August 16, 2012
Today marks my third soberversary! WOAH.
It has been 1,095 days since I stopped conveniently excusing my thoughts, my words, and my actions. It has been three years of conscious self-reflection. Three years of rewriting my story to make the part where I was an lost little drunken fool fit in.
Today is my third sober birthday, and I am damn proud of me. Conversely, I feel a need to self-deprecate a bit, since our culture finds shame in self-celebration, so I ground my little party balloon by pondering improvements.
Every year on new years, I (like a few million other Americans) set a resolution for myself. Something completely achievable, but not necessarily simple. I suppose 8 months out, on this particular day of personal celebration, is a fair time to analyze my success; if any.
My 2012 resolution was: Question your true motives.
This has actually been a bit of a theme since I quit drinking. After years of drowning all negative skeptical emotions in whiskey, hiding behind a partygirl persona; getting to know yourself is actually really fucking hard. All the standard existential questions apply, times a thousand: WHO AM I??? WHAT DO I WANT?? WHAT AM I EVEN DOING AND WHY???
I’ve said before that I spent the first 6 months without booze in a cocoon, which helped me get my bearings. I sorted through a lot of that maudlin loathing, and learning to love myself (ick. Cliche alert). This year I decided to take it to the next level by getting into my own head.
Truth be told, the most challenging part of sobriety has been interpersonal relationships– learning to socialize without imbibing, and learning to communicate without emotionally dumping, then apologizing the next day “for whatever I said.” The challenge has lain in finding self-control, patience, and perspective when dealing with others. And to do all this, I have had to take a long, hard look at the things that motivate me.
As a drinker, anyone who knew me will agree, I was rash, impulsive, and unwilling to negotiate. In sobriety, I have found that those qualities cannot be attributed to alcohol alone. It’s hard not to fall back into a depressive mindset when you realize you can be a total asshole sometimes without even knowing it. In 2012, I resolved to be more honest with myself about why I behave the way I do, and I’ve so far concluded only that we humans are petty, silly creatures.
Or maybe it’s just me! I don’t know…
A lot of the time, I find that my root motivators are selfish. My mind wants to act out of desire for personal gain, and react to envy. Which is the worst kind of emotion. I don’t understand WHY. It would be easy to blame corporate capitalist culture, to point fingers at consumerism and society’s emphasis on status. To say I was indoctrinated with the mindset of self-interest from birth, led by a carrot-on-a-stick toward the idea that I always deserve more. But I think that misses the point; and anyhow, becomes irrelevant because, the more you think about things, the more cyclical they become. At the end of the day, it’s not just me, but 7 billion+ humans acting in their own best interests.
So then I hit this catch-22. Where does self-preservation end, and self-interest begin? In the first world, it’s not realistic to say that food and shelter are our only survival requirements. Maslow’s hierarchy confirms, feeling whole in this society means one is physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially content. On any given day, I would say I’m between 60 and 90 percent there.
Now I am splitting my deeper desires into “wants” and “needs,” it becomes confusing which is which. It’s everyone in competition, so why not get your slice (or 5) of the pie? And then you look around you, and there are all these people with what you perceive as more than what you have. Before you can stop yourself, you’re wondering which of you is really more deserving.
This is when I start to feel like a guilty jerk again. Jealousy is so hard to free your mind from, it grabs hold and gnaws at the frontal cortex. It becomes a motivator, much like one of those parasites that makes snails into suicidal zombies. All of a sudden, you’re in the middle of plotting a bank robbery, and you’re like “wait, why?” Because I need a private jet and my own island nation?
So, I’m working on it. I’m getting better at checking my true motives, and curbing myself when I recognize that I am acting out of envy, rather than self-preservation. I think that’s the best one can do, apart from becoming a cave-dwelling buddhist monk. I’m realizing that life is a constant state of negotiating my “needs” with the “needs” of others, and learning to not get so offended when my toes get stepped on. Sometimes, your lines in the sand need to be just that– arbitrary and moveable. Sometimes you need to compromise on your principles, and pick your battles. Sometimes you just need to stop being such an asshole.
Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously.
April 6, 2012
A few weeks ago, a couple friends and I did that thing where you pull one card out of the tarot deck and read it. It was fun, so we decided to do a simple 3-card reading for each of us. We went in a circle and picked another. Then another. In a 3-card reading, the first card represents your past, the second card is your present, and the third card is applicable to your future. I was honestly surprised by how relevant our readings turned out. As one example, a friend who recently gave birth to her second child selected the ten of cups as her “present” card. This card indicates familial bliss and domestic harmony.
My reading went like this:
10 of Wands
5 of Cups
5 of Swords
(From the Golden Tarot, the deck we used for our reading: http://goldentarot.com )
Past, 10 of Wands: A downcast man struggles with a burden of ten wands. Nearby are three heavy sacks as though waiting to add to his burden. A high wall is behind him, but ahead is a beautiful city with a harbour surrounded by protective mountains.
Take care not to take on more than you can handle. Spreading yourself too thin could lead to an emotional and spiritual low. Hidden forces may be working against you. Take care that your trust is not misplaced
Present, 5 of Cups: A Pope sits on a chair despondently resting his chin on his hand. At his feet are five cups, two of which have fallen over. A priest tries to comfort the Pope, and a black angel floats mournfully in front of him. There is a column with a carving of God admonishing Eve as Adam sleeps after “eating the apple”.
To have tasted from many cups, and forgotten the sweet wine – recalling only a bitter aftertaste. Jaded cynicism and disillusionment. Regret, anger and bitterness. The ending of a relationship. Loss, sorrow and grief. Depression. This card warns of a tendency to focus on negative memories.
Future, 5 of Swords: A man stands holding three swords. Two more lie at his feet having been discarded by fleeing opponents. He looks saddened, as though it was a hollow victory. At his side stands a large white attack dog.
A failure or win against an unmatched opponent has left you demoralised. Trickery, manipulation and unfair tactics have been used against you, but you must accept the outcome and move on.
When you approach a tarot reading, you are supposed to have a clear inquiry. Because we were sort of just playing around at first, I didn’t come to the table with a definitive question; still these cards were speaking to the uncertainties deepest within my heart. My friends found their readings relevant and entertaining, then carried on with the evening. I, however, was captivated. I analyzed the cards and read their interpretations, and analyzed again.
By my interpretation, the cards said something like this:
You have carried a number of cumbersome emotional burdens through life, and it has been overwhelming at times, but the promise of something much better has always pushed you to persevere toward that golden city (pictured on card). Now, you feel jaded and unable to enjoy reward. Experience has left you focused on betrayals and consequence. You believe you, like Adam, were removed from the existential Garden of Eden by the actions of another. And, like the Pope in the image, it has become hard to appreciate the three full chalices, in light of the two which have spilt. If things continue as they are, you will likely experience a hollow emotional victory. You may have exposed those who hurt you as manipulative and wrong, but ultimately, it doesn’t change the past or make you feel any better.
There are people from my life who I am immediately able to associate this reading with. People who regularly occupy my thoughts. People I trusted wholeheartedly, who deceived me, then did it again. People for whom my heart struggles with magnanimity.
I suppose everyone has experienced this at one point or another, but there are people who I have removed from my life due to their repeated deceptions. And betrayals from others which I dwell incessantly upon, in spite of my best efforts for genuine forgiveness. These are people with whom I shared countless laughs, adventures, and experiences, yet the relationships have become colored by resentment. It becomes hard to keep a sense of cynicism at bay. My defenses are alerted, constantly second guessing whether I am being protective of myself, or simply sanctimonious.
As my mama bear says: Would you rather be right than happy?
If nothing else, this reading gave me a lot to think about. The predicted feeling of hollow victory really resonates.
Righteousness may feel empowering, but at what cost? What is the value of upholding consequence? When we feel an ethical contract has been breached, or as though we have been “disrespected,” when do we stand our ground, and at what point do we concede for the sake of amnesty?
September 13, 2011
When I was a teenager, I was angry. Even though I felt very special and unique at the time, I realize now that I was a less-than-impressive example of every teenager ever. Nobody understood me. I didn’t understand the world. Everybody sucked. Everything was all fucked up.
In adulthood, most of those feelings still reside within me. But now, I can’t get angry. Not the way I used to. It doesn’t manifest. I can’t just fly into a blind rage, shouting and punching and breaking things. I don’t have it in me, and I don’t know where it went.
These days, I experience a wide range of emotions– anger representing only a tiny fraction. Instead of just green and red, I operate within a whole spectrum of chartreuse and maroon feelings. I wade through this rainbow cacophony of emotions, perspectives, and events, attempting to sort out where in the void I am even standing. It’s nearly a miracle if I can use “sad” “angry” or “happy” as adjectives. Usually it all mixes into this ubiquitous tear-stained brown.
How are you feeling Kat? Real fucking confused, thank you.
August 17, 2011
(Sidenote: You can read last year’s “Soberversary” post Here)
Two years without booze. That’s two years of designated driving, two years of remembering every night, and two years of occasionally stopping and wondering: “WHO THE HELL IS THIS PERSON, anyway??”
When I quit drinking, exactly 730 days ago, I told myself and those around me “I definitely need a break.” Back then, I guess I would have labeled the decision as “long-overdue.” Now? Not sure there is such a thing.
I’m not one for religiosity, so I wouldn’t go so far as to call my wakeup a divine intervention, but I do firmly believe that my sobriety came in it’s due time. No late fees incurred, no interest accrued. It happened exactly how it needed to. It’s possible there’s even some mathematic explanation, the way theres math for gravity or gambling. Or perhaps there was some astrological tale of new beginnings written just for me by the larger members of the cosmos– planets and stars colliding, converging, aligning perfectly for a moment of profound influence on one tiny spirit within. Regardless, I’m grateful not only for my sobriety, but for every experience that got me here. Lost phones, loud fights, misdemeanors, hospital visits. All of it.
While I was drunk I may have said and done some stupid things; I may have hurt some people, including myself, along the way. But that’s life. With or without alcohol, shit happens, hearts break, the world moves along at a furious pace. I did some things while drinking that I would never have done sober, but just maybe all those things needed to be done. In retrospect, even the “bad” parts of our personal stories seem nostalgically accessible, don’t they?
People have a readiness to dismiss the past as gone, and to denounce who they were. I see this as a critical error in self-understanding. You can’t ever “become a different person.” You are you. You are who you have been. You are the owner of every decision made along the way.
Like a matryoshka doll, one inside of the next, we become more intricate, complex, and spacious as we grow. But inside, there is always that teeny tiny, roughly painted little you– just as valuable as every other piece. Little matryoshka you might not be as richly detailed as the outer versions, but it doesn’t belong to anyone else, doesn’t complete any other set.
Although these days, the only cocktails I obsess over are fresh juice concoctions, the only going-wild I do is riding my bike without a helmet, and the only hangover I get is from refined sugars; I am still Kat. I didn’t wake up one day, quit drinking, and suddenly become a more socially apt person who fit into a much smaller pair of jeans. Personal evolution is work every single day. Emotional, physical, and spiritual effort. There is no “old Kat,” and the drunk asshole who used to put herself in dangerous and stupid situations: that was me, not some other person who I hardly know. Even if it feels like it.
I am everything I ever have been. My resume includes alcoholic– in big black comic sans font. There is no hiding or denying it. No putting it under a more subtle somber guise. Drunk Kat looked silly, and I need to remember that almost daily. For better or worse. Because I am that person as soon as I let myself be.
O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause transform ourselves into beasts! [[WilliamShakespeare.Othello]]
March 15, 2011
Recently, while discussing something or other with a long-time friend of mine, I made an off-the-cuff remark. Something so typical that I don’t honestly even recall what it was. But her response, I will assuredly not forget. Very matter-of-factly she replied: “Yeah, but that’s because you’re a pessimist.”
The words hit me hard. It was like finding the corner piece to a jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly things started making a lot more sense.
I wanted so badly to argue. To refute her analysis. To advocate myself as a shining beacon of hope and positivity. But, when it comes right down to it… I have no argument. I have no retort. I have no ground to stand on.
I am a pessimist.
This isn’t to say I think of myself as a bad person, or even a depressing person to be around (for the most part). I laugh and dance. I smile and take joy in many things. I revel in the beauty this world has to offer. I love with my whole heart.
I guess I’ve always just considered myself a “realist.”
Planning for the worst, working on contingency, and never expecting miracles. But the glass must either be half full or half empty– it’s not just half. And, to be completely truthful, when you show me a half glass of water, I’m most likely to say it’s half gone.
So. I am a pessimist. A doomsdayer. A nay-sayer.
In this day in age– this era of instantaneity, with a 24 hour news cycle and live streaming from the other side of the globe– it feels difficult to optimistically project a future. War, pestilence, and oppression abound– and maybe that is, and always has been, the human condition. But our wars are no longer fought with sticks and stones; spears; or even simple guns. The reality reflects a planet at the mercy of egotistical apes. Take that evolution.
Americans, meanwhile, are hell-bent on self destruction, as distinctly evidenced by our celebrity culture. Our perverse infatuation with not only watching, but encouraging those in the lime-light to make all the wrong decisions has reached a critical mass. Countless “celebrities” over the past few decades have lost everything to overindulgence. And everyone sits home and laughs while stuffing their faces with foods we know are killing us. Because, as I hear casually stated far too often for my own comfort, “everything gives you cancer!” Excusing away our own bad behaviors is much more simple when we can compare them with the self-negligent behaviors of others. Drugs and binge drinking are not healthy, casual sex is extremely risky, and laying in a tanning bed is FACT: bad for you.
The glamorization of morally and questionable decision-making does not bode well for our society. Gen Y, grasping desperately for idols, comes up somewhere between Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen– a tragic drug addict promoting himself successfully as an “unemployed winner.” Our culture of shameless excess is beginning to repulse me.
For much of my life, I touted myself as merely cynical. I’m realizing now that perhaps cynicism is just a symptom of an entire worldview. A helplessly dismal perspective on the universe as a whole. And I see, in the discouraged faces of many of my over-educated unemployed peers, that I may not be alone in my outlook. While I cannot speak for a whole generation, it does seem undeniable that Gen Y has quite the uphill battle ahead. Toward what end, there are no guarantees. Our culture’s self-depricating, overtly cynical sense of humor bears the brunt of harsh reality. Mama bear always says– you can either laugh or cry.
Most of the time, I am more than capable of coping with my emotions. While my initial reactions tend toward sheer negativity, I balance it out in my head. I know not everything is as bad as it initially seems. But I can’t fight that instinct which jumps to the worst case. No sooner has an idea has been conceived in my mind, than I’m on the “what if” committee throwing out disaster scenarios. Tossing monkey wrenches into the dream works.
Call me reality police.
I wake up every morning and live my day in fear of the “other shoe dropping.” Good things, in my perspective, never come without the bad. The bad is often worse than the good. Everything ends. And everybody dies… Depressed yet?! Sheesh…
Not too long ago, I read quite possibly the most beautiful and inspirational thing I’ve ever read. A fact I have been obsessing over since learning it. Billions of years from now– after the sun has flared up, incinerating the planets and unhinging our universe as we know it– the gaseous ball will cool into carbon. At the end of relative time, what was once the life-providing center of our galaxy will overzealously destroy everything it sustained, then proceed to lay dormant for eternity– forming a gargantuan diamond at the heart of our solar system.
The sun ends it’s glorious life as a diamond. For whatever reason, this brings a passionate spark of hope to my pessimistic little heart.
February 18, 2011
Self-deprecation is my security blanket, my shield, my shelter from life’s emotional storms. When it looks like someone else may have the last laugh on me, I try to ensure I get the first. Walking through life with an arsenal of one-liners aimed at myself, I am generally prepared to self-destruct and look the fool.
Because I have such a difficult time ever accepting something as-is, I can’t help but ponder the motivations behind this common coping mechanism.
Laughing at one’s own expense usually considered a sign of good-naturedness; an understanding that we don’t always have to be so damn serious. But I’m beginning to realize that it’s more of a way I protect myself from criticism than anything. I take myself down to the ground before someone else can knock me there. A strategy the emotional equivalent of playing dead.
Self-deprecating humor is an easy way to get a laugh, keep things light, and avoid delving deeper into an issue. By making yourself the butt of the joke, it seems like nobody gets hurt. For me, being ready to concede some level of defeat right away is effective, firstly, because it allows me to stay within my comfort zone. I live within myself and like to think I know my strengths and weaknesses. Joking on my gullibility, my perpetual tardiness, or my inability to perform simple mathematical functions hardly bruises my ego because these flaws fit my perspective-of-self very comfortably. We can joke on these things all day, I’m ready for it. But then there are other aspects of myself that I find myself rigidly not amused by. If a joke is made on, say, the way I drive my car, I don’t find it particularly funny. In fact, I may get upset in a way that seems relatively out-of-character.
Humans notoriously use humor to deflect negativity. People love a clown– laughing at something together is unifying. Bringing happiness can be addictive; an escapist method of diverting focus from the tragic, or simply mundane aspects of life. Using one’s self as the punchline is simple, effective, and seemingly harmless. But is it? Perhaps it’s no coincidence that some of our most beloved comedians were actually depressives and drug addicts.
With all the focus on romance this week, what with Valentines Day and all, a pontification on this purely human phenomenon from yours truly was largely inevitable. Dissecting the most opaque human emotions is something of a past time (or, more likely, a neurotic obsession) of mine. My primary observation is that society at large has shunned Valentines Day, replacing the sappy sentiments the greeting card industry imposes on us with a harsh dose of snark. I’m no advocate of bastardized, Hallmarked holidays, and it’s been a long time since I celebrated February 14, but what does the perceptible disdain for romance say about our society? Where along the way did this celebration of love become a day of self-loathing, guilty eating, and trying our very hardest to not be disappointed with just about everything? What does it mean that it is more socially acceptable to say “I Love Blowjobs” on Valentine’s Day than “I Love You?”
The line between self-deprecation and cynicism is a fine one. I’ve noticed a cultural trend toward this type of personally undermining comedy and, although it gets a laugh, I wonder if it’s not indicative of an entire society deflecting insecurities. A whole generation who need to be capable of laughing in the face of any number of the harsh realities broadcast into our homes. Homicides, genocides, rape, and hate. We are all acutely aware that our planet could be blown to bits at any moment were an “international leader” to simply go off the deep end… not that human beings are volatile creatures or anything…