When I Said

Ashes to ashes

I intended to go from Summer Solstice 2019 to Autumn Equinox 2020 without consuming alcohol. I believed I could do this on will alone. Perhaps will is sufficient for quitting a habit – but will is not inexhaustible. I wake up and enter the morning and each day is different when it comes to how much available will I seem to have. Each day holds its surprises for how you will be taxed. I cunningly plan out my will allotment across the day’s known challenges and then the day sneaks in unexpected curveballs and suddenly it’s 4PM, I’ve already borrowed into tomorrow’s will supply and a friend is saying “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a drink?” and I am no longer sure at all.

My reasons for trying to not drink keep changing. I always know it causes cancer. That is reason enough on the days when I want to live long and prosper and keep this body as healthy as I can for as long as I can. True too though are the days when I might prefer to not live too overly long, and think years of living later for days of pleasure now is a fine trade. I’m keenly aware of my mortality and limited number of days, moments, experiences remaining to me and I don’t want to miss out on anything because I was drunk or hungover. Neither though do I want to be alive but essentially bored for however many moments I have left.

I’m wary of the times I say -to myself or right outloud – “Oh god I need a drink.” Those are the moments when we need to remember our breathing and our lessons from mindfulness and welcome the feeling and acknowledge it and sit with it, and then move past it. Those are the times when we process the feeling, and the underlying feelings and beliefs and perceptions and yearnings and come to a place where we are OK in ourselves just as we are. That is how those moments are best handled. This is not always how the script plays out.

Occasionally a social vignette presents itself where it’s not even a case where “a drink would augment this moment” but more “not having a drink would take away from this moment.” I suspect this is not actually true as I know people who are loving life and enjoying those moments but not drinking, even though they used to drink. I kind of have to surmise that I’m just not there yet.

There is such a dichotomy in drinking socially! It can bring people together when done in moderation, and drive them apart when taken to excess. When people partake in marijuana or harder drugs, there is usually a point in time where they cross an unseen threshold into a world that the not-stoned cannot access. It can make me sad; it’s like they’ve left the room without saying goodbye. But in these weeks of relative sobriety, I’ve learned that the same is true for alcohol. I didn’t notice before because I slid into the tipsy reality with the others, instead of watching them go and being left behind.

In the six weeks there have been 14 social occasions that prominently featured alcohol, as well as a music festival. I’d say that summer is the wrong time to have tried this but each season brings its own temptations. Of the 15 events, I elected to have a drink at 4 despite wanting to drink at all 15. I’d say that’s gotta count for something, but what would that even mean? None of it really matters, either way, in the longest of long runs.

I think it’s an experiment. I’m learning about why and how I drink or don’t. To be honest, I don’t like everything about what I’ve learned about myself. But there’s learning there, too. If I’m going to be a therapist (and I am), there’s no cringing away from this stuff.
I wrote a poem in Kingston recently about wanting a drink after opening the box of my Mother’s ashes. The box had been mailed to me by the crematorium 11 months prior and had sat, unopened, in my storage closet.

When I Said

When I said I wouldn’t drink from Solstice to Equinox (so dramatic)
I meant I wouldn’t apart from when I did.
“So Libra,” laughs Polly, taking a sip from her lipsticked glass.
But it takes me a couple of shots of lilac gin before I can
invite Polly to my bed.
And there are times when cracking a beer
is akin to breaking bread.

And also! And also and also –
I just finally opened the box from the crematorium and in the box was another box with a certificate bearing my mother’s name and in that box was a plastic box and in that there was a plastic bag tied with a twist tie and in that there was my mother.
I tucked the end of the bag back into the box
and out puffed a very small cloud and I thought:
ohmygodthatismymother.
And then I drank some scotch.
I am sorry I didn’t ask first Greg. You know, it was delicious.

Mariposa Journal Scrawls

You say you don’t dance

You say you gotta learn

Ah baby come take my hands

Won’t you give me a turn

Spin me out, skirt a’swirling

Then bring me in real close

I like everyone when I’m dancing

But I’d like you the most.

I wrote so many pages in my regular journal while I was at Mariposa. I hardly used my phone and I talked to more people than I can recall. We talked and shared stories and almost never connected on social media. We just moved along with our weekends. I like it.

I also saw friends and acquaintances and hugged some favourite people. I kind of miss Mariposa.

I only just got home Monday evening and since then I went to Merry Wives of Windsor in Stratford one night and I’m working a concert at my home theatre tonight. Tomorrow is movie night with friends and then it’s Kultun festival and then swing dancing in Hamilton on Sunday. How even if this my life.

Not complaining.

This Life Is Sweet

Festival set up in the blazing sun
It’s a joy to volunteer.
Turns out hard work can be fun
and plus they give you beer.

This life is sweet.
I’m a big fan.
One thing would make it sweeter, love
I want to hold your hand.

Sunset hues and crescent moon
A man plays guitar on the dock.
The remnants of labor settled by
An evening swim and a walk.

This life is sweet.
I’m a big fan.
One thing would make it sweeter, love
I want to hold your hand.

Guitar and fiddle and banjo
Waves of song wash over me.
Story as lighthouse, the chorus safe harbor
My blanket a raft in this musical sea.

This life is sweet.
I’m a big fan.
One thing would make it sweeter, love
I want to hold your hand.
If you were here by my side, my love And if you would hold my hand.

at the market

At the market the bike lane advocates have
       set up a booth to encourage urban cycling and
       they're giving away silver bells (I got one).
The marketplace din is punctuated 
       by the bright ding ding of bike bells.
Strawberries are in season!
       And the egg lady is smiling and 
       the fair trade coffee in my travel mug
       is finally the perfect temperature.
Sipping the coffee I absorb the colours and sounds
       in small doses. Or try to.
       I never got the hang of microdosing.
Fuck it! Suck it all in, breathe every scent, sweet and foul
       trip on the greens of kale, berries red, golden honey!
Every human here is shining and beautiful
       and I love them all it almost hurts but
       I keep loving them even that one stealing 
       a ripe strawberry and yes even that one
       scowling at the child with the bike bell.

Summer Solstice to Autumnal Equinox

I had it in my mind that I would stop drinking on my birthday, for one full year. Not that I drink to any great degree, not that it impedes my living. But my mom did just die from her alcoholism. And it does run down every branch of my family tree.

But it’s more than that. You ever meet people who have heard “the word of god” and they thirst for it, they long for it, they yearn? That’s kind of how I feel about sobriety. I actually really like drinking, though. I don’t like being drunk and I loathe being hungover but otherwise I like everything about drinking. I like smokey scotches and hoppy beers and charcoal porters. I love full bodied red wines and the liquid Christmas tree kiss of gin. I’m into the ceremony of champagne and the ritual of patio beers. I like drinking.

But it is inescapably true that alcohol causes cancer and that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. It’s a Group One carcinogen – so it’s like saying there is no safe level of asbestos consumption. I mean, obviously. And alcohol robs you of your awareness. It’s also fattening and expensive.

I am loving life so much. I’m having honestly So. Much. Fun. I’m excited for school. I love my job. I’m proud of my kids and am looking forward to watching their adventures. I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m acutely aware of my mortality and of time ticktickticking away. I don’t want to lose anymore time to the fog of drink, or the pain of hangover. And I don’t want to consume something that I know has a proven ability to cause cancer.

So tomorrow – no, later today – I’m drinking my last drinks, for a year and a quarter at least. I said I wanted to quit on my birthday, but the weekend after my birthday I’m attending an event that is marked by copious amounts of free alcohol (I don’t know about you but honestly, free alcohol seems to be everywhere). If I’m going to do a thing, I like to set myself up for success. By my birthday, I want all the effects of alcohol to be gone, so it’s a truly clean year. I read this book called Sober Curious and I like the idea of being sober curious. Not “sober sober” as she calls it. I mean, I’ll be sober sober until Fall 2020 but then, whatever, it’s my life. I expect though I won’t return.

I miss being just naturally weird, you know? I miss sliding along a natural high, blissing out on the colours of the sunset or perfect harmonies or cool lake water. I’m lucky in that my brain naturally likes to take those routes. If I just let it, my brain goes places that some other people use substances to find. If I give it enough fresh food and sunshine, it piques those peaks with no side effects.

I think it’s going to be an interesting summer.

 

 

Personal Mission Statement

I’ve been engaged in a learning program through the Satir Global Network, which is a body dedicated to “to furthering the creation of healthy and just relationships with self and others based on the teachings of Virginia Satir.” Virginia Satir was an American psychotherapist. At the end of the program I will be certified as a trainer and coach in Satir method, which will give me an extra boost of confidence going into my Masters in  psychotherapy.

Part of my current assignment is to develop a three word mission statement. These are increasingly popular and are meant to be immediately impactful. Consider “Just do it” or “Do no harm”.

I’ve been listing words and reading blogs (apart from on Pinterest, I just can’t handle that site). I’ve been overthinking this as is my wont, and taking it seriously due to my frustratingly earnest nature.

I started at “Kindness centred growth” but ack, I hate it. I’m bored halfway through it- which I guess would be at cent–, snore. The lesson plan has a list of words attached. I found another cool list in this helpful blog post.

I wanted it to capture the feeling of facilitating growth – my own, that of other individuals, and that of organisations or communities. I wanted it to capture my taste for adventure and my insatiable curiosity. But I also value the strength and autonomy that can arise from integrity. All of this in three words.

All the blog posts encourage the readers to try their personal mission statement out for a while and to change it as needed. So I’m not marrying myself to these three words. They might change. For now though, and I hope I don’t fall asleep halfway through reading them, what I’ve got is:

Nurture Authentic Curiosity

Memory Book

Tonight we are gathering in Midland in memory of my Mother. It occurred to me recently that I would need photos of her, as well as a Memory Book for people to write in.

She didn’t want a service and insisted that if we do anything, it was to be small. She didn’t want people to make a fuss about her. But she also did not like to be overlooked or ignored. It’s a fine line to walk.

So we’re seeing a play in her honour at our community theatre home, Huronia Players. We’ll toast her with red wine – truly her poison, as it killed her in the end.

It’ll be nice to see people and to hear stories but it’s also bittersweet, fraught, too tangled to be parsed in a short blog post.

In any case, two days ago I went through all my photos to find ones she would deem acceptable to put on display. I could hear her denigrating herself “I’m too fat in that one, too old, too stern” and her pride “Yes, that one, it shows off my ankles.” When illness made her ankles swell, she mourned them.

So many photos – up until digital cameras and Facebook. Photos of friends from two decades ago, and some of those friends we will see tonight. Some people in the photos are dead, some have moved out of our lives, some I can’t recall who they are. Photos of my mom with her ex-lovers, and photos of me with mine. I can hear my kids on some unknown future day “Oh, nice shot of mom, too bad he’s in it,” when they look for images to put on display for my memorial.

The older you get, the more every experience loops back to past experiences until every present moment has echoes and somehow the process loops forwards as well and every death forecasts our own.