Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mononucleosis

My daughter has not been feeling well for a couple of weeks now--actually, since around Christmas. She's stayed home from school a couple of times, left early a few other days, and hasn't been terribly energetic any of the time. She's been managing to go to track practice and participated in a couple of meets, but hasn't been herself, and she's been dropping weight. Last night, she finally went to the walk-in, and discovered that she has mononucleosis.
The doctor's note said that if she is fever-free, she can go to school if she feels up to it, but she is not to do track or softball workouts on the weekend for two weeks. This morning, she doesn't feel up to it, and I can't say I blame her. I'm not personally concerned too much, despite how contagious mono can be, because I've had it, back in 1996. And hers has been caught early enough, I hope, that she doesn't end up suffering like I did. My tonsils got so swollen that I had to go into the hospital for four days, because I could not sleep if I laid down because my airway in my throat was so constricted. I think I must have caught a concurrent bacterial infection, because I was on a penicillin drip for three days until the tonsil swelling went down (I still have my tonsils, by the way; they wouldn't remove them because they were so swollen, and then after they returned to normal size, they told me there was no reason to take them out. The logic of that reasoning escaped me then and now).
But that's not what I remember about my bout with mono. It was the fatigue. For weeks afterward, even after I returned to work, my energy level was sapped. I would go to work in the morning, and be fine for several hours--and then suddenly grow so tired that I had to rest or sleep, like a toddler that runs out of gas when he sits still for two minutes. I almost drove off the road a couple of times because I was falling asleep at the wheel on the way home.And to make matters even dicier, I contracted mono while my then-wife was six months pregnant with Jessica. It was not a good time to be a just-turned-two Rachel; I had no energy and her mother was waddling around seriously pregnant. By time delivery day came, I was back to about 95% of normal--but those late spring/early summer months were not good.
And my mono had an indirect role in the direction my life soon took. I had snorted cocaine more or less recreationally for nearly fifteen years at that point; there were some episodes of unmanageability and some physical issues (I remember a very frank conversation with my doctor when she checked out my nasal passages as part of dealing with the throat miseries, and I wonder to this day whether some of the refusal to remove the tonsils was either as a punishment or a safety measure because of the awful state of my sinuses), but I had not been indulging a whole lot for a few years before the mono hit. But I was so tired so much of the time, especially after Jessica was born and the house was in the sort of sleep deprivation mode that occurs when there is a newborn, that I began, surreptitiously, to use it more often at first, and then, after it was proving impractical to do lines around the house, I eventually was introduced to and began to smoke crack. And that's when the train started to go off the tracks...No, mono was not the cause of my addiction. But it was a factor.
I don't think that's a risk factor here. I don't know if Sabrina has never indulged in anything, but I am totally certain that she does not do drugs of any kind on a regular basis. I'm more worried about the disruption it is going to cause her academically and with track. If it had to happen, I suppose this was as good a time as any; there is Regents and other testing for four days next week, so she isn't going to miss as much class time as she otherwise might have, should her illness linger. And my bet is going to be that it does; it was getting worse up until yesterday, and my memory is that the symptomatic part of the illness lasted two or three weeks before I ended up in the hospital. I don't think it's going to last that long for her; she's younger and healthier, went to the doctor a lot sooner than I did, and isn't going to have to do as much while sick as I did at the time I had it.
But it's a pain in the butt for her, and I feel bad for her. We just went to Best Buy yesterday and bought a TV for her. I was planning on finally dumping Time Warner yesterday--but when I got on the phone with both DirecTV and Dish, their advertised special prices were so loaded with conditions and fees that I would have ended up paying as much or more than I can get with Time Warner. I'm going to talk to my friend that works for Time Warner tonight, and hopefully we can get something set up for an upgrade here by the end of this week. Between Sabrina being sick and Lauren coming here to live for a while when she comes home, more and better TV is--not quite a necessity, but both of them are much more into television than I am. I'm paying almost a hundred dollars a month for (mostly dependable, despite my occasional bitching) Internet and five freaking TV channels. If I can get decent cable for thirty dollars or so more a month, and keep the other two people living here happy, I might as well go for it. And Sabrina will be able to take her TV with her when she goes to college in the fall (I got a new one for the living room, too, and Lauren has one already that is here with the rest of her belongings), no matter where she goes.
But she has to get through this first. She hasn't slept well; she woke me up at midnight to tell me I was snoring badly, and I've been hearing her since I got up an hour-plus ago. But she is going to be more or less bed-ridden for the next day or three, and with some chamomile, Motrin, and Gatorade, she should be able to manage reasonably well. But I feel bad for her; it's not fun to have a Life Altering Event occur in the middle of your senior year in high school, another subject I can relate strongly to. Fortunately, it's something that will extract a small cost and then be done with--and she won't have to worry about contracting mono ever again.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Few Thoughts On The NFL Playoffs

While NFL ratings are down this year, and there are some signs that the peak of pro football's popularity may have passed, you'd never know it around here. My own fan demographic, those that follow the Bills, moved past "long-suffering" ages ago, and now tend to compete with one another in "Can you top this?" moments and insights--after all, ineptitude of this magnitude is historic, and we are in a perverse way almost privileged to see it. There is a fairly substantial Bills fan base around here, too; geographically, they are the closest team to Binghamton. But this is still overwhelmingly Giants country, and with that team returning to the playoffs after a five-year absence this year, there did seem to be more-than-usual interest in the NFL season. But in addition to the Bills, there are still small-but-vocal groups of the three teams with the most devoted national followings--the Steelers, Packers,and Cowboys--that were also in the playoffs this year, and there are also enclaves of Patriots and Eagles fans around here, too, along with the usual front-runner types that have discovered their inner Bronco and Seahawk leanings in recent years. So there is a lot of football talk on social media and in general conversation. The Giants were one-and-done this year, and the Cowboys lost yesterday to the Packers, but the Steelers, Patriots, and Packers are three of the four teams left, and so it will likely lead to more interest than usual right up to the Super Bowl.
And of course, I have some thoughts:
1) The Giants' exit was dominated by that fascinating combination of all-world talent and remarkably abrasiveness and sense of entitlement, Odell Beckham, Jr. Beckham caught a lot of flak before the game, when he and a number of his teammates flew to Miami on the Giants' off day and had a blast with celebrities on a party boat. And as much as I don't care for Beckham, I find myself leaning in his direction on this one. What anybody--anybody--does on their days off is their own business. Pro football players are not "normal" employees, either; their job is physically taxing beyond comprehension, the mental pressure is unlike anything anyone in the usual employment world is ever going to face, and their professional life span is measure in years, not decades. Beckham and his friends, by all accounts, were at work when they were supposed to be on Tuesday morning, and although the Giants lost, their performance in the first half of the Packers game puts the lie to the notion that the team was "unprepared" or "unfocused." The Giants thoroughly outplayed the Packers for 25 minutes, but only led 6-0, and that is the reason that the game was lost.
This happens every year in the playoffs, often more than once. You can't march up and down the field against another top-shelf football team, and come away with field goals or turn the ball over. You have to go for the jugular. The Packers-Cowboys game illustrated this perfectly; the Packers did everything right in the first half, led by 18 points at one juncture--and still needed a field goal as time ran out to win. And the inability to put teams away was something that plagued the Giants all year, and Beckham, as much of a lightning rod as he is, is certainly not the reason the Giants did not win. Giant fans don't really want to hear it, but their biggest liability is behind center. Eli Manning, whatever he has been during his career, is not a top-level quarterback anymore. That's not a real knock; he's 36 years old and has had a real good (I'm not going to call it "great"; he's been good enough to be in a position to be very fortunate, and there have been far too many times when Manning has hurt his team to call him "great") career, but the best is in the past, and he's not capable of beating three or four good teams in a row anymore. And the Hail Mary at the end of the first half was a stomach punch; you could just see the air go out of the Giants. Beckham's boat trip has zero to do with the loss. Zero. If you don't like Beckham because his personality is excessively self-absorbed, because of his immaturity, and because he tends to lose focus on the field when the going gets tough, that's legit--but you don't have to make shit up to buttress your feelings. And a sure way for a franchise to lose its way for years at a time is to start blaming their best players for the team's shortcomings. The Giants need a better offensive line, better quarterback, and better running backs to become a true Super Bowl contender. And if you want to look at the receiving corps closely, Victor Cruz is clearly not the same player he was four or five years ago, and they need a better tight end than what they have. Beckham, as much of a dick as he appears to be, is not the problem there, not even close, and wouldn't be if he spent his off-days trolling Bangkok's red-light district.
2) I know Derek Carr, according to the media, is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, and I guess it was sort of heartwarming to see the Raiders return to the playoffs after a 14-year absence (actually, that's another long-dormant fan base that is starting to become visible again). But am I the only one that saw the Houston-Oakland game and thought, "How the hell did this team win 12 games?" That team on the field was awful, Carr or no Carr. I will make a bet with anyone right now that the Raiders will be fortunate to win as many as they lose next year.
3) I saw the Dolphins play a few times on television this year, and I know that they are better than they showed against the Steelers. It looked to me like they were simply overawed a little by being in the playoffs, and Pittsburgh is better than they are, regular season result notwithstanding. But the game did show off one other thing that is a must for playoff success: the biggest reason that teams lose games, playoff or regular season, is when defensive players in a position to make them miss tackles. When you are playing against some of the best offensive talent in the game, you have to bring them down when you first make contact with them. If you don't, you lose.
4) I have never, ever liked the Detroit Lions, dating back to the early 1970's and my time as a Vikings fan. And this is another team that was very fortunate to be in the post-season this year, and has very little chance to return there this year.
5) Houston is an interesting team. This is about as good as a team can be without an NFL-level quarterback on the roster, and they were as successful as they were this year with the best player in the NFL absent for the last 13 games. It doesn't look like there is a top-quality quarterback available to them in the draft, either. But I'm going to say this: if Tony Romo ends up on this team next year, they are quite possibly Super Bowl material, especially if Watt comes back and plays like Watt.
6) Kansas City is another interesting team. What has happened here is that history is repeating itself. Andy Reid built a perennial contender that couldn't get over the hump in Philadelphia, and this team is playing out to be this decades's version of those teams. And it isn't obvious what the final ingredient needs to be; the team doesn't have an obvious weakness. I guess that you can start to look behind center there, too; Alex Smith isn't horrible, but he isn't going to get any better and he's not top-shelf. I suppose that if circumstances broke right, he might win a championship; after all, Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer have Super Bowl rings. But you can't bet on that.
7) The Seahawks' moment has passed. It was always hard to reconcile their excellence with the idea that Pete Carroll was the architect of a winner; too many of us remember Carroll as the limited coach of the Jets and Patriots. And while I normally shy away from the notion of sports-as-morality-plays--I have grown to HATE this team. The sad part is, the way this team is set up, I was prepared to love them. I played defense when I played football when I was young, and I don't like the way the game has evolved, with all the pass-happy offense and the rules changes and the way that hitting someone hard has been legislated out of the game. This team was built on its defense, and they play it hard and well.
But, God, they are a bunch of assholes. So much so that I've actually gotten to tolerate Richard Sherman as the years pass; for all that he runs his mouth, he backs it up with his play, he plays clean, and when he gets beat, he isn't all about complaining and jackass behavior. But some of the others--wow. Michael Bennett is a borderline psychopath; I will not be in the least surprised if he ends up the next high-profile player in a domestic violence case, and he is by far the most likely candidate to be the next Aaron Hernandez. This is the shithead that started the fight at the end of the Patriots' Super Bowl win, and his outright threatening a reporter with violence in the post-game press conference was revolting. Earl Thomas' bitching about Tom Brady after the loss (to Atlanta, I might add, not New England) was childish and makes one wonder what in the hell actually goes in those people's minds. He's not there anymore, but Marshawn Lynch was an even bigger jackass than those two. This is a team where there were a lot of resentments aimed at their own young, Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Yes, they won one ring and nearly won another. But you can't help feeling that if they were a little more focused on football and less on perceived slights and the attention they didn't get, they would have been a dynasty. That defense had Steel Curtain-potential for multi-year dominance, and only one ring seems so underachieving considering how much talent there was there.
8) Finally, the last of the losers thus far, the Dallas Cowboys. I'm not a Cowboy fan, although I don't have the white-hot hatred that a lot of Giant fans seem to have for them. But I don't see much to hate on this team. They play to the best of their ability, and--gasp--they do what they do with some class. There isn't a lot of woofing going on. There isn't the preening for the cameras. They actually seem likable. It was just two years ago that the Cowboys lost another playoff heartbreaker to the Packers. Two years ago, Dez Bryant was the story, with the catch-or-no-catch and all that, but almost lost in the magnificent game he played that day was the talking and posturing and carrying on after the whistle and the constantly looking for penalties after each ball he didn't catch. Dez Bryant had another great game yesterday--but as the game progressed, I realized something: all that nonsense was absent. Bryant handed the ball to the ref after each catch and went back to the huddle. After the touchdown that brought the Cowboys to within two, he actually waved teammates off to not celebrate, recognizing that the team needed to go for two points, and went back and huddled up. I'm not sure I've ever seen such a transformation in two years' time...I've written about Bryant a few times over the years, about how what a difficult life he has had and how it was unrealistic for fans and others to expect him to act like a mature, reasonable, composed adult from the time he donned a Cowboy uniform. But what I saw yesterday tells me that Bryant, late as it might have come, has matured. Maybe his series of injuries last year and this made him realize that his career could end at any moment; maybe it's just the normal maturation process; maybe he fell in love; maybe it was any of a hundred possible other things, or more likely some combination of all of them.
But whatever it was, I was impressed. And I'm happy for Dez Bryant, in a way that I would not be happy for almost any other player. It could have fell apart for him so easily, and yet he seems to have survived and thrived, and his future still seems to be very bright. And whatever else there is to not like about the man, I think Jerry Jones deserves some credit for sticking with Bryant and allowing him the need and room to grow up. Many other teams would have decided that Bryant was just too much of a headache and sent him packing or drove him to such an unhappy place that his play suffered. That didn't happen, and his transformation is a reminder that ultimately, the game isn't about teams or monoliths or large-scale issues. It's played by human beings, and when human beings triumph, we all do. I still am not a Cowboy fan, but their loss yesterday was with dignity and class, and didn't fill me with animalistic delight like the defeat of the Seahawks did the day before. And on the whole, I would rather feel the way I did yesterday than the way I did Saturday.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Extortion Racket in Blue Uniforms

For the second time in two months, and fourth time in five months, I was pulled over in the City of Binghamton for an alleged driving infraction. Two times, I was let go without a ticket. The last two times, I have received tickets for offenses that have not historically been offenses, and thus I am fighting both of them. One for an alleged non-stop at a stop sign, and tonight's was for a no-turn signal--while I was in a right-turn only lane. This is on top of a speeding ticket I got last November, not in Binghamton, for allegedly doing 71 in a 55 zone--when my cruise control was set at 62 MPH.
I am currently carrying 8 points on my license (only four of which were deserved), and it is conceivable that I may lose it for a short period if I don't fight them. And it is particularly galling because before October 2015, I had not gotten as much as a fucking parking ticket in over a decade. I most certainly did not turn into the world's most ornery and careless driver in the fall of 2015; something else is at work here.
And what might that be? It is, simply, another manifestation of the extraction economic model that has become the norm in post-Cold War America. Municipalities need more and more money to make the wheels go round, and since no one in political office will dare raise taxes on those with an ability to pay, instead the money is being squeezed from the peasantry,  like we are living in 1780 France or something. And I'm not the only one that has noticed this or is having it happen to them. A friend of mine was stopped for a bogus infraction on New Year's Eve for either a fishing expedition to see if someone had been drinking or because the passenger in the car was African-American. The Traffic Nazi has run amok for years now, without much recourse. Not a day goes by when you cannot see some poor slob pulled over by three cars and three jarheads during the waning daylight hours in Binghamton because the driver had the misfortune to fit whatever they decided that afternoon was "suspicious" behavior.
This are the seeds of eventual revolutions--this petty harassment for no other real purpose than finding inventive ways to get into people's pockets. I would rather be strong-armed than deal with this mockery of "law enforcement." One of these days, I'm going to get enough courage to ask someone who pulls me over whether, when they were kids dreaming of being a cop, whether that dream included writing seventeen hundred traffic tickets a year. Cops always deny that they have quotas or targets of tickets to write--except some regain a moral compass upon retirement or otherwise leaving the force and tell the truth: they certainly do.
And the final indignity is that the cop that gave me the ticket was the more respectable scion of the embattled chief of police. His other son has been in and out countless rehabs, has caught every break in the book, and even when he was finally arrested on what  had to have been his fifteenth violation of probation, he got to go to a cushy rehab. I can relate in some ways, I really can. But many years ago, I stopped trading on my daddy's money and influence and made my own in the world. Junior Ziksuki is poised to be sucking on the public tit for the last four decades, all because his dad ended up kissing enough butt over the years to end up living proof of the Peter Principle. Nepotism is an ugly thing, and it's even worse when the offending family is turning the notion of "Protect and Serve" into a morbidly ironic farce.
See you in court (eventually), Officer Zippy.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Where Angels Tread Warily

Tonight is a bit of a milestone. It's the last time I am going to work a short Friday overnight (relatively speaking; I'm still here eight hours, just being relieved two hours early). I am going to visit Lauren tomorrow morning, and we got some news this week that has moved the relationship up to another level. Am I happy? Of course. But there is also a bit of wariness, a bit of uncharted territory that I wouldn't be human if I wasn't feeling a little hesitant about.
I have no doubt that if we spend most of our time together, relapsing will not be a major concern. Not only am I so ensconced in a clean way of life that it is inconceivable to me that I am going to pick up, but most of her triggers and stressors are not going to be present this time. She will not be staying in a shelter upon discharge, so the "not done" roommates she always seemed to draw in her previous returns home are not going to be a factor. And she cannot have any contact with her mother during the remainder of her time on paper, which is, as bad as it sounds, an unmitigated plus--her mother just is not a healthy person on any level, and is frankly toxic to her. She will be under no pressure from DSS to find an apartment in a short time frame, and most of her other needs will be met, as well, without much running around. I'm not sure what kind of treatment options are going to be required, but I'm pretty sure that they are not going to be onerous. And we have stripped away a lot of the baggage and issues between us, enough so that all the masks, for both of us, are down. If we don't make it this time, it's going to be because it isn't meant to be, not because of outside factors.
And that's both uplifting and scary at the same time. If I didn't feel like she was worth the effort, and that the attraction was real because the woman underneath the layers of outside stuff was real, I would have bailed out  a long time ago. I am convinced that she is the corrupted, not the corrupt, and thus there is much to be hopeful about. And to a greater degree than ever, I am committed. There has always been a lot of talk in our mutual circles about how much money I've committed to her over the years, but the truth is that it hasn't been all that much. I have devoted time, too, but again, there were always limits, and with her mother sniping at my presence all the time, that, too, had limits, as well. I have never let go completely of her because there was always something at her core that I knew was worth hanging around for.
And it's taken three and a half years, a lot of pain, and a lot of consequences. But I was just reading an article tonight online that my friend Becka posted about loving the traumatized woman, and I felt like I could have written it. There's a lot of resistance and a lot of accumulated negative experience to overcome, when you're with a traumatized woman. And it takes a lot of patience and a lot of disappointments at times to overcome what she's experienced. What has been different about the last few months, even before the end of her last relapse, was that she has finally been convinced that I am genuine, that she is accepted and loved for who she is, and that I can be depended on. There is a part of me that rolls my eyes and says, " a normal person would have been convinced long ago." But that's just it; someone with a history of trauma is not a normal person, in that way. And it takes a huge effort, almost superhuman, to overcome the experiences associated with the trauma, trauma that has caused her to believe that trusting is fatal, that loving is a path to searing pain, that commitment only leads to abandonment.
To overcome that takes--well, it took three-plus years. And I'm sure that the work isn't totally done, and probably never will be. But to get to the point where we are now has had its rewards, and I do have few doubts about her loyalty and commitment. The wariness comes from the sheer magnitude of what lies ahead--the rebuilding of her life (actually, building her life; she was a mother at a young age and has been preyed upon by family members, and has never known a "normal" existence), the meshing together of our lives, the adjustments ahead as my daughter leaves for college and her daughter re-enters her life, her starting the recovery process once again, my adjusting to a new job and schedule, and the knowledge that with her family is off the table for her. I know from the field I work in that the lure and fantasy of a family that meets the cultural ideal is nearly irresistible, even when there is a lifetime of evidence that the reality of family is toxic and dangerous, and I have seen for years how much she desperately wants to believe that her mother is something other than what she is. Authority has given her a chance to establish a healthy identity free of the poison, and while intellectually she knows this, it's still quite an emotional blow and adjustment. And that's what I am most concerned about. I am going to have to provide not only the emotional support and love of a romantic partner, but I am going to be the only source available to her, as well.
And that's a bit of an awesome task ahead. I think I'm up to it--but it's daunting to contemplate, being more or less someone's everything, at least for the time being. I do not lack confidence, and I know that my motives are genuine and relatively pure. But I've spent a long time figuring out that I am not responsible or the cause of anyone's actions based on feelings, especially unrealistic and unwarranted ones, that they may harbor, and just as I have put this into practice for the first time in my life for the past couple of years--now comes the ultimate test of that. I guess There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to be the unquestioned focus, to the point of obsession, of a partner.
I don't want that anymore, because it leads to expectations that I, or any other human, cannot meet. I'm hoping that our relationship does not cross the boundary line between commitment and co-(or even straight-up) dependence. But the potential is there. I'm the more experienced and mature part of the relationship, and thus much more can be reasonably be expected of me in this area. And I honestly do not know if I am capable of it. I've been asking God for guidance and help much more than I normally do recently, and since the good news came, I've asked for it even more.
Because I'm going to need it. Because while the rewards are going to be awesome, and the hope is that this is the "last" relationship of this nature I will ever be in,-- it's still very sobering to realize that I bear, rightly or no, so much responsibility. I'm hope I'm up to the task.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Odds And Ends, Friday the 13th Version

In no particular order:
1) As predicted, the diet has slowed down. In my defense, my daughter had a birthday (with a cake), my home group had an anniversary this week (also with a cake), and my job got breakfast sausages in this week's food order (one of my personal kryptonite items). Still, I've managed to lose another couple of pounds, and with the weather being less frigid and cold the next few days, I should be able to walk the dog better than I have been, too. It's a process, and I didn't get to the weight I started from overnight. It will also take time to lose it all.
2) The new Democratic county executive has taken office and filled pretty much all his open positions. And with all due respect--Jesus, this is a worse recycling of old party hacks than when Bush put Ford Administration veterans Rumsfeld and Cheney in major roles. I don't have a particular objection to any of them; some of them are even my personal friends. But for Christ's sake, aren't there any viable Democratic potential office-holders and aide material that were born after 1970, even, much less someone in the prime of their life? This is not exactly an inspiring start.
3) I got some very, very good news on a personal front today. I am going to hold off on disclosing what it was publicly for a few days, until a few more t's are crossed and i's dotted. But here's a hint: I have even more reason to be optimistic about the future with Lauren than I already did.
4) If anyone checked out this blog this morning looking for my thoughts on the contretemps at the meeting last night--well, you're going to be disappointed. Although I will say that I feel more than ever that I made the correct decision in leaving my previous home group due to changes in the group membership.
5) I have seven work days, counting today, at my current position. The reality that I am not going to be here much longer has started to sink in, both for me and for the residents that live here. The atmosphere here already had changed for the better due to addition by subtraction with a particular youth, and I was actually afraid that my departure being known was going to lead some liberties being taken and buttons being pushed. But so far, knock on wood, it's been all good.
6) I've tried to stay away from overt thoughts about the changing political landscape in the nation. But I'm going to reiterate what I've said for some time: despite his general bluster and the error of his thinking on many subjects; Trump is not the big problem. The problem is that the Republicans are in charge of both houses of Congress now. And already the shittrain has begun. They really are going to tear down the ACA, and pass all sorts of other dumb-ass initiatives into law that are going to prove disastrous. If you thought 2008 was tough to get through, wait and see what 2020 is going to look like.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy Being An Indian

I've chaired a few subcommittees of the fellowship I'm a part of over the years, and held a couple of other positions. Some have been rewarding, and most, truthfully, have not, but at least I have made the effort and done the service work that enables the fellowship to carry out its purposes and, not coincidentally, that furthers my own recovery. One of those experiences was serving as the chair of the Newsletter Committee thirteen years ago. It was a contentious term; in retrospect, the contention was justified, because in the interest of putting an interesting publication out, I did overstep the boundaries of what a Newsletter is supposed to be. I got over it a long time ago; it was part of the growth and maturation process. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have made the same mistakes, but a lot of good came out of the experience. One reason this blog exists is that I learned that my views and my opinions and some aspects of living a recovering life all might be worthy of airing, but not in an official Narcotics Anonymous publication. No member speaks for the fellowship, and no one can legitimately control the flow of information to the fellowship, either, no matter how right they think they are or might actually be. I had a rather dim understanding of that concept in 2004; it's pretty clear and acceptable to me now.
And here I sit now, one of the more experienced members of the fellowship. I don't want to give up on service work entirely, because it is an integral part of my, and anyone's, personal recovery. But at this point in my life, I don't need to be chairing any committees. One of the reasons that interest in subcommittee work withered away over a decade ago, and has never really recovered to the levels of involvement seen around the turn of the century, is that too many members with substantial time refused to step aside for younger members to take the reins. The Messagemaster was the most obvious transgressor (and he bore indirect responsibility for the dearth, too, because when he was more or less unchallenged in his prominence in the fellowship, in the period 2004-8, hardly anyone got and stayed clean, and although it isn't politic to say so, of course his influence was a major reason why. And the lifeblood of a service structure are the members with one to five years clean; in that time period, there simply wasn't anyone that was staying clean for those lengths of time--and those that claimed that they were clean at the time all either turned out to be lying, with the Messagemaster's active connivance, or fell by the wayside before they had a full set of keytags. I'm not going to turn this into a rant, but it's tough for anything to grow when it's being watered with urine instead of H2O), but there have been other members who, although meaning well, have taken position after position after position, and not allowed younger members to find their way and gain their own experience taking positions of responsibility in the service structure. And NA in this area has suffered, not mortally but markedly, as a result.
What I've wanted to do for several years now was simply be an Indian, instead of a chief, in some service areas. I was happy being co-Treasurer; Fred did all the heavy lifting, but I helped him as needed to learn the job. I was happy, a few years ago, to be a committee member of Activities and Events. I wanted to be a part of A&E again this year, but let's just say the roster of members isn't conducive to my personal serenity, and I will defer serving there for another year, at least. So I've been looking for another service commitment for a few months now.
A couple of guys that have some time, but are still young in recovery, have been talking about starting Newsletter up again, and one asked me if I would be willing to help out, given that I was a chair of the committee in the past. I told him I would be glad to, and I am. Tonight was the first meeting we had, and it was great listening to all the brainstorming, giving some input and listening to others share their ideas. Most of all, it was nice to see younger members take a bit of responsibility for their recoveries by committing to take the actions necessary to make ideas reality. I rather like being the elder statesman, and I fully intend to help out not only with the logistics, but to contribute.
But as an Indian, not a chief. With 18 years under my belt, the time for me to take a lead role is long past. The direction and tenor of the fellowship in years to come is going to determined by the people of Mike and Nick's generation--and I can best help the fellowship by helping them get their feet wet with service, sharing my experience, but not in any kind of controlling or hands-on way. And that's how service at this point in my life and my recovery best takes place--as part of the chorus, not as one of the lead characters.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Review: CONCLAVE

Last year, I read a book of Robert Harris for the first time, not realizing that his treatment of Cicero's last years was the last of a trilogy. But I liked it enough to give Conclave a try, and it didn't disappoint. It is a novel of a papal conclave of cardinals, the gatherings that select new popes. It has much to recommend it--it is suspenseful, it is a subject that even non-Catholics find interesting, and the level of detail is informative without being overwhelming. There are also a few drawbacks--the number of plot twists seems a bit much and contrived, that serve as ways to eliminate the main contenders, the eventual winner of the contest is able to be discerned very early in the book, and I am getting very, very sick of suspense novels using the Islamic terrorist hordes as their villains. Harris deserves kudos for the twist on the obvious ending, though.