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.

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.

Wishes

I’m doing a community art project called #100notebookwomen where, as suggested, 100 women get notebooks. There’s a month and a half and you just do whatever your artsy heart desires. Mine’ll be poems of course. Songs without music. Lyrics without songs. The words to this one follow the image.

 

Wishes

I always have a wish at the ready
Affirmation, prayer, whatever they are
My desire thrust at the Universe
At 11:11, dandelions, shooting stars.

How lucky am I? My wish box is empty!
My most recent wishes all came true!
Now I’m dreaming in sweet summer breezes
I’m willing up wishes anew.

11:11 comes twice every day
Dandelions seed, stars fall.
The air tastes of hope, love, and magic.
Summer is wishing season after all.

The wish must be something possible
Where luck is handy but not required
A lover’s kiss? A friend’s good health?
Something absent but much desired.

11:11 comes twice every day
Dandelions seed, stars fall.
The air tastes of hope, love, and magic.
Summer is wishing season after all.

An empty wish box is a blessing it’s true
Of unbestowed wishes, I have but a few.
All the same I think I’ll wish up one or two.

Nesting Dolls

Tonight I got to make art with my daughter. I did spoken word and she did a juggling routine, the two interwoven and set to music. Only I was too moved by the experience and by watching her juggle and I forgot my last lines. Luckily we were performing for our beautiful theatre community in a room of support and love. And now she has a new routine and I have a new poem

Once upon a time as a young aspiring poet learning to rhyme I’d hold my pen so serious hitting the flow young and making myself delirious writing poems about snowdrops in the spring or the voices of the dead joining to sing to the living – I wrote everything I felt in haiku and rhyming couplets – dropping everything to snatch poems from the air – catch them and pen them to the page to keep them there.

Irving Layton once told me not to BE a poet but to leave poetry to fun and make some more sensible plan. Long after his death my banker-self cursed that man – but the poet child lives inside me still and always will see poems dancing in sunlight on autumn leaves and swipe their stories off a passing breeze.

One summer in my childhood when we were out all day and home by the time the street lights came on I tossed around the idea of playing the bully – just to feel how that felt in my bones and my body.

 One day, I threw a boy – not pushed or shoved – but threw him into a bush. And I knew it was wrong but I loved the rush of power and control – of course it was just a role and I quickly dropped the act. It’s good to know though that if I ask, that alpha kid will step out from inside me and stand beside me to assert boundaries and make me free to stand tall and strong when that’s the only way I see to get along. 

And maybe I wanted to play bully a while because like most other childhoods mine was manipulated by the false promises and uneasy patterns of adults and the best way to survive was to smile and be quiet and pleasantly small – because a kid doesn’t understand alcoholism or mental illness at all.

You only know that to stay safe when they’re looking for someone to blame, you stay small and smile – and as a grown up it’s often the same. So I thank that young freckled self for learning how to smile just sweetly enough because my friends, sometimes when the going gets tough, the tough are just the ones still smiling in the end. 

These past versions of me live still right inside of me – holding their lessons and skills for me to use and I can willfully pick and choose who best to augment my current self with.

I call on each for different reasons but on occasion and in some seasons they call on me knock knocking at my door asking – can I come out and play? Like now it’s spring and the bird are singing mating songs as dawn is breaking and bulbs are thrusting stalks through damp earth making all the natural world ache to give birth.

And inside my middle-aged reasonable self, a much younger self stirs, sniffs the air and laughs. Flirting with flowers and sighing with sunbeams, she stretches her youthful limbs and – thinking thoughts of love – takes centre stage.

(this is when my daughter enters and starts her juggling routine. Part way through I finish the poem)

Poet child, erstwhile bully, sweet survivor, would be lover – everything and everyone you’ve ever been – you still are. Each inside you and inside each other like nesting dolls of former selves, standing ready to give you help. Inside this beautiful mess of your complicated parts is you, capitol Y O U, your truest you, your “to thine own self be true” you.

With all embellishments swept away, the unbedazzled and honest face behind every social mask. Every gut reaction, every “I feel it in my bones” is your truest self whispering stories of your soul and we best hone our listening skills because your innermost self speaks truth, and always will.