Thursday, July 24, 2014
I am leaving to go on the boat tomorrow for a few days. It won't matter that the forecast calls for more rain. If it rains, I will hunker down and read. If the rain stops, I'll go for a long walk on the beach. I don't think that I have had many bad days out on the water.
We are entering the dog days of summer now with humidity through the roof. Mushrooms are sprouting up in the yard. And by tomorrow, the mile long dirt road leading to the tarmac will be nearly impassable. All my problems are definitely first world ones. Sometimes I feel awkward even writing about my life when there are so many that are suffering terribly all around the world and, shamefully, in this country that has so much.
I have friends whose worst problem is that their driveway at their second home didn't get paved on the day that they wanted it to be. I know others who speak of the children coming into the U.S. from Central America as vermin and lice infested "illegals". How is this possible? When did the insensitivity to others and their plight happen? Have we become so entitled that we don't see the ridiculousness in our complaints?
I know at one time, we were all innocent and trusting. Sometime in this lifetime, people that I thought I knew became filled with hatred, bigotry and disgust towards others. And yet, many have animals that they profess to love. When did people lose their compassion for other human beings? Even if I find my own species to be difficult, pugilistic and destructive, I would not think of another person as vermin or not worthy of living.
We all have a story. And our lives are shaped by so many things. I can't begin to know what it feels like to wake up hungry each day, to not have enough water, to try to avoid being captured and killed, or bombed without warning. As I go about my day, I will do my best to remember that I am one of the fortunate ones who hasn't lost my ability to help others or to care about what happens to people whose daily struggles are unimaginable. Thankfully, I still have my humanity.
“We're so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody's going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven't learned how to care for one another. We're gonna save the fuckin' planet? . . . And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin' great. It's been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn't goin' anywhere, folks. We are! We're goin' away. Pack your shit, we're goin' away. And we won't leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we'll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake.” ― George Carlin
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
Sunday, July 20, 2014
I was told many years ago by a psychiatrist to focus on me and not on my wife. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. It sounded selfish to focus on me, and I didn't understand how to put it into practice so I ignored the idea. Then, in Al-Anon, it finally came together for me. I understood that I didn't have much of a life because I was focusing every molecule of effort and attention on my wife.
It took me a while to see that focusing on me wasn't selfish. Instead, it was about my being my own person and my chance at getting my life back. If I don't focus on me, then I too easily lose myself in others. I make them my HP. I also will not address what bothers me or my character defects if I put the focus on someone else.
One of the things that the fellow I sponsor is trying to do is have fun. He has had a lot of trouble extricating himself from the drama surrounding his alcoholic son. He actually has a hard time thinking of anything positive about himself and can't seem to grasp the concept of doing something fun for himself.
I remember so well that when I was stuck in my misery before recovery that I hated for anyone to ask me what I did for fun. I would hesitate, feel uncomfortable and generally answer by saying that I liked cycling, running, reading, photography, and gardening. But mostly, I liked to work. The other things that I did were my way of escaping from home and work. I think some of my happiest times were actually when I was at sea on research vessels and away from home and the lab.
I am focusing on me when I take time in the morning to have coffee sitting out in the yard and relax instead of going through a mental checklist of what I must get done. I am focusing on me when I decline to be on boards and committees out of a sense of obligation. I am focusing on me when I go on the boat for a few days to smell the ocean and listen to the waves and wind. I am focusing on me when I can go to the barn and brush the horses, listening to them breathe or eat hay.
So, if you are thinking that you don't have much of a life because of alcoholism being so prevalent in it, maybe it's time to focus on creating your own bliss and focusing on what you want to do. Don't put your life on hold waiting for the alcoholic/addict to come around. They either will or they won't. What matters is that each day can be special for you, if you choose to make it so.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
So the upshot is that we both have asthmatic bronchitis, with her condition being more serious than mine. She had two treatments with nebulized albuterol and a couple of shots. We are both feeling better this evening. I have an albuterol inhaler and antibiotics. My wife has the same, along with some strong cough medicine. I hope that in a few days we will be back to feeling good again because the last week has been rough.
I am supposed to go on the boat next week. I don't know whether that will happen. For right now, I am doing the necessary daily chores and getting some rest.
I haven't been to the gym in a couple of days. But I did go riding on Wednesday and am contemplating getting back into riding, perhaps leasing a horse and doing some dressage. It's been a long time since I was a serious rider. I am older, but my muscle memory came back when I had my first lesson with the dressage instructor down the road. Time will tell about where this goes. But I have a new animal friend named Smoke.
Sunday, July 6, 2014
I was out on the boat when Tropical Storm Arthur decided to become a hurricane. I had planned to come back in on Thursday afternoon but pulled up anchor on Wednesday and came back to the dock. It was a wise decision because the rain bands, winds and seas from the storm would have been unpleasant to ride out at anchor.
Then July 4 came on Friday. It was a bright sunny day that could have used a bit more wind. We sweltered at the marina where some friends gathered to watch the evening fireworks and have a pot luck dinner. But the sea breeze came in later in the afternoon and cooled us down.
We had a nice evening. The fireworks were good. The conversation was thought-provoking. A British lady and a couple from France were there to give thoughts on the American Revolution. We talked about how the French were our great allies in defeating the British. And we joked with our British friend about whipping up on Cornwallis, leading to the surrender at Yorktown. We talked about so many things until the wee hours of the morning--dangers of processed food, compromised auto-immune systems, medical care in the US compared to Britain and France, and how good it is to be able to have these discussions without rancor, without the animosity that seems to pervade the news and labels a person as being right wing or left wing. I believe these were open-minded people, willing to listen and discuss. Good times, good food, and intelligent conversations.
My wife has a head cold that she is nursing. And I am nursing her as much as she will allow. The coughing makes me concerned because a sponsee has pertussis, Whooping Cough, and has been very sick. Evidently, Whooping Cough has reached epidemic proportions on the West Coast where he recently visited. I am protective of C. and don't want her to do too much. But it is hard for her to not do. But I suspect today we will take a nap together and snuggle next to each other. It is one of those days where not much can be done, except relax.
I talked with my first sponsor who has stage IV lung cancer. He is moving in with his son and his family because he can not stay at the retirement home where he has been living. He is accepting of what is to come. I have accepted it also. But I can imagine how hard it must be to give up personal freedom and know that a sick diseased body is what is left. I sincerely hope that his remaining life won't be difficult with prolonged suffering. He says that some nights are hard because he is afraid. I understand and ask myself if any person can be fully accepting of death. Do we not still hold out hope that some miracle will happen to restore vitality to our body? I don't know but hope that he is content surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
So I'll leave you with some photos from the past week. This is early July in the Lowcountry.
Sunday, June 29, 2014
I don't know whether my father was an alcoholic, but I definitely was troubled by his drinking. One of my earliest memories was of the sheriff bringing him to the house after he broke his shoulder in a single car accident. He was drunk. I was afraid and instantly knew that I did not like what was happening. The town doctor came to the house to set his shoulder, but it was never properly set and had an offset to it from then on. My father suffered no other consequences--no arrest, no mention by my mother or any one else in the family that I can recall. All just went on as if nothing happened
But I believe that I was also offset from that accident too. Low self-esteem that channels itself into perfectionism, anxiety, and abandonment issues were what I experienced. My mother did not acknowledge that my father drank. She chose to live in denial. The message that I got was "Everything is fine". Except to me, it wasn't.
It took me a number of years to get the courage in 7th grade to ask my mother to tell my father to stop drinking. I was embarrassed, angry at him, fearful of him and totally conflicted by the fact that nothing in our house seemed to be okay, even though I was told that we were elite and better than others. I didn't feel elite or better at all.
In order to cope, I learned to play by myself. I had a little farm set that had a barn, horses, cows, chickens, etc. And I would set that up and play for hours, pretending to live on that happy farm that I invented in my head. I also would visit other families occasionally and wonder if they were "normal". If I thought something looked "normal", I would try to mimic it. In so doing, I learned at an early age to invent the ideal family and the ideal self, but I kept running up against the reality of my unhappiness at home. The mask would crack when I realized that the fantasy I was creating of my home life didn't really exist. I kept trying to be perfect and began to blame myself harshly when I wasn't.
My father was a harsh critic of me. Both parents expected a lot from me in terms of academic achievements. But my father would remind me of all the things that I didn't do right. I began to think of myself as being better off not having been born. After all, I was born 16 years after my parents were married. I was a "surprise" because they had decided not to have children. And then, here I was--a big disappointment.
In spite of my self-criticism, I learned to be mischievous away from home. I had fun with my friends at school. I had fun in the summer when my father was at work. I dreaded the days when he was off work because I knew that he would be drinking. When he was home, I generally went right to my room where I listened to rock and roll on a tiny radio or read books. I remember being on edge when he was around. And when he was gone, I would cut loose with wild abandon.
I tend to be reckless to this day. At certain times in my life I was so responsible it was frightening. At other times I behaved so recklessly that it was amazing I survived. Often, I was impulsive and didn't give much thought to consequences of my actions. I try for balance in my life today--not being so rigid with responsibility and enjoying adventures that are not life threatening.
I don't think that I really understood what a healthy adult relationship was like. I didn't see my parents kiss--ever. I didn't see them hug each other. I didn't hear them tell each other "I love you". So what I applied in my relationships later in life was not healthy. I was attracted to women who were unpredictable, wild, and who drank alcoholically. I wanted to make someone who was erratic and rejecting fall in love with me.
So in order to get through life and relationships, I learned to be controlling. I believed that if I were in charge, then somehow things would go my way. And the exact opposite happened. The love that I wanted, the approval I longed for wasn't given because I was controlling and manipulative. I was often rejected and when I wasn't or when I was successful at something, I didn't believe I deserved it.
It was hard for me to believe that I deserved good things. And even today, I don't like to talk about my successes. I prefer to hear other people talk about theirs. I feel comfortable isolating and work at putting myself out there to be a part of groups. It is still hard for me to believe that I can be accepted and actually liked at times. I have gotten much better though at being comfortable around others.
An adult child of an alcoholic is loyal to a fault. I have often thought that the devil you know is better than the one that you don't. My mother stayed married to my father. People in my family didn't get divorced, except for one female cousin who was married three times and was talked about because of it. And so I learned not to walk away--from anything--when the going got tough. But alcoholism also pushed me to the point that I was ready to leave my wife. It took me so many years and a lot of sad times to even get to that point though. I learned from my parents that I had a duty to stay with a person, no matter how I was treated. I thought that it was better to stay with someone no matter what they did because my fear of being abandoned was so strong.
I have long thought that a lot of my behavior is like that of an alcoholic--the "isms" are present--but the drinking is not. Some of us who have been affected by drinking feel most alive when things are in crisis mode. Wanting things to be done right now, instead of deferring decisions is a definite character defect of mine. I like instant results and have had to learn to disengage from that type of behavior over the years. Being a scientist helped me to temper the sense of immediate gratification. I could look toward the end result but had to make sure that all the steps were done along the way in order to get there.
So for those who have grown up with alcoholism or have children who are in the midst of active alcoholic/addictive behavior in the family, the effects of the disease are likely manifesting themselves right now. The confusion, denial, and too often chaos of an alcoholic home lead to so many of the things I wrote about above. Don't kid yourself by saying "Everything is fine". The people affected are FINE--*ucked, insecure, neurotic and emotional. And that's not a good way to go through life. Don't let the drama surrounding the alcoholic/addict be the most important thing in the family. I hope that you will decide to get help--a 12 step program, therapy, or speaking to a trusted friend will help in letting go of the shame and burdens of alcoholism and addiction.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of Pop's death. When my mind goes back to last year and all the death that happened, I see now that no one could have helped me to move through it. I simply needed to have grief run its course.
A Jewish friend mentioned that probably what I longed for was something like shiva. I needed to have a supportive community around me. And since that didn't occur with visitors at the house, I did what I needed to do which was to feel miserable without a time limit. To allow the feelings to be there and to not shut them off. To crawl back into bed and curl up into a ball.
I am in a different place now. I miss those that aren't here, but I am not grieving. I am glad to know that for this day, so far, all is okay. I have stayed busy with the garden, picking blueberries, getting a new tire on the car, taking care of the animals, and working out. At night, I am tired in a good way. A deep-boned kind of tired that let's me know that I have done a lot of things that needed to be done.
On Father's Day, I took the boat out and sailed for five hours. It was a bright, summer day with good wind. There were little sailboats in a regatta and a lot of other large sailboats on the water. The time was peaceful. I wish my own dad had been there. He would have liked the sail. But I was simply glad for the opportunity to be where I was, enjoying the "whump" of the genoa as I backwinded it and came about. Simple pleasures. Summer in one of the most beautiful places. A different state of mind from last year---thankfully.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
I suppose it is shame and fear about the disease that keeps us from admitting we need help. I remember that several years before I finally went to Al-Anon, a good friend suggested that I go. I still thought that I could deal with everything. I could take what alcoholism dished out. I didn't want to admit that I needed help, regardless of what my loved one was doing. But alcoholism doesn't give up. I suffered a few more years before I realized just how powerful the disease is.
I am not sure what the turning point was for me. Maybe it was just a culmination of all the little things resulting from alcoholism that added up to my surrender. Maybe it was the night my wife drove off drunk and left me to walk home. Maybe it was having to make sure she didn't fall down the stairs in a blackout or aspirate on her own vomit. Whatever it was, something inside of me shifted, and I saw what a sham my life was. So when another friend suggested I go to a meeting, I knew that it was time. I had come to the point in my life where I needed a life ring, because I was drowning.
So here I am nearly 8 years later. I made the decision to get help and to help others. I have heard my story countless times in the rooms of Al-Anon. I have seen parents lose their children to the disease. I have seen those same parents realize that there was nothing they could have done. I have seen people who were broken, laugh out loud and have tears of joy. I have seen incredible grace reside in the roughest of people. I have found friends that I did not think I would ever have. I have been blessed with a renewal in my relationship with my wife, who I love more than anything or anyone. None of this seemed possible, but now I see that by shedding my pride and reaching out my hand, I have been granted a new way to live.
To say that I am grateful is an understatement.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
After getting home, I felt really tired. I came down with a head cold within two days and have felt pretty miserable. But I am now on the mend.
My wife was surprised by the landscaping magic that occurred while we were gone. It was a present to her. And it turned out beautifully. There are still a few finishing touches to be done (and the orange cones aren't staying!). But we have been enjoying the transformation.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Yesterday we spent the afternoon and early evening riding along the ridges and cliffs and beach of the Pacific. It was truly magnificent and startlingly beautiful.
The horses were sturdy and sure footed, looking almost like mustangs. The guide was on an Appaloosa. We passed through miles of cactus and brush. One of the cactus trees was 600 years old! We saw abandoned homes left by Americanos, mansions now dilapidated. I wondered if these were a casualty of the Great Recession. But the view from every home was the most magnificent I have seen in a while. The guide said when we reached the top of a cliff that this was his office. I could get used to such an office.
The ranch where the tour starts and ends has several acres but is poor. There were 47 horses and all seemed to be well cared for by the workers. We saw strange looking pigs, very much like a peccary. It was a charming place, like something out of a Western movie. Goats, chickens, ducks also roamed around. I bought a poncho and blanket at the tiny store.
As we drove back through the streets, I was also intrigued by the parts of Cabo where tourists at resorts don't go so much. The little shops and open air food places were fascinating. So many photographing opportunities of real life. I hope to go there this week to take photos. Resort life is comfortable, but I would rather be among the real people who live here. I don't understand coming to a country as full of life as this and only staying by the pool to drink and sun bathe. Seems incredibly lacking in cultural curiosity.
Anyway, here are photos from the ride yesterday. Today we are going sailing for a few hours. I hope I'm not boring you with photos and travelogue babble. I am so glad to be here. I know that I will want to come back again.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Monday, May 12, 2014
We decided to have the front lawn landscaped too. I think that it will be truly stunning when completed. Right now, it looks like a dirt baseball field or a farm plot that a mule has plowed because all of the old grass was scraped up. But soon it will look like paradise. It actually looked good before all of this, but after seeing what magic was created in the backyard, we took the plunge on the front yard transformation too.
The sail was on a cat boat which is gaff rigged and only 18 feet. It was a lot of fun, even though we had light air. The impending storm only concerned us for a few moments. It did make for a spectacular backdrop for the city though.