Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happenings

I thought that I had better catch up here.  As usual, my excuse for not writing is that I have been incredibly busy and for the most part enjoying every day.  My birthday came and went.  It was a good day spent at a riding clinic, having lunch with horse friends and having a great dinner with my wife.  I had few expectations as birthdays go, but what resulted was delightful.

I spent three days on my sailboat during my birthday week, enjoying a few days of good weather in which the sun actually shone.  It was my escape to serenity-- a temple for me to rest, read, cook, and bask in the sun.  I came back feeling totally relaxed and rejuvenated.

On Sunday, I went for a 7.5 mi trail ride on my fancy dressage horse. He handled the woods, the scary farm machinery, the wide open dirt road--all of it, like he was born to trail ride. The ladies riding with me were impressed by his calmness and his being so level headed.  Every day I go to see him, he greets me with a soft nicker.  My wife is quite taken with him also.

On a more somber note, a young local high school student has died over an altercation with a fellow student about a Snap Chat message sent to his girlfriend.  The kid visiting his girlfriend told the other fellow to come over and he would kill him.  So the young man went over and was stabbed in a fight. Both are from affluent families, no drugs involved, and were not in trouble before. Now one is dead and the other is messed up for life.  I don't understand the anger that drives a 16 year old to kill a 17 year old over anything, much less a phone message.

I don't know about you, but we settled things in a civilized manner--no fights, no knives, no guns.  Parents have so much to worry about these days. Drugs and alcohol, and more guns and violence than ever before.  It is a tough world out there.  And I often wondered how I made it this far--maybe because when I was a kid, I feared my father's wrath more than anything else; and as a teenager, I decided that not much was worth dying over.  And that attitude carried into college, although I did some reckless things. And for some reason, I am still alive. I feel a great deal of sorrow for the parents who are suffering the horrible death of their child and for the parents who are dealing with the horror of what their son did.

My little home group has been struggling with low numbers of people attending. Several meetings in the area have closed.  I wonder if this is simply a reflection of the time of year or does it bode problems for an aging fellowship.

Certainly, the number of those with substance abuse problems has risen.  And that means that a lot of families and friends of alcoholics/addicts are suffering from the effects of the disease.  But are they trying to tough this out alone?  I hope that they are getting some kind of help to cope with the anxiety, anger and fear of living with an alcoholic/addict.  They certainly aren't pouring into the rooms of Al-Anon around here.  What really matters to me is that people get some kind of help because it is a very lonely thing to deal with alcoholism/addiction on your own.

I hope that all is going well with you.  I think of you and will catch up some this week.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What's been happening here

It has been cold here for the last few days.  I went to the boat to spend the night in the worst of it.  And there was ice on the inside of the V berth bronze porthole when I awoke on Thursday morning.  I fired up the propane heater and the oven which helped to bring the temperature up to 70 F.

The cold would likely have killed a little puppy that I picked up off the highway when I was heading home on New Year's Day.  I had been to the gym in the early evening.  As I was turning onto our dirt road from the tarmac, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was a puppy, scared and a bit wet from coming out of the field ditch.  I brought the little one home, fed him, and picked about a dozen ticks off.  We both thought that he was the smartest pup because he did not once use his crate for pooping or peeing.

I sent emails to the local vets and rescue groups with his cute photo.  Several people called about him. Last night, he was adopted by a couple who seem to be a good fit for the puppy.  As with any animal, I told them that if he didn't work out, to bring him back.  He definitely is adorable and very smart.
Sadly, there is tragedy already started so quickly in 2015.  Sickening world news of senseless killing, martyrdom, and all the other crazy happenings that make me want to retreat to the island, boat or barn and isolate. 

And locally, a man who I have known for over 30 years lost his only son to suicide on January 6.  The young man, age 22 was a senior in college, and had been distraught because of a breakup with his girlfriend.  I cannot begin to imagine this kind of pain for the parents or the kind of despair that the son felt to want to die.  

And I keep thinking to myself that I am lucky to be here. To have survived this long in spite of so many things that might have also taken me down.  I hope that my luck in living continues.  And I hope that those who are in despair today will find some comfort eventually.  I remain upbeat today.  Happy to be healthy and to have a lot of living to do.   

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fast Approaching New Year

It's New Year's Eve. I have lots of plans but am under the weather with a cold. I may just stay by the fire today and perhaps take a nap. 

The past year was good for us. No major upheavals. We are missing those who are gone, while we celebrate our own lives. I am still here, not broken in spirit but filled with compassion and love for all of us who have made it to this day, the last one of 2014.

May each of you have good things happen in the New Year. 

THE NEW RULE

It's the old rule that drunks have to argue
and get into fights.
The lover is just as bad. he falls into a hole.
But down in that hole he finds something shining,
worth more than any amount of money or power.

Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing, 
falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everywhere is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.

Here's the new rule: break the wineglass,
and fall toward the glassblower's breath.
~ Rumi


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Those little complications

The shadow of drug and alcohol addiction seem to complicate things even when I am not directly involved.  Yesterday, the complication came up out of the blue.

My wife and I invited a fellow I sponsor and his mom and dad to come over for Christmas dinner. Recently, he told me that his older brother had re-entered the country and was coming to live with them.  The brother had left the US to return to Mexico because he was wanted for drug use and had stolen money from the young man I sponsor.  J, who I sponsor, was concerned about his return and what that would mean in terms of family dynamics.

Anyway, yesterday, J asked if the brother could come here for Christmas dinner too.  I had anticipated this question which is why I had only invited J, and his Mom and Dad.  So I said that I was sorry, but I wasn't comfortable having the brother here, whom I had not met.  My wife wasn't comfortable having him either.  He is not in a recovery program in the US, although he has told J that he has been clean for 3 years while in Mexico.

So now it appears that J's mother won't be coming and probably his father either, because the brother is not invited.  I am okay with this.  My wife was not happy last night because she did not think that J should have asked about the brother and is now hoping that none of them comes here.  Sigh....I explained that J doesn't understand a lot about social etiquette here in the US.  And that he seemed okay with the boundary, wanting to still come over here for Christmas dinner.

I understand my wife's anxiety because we have invited people into our house who have stolen from us.  I feel comfortable with the decision to reiterate that J, his mom and dad are welcome. And perhaps in the future after we meet the brother, he will be included.  For now, it's a little complication that I am not allowing to mess with our Christmas.  I am okay with just C. and me on Christmas.

Personal boundaries are about keeping my serenity.  In this case, a boundary is about feeling safe with someone coming into our home.  Christmas is a time of good will.  I feel good will.  And I wish a holiday of peace and joy for all of you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Not just one day

I am doing my best to be happy in this time when there are so many things going wrong with the world. Little kids and teachers are killed by terrorists.  The police and citizens are killing each other. And it all seems that the world has gone madder than usual lately.

In the midst of it, I escape to the barn and to ride my horse. He is adjusting well, and his closeness and nuzzling of my hair and chest fill me with love.  It is a simple uncomplicated love here.  Not much asked of each other except respect and good manners.

I hear at meetings the sadness of those who are struggling with family and the expectations of Christmas.  It is another day, albeit one that has lost meaning in its commercialization. For me, every day needs to be about caring and kindness, compassion and empathy.  Not just one day. Every day.

I am at a loss to understand the amount of dysfunction in the world. I cannot change the hearts of madmen and murderers.  I watch the garden growing and see the dogs playing. I hug and hold my beloved close at night. I go to the boat to have a night alone and listen to the waves slap the hull.  And I whisper to my horse and feed him carrots, knowing that I will be with him to the end.

My thoughts are with those who are sick and suffering today.  I wish that I could touch you and hold you and whisper that all will be okay.  And that what isn't okay today may be righted for you tomorrow. I hope so, and send that thought out to the universe and a world in chaos.  Not just one day, but every day I wish you peace.
PS: I just learned that dear Kathleen over at Sittin on a Porch died this morning. Her last post was beautiful.  You can read it here. And then this quote on her page:
Everyone dies. I died. Someone let the air out of my balloon. I'm free. Don't focus on the left over carcass of a deflated balloon. Open up a window. Blow up a balloon. Life/death. It's just a breath away. ~Susan Hunt

Sunday, December 7, 2014

If I had a pony

The leaves are falling from the trees here with the last bits of bright color from the gums and maples.  The weather has been unusually warm for the past week. It has actually been really beautiful to be outside and to ride on the farm with all the trees ablaze.

I spent a few days in north Florida at a horse breeding farm. I rode many times a day, trying out different horses.  Ultimately, I chose an older dressage schoolmaster who was imported to the US several years ago.  I had a pre-sale veterinary check done on him, and he received a glowing report. So I am wiring the money tomorrow, and he will arrive sometime this week to his new home here with us.

After making the decision to get him, I struggled for several hours with the feeling that I don't deserve to have him. I felt a bit of panic and anxiety over the responsibility and the idea that I am being frivolous in spending quite a bit of money on a horse.

These feelings aren't new.  I have struggled for many years with the idea that I am not deserving of "things".  My parents made sure that I knew how much things cost and how I was to take care of what I had because something would not be replaced if I broke it.  They bought me cars and a horse, nice clothes, paid for college--yet, I had the feeling that I needed to realize how lucky I was.  And I did feel lucky and grateful but not deserving.

I don't think these feelings are unusual for someone growing up around heavy drinkers or alcoholics.  The low self-esteem generates feelings of not being good enough, not being worthy.  The interesting thing for me is that I didn't feel this way when I got my sailboats.  But purchasing a horse seems to make me wonder if I am not thrusting myself into a world where snobby people stand around and sip on fancy drinks and talk about the latest hunt club gossip.  That makes me anxious because I don't like gossip or fake people.

I realize that I am building up a lot of this in my head.  We have the money to have a horse and maintain him.  I enjoy riding and live in an area where there are lots of trails and horse farms.  The dressage barn is within walking distance of our place. I know the logical answers to my fears.  Yet, I still alternate between being excited and having anxiety over having something I want that seems not necessary, not critical to my survival.

I am sure that when he arrives this week, my feelings will be those of excitement. My wife is happy and excited.  I talk to her about my anxiety and she tells me that I have not gotten over missing a horse for many years. Now things have come full circle, and the time is now to have another. She loves the idea of my getting him and being able to visit him to groom and feed with carrots.

Funny how the mind reruns the old tapes of "you're not good enough" when there needs to be joy instead.   Anyway, here he is.  He will be here soon. His call name is Star (His registered name is something long and difficult to pronounce). Hopefully, there will be years of adventures together.  I don't think he will fit on my boat. But the song of Lyle Lovett comes to mind:
If I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lots of years

Today is our wedding anniversary.  I surprised my wife with the dozen reds. And we are going to lunch and a movie. What we do on this day isn't the most important thing. Rather, it's how we feel about each other.

I am grateful for every day that we have together, as partners in this life and best friends. We have worked together, fished together, birthed animals together, sailed together, cried together, and laughed together.

All these years were part of a growing process in our relationship.  We didn't know how to be a couple at first because neither of us understood how to have a relationship.  We weathered a lot of storms over these years. The love that we have did not lessen over time but has grown. Hoping for many more years together, C.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A day of thanks

The rain is coming down today.  It's a good day to stay inside. I can't decide whether to get busy with a project or simply take it easy.  Right now, I am looking outside the bedroom window sitting on the window seat. This is what I see.
There is really more color to the leaves than the photo shows. This is a glorious time in the Lowcountry.  All the maples and sumac and gum trees are in their glory.  Soon enough the leaves will be gone and only the pines and oaks will provide leaves of dark green.  

The other day I was riding down our road on horseback.  And this is what I saw: 

The fog was there in the early morning across the pecan orchard when I started my ride and then on the way back, it was clearing and revealed incredible points of light shining through the old oaks.  I am indeed fortunate to live where I do. 

According to recent travel magazines the nearby city is ranked number one in the US and number two in the world.  I don't think that is possible, but then I don't live in the city or understand how these ratings are determined.  I suppose the habitats of marshes and maritime forests and beaches and the historic aspects make it so popular.  

Who would have thought though that this place that I call home now would be a top ranked destination?  Thank goodness, our little island is still in low profile. But I wonder how long it will take before the crush of development heads this way.  I hope a long time.  So far drugs haven't been a huge problem out here and crime is low.  I wonder how long that will last.  We are secluded which is either a good thing or not.  And I am not a gun toter which I view as a good thing.  The further I can get away from all of the city's problems with crime and drugs, the happier I am.  

Since I got back from Virginia,  I have felt much at peace.  We managed to get all the plants into the greenhouses before the freeze.  And the actual freeze was minor here with most of the plants surviving, except for a few annuals that were on their last legs anyway.  The egg plant died but the peppers weren't affected by the freeze.  The winter crops are growing.  And we surely did need this heavy rain today.  

At times, I still feel isolated from people. My isolation is an old pattern, no doubt from being around heavy drinking and alcoholism as a child.  I work on my tendency to isolate by going to meetings, heading to the barn to ride, to the gym or to the marina, and getting together with a few friends for dinner or lunch.  I know the old pattern and that what I tell myself is not necessarily the best thing when it comes to dealing with people. 

Wednesday is our wedding anniversary.  We are going to dinner and a movie. For Thanksgiving, it will be the two of us, although we may go visit some friends in the afternoon.  I think that Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are hard on those who don't have family. But there are many people out there who feel the same.  And some of those have a lot of family but the feeling of apartness is still there.  Filling the empty hole within takes work. 

So I am wishing you a day of thanks for those that you have in your life and good memories of those that aren't with you.  Peace and love.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I am not in·val·id

I am home from my journey. And I must say that the celebration of life far exceeded any that I could have imagined. There were many people there, some I knew but had not seen for decades and some that I had not met before.  Each person that I talked with had fond memories of my cousin.  I heard from them that he was a good neighbor, friend, golf partner, party guy back in the day, and highly regarded within his profession.

His wife did a fantastic job of having old photos scattered about.  And the memory book in which each person wrote of their remembrances of my cousin was touching.

But the reading of a letter to all of us by his wife was the most profound. She read about what their life had been like and that he wanted us to know that he was not an invalid nor was he in·val·id in any way during his illness.  And his words: "And so--I was not and am not an invalid. No one has to be. Invalid is an illusion. If you ever find yourself labelled as such, try to invalidate the judgment and seize the opportunity to discover your personal light to help heal every particle and cell on this planet. Start with granting yourself Forgiveness, Peace, and Unconditional Love: these qualities lead to physical and spiritual healing."

So I am glad that I went. I am glad that I shared laughter in memories of him. I feel as if the afternoon was filled with goodness--good people, good times, good food, good memories.

I will keep remembering his words that I am not in·val·id.  I will call that up when I feel small and cast aside in some ways. No I am not in·val·id.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you. ~Walt Whitman







Friday, November 7, 2014

A Backup Plan

I am on my way to Virginia and will soon be back in my home state. Tomorrow is the celebration of my cousin's life. I am not sure how things will go, but I am glad to know that I can leave if necessary. I talked to his wife last night and she had been drinking. So if things get going too much tomorrow with the booze, I am prepared to drive away. 

I have learned over the years of dealing with alcoholism that having a backup plan is really essential in taking care of my self. I used to be caught unaware and endured endless drunken parties because my wife and I drove together. She would want to stay for more drinking, and I would comply, only to be miserable. Nothing good comes from hanging around when people get out of control with their drinking. So I know that I don't have to stay.

Tomorrow is going to be difficult for his wife. She misses him incredibly and was crying on the phone last night. She wants me to take a lot of family items back with me, such as the family bible and his mother's antique dolls. She kept saying "I have to get rid of this stuff from his family." My family revered antiques and family history. That reverence was passed on to me. I will gladly be the caretaker for these remnants of a family that has died out, except for me. And eventually all that has been passed to me will go to an antique auction or to the historical society in my home town. 

So my plan is to show up and be of help where I can. I feel compassion for the living who miss their loved ones. I am glad that she feels his spirit around her. I have felt that same feeling with recent deaths. And then, their spirit moves on when I have accepted their death and feel at peace. I am hoping for that acceptance and peace in the days ahead for her.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Another week gone before I can blink



video

The weather has finally turned to fall here.  I was out on the boat for several days this week and have to say that it was something that I have missed.  The boat is my sanctuary, my place to get away from anything complicated. Sometimes there are unexpected visitors who just pass by and say "hello".

The only complication that I have had in the last week was having a kidney stone which was a terrible pain.  I've not had the pleasure of dealing with that before and hope to not have one again.  I went to the ER because the pain came on suddenly late in the evening.  And I could not stop vomiting after each wave of pain.  Anyway, I am okay now.  The ER doc told me it was like the pain experienced by women in childbirth.  I have a new appreciation for that level of pain.

The winter garden is finally in.  It is a great relief to have the tired summer plants removed and the winter ones in the ground.  It takes a lot of work to maintain things around here.  The older we get the more it seems to take too.

The service for my friend and mentor was a high Catholic funeral mass. I had just gotten out of the ER and was still feeling dopey from the pain medications they had given me.  When the priest said that my friend was gone forever from this life--laughter gone, voice gone, smiles gone--well, I had to smile because I have voice messages on my phone wishing me a happy birthday last year and other messages that I like to listen to.  And I have the memories of our time spent together.  Gone from sight is true but living on in my memory as long as possible.

Today, we are going to an oyster roast which should be a good time.  It's the first one of the season.  We are enjoying all that Fall brings. We have had several fires in the outdoor fireplace, and last night had dinner on the deck sitting around the fire.  Life is going smoothly right now.  I am glad that there is peace and quiet in my little world.  I keep hoping that will extend outward as I do my part to convey the happiness that I feel inside.






Sunday, October 12, 2014

Whew!

Yesterday was the Al-Anon Fun Day which turned out to be a great event.  I was incredibly inspired by the speakers who shared their story.  One was an alcoholic, in AA recovery for 23 years.  The other was an Al-Anon father who took all of us through his journey of the 12 steps. It was powerful stuff.

I think that having these opportunities for people to come together for most of a day, enjoy a great lunch, and listen to inspiring speakers is a great thing.  I got to meet so many people that I hadn't talked with before.  And there was a little memorial set up for a couple of long-timers in the program, including my friend, who died this year.  In fact, the day was dedicated to them which touched my heart.

Because of teaching sailing, going to the gym, sailing, riding and attending meetings, I haven't had much time to be as current on blogs as I would like.  I sometimes think that my heart isn't in this anymore because I stay so incredibly busy.  It's not the running type of busy that I once did, but I am passionately enjoying just about everything that I do.  However, I have to say that I will be glad when I have a few less things on my plate. I am juggling a lot of stuff here lately.  And I prefer to have less scheduled activities and more free time.  I know that I am not going to volunteer for any more things to do in the immediate future!

Once again, it appears that the days are slipping past so quickly.  I wish that they would slow down.  Today we have been putting together another green house for all the plants that will have to come inside before cold weather hits.  With temperatures still in the 80's, I don't know when we will have a cold snap, but I don't want some of the beautiful plants to die.  And the garden is still in a state of disarray, but I do have the fall plants that I hope to get in one day this week.  I have been saying that now for two weeks!

I am going to my cousin's memorial service in Virginia in another month.  I am not looking forward to going, largely because he has been dead since June 2013 and having a service now seems a bit late.  I feel badly that he did not have an obituary so few people even knew that he died.  But I will make the drive up there because I think it is the right thing to do.  I suppose this will be more of a celebration of his life which is good.  I hope that his wife will manage to stay sober because she has been drinking quite a bit since he died.  Her drunken phone calls to me were not ones that I liked, but I listened to her until I couldn't anymore and then said good-bye.  I have few expectations for this.  I will keep an open mind and see what happens.

I hope that you are enjoying some of the Fall weather where you are.