Today marks my third soberversary! WOAH.

(Note: you can read last years soberversary post here, and my first one here)

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.

oh, thats a face.

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?

No!

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.

[[TomRobbins.StillLifeWithWoodpecker]]

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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.

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.”

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.

A pessimist.

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.

Shine on.

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…

For Auld Lange Syne, My Dear

December 29, 2010

At the end of each December, we in the first world feel compelled to reflect, introspect, and project into the future. We think about the past 365 days, and all the nouns and verbs that have filled them.

Our linear human sensibilities provoke nostalgia over another measured segment of a relative concept. We think back on all the promises we made ourselves 52 weeks ago, and how successfully these goals were met. Realistically, we could pick any day to start over. To get a new job, a new lover, a new home. We could select any of the 364 “other” days to begin our diets, stop procrastinating, or spend more time with the kids.

But something about this singular date 1/1 incites within our ambitious little souls an urge for improvement. Something about this mid-winter’s day– after the excitement of the holidays has worn out it’s welcome, and the guests have all gone home– causes us to think about who we’ve been and, more importantly, who we want to be.

The word of the day is Resolution.

What can one do to be more, or different? What changes can be made, starting January first, to improve our lifestyles? To become better humans?

I spent the first 6 hours of 2010 inside my head. Sitting at the wheel of my car in a parking lot, with a friend I’ve had since highschool. We talked. And sat. We listened to one of my favorite Grateful Dead shows, loudly, and opened the moon roof in the snow. I thought about who I was sitting with. I thought about everyone I was not with. I thought about Phish launching their drummer from a cannon in Miami, my car, and the strides I made in 2009. I thought about work, about my family, and how long it had been since my last drink. And then I made some resolutions.

Stretch more, drink lots of water, and be nice to your car.

That was it. Those were the best, most reasonable resolutions I could envision for myself. Being more limber, hydrated, and ready for action. Baby steps.

Here, in the final stretch of 2010, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a personally successful year. I kept all my resolutions, and then some. Early last January, I began spending time with a man whom has, many times over the past 12 months, been the sunshine in my otherwise overcast Rochester sky. In the spring, I started this blog which has, to date, well over 5,000 hits. In the summer I saw a bunch of shows, and began a large-scale writing project– which is still very much underway. In August, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit some friends in Colorado, who are some of the most wonderful and inspiring people I know. I’ve lost ten pounds. I’ve only been sick once. I feel good about myself, inside and out.

And now, a year after sitting stagnant in my blue Subaru (which got 4 new tires and a new head-gasket in 2010) in a parking lot in my hometown, thinking about Phish and the world at large; I am getting in my car and driving to the biggest city on the east coast to see one of my favorite bands with friends from all over the country. For whatever negativity and complaining occurred (and I know I’m full of it), I feel overwhelming gratitude toward everyone and everything that has pushed this year toward it’s culmination.

For 2011, I am resolving to create more structure in my life outside of the 9-5. Join a yoga class, or a team (kickball in 2010 did happen), or volunteer some time. Getting in the habit of doing things I enjoy. I’m also promising myself I will write more and sleep better. That’s it.

Drink responsibly. Get home safely. Love and appreciate the life you’ve been given. Happy New Year, see you all in 2011.

“If you believe in peace, act peacefully; if you believe in love, acting lovingly; if you believe every which way, then act every which way, that’s perfectly valid – but don’t go out trying to sell your beliefs to the system. You end up contradicting what you profess to believe in, and you set a bum example. If you want to change the world, change yourself.” [[TomRobbins.StillLifeWithWoodpecker]]


Out on a High Wire

December 21, 2010

There’s a fine line…

Between right and wrong; genius and insanity; fact and fiction. Between comedy and tragedy; love and hate; excitement and danger; art and pornography. Between success and failure; perception and reality. There’s a fine line.

Somewhere, there is this microscopic division elusively chalked, deceptively drawn in the sand. Somewhere, there is a border and an other side. There exists– between the perfectly ok and horrendously offensive– a detectible limitation, however small it may be. In fact, the smaller this division, the more curiously appealing it’s location becomes.

Lately, I have found myself in the throes of a deep introspection. I know, what else is new? But something about this feels much more fundamental than my daily identity crisis– more tangible. It was pointed out to me that this may be what is referred to as a paradigm shift. That feels right.

I recognized this shift after a long stretch of unusual reservation on my part. Instead of boisterously participating in conversations, I noticed myself with minimal contribution. Not for lack of knowledge, but because I couldn’t pick a damn side. On anything. I tried writing and, before I could really complete a thought, found myself making a blatant counterpoint. It is frustrating to be so personally conflicted.

There is a fine line between knowing exactly what you mean, and having no clue what the fuck you are talking about.

So I’m standing somewhere near this fine line. I must be. It feels like everything and nothing, all at once. And the line is moving, creeping, edging further. It is changing, rearranging the landscape of everything I “know.” Meanwhile, grasping desperately at my ideologies, I feel them tumbling after. Jumbling into some familiar, yet foreign archetype of social framework.

I am wondering whether it’s just me, or if there’s not something at work in our collective consciousness– everyone testing the edges. As though humanity is trying to suss out where precisely that fine line lies. All of us pushing against the box at once.

It’s very subtle, yet legitimate; feels more like slide than a plunge. Cognizant evolution.

Whatever it is, I’m so ready.

My Super Sweet 24th

November 30, 2010

This year, I awoke on my birthday from a bizarre recurring dream, quite literally on the wrong side of the bed. Cue the waterworks. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, after 24 Gregorian calendar years, this is the sort of very mature behavior I engage in. Throwing a tantrum in my jammies.

After scraping myself together, with a little help from the most wonderful gentleman a girl could ask for, I managed to get out of the funk and put on a smile. Thanksgiving dinner with my family and friends was mellow and nice, I got my gluttony on, and it didn’t snow– which is a rarity for the end of November ’round these parts.

Most people would probably consider this an acceptable birthday and call it quits; but not this girl. Not only did I close out the day with a good sob, but I, then, woke up in the middle of the night for an encore performance. Not just a couple tears, I’m talking full shudders.

(Yes. On Thanksgiving. I know, I should have been making lists of things I am grateful for, and counting my blessings, and all that.)

Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have cried on my birthday.

Why?

It’s a fair question. One that, until this year, I found myself at a loss for a sufficient answer to. Beyond the superficial triggers, I could only rationalize that some underlying cause was at work; making me feel much less than enthusiastic about my planetary anniversary. Naturally, I assumed it was my human perception of finite time making me nostalgic. Hence, the tears. Birthdays tend to highlight our status as mortal, and thereby fragile, beings.

Ah, yes, perhaps feeling Newtonian in spite of myself. But that sort of philosophical scapegoat never fit quite right. No matter how erudite this hypothesis makes me sound, the birthday tears seem to be caused by something much deeper than superego-fueled aesthetics.

A bit reluctantly, I turned to a more obvious culprit: the little Kat inside me who– even after almost a quarter century– wants her princess birthday. I concede that birthdays are generally underwhelming, and my inner child might have had difficulty coming to terms with this reality. Somewhere, deep inside, I want to wake up on my birthday and have it be the *most awesome day of my life* that it felt like once upon a time. Subconsciously struggling to recapture a feeling I haven’t been capable of since I was maybe 5 years old. A sense of inevitable disappointment 364 days in the making.

But blaming the Id part of myself for the tears didn’t feel right, either. Sure, I guess there is the “perfect” birthday, but I’m no stranger to reality– not any time of the year– November 25 doesn’t really come with much more expectation. What I felt wasn’t really “disappointment” as much as a general desire to absolutely, and inexplicably, bawl.

Some days later, having gotten over whatever trivial matters I let disturb me so, I came to the realization that maybe I cry on my birthdays just because… I can.

Is it “normal?” Or “uplifting?”

Who cares.

“Should” I be crying?

Who cares.

The bottom line is that celebrating our own life anniversaries is incredibly self-indulgent, no matter what. For me, weeping shamelessly seems to roll right into that. Impetus irrelevant.

Peculiar, maybe, but I don’t owe any apologies. With or without the tears, I am glad to be here– another year older, arguably wiser, and still waiting on the maturity I assumed I’d be handed when I “grew up.”

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough. [[AlbertEinstein]]