Maggie and I are both introverts. We’re most comfortable hanging out alone or with just one or two people. In the winter we isolate even more. It’s cold outside and neither of us are into sledding and all that wintery hoopla. After these past Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year holidays I was worried we’d hibernate on the weekends, just she and I in front of the TV watching Lost. I was worried we’d turn into The Shining twins or something come February.
With all that in mind we made a deal last month that she would have a get-together one weekend and then I would have one another weekend. Step outside of our comfy, familiar boxes because even though we have people over now and then, we don’t do it often. Nor do we have a lot of people over at once. Especially people that have never been over before.
Okay, now wait a second. Inviting new people over? That’s crazy talk. That’s inviting anxiety to come over and play in our heads.
Spiral downward with us for a moment if you will… What if people say no? What if nobody shows up? What if we run out of drinks? What if they don’t have a good time and then spread nasty rumors come Monday? Maggie said to me, “What if someone picks up the cats? What if a boy goes in my room? We’re gonna need rules, dad.”
So really is it worth it to even bother with get-togethers considering this kind disaster potential? With all this mental back and forth? With all the “I’ve never done this before” sinking kinda feelings. There’s so many messy variations and ugly permutations that planning something out of the ordinary can feel overwhelming, to the point where it’s easier just to shut down and not do anything.
But all of that is bullshit. A good way to just stay stuck. To live in the nuclear age of prepackaged TV dinners around ye boob tube. Where our neighbors are just strangers and the only people we know are on social media. I don’t know why it bothers me that I don’t know how tall my Facebook-only friends are. But it does.
Anyways, fear shouldn’t paralyze us from living life to it’s fullest or even doing the simple things that we want to do. If we think too much about how something can work or even if it could work, or if we’d feel awkward or out of place, we just end up in an anxious mind fuck where nothing happens and we never do anything. We miss out.
I tell myself to “stop thinking” all the time because I generally only end up with a list of reasons why not.
At the beginning of this month Maggie and I decided that none of that shit matters. We’d put ourselves out there and let everything else fall into place. Stay out of the doomsday predictions and let the cosmos take care of the rest.
So what if nobody comes? We should focus on the people that do, enjoy their company. They’re the ones that count come 6pm anyway. If we run out of drinks, big deal. The cats will take care of themselves, too.
Who gives a fuck what happens. It’ll be fun. Mark Manson’s “zero fucks given” mantra was about finding the appropriate things to give a fuck about. And I’m excited that you guys are coming over. That’s what I give a fuck about at the moment.
I’ll leave you with the tried and true: make plans but don’t plan the results.
Even better: make plans and assume the future will be good.
Also, if you feel socially awkward in general or even about just coming over, don’t worry much. All of my friends, all the people I invited are good people. Otherwise I wouldn’t be friends with them and they certainly wouldn’t be coming over. There’s something about each of them that I admire and respect.
Mix it up, talk to people, see what happens. I can’t entertain all of you at once.
America, can we talk? Let’s just cut the shit for once and actually talk about what’s going on without blustering and pretending we’re actually doing a good job at adulting as a country right now. We’re not. We’re really screwing this whole society thing up, and we have to do better. We don’t have a choice. People are dying. At this rate, it’s not if your kids, or mine, are involved in a school shooting, it’s when. One of these happens every 60 hours on average in the US. If you think it can’t affect you, you’re wrong. Dead wrong. So let’s talk.
There’s no telling how many guns we have in America—and when one gets used in a crime, no way for the cops to connect it to its owner. The only place the police can turn for help is a Kafkaesque agency in West Virginia, where, thanks to the gun lobby, computers are illegal and detective work is absurdly antiquated. On purpose. Thing is, the geniuses who work there are quietly inventing ways to do the impossible.
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. — Step 2 of Alcoholics Anonymous
The drug and alcohol treatment center I went to in the early 90s was 12-step based. Their treatment plan was to have patients complete the first five steps in order to graduate. When working Step Two, we spent a good chunk of time making lists of how and why we were insane. Those lists were easy to make but in the here-and-now I kinda think they missed the point.
The point of this step isn’t to review what we’ve done in order to convince ourselves that we have a drug or alcohol problem, that in fact we were insane. Insanity is fairly obvious when you’re ready to stop. I’ve felt insane in my fingertips.
The Second Step is about finding something bigger that we can believe in to “restore us to sanity” with “restore” being the keyword in the latter half of the step. I’m not here to define insanity. That’s looking at the problem and keeps me stuck.
I have plenty of them “and then one time” stories along the lines of… on Christmas Eve when the family and I were all decorating the tree, I would sneak down to the basement every so often and take a big pull off my whiskey bottle. And then before the night was over my ex-wife was saying to me teary-eyed, “are you drunk?”
Crazy, I know it all too well. I’m much more interested in looking for hope now, in reinstalling some sanity now that my jugs are plugged. And pay attention to this: it’s not “will restore” but “could restore.” We have to let that power in.
The good news is that I was sane when I was a little kid. Children are pure, they’re untainted. They aren’t born with judgement or resentment or anxiety. Through a higher power’s help I was able to find my way back to a sound mind, a stable way of living as a grownup. Anxiety free more often than not.
And then there was that one time not long ago when I was having dinner by myself at Denny’s. Looking around the restaurant, there I was the only person flying solo. Eating alone isn’t my favorite thing to do but whatever. I mostly have self-assurance. I generally have peace. I can be by myself in public. I have my phone. I have the whole Internet.
On one of the social medias I saw a picture of my ex-wife. With her boyfriend. And they were smiling at each other. And there I was sitting by myself.
At one point in my career that was a recipe for emotional overload.
But get this: by no choice of my own, I was honestly happy for them. Because I could see they had something going on between them that she and I hadn’t had for a long time. Happy because I always wanted the very best for her and looking at that picture I knew the “very best” wasn’t me. She had found it with someone else.
Because I had closure, because I had walked through that breakup’s phenomenal pain, I could be sincerely happy for them in the here and now. Even though I was alone with my fork and knife, a power greater than me had served me up some sanity.
One time several years ago I woke her up at 6:00 in the morning because I had lost my mind and I needed to tell her that she had played a part in all of that. This alcoholic had gone crazy when he first sobered up. Life was staring me straight in the face like a loaded gun. Waking her up before the sun was even shining was me embracing and exercising insanity in my daily life. Spilling it onto her life.
Moving from that kind of early morning, alarm clock crazy to being truly happy for her at Denny’s, that’s being restored to sanity. And not by my own doing.
How and when does that restoration happen? How does one move from alarm clock crazy to genuine happiness for another?
With failed marriages and sour breakups time is always key factor. I needed some distance, needed some room for my mind to breathe, to detach from the things that were making me crazy. It was hard not to see only darkness when I was living in darkness.
Before I could detach and let go, though, I needed to feel all those feelings. Those scary ones I’d kept locked up in me, down in the basement. I can’t move on from something if I’ve never dealt with it, never processed the madness. Hence moral inventory and amendments.
So the simple and yet hard answer is that we’re restored to sanity by working the steps. It’s really that simple. And go to meetings. And talk with our sponsor, too.
As Jerry said not long ago, “and then the pay off is peace.”
I had peace that night at Denny’s. Peace for me and peace with her.
After I let go, after I came to believe, I found out that that peace was what I had always wanted.
So one time when I was “quit smoking” I was headed up to see my dentist in Elgin. Don’t ask me for a referral. He’s long since retired and is probably off riding a mule in the Grand Canyon these days.
He actually rode a mule there once. A mule by the name of Travis. I heard that story every time I went to see him.
Anyway, whatever stop smoking aid I was using that day wasn’t working. I had a little panic attack and that quickly turned into full blown, terror frenzy.
I stopped and charged into the nearest gas station, drooling at the mouth, doing sign language, knocking over kids and racks of maps. After I got a pack of cigarettes in my hands, I tore into them like a bear after honey, ripping open a beehive regardless of consequences.
I had one in my mouth before even getting outside the gas station. I lit one up in the cool Autumn air and felt the fabulous serenity now. The world made sense. The radio station tuned in. I was a little light headed but the pleasure sensors were firing on all 12 cylinders.
A few minutes later as the smoking cigarette was winding down, the self-disgust was winding up. That “smoking again” love/hate kinda thing. Shaking my head I stubbed the cigarette out and headed back up toward that mule riding dentist.
Driving along Highway 31 and the smoking guilt got to be too much. I remembered what a client had said to me once.
I stopped at another gas station and threw the pack of 19 cigarettes in the closest garbage can. Then I roared away in the Cube like a bear shot in the neck with a goat tranquilizer.
[…Interlude of tooth song and dance…]
While driving back home the fiery nicotine addiction kicked back in. My body was withdrawing and my mind going berserk. When I get in this spot, frantic desperation will kick my ass every single time.
Yes, of course, I did stop back at that second gas station and did dug the 19 pack back outta the trash. I was literally digging in the garbage can. Of a public place. In broad daylight. In a smoke finding delirium. With my mouth half numb from all the dentistry prodding and poking.
People were looking at me like I was a red-assed baboon, masturbating at the zoo while baring his teeth as a warning.
Keep the children away from him!
If you’ve ever committed this act of communal cigarette larceny you’re not alone.
Peeps, that’s the end of this story. Happy Wednesday!