Smells Like Teen Spirit

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.

Thank you all for attending my first rebirthday party! As this is my virtual AA meeting, I must warn you that today I am going to be shamelessly celebrating the life and times of booze-free Kat.

August 16, 2010 marks exactly one calendar year since my last alcoholic beverage. That is 364 days longer than I ever anticipated, and, as cheesy as it sounds, I honestly find myself grateful for each one more than the last.

To be clear– I am in no way against alcohol use. In fact, I love alcohol. Unhealthily. I have no problem with my friends enjoying cocktails, or even getting wasted. I can still go out and have a good time, and completely understand the enjoyment people get from having few of those socially lubricating beverages. I am not here to preach, guilt, or otherwise pass moral judgements.

"Yo Ho Hoe & A Bottle of Rum 2008"

Nor am I going to lament here about the person I was. Dragging her down at this juncture is redundant, and a disservice to who I’ve been. She was just lost up Jack Daniels Creek, and too drunk to paddle home. She was not a monster, but a tragedy steeped in cheap wine. I am not angry or embarrassed by her, I’m just glad she was able to help herself before nobody could.

Today is about how far I have come in the past 52 weeks. For anyone who responsibly enjoys alcohol, it may be difficult to comprehend the hold it can have one’s life; the blindfold it ties on one’s spirit. Alcoholism doesn’t breed weakness, weakness breeds alcoholism. I was looking for something to feel complete, but settled for feeling nothing at all.

Day one was full of tears and regrets. Actually the entire first week, maybe even month, was that way. It was a revelation: a sobering shot of reality after a long stretch of blackout oblivion. I realized at this time that everyone who had stuck around through the years– those I am fortunate enough to call my friends and family– loved me far more than I loved myself. They were watching me fall hard. Over and over again. Trying to reach for my hand, but being denied every time. I was fine. Sure, I could help myself.

What can I say?

I’m a redhead. An Irish girl. A fire sign. Year of the Tiger. [excuse excuse excuse]

We don’t take kindly to anyone’s advice, however well-intentioned. I do things my way. I slip and fall. Every lesson is learned the hardest way possible.

But I’ll be damned if those lessons don’t have some staying-power.

From August to December, I entered hibernation. I was depressed, I really hated who I had been, and wasn’t sure who I was. I had a lot of broken bridges to mend, a lot of mental fog to shake, and a lot of self-worth to replace. Reflecting on it, perhaps hibernation isn’t really a proper term, as I was far from dormant. It was more of a cocoon; the first step in a major metamorphosis.

The winter time usually brings on a bout of depression, but this winter it was different. Although it felt like I kept pushing to the top just to watch life roll back down, I was still able to keep a smile about it. New Years Eve, for once, seemed to mark a real change.

2010 was decidedly about potential. It was about taking care of Kat. I was eating better, getting my reprehensibly-neglected finances in order, and coming to terms my mistakes. In the face of everything that was wrong, I was able to stay focused on what was right. A monument in my sobriety.

Winter turned to spring. I fell in love. I began to write again.

At the onset of summer, I had a second revelation. As I lay in bed one Sunday morning, calculating the proximity of the nearest liquor store, it dawned on me that the booze was never going to fill the hole. There was nothing “wrong” at the time, I simply wanted to drink. To self-destruct. I realized in that moment that all the love given to me was meaningless if I just let it flow through, even more-so if I diluted it. The stopper in my existential black-hole was not just love, but love for myself. This revelation, as important as the last, has since been my guiding light through some dark moments of weakness. It put into perspective my expectations of others, and serves to remind me that this life is mine.

So, today I throw myself a party. Because nobody else will be, or should be, celebrating as much as Kat. I am one year into being the person I want to be; a person whom I love. The insecurities are still there, painfully obvious to me at all times, but I’m no longer afraid of them. The reasons I drank still haunt me, but I see those ghosts becoming old friends. Although it is still a struggle, leaving my crutch at the door (some days especially), I have never before felt so happy, beautiful, or positive about the future.

And today, that is enough reason to stay sober.

We Need to Talk.

June 4, 2010

“We need to talk.”

To many, this simple phrase strikes jet black fear into the depths of the soul. It’s a combination of words that quickens the pulse; sets the mind racing; and can deliver one into cold-sweatsville, USA, almost instantaneously.

But… why?

How is it that this seemingly innocuous phrase has become the linguistic kiss of death? Why are we so afraid of what comes after this clause?

And more importantly, why are we so afraid of each other?

Social constructionism is a sociologic concept which seeks to explain human action and interaction within an objective frame. Under the umbrella of this concept, nothing a person does is an isolated action, no action is without consequence, and reality is made up as we experience it.

For the sake of brevity, it’s essence is consensual reality– the idea that the reality we experience is not a fact, but merely the agreed upon understanding of the things those around us see, do, and say.

To bring it out of the conceptual realm, “we need to talk” is a perfect starting block for discussion on consensual reality (no ironic pun intended). This phrase is so greatly feared because we all assume that following these words will be something we do not want to hear. Why?

In everyday conversation, people do not preface their statements with the expressed desire to exchange dialogue. “We need to talk” is a preparational statement. Right away, the discussion becomes out of the ordinary. Right away, the conversation has deviated from standard protocol.

So why even use this phrase? Why not just start talking?

Because disrupting the status-quo is so hard. Usually “we need to talk” is used when the issue at hand is not explosive. It’s a comfortable segue into uncomfortable conversational territory. Often, though, instead of this phrase preparing the other person for a dialogue, it puts them immediately on defense.

Unlike many, however, I welcome others’ need to talk. I open my arms wide to two-way exchange. I revel in our ability to co-create consensual reality, and I’d like my reality to be as cohesive to those around me as possible. Dialogue is arguably the most powerful tool we have for social construction; as direct a line between two people’s brains as is humanly possible.

The major factor here, of course, is that “we need to talk” is a set up for something you feel that the other person will not want to hear, or will not take well. But what is so scary about knowing what someone else really thinks? Are we all so brainwashed and watered down in the PC era that honesty is out of vogue? That we would all rather be lied to?

I, for one, am over it. Over the facade of politeness, over the fear of opinions, over the terror people have toward their emotions. If I want to know someone, I want to know who they really are and what they really believe. If you are my friend, I want to share with you; be on the same page. Without words, we have no way of knowing each other’s thoughts, just assumptions made based on limited knowledge of one another’s social framework. I choose not to live a MadLibs life of fill-in-the-blank; and, no, I’m not “getting the hint.”

I think the root of it is, we are afraid of ourselves. Somewhere along the line, our culture imbued us with this guilt about emotions. An odd discomfort with our own feelings. Society has deemed the cornerstone of our humanity to be awkward, and we are all very quick to deny ourselves the full breadth of what we can experience with one another.

I want essence. Something genuine. I want all the cards on the table because life is too short for mysterious expectations and snowballing situations. Life is too rich to stuff any of it away. I want to build this reality together.

So, yes.

We need to talk.

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. [[TheodorSeussGeisel]]

The people I’ve known are beacons of light. Every one of them, a star– shining with varying intensity– in the night sky of my life; guiding me through the existential galaxy. Constellations of lovers, friends, and familiar faces; reminding me where I am going, how far I have come, and always, always, how to get home.

From the people who have left heavy footprints in my heart, to those who’ve merely brushed shoulders my aura, every one of them has made it real, made it worth it, and made me who I am. Without the electricity of other humans, I truly feel that this life would be meaningless.

I try my best to be all these things in return. It hardly feels like enough, sometimes. The compassion I have been fortunate enough to witness in my fellow humans is nothing short of inspirational. The collective spirit is bouncy, flexible, and incomprehensibly strong.

There are times that we call upon others for their frankness or their clemency. Times when we need an honest opinion, a helping hand, or just a sympathetic ear.

There have been times in my life where a hug has saved me.

There have been times when seeming strangers were actually the best friends I had.

One phrase I have given a lot of thought to is one I hear with incredibly frequency in the English language: “Just remember to breathe.”

I have given this sentiment a good deal of thought because it is so baseline simple, yet so profoundly elegant, that it really does merit at least a footnote in our mental manuscript. This advice is most often given to another person when they confide in us that their lives are becoming unmanageable, or out of their control. Be it relationship woes, stress at work, or financial difficulty, everyone gets to feeling overwhelmed on occasion.

When you break it down into just language, reminding another person to breathe is such an absurd thing to do. Breathing is one of the things we’ve been scheduled for on reflex. One of the few things humans should hardly ever have to think about. Yet, when I find myself in over my head, bogged down with negative though, that simple reminder somehow helps put things in perspective.

Just remember to breathe.

In the modern era, where a full time job is hardly enough, where we’re all are on-demand 24 hours a day, and where everyone expects the extraordinary, it truly can be difficult to lose sight of any purpose. As I always say, in reference to the legend of Sisyphus, it feels like rolling the boulder– you get to the top, and it all tumbles back down. Every time.

An inevitability.

There are points when this cycle becomes too much, too maddening. When the day-to-day has us ready to scream, cry, rip out our hair. Where the menial tasks begin to take over our lives and we are ready to just throw in the towel, call it a day, and give right the hell up.

Because if the car has a flat tire, the bank is calling again, you’ve been sick for a week, and the dog peed on the floor– what is the point of living, anyways??

Just remember to breathe.

This cliche’d pattern of sounds uttered from just another mass of rapidly replicating DNA is somehow consoling. It’s the lowest common denominator, breathing, it’s quite literally what keeps us alive.

But more than simply being a reminder to another human to continue their maintenance, it’s an expression of your desire for that person to stay alive, and in the moment. One breath at a time. The one thing we have to continue doing regularly, every day, is the one thing we hardly ever think about. An action we take entirely for granted.

Above and beyond it’s straightforward implication, “just remember to breathe” is a reminder of the connection between all living things; it is a suggestion to slow down and appreciate the ebb and flow; it is a prompt to surrender to the machine and, if only for a moment, to remain in the present, focusing on what one really needs. This reminder is a mainstay of Eastern religions and meditative thought, not for nothing.

In spite of what the news man tells me, humanity has not left me roughed-up along the side of the road after prom quite yet. The altruistic instincts, the sweet sympathies, and the constant cascade of loving energy I feel tells me that being part of the greater network is worth it. If I can provide for others even a small fraction of what they provide for me, I would consider this life a success.

Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again. [[L.FrankBaum]]