Sunday, August 31, 2014
Oh, sure, there's the usual stuff -- I need to finish the play that's languishing on a dead computer in the closet. I've got a novel that's half-written, and some other writing to finish or edit or submit for publication. And I would really like to get my shit together generally, again. And lose weight, again. I should read something that's good for me, like War and Peace, or Shakespeare, or Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Yeats or something. I ought to either cancel my gym membership or start going. And before I die, I really, really need to clean out my closets.
That bucket is a burden. It's molded of cement, and I drag it with me everywhere. That's the bucket list I save for when I already feel guilty and want to feel guiltier. The one I dig through when I want to remind myself how little I've accomplished. The one I dig through when trying on swimsuits at Walmart sounds too self-affirming.
But I've got a different bucket list. This one is in a better. lighter bucket that's shiny and fun and ridiculously colorful. It's full of confetti that I can throw into the air just because. It gives me energy instead of sapping it. And it's completely, utterly, frivolous.
Here's what I've got so far:
1. I want to have Thanksgiving dinner at Hooters. I've wanted to do this for years, but I've never found any takers. Maybe this is the year!
2. I want to see the bats fly out of Carlsbad Caverns at sunset.
3. Kudzu is said to grow as much as a foot a day. We have lots of kudzu here in Georgia. I want to take a lawn chair, sit down in a field, and watch it grow for 24 hours.
4. I'm pretty sure the sloth is my totem animal. I want a sloth encounter.
5. I want to go an entire calendar year without wearing matching socks. I've been practicing for this one. Matching socks are so pedestrian.
I wasn't going to post this list until I had more, better stuff on it. But that would have put it into my yucky bucket.
So it's a work in progress. It's uniquely mine. And you know, I have a feeling that working on this one will lighten the load of the other one. Just maybe.
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Soooo... it's a busy time in the Land of Current Events. Boehner is suing the president. The Supreme Court has been deconstructing collective bargaining rights for public employees. The opinion in Hobby Lobby may or may not be a disaster, depending on who’s talking. Meanwhile, Ann Coulter and others are amusing themselves by debating which sport is morally superior, football or futbol, while lots of people take her way, way too seriously.
Oh, and I think the US lost that soccer thing that's happening.
You know what? I just don't give a shit right now about any of it. And do you know why?
I’ll tell you why:
Last night I ordered my groceries online and they were delivered today. To my door! Like, as in, the nice lady carried the groceries into my house and everything. I have eggs and apples and oranges and cola and carrots and yogurt and frozen meals and stuff.
I haven't been this happy since Webvan went out of business. God, I loved Webvan.
But now? Instacart! Oh, yeah, baby! Fuck, yes!
The secret to happiness is getting your priorities straight. And oh, I haz happiness.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
I feel quite sure that my dad wanted to be a great father, and he did the best he knew how. But he wasn’t very good at it. He was emotionally unavailable to his kids and their mother. He was narcissistic and judgmental; he could be cold and unforgiving and miserly. His memory was relentlessly selective. Dad was, at times, a destructive force in our lives.
Every once in a while, though, he would surprise us with an uncharacteristic act of love and support, and I would hang on tight because I was so hungry for it. With Dad, you had to pretend.
For a long time, I idealized my dad, refusing to see what others saw. Eventually, I succumbed to outside pressure – I still regret that – and broke off all contact with him. For much too long, my only contact with my dad consisted of the three emails I sent each year: on Christmas, Father's Day, and his birthday. I became as lousy a daughter as he was a dad. Worse, in fact, especially because I knew better.
By the time the cancer came, I was too mired in my own dysfunction to be any help. My only act of support was to ask Dad to keep me posted on developments. He didn’t, of course. I used that as an excuse to withdraw further. We pretended we wanted to be close while we played off each other’s more authentic mutual disinterest.
It was the fourth cancer diagnosis – lung cancer – that finally got my attention.
And so I did finally come around, and I did my best to make up for lost time with visits and phone calls. I made it my job to listen, and I got to know him. I learned about a man who had worked hard all his life, who served in the Navy on an aircraft carrier. While on that ship, he asked to be in charge of movie night so he could order Singing in the Rain whenever he wanted. He went to college on the GI Bill, became an electrical engineer, and was a pioneer in the development of early computers for General Electric in the 1960s.
Now Dad was just a sick old man, fighting like hell to postpone a difficult death. I wondered, looking at him, if he ever could have caused the harm I had attributed to him. But then I saw him vivisect my niece and one of his tenants, and I realized he still had the capacity to be enormously destructive. He gave me a taste of it as well, but I had expected it, so I was prepared.
Then, two months ago, a loving act of breathtaking generosity. His gift allowed me to pay off all but one of my debts, repair my car, and replace the broken-down HVAC system in my home. The gift was truly life-changing, and I made sure he knew exactly where the money went and how grateful I was for the fresh start.
I wish I could tell you that everything was peaches and cream after that. Three days before Dad died, he called me into his bedroom for a private conversation. We both knew that death was closing in, but it wasn’t that kind of talk. Instead, he started shouting, which must have been very difficult in his physical condition. I’m completely irresponsible with money, he lectured, and I’ve been out of law school for how long? Even now I had to be bailed out. His voice rose as he declared that I will never get my act together, and thanks to me, my daughter is destined for financial ruin, too.
I’m glad to say I didn’t engage. I just became kind of dead inside. I thanked him for his honesty and told him I loved him. He said he loved me, too, and I went home to Georgia. That night he took a bad fall, and went to the hospital for the last time. That was our final conversation.
My sponsor suggested that instead of focusing on my Dad’s last words to me, I focus instead on his last, loving, generous gift. I’m working on that. I’m working on remembering the dad who loved old movies just like I do. The dad who took us camping every summer, and taught us to sing “Blood on the Saddle,” and took the family out for sunrise cook-outs in the desert. The dad who taught me two perfectly awful jokes that still make me laugh. The dad who was the very best dad he knew how to be.
A few months back, my therapist said it was important, if someone close to you is dying, to tell them four things: I love you. Thank you. I’m sorry. I forgive you.
So I told Dad I loved him, and I said it often. I thanked him for teaching me self-reliance, for standing up for what he believed in, and for showing me the importance of education. I told him how sorry I was for staying away from him for so long, for denying him access to my daughter, and for the horrible time I gave him as a teenager.
And as for forgiveness? Well, I told my Dad that he hadn’t done anything that needed forgiving. It seemed best to confirm what he already knew.
He was a good man, my dad.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Yes, I'm back, and I'm lazy, too, because this is a repost from 2010.
I really miss my mom. But I'm grateful for a wonderful stepmom and an even more wonderful daughter.
I am truly blessed.
For Mother’s Day, I thought I’d tell you all about my mom. Instead, I’m posting this letter she wrote to me about a month before I got sober. It says more about her than I ever could.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
At this moment, I am blogging on the bed. Next to me are two used cups; four cereal bowls with spoons, all licked clean by the dog; two empty yogurt containers, also licked clean; an almost-empty bottle of club soda from a couple days ago; my purse; a couple of used paper towels; and crumbs. Quite a lot of crumbs, in fact, both in and on the bed.
I’ve been living on my bed for the past three months. Eating on the bed. Playing cellphone games on the bed. Listening to NPR on the bed. Watching movies on the bed. This, even though I have a perfectly good living room and dining room and office. My day is spent traversing well-worn paths, and every damned one of them leads to my bed. Which, by the way, is on the floor because I've never put the frame together -- because I won't let anyone in my house to help me.
Depression. I've had it since I was about twelve, although back then I didn't know it had a name. You can see when it happened in the family photos: the light went out of my eyes. There was no there there. Alcohol brought the light back, until it didn't anymore. Later, sobriety brought relief. But even now depression is a frequent visitor. Thank goodness for meds that take the edge off.
Despair, with an isolation chaser.
I may not even know depression has taken hold until someone asks the right questions. Ask me how I am, and I'll tell you, "I'm fine. Now let's talk about you."
But ask me about my actions: Did you get the mail today? Did you open it? When’s the last time you changed your sheets? Are there dishes in your bedroom? Have you been listening to sad music? When's the last time you showered? Have you been ignoring phone calls? How many meetings have you made in the last seven days?
That's as far as I got with this post. Writing about it was all the action I could muster. It was just enough.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I started out on eBay, window-shopping for vintage starburst clocks. Something distracted me, and somehow I wound up at some movie site or other. Among the many actors' names on the monitor, my eyes caught the name "Dennis Fimple."
Dennis Fimple? Geez, what a name! And an actor? Really? Uh, maybe he played a hotel desk clerk in some shitty soft porn movie. Or maybe in the third grade he played the lead in "George Washingon's Gold Button." Whatever this guy did, though, I was pretty sure he could have done a lot better if he'd had the good sense to change his name. Maybe at least I would have heard of him.
Yes, I mused. There ought to be some good blog fodder here. Something touching and sweet, about how everyone is uniquely important and special, even this poor nobody. Maybe I could even make people cry. Yeah, Dennis Fimple was mine. I alone was kind and wise enough to see his value.
So I googled him, and then I felt like an idiot.
This is Dennis Fimple: a talented character actor whom I recognized immediately. Thoroughly successful, thank you very much. He was in a shitload of TV shows and movies.
What is it the Big Book says about contempt prior to investigation?
I'm considered to be a "nice person." It's a trait I value highly in others, and one I'm willing to work for in myself. Most people smile when they see me coming, and I really like that. Besides, doing nice things for people feels, well, nice.
But this time, when I thought I was being nice, it was really just bloated patronization.
Dennis Fimple is three-dimensional. He worked in a Cheetos factory. He taught school, and he delivered newspapers. He had lots of stories about his experiences, he liked to read, and he was very much into antiques and collectibles. Oh -- and best of all, he was in Truck Stop Women, and I have the movie poster!
Dennis Fimple. A regular guy who seemed to fly under the radar.
I do believe I would have smiled when I saw him coming.