Sunday, November 29, 2015


John Lydon is best known to the world, nearly forty years after his initial notoriety, as Johnny Rotten. Anger Is An Energy is his second autobiography, taking in his entire life up until this point. I was on board for the punk revolution when it hit this country, and the Sex Pistols were obviously in the vanguard of that, even though they had broken up by the time punk became widely known and the music available here. Lydon obviously was a huge part of that, and the book's chapters dealing with the Pistols era were fascinating to me. As much of a fan as I was, I really didn't know that Lydon and Sid Vicious were close friends prior to the Pistols, and some of the details of what it was like for the band in Britain were unbelievable. There were serious voices that wanted to try them using an ancient statute that carried the death penalty--for a couple of songs. Wow.
I also am a huge fan of Lydon's major life's work, Public Image Limited (both groups were in my personal top 40 that I counted down a few years ago in this space, PIL at 39, Pistols at 23. This year's annual countdown won't start until December, mostly because I haven't decided what it's going to be a countdown of. The two choices are my favorite guitarists and "best songs you've never heard by really famous bands." Both would be lists of twenty, which means I will be starting it on December 11). Again, the recounting of the troubles with personnel and the process that went into the music and the songwriting is very interesting to me. I'm not sure it would be interesting to anyone that doesn't know the songs, but for me, hearing what went into songs like Public Image, Annalisa, This is Not A Love Song, and the band's signature Rise was totally engrossing.
Lydon's life vicissitudes also make for some good reading. I had no real idea of how poor he actually was growing up; it sounds worse than Depression America was. And some of the more legendary aspects of Lydon himself--his awful teeth, for example--are not left out. But there is one theme that keeps coming up over five hundred pages that is hard to miss. This guy really can't seem to get along with anyone. The public persona of the 1970's was and is, in his case, fairly accurate--he really does what he wants to do all the time, wants others to do what he wants to do all the time, and there is conflict when it doesn't happen. It didn't kill my interest in him, but at the same time, it did sober my views. I was prepared to believe him regarding the Pistols years and the problems with manager Malcolm McLaren and his issues with the other members of the band. But the problems with everyone in PIL, every authority figure in two countries he's dealt with, all his managers, other celebrities, other people he's crossed paths with--there's something he has to say about all of them. And it gets tiring in the extreme to read several hundred pages of "he's a wanker, but he's all right" or "that twat" or "he's an asshole but I love him anyways."
That last sentiment, usually in the context of Pistols' mate Steve Jones and PIL mate Jah Wobble, is revealing. Ultimately, it's my own take on Lydon himself.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Aching For Normality

The last few years, my former job had started to observe Black Friday as a day off from work, and I had grown quite used to and fond of the break. Four days off from work without having to take any vacation time was something that really didn't happen at any other time of the years, and it was a welcome little break, even if you never set foot in a store--which I don't. I'm not a big shopper, and I do not do crowds well even if I am doing something that I like, so the mobs of Black Friday sales are certainly not for me. But the ability to have a casual day, completely on my own, no responsibilities--it used to be a good day.
Except now that my unemployment period stretches now through its sixth week, it's not so good anymore. The days are starting to blend into one another as it is, and when there are deviations from normal--kid being home from school, businesses not being open, direct deposit being off-kilter, people being around that normally aren't around during the day--it's very disconcerting. Sabrina is doing indoor track this year, and had practice from 10 until 12, and it basically screwed up the whole day--not to mention that between running to the East Side of Binghamton twice yesterday, and then Endicott twice because she worked last night, my full tank of gas is already half-gone, something that matters a lot more to me with a limited income than it used to.
Things are moving, glacially. I'm doing the footwork, such as it apparently is in the modern landscape; I keep sending in applications, five or six a week, and have been called in for an interview for a Lourdes program similar to what I did at my old job. I'm not getting my hopes up; it's a group interview, several others going at the same time, and it's on Pearl Harbor Day, nine days from now; even if all goes well, I am unlikely to be working again before the New Year. The insurance company I interviewed for at the beginning of the month told me, when I called this week, that I am still under consideration, that they just haven't hired the position yet. There's a couple of places where the job notice said that the job wouldn't start until 2016, too, and I don't expect to hear a lot, if anything. And I am sure that a number of these positions were offered merely as formalities, that the job was already promised to someone and the outfit merely had to go through the motions of offering it to satisfy legal requirements.
The health insurance front is bugging the hell out of me. I'm not all that concerned about my two older kids; they are legally adults, and although the state is making Rachel go through hoops, I am sure that she will eventually be fine. Sabrina is working now, which apparently has sent the little minds in Albany all aflame; I've had to send in pay stubs, need letters from employers, and other nonsense to make sure, apparently, that her $70 per week job isn't allowing the household to steal benefits that we aren't entitled to...I don't want to rant this morning, but what a labyrinthine mess this turned out to be. And I am not even going to bother applying for insurance until 2016; I have found out that my income from the job I no longer have counts against me for health exchange purposes. I try real hard to believe that the guidelines in place are there for a good reason, but there are times when I have a real hard time seeing that. And this is one of them.
My personal life feels not normal, too. Although to be truthful, my day-to-day existence isn't a whole lot different than it was during those months when the dethroned was away; I'm just not talking on the phone with someone every day, and it is an undoubted help to keeping this household solvent. The feeling of being alone isn't bothering me as much as I thought it would, too; I'm comfortable in my own skin. What is most unsettling at the moment is feeling like I wouldn't be bringing anything to the table now should I meet someone worth being with. I remember that feeling the last time I was unemployed, and it honestly took a few years, even after starting to work again, to completely shake. I'm hoping that isn't the case this time.
But first things first. I have to establish some new standard of normal before that can happen. And although I did not and do not define myself by my job or by having one, the reality is that I cannot live the life I am comfortable living without one. I've taken steps to fill the time I now have, to be sure. I am getting involved in Truth Pharm, a community organization dedicated to improving the quality of care and treatment options available to people with substance abuse (but mostly opiate) issues. I am trying to get involved in the moribund Democratic Party in this area. I have started writing; right now the idea is still fluid and fuzzy as to where I am going to take the story, but at least the outline is there in pencil and I am adding 700-1000 words a day to it, and as it takes shape, that flow may become a torrent. I'm not sitting here all day in front of the computer playing games or trolling Facebook--although I do some of that, too.
I'm trying to keep up my regular fellowship commitments, as well, although that is proving to be more problematic. I used to meet with one sponsee on lunch hour from work, and that is obviously no longer an option, and it has proven very hard to keep a schedule with him. My other sponsee has been working fluid work hours, and while the commitment is regular, the time slot is not. I am meeting with my sponsor somewhat regularly, but Sabrina's work schedule is affecting my attendance at the meetings I normally go to--I've had to leave the candlelight the last two weeks early, for example, and my home group I have barely been able to open up,  much less attend, for the same reason. It will evolve; it always does. But it does seem as though it's become difficult precisely at the time when it seems I would need it to be routine.
But maybe that's the point. By having to make the effort, in so many areas, it's focusing me on staying on the path that my former sponsor always talks about. I'm staying on it because, frankly, I'm scared to step off it. I've communicated with a figure from the past some in the last couple of weeks, and that person stepped off the path because of employment impatience and chasing dollar signs--and is stuck in deep misery that is going to take a major commitment to starting completely over to get out of. I'm too old to start completely over. I really am. So as twisted as this road seems, as hard as it is to trudge through, as obstructed as the vision ahead seems to be--I don't really feel like I have any choice but to grit my teeth, deal with the uncertain and uncomfortable feelings, and keep it moving forward. It's like climbing out of a gorge; there is no way to safely retrace your steps. You just need to keep going up, and trust that there is a place worth being in over the lip of the canyon that you're climbing towards.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Tis The Season For Religious Bigotry Again

It's starting to look a lot like mobs with torches and pitchforks outside. The level of anti-Muslim rhetoric, which never completely subsided after the 9/11 attacks, has been ratcheted up to uncomfortably ugly levels since the terror attacks in France recently. The ten remaining candidates for President on the Republican side of the spectrum all seem to be bent on fanning the flames of bigotry and ignoring the Constitution that they all claim to love so dearly. But odious as their ideas are, they are at least understandable--it is a reaction, at least among us commoners, to raw naked fear that is, however cynically stoked by some elements, based on something tangible. There are extremist fundamentalist Muslim groups around the world that do carry out horrible terrorist attacks. It doesn't justify what is being proposed, but at least it's not created out of complete phantasmagorical horseshit.
Unlike the "War on Christmas," which is already ramping up across the land. I can't tell you how sick I am of this particular shibboleth (there's a nice Hebrew word for you all), and the absolute morons that give vocal support to it. If you really want to get real about Christmas, 1) December 25 is almost certainly not the actual birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, 2) most of you do a pretty lousy job of following the moral teachings of said Jesus, 3) you share this country with a substantial number of people that don't believe in Christianity, 4) even a lot of Christians don't subscribe to your particular view of what being Christian means, and 5) your narrow-minded, mean-spirited views of how to celebrate a holiday commemorating the birth of someone that lived two millennia ago are not supported by the Constitution of the United States of America, which is the actual law of the land we live in. Happy Holidays to you; now shut up and prepare for your biannual trip to the church you claim to belong to (and this year, stay until the end of the service. You might learn something you didn't know).
For the record, "Xmas" has been a shorthand abbreviation for Christmas for centuries. Widespread literacy is a recent phenomenon in world history, and the term "Xmas" has its roots in the fact that the Greek word for Christ (and the part of the world Jesus of Nazareth actually walked the earth in and which gave birth to Christianity used Greek as its language of letters and learning) is chi--written as "X". Since the average illiterate peasant or city dweller couldn't read the entire word, "X" came to denote a shorthand term for "Christ" in churches and in public well over a thousand years ago. "Xmas" is actually a term with deeper roots for the holiday than "Christmas" is. But annoying as the War on Xmas is, it is not what raised my blood pressure this morning. Some nitwit sheriff in Georgia (why is it that most of those bozos seem to hail from places south of the Mason-Dixon line? Could it be just coincidence that this is the region of the country that fought an armed conflict to exhaustion for the idea that it was morally acceptable to own other human beings as property?) put up signs on the roads leading into his benighted county saying that his bailiwick "is not politically correct. We say 'Merry Christmas,' 'God Bless America,' and 'In God We Trust' here. If this offends you...LEAVE."
First of all, you don't have to worry about most of us leaving your county; few of us can't conceive of a circumstance where we would to want to be within three hundred miles of your backwoods, backward strip of land that is known for insects that need to file flight plans, grinding poverty, and racism that would make Jefferson Davis blush with embarrassment. But seriously, the "Christmas" comment showed your ignorance clearly enough, but going for the hat trick (a term we've borrowed from our neighbors to the north, Canada--you know, the ones we fought two wars to try to forcibly assimilate them into this wonderful country of ours) with the other two is simply amazing. "God Bless America"-- Really? With our raging bullyboy behavior across the world, our wonderful record of civil rights suppression over centuries, and now our own economic depredations inflicted by our plutocracy on the vast majority of us? The God that would bless this place is the one that is heavy on the "smite" and "jealous" parts of the Old Testament; it sure as shit isn't based on values espoused by Jesus--whom, it cannot emphasized enough, according to fundamental Christian belief, was God Himself. Jesus of Nazareth, according to the evidence we available to us in the four Gospels, would absolutely be appalled by what the United States of America has become, and what is being claimed in his name. Maybe these people talking about "blessings" for America have some other God in mind--probably the same one that signed off on Jacob cheating his brother and deceiving his blind father to gain a "blessing" and material wealth. But I've learned from experience that the last people willing to engage in theological discussions and justifying their values that are allegedly based on divine principles are "people of faith." The vast majority of people with "faith" have "faith" because they'd rather take someone  else's word about what God is and would like to see from us rather than put any thought or effort into finding out for themselves.
Let's move on to the last of this unholy troika (he used a Russian word. Gasp! I knew he was a unreformed Communist--oh, wait, our real enemies are Muslims now, and the Russians want to bomb the shit our of ISIS, and that Putin guy is somewhat cool so--never mind) of trite phrases used on the sign. I've also learned, to my initial chagrin and then amusement, that very few people that make an issue of "In God We Trust" know that the phrase being included on our currency is a relatively recent innovation--in the 1930's, as a matter of fact, when our legislative and executive bodies actually were using their power to enact somewhat Christian-based agendas in fact, if not in name, in the midst of the most widespread misery this country has ever endured. And aside from the fact that no one ever has said "In God We Trust" in any context related to anything any of us do in our normal, everyday lives, what galls me about people that make an issue of this phrase is their unwillingness to follow the mantra (see, another sly reference to a non-Christian religion. This guy needs to be shut up!) they're espousing. If you really do "trust" in the God you claim to believe in--let Him take care of the world. Live your life according to the values you claim to hold, and don't spend most of your time worrying about what I'm doing or what I believe. Believe me, we have enough of a secular law enforcement apparatus in place that anything that I might do that will cause you any actual harm will be quickly and ruthlessly discovered and punished. Any discussion with any of these busybody religious nitwits always ends the same way--with me saying, "I'm willing to wait until we're dead to find out who's right about our views on God. If you have all this great faith and are so convinced that you're right, why aren't you willing to wait? Why is it so important to you that I conform to what you think and believe?" Not to mention that I have yet to meet someone that is truly concerned that my eternal soul is going to be damned if I don't change my ways, and is motivated by a genuine desire to spare me eternal torment. They are invariably seeking merely to exercise power and control over my actions, my life, to make me adhere to what they are comfortable with, and to keep me from showing that there are alternatives to the choices that they have enslaved themselves to. Too flipping bad if that makes you uncomfortable. You make me uncomfortable, and I deal with your dumb, ignorant ass without throwing tantrums and whining incessantly that I'm being persecuted because y'all won't do and think like I want you to do.
(Making fart noise now.) A childish tantrum deserves a response in kind.
I might be more willing to trust in your idea of "God" if you were. And to be totally honest, the parts of my own value system that are based in supposed Christian values come from the Gospels and those that actual follow the precepts of Jesus of Nazareth while in this world--not because they are looking for an existence of ease and comfort in the world to come, but because it leads to a better, happier, more convivial, and more manageable existence in this life.
To borrow a phrase Jesus is supposed to have used, by their fruits we will know them. Or paraphrased another way, let your walk match or at least come real close to your talk. There is nothing that inspires disbelief and eventually contempt for "Christianity" than the hypocrisy of those that loudly proclaim it. As Samuel Champlain famously said, "Those that know the least shout the loudest."
So please--shut up already.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Sometimes it's hard to lose sight of the good things in our lives. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel this morning. Much has happened in the last few months, and little of it has felt good to go through and experience. All life is cyclical, and there are times when the arrow points down; this is not only one of those times, but on the surface, it's as low as I have been in many years.
But surface things are only a part of a life. There will be another job. There will be more money someday. There will be other relationships. Family issues will evolve. I and my children will have health insurance again. That stuff changes. While it is frustrating to go through the present sludge, it will pass. I know this, and that knowledge keeps me moving forward.
But I also, I have to come to realize, have much to be thankful and grateful for that goes well beyond material goods and status. More people are well-disposed toward me than I ever dreamed would be. The expressions of support as I have been going through the last few months have really staggered me, and I am amazed by the good will that is out there. I have discovered, too, that the changes in my core for the better have been solid and fundamental; much of the time, I am in wonder at the lack of anger inside me over recent events, and the lack of desire and obsession to act out in any ways. I am not ever going to approach the standards of Jesus of Nazareth or the Buddha or even someone like Gandhi--but I find myself more at peace with the world and with a surprisingly deep faith that in the long term, I will be all right. I have my worries, and my insecurities at times, but they do not rule me as they once did, and my life has remained, shockingly, upright and on course. I know I keep coming back to similar sounding themes here--but I cannot emphasize enough that feeling largely quasi-serene, with only occasional and momentary bouts of minor melancholia that I bring myself out of rather quickly and easily, is something entirely new to me. At any other point in my life, I would be freaking out, lashing out, acting out.
And that I am not today is what I am thankful for the most. Not to sound like Bill Murray's Caddyshack character or anything, but I really do have a degree of inner peace going for me today. And that's something I never dreamed I could say with a straight face.
I have familial obligations today, something that quite frankly I regard as a mixed blessing. Deep exposure to that environment messes with my serenity like few atmospheres do. But there are positives there as well, and for my daughter, who has issues and limited access to the other side of her lineage, my family is a unmitigated blessing. So I will deal with the stress as best I can, and be grateful that I have somewhere to return to. I also have committed to helping out at the fellowship
s marathon meeting today; many of us in recovery do not have the ability to spend time with loved ones today, or some even lack loved ones or are not welcome around them. And the suggestion that I was given last week to reach out to some that I knew were sick and suffering and in a worse place emotionally than me turned out to inspired advice. Not only have I felt better about my own life, I have found that I have made more of a positive difference in the lives of people than I believed I had, and have re-confirmed, for about the hundredth time in my life, that you never know who's watching you. There are many facets and pithy phrases associated with our recovery program, but ultimately, what we do for one another is provide hope to those that have experienced and often still are experiencing hopelessness. I know from my own story that the absolute worst place to be in our souls is the place where there is no hope, and I think that this is a nearly universal experience with us. And if we can sow a little hope around us--well, that's a better reward than any material gain or advantage we can accrue.
This is an odd Thanksgiving, the strangest one in many years for me. But the core feeling of gratitude has not changed. I still am very grateful for the life I have, and for those that are a part of it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Collateral Damage

I wrote a post yesterday about the ways that several people I know are dealing with the end of their relationships, with varying degrees of emotions and abilities to disengage. And one thing is becoming clear, as far as my own situation: I am profoundly happy that in my own case, there were no children directly involved. Obviously, I have three children, but the youngest is a high school junior that made up her mind about the dethroned a long time ago--and is overjoyed, frankly, that she is now in the past. The other two never met her, and the dethroned's child has been largely absent from her life for a couple of years now and never met me. I have made a largely clean break, but those circumstances have certainly made it easier to do so.
But that's not always the case. And this is something that we need to take into consideration more than we do. In my humble opinion, far too many of us use our children both as pawns in our ongoing wars with our erstwhile partners and as excuses not to let go of something that we clearly need to let go of because we don't really want to go through the pain of a final breakup. I am not being judgmental; in the past, I had to deal with this as well. My ex-wife gave me a lot longer leash and extended me more chances than I deserved, frankly, in large part because of the effect my absence would have on our kids, who were young at the time--but at that point in my life, addicted to drugs and lost in total self-absorption, my being there sporadically and inconsistently was of no benefit to them, anyway, and I believe that the only regret she has now is that she didn't throw me out sooner. I stayed with MOTY long after the relationship's expiration date because of Sabrina--and all that did was make a bad situation absolutely intolerable. As hard as it has been in many ways, I have no regrets at all about the decision to leave MOTY behind all those years ago, and although I sometimes feel bad for Sabrina having to grow up with only a single dependable parent, I also realize that my decision all those years ago has allowed her to have a single dependable parent, which is one more than many other kids have in their lives. It hasn't been easy, but she has turned out to be a great kid that is reasonably well-adjusted for an almost-17YO--and she is much healthier than any of her maternal siblings, by a margin measured in hemispheres.
I don't mean this as an endorsement of bailing out at the first sign of discomfort or trouble. But there comes a point in many relationships where the best course of action very clearly is ending it. And too many of us hesitate or refuse to do so because they convince themselves that they will be doing irreparable harm to the children involved. And the relationship just gets worse, and the atmosphere gets more toxic, and the kids end up suffering more long-term damage than they need to--and pick up a very dangerous and unhealthy value, that people can and should accept the unacceptable in a relationship, as long as there is some sort of justifiable excuse for doing so. There is no hard and fast rule about what is and isn't unacceptable--but whatever one's personal limits are, if they are repeatedly challenged and/or violated, you're not doing yourself or your kids any favors by sticking around.
And kids are not so fragile and so innocent that they will shatter if adjustments have to be made. I've already had a conversation this morning with someone who has wrestled with doing what he needs to do for his own health and his own sanity--and after making the decision to go in one direction, he is already feeling major guilt and doubt because following that decision will involve changing plans made with the youth--the kid is in middle school, so "child" is a misleading term--during the Thanksgiving school break. Kids are not stupid, and kids deal with disappointment all the time; it's a necessary part of the maturation process. That does not mean that we should casually and maliciously force them to hone their skills in this area, to be sure--but they're intelligent enough to see and realize that circumstances change and that sometimes people have to change their plans and break "promises." And realistically, when this happens, it will help the kid understand that unintended consequences come from every decision and action that adults take. I am sure that when the event took place in this household that has precipitated the crisis, no one was thinking "hey, this might lead to the kid's world getting rocked." Ideally, we would all think about all that stuff before we take any actions at all--but no human being does that all of the time. But we learn, through bitter experiences, to do it more than we used to, and to put the brake to many of our impulse decisions that end up causing major problems as a result. And that growth, that lesson, is absorbed by the kids in the house, too.
I do not have a good history of working relationships during Sabrina's lifetime. Since the end of my relationship with Lila when Sabrina was three, I have always been more prone to cut the cord sooner rather than later. I haven't paid a lot in the way of major consequences as a result, and the open sores that have resulted from my changing this tendency with the dethroned and Somebody That I Used To Know, both of whom got second chances in the last couple of years that proved to be cases of Same Shit Different Day, only reinforced that maybe I had been doing things right all along. But I also have noted that I have not done all this in a vacuum. Sabrina is an adolescent who has her own passions and is the object of attention from adolescent males--and I worry about the example I have set, because she has shown that she has very little, if any, tolerance for any wobbles. I have seen her cut the cord with an axe consistently, since she first started spending time with boys in middle school, at the first sign of anything she doesn't like. Her expectations are very high, and her tolerance for those that do not meet them one hundred percent of the time is nonexistent. That's going to be a tough and lonely way to go through life--and I am positive that the way I have conducted myself over the length of her conscious life (she doesn't remember her mother and I being together, and has only the vaguest of memories of Lila) is a major factor in the way she is. Act Two with Somebody last spring was the final straw, as far as Sabrina was concerned; she bought into Somebody's verbal contrition that was presented, and I think Sabrina was hurt more than I was when it turned out to be the lie that it was. Sabrina mocked me for the entire length of my time with the dethroned, and has not bothered to disguise her joy that the relationship is over.
I guess the lesson to be learned is that we should be careful about the levels of commitment we make in any case, but especially if there are already children in the picture and certainly if children are a result of a relationship. As I've been writing this, I'm realizing that bail-out level varies with the situation. My best friend has been in an unrewarding marriage for over two decades, and he has stayed in it because he thought it would be better for his son if he stayed. There were other factors that went into his decision-making--it's a second marriage for him and he feels very guilty about essentially abandoning his child from that marriage--but it also drove home the point to me, watching from the sidelines for seventeen years, that one doesn't treat a marriage the same as one would treat a relationship that is weeks or months old. There were commitments made that cannot be casually dismissed. And those gradations exist at every level of the relationship spectrum. The essential point is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Before commitments are made on those life-altering scales, we really ought to be more careful and thoughtful than we generally are. And one thing I have managed to incubate in myself is that thoughtfulness. I was very committed in this relationship I was just in--but at the same time, I never got so entwined that disengagement would prove to be a nightmare. Essentially, I can't get the time and effort back, but there are no messy details like disposal of property and visitation schedules to work out. And I think, as embarrassed and played as I feel at moments, that's an indicator that I did something right. It didn't feel good--but it didn't and won't wreck my life or affect it materially for years to come. It's done, and the only real cost is in the psyche, a level I can deal with much more easily.
And I didn't do any damage to my children, either. But that only is the case because I learned from the past experiences. And to those of my friends and acquaintances struggling with these issues now, all I can say is that while we can't go back in time and undo decisions, we can learn from how it is all playing out. The kids will be all right, and will ultimately benefit more by our facing up to consequences and plunging ahead with necessary and healthy choices than they will by trying to salvage something that clearly is broken and beyond repair.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How It's Working

I mentioned a few days ago that there seems to be something in the water or air in our area, more specifically in our fellowship. Several relationships of varying lengths of time have come to an end recently, and there are a lot of people that are hurting, in varying degrees, right now. The temptation, since I am one of those that has felt some kind of way about what has happened in my life, to isolate, to curl up in a ball and nurse my misery for an undetermined length of time, has certainly been present; I'm not going to tell you otherwise.
But I can tell you how I've been getting through it. The short answer is by not isolating. I am one of our more experienced members of the fellowship, and as such I take the obligation to keep what I have by giving it away seriously. I also have some experience in this area that is proving to be helpful to those with less time and experience. I have ended up talking with both parties in one recently-ended relationship, one extensively and the other just as deeply, if not as often. There is another person that is struggling with someone that won't accept the person but won't stop interfering, either; the ex is all the while  pretending to be more than the person is, almost daring the other to relapse, and I've had some talks on my own experiences there, too. One of my own exes just had her life turned upside down, and it came as a complete and devastating surprise to her; I've been able to hear her, to keep her focused on what's necessary for her at the moment, and reassure her that the loss is not hers, not in the least.
This is what works, This is how we get through stuff. This is how we heal. And I don't even mean simply living the expression "Pain shared is pain lessened." We do have practical experience to share with one another. I am finding that my own situation is not as painful as I thought it might be, or even as much as similar commitments in the past coming to an end proved to be. That's because I've learned from my past--and that of others, too. I've had two completely devastating, Hiroshima-level breakups in my life--in very late 1988 when I lost someone I very much did not want to lose, to her girlfriend, and in 2001-2 when the first serious relationship I had gotten into clean and post-Shannon came to a very painful end. The one in 1988 I attempted to drink and fuck my way out through, and I ended up "settling" for someone I really wasn't compatible with--and only exited that relationship, after a marriage, two kids, and a decade out of my life, with a full-blown addiction to crack cocaine. No one had to tell me in 2002 that using was not a solution to melancholia resulting from the end of a relationship; I knew that by then. But what I didn't know was that a break-up, if you don't suppress the feelings by getting high, of that magnitude hurts like nothing else ever had. I honestly am not totally sure how I got through those months; it is, in retrospect, a blurry miasma of constant emotional turmoil and pain. But some of the lessons I learned then are applicable now.
I've been telling one of my friends constantly to leave the Kool-Aid alone; it's a joke, but it's not. It means that, in an age where everyone is connected by social media, to limit or even end contact with the ex, if necessary for a minute at a time. One way I've been getting through the last week has been by taking the dethroned out of the chat box, unfollowing (not unfriending, because that seems too final and childish) her, and adjusting my posting preferences so that she can't see what I put up. All of these can and likely will be temporary, but the purpose of doing so is that every time I'm on Facebook--and for me, that's anywhere from two to six hours a day--I am not rubbing salt in my wound by seeing what's she up to. In a situation like this, out of sight is out of mind, and out of mind is what I need, because otherwise I will dwell at unhealthy length on the wrong I've been done and obsess on her character and motives--and there is nothing I need less to do than that. And it's been very helpful; I have thought less and less about her every day, and today have not even stolen one peek at her page. I did not answer her text messages the other night for the same reason, because it would only rip open the wound again, because no apology or explanation would be sufficient for me right now--it's still too raw. There will be a time, in the future, when I can deal with her again. But the future is not now, and probably not very near, either.
And that is what I have been sharing with everyone in this situation. I tried to be "friends" with Lila, in 2002, and it just ended up dragging out the inevitable end for months, because ultimately there was no way I was going to forgive a physical assault, and she was not going to forgive my demanding that her worthless son be barred from creating unending chaos in our life. It got to the point where, thirteen months after she moved out, I had to tell her not to call me anymore, because it messed me up for days afterward every time she did. I honestly wondered if I would ever heal from that breakup. I definitely still carry scars from it, and every woman that I have dated since has had to deal with Lila's ghost to some degree. But---but--I did heal well enough to go on, to love again, to try again. Am I more jaded, more cautious, and more guarded? Yes, without a doubt. But I have moved on enough to open up again, to be hurt again, too--but I know it was worth the growing pains.
But it didn't happen right away. I had to go through what I had to go through, I had to feel what I had to feel. I had to commit to my program, I had to trust that my friends and and my sponsor and others were not all going to add to my misery. I had to trust that God really did have something better for me in mind, and that it would happen when I was ready for it--as it has, many times. And most of all, I had to commit to basic acceptance--that what was over was over, that there was no more going back, It came hard with the two I've described, and it came hard with Somebody That I Used To Know, too--but it came.
And that's what I have to offer those suffering now. Including myself. I'm not suffering like I did in the past, for a number of reasons. One of them is that I know that while pain is natural, it does not last forever, and getting out of myself in healthy ways is one way of easing it. That's why staying committed to the program is desirable, why getting out of isolation is necessary, by telling people (in a responsible fashion, not by blowing up the other party or whining constantly in meetings or by telling only half of the story) about what I am feeling and going through is helpful.
It always "works" when things are going well. We need to help each other make it "work" when things are not going well, when we're in pain, when we are jolted and knocked for a loop. And when I can do that, even as I am going through some stuff--well, that's how it works for me, at this point in my life. If I can keep my friends from reaching the depths I did by sharing my experiences, then plumbing those depths was worth it. And it means I don't have to revisit them in any way other than remembering them. I'm not doomed to repeat the past, if I learn from it.
And while no one's experience is directly and wholly transferable to another's--there are enough similarities so that identification is made and felt. And part of the healing process is knowing that others have gone through this, too. The situation I went through in 1988 is what one of my friends is going through now--and yeah, my insight through my experience is helping him a great deal. I've actually felt quite a bit better since Friday night, when I was relating what I went through last week, sure that it was The Most Unique and Unprecedented Worst Thing Ever--and then someone in the little group I was talking with said it happened to her, too, a few years ago. Even people not necessarily in the fellowship can benefit from what we've gone through.
It beats sitting here thinking about how miserable I am, replaying events and conversations in my head that I totally cannot alter, and kicking myself for not seeing things "correctly." I dont' even know what "correct" is; I've been quite vocal about what a change being committed is for me in the last two years--which means for 50 years, my feelings and mind changed much more easily than they should have, and for no logical or good or spiritual reason now, didn't they? Perspective is a gift that is too often not opened. Or shared. I'm glad I am able to do so now.

Book Review: COLD FRAME

Cold Frame is a thriller set in present-day Washington, DC, that is meant to be a cautionary tale about today's counter-terrorism security apparatus. P.T, Deutermann constructs a very coherent plot that makes a certain amount of sense on the surface, and the recluse genius provides the twist in the plot--plants that can be used as weapons or defenses against the predations of men. But ultimately, there is much not to like about the book, too--there are the Steve Berry-like suspensions of reality that defy logic and ultimately belief, as people come and go, show up in places with squads of dozens of agents without drawing any attention at all, and a very obvious solution not taken by the villain that is as head-scratching and unbelievable as anything that used to be seen on the old Batman TV series. The book did have the virtue of being relatively short, for a thriller.