Category Archives: peace

River Bend Park: Hunting like the Algonquians


Today, on a sparkling clear low-70s fantastic spring day, I went on a school field trip with Thing 3 who is eight to River Bend Park with his class to learn about long-ago Native Americans in our region. He is an inquisitive little guy, articulate and sweetly awkward. He’s on an accelerated intellectual path and he gets dreamy and cozy with his big ideas, speaking to me tenderly about his designs and thoughts about how the world works. While he’s dreaming big, emotionally he’s still tender about being asked to “come back to us,” and he struggles to articulate the feelings he experiences and why he has them.  I like to equate this stage as similar to when little kids fall down: because they’re short, they don’t have far to go; but to them, it’s still a distance and it can be hard on them, a surprise. Optimistically speaking, the younger we catch these snags, the softer the reaction, the more “in the moment” we can inspire them to be. 

He absolutely loves field trips. He loves nature and being outside as much as he loves legos and his DS and video games. When it comes to being in the moment, he loves it; loves to live there and for the most part that’s OK. And he’s quite flexible about social experiences. When we were at lunch at the picnic tables, he was delighted to sit and gaze softly at the river, calmly focusing, sort of taking it all in, his hair gently lifting in the soft breezes that licked our forms. It was still a little crisp, but undeniably lovely outside. We all were happy there. 

I observed his classmates in all their different flavors and styles, races and mannerisms. I was delighted that it seemed to me that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a colorblind society is growing closer every generation. Girls were not considered weaker or slower or smaller or softer than the boys. As a mom of only three boys, I was over the moon to see that a boy’s tenderness or perceived slowness or clumsiness or were not the subject of criticism. Competition existed on a skills basis only. One girl shot a bow and arrow more than 30 feet and it cleared the tarp that was supposed to catch it. No one said, “great job for a girl!” They all said, “Wow! That was amazing! Way to go, Sally!”

At River Bend Park, Thing 3 enjoys the view from the deck my tax dollars built. 

I strolled with the other parents and children under the dappled sunlight streaming through the breaks between bright, translucent leaves that popped three weeks early. My feet landed silently on the powder-sand soft, multimillennia-old pathway of this amazing park today along the Potomac River.  I listened to the sing-song conversations of the kids; grateful for the moment to “record” in my memory as one when the children are still untainted by social anxiety and inadequacy worries. They were all about the environment. All about each other, about what they saw, ladybugs and butterflies; remembering the snakes sunning on the banks of the river, and what they heard, crows ca-cawing and bees buzzing. Every once in a while I’d hear “fart” talk or “poopy” but that was about it. The kids were in the moment, happy to be away from their desks on a wonderful day with parents all around them. If the parents weren’t their own, they were parents of a good friend, familiar loving people were all around.

Our guide, who had an unusual British accent; sort of Swiss and British in one, took our group to a clearing just before the path forked. I was showing my friend who is moving soon what poison ivy looks like as the guide talked about the botany and native animals of the area. Walking forward a bit slowly now, she talked about the ancient Algonquian people who lived in this area 15,000 years ago and about the tribal children in a comparative sense of the children whose attention was now rapt, hanging on her every word about the very enthralling topic of hunting and gathering. Even more exciting for them all was when she talked about what “animals leave behind them…” and the kids said, “food!” and “farts!” and one little girl said, “I know the answer, but I don’t think it’s polite to talk about.” 

Our guide kindly laughed and said, “Yes, it’s OK to talk about. Poop. The animals leave behind what we call ‘scat’ or what you know as ‘poop’.” The kids laughed in an uproar, easily frightening all the fauna to beyond a mile’s distance. 

Once the laughter subsided, our guide explained how the Algonquian used their senses to hunt. Slowly and more quietly with every sentence, she explained that total silence was essential to be a good hunter. The best hunters listened to everything with all their might. Did we want to be good hunters like the Algonquian? She whisper-spoke to the group. Heads nodded in assent and children hushed, “yesssss” in reply. 

She had us. We were ready to hunt.

In order to get us into the zone, she asked us all to put our own feet very close to each other and stand still, like a pole. The ground was so soft and quiet, like a pair of fantastic and well-loved mocassins, that standing there, in this idyllic place, with all this breathtaking scenery and its gentle, nearly silent breeze was an indulgence for we oft-harried Fairfax County people. Next, she said, I want you to breathe slowly through your nose if you can, and then close your eyes and listen to everything you hear. Keep your eyes closed for one minute to take in all sounds, and breathe deeply and slowly because as an Algonquian, you would be able to smell your prey as every creature has its distinct odor. Listen for the breezes and the snaps of twigs; and of the wind rustling through a hawk’s feathers kiting overhead. And so we were ready, especially the parents, waiting, desperately for that command . . . 

Close your eyes and listen. 

We heard everything: woodpeckers di-li-gen-t-ly lo-ok-ing for b-u-gs, cardinals and sparrows singing out, “wittow-woo! wittow-woo!” and “tweet-woo! tweet-woo!” for their mates; ducks on the water to the east dipping their necks and ruffling their wings as the chilly rivulets ran off, squirrels leaping from “swoosh!” branch to “swoosh!” branch, the wind rustling the leaves just so. . . on and on went the wonderful melody that is nature. And then an airliner. And then she told us to open our eyes. 

In unison, we parents looked at each other, our eyes if not our words, expressing: “Wow . . . that’s it? Can’t we go back? That was wonderful! Must we stop now? It was so good. That wasn’t a minute….” 

We were tricked! We didn’t care about the airliner. We were totally fine with that foreign sound, we could cancel it out, disregard it, not mind it… can’t we go back? C’mon, let’s try  . . .  even the kids seemed a little disappointed; their little Walter Mitty moments as hunters broken. A collective consent and compliance took over the group. 

No. Keep the line moving. 


So bummed. You could see an entire class of 20 parents just deflated. I wanted to kick a rock or flick a beetle. We were in a momentary nirvana — I mean, all of us were there, man. Timothy Leary or not, we were there. 

We continued on the path, blah blah blah. 

Who cares what happened next. The kids shot a bow and arrow at a tarp, then they used some other device to throw a spear. Whatever. We were interrupted. 

What I realize now, as I type this, that while we were all slightly disappointed that we were brought back to reality before our 60 seconds were up, we could take ourselves back there any time. Even though there’s something special, something seemingly better about going there, under the trees, along the river, on the path, near the bugs and the birds, where the Algonquian did it, we all can “go hunting like the Algonquians” anywhere, anytime.  We just have to remember to let ourselves go.  

thank you.  

Go With Your Gut or What Happens When You Don’t


Go with your gut. Your first reaction. Your first instinct. Your first impression. Go with it with everything: a car, a ride with a friend, a woo-woo person you saw, a job interview, a job you want, a book you started, a song you heard, something you tasted, something someone said, a first date. Go with it. Don’t second-guess your reaction and for goodness’ sake, don’t make exceptions (this is really for me).

What does this mean? For starters: everyone’s gut reaction is their own. Yours doesn’t have to agree with mine, but if it does, then that’s more reason to heed. To me (probably because I haven’t learned enough yet), it doesn’t mean you must act on it; it just means you retain it, keep it in the hip pocket, or like a tip sheet for future use, for those moments when you will inevitably (due to human nature) go against it. 

We all do this — we all go against it. They wouldn’t be called “first impressions” if there were no second ones and third ones… Maya Angelou has a famous phrase, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Lots of people think this phrase can be meant as a warning system, and I’m sure that’s its main intention. 

On the opposite side of the same coin though, is that it’s also an “it’s OK” system too. If your first candid impression of someone is as lovely and tender and sweet, then go with that — even if they show you something different later — because you know it is there.  I wouldn’t be married to the man I am if I ignored his tenderness the first time I ever met him (that said, he has never shown me another side). So if your nice person is snarly, it’s probably because something’s wrong. Then, listen to your gut to help root out the problem. 

Going against the gut instinct is not a sin or a character flaw or a symptom of stupidity (even though it feels like it sometimes); it is that instead we rationalize, we go with our hearts or sense a familiarity / redolence from a previous and precious pattern that we used to know; we used to exist under. Sometimes these familiarities manifest themselves like a hangover. “Hair of the dog” might take away the symptoms but it sure doesn’t stop your drinking problem. 

Spock never had to really rationalize.

Going against our gut, and going for the familiar can create problems and waste so much time: I would have never dated as much as I had and I would have never learned the lessons I learned if I had always gone with my gut (I would have saved myself a lot of heartache and woe, but hey, I’m not Spock). This is part of life. We buy the wrong car; we talk to the crazed person we saw scream at traffic; we take the job and it doesn’t work out; we gloss over the tone when we heard someone say something … we overcompensate, we rationalize. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if life or people came with red flags?: 

This is so funny and true. 

Maybe they do. Maybe they do come with red flags and we just y’know, ignore them. But y’know, when you do go against your gut, you will learn through trial and error and trial and error and trial and error until you don’t anymore. You will experience so many “face palm” moments that you might create an impression in your forehead. 

That’s OK. Don’t judge yourself, but DO know that it won’t stop — these face palms, the “not again” moments until you stop. Until you see the light at the moment you’re really meant to. That when all the data is lined up, and you’ve learned all you need to know — about the book, or the song,  or the person you saw screaming at traffic or the job interview you had — that your Gut Instinct will be there, waiting and saying, “Welcome back, normal-thinking self, that person we spent so much time in therapy trying to find, we missed you.”  

But even though we’ve learned that last “not this time”-time, sometimes we repeat behaviors, actions, relationships again in different iterations. We Rationalize Again: one person’s drama is just slightly different until it really isn’t anymore and then, it’s your fault. You fell asleep at the wheel and the fork in the road takes you closer to hell or back to clarity and you’re about to crash. You need to wake up, rub your eyes, slap yourself in the face, turn up the music, open the window, ANYTHING!, course correct and Don’t Repeat. And it’s until those “don’t repeat” moments manifest that we will repeat. 

I experienced yet another rationalizing relationship. I went against my gut.  I saw all the flags. I saw all the body language, all the inconsistencies, heard all the weird stories both community-based and this-person-based. I ignored. I compartmentalized and rationalized myself into oblivion. I set boundaries I thought this person could respect. I was clear. But in the end, it went wrong. The boundaries were eventually a mockery because this person has no boundaries; everything is everyone else’s right? If it’s on the Internet then it’s all up for grabs, out in the open. The relationship was never sane because you can’t have a unsane myopic, self-absorbed person with a sane, open-minded and continually-seeking self-awareness person. The see-saw isn’t balanced and the see-saw always sways toward the unsane (I know it’s “insane”) person because that person is flailing its arms and throwing molotov cocktails and putting rocks in pockets and distracting and flagrantly violating recently agreed-upon boundaries, victimizing and overcompensating and needing and crying or not crying, and calling and drawing you away from what you know is Real. And this was an ADULT. Ohmygawsh, are you tired yet? (I know, most people would be like: “Dude. Seriously? You put up with that shit?”)

But it took me a third time (that IS the charm, they say) to finally see the light. And it was so bright and clear and clean; and the biggest irony of all?: 

This person was actually the beacon. The light of this person’s self-created convenient truth was so bright you could land planes by it. This person was all “check out how freakin’ nuts I can be and watch me warp truths and like, invoke other people and not own any of my responsibility in any of this because I’m like, all like going rogue and like WILD and FREE, baby and it feels  gooooood…” 

I have to be honest: I saw that light, but I wore the same dark shades I wear on the water when I row. I put on hats… the same racing hats I wear when I row that have a black liner under the bill to absorb the light and reflection off the water. I did all I could to look Joe Cool and totally together when my insides were screaming, “OMIGAWD! Leave! Get out of here! Do NOT do this AGAIN! Are you NUTS?! Boundaries Shmoundaries! There’s poop all over them! Again! Someone, call her husband!” I over-performed and did anything I could to keep everything stable and keep the light under cover because I knew that when I saw that light again, it meant I won the “schmuck” award.  My kids even said so. Ouch.  That bright, flickering light (no matter how creepy) showed me everything that was always there and so much more and this time: I was ready to see it. And that’s growth and that’s OK. Sometimes we have to take two steps forward and one step back a few times before we can ever go at our pace. But I should stop here ‘lest I risk narcissistic bathos. 

I’m not trying to sound glib or like Stuart Smalley (all self-help is OK until it enables the continued practice of errors that are so rooted in our subconscious that staying asleep to them is simply selfish: at one time or another people, we have to grow up, definitely including me); because positive self-affirmations can have real and lasting benefits when they are actually believed. Because if we believe, as Stuart says, that we are “good enough and of value and people like” us then we don’t act needy and do reckless things trying to curry favor with people who work reeeeally hard to keep their acts together.  Trying to be mellow and kind, and running damage control when the molotov cocktails are flying is hard. People start to look at you like you’ve gone bye-bye too. And that’s when ya gotta pull the chute cord. If you don’t Get It by yourself, you’ll Get It by peer pressure. 

So then the trick is after we finally Get It, to not beat ourselves up too much for not Getting It in the first place. It’s OK if you stumble and ignore your Gut.  There’s a phrase “against our better nature” that comes to mind. I personally dislike the use of “better” because it is judgmental; it implies that we should know “better.” Sometimes, as in matters of the heart, we simply Don’t Know Better. Until we do.

Just don’t beat yourself up while you’re learning — and more importantly: don’t let whatever you’re learning about beat you up either; don’t ignore the flags, apparently they are always waving.    

And then when we do figure it out… Hot diggity, Woo-hoo and Allelujia, it’s a good thing and Lesson is Learned. You have FINALLY Gone With Your Gut. Now it’s time to Repeat! The wisdom from the lesson … NOT the lesson. 

thank you. 

"let’s talk like worms" / the silent treat(ment)


as i write this, i’m listening to a mix on iTunes i made for my mom one year for her birthday that i named, “mimiTunes.” the current song, “Old Man River” from Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess” inspires me to tell this story… 

before i do, consider this quote from Sai Baba, 
“Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? Does it improve on the silence?” 

. . . . . . . . . . .

when i was little, my mom used to play a game with us. we didn’t always like the game but we bought into it being a game and because games are supposed to be fun, we were in. we are super competitive if nothing else and thus raised to win. that doesn’t mean we do actually win…

one summer day (of many) on our way home from a jaunt (also of many) up to Niagara-on-The-Lake in Ontario, Canada, my brothers and i were existing too loudly in the car while my mom was trying to drive. 

my mother was what i could only describe as a “deliberate driver.” she had this habit of slowing down, almost to a stop, and veering hard right when oncoming traffic approached, even under the best of circumstances, so how we didn’t end up in the Niagara River upon any of our visits is a mystery. 

Niagara-on-The-Lake is a super-cutesy tourist trap, comprising ice cream shoppes, federal-period architecture, restaurants, apothecaries, and a healthy influx of American greenbacks (back when our money had value). it also had one of the best Irish stores in a 70-mile radius, so because it was summer, and my brothers and i could not be trusted to not burn down the house without her there, mom had to take us in tow as she purchased Irish fishermen sweaters to amplify her already robust stock that she’d amassed during the school year. she didn’t fish and she wasn’t a man. but that didn’t matter. 

we hated to go there because the trips were always about the sweaters, Coach handbags, first-edition books, or designer scarves. seldom was Niagara-on-The-Lake about ice cream or playing in the Queen’s Royal Park that looked over the mouth of the glorious Lake Ontario as it feeds into the Niagara River (that flows northern to reach Niagara Falls).   

“i know!” mom effused from behind her tortoise-shell 1/4″-thick framed, andy warhol-inspired prescription sunglasses. her grip on the steering wheel of our swede supposed-car also known as “bil som spelar ingen fungerar tillförlitligt” (which is “car that doesn’t work reliably” in swedish) resembled that of the white-knuckled variety so often seen on grandmothers about to ride in the car with their newly minted teenage grandson drivers on the way home from mah jong from the community center across town. mom was about 41 at the time.  “let’s play a game!” she continued.

“yay! a game!” my brothers and i sang in unison a capella, unless bounce-slapping the red, sweat-sticky faux leather seats, >shhh-smak! shhh-smak!< counts as percussion. this was our first time learning of this game. 

“let’s! let’s! what’s-let’s-called?-it-let’s!-called-play-how-it-do-you-play-it-game-this-game?” we sang again, this time not so melodiously, clearly already elbowing and angling for best position to win. we didn’t know anything about the game but we were NOT going to lose it.

suddenly, only inorganic sounds were heard. the car’s engine and the scratchy classical music barely streaming from the AM station a good 60 miles away were it. the paper speakers installed in the doors (we had broken off the antenna) made anything sound like a band of dying crickets. 

my mom had us. we were SILENT. she was already in the lead.

“the game,” she said.

“yeah… what’s-how-it-do-called-get off me-start-rules-play-it-put-that-DOWN!-play?” we asked, this time overtaking the engine’s drone. 

“it’s called … ‘let’s talk like worms!’ doesn’t that sound great?!” she begged, eyebrows arched, seeming eagerly hopeful. 

note: worm with closed mouth.

i scanned her smoky hazel eyes in the rearview mirror, now unsheathed from the glasses. she was engaged in transition mode and this was a critical operation at the moment: as she stopped at the light, she deftly swooped her artist’s hands to grasp her thick, mid-shoulder-length ash-blond hair as she slid one of the two-dozen size 64 putty-colored rubber bands from amongst the 14 silver bangles on her wrist to make a tight bun. she was clearly executing  Leadership Mode and the efficient up-do was evidence of her determination. then she slid her Mondrian print silk scarf from around her neck to adorn her turbo coiffure. she was nothing if not well dressed; the woman has seriously good taste in classic fashion. something i apparently never really inherited…

she donned this new scarf as a helment. my brothers and i were four-years apart (eight years between my younger and older brothers). despite her refined demeanor and breeding, we were maniacs. we grew up with very little rules and oversight, so when she put down the hammer, which was seldom, we didn’t know what to do with it: do we respect this or do we laugh at it? we did a little of both, truthfully. we were loved, in the best way our parents knew how, but we were pretty much considered full-fledged adults with no restrictions as soon as we could put on our own socks. hey man, it was the 70s and from the cheap seats i inhabit as i watch “Mad Men” what my parents did was nooooOOoooOooo different from any of my peers’ parents at the time. (doesn’t mean it was riiiiight…)

“ok! sounds-ok-fun-like-yeah!fun! we-like-play-WORMS?!-good-idea-not-understand-worms-how-do-you-worms-play-game?” 

my older brother, who is a very successful banker now, elbowed one of us and hissed, “SHHH, i’ll TALK” to me and our younger brother.

the light turned to green and the car started up again. TH-TH-UNK-UNK-UNK. we all slammed back into the back of the benchseats. i think she loved doing that. lurching and slamming as she pretended to drive along the Niagara Parkway.  

“how do you play it, mom?” the would-be banker asked. the way he’d demonstrated his finesse and interest in rules and regulations, it seemed as though a signing bonus and performance commission were riding on the outcome. 

so there we were: the three of us in the back seat area; my little brother and i rapt with attention, our very beings trembling with anticipation on the edges of our sweaty seats. i’m sure i slapped and pinched my baby brother at least a couple times due to my own inability to contain my excitement.

“well, it’s simple, and there’s only one loser.” she said, with a native lilt.

“huh?” asked my older brother. 

“how can there be only one loser? there are three of us. there has to be one WINNER. you mean, ONE WINNER, mom. not ONE LOSER.” he was about 11.

“no. i’m not wrong. one loser, sweetie. that’s what’s so FUN about this game,” she said, now fake giggle-speaking, no doubt to incite enthusiasm which had quickly evaporated from the kids in the back seat of the car and who had been replaced by her new three children Apathy, Grunting and Agita. “what’s FUN [smiling voice] is that the first person to DO something LOSES.” 

good feeling’s gone.  

“the first person to do anything?” my brother asked. 

“well, no. the first person to break the only rule loses,” she clarified. 

“Only One Rule! i LIKE this!” i said, refusing any longer to be kept silent by eventual 1%.  

“the one rule,” mom said, “is that you talk like worms. and how do worms talk?” 

“they. don’t. say. any. thing.” growled my big brother. 

“RIGHT! so ready, we’re gonna start. . . . NOW.” 

“but…” said the baby brother. 

“haha! YOU LOSE! LOOOser”my older brother shouted and pointed at my younger brother, who was possibly all of 3 years old and henceforth destined to be part of the 99%.

however, being the third of three, he was quite intellectually mobile due to his witnessing of his older siblings’ shenanigans. these days, he sings for his church and has become an ordained reverend professionally, so he’s got pipes. and if he’s part of the 99%, he’s got God on his side, so i’m good with that.

so my little brother lost all the time. it went on for years, his losing at Let’s Talk Like Worms. his losing was met with such hearty worm shrieking due to the loss of the game, that i wonder if my mom ever thought she won the game. . .
note: hysterical worm.

mom probably thought she was gonna get the silent treat(ment) that she sought. that if we were serially quiet enough, she’d get a decent ride home.

as i look back on her instituting the “Let’s Talk Like Worms” game, i laugh at its cunning design. last night, my Things and i were preparing for the cleaning ladies Thing 2 (11) proposed that we play the “let’s CLEAN like worms” game. Thing 3 (8), who’d never played the game was schooled by his brothers, but he held silent. they were silent for several minutes and i was beginning to think, “this is pretty cool…” however, it was so quiet that i wasn’t aware of the fisticuffs going on behind me as they all (even Thing 1 who is almost 14) wrestled each other to the ground over a Lego piece. ironically, the Thing 2, the one who proposed it lost consistently three times in a row. then the Lego fight and then screaming. sometimes silence ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

today during yoga my teacher read the quote at the top of this post by Sai Baba that struck me as profound given what i’d experienced last night with the kids and the Lego piece.     

sometimes the silent treat(ment) is a LOVELY experience. there are those of us who are silenced by fears, by memories, by oppressors or worst of all, by ourselves. the thing is, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all; when we choose silence, we take back our power. y’know, like in Ghostbusters, don’t think about the Stay-Puft marshmallow man and he won’t appear. but that doesn’t always work out; sometimes, we must speak up, we must stand up. and then there are time when we must speak up for those who can not speak for themselves; they do not know the harms in their path and while there ain’t never anything wrong with standing up and speaking up and being true to you,

i propose again: “Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? Does it improve on the silence?”

but if you’re ever not sure: just talk like worms.

thank you. 

familiarity doesn’t equal healthy


as we grow older and hopefully wiser, we become aware of ourselves. we sense our tendencies and personalities. our weaknesses and our strengths become actual weaknesses and strengths, not just these “things” we’d heard of when filling out personality profiles or talking about in job interviews.

the things we don’t like (and are aware of) we hope to not repeat. the things that we do like (and are aware of) we hope to repeat. it’s simple. what’s not so simple is recognizing what is and what isn’t good. often what comes in familiar clothing is not good for us. it’s the sneaky stuff, the old habits that come in different boxes or wrappings that fool us into repeating behaviors. it’s that simple adage that i repeat to myself: “just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it’s good for you” which breaks the trance. not recognizing the familiarity of a toxic element, a behavior pattern, a weakness, is where it begins for me: that slow-seeming descent into an emotional tempest set at mach IV that feels like a hangover from a frat party when the haze clears. these hangovers can last for days. for me, it’s what i do to myself that can be so much more profound and debilitating than any outside drug or element. 

i learned about my familiar weakness shrouded in a familiar strength one morning about seven years ago after i awoke from a near-paralyzing dream that changed the course of my life. the content of the dream is on the docket to be detailed in the next Great American Novel that i aspire to write, but that doesn’t matter here. the dream set in motion a journey into surgical self-awareness and psychotherapy that saved me, very likely my marriage and my children from living with Joan Crawford. 

it was in those first sessions where my therapist revealed to me that i was on a mission to destroy myself one thread at a time, due to a habit; a way of living that was so entrenched in my being, so very much a part of my daily operations that i had no awareness of its insidious nature. 

everyone has their predilections, their habits and the things that exploit their weaknesses and destroy their strengths. i used to be like the tasmanian devil. i was aware of this. i used to cry-laugh about how i would come into a situation and leave everything upside down and tables strewn about the room with papers flying everywhere. inside, i desperately wanted to be like a daisy in time-lapse photography. i wanted to be slower, to reveal myself slower, to engage instead of bulldoze, to listen instead of always insist i was right, to speak instead of shout, to Adagio instead of march. 

being Taz came from a primitive place: i wanted so desperately to be seen, heard, appreciated and understood as a child that as i “grew up,” i never noticed others noticing me. i had to turn it up to eleven. always. i realize now, that when i enter a room and no one looks up, it’s working; i’m beating my addiction.    

i come from a lineage of people with very strong habits. we are mostly irish. my great grandpeople were sledgehammer slamming, hard-driving brogue-slingers who helped build the New York railway. i dig that. my genetic family’s stores of physical energy and mental prowess are a thing of beauty in theory. in practical life however it means we have enough energy to think and over think and think some more and stir up stuff, most of it irrational, because of our thinking and remembering. sometimes that thinking is good, sometimes it’s not good.

i don’t believe the eldest of my line were heavy drinkers. their work ethic was insane and coming to America during the industrial age only inspired them for further ambition. the drinking might have occurred with the later litters as perhaps being born in America softened the genetic drive and allowed for more idle time which of course gave us more time to y’know: think.       

in keeping with my irish tradition of having too much of a good thing, i learned through my psychotherapy after that dream that i have an addiction. of course i thought that was total bullshit. i saw brilliant members of my family succumb to alcoholism, gambling, smoking, drugs and over-thinking. because my days of collegial over-drinking were behind me, drugs didn’t hold much appeal for me nor did cigarettes and gambling required my giving away money on a hunch (my friends and family know never to bet against me because when i’m willing to put money down on anything it’s because i KNOW i am correct) so my diagnosis of having an addiction was complete crap because i was on a mission to be sober, fit, hard-working, active and engaging. y’know: eleven.

my so-called (whatever) addiction (right) could be only one thing, that i was a “thinker.” the problem with only my brand of thinking is that eventually, the blood supply to feeling atrophies and it creates a whole other level of thinking, where the tasmanian devil reacts and reigns. the bloodline to feeling (self-awareness, emotions and physical awareness) needed to be open for me to heal. 

my drug of choice is a by-product of the thinking (i’ll tell ya in a minute). it’s free. it’s available anywhere at all hours. you don’t need to be a certain age to get some and you don’t gain weight from it or lose brain cells from abusing it. you don’t need a prescription. if you don’t see any around, you just make it yourself. it’s real easy: just lose your shit over the tiniest things. in fact, if you grew up with it, like i did, it’s even easier to re-create it because you have some of its dust in your pocket or in some of the things you took from your parent’s house to your house without awareness. objects have their own energy and they carry your memories and relationships with them, so if you have something around that came from a sad time, get rid of it or attach happy memories to it. i know this sounds crazy, but it’s true.

my object of desire is Chaos. my therapist told me at the end of my first. session. ever. that i have a Chaos addiction. i have it right here in my notebook titled “Be The Daisy”: “3.16.05: little surprise that i thrive in Chaos. love drama; need to step out of it. see how i create drama. 90% of actions are subconscious formed by patterns we endured / experienced as kids — trick: to become AWARE and learn to avoid it.” 

apparently since i moved out of my parent’s place, i’ve had a bottle of Chaos on a shelf in every room of my house, including closets, bathrooms, the kitchen, workout areas and the shed. i have one in my car and i have a tiny one hanging from my key chain. i think there’s an app for it on my cell phone (facebook). there’s a little bottle in my purse. and i have a travel flask of Chaos for when i fly. it’s FAA-approved.

most of the bottles are coated with a tell-tale layer of dust. the dust is a reminder to let the bottle, no matter where it is, gather more dust because that dust means i haven’t picked it up, looked at it and wrenched off its cap or bitten off its cork to sip from it. i used to drink a case of Chaos a day for years before i started therapy. these bottles of Chaos are The One Thing in My World the cleaning ladies aren’t allowed to make perfect. like a bottle of 100-yr-old scotch, you want dust on these bottles.

i just passed a bottle of Chaos on the way to get my therapy notebook. the bottle was sitting next to a crumb-covered dish my son left beside the computer keyboard. instantly i became irritated by the dish, felt my muscles prepare for battle, took in a deep breath to unleash my dragon and proclaim the broken rule (food near computer — which wasn’t really the problem, it was deeper than that: it was my feeling of insult from being unseen and disregarded) and demand correction. but i stopped myself, laughing inside at the irony of my near-collision with Chaos while in the process of writing about my addiction to it. i decided to let it go. i picked up the dish, nudged my son on the shoulder, gave the raised eyebrow, gestured the dish and he took it from me for prompt delivery to the kitchen. 

Chaos averted.

i’m not kidding: this shit’s insidious. if it weren’t for my awareness of my ability to lose my temper over little-seeming things (aka scars from my past), i’d never know about the Addiction to Chaos. it’s because i grew up with it, was surrounded by it and trained by some of the world’s finest Chaos fomenters that i became one myself. 

the opportunities for Chaos and (depending on the circumstances) its wingman, Ensuing Shame or Guilt or Personal Offense (which create their own Chaos in a family system) are everywhere: 

  • be late for an appointment; 
  • delay cooking dinner; 
  • don’t walk the dog; 
  • put on a couple pounds; 
  • sign up for too much / don’t say no / don’t delegate; 
  • ignore the kids; 
  • be offended when others are late; 
  • have secret expectations; 
  • distract yourself beyond ability to do anything predictable; 
  • expect your friends to treat you the way you treat them; 
  • fall behind on a project that no one knows about; 
  • unleash venom disproportionate to the offense; 
  • hold yourself up to unrealistic standards; 
  • never allow personal mistakes; 
  • give more in a relationship than you get; 
  • have secret needs and expect people to understand your rage; 
  • repeate old patterns of behavior with toxic people and expect them to change simply because you have. . . 

omigawd, it goes on and on. 

once the Chaos was outed, The Work began: i had to see patterns where it manifested and more importantly, where i created it if it were missing: 

Ooh, i like that chair where it is, and the table works just fine. the way the light hits the color on the walls in wonderful. what i think the room needs to feel more like home to me is my rage and Chaos: why didn’t anyone ask me to help?!? you’re all jerks.   

my relationship with Chaos had become so much a part of my fabric of being that if i didn’t sense it, i would make it. imagine: a quiet library. it’s peaceful, calm and the energy is silent industry. that made me insane; everyone was so content … NOTICE ME! i loved the idea of reading. . .  but the chairs were uncomfortable. the lighting was wrong. why won’t that kid shut up? why is that person looking at me? eww. this book smells like filth. what’s that stain from? gross, there’s a hair in this book. these people can’t do anything right so i’m leaving. NOW. in my 2-ton SUV in a self-righteous rage over the hair in a book and i’m going to scour the county to buy my own copy of the book instead of borrow it for no cost and then get pissed at myself later for spending the money when i know finances are tight; but then i’ll blame that on my husband for not keeping me more on my toes…

see? i’m a pro.

or this old one: everyone is sitting on the couch watching a movie. it’s a nice moment. but i’m begging for a phone call from my toxic friend who needed me to tell her how screwed up she was and how often she repeated her patterns so we can have a fight and i can preach and vaunt all my anger at her. i recognize right now at this instant as i type that somewhere in me, i subconsciously wanted out of the Chaos, not the relationships. i knew the relationships were sickening for me because i would freak in order to create divide. i miss the people. but people are their habits and when people don’t change, you’re stuck until you’re not anymore. 

i have another note: “I need to abandon before things become “pattern-istic” and they repeat and I get sucked in and I explode. Are the explosions what do me in? No. They are what feeds me and this food is toxic.” imagine getting energy from an explosion… that’s some bad shit.  talk about Schadenfreude

so you see, Chaos also showed up as a repeating pattern in my relationships with Certain Types of Women based on my nearly constant tempestuous relationship with my own mother: i was constantly giving more than getting which of course allowed me to get pissed. i would actually seek out women whose energy was similar to my mother’s: deeply smart, invisible, unavailable, distracted (unaware) and angry women. i became friendly with women who were not healthy emotionally and in more than one, our relationships became competitions where i had to get out because i was acutely aware of my addiction: Everything About Them Allowed Me To Ignore Myself. if i stayed with them in their states of distraction and huge self-unawareness i was dead; i wouldn’t work on me and i would allow the rage at them (me) to foment. but i had only an on/off switch; no dimmer. i didn’t want to be dead. The Work was showing me there was so much more to life, so i created drama that let us hate each other and end it.   

AA has its mottoes: 

  • One Day at a Time
  • Live and Let Live
  • Let Go and Let God
  • Easy Does It 

my own subgroup, CA, has sentiments very similar to those that are required for awareness of my addiction. my mottoes are:  

  • Continue To Do What You Always Do and You Will Absolutely Always Get What You Have Always Gotten
  • You Get What You Give
  • You Do, And It Is Done
  • Change And You Will Change; and two personal favorites of mine based on the brilliance of two men my parents knew: 
  • “You’re Not Mad at What You’re Mad At” -Father John J. O’Connor; and 
  • “You Don’t Have to Get Out of The Trouble You Don’t Get Into.”  -Howard Clother (my dad’s boss) 

the recipe for success requires daily, no: hourly, no: constant awareness which will eventually lead to new neural pathways in your mind (that’s another blog post altogether) of feeling your body assess, notice and react to something. if it’s quiet: ENJOY it. really enjoy it. just one small opening of self-awareness coupled with turning left instead of right; or calling later away instead of right away; or saying yes instead of no… leaving 10 minutes early instead of later… repeat. these small things can create a whole new way of living.

“there is nothing like the relief of changing your course on something because you’ve admitted you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. you can always change course: delay, think on it, let it settle and come to you when it’s ready. forcing anything never works: you end up exhausted and what you’ve forced is distorted.”

that was a status on my facebook GrassOil page a couple weeks ago. i wrote it because i was stuck on something that just wasn’t happening. it wouldn’t materialize in the way i intended. so, true to form: i thought about it in other ways. i massaged it into another shape altogether. i took a deep breath, told my quads and shoulders to gear up, took a running start and slammed myself into it. i was trying to convince myself to do it anyway simply because i said i would. it simply wouldn’t be. i became frustrated and angry and almost took down the bottle for a sip. i stared at it; i heard it mocking me. calling me… “wouldn’t a little sip fix everything? just one. then you can forget about what you’re trying to do and create a whole new problem somewhere else to fix or obsess over… c’mon…”
i still haven’t done it. i’m ok with it because the dust is still on the bottle. if i did it, if i’d made myself do it or something else just as pointless, the bottle would be clean as a whistle and the cork would be missing.
the simplest of adages is this regarding my Chaos Addiction: “change begins with me.”
thank you.