Monday, April 24, 2017

Restoring Order

School break is done with, and with it, the disruption that this causes in countless lives around the world fades into memory. That's a bit of facetious sarcasm, but it's also true that school breaks are often anything but breaks for parents, and often the children as well. 
The break had one big advantage for me this year, and it was job specific: it was much easier to get in the billable hours this week because the kids on the caseload were home instead of school, and I didn't have to wait until school was over to meet with the kids. It was an advantage that was negated, from annoying to major degrees, on four of the five days of the week by the narcissism of the ex, but it still was a relatively easy week. But I barely saw Sabrina, I didn't get a chance to get much done around the house, and it just seemed a bit off all the time. And the week in my case was made more off by not having to work last Sunday; it's amazing how quickly that became normal, too. And then with my brother in the hospital... well, routines are shifting and changes are necessary, and it's also a bit chaotic in any event. 
It's tough to find an anchor in the midst of chaos. One thing I did do right last week was make three meetings. I could have and maybe should have made as many as six, but honestly, I am not in a space where I can hear a message without reservations in any circumstances some days. I did go to the night meeting last night for the first time in months, but left before it was over because, frankly, there was just a lot of noise there and I wasn't getting anything out of it. Tonight is one of my two home groups, and it will be a different story, especially if we meet outside. The ex may be there, but that doesn't really affect me like it might have at some other points, and it isn't like she's going to participate anyway (not venom, just that she hardly ever speaks at the meetings she does attend). I do not want to get or feel isolated at this time, and I do think going to more meetings is the best way to avoid that. So I will have to open my mind up some and go some places I have been avoiding for differing reasons. 
But I've started changing things at home, too. The belongings of the ex have been packed away and await her promised retrieving them. Last night, I cleaned and rearranged the bedroom. It will be the bathroom's turn today or tomorrow, and the kitchen later in the week; one reason I could tell that she was headed for trouble after a couple weeks home was that she, a compulsive cleaner when in the right mind, suddenly lost interest in the state of her surroundings. Meals, too, are another thing that changed to a more haphazard and less regular thing; I am going to try to re-establish some regularity to that. The refrigerator and freezer have been purged of the items that I will never eat, and that also makes room for more stuff that I will eat. As for Sabrina--the kid seems to survive on macaroni and cheese, and her schedule is so irregular that I really don't have to cook for her now. 
The bottom line is that life goes on, and in large part, the quality of it is what you make of it. I'm not in great space all of the time, but one good way to not get triggered into anger or melancholy or wistful remembrance is to change the surroundings to eliminate things that inevitably trigger memories. And in the process, I end up with a living space that reflects what I like and that what I am comfortable with, where I know where everything is. 
It's a start. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Bearable Void

After having a full house for nearly two months, it's been a bit empty around here the last couple of weeks. Sabrina has been dog-sitting a friend's dogs while the friend is out of town for break, and is in the middle of softball season besides; I honestly have not seen her for more than an hour at a time in a week. And the erstwhile significant other is out of here (although her belongings, sadly, are still packed away in the basement, awaiting removal hopefully within a few days). I can't really say I miss her; the narcissism and the chaos it caused are certainly pleasantly notable by their absence. But not having someone around that was a daily, large presence for a while does leave a bit of a void.
Which isn't the worst thing in the world, to be sure. As I mentioned, I do not miss all the nonsense. I've gotten a bit of time to process events, and I am convinced that 1) I needed to have this happen because 2) I wasn't going to be able to let go until I was thoroughly sure that there was just no way this could work. And I am nothing if not that now. There will be other things, and maybe someday another person, that will fill the sudden, current void. I am likely to become more involved in the fellowship again, and the incessant time conflicts and scrambling that her crap seemed to always cause with my job have vanished, which is nice because I am going to be assigned two very time-consuming cases. The dog will no doubt be happier, too, especially when Sabrina's obligation is done and she's around more. With hockey playoff season upon us, and the Rangers somewhat surprisingly in the second round now, I can watch games without static.  And my budget is already returning to health.
Am I walking around with a shit-eating grin all the time? No. Regardless of the outcome, my emotional commitment was genuine, and it's unrealistic to be happy when a long-term effort like the one I put in turns out to be in vain. But it also isn't this gaping, painful wound that it might have been at other times. There are worse things than this kind of void; it's like a recuperation from surgery, in that soon enough it will be filled, back to "normal," more or less.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Welcome Break

Other than Easter Sunday, I've worked every day for the last couple of weeks, and so I am a little punchy. I've been grateful to be that busy, because of the other stuff that's been going on, too, but it will be nice to manage my own time a little today, and hopefully not drop into the recliner exhausted by 9 PM. I am going to meet with a sponsee, have coffee with an old friend, visit with my brother at some point, go grocery shopping, remove one point of contention with the ex, go to the library, clean at least one room of the house, take the dog on a long walk, watch the hockey game tonight, maybe catch the evening meeting, and in general take a break from the stresses that have been messing with my serenity. 
I've started paying attention to the outside world a little bit more in recent days and weeks, and in a strange sort of way, it's helping me to confirm that my judgment and reasoning ability hasn't completely corroded away. I knew that people in the country would tire quickly of The Donald, and they have. I knew he would be disastrous as President, and he has. While I do not want to see the bullshit ideas become the way government works for 4 years, I also think that 4 years of this shite will be enough to overcome the rigging of the system to get both him and his party out of power. On a local front, it took several months, but the former County Executive was finally arrested and charged with a crime for using municipal credit cards for personal use, the issue that likely cost her the election six months ago. Sometimes the wheels of justice turn slowly, but sometimes--sometimes--they do work. 
On more positive notes: my brother has been moved to another hospital, where the rehab from back surgery can begin in earnest; it's going to be a long haul, but at least the worst is over. My good friend has been named acting DSS commissioner, effective April 30; I have no doubts that he will be up to the job, and I really hope that he is considered for the permanent post. I've learned, as I always do when a relationship ends, that I have a lot of people that care about me and wish the best for me. Fred, Mark, Aldo, Donna, Britany, Harley, April, Don, Dave, Patty, Tonia--you've all helped me more than you know in the last few days, gave me a sense of perspective that is on-point, confirmed that my feelings and views are not completely self-serving, and reminded me that I have much to be thankful regardless of what is happening. The Rangers are, knock on wood, possibly ready to advance in the playoffs, and there is nothing I like more than watching playoff hockey in May with my team on the TV.  My daughter is having an excellent softball season, even as her team is struggling mightily to find its feet in its state championship defense. 
My life ain't all it could be right now, and there are things, peoples, and feelings I would rather not deal with and feel. But it's manageable,because there is so much more than surface things to my life, and those things are a big part of what gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment that money and material things never will. And I intend for today, at least, to be a celebration of that fact. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bye, Felicia

Even though it's been clear for some time that this little experiment in domestic tranquility had gone off the rails, I had been still been nurturing my better instincts. Aside from the reluctance to accept that so much time and effort had been for naught, there was also a lot of care and concern for the other party, trying to model a better way, trying with increasingly frantic desperation to head off what I know is going to happen. In some ways, I felt like Bruce Willis in the first Die Hard movie, standing out on the runway waving the warning sticks as the plane comes in for a landing with its navigational system tampered with.
But sometimes you just have to accept reality. And as I was talking to my friend last night at the meeting, I realized another truth heard long ago and that had buried in the recesses of my memory.
Another person at the meeting asked me if I felt relief. It isn't the only emotion that I feel, but yes, there is a lot of that coursing through me, too. I had willingly taken on the commitment, but there is always the option, especially when both your input is being ignored and you are being disrespected, to simply say, "Hey, this is not my problem and this is not my life." And that point of surrender was reached yesterday, and suddenly none of it matters anymore. I don't have to engage except on my terms now, and I'm not going to. The time for consideration is past; God knows there wasn't much extended toward me.
You can't polish a turd. End of story.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

O'Reilly Departs

The big headlines today are that after many years as more or less the face of Fox News programming, Bill O'Reilly has apparently sexually harassed one too many women for even Fox and is no longer on the air. I never was irritated by O'Reilly the broadcaster that much, because I never once watched his show, and by Fox standards he didn't seem to be a dingbat like Glenn Beck or truly dangerous like Sean Hannity. But he was the first and primary Asshole on the Air there, and I suppose it does make his departure newsworthy.
And the sordid details of his departure--serial sexual harassment--, which comes on the heels of Roger Ailes departing Fox for the same reason, should make most decent people blanch and vow never to watch Fox News again. Of course, that is not going to happen; it's funny how otherwise morally rigid and judgmental conservatives will make exceptions and twist themselves into absolute contortions to justify the bullshit of their own tribe. And I done listening to "well, both sides are equally guilty." No, they're not. One side isn't completely and totally hypocritical, and what moderate and left-of-center people don't have is a third of the country making excuses for them in public. I don't know a whole lot of people that watch Fox News regularly; after all, they tend to be either assholes or ignoramuses, and I try assiduously to avoid both in my life. But of this small group, one--one--has been revolted by the O'Reilly story, to the point where he said two months ago that he had stopped watching. As opposed to three others that were just fine with O'Reilly's, and Ailes before him, serial sexual harassment--but couldn't understand why, referring to sometimes-reasonable and acceptable facsimile of a human being Shepherd Smith, who came out of the closet in recent years as gay, "that faggot" is still on the air.
The people that watch Fox are the spiritual descendants of the people in the crowd that lined the road to Golgotha and thought it was their duty as Jews to curse, spit on, and throw things at Jesus of Nazareth on his way to his fate. And if that offends some of you that read this column--too fucking bad. Grow a conscience.
And what killed me about the entire O'Reilly experience is that people actually took him seriously in areas he has no expertise whatsoever. How does Bill freaking O'Reilly get two books published about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln? Or a book about the killing of Kennedy? (all of them were awful and added nothing to the vast literature on both, by the way). This cult of fame and television exposure in this country has reached nauseating levels. There are millions of people out there trying desperately to get good work published, in any form, and shit shovelers like O'Reilly get millions to peddle nonsense. And O'Reilly is hardly the only one. There was a note in the news yesterday that Andrew Cuomo, who wrote a book a few years ago that has sold, according to publishing industry records, 3200 copies, reported on his income tax return this year that he has made $773,000 off that book. So he got a million dollar payment to write a book that no one bought and probably fewer have read. And you wonder why he is the poster child for "Children of Privilege?"
But Cuomo, odious as I find him much of the time, is still hard to imagine as a sexual creep. I don't imagine Cuomo is easy to work for, but I really can't see him calling female staffers and talking junk while masturbating. And that was apparently O'Reilly's standard deviation, the act that followed the power-tripping that defines harassment. Just one more conservative hypocritical cretin sent off to retirement, after making millions and holding the bozos in the thrall for decades, And one more stain against Fox News, not that that is going to make a difference to the people that actually watch it, who are truly the Lost Generation(s).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

One Giant Leap

I remember sharing in a meeting during my first summer clean about how I had a real problem that I was not going to be able to face for some time yet: the inability to say "No" to Sabrina's mother. That may seem absurd to those of you that have been reading this blog for the last eight years, but trust me, it was once a huge issue, one that caused a great deal of unmanageability at one time in my life.
And while that particular issue certainly resolved itself, it certainly has recurred in other relationships I have been in. While I am quite a bit more secure with who I am and less co-dependent than I was in 1999, 1) I certainly haven't been "cured" of those tendencies completely, and 2) I'm much more aware of my own tendencies to self-interest and control, and there are times when I end up going along with something because I think there's a good chance I'm being willful by not going along.
And trouble saying "no" has certainly been an issue with the last one. And to make a long story short, I refused to co-sign one of her manipulative attempts to alter the consequences of her most recent string of bad decisions. I went out of my way, in fact, to confront her and tell her that, if she followed through with her plans, and she ended up getting discharged, I didn't know where she thought she was going to, but it wasn't going to be this house. And I meant it.
And for whatever reasons, she ended up not being discharged. I've been moving on for some time, sometimes at a snail's pace, but there is also the reality that all her belongings are still here. I honestly would prefer to be able to simply ignore her presence on earth, but that's not realistic until all that stuff is out of here. But yesterday was a really big step for me; I drew a line in the sand and didn't give way. It's been a week since she departed, and while much else has happened, the chaos caused by immature, stupid willfulness that I, for whatever reasons, couldn't say no to has stopped. And I like it, and I'm not stepping backwards.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Going Forward

Even though I've done this quite a few times over the years, it doesn't get any easier to move forward after radical changes in one's life. But it has to be done. I know that looking backward is not productive, and I also know that life does not stand still and a dozen other things other than the changes that have occurred still have their claim on my life and energy. This is why I am up at 5:30 on a Monday; my job does not stand still because my brother is ill and I am a bachelor again. There's a house to clean, a meeting to go to tonight, a dog that depends on me, a kid in the last few months of high school, family members that need me to pitch in and help in this time of crisis, groceries to buy. There is a tax form to mail, oil that needs to be changed, tires that need to be rotated if not replaced, sponsors and sponsees to meet with, more job-related stuff ahead. Life is a many-sided object, and because the face of one or two sides of that object changes or vanishes does not mean that the other sides can be ignored.
I know all this. And while I can't say it feels good to contemplate, it is good to have much else going on in my life. It keeps me from sitting in the house all day and night, thinking and rethinking and nursing resentments and turning events over and over in my mind. And as my sponsor is fond of saying, this, too, shall pass. It won't even be like a kidney stone; it's happened in stages over the years, and I've been prepared for this particular stage for at least a month now. And I know that a year from now, life will look very different. Whether better or worse is an open question, but it will look different.
And as much as it was in 1998, it will all take place one day at a time. It's the best-known and most-used slogan/cliche of recovery, and there's a reason for that. It's what we are capable to doing. I don't know how my brother's life is going to look like six months from now. I don't know whether there will be another relationship, with who, or when it will happen. I don't know what all the changes being proposed at my job are going to bring. I don't know what it's going to be like around here when Sabrina goes to college. I don't know what my own health is going to be like as I age. I don't know what the country, state, and county environments are going to be like in the future. And it's not productive to project, to be afraid, or to quit. What I can do is take care of what needs to be taken care of today, and in the near future and let the chips fall where they may. That much, I am capable of, and that's what I need to take care of on a daily basis.
It's not going to be easy, at times. But it is the only way to get through troubled times. And it is not productive to take steps backward. It's not helpful to worry about what other people are going to do, or to make their struggles yours. I have more than enough to keep me occupied. And looking backward would be about as productive for me as it was for Lot's wife (in another of those not-coincidental messages that are always present if your mind is open to them, The Big Bang Theory, of all things, drove that home yesterday, when Sheldon listed all the instances in mythology of people who were told to not look back--Orpheus, Perseus, Lot--and then said, "they always look. It never ends well."
Going forward may not end well, either. But it might. And looking backward is a sure way to make sure it isn't going to end well, or at the very least make it harder than it has to be going forward. So that's my goal today--keep it moving forward, and not look back. I'll figure out tomorrow's goal tomorrow.