fate · god · grace · sobriety

BFGOG

This’ll be a short one, due to time, and that I feel quite
drawn today (insert cartoon image of me—get it?).
I’ve been sitting with this phrase since last week, when two
work occasions brought it to mind: “But For the Grace of G-d, there go I.”
The 16-year old sister of a student got locked up in a 5150
last week, for mental and drug-related reasons.
An unstable woman my age sought to get all bases of her soul
covered by coming to my work before she gets sent away to jail.
It’s been 10 years, nearly 11, since I was in a padded room
or a barred cell.
But for the grace of god, there go I.
Call it grace, call it luck, call it divine intervention, call it none of these. I don’t know why, and I don’t test my chances. As best I can, I stay in
the middle of the boat, make phone calls, meditate, get outside help, and just continue to try, because there is a gossamer slip of distance between those
lives and my own.
Call it whatever you want, including random chance. Just
call me grateful. 

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adventure · fear · friends · laughter · sobriety

Both/And.

Tonight I go back into Kaiser hospital for my second round
of chemo. According to my current understanding, this is round 2 of 5.
However, I don’t really know. I went to Stanford on Friday
for what the Kaiser folks had told me (I have it in writing!) was a
“consultation” about bone marrow transplant (Can we all pass a moment of
silence for my even having to use the phrase “bone marrow transplant?). But,
when I arrived at Stanford, they seemed raring to go – ready, set, destroy your
immune system & hope the new one takes!
I was not so prepared for that. The doctor spoke for about
an hour and a half about what’s involved, and used the term “mortality rate”
much too often for me to feel at all like this was something I want to do. Then, they want you to talk to a social worker about
relocating down into the Stanford area for anywhere from 3-6 months. That
conversation, they said, would take another hour and a half.
At that point, I was too emotional – I mean, come on, doctors, this isn’t a theory – This is MY
LIFE
, and I told them that I wasn’t able to
speak to the social worker then. They seemed all shocked and surprised that
someone couldn’t sit through 3 hours of people telling them how they may die,
and even if they don’t here are all these lovely
other side effects, then also sit through someone
telling them how they need to up-end their entire lives to live somewhere alone
and foreign and away from all the trappings of normalcy they’re trying so
desperately to hold on to.
Really? You don’t get
that I need to leave now?
But, leave I did. And have had a few days of overwhelming,
What the Fuck – Now What?
I spoke with my friend who’s an oncology nurse at Kaiser –
actually we met when she started taking care of me last round, and is coming
this afternoon to pick up and foster my cat while I’m inpatient – so, we’re, like, friends
now. 🙂 But, she also knows about all this stuff.
Not all the facts are in, and I emailed my doctor last night
to say, Um, so, Stanford seems to think I need a transplant NOW, and you have
told me that we can wait to see if I have a recurrence of the cancer, and then
do a transplant THEN – so, Uh, what’s the story here? However, my nurse friend
said that with Leukemia, it can simply be a waiting game if you don’t go the
transplant route.
As I was talking to her yesterday, I was waiting for my
friend to come pick me up so we could go to Ocean Beach in SF. I said to her, yes, I have a good chance IF I make it through. She said, Well,
have a good time at Ocean Beach, IF you make it through. …
I got some info in the mail from a cancer society, and they
have a pamphlet about coping. In the back, they have a sort of daily inventory
– how did you feel today, did you laugh today.
With all of this hyper serious stuff happening, it’s hard to
find balance. I hadn’t laughed in days – certainly not after the Stanford
“You’re gonna live if you don’t die” visit.
But, yesterday, I did laugh. My nurse friend ended up coming
with us too. And off we were to Ocean Beach, laughing, silly, poking fun at
ourselves and each other.
And, oh, the beach. I’ve been wanting to go to the beach
since I got out of the hospital. Something about that massive body of water,
this uncontained thing, this thing that is totally out of my control, but is
working anyway – I wanted to witness it. I wanted to splash in it and squish my
toes in the sand of it. To breathe in it. And I did. We did.
We were there for a few hours, walking, sitting on a
towel, poking at things with our toes, crumbling sand in our fists. Laughing at children and dogs; admiring some very Ryan Gosling-esque abs on the surfers. It was a gorgeous day.
There was some cancer talk, but not too much. We went to
Java Beach for coffee re-ups, and I ran into a friend there. I remembered how I
used to spend my Saturday midnights there with a group of people who came to be friends –
What else do you do on a Saturday night at midnight when you’re young and not
at the bar? You drink coffee and eat left-over pastries by candelight and talk
about how awesome it is we’re alive and getting better. And sometimes how hard it is to be alive and getting better.
We went down to the Bayview where a friend of mine was
having an open studios art show. The whole warehouse was sculpture. Each artist
a sculptor. It’s rare that I see so much sculpture – usually the museums I’m at
are paintings or photographs. To see all this metalwork. It was amazing. So creative, and alive. And my
friend’s marble sculptures, as if melted out of the unhewn block.
We walked around out back and took in the Bay from that
angle. We saw the city from West to East, and we came home tiredly satisfied.
I sat for a few minutes, emboldened from my day of levity,
sunshine, the taste of salt on my teeth, and read some of the binder Stanford
gave me the day before. But I didn’t sit long with it.
I went to go meet up with some fellows for an hour, spoke a
little of what’s going on with me, and then had burgers and a movie with a
friend from SF. We saw that Seven Psychopaths movie, and it was really great – startling, gruesome in the
over-the-top meant-to-be-funny way, and just creative tongue-in-cheek
storytelling. For those hours, I didn’t think about myself or my cancer at all.
I laughed, gasped, sat in the dark with strangers doing the
same normal thing on a Saturday night.
I guess it’s going to be like this for now. The pendulum
from normal to not taking some very quick strokes. But last night, I got to note
that I did laugh that day. The reality of my situation was just the same
as the day before, but yesterday, I got to laugh, and reality became just an iota different. 

acting · action · change · commitment · confidence · kindness · laughter · life · performance · persistence · progress · recovery · relationships · self-support · sobriety · time

For those of you playing along at home. . .

For those of you playing along at home, below are a few
updates on things I have here written about:
  • The
    caffeine-reduction experiment has been a near-fail since beginning the
    temp job, but continues to remind me to feel guilty.
  • I realized this morning that the free bus I sometimes catch to BART can take me all the
    way to the city, instead of transferring to BART (thank you to my school’s
    student bus pass, making bus transit in the East Bay free).
  • I put
    back up the series of my paintings that I’d taken down during Calling in
    the One
    , at which time I’d realized that women
    not looking at their lovers was something I wanted to move away from. I
    put them back up when the okJew was potentially going to come over, and I
    didn’t want a blank expanse of wall over my bed. I’m not sure if I’ll take it back down. 
  • I have
    not yet finished, but I have begun, the art project for my friend’s
    wedding. It sits on my desk, accusing me.
  • I
    bought cat food.
  • I graduated with a Master’s degree a month ago. And I was offered a weekend job at said pet food store. Generously offered (not the compensation), but no thank you. Not yet, at least.
  • I have
    art that I need to make for the September art show my friend invited me to
    join. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but it’s been backstroking through my
    psyche for a month or so.
  • I must
    follow-up with the boss at where I’m temping to ask her precisely what she
    meant when she said she would be happy to give me “a recommendation” for
    auction houses here and in the city (um, I meant NY city – I guess that habit still dies hard).
  • My dad
    will be closing on the sale of my childhood NJ home in the next month or
    so, and is planning to move with his fiancé to their new Florida home
    toward the fall.
  • I am
    eagerly awaiting June 20th, when the results of the daily
    sweepstakes I’ve been entering for a trip for two to Italy will be
    announced. You may be the lucky winner.
  • My
    writing style is influenced by who I’m reading currently.
  • At the
    moment, I just finished Nora Ephron’s new book, and began a collection of
    essays by David Foster Wallace, whom I’ve never read, but seen the
    author’s name so many times on my BART rides that I thought to give him a
    whirl. I’m not sure I will continue.
  • I will
    be art modeling this Sunday for the artist who I first worked for, and two
    of her friends. I’m not sure I will continue.
  • I have
    9 new voicemails I haven’t checked.
  • I went
    on the walk I’d planned to take on Tuesday evening yesterday evening, and
    it was glorious. I ate what must have been a small, cherry-sized peach,
    unless it was of course, a cherry, from a nearby tree which I jumped to
    pluck from the low hanging branch. I’m not dead, so it was not poisonous.
  • As
    soon as I get paid this cycle, I’m going to register for the summer acting
    classes at A.C.T., and I can’t f’ing wait. I looked up all manner of
    electronics yesterday that I could hypothetically use my more regular
    income of the next 6 weeks to purchase, and yet, I realized that what I
    really want are those lessons. And new shoes.
  • I’m
    now working one-on-one with a woman who’s found recovery around negative
    patterns of behavior with sex and men, and I’m infinitely looking forward
    to freedom around some of this.
  • I’m
    continuing to work with a woman one-on-one around financial recovery
    stuff, and am looking forward to being “placed in a position of
    neutrality” around money.
  • I love
    Patsy.
  • I haven’t
    yet played my bass with my friend with the drums up in Berkeley, and it
    too stares at me, not gently weeping, but with silent mewling.
  • I
    realized that most of the writers I’m reading right now have written as freelance
    writers, and it occurs to me, that I might be able to do that, if I look
    into it.
  • I
    haven’t applied to any jobs since last week.
  • I used
    my 3 lb weights yesterday after my walk for about 3 minutes. And began to dread the 3 hour posing/drawing session on Sunday.
  • Dr.
    Palm Reader’s office wrote to ask after me, and so I looked up my
    soon-to-end chiropractic benefits “in network,” so that I can get back to
    that kind of thing, without breaking my bank, or participating in a
    somewhat murky flirtatiousness.
  • This
    is the end of my list. 
acceptance · dating · fantasy · fear · finances · growth · maturity · progress · relationships · romance · sobriety

"Love as Burrito" or "This, or Something Better"

Grateful to my friends who gave me feedback, I texted the okJew yesterday morning
that I was a fan of getting to know someone before getting physical (I couldn’t
help but hear Olivia Newton-John as I typed it), and if that was something he
was interested in, then I’d love to continue getting to know him, and if not,
no hard feelings. He texted back to say that, in fact, he was looking for
something else, and didn’t know how that fit in with me or not.
So, I got to sit with that. Tall, attractive, well-built
Jew? What’s not to like? Oh, unavailable.
And, I did sit, I questioned, I turned inward for a few minutes to test that
option, and ultimately, gratefully, I said I was looking for something less
tenuous, and good luck.
Then …
I sat and stared at a wall of books.
I was shocked, honestly, at how “air out of a balloon” I
felt, without all that funny noise it makes. It made me realize that I still do
have some work to do. I identified very clearly the feeling of a crash after a
high. I could almost smell the cigarette smog and late 90s radio.
Hm. Love as Drug. Huey Lewis has a song about it. And, duh,
it’s not “love” as in Love. It was intrigue. Oh, Intrigue!! – when’s the next
text, what do I wear, how flirty do I be, funny do I be, do I invite him in,
scheduling plans, etc…etc…etc… Something to think about, and then the plug was
pulled yesterday mid morning, and I sat deflated and comatose for a few minutes
on and off till lunchtime.
When I went and bought a burrito. My friend texted me to say
that it’s normal to feel feelings, and we get to let them pass. I said my feelings now
feel like a burrito in my belly ~ Real feelings TBA. And that much was true. How
much easier it is to feel full, or to
buy something to feel better – not better, to just feel different. My burrito
accomplished both of those. Better to eat, feel full (and mildly grossed out
that I ate a pound of tofu and salsa flesh), and to get the thrill that I spent
money on lunch when I had a perfectly decent one in the fridge at work.
Cuz, what do I feel when I’m not caught up in the nonsense?
Fear. I feel fear about money and work and job applications and
directionlessness. Who the hell wants to feel that?? No one. But, better to feel those feelings, and
thereby
get into action around
them, than to stuff them with something else, and continue avoiding the
elephant in my psyche.
There’s another okJew who I’ve been talking to – and I’m not
entirely sure that I want to pursue it at the moment. I met up with some of my
new “relationship/emotional intimacy” folks last night after work, which was a
very good use of my time. I’m so glad
I’ve chosen to fall in with them – and they were talking about dating, and
showing up, and boundaries, and desires, and how to be honest. These are things
I want. I
want to have desires –
I have no … desire… to be celibate, or nunnish. I am a hot-blooded woman with
hot-blooded needs, and a great big bag of tools that don’t work.
That said, I obviously do have more tools than I used to (burrito
coma aside) – because I did let this dude know what I was available for, and he
said he was glad we got that worked out early – and it’s true. I know plenty of
times when I’ve let my “fear of looking needy” keep me from speaking up about
my discomfort at the level of murk in a relationship or sexytime companionship.
Once, it took me almost a month, and when I finally broached the subject with
the dude, he said he wasn’t available or looking for more. So, I said, great,
and was glad to know, and left his house feeling better and confident in my
ability to state my needs, and let go of the results.
Sure, I didn’t “get what I want” in that situation – who doesn’t want the person to say, of course, I’d love to
continue to get to know you and see if there’s something substantial that can
come from this. But … as my “sugar crash” yesterday proved to me, there’s more
work to be done. It’s not at all fair to place that amount of expectation on
anyone – because they’re not really being asked to be themselves, they’re being
asked to fill something in me, or distract something in me, or fix something in
me. And, that, my dears, is an inside job.
When I said a few days ago, that if relationships are
Miracle-Gro for your character defects, then surely they are/must be for your
spiritual growth – this is why. My defect here being the desire to run away
from the reality of my professional and financial situation – and when someone
says they can’t be that for me, I’m left simply with my situation all over again, like
the ugly step-sister you lock in the attic. Still here.
So what do I do? Well, firstly, I meet up with folks and I
ask for help. Done, and will continue to do. Secondly, I continue to work on
the job front. I was invited to go camping this weekend, and had accepted, as I
love to camp, and getting out of dodge sounded so very nice. But last night, as
I was compiling job listings into an email draft so I could take a look at them
in my spare moments at work… it occurred to me that perhaps going camping was
not the best use of my time at the moment.
This temp job will likely end in the next week or two, and
after that is a blank horizon. It’s time for me to assist in coloring it in.
Lastly, I offer myself kudos. I made my intentions known,
quickly. I listened honestly to what another person was telling me about their
intentions. Which I didn’t take personally at all (a thought, I recognize, is
also huge progress, but seems so “of course” now). I can try to treat myself
kindly with how I treat my body and not go food coma on myself.
I showed up. I got in the ring. I made out. And, I can be
confident that what’s available for me is “This, or something better.”

adulthood · change · dating · fear · intimacy · Jewish · love · progress · relationships · sex · sobriety

Mind your own music stand.

Several years ago, about 5 or so, I was dating a wonderful
man. I was also in therapy. These things were and were not related 😉
One day, my therapist and I stumbled across a metaphor that I’m reminded of
today – when I get into relationships, it’s as if I’ve been the conductor of my
own orchestra, and ultimately, the highest ideal and intention is that my
partner, boyfriend in this case, have his own orchestra, and that the two sounds mix
and meld in a way that increases the beauty of both, without losing the
integrity of either.
Surely, you may have your own metaphor for this, as there
are many, but that’s what came to me then.
The “problem,” as it were, is that I was noticing my
tendency to want to begin to conduct his orchestra. That if his oboe were a
little more resonant, or his triangle more tingy, we’d sound better together.
The result of this peeking over onto his side, was that I began to neglect my
own. In beginning to mind someone else’s business, I forgot to mind my own.
When this happens, things like self-care, integrity, and reason
begin to go out the window. I become more interested in making sure you’re
doing things “right,” and that we “sound good together,” that my whole balance
of living gets thrown off.
That was then. This is now. Will it be the same?
When, before I began dating that man, I asked a trusted
friend if she thought I were ready to date – as he would become the first
person I’d date while sober – she said that if I was ready to handle the
emotional twists of a relationship without drinking, then go for it.
And so I did. I learned a lot, and ultimately, it didn’t
work out, but I learned so fucking much.
I learned how to try to love, how to try to be loved. I learned how to be
honest with another person. I learned to look at the clouds and see shapes and
animals again. I learned how to relax a little.
Yes, these are things I can learn “on my own,” they are. And
I get more of that now than I did then. But, too, there are some things that
can only be learned in communion with
someone else.
I notice that that big hunk of manic-depressive wild-haired
meat that I call my inner manifestation of Love is “up” right now. As when I
met her on one of my shamanic journeys, and she threw herself on me after I
gave her one bit of kindness, she is not yet one who knows balance. When I
pushed her off of me, she got rageful and went Neanderthal.
This is part of my pattern. Show me some kindness, and
suddenly, I light up like Times Square and drape myself on you, my needs,
expectations. Show me that you can’t possibly meet those demands, and I will
turn to ice quicker than an eskimo’s piss.
There’s more to this. As there usually is. If you’re not
meeting my demands, and I’ve turned cold, you won’t really know it. It’s subtle
closing off and shutting down, this Elvis leaving the building. We’ll have sex,
but I won’t be present. I’ll still try to use it as a way, the main way, to
connect, but it doesn’t really work when I’m not there.
Also, as I recognized last night on my surprise-last-minute okJewpid date, before I know more or better or have a peg on the situation,
sure I’ll be outwardly as gregarious and charming as always, but… I felt it – I
felt my shell.
Perhaps this is “normal.” You’re meeting someone for the
first time – you of course have some guards, maybe. But, I’m just so much more
acutely aware of how scared I am. How scared I am to allow that shell to melt,
because inevitably, in my past, it has meant a descent right into that enormous sigh of relief that you are here, that I can now
relax, depend on you – and make a few adjustments to you while we’re at it.
When I let go of this shell, I start a pattern that leaves
me alone, sad, and feeling pretty childlike. Not womanly. Not adult.
So, I keep the shell. I’ve kept it for years now. Better to
avoid the whole game than to try to play it differently, acknowledging and
using the new skills for living and being that I have. I could have garnered a
whole fleet of new tools and attitudes, but fuck if I let them out of the gate.
They’re like a trained – well, I was going to write “army,” but I’d rather
leave the military out of my love life, thank you – they’re like a well-trained
dance company. Having rehearsed for years, perfected, practiced, fallen, and
learned – but … me, their manager, I will never and have never let them perform. They
are a lost art. They are a lost gift, because I’m too scared of how they’ll be
received, or of if they’re really ready for the big show.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but with the Cousin, I
said at one point (not to him) that I felt like I wanted to put him up on a
shelf, and “fix” myself, or get better, and then, only then, when I were
better, then I could take him down, and we could have a wonderful life
together. Life.Does.Not.Work.In.Darkness. It does not work in absence, and it
does not work without my active participation.
I may be the world’s best anything, but I’d never know it.
And so, it’s time to see if my conductor skills, my dance
company, my emotions have learned things that I may not know they’ve learned.
Because my date was awesome. And, likely, I may want to date
again. 

adulthood · crazy · faith · love · recovery · responsibility · sex · sobriety · spirituality · time · vulnerability

How to Not Lose Your Car in Twelve Easy Steps:

Six years ago today, I woke up, or came to is more like, in
a room in my shared apartment in the Sunset District on San Francisco. In my
room was everything I’d brought with me to San Francisco, so, two suitcases,
and a pillow. When I’d moved into the room, I didn’t even have a bed.
In the other rooms in the house, lived the “angriest pot
head I’ve ever met” (though I concede, I could be more than a bit techy
myself), and another lanky UCSF student who liked to talk about LOST.
That morning, I got myself together, and went out to drive
downtown to a job interview I’d gotten through a temp agency. I’d been in San
Francisco two weeks to the very day.
Outside, I realized I had no idea where I’d parked my car.
The day before, my only SF friend’s boyfriend’s band was playing at the Park
Chalet out by Ocean Beach, and I’d gone, for the first time in my memory, with
the intention that I was not going to drink that day. But, we all know a Bloody
Mary is a breakfast drink… and so, several pitchers and hours later, I come to
in the middle of a conversation with a dude I don’t know.
The band was gone. The sun was setting. And my friend was no
where to be seen. I excused myself from this stranger, and called my friend to
ask where they were, and she told me I’d said to leave me there. I asked where
they were, she said the Marina. So, I stumble to my car, … and realize I have
no idea where “The Marina” is. So I ask a passing couple if they do. And the
first thing they ask is, Are you sure you’re okay to drive? Sure… No problem.
Once in my car, I realize I need gas, so I decide to do that
first, and then, by Divine intervention realize I’m too drunk to go out, and
drive back to my apartment and pass out.
Therefore, the next morning, as I stand squinting in the rising
light, I have zero recollection of where my car is, and I begin to walk in
increasingly large circles of blocks looking for it. I call the police – Have
you towed it? I call the tow lot – Is it there? No. After nearly a half-hour of
increasedly frantic walking, I turn the corner on my way back to my apartment,
and there it is. Parked nice and neat just around the corner from my house.
I apparently was not sure if I was parked “nice and neat,”
however, as scrawled across my dashboard is a note that reads, “PLEASE DON’T
TOW MY CAR. THANK YOU.” And my phone number.
That was the last morning I woke up hungover.
For six years, I have not washed beer grime out of my
clothing. I have not managed my drinking with a steady pace of water or advil
or corona to polka dot the vodka. I have not puked in six years. I haven’t peed
while leaning against the side of a building. I haven’t woken up next to a
stranger. I haven’t slept with taken men.
I don’t have “UDI”s – a college-invented term: Unidentified
Drunken Injuries. You know, those bruises you really don’t know how you got. I
don’t have names saved in my phone as “Pinky Guy,” “Bar Nana,” or “Scary
Scott.” For six years, I’ve known where I am when I wake up.
And here’s where I am when I wake up today. Strikingly
similarly, I am heading into downtown San Francisco today to apply for a job.
I’m following up in person on an application to a gallery job I applied for
last week. I’ll be going through the rest of that building with my resume as
well, and be leafleting for my workshop next Saturday.
This morning, I wake up in my own apartment. My very own
studio. With furniture. A cat – my monument to a crumbling resistance to
commitment and love. Car stolen, I have a bus pass and many logged BART hours.
I have a bicycle, and a coffee maker, and magnetic poetry on my refrigerator.
My life is imminently different than it was six years ago. Yet, there are some details that I want to label as “the same” – single, unemployed,
financially insecure. But these are just similarities, not clones. The
difference between how I will show up to the job search today is that it began
with Morning Pages, meditation, and a blog to you, friends who I’ve met over
these last six years – people who actually, sometimes, maybe, sorta, like me! From here, I’ll go hang out with some of you
folks for an hour, and remind myself of the miracle it is that I
get to walk through all this. All this human emotion and
life-strewn eventfulness.
My life is eventful – but not chaotic. My life path is vague
– but not hopeless. Most of all, my heart is warming – and my soul doesn’t house that painfully threadbare echo-chamber anymore.
I still get to practice. I’ve absolutely loved engaging in a thrilling, alluring, morally ambiguous “Drink with Two Legs” distraction this past few days – it’s been wonderful to feel
something other than uncomfortable. But in the end, my conscience (and my
exuberantly caring friend) reminded me yesterday that I’m living in a way so
that I don’t have to feel bad about myself or my behavior anymore. So that I
don’t have to clean anything up later, if I can help it (unless it’s dishes).
I’ve watched myself walk to the edge of decency, and reel myself absolutely
kicking and screaming back from the temptation to throw myself in.
See, my life is full of people who remind me that there is a better
way. That this is only a beginning, and that I can hang on to the love that
I’ve built within myself. That it’s safe to do so.
I thank you, Danger-Will-Robinson lure, for your welcome and
passionate resurrection of a part of me that has long been dormant. And I thank
YOU, reader, friend, lovers, G-d, for helping me to learn there’s
nothing wrong with my Vixen, as long as she doesn’t slice away at my self-esteem.
So, here’s to six years of learning the easy way, the hard way. To
six years of sitting in rooms with people who are learning the same. To six
years of showing up on every inch of the spectrum from megalithic tantrum to blissfully
serene. And to just one more day of this unusually verdant path.