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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is That You Rapture? Come, Transport Me!

It has been a crazy few days. Crazy. My bed appears to have been the stage for a major wrestling event. Lying open upon it is a collection of books seemingly half-read, a collection of Bukowski poems, biographies of Mae West and Mary Todd Lincoln, huge volume of Mathew Brady's Civil War photographs dropped, I am sure, because of its size, weight and unsuitability for reading in bed. Before snapping the picture, left, I shamefacedly removed the large collection of empty cucumber water bottles from the headboard. I've become enamored of that beverage and I was told to push fluids. That headboard can shelter a mighty horde of those bottles. And now it is time to lift my head from my surrealistic pillow to rejoin the living. You see, I've been sick for the better part of a week.

Like many people who live near me, I am beset with allergy miseries. It's spring. The wind has shrieked, flinging dust, allergens and debris for about 7 years straight. I woke up, knocked around in search of coffee and felt tearful. "What's this?" I wondered, tuning up some mindfulness skills to check in on myself. Hmm - really high fever. The sort I attribute more to children than to adults. Eyes gooey, nose alternately runny and socked in solid, chest rattling like rusty old chains. Could I be sick? Um, yes, that miserable sensation in my ear suggested I was quite sick. Enough so that I broke down and sought medical attention. Antibiotics - check. Antihistamines - yep. Prescription eye drops - sure. Vicodin? "Do you think I'll really need that?" She thought I would. I had a pretty severe ear infection.The pain was going to get worse before it got better.

I do not care for Vicodin. It's effect on me is a not-quite-enough masking of pain. I still know the pain's there, just beyond my fingertips and I know I'll feel it more intensely before it's time to take another pill. Sometimes this medication makes me slightly nauseous or dizzy, and - oh, yeah, best of all - it makes me sidewinder mean after I've had about 3 doses. I once gave my mother 50 years of what-for in one Vicodin-inflamed telephone spew. I know it does nothing good for my personality and I try to avoid it. Also, there is some spirited decades-long debate within AA about whether one is truly "sober" if they're not drinking but are taking certain kinds of medication. I can see the argument in favor of "lost sobriety" if one takes these babies for pleasure and thrills. Pleasure? Reader, I don't understand one's coworkers who descend as soon as the dental surgery is completed, "Did you get any extra Vicodin? I'll pay you $4 a pill." I decided I would take them as prescribed, prescribed only for me, as needed for pain, by my physician who knows I am an alcoholic. If any deviation from that seemed imminent, I knew what to do to find help.

Settling into bed with books, music, cell phone, paper and pen, wireless keyboard, remote control devices, two cats, cucumber water, a bit to eat and the Vicodin, I set forth on a journey of unequalled brilliance and revelation. I read, I wrote, I dozed, I talked to myself and cats. It would be fair to say I meditated, though I am not formally trained for that. Apropos of absolutely nothing, I resolved several of the world's larger problems, wrote a discourse in florid language on a topic about which I heretofore knew nothing, made astounding discoveries of nature from my bedside, thought about whether it was morning or afternoon when the clock read 3:00. I did some AA 4th Step work which I didn't like at all. I did some Grief Recovery work on a couple of issues I'd not resolved within myself, though they happened some time ago. I liked that even less, so I turned over to sleep for awhile. By the third day, I was more than ready to shake a leg, get out of bed and get to an AA meeting. Yep, I felt like hell. No, I likely wasn't contagious. It wasn't that I felt a need to drink. It was that I needed to see the faces. Those faces. The two old men (old, as in my general age group) who are wordsmiths, like me. We love to tear into the AA Big Book with its 75-year-old language, applying our modern-day linguistic sensibilities to the precepts. "Les, did you bring your thesaurus?" "I did, men!" The (very) young man who comes on Thursdays and Fridays to take in a meeting where he might hear me speak. "I like to hear you share. I feel like we may have walked down many of the same paths." I feel the same, young taxi driver! I returned home feeling refreshed, refilled.

So it happened that this morning, I knew I must clean up the artifacts of the few days during which I'd clearly had more than one transcendental experience. Stack the paper, close the books properly with bookmarks, mail the notes and cards and other forms of communication I'd written, brush cat hair from everything, get the sheets into the laundry. Feeling so enlivened, I wanted to review what I'd written, what I'd highlighted in the ultimate books, what I'd digitally recorded as reminders to myself. I envisioned myself a latter-day seeress, gliding down Newland Avenue on paroxysms of deep truth, hair and garb not unlike that of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Um, yeah. To paraphrase an old shibboleth, "A wasted mind is a terrible thing".

So, my great observation of the natural world: Virginia Woolf's claws click like so many tiny high heels on the hardwood floor as she walks. I don't need to have the lights on to tell which cat approaches. Of course, when Bogey approaches, the earth moves, too. It seemed so profound when I observed and internalized it.

I wrote my de profundis epic opus that would make a rock weep. Oh, I struck a blow on page after page, pouring it all out, my entreaties for the peace that beautiful verity would have brought, though I was only to be smote with one pretty prevarication after another. No sestet, couplet, no iambic pentameter here, this was blooded ink run rampant. A sonnet squared or cubed relating pain, becoming anger. I sense my writing style was affected by the Oscar Wilde study I'd just completed a day before. Carly Simon thought her wrongdoer was so vain he'd probably think this song was about him. I'd submit that some blackguards wouldn't recognize themselves in a mirror. We shall see when I send it, embossed and decorated, to the intended recipient. I believe that all of that falls under the Grief Recovery umbrella.

In my recorded messages to myself, I sound like a rummy - there's really no nice way to say it. My missives look like the flying monkeys wrote them. And I'm really, really still unpleasant. Yesterday, I resorted to deep sighing and eyeball rolling, reminiscent of some of my mother's more unpleasant nonverbal expressions of unhappiness. Oh, it wasn't my fellow AA's fault that she's dyslexic and had only been to the speech location once before, in about October of 1998. It's not her fault that when I offered to MapQuest the place, she said, "No need. No problem." When I allowed as how I figured we were now in Arizona, she became distressed and couldn't tell me even which direction to take. Hey - all the landmarks had changed. Once we arrived, late, I was immediately put off by the first speaker for a reason not fit to print. Then he launched into his one-liners about the inadvisability of dating a "broad from AA". Ahem. Not one, but two, women speakers annoyed me by the word they applied to females. "Women" is a word that usually sits well with me. Certain other words don't fly as effectively and I tend to drift in my thoughts. Women speaking arrogantly about other women . . . And so, one can see I'm still not 100%. Still a little grumpy. Tetchy like. However, I hear no wind and the sun has finally come out and the raspy gacking noises of Virginia Woolf hurling really expensive cat food came from outside, not inside. I think this will be a better day. It'd be a hell of a note if the world ended or something.


  1. Hope you feel better.

    You'd be better off with some other role model than the Maharishi. George Harrison was so inspired by him that he wrote "My Sweet Lord" and was promptly sued by the Chiffons. Just sayin'

  2. Hmmm... This cucumber water is unknown to me. The contents of my bed is a subject I will avoid altogether and I'm familiar with the AA arguments on other drugs, while I have been admittedly addicted to Xanax for 13 or 14 years I see the benefits to me and those around me. I am glad to hear the winds have abated and I hope they stay that way.

  3. @ Kirk ~ Well, I must be improving. In AA this morning, I became unruly and had to stare at my lap a lot to prevent impulsive bursts of laughter. At least that involves no weapons.

    Yeah, George did get spanked, didn't he? I've never heard the similarity with He's So Fine, but OK.

  4. @ Tag ~ I like all kinds of flavored waters, carbonated or not. Cucumber water (not carbonated) is my latest, best friend. No calories, caffeine, sodium, no nothing. And it tastes like cucumbers!

    I engaged in a spirited discussion with a fellow at AA that finally turned heated. It was about my use of antidepressants since 1992. When I saw I couldn't win or even draw, I tried to be humorous and get out of Dodge. "Well, we wouldn't want to see me depressed, would we? I'm already an alcoholic." He followed me out of the place continuing to go off on me. How dare I state that I am in recovery?

  5. You know, Les, I'm reminded of a a newpaper article I read recently about a rift between the mental health community and the susbstance abuse community. The mental health community increasingly relies on medication to treat depression, bi-polar disease, schizophrenia, etc. The substance abuse community is against using to treat anything having to do with psyche, even if the problem is biological in origin. Don't know enough to venture an opinion, though I've read that poor or working-class people (getting increasingly hard to tell them apart) who may suffer from some undiagnosed mental condition and can't afford a psychiatrist may use alcohol as self-medication. Hmmm, guess I'm venturing an opinion, anyway.

  6. @ Kirk ~ You're playing a song that intrigues me. And there are plenty of folks (this is a single example only) with fine insurance coverage who get all the medication but remain ill because what they really need (maybe in addition to the medication, I'm not a doctor or a genius) is a 12-step program. There's a related area of thought that has really blurry outlines, as well. "What's really my problem?" Sometimes we start on a program of recovery and start reading things that lead us to other programs. Recently (since AA, so within 6 months) I freaked myself out by reading which led to more reading and still more. Man, EVERYTHING is wrong with me. I won't live long enough to go to enough meetings and address enough of the problems. So I vote that we keep me medicated for the things that are real problems that medication can ameliorate and keep me off booze one ever-lovin' day at a time and the rest will sort itself out. I'm not being flip. I count myself fortunate. And I don't believe anyone has all the answers to these things.

  7. I'm going to need the recipe for your cucumber water.
    And I'm sick now too. I thought for sure it was allergies and/or heartburn causing my rough throat and icky head-feeling, but not so. I hope to not need a medical intervention like you did. :-( Hope you're feeling better.

  8. @ CramCake ~ Eeeks, if you've got the same bug, it's not a very pleasant one and I'm sorry to hear it. I get that way so infrequently that I'm a real whiner when it occurs, I'm afraid.

    Confession: recipe. Go to F&E. Walk to cooler. Plunge in arm. Pull out bottles of cuke water. BTW, since this stuff has absolutely nothing in it, I'm sure that "cucumber water" is a misnomer. No cucumber was likely involved. I'm sure there are holier ways to obtain such a beverage. I like it anyway.

  9. "I was immediately put off by the first speaker for a reason not fit to print."

    ... and I smolder with curiosity.

  10. @ Erin ~ Ha, my newshound friend! That made you prick up your ears and sniff at the air, eh? I'll send you an e-mail and a fire extinguisher. I promise you it wasn't worth much of a smolder, so I hope you didn't singe your fur.

  11. Have you seen the bumper sticker: "Come the Rapture, can I have your car?"

  12. @ Tregina ~ Ha! Come the Rapture, you may have my place in line. Come the Rapture, your car won't be any better than mine. Come the Rapture, I'll be glad to see the back of all the idiots leaving.