Yeah, so, lots of school related posts are coming.  I can feel that shit like my intestines after the holidays.

OK, so the first term is scheduled.  English 1011 and a one-week orientation that officially start on Monday of next week, then two classes scheduled to begin in March – another credited ASU-related class and a Geography course to fulfill the social/cultural general requirements.

I am way fucking nervous but fuck it.  Here we go.

In other news, I took this Accuplacer test yesterday right?  Max grade was an eight.  I scored a six.  First, I’m pissed about that; I should have done better.  Second, I set myself up for a bit of disappointment in that I thought there was a mid-level course for which one would qualify if they didn’t achieve the perfect score required to get into the 105 class straight out of the gate.  Nope.  Go to 101, motherfucker. Bust.

So, lesson learned.  This is why you’re going to school, asshole.  You don’t know it all.  Yet.

Good news is that I found out my work has a pretty robust reimbursement program.  Gonna take advantage of that like whoa.

That’s it for now.  I actually have to do some real studying now.

You believe that shit?

It’s rad as fuck.

  1. which still bugs, but I’ll get to that in a minute []
 

Ah, 2017, you magical whore.  There was so much to love, so much to hate, so much to view from binary perspectives that are anything but.  This was anything but a sedentary year and that’s a very good thing, but there are sharp edges to this recent past that leave me with more than a healthy respect for growth, ownership, compassion, and above all, love.  Love for ourselves, love for our partners and friends, love for the future.  So let’s start with the past; let’s review what we’ve learned.

I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced a year of growth on such a massive, transformative scale.  And that’s not hyperbole.  On one hand, it’s easy enough to say that it shouldn’t need to have happened this way in the first place, but what is growth without the need for it?  And does the anguish of the evolutionary process diminish the greatness that follows?  Not in these cases, painful as this molting was.

_

I had, for years, taken Ivonne for granted.  There were depressive states during our marriage that were entirely and completely fueled by my lack of communication and unwillingness to concede fear or sadness or depression.  And when your partner sees these things – and the inherent ability to be better than the person you’ve become – there’s a sense of disappointment and complacency that arrives, unwillingly.  This isn’t her fault.  This is human nature.  We stop asking, we stop reaching out, we stop trying because our requests are rebuffed with, ‘hey, it’s all good, nothing to worry about,’ or the time-honored, ‘it’ll be fine’.  Sometimes it’s not fine.  But we speak the lie, and it’s met, not with admiration for some enduring strength but with the solitude felt by those on the outside looking in, and we can’t be surprised when the faces of those most treasured turn to warmer fires, to friends that will listen, to family that will embrace.

I shut down.  I stopped talking to her.  She stopped talking to me and we started to drift on different currents and all of a sudden found ourselves out of arms reach.  We of the perfect façade.  And this, primarily, was my doing.  This recognition was hard for a myriad of reasons, but framed within reasonably-toxic masculinity and a sense of shame of who I’d allowed myself to become, the veils had to be lifted before I could see a proper course of action.

And that’s not to say my course has always been true since finding the right star.  I’ve tripped on some serious shit, some stupid shit, some ‘you gotta be kidding me’ shit – but every one of them are lessons now, not setbacks.  They’re opportunities to remember what it felt like when those dark places were years of your life, not pockets of challenges that are (relatively) easy to manage now.  This is only true, only real, because of the hard work I’ve done for myself and the hard work we’ve done together.

I see my personal therapist once a week now.  We work on things from my familial relationships, to my personal goals, to crisis management, to understanding how communication and compassion are symbiotic, to you name it, we’ve discussed it – and litany of topics remain that I’m just now unpacking that will require quite a bit more work.  And yes, it’s been fucking hard, but beyond worth the effort.  I haven’t felt this emotionally stable in, well, ever, because the dirty varnish of hubris and arrogance is never as thick as we might hope.  When those get stripped away, I’m left with myself.  And this person needs care, attention, and love.  We have to start giving those to ourselves before we can properly receive them from others.

We see our Marriage and Family Therapist once a month now.  There was a time we were going once a week; I’ll let the frequency speak for itself.  But these sessions, too, have been heavy lifting, hard work that has had its own rewards, but would be far less meaningful if it weren’t for the personal effort that frames the ability to lift together.  One person cannot perform the lifting for two.

Through this process I began to truly realize that I, somehow, got luckier than one person deserves.  In as much as I’ve abused my relationship with Ivonne over the course of years, we never detached and the bond never broke.  I always perceived an invisible thread that ran between the two of us:  Thicker at times of closeness than thinner when we gradually ebbed apart, but gravity always brought us back.  Not this time.  This time, I think I almost played the final act.  Almost.

But today, we are stronger now than we’ve ever been in our marriage.  Ever.  I am more compassionate to myself than I have ever been.  Every day, I try to prove myself open, honest, communicative, and present.  I have, and will continue, to make mistakes, drawn off course by some fog of the mind and heart.  But there she remains, right there waiting for me, as I do for her when it’s her turn to need.  We support each other, build each other up, allow each other to hold space, stopped trying to fix, but respecting our perspectives and positions while allowing for the changes that continued evolution must always manifest.  We’re growing together, the way we always said we did.

And for these things, I am beyond grateful.

 

The second major molting occurred when I recognized my alcoholism for what it was and started to get help.

I had always viewed alcoholism as weakness, something that dirty drunks did when they couldn’t control themselves, when they were depressed and alone, when they were… oh.  Wait.  All of a sudden, this shoe suddenly fit so very very comfortably.

There are different types of alcoholism, but we immediately create a picture in our minds of someone who’s buying gallons of vodka from six different liquor stores and hiding them around the house so they can manage to breathe for one more week – and those people exist.  I know guys in AA meetings who can’t seem to stay sober for more than three days.  Others have been going to those rooms for thirty years only to find themselves standing outside the door of a bar trying to convince themselves not to go in.  Alcoholics some in all shapes, sizes, mental states, and levels of strength, but one truth remains:  Their relationship with alcohol is toxic and it is powerful.  Plain and simple.  And once I realized that there was no black and white in that space, I recognized that I’d been there for quite a long time.

Alcohol was a defining factor in the state of my relationship with Ivonne.  It was no coincidence that the best footing our marriage ever stood upon was the year and a half of self-imposed sobriety after an embarrassing incident where I pissed the bed, the floor, and my books after a night of blackout drinking.  The difference then was that I knew I wasn’t stopping for good.  I knew that I had a problem, sure, but it wasn’t enough of a problem that I couldn’t figure out how to manage it, that somehow I could learn how to ‘drink properly’ and not let it become a thing.  

But that’s where I erred.  I tried to control it when what I really needed to do was let it go.  Knowing that I almost lost my family because of it drives me, sure, and was a great initial spur to the backside of progress, but now, it’s not about them.  It’s about me.  I don’t drink because I don’t want to lose myself.  If I lose myself, I lose them, I lose everything I’ve worked so hard to change.  And I’d be trading it all for the bottom of a bottle.

But that’s just me.

I don’t begrudge anyone who drinks.  As a matter of fact, I like to read the lists in restaurants to see what seasonals are on tap, but not once have I been tempted to place that order.  I miss it, yes.  I’ll miss it the rest of my life, and that’s ok; that’s a healthy fear.  The moment I stop respecting the role alcohol has played in my life – and how it will always lay in wait, is the moment that I invite my own downfall.

So, I go to AA.  Oh, I resisted, kicking and screaming, but I’ve found a meeting I like, every Sunday afternoon at 4:30.  It’s agnostic/atheist and eschews the portion of the steps that focus on god and classical spirituality.  And while I don’t necessarily subscribe to ‘the steps’ as one my perceive them in traditional AA, I’ve also come to understand that this process is, like our alcoholism, singular and unique to each one of us where we get to pick and choose what works and focus on that space to keep ourselves sober.

So I choose to focus on my sincere desire to quit drinking.  My ‘higher power’ is myself and the knowledge that I have made these commitments to my family.  I go to this meeting to get propped up, to be appreciative, to hear the stories of those who have lost everything and to get back in my car thankful that I have a family to whom I can return.

I close this section with this:  Should you be reading this, thinking, “oh shit, this is going to change my relationship with Josh,” it may.  And I hope so.  Because our relationship will only change for the better.

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve decided to go back to school.

I’m going to get my English degree.  I’m going to write books.  I’m going to take this, the most precious of mediums, and finally bend it to my will.

When I got the notification that I’d been accepted to Arizona State – yes, it’s online, yes, they have a 98% acceptance rate, so what – I wept.  I sit and dream of the classes I’m going to get to take.  I’m going to get to walk with my class and receive my diploma.

I haven’t started – I literally start next week – and just the thought of it fills me with such pride, such thankfulness, that it’s hard to describe.

This may not seem like much, but for me?

See, that’s just it.  This is for me.

I’ve said enough.  And I tend to do this:  I get all verbose at the beginning of a post and get all terse at the end, ’cause I know it’s time to quit and get in the shower and go to work because I’ve gotta hand out trinkets to people who’re coming to the casino to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

But I want to remind myself that, away from all the personal drama, political bullshittery, and evolutionary strides we’ve made as a society – how we treat each other, the recognition of our mistakes as men, the willingness to be better, the equality demanded by all – there is still a lot for me to personally take away from this year.  Least of all an appreciation of myself.

So that’s my 2017.

I’m glad it came.

 

Ivonne shot me a link yesterday of Neil Gaiman’s thoughts and advice to prospective writers. Say what you want about Neil Gaiman, or, more to the point, about Amanda Palmer, but the dude knows how to write a story.  American Gods is one of the best and that shit is just compounded by the rad-ass show, but I digress.  His point is well taken: The only way to get good at something is to just fucking do it.

Shut up, Nike.

I took that pretty literally when I was able to look back on the last  year of my life and really see that simply picking up your shit and making it happen has been proven true.  I’ve lost a lot of weight.  I’ve become healthier in mind and body.  I’ve been instrumental in making my marriage even that much better.  None of this was through complacency, but a lot of hard work and insistence on action.

Writing is no different.

So as I sit here on the cusp of starting school to get my undergraduate degree in English, I say to myself that, while my goals are lofty yet attainable, nothing gets done without action.  I know there’s a part of me that’s waiting for the hard work to begin to start harder work – and that’s ok, too, ’cause I’m not gonna kick myself in the ass over knowing how I’m motivated – but if I get in the habit now of quota and word count then fuck, all of a sudden, I’m gonna have some shit that’s useable.

Like my boy Neil said, “When you go back and read what you’ve written, you’ll never know if it was during a moment of inspiration or part of the daily slog.”  Something like that.  And he’s right.

If I wait for inspiration, nothing will get done.

It’s right fucking there.

 

First, let’s start with Gratitude.

  • I am extremely grateful for my wife.  The reasons are too numerous to mention, frankly, but the fact is that our heavy lifting has not come without strains and soreness; we work on our own unpacking while we support each other on our shared journey and these things are not easy, especially when one suffers from anxiety and depression.  I’m listening now, not just hearing, and I’m grateful for the chance to not only show these advancements but to be appreciated for them.
  • I’m appreciative of the support I’ve received from the handful of people with whom I’ve truly discussed my alcoholism.  It should be, but it’s not easy to talk to someone about something that, unfortunately, we view in a negative light.  It does take a lot of strength to see the need for change and then actually do those things.  I couldn’t have done it without Ivonne and my therapist.  Straight up.
  • Those are kind of general things, sure, so let’s make it a bit more specific.  I’m thankful that I can fit into old clothes that I saved for just such an occasion.
  • I’m glad to be able to help Reza with her homework every Sunday, even though I might not be in the mood.
  • I’m lucky to have amazing friends that I get to chat with daily.  I’m luckier to have old friends watching from afar.  TK, I’m looking at you.
  • I’ve got a couple trips on the horizon:  One to see my brother in Kansas City in January, another to Santa Rosa to visit Faith and Jillian in December and a tentative plan to go see Styles in Connecticut.  Ivonne and Reza will be in Mexico in mid-December, so, honestly, I’m looking forward to the solitude.  Sometimes, you just need some time to yourself.  I’m glad all these events are coming up relatively shortly.
  • Finally, I’m thankful that I’ve got some advil to help with this headache.  😀

OH!  Let’s move on to Yoga.

So, I can finally put my heels on the ground during Downward Facing Dog.  It only took six months.  HAH.  I’m taking the time lately to really fine-tune my positioning in every pose.  Fuck, is this ever hard, but again, worth it.

With that in mind, last time I checked, I lost 46 pounds.  That looks fucking insane on paper, but in reality, it doesn’t feel like a lot.  Just kinda goes to show how much work I really had to do.  What it’s given me, though, is the perspective on goals – as in, I can kinda have them now.  For now, I’m gonna shoot for another 40.  Why not?  I mean, it’s doable, that much is sure.  I’ve just gotta keep the drive going.

The last few weeks, maybe even three weeks, have been kinda slacky.  I’ve been eating worse and not following my rules relative to what I ingest.  I gotta get back to that.  And frankly, I haven’t been doing yoga as much as I should be, either.  I got to a point where I thought I needed to scale it up a bit.  Personally, I think I need to re-commit to doing it every other day, no excuses.  Let’s rock that for a month before we start making advanced plans.

And, with that, I find myself losing steam.  Long day.  The last couple days have been pretty draining, not gonna lie.  I’ll write more about that tomorrow.

 

I was born to beg for you.

This, yes.  All of this, yes.

 

Yeah, I’m not going to be able to put this one into words.

Just, when you come back and read this, remember sitting on the concrete steps, how her legs felt pressed up against yours, how the neighbor introduced himself and Reza fought us, as usual, about going to bed, among the dissolution of the last vestiges of pride.  Remember the tone of your voice, the stream of consciousness, the tenor in which you finally stopped talking and began to speak.

Remember what it felt like to hear the words, ‘you are responsible’, that you are the one who created this place.  Remember who told you, the man who said the words.  Remember the legs that carried you there and how they felt, corded and sinewed, as she finally sat down to rest.

Remember reading her texts over and over and over again, refusing to allow self-righteousness and deflection to protect the parasite in your heart.  Remember how those punches to the gut felt.  Remember how winded you deserved to be.  Remember how you struggled to breathe.

And when she walked up the sidewalk to the porch, she hugged you.  She of a thousand cuts.  Remember how she bled on you, and you bled on yourself for the first time in years, saving it, holding it, letting it run through your fingers without smearing it on anyone else.

Remember the commitments made to each of you last night, because they will be remembered with joy or regret, and that the choice is mostly yours.

And when she bleeds again, and when you bleed again, when those old heavy stones are removed from her lungs and her spine and her heart, remember that you are bound by love to accept them, no matter how heavy.  You will hurt.  Remember that she’s carried them, alone, for years, and you have the privilege to share this burden until time and forgiveness cracks them, erodes them to pebbles then dust.

Then, you will look back at the musculature of the new body the two of you have built from scratch, transparent and beautiful, and you’ll be thankful that you were given this opportunity after a night on the concrete steps, with her legs pressed up against yours.

 
  • She’s done enough.  More than enough.  And she’s done it for me and she’s done it for us and this is enough.  I didn’t want this to be a pyrrhic victory; I didn’t want this to be a war at all, but it’s felt like it at times.  Yet, I’m thankful that we’re in a spot that we worked very hard to achieve, despite the cuts and bruises – and I’m grateful that it was with her.  If anyone is worth the effort, she is.
  • I’m once again amazingly glad that we had a couple weeks of time together outside our normal spaces, routines, and distractions.  I knew this vacation was going to turn out to be one of our most important ever, and for me at least, it felt like a tangible reminder of what it feels like to be in lockstep, of what to shoot for when we’re back to real life.  That kind of connection.  And I’m thankful that we’re getting there, too.
  • As fucking terrible as it felt, I’m grateful that she felt comfortable enough to give me some visibility into to some shit that happened a while ago that she’d been holding on to.  And again, it’s not about me, it’s about how she felt and how I made her feel.  I’m just so beyond thankful that she held on even after that, and as painful as it’ll be, I’m hopeful that she feels that she can work with me on other things like that in the future.
  • And finally, I’m thankful for the work that I’ve done.  There’s been a lot of growth, a lot of movement, and a shit ton of positive personal development.  Some of it was latent, simply waiting to be activated.  Some of it is brand new, things I didn’t know or realize before that have become parts of my framework.  Regardless, I’m stoked that it’s happening and glad that I’ve come as far as I have:  It makes the roads I’m going to travel that much more exciting.
 

I am absolutely heartsick.

Got some information today that rocked me, things that I said in the past that hurt the one I love the most.  I am… disgusted and distraught and completely sick to my stomach.

And to think the disgust that I feel about myself right now is how she thought I felt about her then.  And she carried this for years.

My god, I am so so so sorry.

 

Whoa, things have been crazy the last few days… I got home from Japan to work being done on the house which turned into a cleaning nightmare.  Suffice to say the last three days didn’t go even remotely as planned:  I had so many things I wanted to do that were totally derailed by the time I needed to invest in simply keeping my home livable.  But!  I have a home!  And that’s where we start today.

  • I’m totally god damned grateful for the home I have, the city in which I live, the fact that I’ve got a good job.  Look, all the things that I’m able to do with my family and friends are due each of those things.  I tend to overlook the foundational things that we build on, and having a good home with amazing people is the core of it all.
  • I’m ecstatic that Ivonne is coming home today.  It’s felt like a very long week.  Having been through this recently, I know what the next few days are going to be like for her, so I’ll be here to help however I can.
  • I’m thankful for … loving cats?  Jesus, man, Reza needs to get back quick, ’cause Gomez is a needy motherfucker.  God damn!
  • Oh, I’m super thankful I bounced right back into Yoga land.  I was a bit worried for a sec that I was going to have regressed a bit, but twice this week now and I’m right back in the saddle.  We’ll see how I fare over the weekend – ’cause I really need to get out on my bike – but for now, so far so good.  I don’t think I did much damage while I was gone, and I’m definitely down a full pants size now (as opposed to the wishful thinking of a couple weeks ago) so yeah, super stoked on that.  There’s more where that came from.

I’ve got some shit to get done in the next few hours before the girls get home, but really, that’s the theme of the day.  The girls are coming home and I’m fucking complete once more.  Hallelujah.

 

You know what’s funny?  That word has such a stigma attached to it.  Sobriety.  Like it’s a facial deformity that gets you turned away from the club.  It’s always present, you’re always aware, and even though it’s not top of mind, it’s an ever-present attachment.

The moment you tell people that you don’t drink anymore – or a bastardization of that theme, but I’ll cover that in a second – they give you this look of, really?  You?  And then they shirk away just a bit, or drop their chin ever so slightly to look at anything but your face, and catch themselves.

“That’s really cool!  Good for you.  What prompted this?   Health reasons?”

I usually agree.  Health Reasons.

___

It’s only been four months since I quit drinking for good.  I’m easing my friends into it.  “That’s all you; I’m not drinking for a really long time, so have at it,” has been my go-to phrase lately.  I know I’m being a bit deceitful because while it’s technically true, it’s not up-front-and-clear, and I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.

I had a really hard time with it in Japan.  Nobody knew, of course, but I did.  From the moment we got on the plane – free beer! – to the moment I stepped onto the jet bridge from the return flight, I was being pulled in ways I didn’t like at all.  Oddly enough, when I bought a couple bottles of sake as gifts – one for a friend, another for a co-worker who saved my ass right before we left – I wasn’t even remotely bothered:  I didn’t have that Constantine moment where I was gonna crack open a bottle and drown in it, which is both unsurprising and a litmus test relative to my mental state and determination.  Those are good things.  But even while I took extra special care to make sure that I wasn’t drinking – the last night in an Izakaya with Bee’s homies comes to mind – it was still present.  More than I expected.

I’ve been plowing through a bunch of positive life changes lately, every single one of them a tough yet uplifting transition.  Ivonne shared with me a few things that I didn’t know – perspectives and viewpoints that were punches to the gut, yes, but things I needed to hear – about my drinking habits, things that will stick with me like the story of the old woman licking the vodka from the tile of her kitchen floor.  I need those things to stick with me.

Because I think I’ve figured out that this process is different this time because it’s permanent.  Every other time I’ve ‘quit drinking’ I knew in my heart that I was going to be back at it, be it months or years later.  I was going to try to control it, control myself with it in me, and I thought that by learning hard lessons, I could catapult those into positive behaviors while being able to keep what I want.  The ultimate selfishness, really.  Sometimes it’s hard not to think that way again.

This time – in this moment, recently – it’s been hard.  Not hard in that I’m-going-to-go-get-the-half-bottle-of-tequila-still-in-my-cabinet hard, but in a very real, this-is-truly-not-part-of-my-life-anymore hard.  Like a legit breakup.

So, I wanted to talk about it here because I’m using this space for positivity, now, and for accountability.  I realized recently that I have so much more to be thankful for than not, and even though I got to this particular party pretty late – after leaving a wake of destruction behind me – I’ve also understood that most people who get to this point have done the same thing.  And as I forgive myself, I’m being given the opportunity to repair and make things stronger.  Not everyone is given that chance.

So anyway.  I’m marking the four month milestone to acknowledge the difficulty and how far I have yet to go, sure, but to appreciate where I am now, ’cause I’ve done some good work with much more to come.