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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.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Keeping Up Appearances

In the first year (at least) of sobriety, one wants to avoid HALT - getting too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Those, apparently, are triggers to most of "us" and can render us needy, isolated, depleted, and looking for something to fill up our emptiness. This is not good for an addict. This is where we go looking for our substance of choice. It is better to avoid slipping into a hole than trying to climb out of it. In the past week, I've pushed the limits. An abundance of work and, therefore, deadlines led me to tired, hungry and lonely (or, at least, alone). I never quite landed on angry, but I'm sure it would have shown itself had I continued to push. And, actually, my displeasure with the barista at the airport Starbucks last night could almost have qualified as angry. Certainly bitchy, at least.

I made an agreement with myself and wrote it in the DayPlanner, because that is the way I have to do these things if they are to happen. No going anywhere or doing anything for friends. My world-renowned expertise on all things technological or computer (Ha! All things are relative.) will simply have to be put on hold for a couple of days. I will not be available to attend the AA Spring Fling for 7 hours, but I will pop in briefly on my way into or out of a meeting. Though poking around in the yard sounds kind of fun, I do not want my new neighborly best friend to conclude that I am eager for intense gardening, so maybe I should just lay low. I will not do laundry. I won't tap at e-mails until they begin to feel like work. I will not write one word on the pop art icon I am paid to write about. I will give no consideration to any small luxuries I'd like to take on now that my finances have improved, for that would first require a serious breakdown of necessary spending and I'd turn that into a days-long project. I will consider a soak in the hot tub or a soak in my jacuzzi bathtub if I can spook up some interesting new form of bath salts. I will surely read both sobriety/recovery materials and the reading I do for pure pleasure. I will sleep or nap whenever my body or mind says "Now." And finally, I thought, "Maybe I'll learn about something new. Do something a little different."

I don't like to wah-wah about anything. No, really. I do wah-wah, but that is only to let off pressure so I don't explode. After I wah-wah, I suffer great angst and guilt. One of the most deeply ingrained messages I got young is "Don't ask anyone for anything. Do it yourself. Be self-sufficient." It's been a burden, that requirement against which one judges oneself, to know how to do all things. And well. Mostly, across time, I learn how to do most things I want to know about. But one must measure that "time" against the movement of - oh, say - the mighty glaciers, not against the speed of a roadrunner. First, I have to noodge a lot about why I don't automatically know how to do whatever it is. "Ha!" thought I. "I know what I want to do. I can likely do it right at the computer, never changing out of my raggedy but comforting dorm shirt, never doing anything to my hair."

I got a cold drink, flung open the French doors, set the music and started to noodle around online. Oh, please! Don't let the "Wine" part of that advertisement disturb you. I'm told this is a vintage ad for the original formulation of what ultimately became Coca-Cola, and that's what was in my tall, iced glass. I found what I needed very quickly. Oh! Both free and easy to use. The download took no time at all. Within minutes, I had the basics down. In an hour, I was doing fancy stuff. My thoughts started to drift into old wah-wah territory. Now I'd have to apologize for having taken so long to learn what seemingly everyone else knew how to do . . . never mind. I don't apologize. No, really. When it became urgent to me, I went and learned. Everything in its own time.

I learned to enhance photos to maximum unambiguity, even though I am no photographer. I now have the means to post my pictures so they will present in the way that I saw them, not in the way that my ham-fisted camera work delivers up. I pondered on how big a cheat I thought this was. Other people learn to take fine pictures from behind the camera. That does not intrigue me, though I would like to illustrate my posts with things I saw that pleased me or made me laugh or made me sad. I landed on something I can live with. I was born with a face. It is neither hideous nor beautiful. It presents better if I use certain techniques to punch up its positive attributes and play down the unfortunate ones. Once, a friend commented that she liked the way I kept my hair. I replied, "Yes, well, I try to keep it nice because I have to wear it right up here by my face." I believe it's OK to use assistance to play up appearance.

And so, it's been nearly a year since my trip to Arizona. I only got to post one of many pictures I actually took that pleased me very much. Almost immediately afterward, I went on my urgently needed blog sabbatical. All those images are lying quietly in the bag, along with the memory of getting down on my knees in the garden rocks, putting my sweating face right up into those photo ops, and snapping, experimenting with angles, having a good time, getting a breather after a very long walk in the early morning heat. Yes, I know about the plethora of purty flower pitchers in the blogosphere. Yes, I hear the cries of "Please, show us something else besides flowers!" That's OK. I don't offer my pics as exceptional in any way except for the extreme pleasure they gave me - both the camera work and the enjoyment afterward. I feel the sweat rolling down my body, the was sun burning through the top of my hat, my large array of walk-alongs (water bottle, iPod, cell phone) spread out on the ground beside me. "You OK, Lady?" Nice people in that community. "I'm grand, Sir. Thank you."

Yes, I know Osama bin Laden is dead and (maybe, according to some news reports) we're supposed to cheer about that. Ten years, and all. But I'm not paying attention to that right now. Maybe never. I'm not required to. I'd rather reminisce and learn something new.

Flower photos: Leslie Morgan, 2010


  1. My job function is one that requires me to assist others. My life is such that most of my time at work and out of work is providing and assisting, and by the end of the day, I want nothing more than to be left the heck alone.

    In the off chance I actually get some time to myself, I want nothing more than to sit and do nothing productive, and to be distracted by nothing. I cringe when the phone rings, and hope when (or if) I answer it that it's someone who is unfriendly so I can hang up on them, but it's always someone I know, being all happy and sociable. How dare you be happy at me when I'm trying to be introverted?!

    That feeling is far too common of late.

  2. @ Matt ~ What a grand comment of solidarity and understanding! Thank you. I also suspect, Matt, that your home-office situation (like my own) blurs the edges of work/private life. Where does one begin and one end? Ask someone other than me, because it is clear I don't have the answer.

    Here's a virtual gift of my radium emanation bath salts and CocaWine. Take it easy. On me!

  3. I still think using paper toilet seat liners will help differentiate between "work" and "private" life. As in, one would never choose to sit upon a paper liner unless one was at work. ;-)
    (Certainly not intended to make light of a complicated situation).

  4. Just found a relevant quote from Thomas Woodrow Wilson:
    "I not only use all the brains I have but all that I can borrow".
    I think that using resources available to further develop one's self-sufficientness is a very independent and practical thing to do. Even/especially if you don't have to actually ask anyone, besides google.

  5. @ CramCake ~ OK, Girlfriend, you win! It is true, you have wisely advised me in the past to try the toilet seat liners as a line of demarcation. Since I utterly refuse to do very much else, I'll try to hie myself on off to Smart & Final today for a supply of the crinkly, scratchy things. Do not let it be said I am close-minded.

  6. @ CramCake, as we comment over the top of one another ~ nice Woodrow Wilson quote. Both you and Mr. Wilson are dead-on, of course. My personal bane is that loud message from the Emporia, Kansas, Morgans who share my DNA: "Don't ask others for help. Are you helpless? And, p.s., why is it you don't know everything there is to know?" :~{ Old messages die hard, but I keep fighting the good fight.

  7. Well, if we are supposed to already know everything there is to know, then I am at a severe disadvantage. I should have been paying more attention.
    BTW, I like your emoticon :~{
    Seems to sum up the "oooh, shoot" face. I had been using this :-* for the "mouth pursed, oh no" face, but apparently it's a "kissy face". Ooooops.

  8. @ CramCake - Oh, PLEASE don't make me snicker when I'm trying to be such a Morgan! Be glad you're not a Morgan, CramCake. Maybe we all need a kissy face when we're feeling like "Oooh, shoot".

  9. Actually, if you drinking exactly what was being advertised, it's not the "wine" but the "coca", you'd have to worry about. According to Wiki-pedia:

    "When launched Coca-Cola's two key ingredients were cocaine (benzoylmethyl ecgonine) and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola (the "K" in Kola was replaced with a "C" for marketing purposes).Pemberton called for five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, a significant dose; in 1891, Candler claimed his formula (altered extensively from Pemberton's original) contained only a tenth of this amount."

    Now, before you start panicing, you're NOT drinking exactly what was being advertised:

    "Coca-Cola did once contain an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass, but in 1903 it was removed. Coca-Cola still contains coca flavoring. After 1904, instead of using fresh leaves, Coca-Cola started using "spent" leaves — the leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process with cocaine trace levels left over at a molecular level. To this day, Coca-Cola uses as an ingredient a cocaine-free coca leaf extract prepared at a Stepan Company plant in Maywood, New Jersey. Kola nuts act as a flavoring and the source of caffeine in Coca-Cola. In Britain, for example, the ingredient label states "Flavourings (Including Caffeine)."

    So you're home free, Les.

  10. I laughed out loud when I saw that I had been using the kissy face so inappropriately. No one has ever questioned/corrected my use. I have just sent a text to a friend to whom I have most recently used the kissy face to express "ah, crap" to see if he knew better. What will make me LOL again is if the response is: "Uh, yeah. Weirdo. But I thought the kissy face was your nice way of making the crappy situation better." And then it will be too late for me to play it cool, like I knew it all along. :-*

  11. @ Kirk ~ You are so good. Sometimes when I feel like I'm embarking on a little Mary Poppins-like lift into the air, you come across so level, so bright, so factual, it makes me grin. Very good Wiki research, Kirk. And I'm safe with respect both to the cocaine and the wine. I was actually drinking Diet Dr. Pepper (my one glassful of the day), but there was no sexy (vintage or otherwise) ad art for it. Hence . . .

  12. @ CramCake ~ I have a lifetime of "Damn, Les is dumb!" events I could share. Actually, I'm always kind of relieved to learn where the bear really DOES shit in the woods, and I can laugh at myself for prior in-the-dark misuse. Feel great pity for those who can't laugh at themselves. They are in for a difficult journey.

  13. i have long wondered from whence comes the idea that we must, must i tell you, know everything, be able to do everything, have experienced everything. since birth, of course. and by all means, never, ever let slip that you may need some assistance. how devastatingly disconnected that makes us, from ourselves, and from each other. nobody wins.

  14. @ rraine ~ Well, according to my version of the story, that curse is handed down in perpetuity by the Morgans of Emporia, Kansas, but it's my hunch they're not the only ones and we're not even special (at least for that). I think some of that whole culture is generational. I think it is often perpetuated by strong male authority figures who also happen to be very talented at many different things (I can only speak to my experience and personal observations). I think it might also be very American. I think I don't want to play any role in it any longer. I'm just not that good in any way. I agree with you that NOTHING good comes from it.

  15. HALT rule - Higher Away Lower Toward - in the Electromagnetic spectrum it refers to the curvature of of EM propagation in a liquid or a gas away from higher pressure toward lower pressure. Humans and other animals do it do if the choice is available. Take that Jusko.

  16. @ Tag ~ Yow. I'm dumbstruck. See what you can do with this old AA standby: DETACH - Don't Even Think You Can Change Him/Her. I'll run for my dictionary while you bubble on that one.

  17. @Williams--

    Take what? I credited Wikipedia AND I put my information in quotation marks.

  18. @ Everyone, in Kirk's defense ~ Wiki is just plainly pissing me off today. I'm fit to be tied over them. So it pleases me Kirk appropriately Wikied and didn't get spanked on his bare bum like I did. ;~{ NOT a happy afternoon between Les and Wiki.

  19. Nice job Kirk. I usually just make stuff up it comes from being a weather forecaster for 20 years. @Les i don't know ask Kirk

  20. @ Tag and Kirk ~ Let's stop making stuff up and stop playing by the rules and gang up together and go kick some Wiki ass. You guys in wit' me?

  21. You haven't told me exactly what Wikipedia did to you that got you so mad at them.

    And, no, I won't be teaming up with Tag.

  22. @ Kirk ~ Oh, my anger at Wiki is a long, twisted story and my anger is misplaced. It's not Wiki's fault. I'm finished being jerky about it. I've got new fish to fry.

    I can't tell if you and Tag are playing or actually taking shots across one another's bows, so I'll withdraw my request that we form a tag team and go on about my otherwise dreary little day.

  23. Les, I think I've mentioned before that I learned about HALT in a CODA meeting many years ago. Alcoholism has greatly affected my life both directly and indirectly. I enjoy a drink--but can take it or leave it. My drug of choice is sugar--put a plate of cookies on the table and they're calling my name. You're touching on topics that resonate with me--a lot. Thanks for talking about the stuff that's hard to talk about.

  24. @ Doozyanner ~ Good morning, and I thank you for popping in. I have to say that I have so many drugs of choice, I can scarcely name them all. I am lucky that I haven't had several at one time. I'm more a serial addict, replacing one poison with the next. Interesting to me: I live in a place where one sees people with terrible gambling problems every day of life. Can't eat, no roof, gotta get to the next card table in the next casino. I don't have that one. I'm way too particular about being able to put my money out and come home with something to show for it.

    I attended a CoDA meeting and intend to go to at least one more while I mull it over. I know I need that kind of work. I'm less sure that the meeting I attend is the right gathering for me. We shall see.

    Once I was trying to repair a relationship with someone who truly loves me. We'd made a balls of it. I asked if we could try some things to make absolutely certain about things, because people are too precious to just toss away. This was asked of me: "But who will ask the hard questions?" And now I think I know. Old unremarkable, never-got-it-right-yet Les can both identify what the problems are AND ask the hard questions. That does not make me a trailblazer or special in any way except that I am very determined to get life as right as I can get it.