Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day five hundred and forty six ... Far from fearless.

I'm scared out of my mind.

Everywhere I look planes are crashing.

Every time I turn on the news someone is dead.

Even the local news is disconcerting.

The only things that I can consider safe in my world is my house and my friends and in less than a week I have to leave them both. But that is the price I must pay to live a life outside of my safety zone, and that is the only way I can grow.

I wrote about it in the last entry. I mentioned how I actually care so very much what, in fact, happens to me as far as my safety, my health, and my mental well being. I care so much because I am finally opening up my grasp on my emotions and letting another person in, and this means that I not only am responsible for myself in my own head, I am responsible for myself in hers.

This post won't get mushy. That, I promise. In fact, this post isn't going to be that long. I just felt like letting some of you in on how I am doing.

I just celebrated 18 months of being off the bottle on the 27th. I say "celebrated", but to tell you the truth this is the first time I actually realized it since I thought about it last month. And that is just about the best way I can think of to stay sober. In my years of using I didn't think about how many months it had been since I started drinking. No, it just sort of piled up until it became more or less understood. And that's how I want my sobriety to be: understood. It's getting there. I am happy. Moving, trusting, growing.

I have put my music room together, finally. It has taken me a little over half a year but I am just about at the point where I can start to record the music that I have been working on for some time now. It's going to be here when I get back from my trip, and I'm sure I'll have some ideas to work on from a month of traveling. I can't play if I don't work. Luckily, I have figured out a way to do them at the same time. But I can't do one without the other. Work=life.

My obsession with order is still in full effect. It makes me a bit manic, but it really is for the best. "Mis en place," is French for "a place for everything." It has its origins in cooking but it can be transferred to almost every facet of life. An example: I have lots of pens and pencils everywhere. I also have several pencil holders of varying shapes and designs. If I have a hundred pens but can't find one when I'm on the phone, scrambling to document directions or a phone number, then I might as well just throw them all away. I don't want to do that so I keep them where I can find them. Order=ease.

There have been a lot of deaths lately in the news. People are always dying. Take one cursory look at the obituaries in your local newspaper and you will find people who lived right in your town who don't anymore.

A good friend was recently in the hospital for a semi-serious condition. While I was there visiting him I saw the news about Michael Jackson. I didn't feel a thing. It's not that I am hardened to loss or even intentionally callous. I just have to keep my emotions in place and focus on who and what actually matters in my life. My friend, I love; Michael Jackson, I am familiar with. I, at one point, enjoyed his music and even used to emulate him. Now I emulate my friend because he is stronger than most people I know and more talented than many understand ... though that last part, I am sure, is about to change.

I miss my mother like crazy because I just know she would love my girlfriend. She always knew I would find someone who was right for me and vice versa. I would always downplay it because it made me uncomfortable. Now I want to scream it so loud she could hear me in heaven, if there is such a place.

But I realize that this is what life is, nothing more. I can't have it all. I couldn't have gotten sober any other time in my life, and therefore I would have not been ready had we (Jodi and I) met another time when she was on this earth. The minutes roll on and on and the world travels around and around with its billions of people clinging on for dear life, as if an amusement park ride that never started and has no intention of letting up. We can only choose to let go when we have had enough, or when the ride has taken its toll on us and takes us from it. There are always new people waiting to get on and there are only so many seats. It's not fair and it is the most fair imaginable. It must retain a balance, and we must comply. Whether we feel it is unjust is a matter of opinion, and opinions are as fickle as the breath you just took. In a minute you will forget you even just concentrated on it at all.

But I am not speaking directly to anyone. Please do not be offended. I am merely getting this out as quickly as I can. It feels really, really good.

I have a motto that I use sometimes: "If you have to think about it, you're probably lying." It works in many situations. This is one of them.

I am scared to death to get on that plane on Saturday. I am scared to death that Jodi has to get on one in two weeks. These emotions have always been there, except that I used to be able to ignore them one way or another. Now there is no choice but to be aware, because I don't want to miss a fraction of a second of emotion, of time, of chance, of love, of adventure, of desire, of joy, of life.

I have to go now and take care of a million things. It's quite good for me. The more I do anything, the better I get at it. I don't have to worry about what to bring on Saturday. No, that's been made easy by the many trips I've made with the Chorus in the past. That stuff dictates itself in the closing hours of the pre-trip journey.

I have to clean my house, I have to pay some bills, I have to water the garden, I have to soak my feet, I have to have dinner with Jodi and a friend, I have to look out for tacks on the floor, I have to stretch, I have to sleep, I have to dream, I have to cry my eyes out, I have to laugh my head off, I have to take care of a million things ...

... and then I can relax.

Make that a million minus one.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day five hundred and thirty four ... Lights out.


I overheard someone talking the other day, as I often do.

"You know how sometimes you see ambulances that have their lights on but their siren off?"


"Do you think that means that the person inside is dead and they're in a different kind of rush to get to the hospital?"

Man. Talk about heavy. I have a pretty skewed perspective on life in general, but I would have never put this scenario together in my head.

Since hearing that I notice them much more often. They might be white and yellow; white and red; white and blue; white and gold. They appear all over the country, quietly moving past the reluctantly pulled over traffic, with the lights on but the siren off. I'm sure they didn't forget. They'd have it on if they needed it to be on. They get trained to be under great stress and handle all kinds of situations.

But why do they do it?

Could it be?

Could they be carrying the dead?

Catching up. Part One: Love takes all of us.

The love of a good woman, or any woman at all, I thought, was as far away from the realm of my possibilities as me ever getting clean and sober.

I had had my chances. I had women in my life that cared for me. One of them even professed to love me. But they were all temporary, and they were all messy. The women in these cases were all trying to date a man who was committed to another. You might say I was committed to many others, but all of those things provided the same thing: escape.

I used to hear it from my aunt and (less so) from my mother. They'd say, "Alex, there are plenty of women out there who would give their right arm to be with someone as handsome, as smart, and as talented as you. But they would have to be legally insane to want to spend their time with someone whose main directive is to be drugged up and drunk all the time."

When a person has become schooled in the art of addiction and abuse they develop many ways to wriggle out of the lasso of reality. They are almost uncatchable. And while they may have many scars from the yellow bristly rope on their skin from its many earnest attempts to ensnare, they remain, on the whole, unbroken.

When I would hear my family talk in this way--knowing that neither one had any experience whatsoever in the art of substance use--it was easy to brush it off. It was easy to call them on having no clue about the subject because I knew that they didn't know. I held the power in this debate. I would react to their words as if they were a foreigner trying precariously to explain something to me in my language, conscious that their timbre and parlance was rough and uneven. Meanwhile, arms crossed, I feigned being completely mystified as to what they were trying to express.

"You have no idea what you are talking about!," I'd say. "It is an affront to me, and casts unjust aspersions upon my female acquaintances both past and present to utter such nonsense!"

When I knew I was wrong I'd pull out the big words from my faux highbrow database.

It didn't fool my folks. They were actually smart; I was--and remain--a good bullshitter with a flexible vocabulary.

And so I'd go from one mess of a relationship to another. A one night stand here; a rebound casualty there. There was even one mixed in over the last twenty odd years that started off on the right foot. I had been trying to dry out for a while, and even succeeding. But once the emotions and anxieties started to kick in it was all over. I drank like a fish and then I swam quickly and nervously away leaving a very nice person confused and saddened.

And then the lasso got me.

It slipped on when I wasn't looking. I had turned my head for one night--one night I thought I could run around the corral bucking up my hooves and snorting into the air. And before I knew it I couldn't breathe. Not in anyway. I reared up on my hind legs and pulled with all my might. I felt the first few drops of blood from the old hard edge of the rope as it dug in to my neck. I tried to look behind me to see who the hell had been so stealth as to get this far. Nobody had ever gotten this close. The nerve! I pulled and I pulled and I beat my feet into the ground. I shrieked into the air and my hot spit flew from my jowls like a round of buckshot--as unpredictable as it is effective.

And then I fell down.

And when I came to and looked around me I knew things were different. I realized that there was no going back this time; I was broken. And when they finally let me out to walk on my own I saw a distinct line in the distance, like a rainstorm on the plains of the midwest that was passing before me.

I was drenched, I was cold, I was shaking, and I was scared. But I saw that the rain had other places to go. It would not be a gradual cessation. The clouds would not inadvertently turn off their faucets, only to start up again at a moment's notice. No. They were in a hurry to get on down the road; they left me alone with a huff and a chuckle.

And I felt that odd feeling of being cold and hot at the same time. As confusing as it is reassuring. It was a systems check. I could feel the effects of extremes from both ends of the thermometer.

I was most definitely alive.

It wasn't long before I could talk to the people who had tried to snare me with those lassoes for what seemed like an eternity. I'm sure it seemed longer for them, for they actually suffered more going through watching me than I did doing it. At least that's how it seemed.

For those involved firsthand, there is sometimes solace in blackouts.

When I dried off and dried out I talked with those people that were my family. I didn't pretend not to understand them. I didn't accuse them of using a language that they had no knowledge of. It was now I who was doing his best to learn the words pertaining to sobriety. It was now I who had only slight knowledge of the subject at hand, and they fluency.

Consequently, I helped them better understand what they didn't know, and encouraged them on the things they did. I made up for the years of forgetfulness; for the countless times I lied; for the things I missed out on--great things, family things that I could have very easily attended but chose--I repeat, chose to excuse myself from.

My mother never got the chance to see me do what needed to be done in this respect. She truly knew I would, though. This was made clear to me on more than several occasions. But the one last person who always tried to lasso me but never could manage a clean roping did. Although she never got to see me pass my year milestone in my new life she had always told me that due to my choices and actions I would soon be ready to share myself with someone else. She believed that I would soon be eligible for a genuine, mutual, collaboration of souls because I was beginning to believe that I could be me as me, and not me as somebody else. She could see that I had stopped trying to buck everyone and everything that tried to reason with me. She told me that I would find someone to share my time with; share my surprises with; share tears of laughter, and share tears of sadness. She told me that someday I would embrace with both arms the person who makes love make more sense than not. And when I did, to never let go. Because the whirlpool that we go through life in whips our fates around at an unbelievable pace, and we may never get that chance again.

I never used to be afraid of flying.

I always thought, well, if I die, I die.

Now I realize that if I die, a love will be lost. Of course this works both ways. And love makes us more than just ourselves. It is a supreme responsibility. It is the most demanding job known to man.

Love takes all of us, if we let it.

Looks like I'm all in.

And on we go ...

Catching up. Part two: Making plans.

Once again it has been an unusually long time between posts. Not to be too egocentric but there are people who I know enjoy reading my entries that may be concerned to see so few over the last month or so. To them I express my thanks for letting me be a part of their consciousness for so long, and hope my life slows down just a bit so as to more easily transfer a communicative bullion cube to the computer screen. It's not easy to not write a bunch of junk about nothing. Here's to picking the right time to say the right things.

I am preparing to go overseas with the Young at Heart Chorus next month. We've been putting a new show together over the last year. It's near completion and it is as groundbreaking as it is accessible. I can't give too many secrets away, but suffice to say that the music is more unusual (both in the song choices and in the arrangement) and there are many new faces in the actual chorus bringing a renewed sense of vitality and spirit to a troupe of well-travelled troubadours.

We leave on July, 4 and journey to Manchester, England, where we will stay for two weeks. We will be debuting the new show, titled, "End Of The Road," at the Manchester International Festival.

Jodi, my girlfriend, will be joining me there for the last night of performances before we set out on our own adventure traveling through Wales, London, Paris, and finally, to Portugal, where we will be spending ten days in Setubal and Porto, respectively.

I will be attempting to keep up with our journeys through pictures and words via this blog as well as my Facebook page.

That said, none of this would have been possible had it not been for that lasso that snared me almost 18 months ago. I would not have been in the position to find and purchase my home; I would not have been able to write this blog; I would most definitely never been able to form a solid bond with Jodi; and I wouldn't be going to Europe with the idea that I can guarantee--failing an unforeseen emergency--to return in one piece--perhaps with an even better understanding of myself, my girlfriend, and the symbiotic entity that is created when we are together (neither of us ever jibed with the idea that someone can "complete" someone else. For to be an incomplete person upon forming a bond leaves both at risk of damage--augmentation, however, is another story).

And in knowing all of this I realize that I ultimately was able to come to peace with at least one of the people who tried for years to turn my destructive habits around.

She saw the emergency when I could not.

She did what she could to save me the only way she knew how.

She turned on her flashing lights.

She turned on her siren.

And she laid on the gas, knowing that everyone else could tell there was a life still left to save.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day five hundred and seventeen ... The wearing away of the world.

I've become a bit neurotic as of late.

I knew it would happen. In fact, I kind of welcomed it. What with my changing lifestyle and my self imposed cessation from the kind of things that I used to turn to to forget what worried me, it makes perfect sense.

It makes a little too much sense.

The world is wearing away.

Each time we place a cup on a saucer we scrape a miniscule portion of the porcelain off. Each swirl of a spoon creates its own pattern of scuffs on the inside. And don't think I don't count the erosion from the actual liquid whirl-pooling around and around. It all does a little.

When we put on our sneakers we stretch the leather, string, and glue a little more. As we stuff our feet in each one our sock is pulled back along with it, loosening its overall composition. We pull at the laces, and it, in turn, strains the rivets that run along each side of the tongue. We tie a bow, and stand up to walk, and each step we take wears a little more rubber off the sole. Sometimes, that which we walk on is softer than our shoe bottoms, and it is worn away, but more often than not it is our foot that takes the brunt of the abuse. 

Only dressier shoes are really capable of repair, and even at that they can only hold on for so long before they lose their dressiness and turn into work shoes, and then into trash.

And one day we try to put on our sneakers and something snaps. It may be one of the laces, which is an easy fix--maybe even just tying it together, or, better yet, replacing it for a couple of bucks. But one day our sneakers will just stop being useful. It's not so easy to fix a sneaker as it is a dress shoe or a boot, as I mentioned, so we just toss them and buy some new ones. And from the moment we take the balled up tissue paper from the toe of each one it begins to wear down.

I feel like this a lot these days. But it's not because I actually am worn down--quite the opposite. I am living a life I only dreamed of, and then, even at that, I never really ever had the kind of imagination that could invent such a reality. I feel alive and well with each keystroke, every inhale, every blink, every step I take and each time I lock eyes with another human.

But I am ultra aware of the brevity of our time here. And so, I feel that I must write or become complacent and comfortable with the unexamined life. And that just will not do.

I clench my teeth constantly to the point where one of my back teeth has become extremely sensitive. I've been seeing an acupuncturist for a few weeks now and I think it's helping a bit but I still do it. It's maddening. It's not quite like grinding. I think I just like feeling the pressure of one tooth against another. If I keep doing it, in time, I will just wear down all of them. I don't think chewing gum helps, but I do that sometimes to strengthen my gums.

What does this all mean?

It means that I have realized that one of the byproducts of my abstinence from drugs and alcohol is that everything matters now. 


However, I realize that I can't let this get to me or else I won't be able to enjoy the sublime facets of the conscious world like cucumber water on a sweltering day, or the brush of a hand from a loved one triggering a frantic spider dance, awkwardly locking fingers, squeezing, sighing, and smiling.

But what it does do is to make me ever so sure of what I want to do with my clarity. 

I want to create. I want to perform. I want to clean. I want to recycle. I want to laugh. I want to dance. I want to eat. I want to exercise. I want to watch the best and the worst movies ever made. I want to think up a joke that will bring tears of laughter to the right person. I want to swim in the ocean and come up with eyes red from salt and hair that is tangled and mangled from the ocean's tousling. I want to walk under the moon and wink hoping it saw me. I want to kiss until I can't feel my lips, and then kiss twice as hard. I want to be so out of breath that I may pass out, but so full of life that I feel I'll never die.

And, of course, I will indeed die some day. But I can't spend my time worrying about that. All I can do is keep doing the things that may extend the time I have randomly been assessed, and stay away from the things that will most decidedly pull the curtain early.

And here is where I realize that my neurosis regarding the inevitable and everlasting erosion of everything and anything in our world can coexist with my calm and contentment.

Because each time I put on my sneakers; each time I swirl my spoon around in a cup of fresh coffee; each shirt I manhandle with haste putting on as I run out the door, wearing a little of the wood off its edges with each slam behind me--each time I do any of these things, if I do them with a clear mind and a clean body I give myself that much better of a chance that I will be able to enjoy what is left of them just a little longer. I may live long enough to see the pair of sneakers to their end. I may see the day when I notice a chip in the enamel of my favorite coffee mug and have to dispose of it. I may escort my favorite shirt, if not to the point of the curbside, then at least to the point where it gets put in the box with my other favorite shirts I can't bear to part with. I may see the day when I need to get a new front door, from all the times its welcomed my presence and those of my world who pass in and out. 

Because all of these things were made by us. Some were made to last longer than we do; some not even close. And they will keep being made until supply exceeds demand.

Even though my neurosis of the wearing down of the world had to be the inspiration for me to write after almost three weeks, there is a pleasant byproduct of this all. 

I realized that once we stop wearing away our world, we stop worrying about it.

I know you know what I mean.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to pour myself a cup of coffee and throw on some clothes and shoes. I'm going to slam the front door shut because I'm probably going to be late for work. I'm going to put a few miles on my car and a few more hours on my guitar strings.

It's what I do. 

And I'll thank you all for reading this post, like I always do, and hope to do it again tomorrow.

Here's to life, to love, to laughter, to contentment ...

... in fact ... here's to everything!

Thanks for reading.