You heard right! I have re-committed myself to posting YouTube videos.
You don’t have to subscribe, in fact — maybe unsubscribe. But please do go “like” it, k? Thanks. Love you. 💖
“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.” – Anne Lamott
I won’t claim to be an enlightened individual. Mainly because if you’re reading this, you likely know me and could call me out on my several thousand spiritual flaws. My humanness. But I will say the desire to want to be enlightened flutters daily from heart to brain in this 5 foot 2 inch body of mine.
My fears still get ahold of me, though. The all-or-nothing, black-and-white, yes-or-no thinking begins to call the shots. Everything is an absolute, there is no need for context — I already know. When that happens, the possibility for miracles — the miracles I need — gets snuffed out. Just that fast, just like that. *snap*
The date of the third anniversary of my sobriety gallops towards me and I think, Are you sure you’re coming for me? Are you mine? Does that date belong to this alcoholic?
Time just isn’t a good measuring stick to use for this kind of stuff. A year is a year is a year. Am I better for it, I guess? But the reality sets in that this spiritual malady never. goes. away. A reprieve, yes. Twenty four hours — I know, I know. But also, what about all those times I didn’t rely on my Higher Power? All those times I curtsied politely and said, “Thanks but no thanks, God. I’ll do this my way,” turned back back to walk right smack into an infinite loop of regret and still worse choices.
Not a drop of alcohol, not a pill swallowed — yet still, desperate to feel something different. To be someone else. Chasing a high I didn’t know I didn’t need.
If I don’t get this, then I’m not that. If I can’t feel this, then what is the point. Why try, why try, why try? Why believe anything could ever change?
That last thought: the inebriated final call of self-will. So short-sighted. So delusional. So drowned in self-pity and self-interest.
The truth is I want to believe. Otherwise why would I care that I didn’t?
Things can change. Things will get better. And I know I’m speaking in vagueisms and that can be annoying but believe me that this is the constant state I am in during this season of my life. The solution remains the same, it is always the same. If I ask God to help me believe, He will.
Just. Like. That. *snap*
There is no excuse for driving drunk. Let me be clear.
For true change to happen, for people to stop being reckless with their own lives at the expense of others, the way we talk about mistakes like these would have to change.
It baffles me that to this day, someone will say I made the decision to drive drunk. Maybe the first time, or the trillionth time, but by that time — it wasn’t a choice. It was my life. On a daily basis I was engaged in behaviors that put me and others at risk. Or at the very least, would severely concern my parents.
There was not another way to function at the time of my third DUI. I was given every opportunity to be a happy healthy individual and still, the true CHOICE I made was to not. get. help. I refused to believe I was living in a way that was “wrong”. My alcoholic life seemed the only normal one.
By the grace of God and the human angels he’s placed in my life, I’ve been able to see there is another way. Through tremendous amounts of work and mercy, many old beliefs and behaviors have been abandoned to transformed to support living a healthy and meaningful life.
Just realized I hardly ever shared my videos to my blog, which is kinda weird. As I’m revamping the direction of that channel, figured I’d post some of the classics.
While I can’t stand watching these after I post them, whenever I do accidentally hear myself I think, “Wow, that’s an old idea. I should probably revisit that. Make a new video.”
And someday I probably will. But that day is not today. Watch this if you wanna. Love you!
It’s two o clock on a Friday afternoon and my nose is red. It would be red on a Monday morning, too. Or a Wednesday night. But it’s bothering me more now because I wear a mask in public to keep safe from a virus and I understand that importance but I’m still vain at times and it annoys me that the rough cotton rubs off my overpriced foundation. My nose is red because I have rosacea. It’s nothing interesting. There is actually a subtle joy I have to complain about such a stupid thing.
Actually, right now I’m staring at my red nose in my driver side vanity mirror. My car is perched over what I imagine is a bottomless pit of metal and mystery. The oil change I’m finally getting is 3,200 miles overdue. I meant to throw away the remnants of the Valvoline sticker semi-reminding me (and alerting the oil change guy) that I’ve slipped back into irresponsible habits bound in excuses and lack of motivation to care for myself.
My last car was a Beetle and I drove it to. the. ground. It still ran pretty well in the end, I guess. Part of me wanted to keep it for actual sentimentality, a feeling I can only conjure up when cars and pets are involved.
The windows stopped working in the middle of a storm when I was running a fever and God said, “Are we done with this yet?” and I littered highways from San Diego to Arizona with my headlights that would spontaneously crash on the asphalt if I hadn’t duct taped them in place well enough.
My cars and I were always in tune though. When my life was going well, my car ran well. When I was running around in a flurry of chaos, my Beetle would spontaneously malfunction. It was an accumulation of accumulations: neglect on avoidance on top of denial and self-reassurance that I didn’t have to listen to that knock on my engine, I can just turn the music on louder. Or I didn’t need protection from the rain when my window won’t go up, it’s time I buy a better raincoat anyway. And so today, in the middle of a work day, I decided this can’t go on and 3,200 miles over I’m getting my oil changed now.
And right now I’m finding joy at this drive-thru oil change place. The guy is very friendly and even his calling me sweetheart hasn’t rubbed me the wrong way. We are very different looking people and our lives probably wouldn’t intersect for any other reason than he provides a service that I need. He possesses a skill that I lack and have no desire in learning. It is an act of rebellion to have my oil changed. When my work cell hasn’t stopped ringing since 7am and the numbers in my inboxes are nearing to triple digits.
This here, me in a hot car in a drive-thru oil change, making small talk with a largely-bearded and tattooed thin man, writing down my thoughts, while the world kills itself over who is holier than thy, and I’m wearing a (now, sweaty) yellow shirt that says, “trying my best.”
And I am.
As a child, I think my parents did what parents do and tried to protect me from everything that could harm me. God bless them for trying.
Sometimes this preoccupation was so grand, that seeing my discomfort seemed to cause uneasiness in them and whether or not this is true, it felt like my ending my discomfort was more important than making me comfortable.
There were very few times I could remember being told to suck it up and realize that I’m not going to get my way all the time. Very often, I did get my way. This wasn’t just with my parents either, this was at school, with teachers, at work with bosses, with boys and relationships, even in rehab with counselors. I always found a way to manipulate my discomfort away.
But how did that serve me? It didn’t, really. It just used up my energy to avoid a feeling of displeasure that regardless of it’s origin, was always going to be temporary if I’d just suck it up and adapt. But being adaptable isn’t as valued as being comfortable. Comfort rules everything around me. This American culture thrives on independent comfort and we revile anyone telling us to sacrifice a little so someone else can feel some comfort, too.
Then I got into recovery and dug up every thought and idea that brings me discomfort and I sat with it. You know, something that Pastor Miles at the Rock Church in San Diego always says is, “God didn’t make you to be happy, He made you to be holy.” And it’s true. So much of my life’s energy was spent changing what was going on around me so that I could be happy. But how permanent is that if everything is always changing? Things needed to change on an internal level so that I could walk through whole (and holy) regardless of the ever-changing discomforts around me.
Since getting into recovery and growing in my faith, I really do understand now, I don’t need to have my discomfort removed. Really, I can thrive in discomfort – I can overcome when I rely on God to steady me as I limp through uncomfortable situations, half-rolling my eyes out of annoyance and half-hoping I get through the situation holier and set apart – closer to God and out of the discomfort.
The entire world has been in varying shades of discomfort for… always. It has always been this way. We are just more closely identifying the source of our discomfort as a society and it’s bringing to light the outliers, the radicals, the ones who cannot name discomfort even though it’s on every breath they take and every drop of perspiration as they sit in anxious thoughts of doom and gloom. This discomfort is alive and tingling in every cell and it’s pushing mouths to move and hands to type and sometimes the words aren’t friendly and sometimes they don’t attach themselves to reality and I just have to wonder, I really have to wonder: What would you do if this was all gone tomorrow?
Would any of it be worth your anxious thoughts? Your evil deeds? Your fiery words? Your tense heart? Your paralyzing doubt? Your second and third and fourth thoughts?
If these questions are too uncomfortable for you to consider, then I will give you the easy out. I will give you the answer. I will remove your discomfort. Read on.
The answer is:
So just walk it out. Get through this. Do the thing that makes you uncomfortable. Open yourself up to hurt. Vulnerability is a muscle and it’s never weak, it’s only open to not being the strongest one in the room.
I just got done telling God I feel like I’m in line, waiting at the DMV trying to get my license reinstated. Not sure how long I’ll be waiting, not sure if I’ll pass the driving test, but looking forward to what’s ahead. One step closer, one step closer… but geez, I hate waiting.
It’s okay, I’ve gotten better at it. This doesn’t make me less grumpy. Just quieter. Not really in the mood to talk because I have to anticipate what wild thoughts God has in store. His plans are really that – wild. I feel like he’s a great best friend/father who I tell in a tired delirium, “You know what would be so cool? To have a pet elephant!” Then opening my front door and seeing a baby elephant on my doorstep.
Super cool but like, I don’t know anything about elephants, God. What do I do with it? Is this one of those tests where you give me what I think I want and it turns out to be a nightmare? Bc I don’t like that movie, it always ends badly and I’m always the villain.
Anyway, after moping around and poking God for some progress, today there was some.
I’m still staring at it wondering what to feed it. What do I do with this one extraordinary life?
Just go where God takes me, I’m more than okay with that.
*shrugs and follows*
It starts in the summer. Just as the weather warms up, the sundresses come out of the closet, a new package of hair ties is purchased to hold my ponytail high and only God knows what happened to last summer’s hair ties. Socks become a thing of a chilly past – its sandals or barefoot now. My toenail polish is made shiny and bright each Sunday. That’s when it starts.
The phone rings and for whatever reason, I feel lucky. Maybe because I know outside is heavy with heat, but I’m in air-conditioned rooms — cool and free. Today, I am inspired to answer the phone. This will be the start of a new adventure.
“Wow, you answered,” the voice says. “A couple of us are going to the pier for dinner, do you wanna go?”
The voice belongs to a man (only once to a woman) and is lightly tinted with concern, it lies about others being invited. It’s just us. But I play along. This year is different, I am cool and collected. My fingernails match my toenail polish. I did not even smudge them this time. I get a text with the location like I didn’t already know, like I wasn’t already on my way there.
There are two seats at the bar, we don’t get menus. This is where we stop pretending.
The sun set over the ocean hours ago, but the sky won’t turn pitch black. There are empty glasses that beg to be counted — I hope the grouchy bartender comes back. I can guess that the body that came with the voice has left. Still, I search. It’s darker in this stale venue than it is outside. My eyes search for a familiar face and they find one.
“Oh no,” it says, half-amused (or is that half-horrified?) “I mean… I thought you stopped. Didn’t you go to jail recently or something? What happened? You don’t look so good.” The face says it all. The words I didn’t want to see in the reflection of the dirty bar mirror.
The bartender returns and replaces the tiny glasses with two larger ones. Were they both for me? Cold and shimmering, I grab one with hands clad in chipped nail polish. The face didn’t wait for an answer.
But I want to hear my voice anyway.
“I don’t know,” it says. “I guess we fell in love again.”
SDWI / Thursday Writers, May 14 writing prompt: We fell in love again.
Not really sure the last time I checked out birds. Not in a poetic and meditative state, but just like — birds. Maybe one got caught in my air conditioner (or so I imagine because that’s what it sounds like but I’m too scared to check.) Or maybe I notice because their piercing shrieks seem compete against the busy street noise I hadn’t noticed until I noticed the birds.
Whatever the case, I can assure you, I don’t think romantically about birds at all but I do wish I had more space to contemplate thinking about them.
There is a piece I am supposed to be writing about relationships that is due in three days. Just like my relationships, there have been many starts and stops and questions begging to be answered… so I avoid it all together.
In a moment of brilliance, I thought it’d be good to go back to my first boyfriend. Document that patterns that it had created, the fondness and nostalgia that being a teenager in a relationship evoked. Except, that if I look at it with the most honest eyes I can, the patterns had already been set. We were merely playing our roles.
Last year, a former “fling” of mine died by an apparent suicide-by-cop in the desert, only two miles from my regular go-to getaway in Joshua Tree. We had not kept in touch over the years, it had been at least 12 years since I’d seen him. He’d kicked me out for being drunk and rude. The last things I’d said to him had been awful.
Big deal, everyone has someone like that in their life, I assume.
The thing that troubled me is that only three months prior he’d reached out to me. Out of nowhere. Sent me his address and phone number. The same address that would show up in the newspaper articles where his…. “being”…. stopped.
I had started writing essays on each former fling and love interest.
You’d think that for being 34 and single, there wouldn’t be much to write about. Or maybe you’d think there was more. I won’t tell you how many there are, and I likely won’t share any of those essays. It is a complicated thing to look back at a relationship and see that all I could see in it was myself. Where had I been wrong? Where had I been right? What did I lose? Who did I hurt? How had I been hurt? What had I hoped to gain?
The essays turned out to be less about the boys and the men, and more about my ego and self-obsession. There were very sweet, special memories that feel uncomfortable and undeserved. I am prompted by guilt to find the gentlemen on social media and make sure they went on to live normal happy lives. Yes, many of them did. Some of them, I can’t find. A few seem to be exactly the same.
There is, of course, a common and delicate thread that is woven throughout most of those relationships which now almost looks like it’s colored neon. The moments I picked the fights, the ideas I didn’t want to adopt, the times I slammed doors and declared, “This is over.”
It was always those delicate and brief moments when the person sitting across from me, probed my eyes looking for a reason I behaved the way I did. They wanted an explanation I couldn’t give. It was a general interest that did not make them run, but instead, begged of them to ask if it was okay to stay.
As you could imagine, I was fine making relationships all about me: except when it became about me. My insecurities and shortcomings were not suitable topics of conversations. In fact, if it was even slightly hinted at that I had some work to do to be a suitable partner, we broke up. You could not expect me to do work on myself when you were the one who chose to be with me. So we both suffered.
Until someone called it quits, anyway.
Being able to see that dynamic from a distance of many years, has been important as I consider the future. Of course, all this self-work has ruined my ability to view an interesting man as anything but an interesting human. Oh, so interesting.
So interesting that now I’ve become involved in their well-being. What a novel concept. The one I’m not always invited to but now I grow concerned by. Why does this guy have these weird responses to money? Why does he care about his hair so much? What’s his relationship to his dad like? Why can’t he hang out with me without smoking like he has a spare set of lungs stashed away somewhere? Why don’t any of his stories make sense?
Did it start as a child when he got picked last? Was he bullied or the bully? Did this all stem from neglect as a child? Why doesn’t he have baby photos? Was his mother a narcissist? Is this why he’s attracted to me – some Oedipian manifestation, a need being satisfied? Where does he find his identity? What is his identity? Is he going to mind if I don’t see him the way he sees him?
The point is that we’re missing the point. There have been many starts and stops and questions begging to be answered… so I will avoid it all together.
How do people live without reverence?
When I first got sober, I used to laugh at meetings when they’d say something like, “I’d get on my knees” or “I’d hit my knees” (okay, I still laugh) as I imagined inappropriate things amidst a very spiritual talk.
But have you ever fallen on your knees with complete reverence? I have. Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it was bad.
The first time it happened, I was eight or nine years old. My body was racked with terror, every cell was on guard. My soul fled my body. I lost control. My knees buckled and I collapsed on tiny knee caps and went straight for the Manager when I yelped out a prayer, God, please help!
That wasn’t me falling on my knees in reverence of anything holy. That was me as a child and scared. It was the beginning of a relationship with fear that would last for a few decades. It set the foundation for a life without safety or security, with horrors my little brain produced in constant fashion, my personal manufacturing-plant of fears.
Now I can see I wasn’t in any real danger. But I lived for a long time thinking that I was.
In fact, I began to seek danger. I created situations that made that energy and fear pulse through me like gasoline: I was toxic, I was combustible, my mere presence was an indicator that something was wrong.
Eventually, my own body grew exhausted. It collapsed on it’s knees in reverence to Surrender. I could not keep up. The faint sense that I should be amped up constantly lingered in my little newly sober brain, though. Where was the drama? The excitement? Where was the pulsating danger reminding me I was alive but should have died?
Instead, other people around me died. And they died rapidly. Sometimes it was only a spiritual death, but the light left their eyes all the same. I won’t attend your funeral either way, sorry. I won’t fall on my knees in reverence to your death. I’m not interested in pretending you were saintly and flawless. I like the messy you, the grumpiness and pain, the biting humor, the advice you gave that I never asked for…
It could be the grief catching up to me, the mourning I tried to outrun, but I’m seeing all those lives now in such a different light. Each of the lives I’ve known, of others and my own, don’t just illuminate my future. They highlight and explain it, like a blacklight on a dirty carpet — ohhh, I see that there, that filth, that debris...
Now I see what I need to do.
Now I see how each of the words I’d exchanged with every soul that was lost carried meaning. Sometimes it was that it meant nothing. That still means something.
Sometimes this grief, this guilt of surviving when I tried everything to die, shakes me awake. I could be walking at the park reading chalk on the sidewalk, or sitting at a red light wondering where the lady in the car next to me is going all dressed in black. I could be hanging up a phone call with a person I couldn’t make happy, or listening to a song I used to soothe myself to sleep when the booze wasn’t enough.
I could simply be sitting across from you, with your holy story and the heart that withstood it, and smile. Oh, the coffee is cold, oh, the music is loud, can I see the pimple on your nose? Your furrowed brow and your sarcastic laugh. These trivial moments that don’t seem like much but…
When you smile you are genuine — you are so present and you don’t know how brilliant that is. Your heart, you haven’t even begun to see it’s resilience. As we leave each other, on good terms or on bad, I do — I fall on my knees in reverence of you and every cell bows in within me.
For the souls that the good Lord has blessed me in knowing, for the spirits that have awakened me, for the angels that never knew they were doing their job. I collapse in awe of all the wonder we don’t stop to see, in you, in me, in the air that we breathe, in the streets that we walk, in the hands that we shake, in the words that we speak.
The wonder is so imposing I almost can’t get up.
There are over 600 pages of my psychiatric health in my medical records spanning from 2008 to 2018. Here are two pages.
This first one photo is from a psychiatrist appointment on September 28, 2017. I drank that entire summer of 2017. Ok, I drank every summer for a lot of summers. But in September 2017, a manic episode led me to spend over $400 in the course of a couple of hours. I drank because I didn’t feel OK. I roamed around La Jolla getting kicked out of places. Then I went home to a room I rented in Mira Mesa before going to a coffee shop in Encinitas. I don’t really remember how I got there considering I was broke. There, I felt so out of control I called 911 and was carried away on a stretcher in an ambulance. There, I did a Facebook Live of my emergency room admittance. It was a shitshow.
My roommates ended up having a weird intervention for me saying that I scared them. They’d never been around someone like me so if I had another episode, they wanted me to leave. Sure, they were kind about it, don’t get me wrong. They did the best they could. Have you ever tried living with a bipolar alcoholic?
In the moment though, I tried to educate them the best I could about bipolar disorder and alcoholism. Quickly, I tried to make them remember I was a human not just these dysfunctions. But there was no reconciliation to make them feel safe because honestly, I fucking wasn’t. As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous kindly states: “A drinker in his cups is an unlovely creature.” I was bipolar, non-compliant with meds, and “in my cups”.
Then I found out in early October, that my friend Chris was dead. (I thought he had died recently but he had been dead since the summer.)
Chris was a friend from sober living in 2016. We were instant best friends. Our conversations ranged from racism to Conor Oberst to the Beat Generation. Our inside jokes drove our house manager crazy. All one of us had to say was “Ambercrombie and Fitch” and we’d lose it. Or our endless drives to and from meetings in my beat-up VW Beetle. The CD player didn’t work but the radio did and it was all we listened to. The same dozen songs on constant rotation. Some of our conversations still pop into mind when I’m driving around or when I hear a song, and I will explode in laughter. My entire chest swells up in joy at the ridiculousness of our early awkward sobriety. I laugh, by myself now, to the point of tears. Then I remember. There were also hours and hours of listening to him combat God.
“God hates me, if he exists” is a frequent thing he’d say. When he got kicked out of sober living for not getting along with the manager and not wanting to continue his stepwork, which was… ya know, supposed to get you God-reliant, he relapsed on weed.
Then he was homeless.
Being homeless when it rains really sucks, Vanessa. You have no idea. I smell like death.
Then he relapsed on meth.
The last time I saw him was at a Motel 6 in Vista in January 2017. I picked him up to go to a meeting and even though he hadn’t told me he’d relapsed on meth, just by being within 20 ft of him, my spirit recognized it. I became unbelievably unsettled. There were two girls in the car with me that night. They had asked for a ride to the meeting and I remember thinking, “There is no way in hell I can have him in the same car as these girls.” But dysfunction breeds dysfunction, and he got in.
At the meeting, Chris fidgeted in his chair and asked me to go outside with him for a cigarette. I watched as he broke two cigarettes trying to light them. Finally, I lit one for him and gave it to him. Then he broke it when he tried to flick the ash off.
“I can’t sit, let’s go walk,” he said, finally frustrated he couldn’t get the nicotine he wanted.
There was no point to our walk. It was just something to do. There were no inside jokes, no laughing, there was nothing I could say to make it better. All I could do was sit. There was no anger. There wasn’t any disappointment. I don’t know that there was even any sadness. All there was between us was distance. It was not my friend. I felt like throwing up.
When I dropped him back off at the Motel 6, he asked me to forgive him. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to forgive him for.
“This is just a little relapse, just a small one. Like yours, before you got back into sober living, right? Like, I’m going to get sober like you, I’m going to find God, I guess. This is just my first step or whatever, I’m powerless. Will you come up with me? Flush the rest of the tweak? Will you flush it for me?”
In another dimension, my body leapt out of the car and marched to Chris’s motel room and took all his drugs and flushed it all away. All his problems went down the drain. His fears about his schizophrenic father. His fears about his broken heart. His fears about who he was and what he was worth. In that dimension, Chris’s life was saved. He found God.
Instead, every. single. cell. in. my. body. stayed in place. Nothing could get me out of that car.
“I’ll go with you,” one of the girls in the backseat said. I turned around to look at her and remembered, I was responsible for these two other lives in the car now, too.
“No,” I said. I said bye to Chris but he didn’t hear me. He meandered across the parking lot back to his room. My car made its way out of the parking lot and my spirit began to rest.
A few months later, I got a call from a Georgia phone number.
“Hey Sneaky, it’s me! Shit got real bad in San Diego, man. Real bad. I’m back home now, I’m going to church with mom and dad. Can you believe it? God is real, man. He saved me, I’m going to send you a pic, ok, check out my cross. They have me set up at a motel right now, but I’m good, I got a few weeks sober. Shit got real bad, man…”
At that moment, I was nursing a hangover. Nestled in dirty blankets on a mattress on the floor, there was vomit in my hair and dry mascara tears on my face. I was barely clothed. Happy to hear from him but annoyed he didn’t ask about me. What about my relapse and despair? Do you see how this disease is a physical, mental, and social manifestation of nothing but selfishness?
I wasn’t being selfish because I thought I was more important. And he wasn’t being selfish because he didn’t care about me. But we each in our private minds were running on a terror that was too deep for either of us to name. We didn’t want to die and we wanted someone to tell us we wouldn’t. We couldn’t be that hope for the other.
I don’t want anyone to confuse this as us being “bad” people. We were very sick people and we had get well.
He sent me a photo. In it, he smiled in a parking lot with looming trees lacing the sun behind him. He beamed so brightly. His tall lanky frame, his skeletal fingers pointed to his chest – a large cross hung around his neck.
“You look good, Chris, good to know God’s got your back,” I said. An empty CVS bag crumpled beneath me. I threw up bile into it.
“He does, and you know…” he said. There was a hesitancy I didn’t recognize in him. He paused. “…That was kind of fucked up what you did. What you and Steve did… never… I never would’ve expected it from you but I really do forgive you. Jesus showed me, so I forgive you. Life is too short, I think you meant good,” he said. “I really think you meant good by it.”
“Chris, what are you talking about?” I asked. Steve was his sponsor. We’d kept in touch only because he knew that Chris trusted me. So if anyone would hear from Chris, it’d be me.
“He doesn’t trust anyone, Vanessa. But, he trusts you he thinks you’re all right.”
I racked my fuzzy memory trying to recall what I ever could have possibly done against Chris. And especially what did I ever do where Steve was involved. Was it because I left him at the motel? What was it?
“Hello, Chris? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, but I still felt guilty.
“The earbuds,” he said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about Chris, can you just tell me?”
“You and Steve, you guys kept talking to me through my earbuds when I was trying to listen to music. You guys never left me alone. You guys said some fucked stuff man, like you didn’t want to talk to me if I never got sober. It wasn’t cool, I was going to get sober. I didn’t need you harassing me like that, that’s fucked, Vanessa,” he said. “I forgive you.”
My body felt on fire but I was shivering cold. That conversation never happened.
The tone in his voice… I knew there was nothing I could say to convince him I had not been secretly relaying messages to him through his earbuds.
Nausea overcame me in a wave. I curled up and dry heaved on the dirty carpet near the mattress.
“I forgive you,” he continued. In another dimension, I badgered Chris into submission. Into sobriety. I led him to God. He got sober. I asked for forgiveness.
“Chris, I have to go,” I said. I hung up. I stared at the photo he’d sent me. He did look much healthier, he’d been eating at least. His smile was so big. The sun shined so brightly in that photo. I could practically hear his laugh. His teasing nickname for me, “Hey Sneaky!”
Months later, a friend would call me while I was hungover and at work to tell me Chris had died.
I can’t express what happened to me exactly, only that I showed up at my AA workshop on October 8th, shaking and with vomit still on my breath. I told that group of strangers that I couldn’t end up like Chris. He thought I had gotten better. He believed I had answers. He wanted to believe I did. I wanted to believe I did.
If Chris had truly found God, like he said he had with the lightness and peace in his voice that I hadn’t ever heard from him before, I was glad. I wanted to find Him again, then, too.
If Chris had just lost his mind and was deeply psychotic and detached from reality, well I still wanted that peace he had in his voice when he talked about God.
Maybe I’m the crazy one. Still here, giving God the glory.
But maybe I’m crazy to still have doubts. To see and feel God in action in all these small and painful moments, and dismiss it as a coincidence.
To look back over the last two years of recovery and say, I did it all myself.
To remember every lie I told and promise I broke. To pick up the phone without shame or blame, to make it okay to the people I’d hurt.
To read these notes written by a doctor and feel so close to the 31-year-old Vanessa Gomez but with overwhelming and beautiful relief at 34 years old, to feel so distant from her, too.
I could walk in 70 degree afternoons forever. And indeed, I tried. Unfortunately, Gladwell’s little legs had trouble keeping up. He let me know when he needed a time out. This he told me by plopping down mid-walk and refusing to get back up. Then, when he was ready, he’d stand back up and stare at me expectantly like, “Are you ready?” Then trot along wagging his tail.
Coppola, on the other hand, only rested once. He plopped right down beside Gladwell in the middle of the trail path and sniffed the flowers. Well, ok. Otherwise, he was pretty patient and took in the scenery when Gladwell needed to catch his breath.
I’m sure I had other plans for the day but I don’t remember any of them.
But I felt compelled to update this here because of the handfuls of panicky people that have reached out and therefore, made me panicky as well. OMG, did I die and I don’t know!? ….No, no, I just got rid of Facebook and Instagram….
This little site is always being updated, in case you care enough to follow it.
Anyway, the end of the year is approaching and the book I have yet to complete sits on my desk. Every time I pick up a page to edit it, I feel strongly compelled to throw it away. Yes, because it’s awful writing. No, I’m not being self-deprecating, it actually truly is horrible. But also, I just am sick of the story. Why do I have to keep retelling the same story? This has always been my beef with God. GOD, CAN YOU MAKE ME MORE INTERESTING, PLEASE? I’m sick of talking about alcoholism and mental illness. And by the way, God, you don’t exactly work as a great conversation starter when making new friends, either.
“What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.” – AW Tozer
At this point in time, I struggle to complete the book because 1) I’m happy and 2) I’m sick of the story.
Since I was a little girl, writing was my sanctuary. A place full of make-believe realities and investigative reporting of my inner thoughts on the observations of the outer world. Also, it was very private. I could say whatever I wanted because no one but me and maybe a teacher would read it. That honesty of my thoughts, however crazy they actually were, was the voice that grew. The voice that I learned to appreciate and listen to. And it was the voice that I lost when I became an alcoholic and realized I really couldn’t tell the true from the false anymore.
When I got sober, I figured I could write myself back to the truth. Find myself, that lost voice, somewhere between the worn-out ‘n’ key and the space bar.
Also, there was a very strange marriage between my conversion to Christianity and my writing revival. The two came about at the same time and I haven’t been able to peel them apart since then. Really, I stopped trying. Without God, I wouldn’t have the courage to write about even a quarter of the things I’ve written about.
But now I’m annoyed.
I’m annoyed because the anticipated comments, either positive or negative, began to worm themselves into my writing process. All these little voices of, “Well, how would so-and-so take this?” or “Do you think so-and-so will know you’re talking about them?” began to edit the words I wrote as I typed them.
So it’s helpful to be off social media. Even though the support and comments were overwhelmingly positive.
But also, I’m happy. It’s so hard for me to write when I’m happy! I just don’t see the point in curating the worst times in my life, prettying it up in neat little black and white letters, and serving it up for someone else’s eyes to feast on and suffer from. Half of me doesn’t even recognize that girl in the story anymore, and the other half just wants to politely nod at her so she’ll go away.
…and BY THE WAY, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but Red Smith’s quote is accurate, “Writing is easy, you just open your veins and bleed.” It isn’t as though I can just “fake” the sorrow I felt when my parents came to visit me Thanksgiving week in jail. How my mom wore her prettiest blouse and my dad looked like he’d lost a ton of weight, and they just sat there smiling at me. Pretending they weren’t visiting their little girl in jail, the one they used to smother with too many hugs and words of encouragement. My mom’s hands, the ones I used to grab and pull and take the rings off of as a curious child as I sat on her lap. Now those soft plump hands were visibly aged and unpolished. My dad’s big brown eyes I recognized as the prototype for mine, had love beaming straight out of them, it hurt to look at them. It physically hurt to know these people created me, kept me alive, nurtured and loved me, forgave me, and there. I. was.
“…I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”-Joan Didion
It’s exhausting, is all I’m trying to say. But complaining about it here felt vaguely honest and somewhat familiar.
But anyway, I’m alive and well and happy and busy and writing and not writing and adopting all the dogs that love me. Call me if you have my number. Stop by if I can give you hugs. If you don’t, figure out a way to get in touch. People are pretty good at figuring that out.
Eek. Didn’t write for two days and I didn’t hit my word count today,
But I have untangled a necklace and cleaned my kitchen so… there’s that.
Uhh…. my blind deaf dog unsurprisingly cannot climb or descend stairs. I found this out at the park last night when we went down some steps and he um, like, tumbled the entire way down. Coppola looked back at his disabled brother and then just kept walking which I thought was pretty rude. But Gladwell just stood up on his pudgy stubby legs and tried to figure out which way to go. Poor little guy.
More words tomorrow I hope.
200 words short but I took a sleeping pill early and can’t write any more traumatic things right now. Ready for sleep, for suuure.
If you weren’t my friend in 2017, that’s good for you. I’d relapsed in all the ways. Everything was wild. Except nothing was, it just seemed that way.
The ordinary makes me cry. It’s important that you know that because I don’t naturally take pleasure in ordinary things. My DNA didn’t struggle to exist for a moment like this to be… bland. It was lucky for me, I guess, that the Chaos I craved was created within me. It compelled me.
When I say the Chaos you might start to imagine rushed and disorganized. That wouldn’t be this kind, no. It was like the way some people like to explain existence. The world. How everything came about with a collision and propulsion in darkness.
It was all darkness in the beginning.
But then they explain the time, so many years that can’t even calculate because the calendar they’d use is based on a savior that can’t exist because the world was born of Chaos, wasn’t it?
Well then, that was born in me, too. But I didn’t have the time or the luxury of a planet being born to float in darkness waiting for life to grow. For green shoots to poke through soil, for the sun to get close enough to warm me. I didn’t have that luxury of time.
Instead, with the mania tuned down to a hum and the IV washing my blood clean of alcohol, shame sat heavy on my mouth. My parents tried to reach me but Chaos is loud. Even in sterile hospitals where all you hear are beeps, it’s loud.
Time has passed. The green shoots through soil, they do make me cry. The ordinary is painful because it’s beautiful in its own right. Reliable, it isn’t exciting unless you realize how trivial and grand it is — what a miracle that can be.
Our own human duality.
So, I’m not chaotic like the stars. Instead I thrive on solid land. The ordinary gravity is humbling, I welcome it.
I thank God for serenity in the calamity. I repent for the tumult I previously required to feel like I was alive.
Now I just pray I can thrive.
In September 2017, I had a manic episode. A change in medications to stabilize my depression ended up with 4-5 days of erratic behavior. I did not sleep. This led to me drinking to try to sleep. Reality became very distorted and I was picked up from Phil’s Coffee in an ambulance and hospitalized. I continued to drink after my release. On October 7th I drank myself into a blackout…
One of the most insulting things someone can say to anyone (me) experiencing favorable circumstances is, “Wow, you’re so lucky!”
I’ll admit, I’ve dabbled my fair-unChrist-like share of horoscope reading and zodiac sign personality telling. One of the things that is said a lot about Sagittarians is that we are “ruled” by Jupiter, the planet of luck and good fortune.
In a strange paradox of my Catholic upbringing where a flamboyant and dramatic fortune teller is part of the nightly news, I grew up learning about the zodiac signs and maybe that’s why I’ve always felt lucky.
It’s true, I’ve often felt favored more than I haven’t. Maybe that’s because I grew up with an unrealistically optimistic father who got my hopes up, too. When the unimaginable happened, we’d celebrate. I knew that would work out! When it didn’t, we’d forget. Oh well, wasn’t meant to be.
So maybe that’s how I got stuck with an incurable optimism myself, that is really only absent amidst a spell of depression. But even then…
There’s that song lyric, “No, I’m not lucky I’m blessed, YES.” which I kind of relate to, I guess. Except people tend to use that to describe material things, money, bling. All of which are things that have never really interested me at all.
But blessed, yes.
I’m going to make you a guarantee: Walking in accordance to God’s will for you and not your will for you will always result in blessings.
I think what happens is that I make mediocre things that I get happy about sound good. So people assume it is good. So they say, “Ah, your luck!”
I don’t think God orchestrating the entire Universe so I didn’t die was “luck” but okay.
I also don’t think God orchestrated the entire Universe for So-and-so to die either. I also wouldn’t call that “bad” luck.
What am I rambling on about? I wanted to be offended and now I forgot what was trying to be offended about.
I’m lucky when good things happen.
It is true that I have expended a tremendous amount of energy the past two years trying to take the next indicated step. You are welcome to call me ridiculous but the best of my circumstances have always come from a guidance I’m not wise enough to muster on my own.
How did I know to pick this job over that one?
How did I know to call this person and not that one?
How did I know to stay home or go out instead of go out or stay home?
How did I know that relying on God when my circumstances were SHIT would be the fertilizer that my life has blossomed from now?
I didn’t know. That is unequivocally my favorite part about life. About being a human. The uncertainty of it all. This is why I rarely take plans super seriously but I always hope for the best and laugh when either the best or the worst happens. You just can never really tell.
But that isn’t luck.
Then there are people that are like, “Of course it isn’t luck and of course it isn’t god, you’ve worked your ass off for what you have. You deserve the credit. You’re the one making sacrifices. You’re the one making things work. You, you, you…”
Me, me, me.
That’s a lonely song.
The truth is that yes, my circumstances have changed dramatically from six months ago, from a year ago, from OH LORD 5 years ago…
Yes, it did take a lot of work, actually. No, I never did it on my own. Yes, I have lost things. But oh, I’ve gained so much more…
The truth is, you can have everything you didn’t know you wanted if you put your big plans and ideas aside. If you tap into God’s consciousness and ask, “Is this what you want for me? Is this in the plan? Do I continue on this road? Do I give up, turn around, is there something better at home?”
The hardest work I’ve ever done to get anything I ever wanted was to have faith that God knew better than I did. Especially when I was pretty sure He didn’t. And to trust that if I just put His desires in my heart instead of my own, that things are working out exactly as they should.
And luck has nothing to do with that.
So stop diminishing God.
And frankly, stop diminishing the shittiness I go through when I’m just following God’s directions. There was a lot of bad stuff before the good stuff arrived.
If you’re going through bad stuff yourself, let it go. Have some faith.
Do you think love could change the world?
What would that look like?
You there, claiming an identity rooted in beliefs that you’ll never change — if the person who hurt you the most approached you with remorse tomorrow: Would you feel relief? Would a burden be removed? Could you feel free? Could you change the way you love? Could you let yourself be loved?
The reason the world doesn’t work this way is that somewhere along the line everyone agreed to only worry about themselves, their priorities, they would handle their “own business” and everyone else should do the same. No second chances. We all die alone. The thread of commonality that ran throughout humanity, the very essence of being alive, got snuffed out for the sake of individual progress.
We became islands. We curated our own worlds to keep the “good” ones in and the “bad” ones out. Now, we compete.
At some point, we began putting the value of our life over the value of everyone else’s. Then we started ranking everyone else’s.
We used to identify each other with the things we loved. Now we gravitate to those who fear as we do. We identify each other with disease and we wallow in our despair. Then we just others who suffer, too, because they do it differently.
Somewhere along the line, asking for help meant weakness. Being poor meant you were lazy. Being non-white meant you were inferior. Being born outside of a free country meant you were trying to take whatever freedom there was. Making a mistake showed you didn’t know anything and probably never had. Disagreeing with someone meant you were wrong.
Somewhere along the line, being right became the only thing that mattered.
Being right mattered more than love.
Being right mattered more than peace.
Being right mattered more than lives.
I’ll let you know, it doesn’t matter much to me.
I’m willing to be wrong.
And I know loving people, even if I disagree with them, can change the world.
Even if they are wrong.
Even if they are right.
I believe all the holiness that I was born with, you were born with, too.
That holiness is a thread that will bind us greater than any fear if only we could honor it.
After all, the value of a life belonging to the person I love the least is still equal in value to mine. It is equal to yours, too. I don’t get to decide that.
It. Just. Is.
Does that make you cringe?
*title from “All Over You” by Live
You are the alpha and the omega. The beginning and the end. Your success is all on you. Your failures maybe, sometimes, too. Maybe the breeze of some butterfly wings fans you with good luck. Don’t be too glad. The tornado is on its way.
I said the tornado is on its way. You’d better be prepared. Do everything you can. If you don’t survive, it’ll be your fault. This was all on you. Didn’t you know your child was afraid of the dark? Of course she wouldn’t come when you called. Yes, she stayed behind. No, she didn’t make it. If only you’d been a better… whatever. If the world wasn’t so unfair… Let the human race take the blame. The tornado is on its way.
If you do survive, look down on those who didn’t. How sad, you scoffed while you said it. Maybe they should have known better. At least there will be less traffic now. Fewer cars. Fewer survivors. You did this on your own. This survival isn’t for everyone. Now you can make more money. There will be more resources for you. More resources for the select few that can tick along in life like this. Grit their teeth. Take the punch. You deserve the glory for doing so. Didn’t they know? I said the tornado is on its way.
Let this assure you there is less meaning now. There wasn’t any, to begin with. But there won’t be any now that it’s over.
You are the alpha and the omega. The beginning and the end. It all begins and ends with you.
Maybe that’s all you need.
I will want to risk a lot.
You’d quiver. I’d wink.
You know winning isn’t bought.
I crave freedom, the brink.
(*the title and photo caption are from a song by Lana Del Rey)
Everyone is probably sick of listening to stories of Old Drunk Vanessa and her chaos and attempts at redemption. I get it.
I, too, am sick of telling these stories.
The need to share them happens every day, though.
For one, the damage I caused continues to ripple throughout my life and it’s been almost two years since my last drink. I share these moments of struggle and self-doubt bc recovery and sobriety are not overnight matters. It is unreasonable to expect life to be flawless after years of not. That expectation is dangerous for the alcoholic and for the people surrounding the alcoholic. This is a lifelong commitment to a new way of living.
Everything seems new to me and I am grateful for the people that are patient with me as I try on these new legs. It can be slow, unsteady, and painful when I fall. Truthfully, I pray blessings and blessings upon these people that stick beside me and encourage me most days. I know God loves them so much. If I seem obsessed with the people that care about me, it’s bc I am and I care about them so much, too. I am devoted to loyalty.
But also, I am understanding of the people that rush past me and knock me down bc I can’t catch up to their speed. It must be frustrating to have me around. At times I’m too clumsy at this sober life. But God loves these people, too. If I seem overly compassionate to the dismissive jerks and mean people, it’s bc I get it. In another life, I would be, too.
So here it goes: My boss recommended me for an opportunity at her business partner’s property. This is a big deal bc it comes with a free townhome. But an even bigger deal: I don’t like being terribly disappointing.
I love my boss. I want to make her proud. She’s challenged me when I didn’t want to be challenged. She saw potential in me when I wanted to give up. She’s been very, very hard on me and pushed me while I was already sprawled out waving a white flag. Literally, she has seen me at my very worst, personally and professionally. So her recommendation meant a lot to me.
Interesting though… we both knew the gal that had that job working for her partner before. She was amazing at it, everyone loved her, she did it for a long time. That was the standard upon which all future managers would be measured.
She had also worked with us. We will call her Janet.
Janet was a serious hard worker. We worked side by side under my boss and we got along well. However….This was at a time when I truly and very obviously was running on self-will and no one mattered but me.
Janet attempted to befriend me and I went along with it at first. Then, as most all of my relationships with anyone ever went, it went sour bc my self-interests were more important than a human I sat next to for eight hours a day, five days a week. Honestly, I don’t remember a ton about the last months of us working together because I was so self-absorbed and a tornado of chaos. But I knew I hadn’t been a good friend or co-worker to her.
She ended up leaving for another job.
I ended up going to jail a few months later as my drinking got out of control.
It’s difficult to be sober when you hate yourself.
When I got out of jail, determined to do the “right” thing, I began texting her and saying I was sorry and I sucked and she didn’t deserve that. She said something along the lines of, “Cool, thanks, good for you, appreciate it. Enjoy your life.”
I was sad. I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to be a good friend. That opportunity had passed.
After hearing about this job opportunity, I found Janet’s email address and sent her an email. How are your boys? They must be so big now. How was the hubby? And how are you? I’m up for your old job and… I don’t know, do you think I could do it as well as you?
I didn’t get a reply.
Fast forward, I dropped Janet’s name at the lunch interview for the position. Everyone’s faces lit up as they remembered what an amazing person she was for the job. Yes, everyone agreed, she was great. I agreed, damn it! Immediately, I regretted bringing up her name.
Checking my email almost hourly waiting for a reply from Janet, I never got one.
The interview process moved on and my references were checked. I happened to be with my boss when she got her reference call. Though… it’s hard to hear someone say nice things about me so I left in the middle of her call. She was out of the office when she called me to check in.
“So… they spoke to Janet.”
My head hit my desk.
“She spoke highly of you and said complimentary things,” my boss said.
“WAIT — what?”
“Yeah, I was a little surprised, too. I vaguely remember you two having a falling out because of the promotion you got over her, but she appears to be over it.”
That’s right. I got a promotion and she didn’t.
Suddenly a lot of vague memories came back to me. I hadn’t drunkenly dialed her and said awful things, or flat-out abused her in some way. In all my chaos-creating, I had been given a promotion and Janet had wanted that promotion and I felt bad I had gotten it.
I need to be clear I didn’t “gun” for the promotion. I didn’t “put down” Janet for the position. The promotion came out of nowhere.
In my alcoholism, in my depression, I worked extremely hard to distract myself from my life. My employer reaped the benefits bc all my energy was then focused on my job, which I did well. I work harder when I’m miserable. (This is unhealthy, btw, don’t do this.)
If Janet hadn’t been a healthy whole person, all of this could have turned out really badly.
But, I did end up getting offered the job. I know God has everything to do with it. I know my boss had a HUGE part in it. And also, Janet… she had something to do with it. For her, I am especially grateful.
A year ago on Good Friday, I put my depression and anxiety on a cross and surrendered all my fear and mistrust. Like, literally.
The church had passed out little white slips of paper to everyone and set up along the altar these giant wood crosses with nails sticking out of them. The pastor asked us to write down our burdens on the little piece of paper and stab it through a nail on the giant cross. I remember looking at my tiny piece of paper and thinking it just wasn’t big enough to hold my depression. I’d need another slip of paper for my anxiety. Maybe a stack of little papers for everything else. But I scribbled some words and stood in line to put my burdens on the cross.
I was six months sober at the time and miserable. Waking up in the morning was the worst part of my day. Some mornings i woke up I’d start crying involuntarily from the sheer heaviness of void I felt. To say I felt empty would be an understatement. Also, I tried not to burden others with it. I struggled to connect to people. Struggled to understand why I was alive. I was surrounded by people but felt separate, disconnected, “other.”
My anxiety would kick in the rest of the day. Overwhelming me in waves that made it hard to concentrate on anything. My work suffered. My friendships suffered. My relationship with God suffered.
Three months later, I was off all psych meds. It’s been nine months and I haven’t had any relapse in my bipolar 2 disorder. After years of struggling with incapacitating unstable moods, I have been given stability. Peace. Serenity.
The other day I was driving and I felt a little bummed out and I was like, man, maybe I need to see my doctor. Maybe I need DBT again. Do I need to call someone? Ohhh, sadness started creeping in. My disappointment that I was heading into a depressive episode began to overwhelm me. How long would it last? How bad would it be? Would I make it out alive this time?
Drive, drive, drive.
Then I realized I’d had such a busy day with friends and work, I’d completely skipped eating. Like, the entire day. So I drove through like a Wendy’s or something and got a chicken salad, parked my car and listened to a podcast, and by the time it was all done and over, I felt like a human again. I had to laugh at how stupid and huge I’d made low blood sugar seem. But I guess if you’ve ever suffered through enough depressive episodes you’d understand the dread that comes with finding yourself in one.
Anyway, I don’t really have an ending for this because of course if bipolar disorder really exists, I’m still at risk for a manic or depressive episode down the line. So I just want to praise God now for the reprieve I’ve been given and the miracle that is His love.
My apartment was a mess. For being a girl, I did a shitty housekeeping job. I had a card table for a dining table and it was sticky with wine, from several sloppy nights. My kitchen was foodless but managed to be stained with condiments and the stove had caked on remnants of previous cooking attempts when I bothered grocery shopping. All I had in the fridge was an empty beer box and a box of rotten strawberries. My living room carpet had all kinds of crap scattered across: knitting needles, unraveled yarn, a keyboard, scrapbooking stickers, a TV set, bag after empty bag from fast food joints, pens, sheets of paper, a hammer, broken CD’s. The living room and the kitchen were all connected so it was a one-shot view of mass catastrophe. Through a door in the living room was my bedroom though, and then through a little mirrored-closet hall in my bedroom was my sink and mirror. Then through another door was the toilet and shower. That was probably the cleanest room in the house. Probably because it was the smallest. Anyway, that whole area had clothes and undergarments strewn all around. Even the sad window by my bed had a bra hanging from the curtain holder. There was a burgundy stain in the corner of the room where I had vomited wine one pretty awful hungover morning. I had no good solid explanation for this mess except that it seemed less lonely if it was covered in my stuff. When it was clean it was just a lot of empty space for me to roll around in, I felt lost in it. The rooms seemed bigger and lonelier than they did already and I couldn’t stand that.
It was my little death trap and in it, I had drowned myself in gin every night for as long as I had lived there. How’d I get trapped in there? I lured myself in. No good cause or justification for it, either. Usually, you hear about people putting themselves into seclusion for spiritual or artistic reasons and they’re able to romanticize their drudginess and loneliness. I did it just to be alone. It was offered to me and I took it. Just to see what it was like. Just to get drunk and not have to worry about stumbling over anybody or breaking $300 guitars. You could’ve given me a closet and I would’ve been just as content. As long as I could pop myself in there and sit in the darkness and not have to talk to anybody.
But the truth of my life was I had to talk to people all the time, and constantly. I had a job other people would’ve loved and I guess it was alright but it wasn’t really my deal. I sat alone for 9 hours in an office, tucked into buttoned blouses, A-line skirts, black pantyhose, and kitten heels. Most of the time I was by myself when my boss wasn’t in the office next to me hollering into her phone at people. Then, of course, I always had to answer the phone and listen to people complain about a busted water line or if we wanted to use them as a cleaning service or did I put an alarm on test. Did I put an alarm on test or was it just going off? I don’t know, dispatch the police. Oh wait, nevermind, I did it put on test.
I was one of those office people, dull and bored. Most of the time it was slow and most of my time was spent surfing the internet, figuring out what colors I’d want to decorate my apartment (that was ironically provided to me through the property management company I worked for) if I ever got around to cleaning it. I liked researching rare diseases and convincing myself I probably had all of them, regardless if you could only catch it through a rare South African moth biting you in the first two weeks of August in the depths of some remote jungle that took a month-long hike to get to. I was dying of it, I knew it. I would also spend large amounts of time texting ex-boyfriends random things, such as how I was dying of some rare South African disease. Or that their horoscope said not to say yes to any foxy ladies today. Or I’d write letters to people I wish I’d had as lovers before they moved three states away, “Dear you, I miss you. Perhaps you should come back down and visit me for a kiss. It’s your birthday this month, isn’t it? You know I don’t keep track of those things. Are you and your girlfriend still swingers? Then I guess she won’t mind. I love you, right now. Sincerely, Love.” And I’d spritz the expensive stationary with my expensive perfume (both of which I kept a hearty supply of in my desk drawer) and would slip the fragranced letters into their wardrobed envelopes and slap a stamp on it and go to the post office with my stacks of letters to drop off on my lunch break, which I always made longer than the hour I was alotted. A productive employee.
When I wasn’t being bored or annoyed by people at work, I was being harassed by my father who had never been so preoccupied with me until after I moved out. How was I doing, what was I doing, what did I think about the weather, did I hear about the accident on the 91, did I know that kid that got killed in some fire in Perris, the economy is bust, and newsflash: your mother says hello, call her will you? why don’t you ever call your mother, you should call her and let her know how you’re doing…. What on earth? Why? Usually, I would pick a fight with my dad so he’d stop talking to me, then maybe give my mom a call to vent just so he wouldn’t think I was calling her just because he’d asked me to. I was a good daughter in that way.
Beyond all my charming qualities, I had a bit of a troubled side. Due to my being so unhappy at work, I had really bad drinking binges… meaning, I’d get trashed every night then get sloppy upset about it which lead me to drag myself into work sloppy hungover the next morning. After a while, I was like, what the hell I’m going to see a therapist. It was kind of funny. We had to sit in an orientation meeting first, just to brief us on what therapy would be like. The thing about some (most) mental illnesses is that they were just ridiculous. All it means is you’re not well adjusted because you bask in your inability to adapt and you like being titled “mentally ill” because that gives you license to act like a baby and stalk your boyfriend when he calls ten minutes later than he promised. And then throw beer bottles at him. Anyway, the lady giving the orientation was a wackjob herself, as most of those in the mental health industry seems to be. She was some tall, frail-looking woman who was no doubt beautiful but an outcast in her youth and thus had developed strange nervous laughter and self-conscious way of speaking which included making long, steady, studied, pensive stares with each patient as though to make sure we were all paying attention to her. Oh, yes, yes… we’d politely respond. And she’d nervously giggle.
I had hoped that my therapist would be some sage, scholarly, white-bearded man with a smoking jacket in a dark room full of leather-bound books. But alas, all I got was some tight (but kind) faced mid 30’s Filipino man who only probed my answers further when they involved sex. In our first meeting, I cried the whole time. I was in an awful place at the time, I felt that all the sunshine in the world couldn’t touch my black, sad, cold soul. I could be sitting right on top of the fiery ball and my heart and soul wouldn’t even glance at it. I was just some carcass of myself, floating along in life. All the bad poetry in the world that I wrote every night in my apartment couldn’t even begin to express just how black, sad and cold my heart and soul were. And when I cried by myself in my filthy apartment after bottles of gin and wine, it just wasn’t the same as having someone see you. It was like all the crying wasn’t really existing unless someone was there to see it happening. Maybe like, if a tree falls in the middle of the forest with no one around, does it make a sound type of thing. As soon as I plopped my pathetic self in his plastic vinyl chair, I just bawled my eyes out between sobbing out yes and no answers to his questions that seemed so ludicrously shallow that I couldn’t even believe I had shelled out the $30 for this measly 20 questions game and then I sobbed some more because my phone bill was due next week and I had already spent my paycheck on expensive creams and perfumes online that I didn’t even end up liking, much less needing.
Have you ever abused, molested, how is your relationship with your mother, your father, are you sad, are you anxious, have you been raped, I see here you’ve had a lot of sexual partners… The eruption of sobbing. Who cares if I’ve had a lot of sexual partners, my life is meaningless! We are all going to die and I have no say in it and all the hard work and talent I might have had that I haven’t discovered is pointless! Are we going to talk about how we’re just sitting here wasting time until we die? I could be some sociopathic serial killer and in the end, all I’m doing is speeding up the process for my victims. Just making someone else’s destiny come a little sooner. Oh, the families, the lovers, the secrets– boohoo. They were all mourning and grieving for their own selfish reasons. It’s the victims that are relieved, joyous and revered: FINALLY, done with their stint on earth and they don’t give a shit about their reputation now. The dead are always angelicized.
“Love, you’re crying more right now. Tell me what you’re thinking, are you seeing images of all your sexual partners?” He asked, concerned and curious expression slathered on his face. I sat up straight. Stopped crying.
“Nope. Do you have any tissue?” Of course, it was occupying the seat right next to me. That box was like a second therapist in the room, a silent one that was there merely for physical consolation. The mother therapist, carefully dabbing moisture from my eyes, ensuring my mascara didn’t run out of control. The tube of mascara, an online purchase as well, $40 for the tube, it was supposed to be waterproof and flake proof and bomb proof or whatever. I looked at the tissue– saturated in black. I burst into tears again.
“So….” and he said this in such a way to avoid awkwardness, in a way that told me, I’m-not-judging-you-but-we-should-try-figuring-out-why-youre-before-your-hour-is-almost-up. I looked up at him and collected myself and waited patiently for him to ask me something, to bring up some deep philosophical soul-baring issue that would enlighten us both and shed light on why I felt so awful all the time. But he didn’t.
“What sign are you?” he asked. I laughed.
“Hmm… are you into astrology? Let’s check out what your sign means.” He flipped through some thick astrology book he had on his bookshelf and read me a few pages of my personality, omitting all the negative parts which were the parts I had my ears perked for but was disappointed when I realized he was just skimming for the good stuff. The negative parts of astrological signs are always the funniest part to me, and there he was, the therapist, being so serenely sensitive to my emotional state. I decided not to bully him for it and asked him what sign he was, to which he replied Capricorn. To which I groaned. All the past year I had been smothered by the presence of Capricorns and it never turned out well. And on the relationship front, they were the main heart offenders. They were always so charming at first but after that, their claws came out and they sunk their teeth in you and tried yanking your soul out your ass. That was when I decided I couldn’t take this therapist seriously and I stopped crying and asked him why he was a therapist.
He had a long story about being a stockbroker and reading self-improvement and motivational books which were really just psychology in disguise. Then he quit the stock exchange and worked at a burger joint while he went to school to be a therapist and now here he is, happier than ever and so glad he’s not in a business suit every day. Our hour was up and I was relieved. My dad was waiting outside the old wood building in his car to give me a ride home. He knew better than to ask me how my appointment went so the only words he said to me were when we pulled up in front of my apartments and I got out: Hope you feel better. I slammed the door shut and holed myself up in my apartment the rest of the weekend.
During that time, everything that shouldn’t have bothered me definitely bothered me. All the things that were actually important though and should have bothered me, didn’t seem to make much of an impact on me at the time. But I guess it just accumulated itself in some filter of my mind to come unclogged later and sifted through. For example, I hated watching people with disabilities on TV because they afflicted me with too many emotions and I was already overwhelmed with too many of my own. I sat watching some program on disabled kids and felt bad for wanting to laugh at their goofy grimaces and nauseous watching them eat. At the very same time, I felt such a profound sadness that they were born this way. In another sense, I was completely proud of them and wished them nothing but the best, yes you there son with down syndrome good going putting that peg into the circle you show them how far you’ve come! It just seemed like such a mockery of human existence to see anything plastered on a television screen, especially the suffering of someone who’s ailments came from birth. It upset me in too many ways. So I watched the marathon of whatever sick program that was and finally came to the conclusion that the correct emotional response to these images was to feel nothing for them at all. They were temporary, they would die too someday, it should not affect me.
I became that way about everything, even myself. When something “bad” would happen to me or someone would mistreat me it was like I was watching someone else. This guy I was dating got me drunk on Christmas Eve and we had sex and I said something that pissed him off (I still don’t know what) and he spit in my face and I spit back and he kicked me out. I never even got mad at him. I called him the next weekend and we did it all over again. Somewhere along the lines, I had trained myself so well to not feel bad for anyone or about anything that I didn’t even feel bad about me either, pity wasn’t exactly a quality I aimed for perfecting anyway. Finally, I had mastered the art of humanity, I’d tell myself. I looked down at homeless people and teens with their kids in strollers and I didn’t feel bad about it and I didn’t want to help them because they were not my lives and I didn’t have to worry about them.
For a while, I thought that this was freedom: lack of attachment to anything and everything. Apathy personified. But that sugar cube idea quickly dissolved one day that I was sitting at some bookstore staring at people looking for knowledge in heavy squares made of pages of paper filled with black-printed words. All those people in all those aisles, skimming and skimming, just reminded me of little ants crawling all over one another and here I was just a little ant off to the side, refusing to participate. Crossed my antennae, sat on my red behind, not moving. Not following that leader, no way. I even brought my own thermos full of black coffee (or gin) so I didn’t have to buy the expensive cafe’s coffee. I was pretty bitter every time I’d go to that bookstore, but it was the air conditioner worked well in the summer and the heater worked well in the winter that kept me coming back.
*This is half of a short story I’ve worked on while I distract myself from my main boo[k] for the moment. Shrug. Let me know what you liked and hated about it if you read it.
Title is a lyrics taken from “El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel 💜