Hiatus

I’ve decided to put the blog on hold for a while.

Really, it took a friend talking to me about an unrelated subject last week to make me realize that, in fact, I’ve just been sort of going through the motions for…  what, six months now, with a couple of spotty breaks in and amongst that?  That’s just not good.  I never wanted to do this sort of thing out of some sense of obligation, I wanted to post because I had stuff to say.  And coming from a guy with MY reputation as a wordy sumbitch, this has just been an unusually quiet time for me.  I’ve stopped participating in my favorite motorcycle board, I haven’t been really reading or commenting on anyone elses’ blogs, I’ve dropped off of Twitter, I’ve been slow to reply to emails (not just you guys, but hell, even at work!) – and yeah, I’ve stopped posting everything but Monday Musics.  I kept thinking if I just kept the MM momentum alive, then when I got back to myself again, it would be easier to just crank everything back up.  And that may be true, but it still leaves me going about this without the right frame of mind.  Better, I think, to just walk away and come back when the time is right.

I think, really, what it comes down to is that for the last 20 years I’ve lived my life online to a degree that is, quite frankly, kinda shocking.  First there was the old MUD, then over time I slowly began to accumulate other online homes and change my focus from one to another as the years when by:  a couple of online forums, Myspace, then this blog, and then Twitter and all that sort of thing.  (I’ve still resisted the pull of Facebook, that’s like the last online bandwagon I have yet to jump onto.  It’ll probably come eventually, but not quite yet.)  For whatever reason, lately, I just…haven’t…been…feeling it.

I’ve gotten just plain old tired of sitting in front of a computer screen, to a level that I haven’t in a long, long, long time.  I’ve been blessed with a cornucopia of wonderful online friends over the last two decades, definitely and prominently including several of you fine folks.  But I have to be honest and admit that I’ve often done so to the detriment of forging real bonds with people I can see face-to-face.  I’ve let the internet be my support network.  Which is fine, but not as one’s ONLY support group, you know?

Hell, when it comes down to it, I kinda have an internet addiction.  I’m at a point at which there are big changes underway in my life, and I’m committed to being and doing better.  So one of the things I’m trying to do is get out there, spend some time with local people, and that sort of thing.  I didn’t really intend to step away from the ‘net so much, but while this has been going on, it’s sort of felt right.

I’m not dead, I’m not dying, I’m not depressed…well, I have been depressed, but I’m actually in a phase of getting better.  Much better, I think, and I don’t think I’m fooling myself to believe so.  And it’s not y’all, it’s me.  (Heheheh, had to work in a breakup cliche here!)  Y’all know I love ya.  Pretty much all of you have my email address – and if you don’t, duh, look in the sidebar! – and hell, most of you have my phone number.  Y’all can holler if you want, whenever you want.  It’s all good.

At some point, I intend to come back – when I’ve let my pendulum swing too far on the not-so-much-with-the-online-stuff side for a while and then come back to find a nice balance.  For now, though, I’m just going to walk my walk and think about it internally, and I’ll bore you all with the details some other time.

Don’t ask me why, but this song has been on my mind for a week or so now.  It feels appropriate for the moment, though, so I’m going to throw it up here as my last Monday Music for a while.

Neil Young, “Heart of Gold”

Love and serenity to all of you.

Catch ya on the flip side.  😉

TB

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Monday Music

Some days the rain and sun come together and make a beautiful rainbow.

The rain hasn’t completely died out for me – there are droplets falling all around me, on me, into me.  And not all of the droplets falling from my face are raindrops.

But even though the body of the storm is still visible on the horizon – even though there was damage done that will need to be repaired with patient labor – even though stray raindrops still fall – I’ve weathered it.  It’s done.  The worst is past.

The sun is peeking through the clouds.

And I know my rainbow is right around the bend.  I’m just keeping my eyes on the sky, because any minute it will appear.  It’s there, I can feel it.  And my feet are already working in the direction of that rainbow bridge to my magnificent future.

Led Zeppelin, “The Rain Song”

Plummeting

I’m just going to throw this out there to be evocative.  Do not take literally, repeat, do not take literally.  Everybody just go ahead and agree not to panic or call the men in white jackets quite yet, okay?

For weakness is a magnet…

Somebody told me a day or two ago that I’ve yet to hit rock bottom.  I know that’s true, and told this person so, but I said I was trying to keep the last little bit for controlled dives in my therapist’s office.

So much for THAT.

A couple of things smacked me yesterday, from first thing in the morning all the way up until midnight, and as of this morning I have to confess that, fuck, I’ve STILL got a long way to go.  There is a shitpot full of misery and anger and despair and depression and maybe still a little more anger that I think I am still not even allowing myself to take in my hands and hold, much less let go.

One day, one hour, one minute at a time I hold my shit together and do the things I’ve got to do to get through the day.  Some of those days/hours/minutes I can hold it together more tightly than others.  But, goddamn, after a few decades of feeling like shit, it strikes me this morning as fucking frustrating to blink your eyes and realize that, gee, this has not yet begun to suck.

My therapist thinks I’m doing a fantastic job.  She marvels at the progress I’ve made each time I see her.  Well, this is going to be one of those times where I take a giant step backward in order to move forward.  And it sucks that I’ll have to wait to talk to her about it.

If rock bottom is where I need to start my climb, then fuck it.  Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and take the dive.  No matter where on the cliff you are.

Damn.  Life is a hormonal bitch, and on some days, she forgets her coffee.

Monday Music

Well, I survived!  Yay!

My big speech and my big meeting are both behind me, and although I still have lots of pesky duties calling my name, in general my external stress level has gone way down.  Which leaves me more time and energy to devote to my rapidly climbing internal stress level.  But that’s why I have a therapist, right?

At least now I feel like I have a little room if I need to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war – or, more likely, cry “oh, fuck this” and slip the surly bonds of sanity, which are a bitch on the best of days anyway.  I know y’all know what I mean.

Believe it or not, I’m better this week.  I’m not as good today as I was on Saturday afternoon and yesterday after I got back from my conference – Monday mornings at work and having to deal with people can be a pain in the ass, wow, what a concept! – but I’m a little better.  And after a week off, I’ve got a therapy appointment, so that’ll be nice.  In the meantime, I’m hoping (again) that this will be my chance to get all caught up on my overdue blog reading.  I’m crossing my fingers!

This song is NOT about where I am today.  It’s about where I was last week.  But it’s an important document and I figured I’d post it – since, hell, I really don’t know exactly where I am today.  Maybe I’ll figure it out tomorrow, and that’ll be NEXT week’s MM.

Stone Sour, “Bother”

Hi, I’m TB

I have no idea where to begin with this, really.  So I guess I just start and see where I go.

For starters, I will say that this post is to a degree inspired by The Disease Called “Perfection” by Single Dad Laughing, which was luckily for me linked by Dys a while back.

Have you ever had someone describe you with uncanny accuracy – someone who has never known you?  When they can describe incidents in your past, and your reactions to them, sight unseen and story untold?

That happened to me last night.  In a 12-step meeting.

So, yeah.  That part’s out.

I’ve been seeing a therapist once a week now for…fuck, I don’t even remember exactly.  There is sort of a fog over the last month or so of my life, and so much has happened that it’s hard to keep straight.  I think the answer is “about six weeks” but it may be more or less time than that.  You see, I know I have problems.  Have known.  I think the time I made the elementary-school psychologist tear up might have been clue #1.  But swallowing my own problems and soldiering on with a stiff upper lip has always been my mantra – even when I was far, far too young to be doing so.  And, you might say, that’s the fundamental problem upon which I have since built layer after layer after layer of new ones.

Part of soldiering on was never admitting that I had a problem.  Not to anyone, and least of all myself.  People with problems are weak, I would say to myself, somewhere deep down beneath the level of conscious thought.  I’m weak enough already.  I despise myself.  I will earn my own respect by showing what I can tolerate.  The world admires – is sometimes awed by – those who can take the load, carry the weight, absorb the pain, and continue on.  I will be the exemplar of that.  That, at least, is always within my power – my ability to regulate my own response to pain.  I may not be able to make anyone respect me, care for me, love me – but I can train myself to be inured to pain.  Pain of injury, pain of loneliness, pain of indifference.

I can take it.  I will take it.  I will endure, and I will triumph when the others have been crushed by the weight and I am the last man standing.

As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working out for ya?”  Not very well, thanks for asking, and go fuck yourself.  I’m busy.

On some level I suppose I’ve known I needed therapy for years.  Fuck, decades.  But with one exception, and if I’m perfectly honest a mostly superficial one at that because it was so externally-focused, I’ve never sought it.  I didn’t want to face what I might find, what in my heart I knew I would find.  It would require that I change, and the very idea, no matter how subconsciously expressed, of abandoning the only way I’ve ever developed to cope with the world scared the holy fuck out of me.  But when you’re sitting on the floor in a fetal position, hugging your knees and slowly rocking and speaking in a voice you barely recognize as your terrified wife urges you to get help…well, maybe that’s a time to listen and get help.

I’m tempted to back up and erase that last line, but I’m going to refuse.  Because it’s the truth.

To be honest, I surprised myself with the determination with which I walked into the therapist’s office for the first time.  I walked in and said, essentially, “Hey doc, I know I’m fucked – six ways from Sunday – and I know I need to tear myself down and rebuild from the ground up.  How do we start?”  An hour and a half into my first one-hour session, I had essentially just started to outline the problem.  But at the same time, amidst all my terror of talking to a stranger and revealing my weaknesses, I felt a huge shift in the weights that I’ve always carried.  They weren’t gone – not by a long shot – but it felt different to me.  Easier in some ways and harder in others.

She looked me in the eye and told me that she strongly recommended that I attend support group sessions.  I waved her off.  Talking in front of one person was one thing, and I was stunned that I was doing that so well.  Sitting in a room of people and being open with all of them was far beyond me.  Besides, it was hard enough for me to admit I needed help enough to carve one hour (and then some) out of my week to go seek it.  Twice a week?  Crazy talk.

She reiterated her suggestion.  She didn’t insist that I go…but she did insist that I would benefit from it.  Even though we were, by her admission, making startling progress already in individual therapy (though don’t get me wrong, there is still a LONG LONG way to go – fuck, it took me 5 weeks to even get to the infamous Jamie story).  It was only when she said, “No, really, they call it a support group but it’s over 100 people in each session.  You can sit quietly and not have to talk.  It’s okay.” that I succumbed.

So a few weeks ago I attended my first a meeting of Codependents Anonymous.  I was terrified to go, beyond any rational reason for feeling so.  It was frustrating; my Google directions sent me to the wrong campus of the hospital that hosted it and I ended up arriving late instead of early, which made me feel even worse.  It was standing room only – I sat down on top of a stack of folding tables in a back corner of the room as others stood, and some dragged chairs down the hall to sit in the doorway.

And for an hour and a half I heard people talk about problems that were just like mine.  Sure, there were variances – we started from different points and moved through different points and ended at different points – but all of the paths were recognizable to me.  I had to admit that my therapist was right.  I learned a lot, I thought a lot, I felt a lot, and I knew it would be a good idea to go back.

A few circumstances forced me to miss the next two meetings, so last night was my second one.  I got there on time this time, and found that they had a packet for newbies – with the twelve steps and so forth written out for you.

This is where I had my fucking freakout moment, people.

See, I’ve read about codependency before, and I knew I probably was a codependent person, but I sort of downplayed it.  On the scale of problems, I thought, codependency isn’t all that bad.  (And compared to alcoholism or gambling addiction and so forth, I still say so.)  And on the scale of things, I wasn’t all that codependent.  Small problem, small level of affectation.  I’ll deal.  I can handle it.  “I can quit anytime I want!!”

Heh.  I figured I might as well go full monte on the cliche.

The first meeting sort of changed that.  These people took this problem seriously.  Not without humor…but they were treating it just as an addiction.  Many of the people in that room were former substance-addicts in various stages of recovery, or the children or spouses of such.  They knew how the program worked, and they were taking it as seriously as any AA or NA program.

The second meeting…when was handed the newbie-packet and leafed through it for the first time…

…fuck me.

This is where that goddamn inanimate packet held a mirror up to me and asked me, point-blank:  “Still think you don’t have a problem?  Still think this isn’t a big deal?”

I couldn’t answer.

Folks, look at that list.  Sure, everybody does some of those things to a degree.  And we all know somebody who does a little too much of them.  But it’s how many of them.  And the level to which they’re done.  I’m not the only one I know, and know well, who fits many of those patterns.  But if I’m honest, I think I have to say that I’m the person I know who fits more of them (over 75% of that list, I guarantee) and to a greater, more compulsive degree.

And if I thought the previous session spoke to me – whoa.  People to my left, people to my right, described situations that turned my stomach with their familiarity to my own.  And what happened?  I began to get angry.  With myself.  There was a moment in which I wanted to lash out, throw a chair, do something to release some of the pent-up anger and frustration I was feeling.  There were several moments in which I damn near broke out in tears – and might have, if I didn’t still have such a deep-seated aversion to hide my emotions in public and before strangers.

I also saw some hope.  Some avenues for change.  Even though they will be extremely difficult – would be for anyone, but particularly so for me.

It was only as I was leaving, though – as I got into my car and drove away – that the last wrecking-ball hit me.  I’m going to write this and you guys may think I’m being over-dramatic, but I am not.  I’m honestly a little afraid to write it because it’s so fucked up and because on some weird level I feel like somebody may lose respect for me for saying it:  but fuck it.  If I’m going to be truthful, I’m going to be truthful.

This is an example of how sick my thinking has been:  I was thinking of something another person had said inside the meeting – something drastic that made everyone else gasp (and later applaud for how she dealt with it).  I was half a mile down the road, sitting at a stop light behind the wheel of my car and I thought, “You know – there have been times that I half-wished for fucking cancer or some debilitating disease – just so I could have a reason to put down all of my burdens and take care of myself, let myself be taken care of, and just live my fucking life for the six months or a year or whatever I had left.”  Goddamn, people.  Is that some sick shit or what?

And that brought my thoughts to a screeching fucking halt.  If I’d had sense, I would have pulled my car into the nearby service station and composed myself.  But I didn’t – my family expected me home at a certain time, and I had promised to pick up milk at the grocery store, so I drove on, because that’s what I thought I had to do.  What I needed to do.  Put my own feelings aside and do what I think others expect of me.

At that point, though, it was utterly clear to me.  I have to admit it.  I have a serious problem.  I have a compulsion – an addiction to people, to use people around me in unhealthy ways in order to meet needs that I can neither express nor even admit that I have, and that are impossible for them to meet in the ways I wish.

I went to bed last night, after a shitload of journaling and re-reading my newbie packet over and over and over, feeling some sense of hope again.  You know, I’m not alone, there are easily a hundred people just in my town who are facing the same struggles – and most of them were much older than I am when they even started to try to wrap their arms around them.  I can take heart that though I wish I had done so earlier, at least I’m doing so now.

But then I dragged my ass through my morning routine, to work, and sat here to look at all the shit I have to do, and all that hope just sort of rushed out of me again.  NOW you guys see what I’ve been talking about when I mention my richly-overdue fucking nervous breakdown.

I wanted to read through my usual fluffy internet funny stuff – maybe to write, to camouflage my pain behind humor, which is what I’ve done best since I was ten or twelve.  It’s what I do best, after all – to ignore my own pain by absorbing myself in others’ lives in this way or that.  But I read the “Perfection” post and decided, NO, FUCK IT.  Truth is hard, and truth is ugly, but truth is truth.  And this is a small part of my own truth.  So I’m sharing it, however it looks, and however people feel about it.

I have a serious and enduring problem with compulsive behaviors in my relationships with other people, be they friends, partners, coworkers, family members, or others.  I have a serious and enduring problem with accepting that I am responsible for myself first and foremost – with understanding that I am worthy of the attention and affection and respect of others and especially myself, regardless of what I may or may not do for others. That my guilt over what I should do, could do, have done, or have left undone to others should not be the guiding force of my life, and should not convert into shame that makes me question my self-worth.

I’m recognizing those patterns and trying to change them.  Most of those changes, people, scare the ever-loving shit out of me.  That’s just the honest truth.  I’ve lived my life a certain way for as long as I can remember, and I don’t yet know another way to do so.  But I know I have to find one…and so I will.  And as long as I refuse to admit I have a problem, to anyone and everyone, the harder it will be to face it.

So despite the churning in my guts, I’m going to hit ‘publish’ on this one and run away before I change my mind.

My name is TB, and I’m a codependent – a codependent on the first steps down a long road to recovery.

After The Armor

I promised a long-overdue real-life TB-length post, people.  This is it.  So go hit the bathroom and top off your drink.

I was talking to somebody smarter than me last week, someone who may or may not have been (but okay was) being paid to listen to me talk and ask me questions.  Though there wasn’t a couch involved.  What a ripoff.  We were talking about a bunch of things, really, and we came around to discussing this post of mine:  Bawang Xie Jia.  It’s been almost three years and nobody’s guessed, so I’ll explain:  The title is a reference to a piece of classical Chinese music.  I’ve seen the title translated a few times, but the one I’m most familiar with is the one I used for the post, and that is “The tyrant removes his armor.”

The post is an expression of my wish to remove the armor that I have hidden myself inside for ages.  As I wrote it, I felt as though I was actually doing so.  What I was admitting to this very nice professional listener is that, despite my earnest wishes (and what I genuinely feel was one of the best pieces of writing of my entire life), I was obviously unsuccessful.

She said, “So you removed the armor.  What happened then?”

I looked at her.  “I don’t know,” I said, “honestly I took the armor off and that’s where the story ended.  I didn’t give much thought to anything else.”

She said, “The knight sets his armor aside.  What does he do then?  What’s the next part of the story?”

I sat there, dumbfounded.  I had no idea.  I’d never thought about how life continues without it.  Just getting rid of it was enough at the time in my mind.  (Never mind that I obviously didn’t do so.)

Finally she said, “I think you should finish the story.  Write it out.  That’s your homework assignment.”

“I think you’re right.  I really do need to do this.  I will.”

“I challenge you to do it.  In fact, if the old one is out there on your blog, why not put the continuation there as well?  See what your friends have to say about it.”

So I did, and I am.

This is what I wrote, sitting alone on a limestone outcropping fifteen feet above a wooded trail yesterday…

***

The warrior stands and regards his discarded armor.  Rent, pitted, rank with the filth of thirty years of habitation.  Hated and feared and needed – now lying upon the earth.

A soft, seductive voice, laced through and through with evil, whispers in his mind.  “You’re not yet done with battle, fool.  You need it still.  Take it up.  Only a fool or a madman faces life naked.”

The masked helmet grins hideously back at him.  It takes no great leap of imagination to envision the voice coming from the empty eyes behind that leering, jeering face.

Even were the voice correct, he knows that this armor is useless to him.  Never a good fit; long ago outgrown; torn and scarred through years of conflict.  And he knows better than anyone how many scars upon the armor were inflicted from within its confines rather than from without.

It’s to be a new suit of armor, then, or none at all.  He feels the scars on his body, knotted ropes crisscrossing him like bindings.  Some were nearly mortal wounds.  All obtained in spite of the armor.  The wind blows through his long, flowing hair, bringing the loamy smell of damp earth and the crisp scent of falling leaves.  Not the odor of damp metal or lacquered wood permeated with sweat and blood and fear.  He’s tried to cast aside the armor before.  Unsuccessfully.  His confidence foundered and he took it up again, binding and strapping himself inside his private prison, his walking penance.

The river is nearby.

Overcoming his revulsion to touching it again with the force of momentary resolve, he seizes the armor into his arms.  It feels strangely warm against his bare skin.  He walks to the water’s edge, wades out until the current pulls his flowing leggings away from his knees.  Piece by piece, he consigns the armor to the river.  He imagines it sinking, tumbling along as the current pulls it downstream until it finally comes to rest on the bottom, where the silt will bury it for a thousand years as it crumbles to dust.

The mask is last.  He looks hard into its hollow grin before heaving it into the air with all his strength.  In one motion he draws his blade and meets the mask midair, cleaving it in twain.  It falls into the river, riven in half, and slowly sinks out of sight into the murky water.

He wades back to the shore and cleans the water from his sword.  He holds it aloft before him:  the sword of his father, his father’s father, and those before him.  Humble warriors, but proud.  Proud to fight, proud to serve, proud to sacrifice and die.  This last most of all.  It was his father and father’s father who taught him to wear the armor.

He studies his eyes in the blade, staring back at him, regarding him, wavy with the temper of the steel.  Many would now say that, having cast off the armor, he had no right to the sword.  That casting aside the one had tainted the bright steel of the other; that he was unworthy to hold it or pass it to his own son.  That seppuku was demanded.  That he complete the ritual and close the circle by sheathing the blade in his flesh, there by the riverside.

The evil voice in his head is one of those who says these things.

He stares at the edge for what feels like hours before slowly and reverently sheathing it.  He prays briefly to his father and grandfather.  For forgiveness and understanding.  The blade will live on, will be passed to his son.  But he will teach his son a new way to carry and wield it.  To fight without armor and yet with honor – to fight with one’s whole heart and soul without fear of pain or loss or death.  To give oneself over to the edge of life.  In all things.

It is dark when he returns home.  The hearth is empty but he kindles a new fire there.  He reverently removes his father’s sword and places it in a position of honor above the mantle.  While it will remain there, ready for use, his long years of living solely by the sword and for the sword are over.  Should he need it, then his skill with the blade, forged and honed in years of battle, can and will protect him where armor could never have sufficed.

He stands, now, over the sleeping form of his son, and lays a hand upon his back, feeling the soft motion of his breath, and says another prayer.   That his son might learn from his mistakes, and grow to be a better and stronger man than his fathers before him.

Tomorrow he will put his callused hand to a plowshare; he will grasp the hammer rather than sword’s-hilt.  He will learn to grow and build rather than rend and destroy.  It will be difficult – it will be reversing the habit of a lifetime.  He will endure months and perhaps years of hardship and failure as he learns to do it correctly.  But having removed himself from the battlefield of his mind, he can see that it is now possible to make mistakes and yet survive – to make mistakes and thrive – to make mistakes, and yet prevail in the end.

He rests his head, thinking for the first time not of the fear or exultation of the battlefield, but of the small joy of a green plant pushing through the soil.

Tomorrow will bring a new life.

He closes his eyes, and dreams of rain upon his terraced fields, and his son leaning upon a plow by his side.  In his dream, both men are laughing.

Outside his dream…he smiles.

***

So.  To my mind at least, that’s the rest of the story.  Some of it I’d been flitting around in my brain ever since she said something; some of it only came out as I was writing yesterday; one particular but important line (“The evil voice is one of these”) only came out while I was typing it in just now.

I’m not 100% sure that I’ve moved far enough along in the story – surely there has to be more left to go, and I spent a lot of this just finishing the desecration of the suit of armor – but it does feel like there was a little “now what” tied up here.  I’ll see what she has to say when I see her again this week.

Clearly nobody can be completely without armor in every situation, but when is it okay?  Is it ever okay to hide behind it, if you know you’re susceptible to locking yourself away, any more than it’s okay for an alcoholic to have one little beer with the boys?  How does one really walk away from it?

In the meantime, if anyone has something to say, please do, in answer to these questions or anything else.  I feel like it’s someplace where I have a whole lot to learn, and a real need to learn it.

Thanks for listening.

He Went Thataway

[crosses his arms in front of his chest, fingers pointed in opposite directions]

I desperately want to comb through all of our MotoGP pictures and give everybody the updates on our totally awesome weekend at Indianapolis…but I am also still reeling from the deaths of Peter and now Shoya and I sort of cringe at the thought of delving back into all of that, too.

Having had physical symptoms due to stress for the first time in I don’t know how long (well, other than weight gain!), I kinda want to blab about it.  But I also want to brood in silence, and simultaneously I want to shift into chuckle-overdrive to laugh and forget all about the shit that’s getting me down.

I’m carving out a little bit of mindspace and doing a little private writing and also watching stupid TV shows and listening to lots of different music – hopefully soon I’ll also pick up my guitar – and all of this is helping me work through what’s bothering me.  More tiny steps through the mire toward the better me, right?

Sometimes this “living” shit irks the fuck out of me.  It’s a pain in the ass.   Still beats the alternative.

Thhbbbppptttt.  That is all.