I have been alone but seldom lonely. I have satisfied my thirst at the well of my self and that wine was good, the best I ever had, and tonight sitting staring into the dark I now finally understand the dark and the light and everything in between. Peace of mind and heart arrives when we accept what is: having been born into this strange life we must accept the wasted gamble of our days and take some satisfaction in the pleasure of leaving it all behind. Cry not for me. Grieve not for me. Read what I’ve written then forget it all. Drink from the well of your self and begin again.Charles Bukowski
I don’t know that there is any better way to express how I feel right now. Where my head, my heart, my tremendous pain, and my healing are. I am a recovering addict. That is as real and true as is earth, fire, water, and air. Whether it is acknowledged or not by others. I know. My soul knows. The one well I couldn’t bear to drink from is now the only one I want. The well of myself. It’s dark and deep, cool and life giving. And no one else can see into it but me.
He’s prolific – writing like a gushing faucet that just won’t shut off – and my writing mind is dried up as an old seed. Just as well I guess, at least someone is writing even if it isn’t me. And he’s a better writer anyway, although I guess that could mean anything at all. Or nothing. Nothing at all. We write or we don’t write but either way our minds are always going, going, going.
I scroll through images of women of various ages all sporting hair cropped in fresh pixie cuts. Only they aren’t called ‘pixies’ anymore they’re called mixies or bixies or some shit. God i would love to chop off my hair just to have done it. Just because it’s such a foolish ridiculous freeing thing to do and most people who think it through at all come to the inevitable conclusion that, logically speaking, it’s a bad, bad call.
Anyway I might still do it.
I know this might sound crazy because while I am now 209 days (!!) sober I can’t help but feel everything but also, at times, like now sitting alone in the morning light, I feel the realness of total nothingness. And not the poetic kind either. Not the sensual exoticism of a languid sort of freedom or the feline-like stretch of aimless curiosity. It isn’t arty or inspired or visionary or any of that. It’s just the kind of dead as if maybe somebody shot some Novocaine into my spirit and so even though I do believe I’ve got a spirit in here someplace, there’s absolutely no hope of actually feeling it.
We were at this party the other weekend, an outdoor summer whatever, and as I sipped my sparkling water the guy next to me was rambling on some misogynistic bullshit like a sixth grader when come to find out he’s sixty something. He’d been drinking all day slow but steady. And all I could think was this was also probably why I drank. Sure I have my own unhealed trauma and whatnot and I’m working on that but then there’s this foolishness of just having to live around other people who are so obnoxious it makes you want to scream. I think I drank to dull my natural impulse to slap somebody.
Just living is hard I guess is what I’m saying. We are surrounded by so many lies, so much ignorance, so much relentless focus on things that not only don’t even matter but which are crushing us underneath the weight of a culture that abuses us constantly. We are immersed in toxicity, submerged in it, steeped in it. No wonder when you stop numbing out the world, it all comes crashing in over you like the kind of thunderous waves you know no matter what you do you can’t escape or control or even try to push back against.
There are thoughts you think about but would die if anyone knew. You spend a lot of time hoping those thoughts are not you. That what you cannot speak about in public doesn’t mean you are a freak in private. Lust. Desire. Shame. Weakness. Cruelty. Confusion. Disgust. Hatred. Fury. Disconnection. Indifference. Dishonesty. Incompetence. Frustration. Fantasy. I’d love to talk about them all. I bet you would, too, if only anyone would give you the time of day or night or ever. People won’t though, they don’t know what the fuck to do with themselves let alone what to do with you and all your bizarre shit. But don’t you ever think that the more we hold back from each other the less we have access to ourselves? I mean are there some things that just have to come out, right, or they get distorted, crushed into regret or denial or addiction.
Or do we just like that feeling of those dark messy things scratching just below the surface of our palatable exterior. Do we get off on shoving them in, pressing them down. Like not being who we truly are, but revealing something just shy of that, is some kind of emotional edging. How explosive, how euphoric it would feel to burst into a trillion sparks of light, to come clean all over every damn thing that’s ever held you back or kept you quiet all these years. How long has it even been? Can you remember a time when what you were matched what you said you were? Before you started contorting yourself to fit in, to make a living, to raise the kids, to keep the peace, flash the fancy car.
Sure there’s the stuff you do all day and the silliness you soothe yourself with like booze or smokes or coffee or chocolate or whatever but underneath all that, below all that, in a place you think about like clockwork when the silent privacy of evening settles in all around, and the dust on the empty air twists and twinkles in the sifting, dimming light, do you ever wish you could touch yourself in soulspaces you have never explored before? I’m not talking about sex or sexual seduction, that’s so fucking tired and pedestrian the way it is , it’s so predictable and useless, it’s stress release, it’s not transcendant. I’m talking about something nameless, timeless, something so mindbendingly beautiful and haunting, almost frightening, at the same time there is no way of describing it coherently. Only the exceedingly rare artist or poet or musician can get you there but even then it is not the same as getting there yourself, by yourself. Doing it with and to yourself.
Someplace inside that has yet to be understood because it has yet to be uncovered. But it is there waiting, breathing. That thing you are meant to create. The words you have been meaning to say if only you could get at them, pull them up from the well inside that is you. And won’t stop being you, calling you, driving you mad with the living deadness of unrealized possibility. That deep deep well that you keep praying and wishing would stop because it isn’t you, isn’t you, isn’t you.
In real life I despise the guy and everything he stands for. He hates women but disguises his hatred with grand performances of fake affection and by ‘disguises’ I mean hides it in plain sight for anyone who is paying the slightest bit of attention to notice which admittedly seems to be few and far between. But in my dream, I’m hugging him tight and crying on his broad sculpted shoulder as he soothes my hurting heart. I couldn’t tell you why it hurts so much exactly but I tell him it’s because no one understands me and that’s close enough to the truth if I have to use words to convey the jumble of emotions which lies tangled in a ball of ache somewhere between my chest and my throat. I’m inclined to explore the chakras there for clues to unlocking my highest potential but don’t because I am exhausted. I don’t want to lift a finger or even my head from the pillow when the day rolls out and tumbles in through my window, splashing me with its somber gray light.
I change my tampon and its like a fucking murder scene. They say these days in these times I shouldn’t put this information onto the internet but I am old enough now that my cycle is all kinds of over the place so whoever is *tracking* the intimate details of my very basic life can fuck all the way off. I pull on my hooded sweatshirt in an attempt to disappear my bloated creaky body entirely, put the coffee on in the hopes of feeling less dead inside, and wonder about all the girls out there who are already pregnant against their will and staring down the barrel of carrying a life to term in a way that can only end their own. Forced smiles have become forced births and we act like that is such a stretch from one to the other. We have made the girls and women into machines.
Across the street, the neighbors have strung-up a shimmery pink sign that reads Welcome Home Baby Girl and there are pink balloons everywhere, too. We all congratulate the young father who is hugging his little three year old before returning to the hospital to tend to the new mommy and I feel sick to my stomach. Maybe it’s because I’ve got my period or maybe it’s because the thought of getting pregnant literally physically sickens me. It always has. Baby making was never my calling and by calling I mean my desire. There is no such thing as a ‘calling’ we just want certain things for ourselves so deeply they won’t stop bugging us until we either get them, do them, or breathe our last breath trying to make happen one or the other. The problem is that capitalism tells us what we want is a cute sundress delivered overnight, the sexy glimmer of immediate satisfaction thereby stifling our much grander more beautiful, imaginative, and dangerous cravings long enough to bleed us dry of the cash it might require to obtain them.
Increasingly, and I am not about to say anything shocking mind you, the “United” States has become a most menacing place to live out one’s life or what remains of it. While you are so busy being secretly terrified of getting caught unsuspectingly in a mass shooting as you go to collect your Cinnamon Toast Crunch at the local grocery store, the high court slashes a line across your rights to do with your body what you decide is best for your body and that’s the end of it. Everything is a lie built on top of the biggest lie which is that white men get everything they want because they are entitled to take it and women are nothing at all except decorations or easy bake ovens meant to either pop out infants or die in the process of attempting to fulfill that duty. We are little pink balloons and ribbons which adorn the bloodiest of battlefields.
I was away for a week on vacation which was nice. I’m glad I am home now to sit alone with my laptop, my thoughts, and my words. Not writing for a week always feels very strange and sad. Even the morbid thoughts need somewhere to go. Especially the morbid ones. When I speak to people about the dire state of the situation here in the States I don’t seem to get anywhere. People are tired and they have developed a callousness or a fake facade so they don’t have to feel the obvious way we should. I get that. I do that sometimes, too. But I feel rage of a quietly destructive kind. Not the kind which takes screaming to the streets but rather which stands in the corner watching and plotting and seething with acute disregard for obedience. I feel like throwing away everything I have just to try to remove the stench of the life I have surrounded myself with. The life that made all of this oppression possible. All the shit I have bought and nonsense ‘safety’ I have bought into which made me such an easy target. Patriarchy chugs right on along because for the most part, you trap yourself inside of it all on your own. As is so often the case, the women do most of the work by gruesome design.
Sunday morning. Church goers, murders, theives. Liars, beggars, winners and losers and little to be done to change any of it. People post to Instagram their happy little ideas and bits. Photos no longer being good enough to really capture the essence of nothingness, each and every share is now a whole movie reel complete with intro and finishing credits. My god. I do not understand what we have become but it feels much too small and far too distracted like we are animals obsessed with pouncing upon a beam of light. Not because they know where it came from or why or what they need to catch it for, just because the illusion of something solid to hold onto appears to be climbing up the wall that happens to be in front of them. Much like this writing, in fact. It wanders and goes nowhere in circles and I know any editor would curse it all to hell. But these are my circles which may be nothing more than spirals of death and hot air yet I am so sick to death of dancing to any other person’s tune. Least of all those with any authority in this fucked up world at all.
It’s not about babies or life. We aren’t stupid, we aren’t blind, we all know it. The overturning of Roe is about oppressing, dehumanizing, ruining, raping, and killing women. With heavy emphasis on the girls and women and all people who can become pregnant who are already the most disenfranchised. When I got sober it was in many ways a great big Fuck You to the patriarchy we live under that can only exist if it keeps women numb, weak, and terrified. Well. I am not numb or weak or terrified anymore.
Pissed? Yeah I’m quite entirely pissed.
But I’m not surprised. Yesterday’s ruling hit like a gut punch to my every internal organ. Knocked the wind out of me. I cried I screamed I lost my shit. But I didn’t drink. I stayed. I stayed here in the goddamn middle of this hellhole shit storm of what doesn’t even pretend to be a democracy anymore. I felt every rage-filled thing. What “conservative” radical white supremacist extremists are doing to the people of this country is calculated and disgusting. It is the most pathetic, easy, cheap, vile thing to go after the women who are already broken, abused, and left for dead by the richest society in the mutherfucking world.
And I felt all of that hatred course through my veins yesterday. I felt all of it in this body that I now know fully and certainly and completely is my own.
Fuck your laws. Fuck your annihilation of my protection, my safety, and my sanity. I own myself and I answer only to me.
There is the kind of tired where you need rest and the kind of tired where you need peace. Or so I have just read upon the social media. I am tired for sure. My brain is so very hugely tired. From the mental stretch of getting sober. From the first six months of this year as they skid to a halt over my worn out little head. From the insanity of what this society calls sanity. What to do when you are exhausted of all the things they tell you you need to keep up with. The job to get the money to buy the things they need you to need to keep this whole ball rolling right off whatever cliff we are headed towards.
The sun is still high in the sky at 5:26 in the evening and it is so thoroughly nauseating. Shut up already. Shut up with the light and the daytime that bleeds arrogantly into the dark time. I’m tired of running a household. I’m tired of reporting where I am supposed to report to at any given hour of the day, morning, noon and night. I’m crippled at the thought of this very evening, in fact. The same thing followed by the same thing. And I should be grateful. And I should be thrilled to bits with my adorable privileged problems.
No wonder no one wants to get sober. No wonder I didn’t want to have to see the dust on the houseplants and books, and the fly shushing around the window. Stupid goddamn thing banging its tiny head-body against the foggy glass over and over and over again. Ten million eyes and not a fucking clue. I make myself a double espresso. It is perfectly rich, strong, hot, and delicious. It’s too late and too early and everything that is supposed to have fallen into place already a long time ago is in pieces in my mind and the pieces don’t settle into anything. My mind is a whole new puzzle and this world is full of the same old shit. Same holes, same shapes, same ditches, same grooves. Same tricky traps and same temporary rewards.
The title of this post is also the title of an album by Steely Dan. I told my husband I was gonna use it as the title of a blog post and now I’ve done it. He has just walked by naked on his way to taking a shower and when I inform him of my keeping the promise about the blog post title he smiles but not enthusiastically enough for my liking. I’ve accomplished no other feats so far this week. It’s only Monday, though, so maybe stay tuned. I’ve taken up running and I am not sure if that is considered a sport though I suspect not. I ran 2.33 miles this morning. Perhaps that is an accomplishment worth mentioning, come to think of it. I always swore I would never be two things in this life, one is sober and the other is a runner. And now I am both and I am insufferable.
Think I’ll swear off swearing I’ll do or not do anything for a while. At the very least it’s nice to just do whatever you feel like as long as it isn’t getting drunk. I know there is no definitive answer to the following question and there are as many answers to it as there are fools who swear they know the correct one but my tired ass has to ask it even if futile, even if rhetorical: what in the fuck is any of this for anyway?
Sometimes there is power in walking away from a fight. We rarely hear about this, of course, in our battle obsessed culture. Because we are taught to be strong and by strong they mean fight back, stand up for yourself. They mean: be stronger than the thing you are fighting with. We are taught never to back down. We believe that in order to be powerful we must fight to the death. If we admit defeat we must be cowards or losers or just not trying hard enough.
Each day for many days during many years, I would hope to have a chill drinking experience. I didn’t want to fight, I just wanted to mess around a little. You know like the kind of good go-around with the drinking they advertise to you with the glass of crisp white wine and the smiling, sexy, sophisticated lady and her lover sharing dessert in an outside garden or the laughter and cheer as she frolics about with her girlfriends as they live their best lives in some Tuscan vineyard and all that shit. What a great time wine always is! How relaxed and cool it makes us all. Except that wasn’t it. It was, in fact, the opposite of that. Because after the fifteen minute happiness, it became more dull than chill. And then after the first two or three glasses, an almost imperceptible agitation would slither in and as the wine kept flowing that subtle irritation just keep blooming and blooming larger and larger like the flower of a nuclear explosion.
I poured wine on my anger and anxiety like gasoline. On a good number of occasions, I was completely out of my mind by the time the bomb went off. Didn’t care. Didn’t even know. I had to come-to the day after and feel the pain of realizing some of the destruction caused. Assessing the scene. Piecing together fragments of what I could remember. How often it was a hell of a fight before I inevitably got knocked out. Wine glass left half full on the coffee table. Me, face down on a mattress and the wine quite literally still standing. As long as I could pry my eyes open and peel myself off the floor, the wine was ready to go another round.
The power in the face of that scenario is not obvious. Or should I say, what seems like the one with the obvious power is the wine. The alcohol, when I crawled into the ring with it, “won” so to speak. I get that now. It shreds my heart to pieces to think about, but I get it.
But to say I was powerless to alcohol, while true and while very necessary to admit, I agree, is not a full enough statement for me to leave at face value. Women are relentlessly reminded of their powerlessness in this society. This culture reminds us incessantly that we should stand down, watch our mouths, bite our tongues. Our human rights are under constant threat. It is exhausting, being bludgeoned over the head again and again with our “powerlessness.”
But in a much broader sense, there are many kinds of power. The power to destroy is alcohol’s kind of power and the only one it inherently possesses. But there is power in walking away from a battle you have no business engaging in. This is true if the opponent is far stronger than you, but it is also true if the opponent is beneath you. If the opponent doesn’t deserve to engage with you in the first place. In my case, the power exists in my ability to lay down the fight entirely. I do not fuck with alcohol. I do not answer its calls to get in the ring just one more time to see if I can finally get the upper hand.
We are done here. This ends here and now. No more fighting.
There is power in the peace of that. To lay down that fight is to stand in a kind of power that is entirely my own. No shame. No guilt. No fuckery. There are many kinds of power: the power to destroy and the power to rebuild, recreate, resurrect, reorganize, reevaluate, regenerate. Alcohol only has one. But I have them all.
When you stop drinking alcohol entirely, the world looks very different than it did before. And I used to think that was because I am just so clear headed now but I think it’s more than that. I think now I’m looking at the world with entirely new eyes. That’s why it looks different, because I am. And I know that probably sounds one of two things: melodramatic or completely made up. Either I am making too big a deal of sobriety or I am faking a feeling I think I’m supposed to feel and trying to convince myself as I try to convince other people how glorious it is to turn down the wine I once coveted with everything I had. There is a lot to pull apart here. But the thing is, and I mean this sincerely, my experience of absolutely everything is new because my perception of it and where it belongs in my new lifestyle is new. Sobriety is like rearranging all the rooms in your house. Once you get the living room sorted out just the way you like it, you’ve gotta do the dining room because it’s right there, and then the kitchen and then since the downstairs is looking really good you move on upstairs and start sorting all that out, too. Or not. Or you exhaust yourself just thinking about moving through all that change and decide you are very sincerely tired and don’t feel like lifting a finger. And as long as you aren’t lifting a glass full of wine to your lips you figure you’ve done enough for now.
I sit sipping fresh cappuccino by my open writing room window. The rain is coming down in tiny sprinkled bursts as the light wind glides through the gigantic green trees. There’s no thunder but small flashes of lightning pulse every once in a while. The gray of the cool sky feels like a merciful hand over a closed tired eye. I just want to be away. Away from here. Away far enough to actually see what I’m looking at. So much change has happened for me in these last five months it feels overwhelming at the moment. And maybe that will pass, I am sure it will – this feeling like there’s nothing left to hold on to because everything has been swept away by the giant wave of sobriety as it crashed over me. I see things now for what they really are, or should I say instead: I feel the real things now. I feel the things that aren’t right and haven’t been for a very long time. My whole life has been upended and trying to minimize the effects of that is scratching at the insides of my bones. Something inside still needs to be let out. When you see what needs to change you have to go about changing it. I guess. Or not. Maybe not. Maybe the thing is to just stop blaming myself for any of it.
Properly exhausted and humbled down to a tiny little nub, I can at least revel in the fact that the writing of my book and the writing of my book proposal are both now complete. What will become of any of this is anyone’s guess but I do promise this (to myself and anyone who may be listening): the book is gonna get published. It will exist in this big wide world somehow. It’s too important to me to let it disintegrate in a drawer somewhere. Which I am sure is what every author feels about her work once it is complete. The funny thing is, as I was walking with my husband around the neighborhood last night he asked me, So… what are you gonna do now? To which I responded the only way one can respond when her whole life is devoted to words: Start writing the next one, I guess.
Just like everything else, one thing leads to the next. You begin a thing and you end it and then you begin something else lest you go mad. You do your little projects and hope with all your mighty might that maybe someone else will like them. Notice them. Give a damn. And maybe they do and that’s really special. And maybe they don’t and that hurts a bunch. But either way, you have to get up and do the day the best you know how. And when you are sober you know right at the top of it that you are about to feel every single thing without hope of escape. And even though the addiction part of you is still fixated on the drink (it really is, it’s fucking insane) the rest of you is hyper aware of all the other various forms of possible escape that people around you are engaging in all the time. Escaping into substances or people or vacations or whatever else. Work. Success. Money. Botox.
All around us hangs the haunt of any other life but the one we’ve got to live in the skin we’re in. We reach for the easy way out and it all goes up in liquid smoke. Every damn time. That’s how you know that what a destructive thing is promising you is an illusion and not a reality. When you get up close to the part that’s supposed to be easy, it isn’t there. It doesn’t actually exist.