Rabbit Hole:“A metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully (or troublingly) surreal state or situation.
While I never fell down the white rabbit hole of addiction, I teetered close enough to its edge to peer into the darkness and have compassion for those who have fallen.
My drug of choice wasn’t even a drug. It was, in fact, a very legal substance conceived by the union of potatoes and brewers’ yeast. Once in a while, the child of fermented grapes was a guest at my dinner table. Sometimes there was actually food at that table.
My trip to the edge of the rabbit hole had a benign beginning … as do all things that are eventually taken to the extreme. And although the men on the chessboard never got up to tell me where to go, I did occasionally hear the white knight talking backward. And many a morning my head felt as if someone had followed the red queen’s orders., “Off with her head!”
But at some point, stories of addiction began to resonate with me. The online ads and memes that were supposed to be funny no longer made me laugh. Nights of overdrinking were followed by mornings of regret.
Meanwhile, studies came out trying to justify all types of drinking. Wine is good for you, they boasted. Look at the French. They eat rich, fatty foods, and they don’t have a cholesterol problem!
One study went so far as to boast that people who drank more than three drinks per day had a decreased risk of contracting dementia. This led to a plethora of online reactions, most of which were a variation on the “I’m way behind on my drinking” theme.
The fact that alcohol companies that stood to gain the most financially were sponsoring those “studies” did nothing to stop the spread of misinformation.
The rabbit hole beckoned louder and louder, and the rabbits ran faster and faster as I tried to contain their enthusiasm to get me to jump.
Even though the potatoes and grapes often made me feel 10 feet tall, I realized that if I kept chasing those rabbits, I was going to fall. And no matter how hard the caterpillar tried, it would never turn into a butterfly.
And so, I stopped. Drinking, that is.
Logic and proportion never fell sloppy dead. I just stopped.
There was no fanfare, no rehab, no physical withdrawal.
With the support of my guides — both human and spiritual — I JUST STOPPED.
That was more than two and a half years ago.
“What’s your secret for staying sober?” people ask me.
It’s simple, really. I stopped drinking alcohol. And the benefits far outweigh whatever pleasure alcohol seemed to provide.
Will I ever drink again? I don’t know.
Perhaps Alice knows. You should ask her.
If there’s one thing I know for sure after all my years on this planet, it’s that we should never say never. Just when you think life’s your bitch, she slaps you upside the head with an unexpected blow and says, “Who’s the bitch now?”
In the meantime, I’ve learned to feed my head with things the dormouse would approve of.
Will you do the same?
“White Rabbit” — Words and music by Grace Slick, Performed by Jefferson Airplane
Holy wars have been around since holy first became a thing.
We think of them as something right out of the dust-covered books of ancient history. But holy wars are very much with us, and you and I fight them every day.
Holy wars prompt visions of dying for the sanctity of religious beliefs. But since life itself is sacred, every war —whether within or without — every argument, every disagreement, every difference of opinion, is a holy war. It is an invitation to die for the beliefs we cling to emotionally, no matter how absurd the rational mind considers them to be.
Whether you believe a political or spiritual figure is a god or a demon, you’re right. Because your experiences gave birth to the beliefs that grew up to be your truth. Your truth stirs emotions that can’t be explained away.
But beliefs are not truths. And your truth is not the truth.
Yet we confuse speaking our truth with convincing someone to make it their truth. Therein lies the problem.
It’s the spark that ignites holy wars.
By all means, speak your truth. Choose your armor. Defend your beliefs. But pick your battles wisely, and fight them like a peaceful warrior, not an absolute tyrant.
Never surrender without being heard. Never allow someone else’s voice — no matter how loud or how silent — to speak for you.
But allow your “enemy” the right to do the same. Respect others. Listen. Then let the Universe take it from there.
Feel what it’s like to wear the colors of your opponent’s country. Retreat to compromise, to create a Universal truth greater than your own.
Because when you don’t — when you stubbornly stand your ground like a toddler having a ‘Me, me, me!’ fit in a toy store — everyone loses.
What does all this have to do with conspiracy theories? Absolutely nothing. Yet if I had titled this article Holy Wars (as had been my original intent), I may not have lured you to pay attention.
In that respect, this piece has everything to do with conspiracy theories. Because when you are lured into battles that engage your emotions, you are thrown into the front lines of half-truths that lead to holy wars.
The blue and gray digital beauty of “Starry Night” welcomed me into its embrace as the words of Don McClean’s “Vincent,” his anthem to the tortured soul of Vincent Van Gogh, whispered in my ears.
Before me, the walls of the monstrous Miami sound stage that once gave life to the modern-day masterpieces of Miami Vice, Bad Boys, and countless long-forgotten music videos, displayed the digital renditions of Van Gogh’s masterpieces in a 360-degree canvas that seamlessly dissolved one painting into another.
I had not been listening. I had not known how. But I was listening now.
The side trip to Arles
Three years ago, a trip to France took me through the town of Arles, the place that inspired so many of Van Gogh’s paintings, including my all-time favorite, Starry Night. It was the view he saw every night from the window of the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to which he’d voluntarily committed himself.
At the time of my visit to Arles, I was more interested in continuing on my journey to Barcelona than stopping to explore the trees and daffodils that Van Gogh sketched. But the spirit of my surroundings moved me. I didn’t know why, but something stirred inside my soul and insisted that I write it down to save the memory.
I know better than to question The Muse when She commands, “Write it now!” With nothing else at my disposal, social media and my iPhone would have to do.
I posted a quick Facebook message, quoting McLean’s “Vincent.”
“And when no hope was left inside on that starry, starry night, you took your life as lovers often do.”
Within seconds, a private message from my friend Tara Gilani across the Atlantic startled me.
“You OK? That Vincent post was “funky.” Xo
“I’m in Provence … land of Van Gogh inspiration!” I replied. “I love you for checking in though!!!”
“Hooray!!” she wrote back, after I apologized for my cryptic message. “Enjoy!! Xoxox”
My quick response to Tara’s question, however, did not tell the whole story. There was something about Arles that moved me. But it wasn’t until three years later, at the Ice Palace Studios soundstage in Downtown Miami, that that something became clear.
Beneath the surface of the $100 million ‘pauper’
The legend that surrounds Van Gogh is one of darkness bordering on the edge of insanity … his severed ear, his ultimate suicide … all shrouded in mystery and stories to which layers upon layers of myth have been added so that the truth is no longer recognizable. It’s a historical game of telephone that seems to have no ending.
But what we don’t hear, what Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience captures in such visual eloquence, is the soul of the man who was haunted by a need to serve, accomplish his purpose, and struggled to be understood.
The digital experience inside the soundstage is the main course, but if you rush through the frames with the quotes and paintings that lead up to it, you miss understanding the beauty of the artist responsible for combining the ingredients into a recipe that no other artist has been able to duplicate.
The prelude to the experience itself is the appetizer that gives perspective to the works Van Gogh created. Without that perspective, he is just another painter.
Clinically, Van Gogh was believed to have suffered from epilepsy, acute insanity, and hallucinations. While at the asylum, he was supposedly getting better. But he relapsed, and it eventually led to his suicide.
But what came first? Did the madness inspire his masterpieces? Or was his inability to completely express himself a catalyst to the mental illness that would eventually lead to his suicide?
If you’re sane enough to question your sanity, to commit yourself to an asylum, could it be your brand of madness is the closest thing to sanity to which you can aspire?
What was guiding this “mad” man to create such timeless works of art that move people in ways that even those who know nothing about him can appreciate?
We can write the tortured, starving artist off and romanticize his plight. But beneath the surface lies a soul struggling to be understood, to celebrate their differences instead of fitting into a status quo.
Van Gogh was not exactly a pauper, but he didn’t have a lot of money while he was alive.
Starry Night is currently valued at about $100 million.
I left the Van Gogh Experience a changed woman, one with an appreciation and understanding of those who suffer from mental health issues, issues with which we all struggle in one way or another.
I also came away wondering if what we call madness is genius in disguise.
As a writer who struggles to get out of the way of inspiration and let the Universe use me as Her messenger, I relate to Van Gogh’s struggles. My demons are by no means as dark as Van Gogh’s, but releasing them through the written word is my therapy of choice. And when I don’t, the darkness returns.
Having those who read what I write learn from what they read — even if they don’t agree with me — is my purpose in life.
Don McLean stated it perfectly in the line that keeps repeating throughout “Vincent”:
Now, I think I know what you tried to say to me How you suffered for your sanity How you tried to set them free
That song, written so many years ago, ends on a less-than-positive note.
They would not listen; they’re not listening still Perhaps they never will
But perhaps Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience will change that. Perhaps the refrain from earlier in the song will now become reality.
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.
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.
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. 😉
Her royal blue robe was anything but majestic. Her feet were dirty. Her face and hands were worn. Her pedestal was chipped, and her heart was broken.
It was time to fix that.
Fourteen years ago, Mary had been rescued from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina by my father-in-law, a man whose rough exterior poorly hid the gentle soul who was capable of the detailed work required to revive Mary.
Mary, who had traveled 801 miles from Kiln, Mississippi, in the trunk of an Acura TL to our home in Miramar, Florida, to grace a corner of our yard and protect us from Hurricanes Wilma, Bonnie, Rita and countless other mini-natural disasters that had littered our neighborhood with downed trees, broken roof tiles and left us in the dark for days.
Mary, who, six years ago, made the move to our new home with spectacular sunsets in western Broward County and has shielded us from the ravages of Hurricane Irma and (and now Dorian) and the creatures that call the Everglades home: snakes, frogs, raccoons, alligators, and humans who prowl through our neighborhood at night, unafraid of the hundreds of security cameras watching and recording their every move.
For years, I joked that nothing bad ever happened around our house because Mary was protecting us. But I was only half-joking. Her body was a warehouse of miracles waiting to happen. The storage capacity in her 2-feet, 9-inch frame could put an Amazon fulfillment center to shame.
But Mary was looking worn and tired.
She was still creating her miracles each day, but she needed a fresh coat of paint. We had gone as far as buying the paint and brushes, but they had been sitting in the garage for what seemed like forever, waiting for someone to move “Paint Mary” up on their to-do list and finish the job.
But that someone never seemed to raise their hand to say, “I’ll do it.”
Meanwhile, Mary was sending signs that she wanted to shine a little brighter. It was as if her never-ending storehouse of strength was charged by appreciation, love and care, as much as the humans she protects depend on a little bit of reinforcement every now and then to keep them motivated.
But I didn’t pay much attention to the signs. That is until Mary’s insistence became a little louder.
I had never seen a snake in my yard in the six years we have lived here. My neighbors see them all the time but not me. I spend a lot of time outside, so by now, I should have seen my share of them.
A few days ago, I walked out my front door and right there, out of the corner of my eye, just inches from me, was a 3-foot-long southern black racer. That was about three feet too long for me, despite Google’s assurance that it was harmless and useful for keeping insects away. (I’ll take the fly swatter, thank you very much.)
Then there was the frog in the garage. (Anyone who knows me, knows that even the tiniest fake frog makes the hair on my body stand like a full-body Mohawk haircut spikey enough to be classified a weapon.) I had turned on the light to put something in the recycle bin, and there it was, all cute and cozy (to some people) and smiling at me. The fear rose from my solar plexus and turned into a blood-curdling scream that sent the frightened froggie out of the now open garage as I ran inside to monitor its departure through my security cameras. (I digress, but I assure you, I’m not making any of that up.)
Finally, there was the guy standing in our front yard with what looked very much like a rifle when we came home a few nights ago. We made it inside safely while the guy disappeared to who knows where. The police nonchalantly dismissed it as a neighbor out shooting iguanas because “that’s legal now, you know,” but it was Mary’s loudest sign that I should pay attention to her.
She wanted to shine again, and sooner rather than later.
But who would paint her? I was absent the day God gave out painting talents. So, I scratched my name off the list and went about the business of finding other to-do lists to conquer. But the paint cans sitting in the garage were too much of an eyesore to keep ignoring.
“Hey, Barb. Why don’t you paint me?” Mary whispered.
I looked around, and the smiling face of the frog in the garage popped into my memory.
“OK, Mary,” I’ll give it a try if you promise to hit the delete button on that frog vision from my brain,” I responded.
And so, I opened the paint cans, tentatively picked up a brush and trusted Mary to guide me, just as I trust the Muse when my hands hover over a keyboard and a blank page on my Macbook and the words flow like water from a broken dam.
Mary was restored to her shining glory.
Three days before South Florida was placed in the cone of Hurricane Dorian, I placed Mary back in the corner of our yard that she calls home.
My little statue was once again ready to pour her love and miracles on those willing to believe in her and trust her guidance.
It was a reminder that sometimes all it takes is a little “paint” and patience to make someone’s day brighter … to bring out the love hiding beneath an exterior that has been dulled by life’s elements.
Is there someone in your life who needs “painting?” Grab your brush of kindness and bring back the brightness that time has eroded.
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.
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.
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.
Sunrise in Henderson Point, Mississippi. — Copyright 2018 Barbara A. Besteni
… you realize that glass of wine you just poured yourself is just a band-aid on your broken dreams.
That moment when you remember there are no quick fixes. You want results? Do the work.
That moment when you surrender to the fact that the most productive thing you can do when things appear to be at their worse is to stop and give thanks. Because when you force your overactive mind to its knees, the Universe steps in and says, “I got this.”
That moment when you recognize that jealousy and envy are poisons keeping you from enjoying the bounty that God created especially for you.
That moment when it finally registers that your heart is smarter than your head, and you start listening with your soul instead of your mind.
That moment when the line between right and wrong is obliterated because you notice that your internal moral compass is much more accurate than that of the one set by society.
That moment when you stop feeling guilty for being “selfish.”
That moment when you relinquish your need to be right.
That moment when you take back control of your life from those who “mean well” and are only “looking out for your best.”
That moment when you awaken from the hypnotic spell of the list of things you should be doing and start doing those things whose only merit is that you like doing them.
That moment when you comprehend that fitness and health are not the same. Because when you stop forcing your body to fit the unrealistic mold Madison Avenue has created for you, you finally achieve the healthy body you were meant to have.
That moment when you accept that you may never achieve fame and fortune by worldly standards. But you will inspire people in more personal ways and doing so, you will fulfill your purpose for being here.
That moment when you remember less is more.
That moment when you discover your prayers are constantly being answered.
That moment when it hits you … you’re not going to live forever.
Waveland Mississippi Pier – copyright 2018 Barbara A. Besteni
That overwhelming sense of sadness that suddenly descends upon you … when there’s absolutely nothing wrong.
We all feel it.
If we look around, things on the surface look pretty darn good. We have everything we want, except that a nagging feeling of melancholy keeps hovering over our hearts like a Category 1 hurricane waiting to happen. It may not cause a lot of damage, but it’s annoying enough to damper our mood for a while.
It’s a type of melancholy that makes teenage angst seem like an endorphin high on speed.
But why are we so afraid to admit that something is wrong? Not just to others, but to ourselves? Is it because we fear that if we accept that there’s an emptiness inside us that nothing seems to fulfill we’ll finally have to find a way to fulfill it?
Better to be in denial and stay busy, right? Maybe it will just go away.
But IT doesn’t. And the more we pretend IT is not there … the moment we turn on the television, reach for our smartphone for the latest alert, troll through social media, IT is sitting right beside us, crowding our space, making us even more miserable than we already were.
And speaking of social media. How’s that for a humbling experience, showing us that compared to others, our lives completely suck? So, get with it! Don’t just sit there, go do something productive to show your worth and post it on Facebook!
At the end of a day of aimlessly running around being “productive,” we reach for a glass of wine, or two, or 15, to take the edge off, but no amount of alcohol will drown out the truth that’s longing to come to the surface. The truth that despite all the noise surrounding us every day, there’s something missing.
We grew up to be who we wanted to be, but along the way, we lost who we were.
Now, let’s face it. All is not doom and gloom and I simply exaggerate just a tiny bit to get your attention. I tend to do that. (Go ahead, roll your eyes in acknowledgement. I’ll take it as a compliment.)
There are moments when we glimpse happiness and fulfillment. Moments when we gaze into our significant other’s eyes, when we cuddle with our pets, when we watch our children grow up to be amazing people, when we laugh our asses off over the antics of animal videos on the internet, when we dance naked alone in our kitchens as if nobody’s watching and suddenly, somebody is. (I’m making that up. I only dance naked in the living room.)
But those moments are few and far between because we’re so busy doing all the ancillary stuff of life that real life passes us by.
IT is that little voice inside of us, screaming for us to STOP! – Stop before our bodies break down and force us to do so. Stop before we look back and realize we missed so much frantically doing so little.
And how do we tame IT?
By doing the exact opposite of what we’ve been doing.
Instead of adding more to our already overflowing glutton-envying plate of to-do lists and tasks, we need to put down our forks, step away from the table and go for a nice long walk. (Or dance naked in the living room, if that sounds like something you might like.)
IT is a cranky toddler screaming for attention. But IT knows what’s best for you. Because IT is the you that you lost somewhere between the playground and the office conference room.
And the only way to quiet IT is to do … nothing… except the hardest thing of all …
Sunset at Barbs – May 16, 2018 – Copyright 2018 Barbara A. Besteni
“Be careful what you ask for because you might get it.”
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced the world to her theory of the fives stages of grief in her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying.
I was 10 years old at the time, high as a kite because my favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, had won the World Series. My prayers had been answered. All was right with the world.
Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – were as foreign to me as grief itself.
Joy, however, was all around me, and I devoured it with the reckless abandon of a wildfire hungrily consuming everything in its path, without question, without fear, without guilt, without regret.
Then, suddenly, I wasn’t 10 years old anymore. Overnight I became a teenager, a young adult, a grownup.
And the joy I once experienced at the gifts God placed at the table of life before me became burdens, joys I didn’t deserve. Guilt entered the picture to further suck the pleasure out of the gifts that I had once accepted without question.
Life became serious. Sadness entered the picture as people I once considered invincible and immortal left this world to continue their spiritual journey.
It’s as if grief had swooped in and snatched the joy right from under me.
I still believed in joy, in answered prayers, but I got used to not having those prayers answered. I think it happens to most of us. It’s part of the human condition we come to accept as we “grow up.”
We are still disappointed when we don’t get what we ask for, but not as disappointed as we had been when we were children and our expectations were higher.
But what happens if, as adults, we pray for something and we do get it?
Now we’re entering into let’s go batshit crazy territory.
Instead of accepting it as a gift from God, we often reject it. Sometimes we cautiously open the gift wrapping, peek inside the box, and shut it closed.
Is it because it seems too good to be true? Is it because we’re guilty that others don’t have what we are given? Or is it because we don’t think we’re good enough to deserve the amazing gifts life places before us every day?
Could there be five stages of accepting the answers to our prayers … even if those answers are not what we expected? Or worse! They’re better than what we expected!
Stage 1: I want this. Please, God, I want this more than anything else in the world, and if you give it to me, I’ll never ask for anything again.
Stage 2:I got what I asked for – Ooops, God answered my prayer. What do I do now?
Stage 3:Guilt – I don’t deserve this. “Hey, God, take it back. I feel worse now because a gift like this should really go to someone who is like, say, Mother Teresa, not someone like me who sits in front of a computer all day editing copy and writing random thoughts in a blog.” (OK, so maybe this blog entry is just a bit biographical.)
Stage 4: Sabotage – “You know what, God? I’ll sabotage your gift to show that I’m not a selfish person. I know you gave this to me as a test to see if I was humble enough to deserve it. So, here, take it back. Did I pass the test?”
But no matter how hard we try, the gift doesn’t seem to go away. In fact, God keeps wrapping it up and giving it to us over and over again, no matter how many times we reject it.
That’s because God’s gifts are unconditional. We don’t have to do anything to deserve them. And if those things for which we pray are in line with Her Will, if they will further Her love, then we only have one thing left to do when She answers our prayers.
Don’t judge the gifts. Just say “Thank you,” and move on.