Monthly Archives: June 2016

Not My Story

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I have so much I could be writing about lately, but I haven’t been writing about any of it. I haven’t been writing about any of it because it feels as if it’s not my story to tell. It feels disrespectful to be making personal essays out of events that, while they affected me, affect others so much more.

The last two weeks have seen the end of my relative’s journey on this plane; he died the morning of June 14. I was there during his last hours, and saw him only minutes after he died. Other family members and I sat with his body until the funeral home workers came to transport him, and we watched him be wrapped up and taken away.

I was there, and I had thoughts, and I had feelings…but it’s not really my story. It’s his story, and his wife’s, and his children’s. I know that the feelings I have are nothing compared with how they feel.

It’s not my story…yet, inevitably, it is. It may be the ultimate self-absorption, but my lens is the only one I have. I’m incapable of an omniscient perspective; anything I write about is really about my experience of the thing. Even if I write from the perspective of another character, it’s still my projection being fueled by my attitudes.

So I’m aware of my own self-absorption right now. I’m aware of the part of my brain responsible for interpreting everything happening in terms of “What does this mean to me? How does this change the structure of my inner world? How do these truths apply to my journey?”

I’m judging myself for this. I feel ashamed of spending any mental energy on philosophizing while people I love are in need of comfort. I’m ashamed of the fact that, even while I carry out actions that reflect my desire to comfort them, a part of my mind is off crafting metaphors.

This judgment, however justified it might be, is dangerous. Blocking my personal writing is dangerous. Turning my metaphor factory into a moral issue is dangerous. Yesterday, I found myself tearing pictures out of magazines with a very diagnostic type of focus…my symptoms are rising, and I cannot afford to reject the best and least harmful coping mechanisms I have.

I need to allow myself to feel, and write, and make existential gold out of straw. I need to let myself think about what witnessing a death has made me feel about life, and recovery, and meaning.

News Flash (Not)

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I have come to the conclusion that life is not fair.

You would think I already know that to my bones. I’ve written about the concept of fairness, and how expecting fairness can get us into trouble in recovery or any other parts of life. I know we are promised nothing.

But there are some courses in life we never really complete…there’s always a new layer or dimension to cover. A new way for the lesson to be presented, a new way we need to integrate it into ourselves. So I’m feeling it, learning it; trying to accept it in two new ways lately–one more self-centered than the other.

The self-centered one has to do with what I’ve already talked about…the problem I’m continuing to have with my metabolism. I sought a higher level of support around my sensible eating plan, and it’s been going really well for a couple of weeks now–until I step on the scale and have an experience I can best describe as baffled terror. The math just doesn’t work out right. Even the endocrinologist is puzzled; at our last appointment I presented her with a list of what I’d eaten for the last ten days and she agreed that I shouldn’t cut any more calories.

Abstaining from compulsive eating has always brought me some degree of physical recovery in the past, and it’s hard for me to accept that I must, for the indefinite future, abstain without getting any of those rewards. I know, intellectually, that I am getting rewards in the form of not making things even worse, but it’s hard to feel it when I am scared and ashamed and in pain.

The other way I’ve been exposed to the lesson recently is that my relative, who has been ill for a while, has transitioned into hospice care. I am watching this process, and the effects it has upon my loved ones.

I think death is simultaneously the most fair and the most unfair thing there is. It’s fair because it comes for everyone, but it’s unfair about when and why and how. It’s not merit-based. And when you get right down to it, down into the nuts and bolts of the process of dying a “natural” death, it’s hard not to think that there ought to be a better system for this kind of thing. It’s not fair. It’s not going to be fair.

We all, on some level, think that life should be fair. Hard work and good deeds should be rewarded, evil should have consequences, and our efforts in life should influence the outcome. Even when confronted with countless examples to the contrary, even when we watch others grieve or be persecuted, even when we ourselves suffer, a part of us wants to believe it’s going to be different.

I’m in no hurry to stop believing some parts of that, really. We have to, in order to keep going. I have to think my fight matters. I have to believe my efforts influence the outcome…what I have to let go of is the belief that I can control how they influence it and what the end result will be.

I could die tomorrow, or next year–countless poems unwritten and all of my recovery efforts spent for just a few more years. It wouldn’t be fair. It’s also not fair that I’m alive at all when many of my fellows didn’t survive their active drug addiction.