a good-natured commiseration. But inevitably, when you realize you've been sitting in a hornet's nest with your pals, you'll learn that all of you got stung. And it is a FACT that all of us are responsible, because ALL of us were the idiots sitting in the hornet's nest, now, weren't we?

The difference between Drunk Joyce and Sober Joyce is this: Drunk Joyce would've felt victimized for being stung while offering up a million excuses and reasons for being in that hornet's nest. Sober Joyce will just say, "Ouch! I got stung! What the fuck! I shouldn't have been in that hornet's nest to begin with."

And you won't find me in it again.

Save Dem Ta-tas!

October is, of course, Breast Cancer Awareness month, so it was high time for me to knuckle down and haul myself and my boobs over to the Women's Center at Mills-Peninsula Hospital in San Mateo to get the girls x-rayed. I have been shamefully neglectful about getting mammograms these past few years--not good for a 48 year-old woman. So, here I am in the waiting room, wearing my uberly comfortable waffle robe, waiting my turn to get the boobs compressed in a machine I can only describe as a high-tech vise.

The last time I had a mammogram was when I turned 40, and the experience then was not unlike feeling as if the skin on my back had been pulled so taut it would tear. Apparently the technology has improved, because today's mammogram was not nearly as painful. In fact, it was pretty painless, and I had a good time joking around with the tech. She was so matter-of-fact about lifting one boob, adjusting it around, moving one arm this way or that, pulling the robe further back for a fuller view, easing some more tissue by the armpit forward to get more boob in the x-ray, and that kind of stuff. Okay, so this is probably TMI.

But really, it didn't hurt--a Pap smear is worse, and that's hardly bad. So there is no excuse other than stomp-down laziness to not have this procedure done annually, especially when she informed me that the technology has gotten so good that now the teeniest grain of cancer can be spotted way down in the tissue, well before it even approaches a lump you could actually feel. If it's caught at that point, the cancer is 100% treatable and curable, so there's no reason to not get this exam. Insurance covers it, and if you don't have insurance, there are programs that will pay for you to get the procedure for free, such as this one.

On an interesting side note, I noticed that the mammography machine had the name "Hologic" stamped on it, and it's not without some pleasure that I note that Chelle's dad is behind mammography screening. He was president and CEO of Hologic when that company first developed a computerized program for reading mammograms (in fact, that technology is now in the Smithsonian, as a point of interest). He's long since retired (though he served on the Board of Directors for some time) and Hologic is now a public company, but hey! It's nice to know that even my father-in-law is all for women's boobs being healthy. Not to mention those very handsome stock options--thanks, Jim.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let's Go, Giants!!

Today I look like a pumpkin!

But my students loved it and were all a-bustle this morning with excitement over tonight's game. By golly, if I were still drinking, tonight would be one of those all-out blow-out bashes down at Sneakers, the local sports bar, or maybe BJ's Brewhouse, which also has good microbrew on tap and more than a few wide-screen flat panel tv's.

But, alas, I don't drink anymore, so we'll just be watching the game at home. I did promise to make some chili in the crockpot and bake a pan of cornbread, maybe toss a green salad. Chelle will, no doubt, have a couple beers, but she is one of the fortunates who was born with a "stop" button. It's also a nice, bright, crisp and chilly fall day, so we'll probably light a fire in the fireplace and get all warm and toasty.

Unless we score last-minute tickets to the game! Presently around $400 on Stubhub and Craigslist, ouch.

On a side note, maybe I'll think of something more serious to blog about this afternoon. I was musing in the car this morning on the way to work about something my sponsor told me a while back, which I've been mulling. Until then ...

Go Giants!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alex Parks: "Sweeter and Sweeter"

All I have to say about this song is "hot." As in, OMG hawt!

Wanna read the lyrics? Even more hot! Here they are.

Spirit Day

Well, I don't typically wear ball caps to work, but it's Spirit Day, and I wanted to wear purple to show my support for LGBTQ youths who are being unfairly bullied.

It DOES get better.

If you haven't seen the message from Bishop Gene Robinson, be sure to scroll down the page a bit, or just click here.

And you know, it doesn't hurt to put in a plug for Zenyatta, too. This is her Breeders Cup cap from last year.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best. Anti-Whitman Ad. Ever.

This is the best ad the Jerry Brown campaign has run yet, because it says so very much without him or some disembodied voiceover actually having to say a single thing--she and Arnold say it all for themselves. So much for Meg Whitman and her purportedly "fresh" new ideas she'd bring to the governorship. Uh, no, Meg. We've heard it all before. And it didn't work.

Giants vs Phillies

3rd game of a tied series, top of the 7th, Giants up 3-0. Life is good on a Tuesday afternoon. Naturally I'm rooting for the home team. I've got the orange ball cap to prove it. Swing away, boys! Go Giants!

UPDATE: Sweet! Giants win, 3-0. So now the series is 2-1, Giants ahead. Not shoddy for the underdog. Could the World Series really be in sight? It's been a while.

Lady Antebellum: "Need You Now" (Live)

Says it all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Passive Aggressive Person

I've blogged before about various types of persons who can be difficult to deal with, such as perpetual victims, energy sappers, etc. Here's another good one: the passive aggressive person. At its extremes, the passive aggressive person is, of course, suffering from one of the personality disorders, but I’m not talking about that kind of passive aggression. I’m thinking about the passive aggressive person in everyday encounters.

When I was in rehab, one of our workshops was about how to more effectively communicate with others. One area of difficulty for just about everybody--alcoholic or not--is expressing feelings (especially anger!) or stating needs or desires. It’s because doing that makes us vulnerable. And nobody wants to be vulnerable--some people will take advantage of any perceived weakness, or we’re afraid we’ll be made fun of, or we might be misunderstood, or we think that expressing our true feelings will result in our being punished… the list of “reasons” we can’t be direct goes on and on.

But whatever it is we feel we can’t express (especially anger!) doesn’t want to remain stuffed or buried, either. (Some people get pretty good at swallowing it, though, and these are the people who inevitably explode, as in go postal.) Most of us, however, don’t stuff it, so we may wind up using a passive aggressive means to indirectly say how we really feel.

For example, say somebody always helps themselves to coffee at work but never puts money in the “coffee supply” jar that everybody contributes to. Jane Doe is afraid of a confrontation with her cheap-skate supervisor about this, so she’ll express her dissatisfaction, loudly, when her supervisor is within earshot—without directly saying it to him. “Are we out of coffee again? I really don’t think everybody who drinks it is helping to pay for it.” She then shoots her supervisor a pointed look.

He’s stirring Coffee-mate into his cup and doesn’t even notice.

Or, say Don Juan has several girlfriends on his string, all of whom he likes, but he’s not ready to make a commitment to exclusivity with any one of them. He’s not dishonest about dating around, but one of the girlfriends is unhappy with this arrangement. She doesn’t want to appear possessive, though, heaven forbid. So one day, Don Juan and she are trying to set up a date together, and it turns out he is busy for every time she happens to be available. He’s pondering his calendar and she suddenly snaps: “Well, forget this week. Maybe you can crowbar me in next week.” Her tone is vicious.

Don Juan is baffled by her ire.

The thing about passive aggressiveness is that, despite the underlying fuse of anger, it’s cowardly. Since we choose this method of communication out of fear of possible consequences, we always leave ourselves a back door of deniability. If the supervisor actually looked at Jane Doe and asked, “Are you talking about me?” she will probably say, “No, no, I have no idea who it is.” Or if Don Juan says to his girlfriend, “Are you jealous of my seeing other women?” she is likely to say, “Jealous? Me? No.” It’s crazy-making behavior, because the person the passive aggressive statement is being pointed at then has their own inner senses, their own personal “red flag” indicator, called into question. In other words, being passive aggressive is not just dishonest, it’s unfair.

So here’s your real choice: would you rather be honest and direct (and possibly vulnerable), or a cowardly liar stacking the deck in your own favor?

This is why, as a sober person, I have really come to value people who are direct. They may sometimes tell me something I don’t want to hear, but I would much rather hear it, deal with it, and know I’m living in the real world. It’s way better than living in a world of crossed wires, hazy guesses, assumptions, innuendoes, and unspoken expectations. The latter can drive you crazy—or drive you to drink.

Third Eye Blind: "How's It Going to Be?"

Whatever happened to these guys? I've got their first CD (I think it came out around 1997ish, when I first moved to California) and used to listen to it all the time. It had three radio-friendly tracks: "Semi-charmed Life," "Jumper," and this one. Really, "How's It Going to Be?" is probably one of the world's greatest breakup songs, capturing well the mix of fury, grief, and loss all at the same time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Monsterize Much?

I’ve mentioned before that, seven years ago, the woman who is presently my sponsor and I dated for a period of … oh, it was a little shy of six months. We were exclusive for a part of it, though there was no agreement between us to be such; and then we weren’t. But I wanted us to be. When it finally became clear that things between us weren’t going to work out, at least not any time soon, I was the one to “officially” break it off—although in retrospect, I expect she was way more okay with that than I was.

In typical alcoholic fashion (meaning, childish and self-centered), I didn’t feel so much like taking any responsibility for why she might be reluctant to make any kind of commitment to me. I was disappointed and hurt. I remember one night, after spending a good portion of it practically chewing my pillow in grief and frustration, I actually hauled out a pad of legal paper and made of list of her qualities that annoyed me (sorry, Sponsifer!) My purpose wasn’t to be a bitch; I just wanted to feel better and not take her loss so hard. Being able to rattle off ten good reasons she wasn’t, and shouldn’t be, “The One” gave me at least a little comfort.

But you know, that wound up not being enough. I felt better only temporarily.

We were trying to be friends because that’s what good lesbians do: we break up and try to act like we’re above it all. I am an adult, we say to our pals; I can be friends with this person who hurt me. I will rise above it. Meanwhile I’m still grieving and seething on the inside.

I don’t recall the details, but I do recollect that the next time my ex and I talked on the phone, I accused her of something—some motive, some agenda, who knows?—that had made its way onto my list. She paused and then said, so slowly and clearly that I remember it as if it happened just yesterday:

“Joyce, don’t monsterize me. Please. It wasn’t like that, and you know it.”

That made me clam right up.

Because, of course, she was dead right. I was trying to make myself feel better about our break-up by mentally turning her into a monster. The truth was, I still loved her; I wasn’t over her yet; I needed more time to heal. I went on to spit nails for a few more months and finally was able to stop characterizing her to myself as Evil Incarnate. The fact that Chelle entered my life at that time also helped.

Seven years later, of course, my ex and I are now good friends; as I said, she’s my sponsor in AA; she’s a great listener and a valuable ally; I like her partner; she likes Chelle; and we’re all buddies. The story has a happy ending.

But I’m thinking today about the human inclination to turn into demons the persons who have hurt us. (If you chuckled while reading my story, you know exactly what I’m talking about.) We all do it. It’s human. The thing is, when is it time to knock it off? And if you can’t knock it off and get past it, letting it go, what does that mean about you?

Very few people are complete and utter ogres. That is a fact. (Mark sociopaths right off your list; they don’t count.)

That leaves the rest of us. The entire world is not comprised of monsters.
We find that what normally happens is that time heals all wounds (and wounds all heels), and we stop thinking about those who hurt us as little red devils put on the Earth to torment us and us only. We finally are able to admit, “Yeah, okay, I did this or that” or “I wasn’t the biggest picnic in this or that way” or “Yeah, I could’ve been better about [fill in the blank].” Once we do that, and mean it, we’re able to forgive, and we’re able to move on. Not all relationships can be salvaged, but we can at least let them go.

The other option is to not get over it, but when we choose this option--honestly? We hurt no one but ourselves. We deny ourselves an opportunity for growth, painful as it may be to look in the mirror and do a fair self-assessment, owning our part of things. We also sin against the spirit of another human being by believing bad things about them. The part of ourselves that actually knows we’re being unfair regarding them won’t be assuaged, either. It will insist on being fed more of your own angry placebo: thus, you obsess; you find you can’t let go, and your anger simply grows (I’m thinking of William Blake’s poem “A Poison Tree”).

And as your anger grows, you may find yourself acting out in increasingly bizarre ways. I know someone who used to drive by her ex’s apartment every night, just to see if she had any company over. Whenever her ex did, that fed this person’s self-righteous indignation about “what a whore she is.” (When, for all she knew, the poor woman was just working on a biology project with her lab partner.) I know another person who once drove an hour out of her way, across the Bay, just to scope out a restaurant owned by the new girlfriend of an ex of hers. She wanted to ensure that the place was “the dump I thought it would be.” This same person was absolutely positive that, whenever her ex did the most innocuous thing, that it was aimed directly at her, solely to annoy her. (Meanwhile, I don’t think her ex had any clue about half the evil that was ascribed to her.) Yup, we obsess; we make ourselves the center of the universe; we think and do mean-spirited or even cruel things, believing it will make us feel better; and the irony is that it hurts no one but ourselves. We wind up being the ones who look like the damn fool. Additionally, our friends become concerned about us, or, worse, they may eventually shrink from us, concluding that we're not quite right in the head.

There’s a saying in AA that I really love: Hanging onto resentments is like drinking poison while wishing the other guy would die.

There’s another saying that I think I first heard in a Jungian Thought class when I was an undergraduate: We hate most in other people the things we hate most about ourselves.

In doing my Fourth Step, I’ve had to look at more ugly or foolish parts of myself than I care to admit. But as I’ve written on this blog numerous times, the pain of it all has been well worth it. The people in my past whom I have “monsterized” are all people to whom I owe amends (even if they did some crap, as I said, no one is a monster). I actually made an amends last week to a person I once thought I’d never talk to again. She accepted my apology so quickly and so graciously that it took my breath away. A monster? Hardly.

The human capacity for forgiveness is an extraordinary thing. You just have to get honest with yourself.

Try it, if this post is speaking to you for whatever reason. You’ll be glad you did.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Zenyatta Says Thppfft!

I know I put this photo on Facebook, but I just realized I didn't actually post it here. This is Zenyatta as taken by Chelle the other weekend when the mare walked up to her while Chelle was on the grass photographing her. I simply can't look at this picture without cracking up.

I have more of these to post, but I'm saving them for Breeders Cup weekend.

'Scuse Me While I Mend a Bit ...

Well, I keep trying to fudge a bit by posting Youtube videos instead of blogging, but I'm going to have to buy myself another day off.

A week of reading and marking student papers in addition to too much repetitive whacking of hydras, Ragnaroks, Genesis, orcs, and the like has amounted to a bad case of tendonitis. It always gets better with ice, ibuprofen, and rest.

As Arnold would say, "I'll be back."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

God Loves You the Way You Are

From Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire: "It gets better... God loves you beyond anything you can imagine, and God loves you the way you are."

The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including their nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone. Be sure to check out their website and offer your support however you can.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Working Hard, or Hardly Working?

After three days of conferencing with students and grading two classes' worth of essays, I had to put my head down. Seven papers left to go ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Missy Higgins: "Warm Whispers"

This is somebody's recording of a live version of this song, but despite the jostling camera, it's amazing. Stick with it especially to the end, and you'll be glad you did. Wow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It Takes One to Know One

I recently blogged about how actively using alcoholics—even when they’re sober—live in a distorted reality, so that you can’t ever wholly believe their version of things. In response to that, I received a message from a friend who was curious about this and asked me to elaborate. I wrote her back to explain, but it occurs to me that I should probably further illuminate my meaning here. I’m not saying that alcoholics tell lies all the time intentionally (though some of us do). What I am saying is that yes, our booze-soaked brains simply make things up that we come to believe.

For instance, we do something that I call mental “flipping”—something in one moment may be okay with us, but a few minutes, hours, or the next day later, it is suddenly not okay, and not only is it not okay, but it’s worthy of our scorn. Worse, it’s worthy of our rage. I remember once that a lover of mine (we’d been together for four years, but had spent the last several months apart because I’d gotten a job promotion that had taken me to Chicago; she was supposed to be joining me when she finished up her degree at the University of Iowa) called me one night to confess she’d cheated on me with a mutual friend. I wasn’t actually surprised. Our relationship had gone stale in many ways. So at first I was okay with what had happened and was willing to go along with relaxing the rules of our relationship. She was relieved.

I hung up the phone and hit the bottle for a couple of hours.

I sat there, replaying our conversation in my head. Images of the two of them together swarmed my imagination. I sat there drinking, stewing, and getting angrier and angrier. Now, a normal person wouldn’t have been drinking alone to begin with. But it was upsetting news. In that case, a normal person wouldn’t have consumed the better part of a 12-pack of beer. And if they had, they at least would’ve gone to bed and slept it off. Or maybe called a friend for sympathy and to vent in a way that harmed no one.

Nope. Not me. I kept drinking and drinking, and finally I called her back. Out came the rage. “I hope he gave you AIDS!” is one thing I remember shouting (this was the late 1980s). “You used me—I took care of us while you finished your degree and now that it’s almost done, you’re dumping me.” I honestly don’t remember much of what else I said, but it was definitely all ugly. I’m sure I threatened to kill myself, too, as that used to be an old standard of mine. She was horrified, and baffled by how, two hours earlier, I’d been loving and forgiving, and now I was being a crazy enraged person. I’d totally flipped.

Now, which person was the REAL me? Sober, my reaction to her was grounded in reality and in the facts of the matter. The truth was, we’d been in couples counseling well before I made the move to Chicago, and I remember thinking the move would probably either “make” us or “break” us. She had paid her own tuition and worked two part-time jobs while in school, so neither was it like I’d worked full-time and fully footed all of our bills. She had carried some of the weight, and she had not used me. Yes, of course I was hurt that she had cheated. That was, after all, a rather chicken-hearted way to end a relationship—to wait to break up until after you’ve found a replacement. Then again, sometimes that's just how it works: you don't really consider breaking up as an option until someone else comes along to rock your world.

But pretty much everything I accused her of when I was drunk was just mean-spirited bullshit.

A normal person would’ve been horrified the next day and called to apologize and take back the angry words. "I was upset. I didn't mean it."

But nope. The bullshit became the mythology I stuck with for some time afterwards—and this is the key point. It was one I’d created when I hadn’t been in my right mind. Yet it became, in my mind, the absolute truth.

It made for a better story, that’s for sure. It got me pity from my lesbian friends (“Oh, she cheated on you … with a man!”), it earned me kudos for being the long-suffering breadwinner who got used up and ditched, and it made me have to not take on one shred of responsibility for why our relationship hadn’t worked out. I also enjoyed my role as victim because it gave me yet another excuse to explain my out-of-control drinking.

I’m not saying that people who aren’t alcoholics or addicts don’t do this same thing. Fact is, everybody, on occasion, will “spin” the facts of a situation to put themselves in the best light. Pathological liars do it as a matter of course, and don’t mind completely inventing things in order to manipulate people. But most people don’t go that far, and when they distort the facts deliberately, they are aware they’re doing it and at least may eventually set the record straight. But addicted people are under the influence so often that virtually everything in their lives gets at least a little flipped. Thus we wind up living in a delusional reality: not quite as delusional as that of a schizophrenic, but a distorted reality nevertheless, and it’s not entirely intentional.

So sobriety becomes a process of unraveling all the bullshit, separating the facts from the fictions we made up along the way. It is a long process of reevaluating your entire life, all the events, and all the people in it.

It’s heartbreaking: we have to own a lot of crap and swallow a lot of pride. But there are definite benefits. You clear the decks, wipe the slate clean, and begin again with a stronger foundation. So it’s not like you wasted your life. You learn from it. Another benefit is that your bullshit meter becomes more highly calibrated than that of the average person. You get good at cutting through all the nonsense and going to the real heart of a matter, because you can spot a rationalization, a projection, an assumption, an ulterior motive, a mile away.

As they say, it takes one to know one.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Angry Dragon Gets a Bath

Here's our baby Angry Dragon getting a bath at Philadelphia Park. She's getting nicely muscled. Still no word yet on her debut, though, other than that she continues to progress. Chuck Simon won't run her until she's ready, and that's a good thing.

Rediscovering My Spirituality

400 days sober today.

Chelle’s off work, so we’re going to walk downtown to the Arts & Wine Faire for a while. Lots of local bands, artisans, gourmet food, and, of course, beer and wine flowing. I skipped this annual event last year because I was just too recently out of rehab and didn’t want the temptation. Now I don’t even blink at the thought of all that booze. I’ve been in bars, at the racetrack, at the OTB, at family gatherings, out to dinner with drinking friends, all of it, with no problem. Heck, New Orleans was really not a problem. Sunsets in Hawaii without a mai tai in my hand were no problem.

I suppose Las Vegas will be the final frontier. Ha!

But what a blessing sobriety has turned out to be.

Aside from the many positive changes in my life I’ve blogged about lately, one that I really don’t bring up nearly enough is rediscovering my spirituality. It’s funny. One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I majored in college not only in English, but also in religious studies. During my senior year, I actually struggled for a while with the idea of going to divinity school and becoming a minister. Even then, having been raised for the better part of my childhood by an atheist and an agnostic (my father had been a deacon in the Southern Baptist church, then lost his faith, which he regained about two years prior to his death), I was drawn to the idea that there is simply a purpose for our being here, something bigger than all of us.

It is not an intellectual thing for me at all; it is entirely a sense, a feeling.

I chose to teach instead, because there were, for me, too many problems with organized religion and the Church, and as an out lesbian feminist, some of my reasons are probably pretty obvious. But even the choice to teach is much the same as my impulse to minister: it’s all about serving others. In my role as teacher, I really don’t see myself as a proselytizer. In teaching basic English skills and critical thinking, or in teaching literature, I see myself as a giver of tools and ideas. I mean to empower my students. The work I do carries meaning.

Yet somewhere along the line, life caught up with me. Though I’d never been a normal drinker—I was always a binge drinker, from the very beginning, but never a daily drinker—my social drinking somehow turned into a method of coping. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think I drank because I couldn’t stand my own feelings. I think as a child—losing my mother to suicide, then basically being abandoned by my father via emotional neglect, then being sexually molested by my best friend’s father, then going into foster care and being shuffled around from home to home—at some point in my life I started shutting down. I lost one person too many too quickly. I still was emotional; it’s just that, whenever things got too intense, I drank to lessen the intensity. Or sometimes I drank to get the opposite effect: I’d been numbed out so much that I drank so I could feel my feelings.

People will say that sometimes the things intoxicated folks say when they’re under the influence is how they really feel, because they’ve dropped their guard, their social censor. I think that may be true some of the time--for non-alcoholics.

But once someone is drinking alcoholically, and drinking alcoholically on a regular basis, what comes out of their mouth—honestly?--is usually bullshit. This is true even when we’re sober. It’s because we change the chemistry of our own brains. It’s because we become delusional. Because we’re so used to feeling nothing that’s actually real (because we’re numbed out all the time), if we feel even some little glimmer of something that might be genuine, we then blow it all out of proportion.

It’s difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t know an alcoholic. All I can say is that if, say, we like a kitten in the window, we LOVE THAT KITTEN! OH MY GOD! THAT KITTEN IS THE GREATEST KITTEN EVER! Or if we are bummed out the Giants lose a single game, OH MY GOD! THE GIANTS SUCK! THEY’VE BLOWN IT, AND WE WILL NEVER WIN THE PLAYOFFS NOW! We amplify everything so that anything we feel isn’t how we really feel at all, if we were only sober and in our right minds.

That’s the irony of alcoholism, or maybe of any addiction. The substance that seemed to serve us at first by lessening our pain winds up turning on us and amplifying it, or some of the time, even creating it.

With all this going on with me, I naturally forgot about any spirituality I might have had. I certainly wasn’t capable of feeling God operating in my life. So God was not operating in my life.

But God always lurks somewhere near; my angels, my guides, however you may label them, were there to run interference when it became an utter necessity.

They say in AA and NA that addiction is really a spiritual disease. Carl Jung even talked about this—he said something to the effect of there seeming to be no effective treatment for alcoholism, unless the sufferer were to find a spiritual replacement.

The fact is, a Higher Power is the only thing that genuinely removes the desire to use. First I had to simply get sober and, sometimes, white knuckle it—that was what rehab mostly accomplished. Once out, and once I let myself start feeling my own feelings again, real feelings, my heart opened, blossomed. Contentment, joy, a sense of well-being, all returned to me and one day it dawned on me that God was back. (Or maybe God was always there and I just didn’t notice.) Then the small synchronicities began… things would start happening just when I needed them to. For instance, a book would be recommended that wound up being just the thing I needed to read at that time. A person I’ve known for something like twelve years out of the blue reconnected with me in a major way—for no reason either of us at the time can actually remember; it was such a random thing—but has now become a significant person in my life. If something is troubling me, someone will say something to me that totally relates to whatever issue and sheds the clarifying light I need on it. With all these things come faith—faith that, even if I don’t know the answer about something at the moment, it will surely come, because God is taking care of me.

It’s just a basic trust in the Universe, in the idea that there’s an ebb, a flow, and a purpose, that things happen for a reason, so get outside yourself, outside of your own head and ego-driven self, and be led by a power that is greater than you.

When all this is happening, the idea of alcohol seems … well, silly.

(Actually, when I really think about it, the idea of something like social security numbers seems really silly, absurdly funny.)

I don’t know how to explain the joy any better. But it is excellent to be fully engaged in living in this world and to not be sweating the small stuff anymore, to look forward to each day for the miracle it will bring.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Christine O'Donnell Ad Parody

If you find Christine ("I'm not a witch") O'Donnell's "I'm you" ad as amusing as I do, then this will amuse you even more. If not, please don't watch.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Sweetest Photo of Chelle EVAH!

Look at the smile on her face!

She looks like a little kid on Christmas morning.

Chelle's Photo Op with Zenyatta

In case those of you on Facebook were wondering how on earth we got those great close-up shots of Zenyatta's face, wonder no more. Apparently somebody recorded the whole thing. Here, then, is video of Zenyatta showing supreme curiosity about my wife's camera (yes, that's Chelle in the Hawaiian print shirt). Zenyatta tasted the camera and found it ... not so good. But she DID love the basket of carrots, apples, and Guinness stout. There's a horse with class. Thanks for posting this, Sharla.

The Script: "Break Even"

SoundHound is a nifty little app for the iPhone. Here's a song I've been hearing on and off on the radio for a couple months now, but the dj's never seem to want to tell me who it is or what the song's name is. Lo and behold, today it came on as I was driving home from work. So, I pulled up the SoundHound app, pointed my phone at my stereo, tapped the app, and it began "listening" to the song until it was able to identify the artist and title. Sweet.

We're All in This Together

Gandhi said: “It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”

Last weekend, I wrote a little about how I have been working this past year on coming at the world from a place of love, and that this isn't so much acting on feelings as it is establishing a practice. You don't have to literally LOVE your enemy, but you consciously choose to act towards him or her in a loving way. This has the effect of lifting you both.

In the past when I was drinking, when I was, say, irritated with someone, I may have resorted to ridiculing them, or acting out in small ways (actively or passive aggressively), or even outright by seeking revenge. Well, I'm not drinking anymore; I consider myself an adult (or at least I want to be), so I just don't go there anymore. Gah. I have let that nonsense fall by the wayside. Besides, every parent has told their child that revenge is unsatisfying: you may feel triumphant for a brief moment ("Ha! I got even! I showed them!"), but then that taste turns into sawdust in your mouth. The realization comes that you've lowered yourself, sinned against your own spirit, acted out of malicious intention, shown the colors or stripes that don't really represent the real you, or the you that you want to be. You wind up feeling petty and stupid and small.

In AA, we freely admit to huge failings on our parts--we all are, after all, only human--but neither do we hesitate to tell others where their reactive thinking may also not be serving them well. Newbies sometimes get drawn up short ("Who the hell do you think you are telling me this?"), but eventually the messages start to sink in. We ALL have to break those old patterns of unproductive thinking lest we return, in frustration, to the bottle. We have to undergo a profound change in order to quit our addiction. And what comes with that, when we see newbies still caught in the old patterns of self-destructive thinking and behaviors, is a gentle "calling it as I see it." "Yes, Johnny, you're rationalizing a selfish behavior." "I wonder if you've considered that this action might hurt you more than it hurts him." "Why do you keep clinging to the belief that you've done no wrong when, in every situation, it takes at least two to tango?" The whole idea behind and value of the Fourth Step is to get each of us to see that it's necessary to own your part of things so that you're not doomed to repeat your mistakes. If your sponsor isn't pointing this stuff out to you, you're either perfect (unlikely) or perhaps you'd better get a new sponsor.

People unaccustomed to such candor might sometimes think we're coming at them from a holier-than-thou place, that we are so egocentric and condescending we've taken on the task of handing down the word to them from on high. No doubt there are some Old Timers in AA who do come off like that, but for most of us, it's not like that at all. We are simply trying to help by sharing what we came to learn about ourselves when we were in early recovery. Addicts are amazingly predictable in their thoughts and behaviors--and let's not forget, society is an addict. My friend Stacia likes to say that my recovery posts are less about AA than they are about life, period, and how we cope.

For many of my AA pals and certainly to my sponsor, I am still very much in early recovery. Still, I have enough sobriety under my belt that I do try to help--AA asks us to--so I try to come at it all from a place of love. I certainly don't LOVE these people (heck, I barely know most of them), but I can surely ACT with love. Thus, when I open my mouth in group or push the "publish" button on this blog, I first double-check my motives at the door. If I say something difficult (and another reader who is also a friend once said to me that sometimes she finds reading my blog makes her uncomfortable--but that's HER stuff, not mine--she still gets way more from it than a few moments of discomfort; and then I would respond to that by asking her to consider WHY those certain things might make her uncomfortable; there is clearly something there that needs to be mined)... yes, of course I'm aware that whatever I may write or say might be misunderstood or that it might be taken in a way other than I intended. Heck, it's happened at least once or twice that I know of (so it's bound to have happened other times, too). Lately, some of these posts wind up being shared around, and I have no idea whose hands they may land in. But it's a risk I'm willing to take if I feel I genuinely have something important to say that is intended to be helpful; ie, if my motivation comes from a place of love.

(Sometimes I delete posts for that reason. They don't pass the "love" test. I do so adore my "delete" button. Back into the ether it goes, bye bye.)

And then there are the blessings, the occasional random emails I get from someone who has stumbled upon this blog and found I've described something he or she is only too familiar with, and they find strength and empowerment. It's not that it's anything profound: I'm just describing my life, in some cases the lives of people I have met or know now (out of respect I try to keep names out of it), but this is how human beings forge connections. Lately, God speaks to me sometimes out of the mouths of others.

I was reading on Zenhabits about this same subject this morning. I don't identify as Christian or Buddhist or Taoist or really with any particular religion (I suppose mostly Christian, as that is my background and culture); I like to borrow the things I like from them all. It's a post worth reading: "10 Tips for Life's Greatest Challenge: Love Thy Enemy."

And, I always, always, come back to my favorite prayer of all, the St. Francis Prayer (in AA, the 11th Step prayer). I just can't repeat this prayer without my spirits being lifted and remembering that yes, indeed, God has greater things in mind for each of us than getting stuck in the mire of selfishness, resentment, bitterness, and hatred. Here it is:


Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort
than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

I hold no hatred in my heart. We're all in this together.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Tea-Partiers: Christianists, Not Libertarians - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The Tea-Partiers: Christianists, Not Libertarians - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

This should interest my Libertarian friends who were (at least initially) attracted to the Tea Party (for the reason that it was an alternative party, unless you count Independents or Greens). As this makes clear, and as many have realized, the Tea Party is really just a more radical right side of the Republican Party. They are not actually Libertarians, even if they doggedly keep making the claim.

kd lang: "Hallelujah"

Yeah, we all saw her perform this one live at the Olympics, but this is, hands down, the best version I've seen of kd lang performing this great song by Leonard Cohen. It'll give you goosebumps.

I usually try to not post two songs in a row on my blog, but my friend MaryLou emailed me this and ... well, I couldn't NOT put it up for all to enjoy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tina Turner: "Missing You"

I always liked this song by John Waite (of The Babys, remember them?) I also like the fact that Tina Turner decided twelve years later to cover the song when it was the song responsible for knocking her "What's Love Got to Do with It?" out of the number one Billboard spot in 1984. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Zenyatta Winning Her 19th, the Lady's Secret Stakes 10-02-10

Just in case you missed it yesterday. Perfect ride by jockey Mike Smith. It always looks like she's not going to get to the finish line in time, but if you watch again, you'll see that once she's fully extended and flying, she's moving faster than the others. Had the finish line come later, she would have been well ahead as she was pulling away when she crossed the wire.

Zenyatta and I Share a Moment

See? I am living a charmed life nowadays.

We flew down to Los Angeles on Friday to see Zenyatta run in the Lady's Secret Stakes on Saturday. Hollywood Park was packed, but we had reserved a box with a decent view of the finish line, so once again we got to see the great Zenyatta come from behind and win (this time) her 19th race.

Now she heads into the Breeders Cup Classic this year for her 20th and last race. She'll be up against Lookin At Lucky, Richard's Kid, and Quality Road, not to mention some other great horses, and she'll have to travel for this one, so she'll have her work cut out for her. If she can retire with a perfect career, it will be something to remember for the rest of my life.

I've blogged before (here) about meeting Zenyatta, but that day I didn't get to touch this amazing mare since it was the day before a race. This morning I got to get up close and personal.

Yeah, she was checking my pockets out for peppermints. LOL!

I love this horse. Win or lose, I know I'm going to cry after the Classic.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Namaste! It's Been a Year

October 2, 2009 was the day I completed my 28 days at rehab and ventured out into the world to see if I could live in it without drinking.

October 2, 2010—today--marks my 393rd day sober.

Some of the old timers in AA don’t like people to count their first month of sobriety in rehab as “real” sobriety, because they see it as a kind of forced sobriety. I suppose that depends on the facility. Where I was, a patient could leave at any time by just walking off the property. Mountain Vista Farm is smack dab in the middle of Sonoma wine country—in fact, on my daily walk, the path led me right by a garden where grapes were hanging from the vine. A mere two mile walk would get me to Glen Ellen Village Market, which had an excellent selection of local wines. And any number of local restaurants and bars would have been only too happy to serve me whatever booze I might be craving.

Regardless, today I am either one year sober, or a little over a year and a month sober: choose whichever one you like.

The changes in me between now and then are impossible to completely enumerate.

I can say the good stuff far outweighs any bad stuff. And it’s funny: people say to me wow, you made it look painless; how easy it was for you to quit drinking. I’m not lying when I say it has been (so far) easy. I simply have no desire to drink. But what isn’t clear to most people is that this last time wasn’t the first time I ever tried to stop. This time, quitting stuck because I was sick of it, sick of myself, sick of how I made people feel, sick of not being the person I really am. It took my getting profoundly disgusted with myself and repulsed by choices I was making for me to put the damn bottle down for good. To admit that I just can’t drink, that I can’t ever drink, to acknowledge I’m one of “those people.” THAT was the hard part. Once the bottle was down, the idea of picking it up again has held no appeal.

I don’t mean to make the past year sound like peaches and cream. Looking back over the year, there have been a few rocky moments. I did lose a friend who didn’t want to discuss things that happened between us when I was drinking—things that, sadly, I still believe need to be looked at in the bright light of day in order to shake off the dirt, fold it all up, and tuck it away for good. It seems to be a fact about some folks that they’d much rather toss a soiled item into a dark corner and just let it rot, out of sight, until it goes away. Sometimes it is easier to ignore a thing, to minimize it, hell, to pretend it never happened—because, well, because then you don’t have to own your part of it. I used to understand this strategy—it’s the easy way--but now I admit I have no stomach for it. It’s the way of the perpetual victim, the person who does no wrong but constantly has wrongs done to them, and so never grows, never changes, at least not in any essential way. It’s the way I used to be. And so I have lost this person, something that strikes me as sad and unnecessary.

On the flip side, I’ve also been amazed by how forgiving, how loving, some people are. Actually, more people are than aren’t. My wife: I put her through hell, and I do mean hell. She had every right and reason in the world to kick my sorry ass to the curb a year ago. But she chose not to, chose instead to support me and chooses to stand by my side as I grow up, learn to be an adult (an addict never grows up or emotionally matures while they’re using, whether their substance is alcohol, drugs, sex, food, relationships, or you name it. We trap ourselves in a sticky tar of selfishness). Here I am, 48 years old, and finally learning how to not be impulsive, how to consider beforehand the consequences of things I say and do, how to not search for reasons to put myself first, how to not fly through life constantly reacting and always in crisis mode. Obviously a lot for me is still trial and error. Sometimes the old stinkin’ thinkin’ tries to worm its way back in, and, like a child, I feel (insert the bratty terminology here as it may fit the situation)—entitled, sorry for myself, misunderstood, picked on, persecuted, unjustly accused, holier-than-thou, angry. I try to shake it off. And nowadays it just seems to me that, when all is said and done, the only real sin in this world is selfishness.

So, I try to act from a place of love these days. It is not necessarily always a feeling: it is a PRACTICE.

The result is innumerable blessings: new friendships with people who give of themselves without imposing conditions, with people who pay it forward, with people who believe there is some greater purpose to our being here than evolutionary accident. I’ve built stronger friendships with people I’ve known, in some cases years, but until now I’ve never taken the time to really get to know them. (My sponsor, actually someone I dated seven years ago for a short while, is one of these persons. We like to joke that we have the healthiest relationship now than we’ve ever had.) It’s been quite something to find myself thinking about, say, a particular friend and marveling at how I never knew a certain part of their history and realizing what a special, remarkable person they really are.

Nowadays, heralding another human being with the word “namaste” makes total sense to me. When I was drinking, I thought it was something pretentious, like “Ciao, baby!”

And you know, maybe it’s these last two sentences that best make clear the difference in me. People are constantly telling me how happy I seem nowadays.

I am. I just am. I am a woman who loves, and is deeply loved by others. For the first time in my life, I finally feel like I'm exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Zenyatta Wins 2009 Breeders Cup Classic

I never tire of watching this race.

I'm reposting it today in honor of Zenyatta, who tries for her 19th win tomorrow in the Lady's Secret at Hollywood Park. The Lady's Secret will be Zenyatta's last race in California, and it's serving as a prep race for the 2010 Breeders Cup Classic, which will be run over dirt at Churchill Downs.

The Classic will be Zenyatta's last race, and then she'll be retired. We're hoping she'll retire a perfect 20-for-20.