Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Good Morning and May Your 2017 Be the Best It Can Be

Hello to all -

As I have gotten older and life continues to "happen", it is hard for me to just cheerily say "Happy New Year!" to folks. This is especially valid because I try to get to know those around me pretty well so I don't fall into the trap of making basic assumptions about them that may or may not be true. This is actually one of my biggest faults - I tend to assume things about folks based on their behavior without giving full thought to the range of reasons for behavior. An easy example of this is assuming that someone is a snob when really they are just shy. You get the picture.

So many of those around me and who I have associated with deal with addicts in their lives every day. Or other things - like money troubles, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, worry about kiddos in school etc. So, with this in mind (knowing that having a "happy new year" may just not be possible for some folks), I wish that you all can make 2017 the best year that it can be for you. For some, you will simply not be able to make things that great due to circumstances you cannot control (remember, you cannot control the alcoholic or addict in your life; you can only control your reaction towards them) but for others, maybe this year you can makes things a bit better for yourself. I certainly hope so.

I periodically look up Sandy James who wrote a very short-lived but well-done blog, "Taking Back Me", about the dilemmas of what the heck to do with an alcoholic spouse. Her thoughts and reactions closely mirrored mine and I found the writings useful and affirming. Then she suddenly disappeared. Which actually worried me - did she die, get injured or ill, get beat up and/or threatened by her husband? It seems I will never know. But, I did find some useful older essays by her on some sites that you may wish to explore:

Peace and blessings to all.

"What fresh hell is this?" --Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Two Bridges

First of all - apologies for the lack of has been quite the year, let's just say that....

When my sons and I were in Guatemala doing work projects we would often be driven over this lengthy highway bridge overlooking a huge valley to get to wherever we were visiting and working in Guatemala City. The bridge was in fairly good repair - just a bit crumbly here and there - and much of the "walls" of the valley had much vegetation and looked pretty green. However, significant portions of the "walls" had large neighborhoods of shacks running up the side of them - the lack of prosperity was easy to see. In another valley we would visit, the "walls" contained a junkyard city known as La Limonada overlooking one of the largest trash piles in the world. The people in La Limonada would come down to the trash pile and comb it for bits and pieces of garbage that they could transform into a few bits of money at a market.

Back here in the States my sons and I frequently drive over another bridge overlooking a large valley. This highway bridge is gleaming new and leads to one of the most prosperous suburbs in our area. The valley itself is a large waterway with facilities for fishing and kayaking. Like in Guatemala, the sides of the valley are rich with vegetation. Homes - palaces, really - cling to the sides of this valley. Prosperity and beauty is everywhere certainly with no trash piles in sight. My sons and I had an extensive conversation about the similarities and differences of the two bridges that we have crossed so many times.

But the second bridge could so easily become like the first one, couldn't it? Prosperity turn to poverty; treasure turned to trash; palace turned to hovel. Life circumstances are tenuous things; anyone who has lived and loved an addict knows this. Hubby was so wonderful...and then he wasn't. Yesterday, I had a student's mother who was so upset about paying for a karate test. This mother has actually constantly been a thorn in my side about karate-related expenses; loudly sighing and complaining. In the turmoil of yesterday's test (several students from other locations showed up unannounced to take the tests and the rec center where I teach was a voting location so it was chaos central), she and her daughter actually managed to leave the test without paying. My first thought was, "What a cheap bitch." Then I caught myself, "What the hell am I thinking? I have absolutely no idea what this woman is going through. That $30 may be life or death to her financially." I was ashamed. Just because "my bridge" was currently the second one and hers was the first does not mean that the roles could not be reversed. And - quite frankly - they have been. I have been there - when the bills pile up so high because of Hubby's medical issues associated with his addiction and mine with my various cancers that the simplest school fee request from my sons has elicited an exasperated and near hysterical response. So - I will not ask this woman for the money. Perhaps she IS a "cheap bitch". But perhaps she is not.

These kinds of reactions and thoughts and words and deeds are things that I can control. They are things that my sons can control. And now that we live in a country where there IS no control and where the wheels have completely fallen off the bus, it is going to be so important to be able to control something in our lives. I am horrified at the choice that our citizens have made for president and I truly believe that this man is a nightmare and that our red Congress is a nightmare and they will bring us to near annihilation. We may very well become Guatemala. We may very well all be driving over that first bridge in our own homeland. I truly sincerely hope that all the angry people who voted him into office get exactly what they want. I sincerely hope that they get their jobs back, that they can afford the American Dream, that they can make a better life for themselves and their families. That is what they want and I hope they get it. However, I fear that they will not get this and then what in the world will they do?

So one of the first things that those of us who live or have lived with addicts learn is that there are things that are out of our control. But there are things that ARE under our control and I have discussed those things at length in this blog.

Here is what is out of my control: I cannot currently do anything about the president, Congress and a conservative Supreme Court overturning and eliminating a woman's right to choose, the right of non-whites to vote, or the elimination of health insurance for tens of millions. Writing to my congressman and protesting will do no good: my representatives and senators are some of the most odious alt-right folks; they will not listen to me and our police and also armed alt-right citizens will kill protestors. I cannot do anything about Muslims or Hispanics being deported and denied access. I cannot do anything about the groaning levels of income tax I and others pay while the wealthy pay nothing. These are things out of my control completely. I do not have the power to overcome them.

However, here are the things that ARE under my control and that I can do:
1. I can do the same sort of work that I did in the third world country of Guatemala in our soon-to-be third world portions of the United States. There are going to be so many people here who desperately need help and assistance. I can roll up my sleeves and help them.
2. I can give support and shelter and safety to the many who may possibly be in quite real danger in our red regime: people who will be persecuted due to their skin color, sexual orientation, gender identification and/or religion.
3. I can consider (sorry, right now I can only consider this - I am a far weaker person than Jesus Christ - I have not gotten fully there!) giving support and shelter and safety to the many others who may have voted for a con man in great faith only to be shattered and suffering more instead.
4. I can refuse to show my fear and anxiety to my children - my sons are already frightened and they have had enough fear and hopelessness in their lives - I can be strong for them so they feel at ease and safe
5. I can practice self-care: watching my diet, exercising, controlling my spending. Election Night I could not sleep due to so much fear - so I got up and cleaned my home thoroughly; it was something I COULD control - that state of my home - and I did so!

The world is in a dark, dark night now. But we can control our individual lights and reflect their rays upon our immediate others. People who have lived with alcoholics and addicts are pretty good at this already; our skills are now needed in the larger world.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Fairy Tale Ending is Not Wanted or Needed?

The colleague and friend that initially inspired this blog has - after divorcing her AH - apparently found a "dream man." Yep - she is already happily out there in the dating scene and has found a real gem! Likewise, another dear old friend who suffered in a mentally abusive marriage for years has also found her "dream man" and is engaged to be married. And...ANOTHER pal is engaged to be married after losing her husband only 10 months ago. I am thrilled and happy for all of them.

Now all of these women are much better looking than me and it IS my understanding after reading many of those "dating after 50" articles that men are all really after the looks and that's basically it (meaning, my "stacks 'o brains and personality" aren't gonna cut it with the over 50 male set)....but this post isn't about that. Meaning, I am not going to moan about being a "plankton" (lowest life form on the sexual food chain...) and THAT is what this post is really about!

In a fairy tale world, my sons and I would have been swept away by a dream Hubby/Daddy after all the dreadfulness that we have endured. And actually that was one of those fantasies that kind of kept me going during the alcoholic awful years. I used to wonder about all those fellas out there and how exciting it would be that once Hubby was gone I would get to explore the wonderful world of romance again. Really, it DID keep me going....that romantic dream. In fact I used to feel pretty guilty about it; almost as if I wanted Hubby to go to the great beyond so that this new family life could begin. I anticipated the social whirl.

Then came that long night after Hubby's accident. When they used his living will to do the "pull the plug" order on my brain dead husband. I went into his hospital room one more time before they pulled the plug and kissed his still "alive" warm cheek and whispered, "Forgive me...I tried to do my best...." And 15 minutes later he was officially pronounced dead.

And I have had absolutely no desire at all to date or pursue romantic companionship or find any sort of "dream man" since! I even think that for awhile I had a bit of a crush on my karate instructor and you know, after Hubby died...I just looked at that instructor and thought, " way!" At first I thought that this was a natural reaction - that, of course, I was grieving and didn't want to do or feel anything unseemly. But after almost 4 years, I have had to admit that this part of my life is simply dead to me and I have zero desire to resurrect it. It is very odd to think that the last time I had sex was 9 years ago (because alcoholic men lose that function almost immediately it seems) and that I don't miss it! And I used to have lots of romance and sex and the whole nine yards...I was never a prude or a prig!

Now, this doesn't mean that I have let myself go to the dogs. I exercise and keep fit and take pride in my appearance. But that is because I need to due to my profession and for my own self worth - not to "catch a man." I went on a couple of those dating sites at the urging of my friends and just thought, "Yuck - no way!"

I guess that the fantasy was just a way to help me through the day. In reality, Hubby was apparently the "love of my life." Oh dear - what a disappointment! But there it is. In my case I suppose, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" is the truth! (I think my sons are secretly relieved at this - a dating mother probably would have mortified them!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A tale of two stashes

This past winter break I decided that I was going to finally get rid of all clutter and extraneous stuff in my house. I was quite successful - I actually now have some virtually empty closets, drawers and bins. My sons enthusiastically donated or sold all remaining Hot Wheels cars, Legos and Nerf guns. I cleared out a ton of clothes and junk and just gave things a thorough going over. When Hubby died my sister came over immediately and helped me get rid of all of the "it's got to go; too darn painful" stuff like his toothbrush, his clothing etc. But most everything else had languished. I will probably NEVER finish with the garage - the guy just had too darn many tools!

Came across some surprises which were a study in contrasts - both made me say, "Oh dear..." with a blend of sadness and madness. First one was found on Christmas Day in the drawer of my desk (and I swear I have opened that drawer a zillion times and have NEVER seen this before):

Well, you can just imagine the effect this had on me ..... I still don't know what to say. I wonder when he wrote this; obviously during one of his more lucid moments. It may have been during the final three weeks of his life after the intervention at the hospital. When he was off the alcohol and actually seemed very much at peace.

The second one was - when I was cleaning out my kitchen cabinets and putting new shelf paper in, I got on a ladder and got into the very tippety-top shelf and wouldn't you know it - I found 3 shot glasses FULL of VERY OLD (4 years old) BOOZE stashed up in the darkest corner!

Wish Hubby had stashed a little bit more of the love and a little bit less of the booze... Ah well...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Another Anxiety Attack

Last fall on two occasions I was called in because my oldest son had an "anxiety attack" (for want of a better term - they are not really about anxiety, they are about frustration). During these events, my son becomes very upset with the behavior of others and it leads to him kind of "freaking out" (once again - for want of a better term) - he does no harm to others; he harms himself (he starts hitting himself in the face). He goes to therapy for this and when these occur we really step up the visits until he calms down again.

I have asked my son about this and he talks about feeling "separate" from others due to the experiences that he has had. Most of these have to do with his early years as a child of an alcoholic but some also have to do with the considerable amount of travel he has done and mission work in third world countries that we have done as a family (he has seen a lot of poverty). His frustration is with the fact that his school mates - in his words - "don't know what is important. They think they have problems but they really don't. They have drama about the dumbest things. It makes me so mad because they have no clue how hard life can be......"

My younger son has said these same things to me but does not have the "attacks." He kind of just shrugs, says "Meh, they are idiots" and moves along his merry way (or goes fishing - he is a bit of an introvert).

It has been observed by more than one person who knows my sons that they have "old souls." They are definitely different from their peers.

The point of this post is: living with an alcoholic parent is going to AFFECT your kids. No matter how hard you try to protect them. This EFFECT (I hate when folks use "affect" and "effect" incorrectly!) needs to be a MAJOR PART of your decision of whether to stay or go as a spouse of an alcoholic. I must admit that I had no clue that it would have this profound of an effect - I thought I could protect them pretty well and in retrospect, I did, but knowing then what I know now, I may have risked the severe financial and legal ramifications to remove my sons from the situation.

Ah well - hindsight is 20/20 and there are some advantages to being a child with an "old soul", I imagine. But - I am letting others who may be struggling with the "stay or go" decision have a bit of insight into what can happen. Hope it helps and doesn't just lead to further muddying of your waters. And above all - no matter what decisions you make about the entire horrible situation - NEVER FEEL GUILTY. You have your reasons - you are a smart and good person - it is no one else's business.

You all are in my thoughts....

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I am back!

Hello to everyone - yes, it has been almost 8 months since I last posted. Life just got very over-whelming - not in a bad way; just in the normal "I am a single mother with two teen-aged sons" way. Many things have happened since I last posted which was right after I got back from a much promised (to myself and to my sons) trip to London and Paris with my sons. BTW - I am still paying off that trip but I do not regret it for the world!

I have been scribbling down ideas for posts during these months so I am not entirely bereft of ideas. Also - during these past few months, I have started to finally feel like resurrecting another part of my life which is that of a composer and musicologist. I make my living in academic IT administration but my studies and advanced degrees have all been in music and I have written many pieces and had many performances and also wrote an award-winning book.

I am working on the second edition of that book, a new piece of music, and another book. But sometimes I still just get so incredibly tired and find myself just watching TV or walking the dog. Nothing wrong with that - at least the things in life that currently "overwhelm me" and sap my creative spirit are not "real problems or issues" anymore - they are just the normal tiredness of motherhood. When you pour a lot of creative energy into keeping your children on the right and upward path, there is not much left for musical notes.

This creative "come back" has been a long time in coming. I ceased all creative endeavors in 2006 (with the exception of a short, commissioned piece of music in 2009) when it became quite obvious to me that my husband for SOME reason (remember, it took me a long while to figure out what was wrong with him) was seriously on the skids. I quickly determined that my creative energies were going to need to be focused on my family. Little did I realize how all-consuming that would be. Then in 2012 after Hubby died, a few days later I saw a musical colleague on campus who was involved in many of the same creative organizations and conferences that I was who quite naturally asked me how I was doing (in the wake of Hubby's death). I told him that I was going to be fine and to tell everyone that I was going to be fine but that I was "going to go away for awhile." Because I knew that creative recovery from the horror of those past six years was going to be long in coming.

Finally in Fall 2015 I have stopped "going away." I went to my first music conference in the fall and was heartened at the warm welcome back. One of my colleagues actually mistook me for another composer who is about 30 years younger than I am. While we were laughing about this she said, "But you must understand that when I saw you last, you looked 30 years older than you were. Now you look 30 years younger than you are!" Yes - having the weight of the world off of your shoulders makes a big difference.

I still follow the blogs in our "partner of alcoholics" community quite faithfully. Especially, I think about Sandy of Taking Back Me and Linda of The Immortal Alcoholic daily (often several times a day) and everyone else who is still dealing with this awful and untenable situation. I will celebrate the days that the weight of the world lifts from their shoulders and from others' shoulders.

I am getting back into the writing and creative game again and look forward to participating more fully again in this community.