Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Step 4.5

"Larval realities are defined by chunks of local environment attached to the nervous system at the time of imprinting."
Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology

A note: please don't think that Al-Anon is a place where people "whine." This is what I used to think and it's why it took me so long to get there and, paradoxically, to stop feeling sorry for myself. Like most Americans, I was unsophisticated and repressed enough to often label any emotionally honest statement as "whining," whether I made the statement or someone else did. It was easier than facing the emotion.

The fear of whining and the disproportionate anger it inspires are to be expected in a culture where people are taught to be 100% outer- and other-directed, where "unconditional love" is widely believed to have been practiced only by a lone Jewish guy who died a long time ago. (Merry Christmas!) But repression only gives emotions more and more power, and as they say in Al-Anon, "You are not your feelings." To truly live that insight, though, you gotta face those feelings, find their true origins, and discern their influence on your behavior patterns.

People do, of course, attempt genuine whining in Al-Anon meetings and to members, i.e., they try to indulge in self-pity or to gain sympathy. If it's their first meeting they're allowed to do this for a few minutes and then someone gently tells them something like "We're not here to vent. We're here to find solutions." If it's someone who should know better, they get "Call your sponsor" or "Look for your own role." I remember getting that last one when Teresa did something "to" me that was outrageous, unconscionable, unthinkable, etc. I didn't like hearing it one bit, but it jolted me out of victim-mind into captain-of-my-soul-mind. (Of course I now haven't the slighest memory what T. did...must have been a bit less significant than I made it out to be.)

An anonymous Al-Anon, who suffered horrendous abuse as a child, puts it like this in her story (included in the book From Survival to Recovery): "Even in the unusual situation in which another person is ninety-five percent at fault and I am only five percent, I am still responsible for my five percent." She has clearly gone far beyond the "larval" state!

Monday, December 19, 2005

What We Do Is Secret, Part 2

Excerpts from my 4th Step:

I assumed, from the beginning, that "the One" was out there, that I'd find her and then live happily ever after....at 41, I have never not been in a relationship--a serious, committed, all-or-nothing relationship--since the age of 18. Does that sound a little compulsive? (There was a stretch of a few weeks in college during which I was not committed--but the parental script, the fear of being unloveable, the fear of being alone, borne of my inability to feel complete in myself--drove me into a relationship very soon. It was a blissfully happy couple of weeks, I distinctly remember.)


As much as I think I want this true love, this marriage of true minds, this Vulcan mind-meld, I have a part of me that wants to be alone, that won't allow anyone to get close. This is the part of me I imagine developed when I was a kid and had no sibling to play with and no kids my age close by. It's now the part of me some people would say plays with my imaginary friend, my Higher Power.


I can remember in one unbelievably codependent relationship being afraid that my enamorata would not like the way I did her homework.


I feel like I don't know what "unacceptable" [behavior] is, because I have no reasonable dividing line, because I accept everything, because I'm afraid if I don't she won't love me--I'll be unworthy....That feeling of perpetual unworthiness...I have done enough Al-Anon work to know it was a lesson I learned in my family, which placed great emphasis on achievement and education. I've gained enough Al-Anon maturity to understand that a lot of
good has come from my feelings of unworthiness...for they have driven me to learn, to work hard, to do more than I ever thought possible.

On the other hand, it simply isn't true that I have to earn the right to exist, or to earn God's love. It isn't true that my ultimate worth has any relation to my professional accomplishments or level of education.


It seemed so natural I never thought about it. You have to earn a living, you have to earn some lady fair's hand, you have to earn the respect of your peers: therefore you have to earn God's love. The religion I got mixed up in at 14 didn't quite put it this way; they claimed God loved you but would still punish you hideously for eternity....The sin and salvation business sounded a lot to me like having to earn God's love, even if according to the fine print it wasn't...

Sound familiar? Manipulating loved ones? Manipulating God? Unable to trust that they love me? Unable to feel totally loved even when I know better? Feeling perpetually unworthy and driven by that feeling into irrational, obsessive behavior?....I was a perfect sucker for the fundamentalist spiritual abuse scam and now feel that I've been a perfect sucker for the true love scam.


Talking with Kali during a walk today, I understood that a) the worst thing I could do in my family growing up was to let down the facade--(of Cleaverdom--by arguing with my parents, getting in trouble at school, etc.) and b) that the most valuable commodity, the highest status symbol for my family, was The Esteem of Others.


So here's another layer of the onion, and I'm done, because I'm so confused by now that I don't know which way is up. I was talking with Fiorenza yesterday...and she said she thought that I might be afraid to be loved. Auggh! Yes! I recognized what she was saying...recognized it in the way that when I'm complimented, I'm always so,
so uncomfortable....Letting myself be loved means becoming vulnerable....It also means dealing with the fact that I'm not perfect and never will be, because love means being totally present to someone whether I'm "ready" or not.


So many, so many times when someone's made a gesture of love to me I've shrugged it off or dodged it--
reflexively. Not thinking, "ooh, this is uncomfortable, I want out," but changing the subject or making some inappropriate joke without thinking about it, as the first instinctual reaction....

I'm searching for love, but convinced I'm unworthy of it. I want to give myself to someone in love, but I'm afraid to be loved back. But some woman's eventually going to make the mistake of loving me anyway, then she'll find that I'm an impostor, so I strive to stay in control...maintaining the facade...as I was taught.

NEXT: What happened when I read this whole (immense, nonsensical) thing to my sponsor. Same Angel time, same Angel channel.

P.S. I am heading out to Helter Skelter Land for my x-mas holiday, and won't be back until nearly New Year's Eve. I have every intention of bloggin' from the Left Coast, but...don't be surprised if'n I don't. With the competing Red State, Blue State, alcoholic, non-alcoholic, denial-alcoholic factions of my family...I will have my hands full. But I will be thinking of you.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What We Do Is Secret, Part 1

...but I'm going to blow the lid off...here's the exposé...inside an actual...secret society...12-step program...

I'm working on what's called a "4th step" right now, after the AA Step Four: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Basically you journal or write a letter, concealing nothing (if it ain't scary, you ain't doin' it right), about your desires, fears, motivations, actions, the reasons you told yourself you did those actions and the real reasons you did them, the results of those actions and who was harmed and who gained and what your own payoff was--there's always a payoff.

Absolute honesty is the only requirement,
and the openness is why Al-Anon, AA, etc. are anonymous programs. Unless you can say anything and everything in a meeting or in a 4th step, you'll stay stuck.

Once you've written out your confessions/ self-observations, you then, in the "5th step," read this painfully honest scribbling to someone in your program (usually your sponsor). It can hurt. But the alternative for me, in practice, is living in a half-light of awareness about myself, and making the same mistakes over and over, and blaming other people for them instead of taking responsibility and growing up and moving on.

The first time I worked the steps my sponsor asked me, for Step 4, to write a "me list," an exhaustive list of every attribute and characteristic I have. He gave me months to do this and said not to hurry.

It sounded silly in the abstract, likely to produce trivial items like "I love chocolate!" and "I have a thing for large women!" and in fact it did, but in the end, after doing the work and the rather agonizing 5th step, I came to a gut recognition (*not* an intellectual understanding) that...I'm not a bad person...and that many of my least favorite personal traits were actually very good traits, just applied in the wrong circumstances or acted on to excess. Thus, my tendency to rescue people was fine when it meant writing a letter protesting the confinement of a political prisoner...and was idiotic when it meant trying to stage-manage an addict's slow suicide while I blamed myself for her romantic predicament and hid her substance of choice in a niche in the fireplace, to dole out to her in little non-psychosis-inducing increments until she found it and used it all and I had to find new ways to liberate (enslave) her.

Once I'd been in the program a while, I did a 4th step on my troubled relationship with my dad, who died before we could totally make peace...and now I'm doing one on les événements I've recounted to you recently. In an Al-Anon meeting the other day I gave a situation-appropriate, non-I-Ching quoting rundown of les és, and realized I needed to spend some serious time praying about them, and so have spent a lot of time this week either in front of my altar or talking to Kali as I drive, walk, or wash dishes. And She's talked back--that's the miraculous thing...

Someone or Something is there...call it a "bicameral mind" or "archetype" or wishful thinking or imaginary friend or subvocalized adaptive para-awareness...or God...

I was working on my step on my computer today, preferring my recliner and Mozart on the boombox to scribbling in my spiral-bound Al-Anon notebook in some coffee shop...and the section of the step I wrote got named That perpetual feeling of unworthiness.doc. It contains the lines

My H[igher] P[ower] has really been pushing...me to look for Her light within me rather than for the second-hand light of others' spiritual journeys, others' words. Not that I should be arrogant; She wants me to turn inward to the silence and light She put there when She created me. But...I still have to work on that [unworthiness] thing. It's why I still go in for retail therapy, (fantasized) new relationship therapy, double bourbon on the rocks therapy, blasting music in my car on the way home from work therapy...

when all the while I am seeking what Peter Redgrove, in The Black Goddess and the Unseen Real, calls "the synaesthetic plenum of the...subliminal senses"...the inner divine, the Hidden God...funny that
my Dark Mother has sent me to a Sunday school room in a local church to slay the demons, to a 12-step group of the sort I'd have made sport of just a few years ago--Stuart Smalley and all that--

funny that, as Ramana Maharshi said, "The ultimate truth is so simple"...so I am simplifying myself to match.

To Be Continued

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Me Time

My kitties didn't seem down with me gettin' up bright and early yesterday and slappin' on A Tribute to Jack Johnson, nice and loud...

tough! I'm the human! I'm in charge! Get used to it!

(Note: You wanna hear you some wild electric guitar playin', you get you a copy of A Tribute to Jack Johnson. That's that John McLaughlin ...that Mahavishnu Orchestra guy...that's some wacked-out shit. He sounds like Shiva, high as Kailash and wailing with eight arms...blanging that guitar with a flaming dagger...cobra glissandos...)

Shockingly, I'm skipping out on my Al-Anon meeting and the planned shopping trip afterwards, ironically in a very Al-Anon-inspired quest for Me Time. It turned out not to be my True Will to go to the meeting...was my TW instead to get up, surf the net for a while, go back to bed, get up again, put on A Tribute to Jack Johnson, and blog about listening to same yesterday and goofing off today.

Later I'll return the tragically defective DVD about the occult roots of Naziism and look--probably fruitlessly here in East Podunk--for a copy of that modernist music classic Le Marteau Sans Maitre, which it finally dawned on me the other day was the inspiration for much of Eric Dolphy's album Out to Lunch. I may eat at the awesome pancake place or just grab a croissant or brownie somewhere. I may go for a walk or I may not. I'll probably call grigorss. I'll probably try to find some Solstice wrapping paper for Sophia's goth calendar. :)

I will try to walk through this day like John McLaughlin walkin' up and down those frets--little rhyme, some nonlinear reason, some contrary beats, and much counter-harmonic beauty.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Listenin' ta Eric Dolphy...

eatin' Scharffen Berger chocolate-covered figs and ciabatta with ripe gorgonzola and raw honeycomb...with some awe-inspiring Jumilla wine...

I'm not saying that this Makes It All Better or that one should embrace the lower planes to the total exclusion of the higher...


I, for one, can easier taste Kali in sybaritic bites than in meagre ones...

for now...until I evolve more--

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Hexagram 23

"The superior go on their way. The inferior suffer as always."

"Breaking apart." Or... "flaying." I love that translation. But this I Ching hexagram is me, now; hearing the night rainfall as loud ironic applause--tired dryer rumbling in the washroom-- Ethiopiques, vol. 4 iridescing, noir, on the stereo--me: fragmenting, confused...

...the small, flayed truth.

I know I'm becoming "me." I know it's not all fun and games. I know the layers of false self have to be stripped off. I know that where I am now is a place I got by making bad and good decisions, some of which I must unmake.

I wonder if it's a sickness that I insist on building relationships on trust...and then breaking the trust, or persisting until the other party inevitably breaks the trust...and then lamenting how hard it is to trust and how my heart's all broke and then-- going out and finding someone else to "trust." But I can't trust Teresa, ever since the Big Alcoholic Incident that I won't even write about here and she never talks about but that she presciently brought up in conversation tonight. And this unwillingness on my part to trust...is a withdrawal. That I have to fix, or face the breaking-apart consequences.

And I'm so afraid of hurting people. Anyone. Strangers. That's why I can't be political--because I'm afraid of offending people, afraid of hurting their feelings... so imagine loved ones-- I tread on eggshells-- almost literally, walking ninja-like at night on the hardwood floor, terrorized of creaks and the awakening and discomfort-- I can't seem to be a "me" who's not the comfortable, symbiotic, supporting me... but that supportive person is killing (the real) me. I can't give all my oxygen-- can't stay anemic on remora rations--

If I'm to split, to break apart, I'd like to at least wield the hammer.