Pissing on Your Foot & Telling You It’s Raining

“No, I’m not drinking,” I would protest or whine or insist or yell or mutter or slur or shout or maintain or report or say or mumble or sputter or whisper or hiss……. or belch or snicker. Depended on the day and who was doing the asking.

“I only had a couple…….” I would counter or insist or demand or swear sincerely or ask or state earnestly or attest or report or mumble or sputter or whisper or hiss…… or belch. Depended on the day and who was doing the asking.

No matter how I said it, one of two things would happen:

The person would call me out on my lie — this was verrrrrry occasionally.

OR (more likely):

Their lips would flat-line, their eyes would squint, their eyebrows would furrow, and – almost invariably – they would fold their arms. Sometimes there would be an additional gesture such as an impatient foot tapping or an irate eye-roll. But usually the lips would straighten into a thin line and the eyes would squint.

People just didn’t have the patience to play the “yes you did”/”no I didn’t” game. The alcoholic or addict always can hold out longer and pull out evidence that would never be admissible in a court of law, typically beginning with the sentence-starter: “Even ask _________ [so-and-so].”

Yes. We had proof positive. And reliable alibis. And charrrrrrrrrrrrm. And puppy eyes.

When I saw the lips flat-line and the eyes squint -or ……….. no, let me derail that train of thought. I would also insist on my abstinence to sometimes two people. Did you ever do that? And BOTH their lips flat-lined and they would make eye contact with one another? Silence that said SO much. That made me feel instantly ganged up on, outnumbered, pissed off, and willing to double my efforts to persuade them to believe me.

Sometimes I would see shoulders slouch back down, eyes soften, a smile ease into the flat-lined lips and warming them. I won them over. But this was rare and I knew it. But I fought that fight every time. Trying to win them over.

I’d take the proverbial piss on their feet and tell them it’s raining. I’d tell them to ignore the temperature – ignore the sunshine and there being NO clouds in the sky – and ask them to ignore the color yellow. It’s raining. It’s supposed to be happening. You’re supposed to have wet feet. Everyone has wet feet this time of year! And they would walk away with their wet feet ska-winching in their soaked sneakers, smiling and thinking this was normal. I persuaded them. Sometimes.

The squint. The flat-lining lips. I kept insisting.

Those empty bottles under the table cloth of the end table? They are someone else’s from before. My staggering? I stood up too fast and my blood pressure is low and how DARE you pick on me about a medical condition I can’t control. The smell on my breath? You’re imagining things.

Oh, yes. I’d boomerang any evidence so they would question their own judgment and sanity, and in the end they would feel guilty for having tinkered with such a nice lady like me.

“You’re as sick as your secrets,” they are wont to say in Al-anon. And they’re right. And I had a million secrets stacked on secrets shoved in drawers between secrets shoved in closets of secrets inside attics of secret basements…… I didn’t know where I kept them all and couldn’t keep them straight.

I realize just exactly how free I am today. I am relatively secret-free. Except the occasional appropriate secret such as what I got you for your birthday (you’re going to love it) and what I did the other night ……… ’cause nice girls don’t kiss and tell. And sometimes they do nothing, but they don’t need to advertise that either.

I am free. I can look people in the eye. I don’t have to hesitate before answering questions, trying to remember what I told them last time or what I told this person’s spouse because I need the lies to be consistent…………. I am not accused of anything. I don’t need a defense today. I’m free. I’m out of the prison of my own making.

They say to “live like someone left the gate open” (and the saying is superimposed over a spritely little puppy in running joyously in midair). I hope to do that. But for now, I’m just happy that I left the gate open and I’m out and about. Free.

10 Years Ago Today…….

Ten years ago today was New Year’s Day 2003.  I woke up in disappointed, discouraged disbelief that I had thrown away two months just a mere 8 hours prior.  I swallowed rum, Vanilla Extract, and  NyQuil with a chaser of Listerine.  I descended on these things like one-woman pack of hyenas on a carcass.

Struggling with sobriety, I went to a first meeting following my relapse.  People said “Hi, how are you?” and I answered.  I spoke slowly and methodically, bracing myself for a look of disappointment, discouragement and disbelief.  I saw none of that.  What I saw was encouragement.  I was embraced not disgraced.  I was encouraged not discouraged.  I was believe in and not disbelieved in.  While I didn’t have “approval,” I didn’t have disapproval.   I was appointed to the potential for a new way of life – not disappointed.  I left there feeling stronger.  It sustained me for a while longer.

By the time the spell started to wear off, by the time the strength had begun to ebb, it was time for another meeting.  Day two.  After that spell had started to wear off, by the time the strength had begun to ebb, it was time for another meeting.  Day three.  Etc.

Ten years ago today I had a one-bedroom apartment, and it felt empty and lonely and brimming with anger.  Today I live in a three-bedroom house with a family and it feels full and lively and overflowing with love.  Ten years ago today I had newly declared bankruptcy.  Today I can pay my bills; it’s a struggle, but today I’m not standing next to a stray dollar on the bar wondering if the bartender will think it’s mine and get me a draught or whether she’ll realize it was her tip from someone else.  Ten years ago today I had shaking hands.  Today I don’t have the hands of a surgeon, but nor do I feel like people are staring at me and seeing how awake and angry my nervous system really was.  Ten years ago today I had little hope for the future.  Today I know that each day keeps getting better and can’t imagine it being better than today.

My dad called me this morning to wish me a happy anniversary – and a happy new year.  I couldn’t believe he remembered.  But like my friend Joe said, “How could he forget?”

 

Gratitude List – In the Aftermath of Sandy Hook

I know that through the years when I have complained about everyday things, people from the program have told me there is always someone who wishes they had my “problems.”  For every day I wanted to lose weight, there is someone who wishes they were as “fat” as me.   For every bad day on the job, there is someone who really wishes they had a job.  For every day my son annoyed me, there was someone who wished they could be with their son ……. and  so forth.

I reposted a blog the other night, “What Six Looks Like.”  It was eloquent and if you get a chance, please read it.  What an amazing writer.

I can’t possibly touch that.  But have a lot on my mind about it.

That fateful Friday I heard about it at work.  Another school shooting.  A coworker stuck his head in my office door and asked if I had heard.  I shook my head and listened attentively.  He shook his head, ” An elementary school, ” he muttered.  There were no numbers.  No ages.  Another school shooting.

When I got out of work, I turned on the news.  Six-year-old’s.  At that point, they were not sure of the numbers.  They showed parents crying and still shots of kindergartners being led out of the school by police.  One line showed the kids single file, their hands on each others’ shoulders.  It looked like a field trip or a fire drill, just that ordinary.  But that one girl in the middle with the horrified look on her face, the one with her mouth wide open like she was screaming ……..

Then there was a story about a teacher hiding her students in a bathroom and huddling with them.  The teacher said some of them cried and said they just wanted it to be Christmas.  They just wanted to be home.  That tore through me.

I went and picked my son up from school.  It looked so normal.  My heart burst with gratitude.  My heart burst with gratitude that I picked him up uneventfully at the end of the day and it never occurred to me that day to wonder if he was safe or okay or ……alive.   I wanted to kiss my nine-year-old boy, but he would have hissed, “MOM.  You’re EMBARRASSING me.”  Showing restraint, I smiled adoringly at him and smoothed his hair before walking him home.

The news reports continued.  Parents were gathered to be reunited with their children.  The news stated that some lingered half an hour after the last pupils left and finally someone told them, “If you have not been reunited with your child by now it’s already over.”  I cannot imagine hearing those words.

Years ago, I signed the papers to have my beloved cat euthanized.  He became ill very suddenly, very unexpectedly.  He was my cat for more than 10 years.  I signed those dreadful papers and ran out without the cat-carrier.  I heard a lady yell, “Miss?”  I walked faster.  Eyes locked on the door, I hightailed it through the lobby fighting tears. I couldn’t – could NOT – carry that  empty carrier.  THAT was heartbreaking.

But?

It can’t possibly hold a candle to leaving some place without your child.  It can’t possibly hold a candle to hearing that news – and that news delivered so callously!   It can’t possibly compare with hearing the news that my son’s school is being shot up, breaking the sound barrier driving across town, expecting to see him  or her rattled, expecting to give him or her a HUGE hug and take them home and give them a bubble bath and their favorite toy and a hot dinner and ……… How do you go home so abjectly empty-handed?      So horribly empty-hearted?

My son got the biggest hug that night.  The biggest kiss, too.    Many times over.

I was glad there was balled-up, dirty socks on the floor.  I was happy to swipe a sponge over ketchup streaks on the counter.  I was delighted to tell him to pick up his damp towel off the bathroom floor – in a flat and even tone……not the usual frustrated burst of aggravation that comes with saying it a kazillion times.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude looking at his Christmas presents  stashed in my closet and knowing he would be here to open them on Christmas morning.   My anxious glances at my bank statements this month seem so foolish now.

I cuddled him and he tolerated it.

I cried.  I don’t usually cry.

My son said, “But mom?  You cry once a year.”

And here I was crying for the children whose lives came to a screeching halt, crying for the teachers who huddled with children and protected them – the way we hope they will as strongly as we hope they never have to, crying for the parents who have to go home without their child, crying for the town that has to grieve together, crying for the children who made it out and who will never be the same, crying for the adults that died protecting those kids, crying for the gunman and either his severe untreated illness or his blackened soul, crying for the gunman’s family – the family who watched this boy grow up and had more idealistic dreams for him than this,  crying for the parents who had more idealistic dreams for their 6-year-old’s, crying for the parents who wished they had been there to protect them, crying for the grandparents and aunts and uncles and siblings……….. just crying.  I couldn’t stop.

My son asked what was wrong – he didn’t know yet.  I paused, wondering if I ought to tell him.  My snap decision was to tell him the truth, to emphasize how unusual it is, to underscore how safe I believe his school to be ……… and silently remembered how safe everyone thought Sandy Hook to be.  I repeated how safe I believed his school to be.  I was reassuring, sad, but not hysterical.

So my gratitude list for that day and the subsequent days is very long.  I’m grateful for cooking my son dinner even when I don’t feel like it. I’m grateful for balled up dirty socks on the floor, streaks of ketchup on the counter, empty soda cans that I had not given permission to be emptied, damp towels on the bathroom floor …….. and all of the joy I get in exchange for these small irritations.  There are multitudes of people out there that would love to have my aggravations.  Only they’re not aggravations today.  They’re very dear to me.  Very dear indeed.

God Bless you, Newton, CT.  God Bless you.