Back to School.

February 16, 2020

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You’re studying to be certified as a drug and alcohol counselor. After 30 years, back to school. At Berkeley no less! Is this the end game: parlaying your alleged gifts as an AA speaker into a vocation? You wouldn’t be the first. In every class so far at least half the students are recovering alcoholics and addicts, like you. The others already work in the field, getting certified in order to advance their positions: in treatment facilities, government and social services, caregivers.

Your wife is at school, too, and is nearly finished getting her degree in interior design. For three years, she’s been dutifully driving to the city two nights a week. You believe part of a plan for when you’re out of the picture. A security blanket, if you will, having a job in a world she knows so well. It’s also admirable, her continuing education. That’s what people say about a thing like that; it’s the party line. Finally, you suppose, it is something to do. A learning experience, literally.

Now it’s your turn. Advertising will be what you must now call your “previous life.” After 25 years, the ad game is over, its last cards turned over. You tell yourself that counseling is the door opening and believe it, for the most part. Helping others, you think, will have meaning, and be purposeful. Shame you’ve never been particularly good at it: helping others. There are those who called you a mentor but you can count them on one hand and, being honest, you think they may have been just saying so, for whatever reason. What you hold onto, what you must in order to continue the classes, is that you can and do help people who are addicts and alcoholics. They tell you so all the time, at meetings, after you share, and this was not a place for lying.

Author’s note: Would you like to read more of this? Or maybe there is something I can help you write?

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You walk through your house singing U2 or humming the theme from I Dream of Genie. Inane or sublime, the content literally could be anything. And often is. Usually it’s just the chorus. Rarely do you even get the words right. But you sing. Your family hears you. Does it reassure them? Dad is always singing. He must be happy. Or does it make them nervous? What’s up with father? He’s out of work. He had to sell our house and rent another. Shouldn’t he be miserable? It’s inappropriate. Whistling in the graveyard is bad luck. Hasn’t he had enough of that already?

Apparently not.

You sang all the time at work. Told jokes too… all kinds of jokes and all kinds of songs. Even during stressful times. What did people think? That you were ecstatic? Or weird? Probably both.

(Author’s note: This is a small section from an autobiographical novel I have been writing for some time. It’s looking for a home. Would you like to read more? Or maybe there is something I can help you write?)

Mist

February 12, 2020

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Everyone experiences situational depression. Conflict. Unresolved resentments. Sometimes it really is just the humidity. Having a bad day. You either accept the situation or change it. Regardless, it always ends. It is not clinical. Professional help and medicine are seldom required. What you are experiencing is neither clinical nor situational. Sadness descends upon you like mist. By no means pleasant it isn’t debilitating either. You can see through it. You can operate heavy machinery. You probably won’t drink over it.

Many people insist on finding a culprit for their misery: someone or something to blame. The world is filled with people making this mistake. One feels like shit because of a spouse, a boss, a relative, a neighbor, the President of the United States. You know better than to assign blame for melancholy. Yes. You’d like to make the blues situational. Then you could rectify the situation or be its victim. For years, you were the blindfolded child swinging madly for a target. Creating situations to meet your depression was understandable… and also idiotic.

You now have healthy ways to mitigate woe. AA taught. Others you picked up all by yourself. Be of service. Go for a run. Pray. Basically, do anything but wallow in it. You cannot think your way out of depression. If anything, thinking caused it. In the wild, animals do not get depressed because they do not sit around thinking. Food and shelter is their constant priority, their only priority. Put a bear in a zoo and it becomes depressed, anxiously pacing back and forth, sullen and surly. Domesticated, it turns neurotic.

Your mother was (and maybe still is) clinically depressed. She has spent her whole life (and so yours) dealing with this problem. You read somewhere that far more women are clinically depressed than men. Maybe that’s because historically women have been domesticated more than men, anxiously pacing back and forth in their kitchens, sullen and surly in equal measures.

This too shall pass your mother liked to say, even if she didn’t believe it. But she was right. Mist or fog, it evaporates. At times you embrace sadness, its depth and gravitas. But like an old friend he can overstay his welcome. Then you have to wait him out. Drag him along on your errands. Enduring his sourpuss and cynicism. Sometimes, you might ditch him on a hike. He couldn’t keep up in the gym either. If those things failed, you brought him to a meeting, tossing him center circle with everyone else’s shit.

Relief comes. And when it does you embrace it. Sing its song for as long as you can, feel your body electrified by it. Such joy is a blessing. And fleeting. A feminine spirit, she does as she pleases. An ephemeral pink cloud, you keep the window open for her.

You do miss the excitability of grandiosity. But ridding this was a fair price to pay for the leveling of valleys. Roller coasters are thrilling but no way to live. Soberly, you tread flat terrain.

But still…

There is the matter of your lesser addictions. Gluttony. Lust. It’s paradoxical, leaning in to them while turning away. You cannot resist the siren’s song.

(Author’s note: This is a small section from an autobiographical novel I have been writing for some time. Would you like to read more? Or maybe there is something I can help you write?)

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I’ve parlayed my passion for freshwater and saltwater aquariums into a YouTube channel: Lush & Salty Aquariums The channel is only a few weeks old – a wee fry. But I’ve been going at it pretty hard. Labor of love. Anyway, You Tube says I need at least 100 subscribers before they’ll really lets me use the platform. Will you help a fish nerd out? Just go to the channel and hit subscribe. Lush & Salty Aquariums

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Two giant companies are merging into a behemoth. They hire me to write a manifesto honoring the union. It must be celebratory but reassuring too. People from both sides are scared, fearing redundancies. The new sales force needs a clarion.

I ask to be paid a modest sum. The project manager counters but promises more work if things go well. Work is scant. I’m hungry to write. And this assignment is in my sweet spot.

Over the course of two nights, I write like a man possessed. I read the mantra over and over, barely whispering, making sure each word sounds just right, feels right, is right. Changing a pronoun. Altering a line break. Technically, a word is just a little thing. But each one is in fact a puzzle piece. They either fit together properly or they don’t. It’s hardly the Iliad. But it’s what you do.

Finally, I press, “send.” And off it goes into the ether.

If you would like to see what I wrote or want me to write something for you, hit me up. I’m ready, willing and super able!