addiction · avoidance · health

Bridge and Tunnel

3.27.18

Game of Thrones has eaten my imagination.  You’re probably as tired of hearing about it as I am of reading it.  It’s 5,000 pages of binge.  Even a weekend spent devouring Stranger Things is a shorter time suck!

I bring it up because I notice that my blog post from yesterday was half-assed and scant, but it was also all I had.  I didn’t have much to reflect, relate, or realize because all of my brain cells have been consumed by dragons.

I listen to the audio-book on the way to work; I listen to it on the way home; I listen while I’m organizing my classroom and read the book between classes.  I read it at the breakfast table on weekends.  I read it for 3 hours on the couch every afternoon.

This means that there’s no room or time or breadth for any other thoughts.  Nothing of my own imagination or realization, no time to reflect on anything, no room to plan or make progress on anything… The series has eaten my life.

Before I began these obliviating books, I had a structure for my commute:  Listen to The Success Principles on Hoopla on my drive in and Anna Karenina on my way home.  (I’d tired of NPR, even delightful Kai Ryssdal, and music can be too noisy after a day of children.)

But Karenina grew burdensome and I was enjoying GoT, so I paid for the audiobook and began listening on the way home… then on the way in.  Then during my breaks, moments of pause, moments of zen… now unzenlike.

I reflect on this today because the new meditation challenge from Oprah and Deepak is about “Shedding the Weight,” about using food to drown our feelings or thoughts.  While I don’t generally suffer from overeating, I can assure you that having spent the previous month on the couch after work for 3 hours every day has done nothing for my level of physical energy or esteem around my body.  I am drowning in words.

Sometimes, it’s important for me to “dig to the bottom” of my self-harming behaviors, to really get to the root and suss out what’s going on.  I don’t think this is one of them.  Whether I’m using words to drown out feelings from my self-inquiry work, shame around delayed work-work (e.g. grading papers), mourning my relationship, discomfort from my living situation as my ex- still lives here, or simple avoidance of any number of projects I have in the pipeline…

It does not matter!  It is likely all of those, and a host of other sh*t.  But the point for me, the action, the antidote remains the same: Get back to my positive habits!  GET SOME NEW INPUT.

Listen to The Success Principles.  Use my commute home to start recording songs, as I’d promised my Goals Group.  Use my gym membership.  WALK in the afternoons now that it’s light out.  Listen to The Year of Yes.

Find more nourishing input.

GoT is fine; it is.  (It’s pretty brilliant world-building…and clearly engaging!)  But it’s also junk food for me.  I’ve been binging and drowning and crowding out all other awareness.  And it’s time to chain it up between the hours of 8pm and 830pm as I tuck into bed, like a normal, literate person.  (Please dear god amen.)

(Yes, I go to bed at 830; I wake up at 445 to do all this!);)

 

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addiction · goals · reading

Come on, just one more…

2.21.18 clocks.jpg

My eyes are raw and scratchy, the lids nod closed, the thoughts stutter fuzzy and disconnected.  I try to harness my attention, to inject one more word, one more page into my skull.  I try to shove words into my brain like Gluttony topping his gullet in Seven.

The sun has moved across the window pane, bathing me in warmth and stupor, and still I cannot put down the book.  I sneak glances at the clock like a school mistress, waiting for it to chide me, to alarm me out of my torpor.  But it only peers back at me with curiosity, head cocked, asking, Now?

No, I tell it, defensive, defiant, perhaps rabid.  No, you cannot take this moment.  This is mine, and my couch’s, and my book’s.  And besides, reading is good for me.  For anyone.  Mine. …

 

In the circles in which I’ve run, I know many people who learned very early in life that a book could not only be a pleasure, but it could be an escape, a haven, a protectorate.  And many of us found that we could hide inside the pages of a book from all the chaos outside the binding.  I certainly did.

I’ve been an avid reader since childhood, eventually picking up longer and longer books left by my mom from the library — including Stephen King’s 787-page horror/delight Insomnia in middle school, and staying up ’til the wee hours of the weeknight, ’til 1 or 2 am, before I felt sufficiently zonked that I wouldn’t be scared to walk upstairs in the dark alone.

I hopped on the Harry Potter train just before the 7th book was released, and read the whole series in a mad, head-long, eye-straining dash.  Same with many other novels…many other Saturdays…many other Sundays…afternoons…evenings…

As I listened yesterday to the The Success Principles audiobook when I returned from work (continuing my newly-formed habit of cleaning up for 5 minutes when I arrive home), I heard the author say the following:

If you eliminated one hour of TV from your day, you’d have freed up 365 hours in a year.  This translates to 9 weeks of a full-time job.  

At the time, I’d been waiting to finish my cleaning so I could continue haunting the pages of Game of Thrones (which I’m not convinced I enjoy, but I certainly appreciate disappearing into).  I’d already exercised, blogged, worked — what was the next 2.5 hours to me anyway?

But it struck me: If I eliminated 1 hour of reading from my daily life, what could I accomplish?

I’ve already begun to tease apart my “Time Indifference” (not using the time I have to pursue my goals), and I’ve located so many places where I feel inefficient and blindered:  The goals I write on my January list that recur annually; the writing I must do for my weekly Goals Group that I put off until the 45 minutes beforehand; the practicing of the piano so that I can actually play, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Christmas…

What could I be doing if I weren’t reading?  What could I be accomplishing if I weren’t fogging out in the words of another land?

love reading.  But I do also know when it tips over from a time of rejuvenation and enjoyment to a drooling, mindless binge.  I love reading, but I don’t need to spend ALL of the hours I have free doing it.  I want to read, more and more and more, and into the future and always — but not at the expense of everything else I’m called to accomplish this lifetime.

Inside a book, I can hide from actions that are in service of a bigger life.

So, for now, maybe only for Lent, I am instituting a habit that I will only read for pleasure for 30 minutes a day (outside the 10~20 minutes I get before bed!).  I don’t actually find this to be limiting or depriving; I find this new edict to open a world of possibilities directly into my hands.

 

 

addiction · death · grief · humility

The Cover of Rolling Stone

rolling stone 8 13 17

Last night, I attended the memorial service for an old friend.  He was 28.

Brash, brilliant, and evidently too kinetic for this world to keep onto, his mom shared this thought with me afterward:

“Everybody dies sometime.”

It wasn’t meant callously, but perhaps offered as an anchor in a sea of questions.  Or as a comfort that death is inevitable so we mourners can stop struggling against its perpetual manifestation.  Or, perhaps this thought relieves us of our self-centered individuality and apartness.

But… man… screw that.

There are some deaths that feel tragic, and some that do not.  Culturally, we seem to have created “approved of” endings, ones that feel complete for everyone and bestow dier and witness with a sense of closure and acceptance before the final breath.

Unanticipated deaths like these take post-acceptance.  They require sitting with the scorched wound of it, only later softening into resolution and peace with the past (which is truly the only way we get to court the past).

Knowledge of our universal eligibility for a sudden ending nevertheless makes many of us ungraceful when it actually occurs, tripping over our feet in a tear-stained stumble toward acceptance.

And in its wake, we tell stories.

The stories we’d written for Dez were ones of glory.  Stratospheric rises, magazine covers, and guitar riffs that broke into the hearts of more than we, his mourners.  Or perhaps we wrote humble stories, of a life well-lived with a guitar well-loved, a wry laugh, a crinkled eye . . .

But in a life’s passing, stories turn into something else: memories.  Memories become monuments.  And monuments are never who that person was anyway.

 

addiction · career · fulfillment · humor · procrastination

"Admitted we were powerless over Netflix, and our lives had become unmanageable"…

There is a great proportional equation in my life: The more
fearful I am, the more Netflix I watch. 
Perhaps you have a similar equation?
As Summer School draws to a close — both my morning job
teaching it and my evenings learning from it — I begin to feel more anxious.  I begin to poke around job sites, as half-heartedly as I have been for weeks since this summer school job began,
but more fretfully as the job nears completion… tomorrow.
As I look at teacher jobs, I am reminded that, honestly, I
feel out of my depth to put together full-time lesson plans, learning arcs, and
curricula.  Hence my desire to earn a
teaching credential, aka more schooling, aka not til next Fall if that
happens.  There’s plenty of “go get ‘em”
attitude in me that says, “Meh, who needs it, you’ve taught, you’ll be fiiine.”  But there’s a great dose of reality that
reminds me that as someone who’s never taught full-time it’s not fair to me or my students to simply “wing it,” to
throw something together — and to throw myself into the deep end.
And it’s unclear to me which of these voices is more
valid.  So, I poke half-heartedly.
In the meantime, as I have come home these 6 weeks from my morning gig
teaching a creative writing elective to middle schoolers (which, yes, I love more
than any job I’ve had), I have a few hours before my evening physics class at a
nearby city college.  In those hours, I
could: study for the physics final, which is this evening; I could look for
work; I could reach out for help; I could learn my monologue for Sunday’s
audition; or… I could watch Netflix.
Oh!, you great and terrible time-suck!
And cowing under the realization that I am unable to
moderate my time spent … wasted … whiled … and lost in front of the pixelated
numbness, last week I began to try to find ways to moderate.
Oh, it’s not like I haven’t tried to reign
myself in before.  There’s my “Anything
more than two hours is avoidance and isolation” awareness.  There’s the “Never after 10pm” rule.  There’s the “Just one more episode” mantra
that somehow repeats unto the depths of my pockets of time.
And so, I decided, Enough! 
I looked into suspending my account (at least until I’ve found a job),
but you can’t do that.  I even enacted
parental controls to restrict my access to the website, even by a few
steps, but instead I managed to prevent myself from even accessing my
email.  I found a way around
those restrictions (since I still can’t figure out how to undo them), and Lo! found
myself right back in front of the “Continue Watching” button.
Finally, with a deep mood of disgust, regret, and
resignation, last week I cancelled my Netflix account.
And began rereading all the Harry Potter books.
addiction · compassion

Elegy.

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He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will
be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know
loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish
for the end
.
Alcoholics
Anonymous
, p. 152
If your newsfeed is anything like mine, over the last two
days it has been flush with messages of condolence, sorrow, bafflement,
gratitude and even ire.
In response to the suicide of Robin Williams, I have seen an
interesting splice of my “friends” wrestle with his end.
One friend wrote that he, too, suffered from depression and
loneliness, but he “pulled himself out of it,” without the “resources” available
to someone like a celebrity. This friend was angry that someone could be so
selfish and blind to the opportunities present to him.
But as we can read in the above quoted paragraph, there are
times when we ourselves are blind, and
nothing can make us see. Or we believe that nothing can. Or we believe that
whatever “is” is not fast enough or strong enough or consistent enough. We
believe only in our aloneness and our constriction. And from that place, there is
no perspective, hope, or option. From that place, there is only annihilation to
end the suffering.
Money, fame, or accolades do nothing to quiet the internal
storm. In fact, they can often keep us farther from our truth because we now
believe that people are counting on us, maybe in this case, to be funny and on
and up and impervious. Don’t show weakness because that’s not what they want to
see. And the further we drift from our truth, the larger the distance between
how we feel and what we show to the world, the more gaping the hole and gnawing
the desire for relief from that fissure.
I cannot claim to be inside the head of anyone other than
myself. And from that vantage point, I can admit that I hear that voice at
times which tells me there is no solution except for annihilation. I am not
alone in hearing it, but I am lucky enough to know to reach out when it
whispers. Although that doesn’t necessarily quell that voice. I can’t really
know what it is that shifts when that desperation is upon me, but my experience
has told me that something does.
In those bleak moments however, that is impossible to remember.
Impossible.
I rely on the faith and fortitude of others in those
moments, but I have also built a conversation and culture among my friends that
allows for that vulnerability. I have built conversations that can include
language that is desolate, dark, and hopeless, and I have faith that these friends
can hear that and hold it for me.
Because I have come before to that place where what you saw
and what I felt were so antithetical, it landed me in lock-down psychiatric treatment.
I have come to that place where I screamed for someone to
see beyond my mask to what was really going on and to who I really was.

When they say, “It was a cry for help,” that’s what is meant: Please see
beyond the smoke and mirrors that have kept you from me, that I thought were
protecting me, and see through to the hemorrhaging, terrified, devastated human heart.
We can only be reached, and potentially helped, in the
sharing and access of that heart.
But that is the most vulnerable, humbling, and painful admission I
know.
It’s been written that it seems everyone loved Robin
Williams except himself. Some argue there is more to it, to depression, to addiction.
But it seems to me that the chasm between internal and
external became so great, that the only solution he saw was to fall in.
And that decision (although decision implies choice) — selfish as some may call it, unseeing as
some may believe it to be — is one of the loudest calls to compassion that I
know. 

abundance · addiction · alcoholism · balance · community · compassion · deprivation · equanimity · finances · humility · recovery · scarcity · the middle way

The B Word.

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Balance. Without it, I tend to become the other B word.
Someone asked me how the whole, “I need friends who don’t live hand-to-mouth,” blog
went over, if there was any push-back from it. I said, not that I know of, but
that I’d spoken to some other folks over the weekend, and was reminded of
something very important in life: Things are not black and white.
When I stopped drinking, it was because I was an alcoholic.
I put the bottle down, looked around, and declared everyone close to me
alcoholic, too. Whether they were or not, I was on a crusade of reform, and
they all were alcoholics who needed to
stop as I did.
Well… two things: a) yes, most of the people I was
associated with “at the end” were in fact drinking alcoholically, but b) that
didn’t mean they or anyone who drank were alcoholics. In the beginning, I
needed that kind of black and white thinking, because being close-ish to people
who were drinking was too difficult a gray line when my line had to be
crystal clear.
But, just because that was the way for me, I came to realize
that wasn’t the way for everyone. And after some time passed, and indeed the
folks who were hopeless sops like me faded from the foreground of my life, I got to see that some people (god bless them) can drink normally.
There’s one friend who stuck through my own transition. She described this “normal” drinking to me: she
literally says to herself, “Hmm, I’m beginning to feel buzzed, I should switch
to water.” Uh… I didn’t get that memo. “I’m beginning to feel buzzed,” was always followed by, “A few more will get it done right,” or if I was feeling temperate, “I should switch to beer.”
So, my friend does not react to alcohol how I do. And I have to come to see that there is a world between sauced and tight-ass.
In the same way, I recognize that as I begin to assess my
behavior and extremism around money, scarcity, and deprivation, I am being
called to allow others their own experience, even as I diagnose and address my
own.
Just because a friend opened a new credit card, doesn’t mean I have
to stop hanging out with them. Just because a friend is earning less than I
think they deserve in the world, doesn’t mean they’re addicted to deprivation.
Just because other people behave differently than me, doesn’t mean my way is
the right way, and most importantly, doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to learn from them. 
As with getting sober, I do have to admit that some
of the folks around me may indeed have trouble in this area – water seeks its
own level, after all. But, that doesn’t mean I have to be an asshole about it.
And, that’s what I’ve gotten to see these past few days I’ve
been declaring myself needing to “move on” from friends and communities who have
what I’d declared a “faulty, diseased, and only rectifiable by a spiritual
solution” relationship to money, and thereby the world.
It’s a good thing people don’t take me that seriously!
And it’s a good thing I can remember to not take myself too
seriously, too. If I’d stuck to every declaration about myself… by this point I
would have been:
Vegetarian
Israeli
A prostitute
A suicide victim
A daily exerciser
T.V.-less
Caffeine-less
An organic farmer
and a truck driver.
The thing is, I can’t make blanket declarations for myself
or anyone else. I have no idea what my
path contains or eliminates, thereby
no idea what others’ do.
There is some truth to wanting to learn from and be around
people whose relationship to money can model my own. But that’s because I have
a problem with it. Not everyone does, and if they do, it’s really none of my
business.
It comes to equanimity, and allowing others and myself our
experience without judgment. It means having openness, compassion, and respect toward all people on all paths. It does certainly include me getting help for a
pattern of beliefs and behaviors that have led me to despair and insanity, but
it also includes me being more generous in my assessments of life. Allowing for
the gray, for the middle-ground, for difference, for balance.
Because, solvent or not, nobody likes
a bitch. 

action · addiction · clarity · commitment · community · fear · fortitude · procrastination · progress · recovery · self-esteem · self-love · self-pity · self-support

Forte. Più Forte. (Loud. More Loud.)

It’s come into my awareness again this week the fallacy of
perfection, and its venomous tendrils. The three “p”s: Perfection,
Procrastination, Paralyzation.
I’ve also read that procrastination is simply another way
for us to prolong feeling crappy about ourselves, and to delay feeing proud of
ourselves.
This week, after a conversation with some people of
authority at work last week about my position, my ambition, my vision of “Where
I’d like to be;” after I was given the feedback that, great, sure, put it in
writing and we can talk more… I stalled and dragged my feet.
It wasn’t acres of time, this time; it was only from Friday until
Tuesday evening, when I finally wrote what I needed to
write. But I could see those tendrils curling up around me, waiting to choke my
ambition and self-esteem from me. The tendrils of hopelessness (What the use
anyway), uncertainty (What about acting, my art, moving), and simple
perfectionism (If it’s not perfect, they’ll reject it, and then I’ll be stuck
answering phones the rest of my life, anyway, so f* it, I’ll just watch some
more Once Upon a Time).
It was so helpful to hear other people talk about how this
weed of perfectionism crops up in their lives, marring their attempts at a full
life—it reminds me that I’m not alone, and mostly, as I heard people talk about
their struggle with perfectionism, I sat
there in that chair and decided (for the hundredth time) to go home afterward
and do the write-up I needed to hand in to my superiors.
I heard them battling the beast, I heard them being flayed
by it, and I decided I wasn’t going to let that be me, if only for an evening.
I cannot tell you how many times I make this declaration to
myself. And then, simply do come home
and watch Netflix, or surf Facebook. I wonder if the advent of television and
internet has created in us a generation of procrastinators, but I certainly
know that I am none too helped by it! (in binges, especially)
But for whatever reason (and I won’t call it exasperation,
because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been exasperated, and still done
nothing), I came home on Tuesday night, wrote what I needed to write, emailed
it to a few friends for feedback, and handed it in yesterday.
And here’s the/a reward for overcoming perfectionism: It may not go the way you wanted anyway. I may hear, “Thanks, Molly, but we’re not
in a position to… We’ll think about it for some undetermined date… This just
isn’t in our vision or budget… We just need someone (you) to stay doing what
you are doing indefinitely, or at least through the next year or more.” I may
hear things I don’t want to hear in response to my action on behalf of myself
and my ambition, BUT, the reward is that I get to hear something at all,
instead of sitting, spinning, resenting, foaming, fuming, and … watching
Netflix.
The reward for overcoming perfectionism (and it’s
paralyzation) in just this one moment is that, no matter the results, no matter
the response, I am actually moving
forward, internally, for sure. What this does is tell me that, See Molly,
once you did something. One time you took action on your
own behalf, and instead of delaying your good, instead of languishing in a sea
of self-pity, you get to feel proud, pro-active, like a leader. You get to feel
like yourself, instead of like the skin of mutating fear that creeps up yours
and mimics you out in the world.
I don’t know the result of the action I took, externally, at
least. However, having put things in writing and gotten clarity around my
vision and desire, if I don’t get the result I “want” here, in this environs,
then I get to take that information and that knowledge and shop it around
elsewhere. Because I took the action that I did, suddenly, I have a beginning
instead of what my brain and that malevolent skin tells me is an end, a sorry, pathetic end.
Finally, I’ll repeat something I heard a long time ago,
which I’ve agreed with and disagreed with over the years: We ask “god” for what
we want; “he” gives us what we need; and in the end, it’s what we wanted
anyway.
I know that what I wanted anyway was clarity and
self-esteem, so, Team: Mission Accomplished.