Category Archives: relationships

The slingshot, adultery, and forgiveness

No matter what your religion of choice, you have most likely heard the story of David, the boy who slew the giant Goliath with a slingshot and grew up to ascend the throne of Israel and become its king.

But if that’s all we remember about him, we miss so much of what made this baffled king worthy of the title.

David was no saint. In the Olympics of sinning, he is one of the Bible’s gold medal winners.

God constantly tested David to bring out the best in him. In the process, it also brought out the not-so-best in him. 

David was already king when he faced — and lost — his greatest battle.

He’s the one who inspired Leonard Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah.” 

His faith was strong but he needed proof
He saw her bathing on the roof

The bathing woman was Bathsheba, and David just had to have her!

But there was one small problem. Bathsheba was married. David, however, wouldn’t let that detail get in the way.

So, he did what was in his power to make the problem go away. He sent Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to the front lines of battle so he would be killed. 

Problem solved.

“But wait,” you say. “I don’t like that David. I prefer the little guy with the slingshot. Why did you bring up that lying, cheating, murderer and ruin the story for me?”

Why?

Because it’s by “ruining” the story that you learn its greatest lesson.

It’s later in the narrative, when David recognizes what he has done, that he becomes an even greater king. 

But the road between recognition and repentance is littered with guilt and regret.

It’s a cold and it’s a very broken Hallelujah

In a secular translation: Recognizing his sin and vowing to never do it again, leads David to the peace and purpose he had been so desperately seeking. 

He must also recognize that God put temptation in his path and allowed him to sin for the very purpose of bringing them closer together.

God does the same for us. She uses our humanity, our flaws, and through the trial by the fire of Her unconditional love, transforms us.


Love is not some kind of victory march; It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

You don’t relate to the God thing?

OK, let me again translate this lesson so you can understand it in a secular context to which you can better relate.

If we never do really, really “bad” things — if we never miss the mark (which, by the way, is what the word “sin” means) — we can never have compassion for those whose humanity leads them to stumble over and over again.

“The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song,” its composer said. “So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.”

I’m not advocating committing a moral misstep so that you get closer to God. But I am suggesting that you shed the sins of your past, and know that it’s by accepting your flaws that you touch the unconditional love of Eternity.

And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand right here before the Lord of song
With nothing, nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Give thanks. Embrace your flaws. Rejoice in them. Because it’s only those who are most flawed who can fully open themselves to receive Life’s gifts.

Hallelujah (k.d Lang) – words and music by Leonard Cohen

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Filed under Peace, relationships, Uncategorized

I Will Miss The Pandemic

Photo by Barbara A. Besteni

Nearly 16 months after it began, the pandemic prompted by COVID-19 shows signs of loosening its grip on what we once called normal and allowing us to return to how we once were.

But do we really want to go back? Do we want to retreat to the comfort of what once was and risk losing the possibilities of what can be?

A pandemic is defined as an “event in which a disease spreads across several countries and affects a large number of people.” Finding a cure for that disease is a noble cause. However, to “cure” a disease by forgetting it existed is to plant the seeds of its return. And once it does, it can be deadlier than it once was.

If we look beneath the surface and consider COVID-19 as a symbolic representation — a metaphor — of the challenge we call life, we find the cure for the virus known as living.

Hidden within the challenge of that virus is the whisper of its cure. But are we disciplined enough to quiet our minds and pay attention to the still, silent voice within that is patiently waiting for us to listen to its cry?

The new normal awaits

Once vaccines became widely available, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifted the mask mandate for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the world moved one very big step closer to “normal.” And while this brought much joy and celebration, it comes with a huge dose of bittersweetness, one that even a spoonful of sugar won’t counteract.

The normal we are now entering is nothing like the normal we once knew. Hopefully, many of the habits we adopted to keep us and our loved ones safe from COVID-19 will stay with us long after herd immunity has been reached.

Regardless of where in the science vs. conspiracy theory side of the aisle your opinion on the virus and the world’s response to it fall, some things should stick around post-pandemic.

Things like:

  • Curbside pickup: Nothing quite compares to dining inside a restaurant, but there’s a lot to be said for popping your car’s trunk and having someone put your meal order inside. Not having to get dressed for the occasion is like eating dessert before dinner.
  • Instacart grocery deliveries: Enough said.
  • Sanitizing surfaces, especially when dining outdoors: You don’t realize how much dirt is still on a table at your favorite restaurant until you’ve wiped it down after your waiter “cleans” it.
  • Making sure our hands are clean: How many times did you sing Happy Birthday during the past 15 months?
  • Working from home: It doesn’t get much better than this.
  • Unexpected visitors during Zoom meetings: Cameos of cats, dogs, and humans in pajamas reminded us that important work meetings lose their importance when the Zoom squares on your screen utter a collective “Awwwwwww!”

These things might stay with us post-pandemic, but unless we remain vigilant, others are in danger of fading into the distance, making us forget the gifts living in quarantine brought us.

The gifts of quarantine

Although living in quarantine had its share of challenges, I chose to look at the opposite side of those challenges.

For example, making sure my 93-year-old mom was well taken care of and entertained was a struggle, to say the least. But praying for those who were kept from their parents and families because of the inability to travel or because the places where they were living forbid them face-to-face human contact, kept me thankful and humble.

I may also have temporarily lost the ability to socialize with friends, but I got closer to my immediate pack of family members, the people who will stop whatever they are doing at a moment’s notice to make sure I am well cared for — and for whom I will stop at nothing to do the same.

I learned to appreciate the meaning of home. Coincidentally, or not, I was at Miami International Airport ready to board a flight to Buenos Aires when we went into lockdown. I never left Miami. I could not be more grateful for having made that decision. 

Throughout the pandemic, I laughed harder than I had laughed in a long time. I mean, seriously, when nature calls while you’re out enjoying a drive through the empty streets, and the closest thing to a public restroom is a porta-potty left behind by a construction crew, you have no choice but to get creative. I now know of at least a half dozen places in South Florida to do your business outside without the risk of being seen by a security camera. 

I learned that bras, shoes, work clothes, and most of the items in my wardrobe are not necessary. Combing my hair is an option that can be left for Zoom calls. And if I can’t get to a comb in time, saying my computer’s camera is “acting up” is an acceptable excuse.

I learned that staying in on a weekend night, alternating between binge-watching and napping through the Netflix series du jour and eating takeout right out of the box, is a luxury I will never be able to live without.

I experienced small-town living in a big city; no people, no chaos, no distracted drivers to run me over during my morning bike ride.

I discovered the beauty of masks – because when all you can see are people’s eyes, you are blessed with a glimpse into their souls. 

On the lighter side of the mask mandate, now that I have a facial covering to go with just about every outfit I own (thanks to my life’s traveling companion), I’m finding it difficult giving up this wonderful fashion statement.

I also continued my journey into the road less traveled known as sobriety. (You can’t drink socially if you’re not socializing.) It was a road that began with a 30-day no alcohol challenge nearly 900 days ago, and one on which I have chosen to stay.

While so many people struggled with addictions or chose to drink away the pains of the pandemic with a glass — or six — of their adult grape juice of choice, seltzer with lime was — and continues to be — my go-to beverage.

COVID-19 may fade into the background of history, but like any great teacher, the lessons it taught us, and the gifts it left behind, will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Sharing those gifts with others is the greatest gift of all.

It’s the one time re-gifting is not only an option, but a necessity.

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Filed under Alcohol, Barbara Besteni, COVID-19, Pandemic, relationships, sobriety, spirituality, Uncategorized

Sober Is The New Cool

On Jan. 30, 2019, at 11 p.m., I unceremoniously finished a glass of wine, said goodnight to the friends with whom I had been having dinner, and went home. That’s how my journey into “I’m not drinking today” began. There was no big announcement, no fanfare, no idea that my dry spell would keep going, and going, and going.

On the eve of that date’s 2-year anniversary, the dry spell continues.

Although I don’t have many filters, I have been relatively quiet about my journey into sobriety. I hate that word and all the other words used to label those who, for whatever reason, have chosen to hit the pause button on their alcohol consumption. Whether that choice is for one day, one month, one year, or one lifetime doesn’t matter. The labels and connotations are the same.

But until this new cool becomes “so last year,” the word sobriety will have to do to describe this very private and personal journey. While I have shared a few details now and then through the pages of this blog, it’s not something I have discussed in great detail, mostly for the same reasons others like me don’t like to share their sobriety stories.

“Oh, you don’t drink. You must have a problem!” is the conclusion to which most people fast forward when you tell them you have chosen not to drink. But if someone told you they no longer eat jelly beans, I doubt you would think they have a jelly bean problem.

Then there’s the other side of the coin.

“Wow, you don’t drink! That’s amazing. Good for you!”

I’m no a superhero. I just stopped putting alcohol into my system because I didn’t like the way it made me feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally. That’s it. End of story. There’s nothing good or bad about it. It just is.

But two years into this AF thing (for the purpose of this article, AF is an acronym for alcohol free, not the other thing), some of those who have heard of my choice to go AF are approaching me with questions about how to do the same. Some of the questions are subtle, some not so much.

At first, I brushed them aside, thinking there were enough experts out there whose stories of sobriety were much more interesting. I am not an authority on drinking. I hate giving advice on the subject because I have no idea how or why other people drink. The reasons are as varied as there are people.

I only know why I choose not to drink, and how I am able to continue on that journey.

I also hate the “I will never drink again” prediction. One of my concerns has been that giving advice and then drinking a tiny sip of anything with as little as 0.5% alcohol will somehow negate what I have accomplished and invalidate all the advice I have given. (News Alert: Orange juice has 0.5% alcohol, so there’s that.)

Most of all, I didn’t want to be THAT person. You know, the one who breaks a habit and then becomes a holier-than-thou, judgmental bitch who turns her nose up at those weaklings who aren’t as evolved.

Slurring isn’t sexy, but neither is self righteousness.

But more and more people have started asking me about my choice to not consume alcohol. And the questions have come from those whom I least expected. I feel I owe them an honest answer.

So, on the eve of my 2-year sobriety date, I share with you how I stay on my current AF journey, and my why for doing so.

My decision to share is also because in the past pandemic-challenged year, the memes and jokes on social media about drinking—especially about women drinking—is cause for concern. The 5 o’clock Mommy Juice hour is starting earlier and earlier, and there’s nothing cute about it.

Among the most dire post-pandemic predictions is the one that says people may survive COVID-19, but will be left with addictions they acquired to deal with the challenges of the pandemic.

A few weeks ago, a friend who was celebrating a milestone birthday posted a photo on Facebook showing a bottle of Grey Goose in the center console cupholder of her car as a sign that she was ready to celebrate.

How is this even remotely funny?

The comments cheering her on underneath her post were even more disturbing.

No Labels, Please

Before I tell you a little bit more about my story, I have just one request. Please drop the label. You know the one — alcoholic, and the stigma attached to it. That blanket term which has been attached to anyone who drinks too much or too often is inaccurate most of the time. At best, it is outdated.

I often wonder how many more people would chose to go alcohol free if the label did not exist … if the judgmental looks they get when they tell the waiter they won’t be partaking from the bottle of wine everyone else at the table will be sharing didn’t scream, “Oh, you poor thing.”

I have a plethora of handy comebacks for those looks, most of which are NSFW. 😉

Most drinkers don’t fit the stereotype of the alcoholic, a disheveled person on the street, begging for money, sleeping on park benches. The fact is that the majority of people who drink too much are professionals with jobs, families, and good salaries. They dress well and have money to buy name-brand wines and spirits and travel all over the world to sample the latest vintage from the winery of their choice.

Important Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject, but according to what I’ve read, alcoholics are physically and emotionally addicted to alcohol, and they can no longer control their drinking. There are lots of in-betweens, which you can research on your own. It’s not my intent to provide medical advice or rehash what a Google search will reveal if you’re interested in finding out more.

This is my story. Any resemblance to the stories of people living or dead is purely coincidental.

If you are an alcoholic, or if you even suspect that you will suffer physical withdrawals by going cold turkey, this article is NOT for you. Please seek advice from your doctor, your therapist, or someone who can help you detox safely.

But if your drinking has escalated to the point where happy hour is no longer as happy as it used to be, or it has become so automatic you just reach for a cocktail without even thinking whether or not you really want one, then maybe my journey can help answer some of the questions you might be asking yourself.

In other words, if you’re sober curious, read on.

This Is How And Why I Do It

I do it by just doing it. No therapy, no doctor, no detox, no rehab. I just stopped. The support of my life’s traveling companion and my mom were instrumental in keeping me stopped.

I do it because I no longer wake up in the middle of the night with a dryness in my eyes and mouth that would be the envy of the Sahara Desert.

I do it because waking up with a clear head is more fun than a hangover.

I do it because a 6 a.m. 25-mile bike ride before the world is up on a Saturday morning is much more exhilarating than that first sip of Amarone ever was.

I do it because even though I love rituals, there are other rituals besides opening and aerating a bottle of wine.

I do it because the clarity is amazing. I am much more creative sober than I ever was attempting to imitate Hemingway in his prose and his drinking. Contrary to popular belief, drunken angst kills creativity.

I do it because drowning my emotions — whether happy or sad — in alcohol doesn’t make the bad ones go away, and it prevents me from being fully present to enjoy the good ones.

I do it because my relationships are stronger, and my emotions are under control. Alcohol-fueled disagreements can escalate into relationship-ending arguments very quickly. I no longer choose to engage in arguments that are going nowhere. I pick my battles, which are fewer and fewer these days.

I do it for a host of reasons. But the reasons themselves are not important. Like brushing my teeth, being AF has sewn itself into the fiber of my life, and the why no longer matters.

It Wasn’t Easy Until It Was

Now, at the risk of having you think my first journey into the AF world was all no wine and roses, think again. I tried going alcohol free many times before it finally stuck for this long.

Why did it stick this time?

Because somewhere along the line, there was a shift from “I can’t have a drink and I’m missing out on something” to “I don’t want to have a drink because I don’t want to miss out on anything.”

This lifetime nerd is officially one of the cool kids. Call me cool AF. And this time the acronym does not stand for Alcohol Free. 😉

What about you?

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Filed under Alcohol, COVID-19, Diet, Food, Grief, Pandemic, relationships, Sadness, sobriety, spirituality, Uncategorized, Wisdom

Breaking up is really not that hard to do …

The ending of a relationship is one of the hardest things we humans will ever experience.  If it has been a long-term relationship, the pain of ending it can be excruciating.

But there comes a time when you accept the fact that ending a relationship that is no longer working, ripping the band-aid off quickly, will ultimately be less painful than gently prying off what’s left of the glue that once held it together, hoping things will get better.

When you finally end it, you find that the anticipation of its demise was far worse than the actual break-up. It is then that the pain of paralysis ends and the healing begins.

You and I had a good run.  But there were also those not-so-good times when I was so seduced by your passion and promises that I lost all sense of control and relinquished everything to you.

You empowered me and tore me down simultaneously.

I broke my rules for you and you broke me.

Breaking rules

Don’t get me wrong.  We laughed a lot together and for that, I will always be grateful. But the laughter no longer feels genuine.  We used to snuggle up together after a long day at work and you would give me a warm fuzzy like none other.  But the warm fuzzy began to fade when I started “needing to be with you” instead of  “wanting to be with you.”

You completely intoxicated me!  You weren’t an addiction, but you certainly were an obsession. And you always looked so damned good!

But then came the lies.  At first, they were subtle, nearly imperceptible.  But in time, they increased to the point where you were constantly lying to me.  And even though I could no longer deny that truth, I stayed, hoping things would get better.

But they didn’t.

You hypnotized me into thinking that doing things with you was the only way I would achieve genuine happiness.  Without you, life would not be worth living.  But you not only stole that happiness, you also robbed me of time … time that I will never get back.

To make matters worse, some of my dearest friends encouraged me to stay with you.  They enabled our dysfunctional relationship, turning a blind eye to what was really happening between us.

Because of you, I sometimes acted like a complete and total ass around my friends and the people I love.

You lured me away from the things that mean the most to me and completely stripped me of my creativity, leading me to believe that you were the muse who inspired me.

The day my father died you conveniently made your way into his hospital room.  You promised to take away the pain, but all you did was distract me from facing the feelings I would eventually have to face without you.

He knew you weren’t good for me.  He worried that you would one day destroy everything he and mom had given me.  But I was so convinced by your promises to quickly take away the pain that I didn’t listen.

It was then that I began rethinking our relationship.  It was then that I started to get pissed off.

But the more pissed off I got, the more control I gave you!

We tried short-term separations, but those didn’t help to make things between us any better.  When we fell back into our typical patterns after the temporary separation, we were off and running on another round of lies, deceptions, anger, postponed dreams, and resentment.

I know that breaking up before the holidays will be difficult.  After all, it was during the holidays that we had our best times! We made some amazing memories, but most recently, those memories have been well, not so good.

And that’s why the holidays are also the perfect time for us to separate.  Because otherwise, we’re in danger of going backward, trying to recapture a past that we can never get back.

It’s time for me to move forward.

I’m not doing this for anyone.  I’m not doing this because I have lost control.  I’m doing this for me because I choose to exercise control over my own life.

Can we ever be “just friends”?  Can we ever have the casual relationship that once made us feel so good around each other?  The kind of relationship that empowered us rather than tore us apart? I have no idea.  But at this juncture, it’s best if we part ways altogether so I can reflect and heal.

This is not about you. This is about what’s best for me.

This is also not a judgment.

I’m not suggesting that anyone who is in a similar relationship follow my lead.  My solution is not everyone’s solution.

But I do pray that anyone feeling even the slightest tinge of recognition in these words, anyone who has felt the abuse that relationships like ours enable, finds the courage to away walk away from the dysfunction.

I can only hope my story unlocks someone else’s prison.

My story

I’m not saying we will part forever.  But right now, the clarity I’ve gained by releasing you feels a hell of a lot better than even the best of times during our last few years.

I will always cherish our time together. It was not lost time.  But if we stay together, it will be. And regrets are not something I care to live with.

And so, my dearest Chardonnay, it’s time for me to publicly say so long to you and all your icy cold relatives. I deserve unconditional love.  And that’s not something found at the bottom of your bottle.

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Filed under Alcohol, relationships, sobriety, spirituality