A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Five days ago I celebrated eight years of sobriety. If I’d known eight years ago that my life—more importantly my outlook—could change so dramatically I wouldn’t have believed you. That being said, I’ve been feeling down lately. A lot of different things have been going on, and even before all this happened I was feeling blah for no discernible reason. Last night after class I wanted to cry, and I wanted to cry again when my friend Kevin came over and joked about how long dinner was taking me to cook. Let me rephrase that: I didn’t want to cry so I held it in. Not healthy but I just didn’t feel like it, not in front of anyone.

Class yesterday left me with an old feeling of deep-rooted insignificance. Invisibility, without a voice, unimportant, unheard, silenced. It probably wasn’t my classmates’ intention—certainly it wasn’t Rochelle’s, because she’s the sweetest, most compassionate student in the class, and I don’t know the other guy in my group very well but he seems nice—yet I felt… swept aside. We had to do a case study together on a guy who sounded just like my dad, so I felt like I knew just what to do with this guy. My group had a different, more extreme approach, so my suggestion was outvoted. I just don’t think you can take a person who’s used to eating Philly cheesesteaks every day and tell him he can no longer eat any bread, sugar, fast food, or processed and refined or packaged foods on Day One. The person they described is a heavy drinker with type 2 diabetes. Yet when I suggested abstinence for the client’s third month, the guy in my group was like, Whoa there. Let the guy have his drink. He’s human. The health problems that this guy had, and the effect of alcohol on someone with diabetes—it’s just dangerous. And the way in which this client drinks coupled with the fact that he has a family history of alcoholism suggests he’s a problem drinker, possibly an alcoholic himself. As medical professionals we have a responsibility to tell someone their drinking is dangerous to their health, and that if they’re having trouble drinking they should consider treatment. It pisses me off when students gloss over someone’s drinking because of how acceptable—and not only acceptable but encouraged—drinking is in this country. To have one or two drinks is one thing, but when a person drinks so much their judgment is impaired and they’re causing damage to their health, taking dangerous actions, driving drunk, destroying relationships… Ugh! I just want to scream! I know. I have been that person.

But it’s such a touchy subject, especially as someone in AA. It’s not my job to preach to the world about how they should all be abstinent. For one, most people don’t need to quit entirely. For another, most people—especially those who have a problem—don’t want to quit. But would you tell someone who’s a hundred pounds overweight with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar that it’s okay for them to continue eating fast food? Would you tell someone who’s allergic to bees that it’s okay if they stand next to a beehive as long as they only do it once a day?

The thing is, if a person has a problem, they’ll quit when they’re ready. No one can make them quit. To harass that person about it won’t help, and in fact can cause more damage. But what you can do, as a medical practitioner is inform them that their drinking habits are unhealthy, dangerous even, and suggest that they cut back, and if they can’t cut back, then suggest that they consider treatment. Then it’s up to them to decide what to do with it. And if you’re a friend or a family member of someone who drinks too much, let them know you’re worried about them and suggest they try cutting back, and if they can’t but want to, then suggest treatment. If they don’t want to, that’s on them.

Enough on that soapbox! Thanks for letting me share. Lol.

The thing is, I felt ignored yesterday. I suggested what I wanted to do for a diet plan with this client, and my classmates were like, Well this is what we’re gonna do. It touched a nerve, because the one guy in my group was informed about what deficiencies the client had based on his symptoms, rattled off something about the different metabolic pathways, remembered a bunch of science-y stuff from biochemistry, and my fear is that I won’t retain this information nor will I remember it if I do.

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The day before I’d gone on a date with a guy working on his PhD in molecular biology working on cancer research. I didn’t understood much of what he said when he discussed his work, and when I’d mentioned a few things about nutrition, he replied with his point of view as if they were facts, as if he’s the one not just studying nutrition, but having already studied it and become the expert. He mentioned he’d been commissioned as an officer, and I had no idea what that meant. Turns out he’s in the Commission Corps, which I didn’t know existed. All of it left me feeling small, stupid. Apart from his work he didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, and afterwards he sent me a text telling me I’m beautiful and sexy, and has since sent me several texts referring in some way to sex. He’s 33 years old and told me he likes older women because they’re better in bed. I told him the same is true of older men.

I’ve decided not to reply any more to him or the guy I had a date with after class yesterday. That guy was nice but something about him came off as inauthentic. He was almost too nice. His mom died about 10 years ago of cancer, and the conversation about our mothers’ deaths didn’t go in a way that felt right to me. In other words, I am following my gut feeling and leaving these two guys alone.

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Ditto for the guy I had a phone conversation with last week. I also met him through Match, and he was funny, but I just had this gut feeling something wasn’t right. He seemed like someone I’d have drank with back in the day. And that’s a red flag.

A couple of weeks ago my closest guy friend “in AA,” Spencer, decided he couldn’t talk to me anymore because he wants more than a friendship. I use “in AA” in quotes because he doesn’t really practice the program or go to meetings that much, and although I’m bummed, it’s a relief too. For one, it’s difficult to try to be a flotation device for someone who’s drowning, particularly when you aren’t the best swimmer yourself. And another, maybe it’s just not right to be friends with someone who wants more. This was one reason I didn’t have close male friends before Spencer and my other friend Kevin. Kevin also wants more, but says he’s okay with just being friends. I don’t want to cut off the friendship because he’s a good friend but at the same time, am I doing him a disservice? If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t even hang around a guy who I liked for more who didn’t reciprocate the feeling. This is why it’s best for us girls to just stick together.

Kevin hurt my feelings last night, joking about how long it was taking me to cook dinner, as we often do with each other. We always joke in that mean sort of way, like the characters on “It’s Always Sunny,” or my dad and his friends, insulting each other, and while this wouldn’t work with my female friends, or maybe it would now depending on what and how it was done, it’s hilarious to us. Until last night when I thought he was for real. I was already feeling sensitive, wanting to cry, but I didn’t want to cry in front of him because I just didn’t feel like going there. The problem with that is this is how you develop closer friendships. By opening up and letting yourself be vulnerable. I don’t know if that’s a good idea with Kevin given that he’s interested in dating me, so I’ll let myself off the hook.

Another mental note I made for myself was the two times I went out with the two aforementioned guys, I was in an awkward position of saying yes because it’s my default reaction to be a people-pleaser. The PhD guy asked at the end of the date if we could go out again and I just said yes. How does one say no in that situation? Then the second guy asked if I wanted to continue the coffee date by going somewhere else to eat, and I said yes even though I didn’t want to. I decided if these kind of situations come up again I’ll say, “I really had a good time but I’d like to talk to you on the phone a couple more times first,” or “I have other plans,” or “I’ll be in rehab for the next year,” etc. Anything. I could tell the guy I’m alcoholic and I’m twice divorced. That I have explosive diarrhea and need to go home immediately. Lessons to be learned, my friends. Note to self: be prepared to say no.

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To top it all off, as soon as this semester ends I’ll be flying to Georgia to take my 95-year-old whippersnapper of a grandmother to Albuquerque to see my sister and her kids. Y’all, this trip is gonna be like an updated version of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (by Flannery O’Connor) except hopefully no shooters (didn’t the Misfit have a gun?). Hence, I am stressing.

Also, my ex-husband texted to say he’s in DC this week for work and wanted to know if I wanted to hook up with him. Lord help us all. There’s a man out there who I will love and who also loves me for me and doesn’t think of me as a good piece of ass. I just haven’t met him yet.

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St. Patrick’s Day has had me thinking about the last time I drank, in Savannah with my second husband and his parents, when I got so drunk I felt like I’d die the next day. I’m so glad those days are behind me.

Off to work now but first I want to say that I’m grateful for the life I have today. I’m glad to be sober, to be dating, to be attractive to guys, to be able to choose, to have an opportunity to take my grandma to New Mexico.

Peace and love,

TCH

One Day at a Time

Lately I feel like my old self, and I don’t like it. Not my old old self, the one who felt borderline suicidal and drank to drown my feelings, just my regular old self, the one who felt pretty okay most days but not deliriously happy every day like I did when I was taking Prozac. I get that feeling deliriously happy is not natural, but I liked it, gosh darnit.

I’ve been busy even after school let out a couple weeks ago, mostly with my new boyfriend, Mark, who I’ve told y’all about. Our relationship has become more comfortable and familiar, and he’s brought out parts of me that needed to come out, such as the importance of using my voice. He encourages me to speak my mind, and has no problem if I’m unhappy with something, even if that includes something about him or our relationship. It’s so refreshing.

And he’s the only guy I’ve ever met who I feel would be a great dad. The only one. Honestly.

The idea of having kids terrifies me. I’m almost 42 years old. I’ve been tired my whole life—at least until I discovered Rebbl coffee reishi drinks which are AMAZING btw and have NO sugar (you have to get the reishi one). And the thought of having even one kid exhausts me. But do I really want to miss out on that huge part of life? And honestly y’all, the thought of any change in my life terrifies me—especially this upcoming career change.

Right now I won’t go into the details about it all because I’d just be feeding the wolf that wants to spiral out of control down a path of an unknown future that probably won’t even happen. It’s just hard not to project into the future and want to know how this is all going to play out. But I will say this: for me it’s hard to imagine having both a kid and a husband. When I was a kid I imagined a future as a single woman living as a writer in NYC. Now that I’m older and prefer the—well, the suburbs really—I’ve imagined my future with a partner, hopefully a husband but a live-in boyfriend would probably be okay as long as I had faith that he’d stay with me. My fear of abandonment gets triggered easily, and my heart hurts to imagine the reality that there are no guarantees, even if you’re married… Anyway, I’ve also imagined a future in which I have one kid and live as a single parent. And I’ve imagined a future in which I focus on my career—but let’s be real, I’m not that ambitious, so really what I mean is, I imagine a future in which I’m single and focus my free time on me time doing whatever the hell I want with my life (which in reality would be me looking for a boyfriend).

Because the thing is, I don’t know how anyone does it. I honestly do not know how anyone does anything. Personally, I’m juggling a full time job, part time graduate school, a relationship, a social life (which has dwindled down to one or two nights a week), not going to the gym ever lately, and AA (which these days is about one or two meetings a week), and one night a week of going to meditation. How the hell do other people go to AA meetings every night? How do people have children? Actual careers? And what about those people who do all of those things: a job, a spouse, children, and for some, AA. And how do those people keep their house clean?

So I’m doing what I have learned to do, from AA actually, which is to put my faith in a higher power and take it one day at a time. What is it I want to do today? Today I want to see my boyfriend and take care of him because he has a cold. I don’t know if that means I’ll be doing the same thing 10 or 20 years from now, or if I’ll be doing the same for my own child 5 years from now, or if I’ll just get a cat.

I’m off to work. My room is a mess. Maybe it will get cleaned tomorrow, maybe not.

Peace, Love, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Etc.

TCH

The Bad Breath Incident, a ‘Healthy’ Heart and Lady Gaga

Turns out I do not have halitosis, for those of you who were worried, as I’m sure you were all waiting on the edge of your seats for this news. I know I certainly freaked out after Mark broke the news that my breath was not the freshest–which, by the way, happened to be right after I’d scarfed down half a bag of flavored pretzels (yep, I did that, says the girl who studies nutrition). Turns out my breath is no worse than any other human being’s, including Mark’s. His breath totally reeked the other night after dinner. And that was the second time that I noticed that, until I thought about it and realized I’d noticed it before too, before the whole Bad Breath Incident. Only I hadn’t told him before because I’m not the asshole who tells people–especially my new boyfriend—that his breath doesn’t smell so great. Oh, don’t y’all worry. I let him know, loud and clear, that his breath was not smelling good, at all. And now that whole situation has become a funny joke between us. Thank God for that.

By the way, my dad didn’t have to get stents put in his heart. It turns out he has blockage but doesn’t need stents, just needs to lose weight, exercise, and eat healthier, so we’ll see what happens. All I can say is that side of the family has amazing genes because I don’t know how someone lives his lifestyle (heavy drinking, no exercise) for decades and has what the doctor called a healthy heart for someone his age (or lifestyle) (he’s 70). My great grandmother lived to be 102, my grandmother is now 92 (but doesn’t look a day over 80), my great uncle was an alcoholic but lived to be in his 80s…

School’s out in a few weeks—hallelujahpraisethelordamen—and I’ll visit my family in North Carolina, then I’ll visit my family in Georgia, and then I’ll finally clear out the rest of my boxes I have stored in the basement. I’m hoping to get rid of most of my stuff. After you live in a bedroom for three years with limited space for your stuff, if you’re like me, you just want it gone. If I lived in my own townhouse, it would look empty. But as it is, I look like a borderline hoarder. Ah well. Life could be worse.

My therapist and I un-diagnosed Mark with OCD, after my observations that his life doesn’t seem to be disrupted due to this disorder he claims to have, and he left a spot of toothpaste in the sink (multiple times), he did not wipe down the table after we finished eating (God forbid), and at night he leaves his clothes on the floor by the bed. Otherwise he’s just a neat freak. Which is fine with me. I love how clean, neat, and organized his place is. Can he come over and do that to my house? Since my roommate and I are never home it looks like we just camp here every now and then, which I do now, actually. I’ve never had him over at my house because I don’t want him to see how messy and unorganized it is. LOL.

I want to write more but it’s my only day off and I have an assignment due for school today that I need to work on, and my room is a mess right now which is stressing me out. And I have to get it done asap because… (drum roll, please)… Guess who’s going to see Lady Gaga tonight? Ever since watching her documentary on Netflix, I LOVE her. And I love how she has a little belly in the halftime show, like me. Along with my (occasional–as in, rarely) bad breath, acne, and other gross bodily functions that human beings get because we’re friggin human.

Love yourself. If you meet someone else who doesn’t love you for you, they can go find someone else who’s perfect, and good luck to them on that quest. Which reminds me, my ex-boyfriend sent me an email the other day–just a forward of that article that’s circulating about the sheep who recognize human faces. And that, my friends, got a click directly to the trash pile. Like I said before, if he has something he wants to tell me, he can say it directly. I have moved on. Finally.

Peace and love,

TCH

Love and War and Planet of the Apes

Last night I watched War for the Planet of the Apes with my new friends, who absolutely hated the movie. Guess they’re not into talking apes. I, on the other hand, loved it. My friends grew up watching it, had possibly seen the original in the movie theater, and maybe had a different idea of what it would be like. I had seen the TV show reruns when I was a kid, but didn’t remember the plot, just that I loved the fake-looking set with the different atmosphere look of the planet, as if they were standing on top of a papier mache sculpture of Mars like one might see in a kids’ museum.

One thing I love about Planet of the Apes is its commentary on human nature. It’s about how “animalistic” humans are, and how “human” animals are. It’s about fighting for justice for the “people,” or rather, for the apes. My sister worked in a chimpanzee sanctuary for years, so these movies have even more meaning for her. She’s seen the brutality apes have endured, having been caged in zoos, kept as pets, experimented on, used for humans’ entertainment, infants torn from their mothers…  But the thing is, people don’t just do that to apes. We do it to each other. We have been doing it for centuries, and the most obvious example is slavery.

Not to be a downer. And in my opinion we are evolving as a species, but that’s the harsh reality of what’s happened in history. It’s not just us Americans, though we certainly seem to be at the forefront. We have this idea that we’re at the top of the food chain and we’re entitled to destroy the planet and subject everyone else, animals, nature, other people, to succumb to our will.

Before you click away from this blog because you think this will be all about how bloodthirsty and ruthless humans are, I do believe we are all inherently good, and we want to do good. We have different ideas about what that means, and we don’t always act in the best ways. The Colonel wants to protect his family and his species just as Caesar does. Unfortunately, he cannot see the “humanity,” or rather–the spirituality–the spiritual nature of all beings. It’s enough to make me never want to kill another bug again. Not that I ever really wanted to do that.

On a more positive note, this movie is about love: the love a parent has for their child, and vice versa, the love friends have for each other, that a species has for its own, that a species can have for another species, so much in all cases that this individual is willing to die for it. That is ultimately what it’s about, for me. The willingness to die for a cause, for justice. I wish I had that kind of heroism and passion, but I must admit that too often I’m focused on Self.

That’s all I have to say about that for now. It’s just interesting to think about.

On a completely different note, one thing that stood out to me was my own reaction to the movie compared to that of my friends.

Recently was a comment a fellow (codependent, like me) blogger posted on one of my codependency/relationship posts, which was that she too once didn’t know her own likes and dislikes. It struck me, because I thought, Of course I know what my likes and dislikes are. I’m not that weak, or spineless, or stupid.

My therapist keeps reminding me that it doesn’t matter so much whether or not my new guy is madly in love with me—I mean, yes, that’s important at some point—but keep the focus on how I feel. Because it didn’t work out with Steven, I’m confused about what love really is. If that wasn’t love, I don’t know what is. Or rather, if it’s not healthy love, then what is?

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I’m probably just overanalyzing it. The simple truth is, I loved someone and it didn’t work out. What are you gonna do.

But it’s almost as though I’m looking for someone else to validate my feelings, my very opinions. Ugh. What a yucky realization. If he’s in love with me, then I can fall in love with him. But if not, I can not be in love with him. Tell me now if you’re into me so I can decide how I feel about you. Because when my friends hated the movie, I questioned my own viewpoint. Maybe it wasn’t that good of a movie after all. Talking apes is a bit weird, maybe a bit childish, and it’s all totally unrealistic, and the last one was better than this one anyway. Maybe my friends won’t like me that much anymore. They probably have a different opinion of me now, as someone who likes bad movies, someone who’s probably a terrible artist/writer, or really someone who’s not an artist at all. Because that would all be just absolutely blasphemous, and that person would not be worthy of love and respect.

Hahaha!

Right.

Whatever.

Different strokes for different folks.

I get to decide what my likes and dislikes are, regardless of someone else’s opinion. I don’t have to wait for you to tell me how you feel about something, or about me, before I make up my own mind.

Personally, I love Caesar. I wanted to hug little Cornelius. And I wanted to hug Maurice. I really wanted to hug Bad Ape. Cornelius made me wish I had a kitten or puppy to cuddle. Baby animals are just the cutest thing in the world. Sweet little babies. A reflection of pure unconditional love and awareness, of the way we’re born to be, before we allow pain to harden us. If we’re wise, hopefully we can learn how to allow pain to soften us. And that, my friends, is how you end war.

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The Meaning of Life, Part III

Last night there was a little frog hopping about in the parking lot of the church where I go to a 12-step meeting on Saturday nights. I almost stepped on him when he caught Jay’s eye at the same time he caught mine. Jay’s like a hawk when it comes to spotting wildlife. When we’re riding down the road, he’s already seen three groundhogs, bats, and a family of deer while I’m lost in my own world, making images out of the pink clouds before me. I love staring at the sky. It’s different every day.

So this little frog hopped right by, heading straight for impending death, towards the exit where everyone was driving their cars, and I’ve got my mini-flashlight to light the way, and someone’s like, “He’s gonna get splattered!” A couple of the other women and I decided this could not happen, so I just reached right down and picked him up. “He’ll pee on you!” someone warned. I picked up frogs all the time when I was a little girl and never once did one pee on me, but I decided to bite my tongue since this wasn’t a contest to see who was the most outdoorsy, though I’d already decided I’d won, in spite of the fact that I haven’t picked up a frog in years.

Something about picking up that frog really touched my heart. I kind of wanted to kiss his little head and tell him everything would be okay, not to be scared. His little heart was pounding in my enclosed cupped hand, where I hoped he felt safe. Imagine just walking along one day, on your way to work, minding your own business, when suddenly a giant hand scoops you up and next thing you know you’re basically teleported to another world. Turns out it was probably his home, being the woods, and I made sure to walk far enough into the woods (I hope), away from the parking lot so that he wouldn’t be tempted to go back out there and meet his death sooner than necessary. I set him down on the earth, and he just sat there, not moving. I wanted to wait and just watch him, but I decided to leave him alone. That was probably enough craziness for him for one night.

It just made me think of how small we are in the world, how vast the universe, or multiverse really, is. How can someone know for sure this is all there is just because this is all we have proof of, all that we see? This is why I don’t kill the lone ant or bug I see crawling around in my house on occasion—though I must admit that a few years ago I engaged in a battle with an army of ants who thought my kitchen was their home, and many had to die. I have to keep this blog honest. And I felt guilty since their ancestors probably had been living on that land for centuries before someone came along and built a house on it, but I was kind of like, Hey this is my house now, my turf, and there’s just not room for you, not if you’re going to eat my food and dirty the place up. Had they wanted to stay underground that would’ve been fine with me, but they don’t speak English and I don’t speak ant, unfortunately. Hopefully one day we can all speak the same language and learn to live in harmony. As it was, they were probably carpenter ants, which will destroy a person’s house, and well, sometimes it’s just a Darwinian world (and in the grand scheme of things, that probably means that ultimately the ants will win… or at least cockroaches, as we all know).

But every now and then I’ll see an ant or a spider just marching along, say, in my bathtub, and I wonder where he came from, and where he’s going. Ants can live anywhere from 15 years to 30 years, and not the 24 hours many of us attribute to the life cycle of an insect. What happens during that time? What does the world look like when you’ve spent most of your time traveling along the earth, doing your thing, helping the family, building your home, mating, finding food, contributing to the community with whatever job you signed up for. All you can see is the earth beneath your feet, and the sky’s so far away it just looks like a vast blue, pink, orange, or black, depending on the time of day. Is there an ant somewhere with a tiny laptop, so tiny humans can’t see it under a microscope, sitting in her bed banging away on the keyboard, pouring out her heart to a community of ants, pondering the meaning of life? Is there a giant creature out there observing me as I type on this laptop, someone so big that the edge of his hand looks like nothing but a star-studded sky? And maybe someone else bigger than that creature, observing him, and so on.

Did that frog go home to his family and tell tales of how he was catapulted from the parking lot to the woods, how he’d been saved by one of the benevolent humans, while other frogs ruminated over loved ones who’d been smashed by “natural” disasters, giant wheels that bulldozed right over them? Here one minute, gone the next. Maybe the frogs had such limited knowledge of humans that many of them did not believe it, only the few who’d had exchanges with humans, and maybe all the other frogs thought the believers were crazy. Yeah, right, you were somehow picked up by a giant hand. And the hand prodded at you with a giant log and a light beamed down on you brighter than any light you’d ever seen. Maybe some of the frogs make up stories because they want so badly to believe this spiritual experience, or maybe they dreamt it and thought it was real. Maybe they just have a feeling that there’s more to life than this but they just don’t know what exactly it is.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl writes about his life in a Nazi concentration camp (the italics are mine):

“But in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger… Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence… Naturally only a few people were capable of reaching great spiritual heights. But a few were given the chance to attain human greatness even through their apparent worldly failure and death, an accomplishment which in ordinary circumstances they would never have achieved… there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners.”

I would argue that anyone is capable of reaching great spiritual heights, should she want to, should she seek it, and that we are all given opportunities to turn something beautiful into life’s struggles. What I think part of what Frankl’s saying is that this opportunity becomes greater the deeper one’s suffering. Living in a concentration camp is something I can only imagine, not having lived that life, but my suffering has been just as painful for me as yours was for you.

It also made me reflect on how I approached my most recent pain, after Mom died, and the ex broke my heart. Like Frankl I began to look at it as a thing of the past, something to grow and learn from, something from which a butterfly would emerge. That helped tremendously.

Prior to that, prior to my sober life, I spent years ruminating over the meaninglessness of it all. Every morning I got up, dreaded the day before me, despised my commute into work, played a role at work all day of being normal and happy, or at least not too miserable, obsessing all day about how much I could not wait to get home and drink. That was my purpose, all I lived for.

Now when I wake up, I look forward to my day. I love my job, my co-workers, my friends. I enjoy learning about new things. It’s also nice to have a day off from work and enjoy nature. And I love writing this blog.

Today life is good, and today is all we have. Yesterday may have seen tragic times, and tomorrow may hold worse disaster—heck, right now, here today, could be hell on earth. But it’s in how we choose to approach it that matters. I have no idea if there’s a God out there watching after me, any more than that frog knows how exactly he made it into the woods again back to safety. And for all I know a snake came along and ate him minutes later. I’m not God, even for the frog. But I like to think that little frog felt safe, that he told his friends that he’d survived impending disaster, that he now had a new lease on life. I like to think he woke up today and showed more love and zest for life, and had deeper connections with his fellow frogs. That he somehow had a feeling that there’s a reason for all of this, a beautiful purpose, something he’d been missing all along even though it was in front of his face, so big he can’t even see it. And that reason is to love and grow and to make the most of today, wherever you are in life. Call me ignorant or unscientific, but I believe in a higher power, which I call God. I believe there’s someone or something watching over us all, a benevolent force that wants us to be happy. For me, if I didn’t believe that, I would see no point in any of this. That’s just me. Just my two cents. It’s not a belief for everyone, and that’s okay. Whatever floats your boat. My boss, for example, is an atheist and she’s one of the most spiritual people I know, in that she has a compassionate heart and is always kind and patient with people. I believe in good.

And that, my friends, is what gets me through the day. Belief that there’s something deeper in us all, and some of us access it while some don’t, but it doesn’t matter who doesn’t. All that matters is that I do, that I access this deeper part of myself, the soul, the collective conscious, or whatever you want to call it. And that I have gratitude for today, and an ability to turn life’s struggles into gems. It’s a crazy world we live in today with all that’s going on in the news, and I hope that America isn’t turning into a Nazi Germany, but I try to leave the politics out of it for the remaining few of you who still believe that the president is a sane and well person. Just follow my mom’s advice: do the best you can, because that’s all you can do.

I’ll leave you with this song that I sent to Jay yesterday, a tribute to how I felt last week after obsessing over… well, him really. “Flight of the Conchords” was one of my favorite shows, and I love all the characters. Huge crush on Jemaine. And I love Kristen Schaal. Can’t believe this was 10 years ago.

Peace and love,

TCH

What Really Matters

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl writes about life in a concentration camp in the Holocaust:

“In the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually… Of the prisoners only a few kept their full inner liberty and obtained those values which their suffering, afforded, but even one such example is sufficient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward life. Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.”

What I take from this is that to live a spiritual life is a choice, and it’s a continual choice, an effort one puts into life on a regular basis. For me it has to be daily, though I often go astray, especially when life is going well. It’s through suffering that I’m brought back to a place of humility, and then that I reach out and ask for help, as well as offer help, if I’m keeping my heart open.

Take last week for example. I spent the week going through the motions, doing homework, going to work, not getting a lot of writing done but some, most of it complaining about petty things that don’t really matter (most of which I did not post) instead of getting into the deeper questions. I didn’t want to do any inner work. I just wanted to finish homework so I can get through this, graduate, make more money, get my own place, and live happily ever after, right? Ha!

By the end of the week, in my head I was bat-shit crazy. I may have looked normal on the outside, like business as usual, my friends, but I’m telling you, in my head I’d had a thousand different arguments with basically the rest of the world. This person over here wasn’t doing what I wanted, that person over there didn’t respond to my texts (don’t they know who I am?), I got jealous of this other person, and another person, and when am I going to get mine? I have so much school work to do and not enough time, how am I going to spend quality time with myself and my friends plus do everything else? That dude ripped my heart out and now I can’t love anyone else and it’s all his fault, yada yada, blah blah.

It’s all total bullshit. Petty bullshit that doesn’t really matter.

Yesterday I spent the day on the river with a friend, silently resentful about all of these things, thinking, Eff ‘em all. I don’t care. I’ll do my own thing and go off on my own island and everyone else can do whatever. It was the old me. The old me crept back in, and I wasn’t even aware of it. It was a gorgeous day and I could barely appreciate it because I was so focused on where this is all going and who’s going to take care of me.

On the ride back home I told my friend about this book I’m reading, and he said something along the lines of what Tara Brach often talks about, which is this: What really matters? What is it that truly matters on a deeper level?

That’s when I realized, Oh my God. None of that stuff I just wasted the day ruminating on, building up resentments about, even matters.

Then another friend of mine spoke last night of how he can get so focused on what’s in front of him that he can’t see the bigger picture, which is why he has a therapist and a sponsor to help guide him in that.

We can choose our guides to help us along the way. I have access to my spiritual guides who help me remember to focus on what’s important. Because, let’s be real: do I really care about that little thing that was bothering me? And if so, why? In the grand scheme of things, is that truly important? What is it that’s really bothering me? What does that particular situation mean for me?

It usually boils down to this: a fear of abandonment, of being alone, forever, with no one.

But what I’m forgetting is that I have someone. I have a lot of someones, a lot of friends, and of course my sisters, and I have access to an inner strength that I can draw from at any time I choose, and I have a belief and a purpose that there’s something bigger than me, there’s a bigger picture. Which doesn’t make me or my feelings any less important or any less valid.

In Frankl’s book, he writes about how a few of the prisoners would offer some bit of hope or generosity to someone else, in spite of their own suffering. What I got from it was that this was a person who utilized their suffering to access an inner strength by showing compassion for someone else. Most people who suffered became violent or apathetic, and those who became apathetic died because they no longer had the will to live. Some of those who died anyway were able to access this inner strength before they died. My point is, it brings me back to this: How do I want to spend today? Do I want to spend my time worrying about minor things, or do I want to look at the bigger picture of what’s truly important? Relationships, how we relate to one another, how I can show love and compassion for someone else, and for myself, that’s what matters. And in finding gratitude for all the things, big or small, that life has to offer.

I’ll close with this: yesterday I witnessed a cormorant dive into the water, swim under water, catch a fish (presumably), then fly off back over the water. This is probably an everyday occurrence that everyone on the river sees happen all the time, just like the sky is something I see every day, but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating to watch. We can look at the world with childlike curiosity.

And right now, at 8am on a Monday morning, construction workers just started their work on our front porch. I hear there’s a jackhammer involved, but right now all I can hear is an electric saw while the smell of gasoline floats into my room through the window unit. Effing with my serenity as I write about birds floating over the water and let’s all sing kumbaya, folks. Hahahahaha! Good thing I woke up at 6am and meditated already this morning. Which is more than I can say for what I did last week, and you see where that got me.

And hey, if a man can survive a Nazi concentration camp, I can live through a few hours of noise pollution. And this just might be my cue to go to Zumba, another self-care/self-love act I didn’t do last week, and which I’ve been wanting to write about for ages because I love it so much. But I’ll leave that for another day.