The Place Where the One You Lost Resides
Grief redux. Adult Children. Nick Cave. Really Good Search Engine. Frank O'Hara.
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After a six-month hiatus, I finally returned to my regular in-person Friday morning ACA men’s meeting this week so that I could blab and puke all over everyone about the anniversary of my father’s death. The last time I was there, I had a real pugnacious attitude about the vibe in the room, which had shifted from a deeply profound, elevating weekly event for me since 2018 to what I considered an unspiritualized, ego-driven mess. The place—a theosophist church called the Bessant Lodge nestled on the downhill side of Beachwood Canyon—had been my first true 12-step sanctuary.
Even if I wasn’t a prototypical Adult Child of Alcoholics, I sure behaved like one throughout my entire life. But I allowed myself to examine my personal and family relationship history in that room. It didn’t take long for me to realize that many of the problems I’d pinned to others for so long had actually been casualties of my self-deception. So, I took ownership of that. Once I got through that first layer of crud, I examined the relationship with my parents, zeroing in on the lifelong struggles I had with my father. As I’d long suspected and complained about, he fucked me up the most. But it was in that room that I learned how to stand up for myself, then detach (with love!) from him, then take responsibility for my part, then slowly amend and forgive him, and leave space for him to forgive me, even if dementia had wiped out the formality of it. My heart knew the truth: after five years in ACA, I was finally–mercifully–over it.
But after the pandemic, the room began to lose some of its old standbys—the men who helped me and I held such high regard—and I thought the magic of the place might be gone forever. So, I stopped making the effort to get to it at 8 a.m. There were plenty of excuses for me not to go there.
On Friday, I’d decided that I’d head back to the room and re-elevate the place with a share about the growth I’d experienced in the year since my father died. There is nothing wrong with a little performance, especially with some real-deal extra heavy dead dad shit which always played so well there.
I had rehearsed my share on the ride over. In the end, I’d hit everyone with this beauty: “I was in the hospice, sitting right next to my dying father, and while I was next to him, listening to his dying breaths, I realized that had I not been sober, I wouldn’t be there.” Can you imagine all the satisfying “Mmmmmmmms” I’d get back from the people in that room? It would sound like a knocked-over beehive.
And then I imagined how good it would feel when all the teary-eyed men would come over to shake my hand afterward. “Thank you for that, A.J.,” they’d say. “You’ve changed me.” I wanted that ego boost. I thought I deserved it—I thought the lifeless room deserved it. It was the one-year anniversary of my father’s death so it was my day to be a Higher Power.
But no one called on me. I raised my hand from the top of the hour until the newcomer break, but no one called on me even when I was glaring right at people–practically through them–to convey that I had an urgent need to share and that I was the most important person in the room. Did they not know who I was? That I was one of the longest-tenured, most scintillating members—“a giant in this program,” is how one fellow described me.
I was not, of course. I never am. I did not get what I wanted—all the attention and praise and service highs to help me process my grief. Instead, I got nothing.
I didn’t say a word but still got exactly what I needed. Funny how it works.
Progress, not perfection, et cetera.
Because I was so preoccupied with my father’s death anniversary, I focused on reading about grief this week, so who better to do that with than Nick Cave? Here are a few of Good Grief quotes from him that gave me what I needed:
NICK CAVE GRIEF QUOTE ENSEMBLE:
- “There can be kind of a morbid worshipping of an absence. A reluctance to move beyond the trauma, because the trauma is where the one you lost resides, and therefore the place where meaning exists.”
- “Grief is as ordinary and as commonplace as love.”
- “I have come to realize that there is little headway that we can make around grief until we learn to articulate it— speak it, say it out loud, sing about it, write it down, or whatever. There is no place to speak about grief in our regular lives. It’s just not done, so we are left with these infernal abstractions that reside in the mind and that, perhaps, unconsciously impact our behavior.”
- “It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.”
- “I think these absences do something to those of us who remain behind. We are like haunted houses, in a way, and our absences can even transform us so that we feel a quiet but urgent love for those who remain, a tenderness to all of humanity, as well as an earned understanding that our time is finite.”
- “Stillness is what you crave in grief.”
DEPARTMENT OF SELF-PROMOTION AND DRY JANUARY CORRESPONDENCE:
This was a lovely conversation I will always cherish. Thanks to PJ and Sruthi for being so incredibly generous with their incredible show, which is always a joy to listen to. It was truly an honor to be on it, and my hope is that some of you are here because you found it useful. So hi again.
Let’s Log it out!
DAILY READINGS THIS WEEK
- Notable Fears this week:
*Deep breath* War in and outside my head, the upcoming election, being a lousy father, flying, organizing bills, the IRS, success, ambition, an escaped lobster, home invasions. That about covers it.
–Notable daily Gratitude List:
* Small progress on other writing projects.
* Jen R.
* Easing into a new work schedule.
* The Curse!
* Raphie’s new job.
* First day back at Bessant, learning to wait my turn and say nothing.
* Miles from Chevalier.
* Catch up with Cameron.
* Greg G., John R., Jen C.
* Julieanne and my noisy family.
* We found Chompy!
* Understanding the insanity of fear.
* The tight bond with my sister.
* Nephew’s baby news.
FAVORITE POEM I READ THIS WEEK:
MEDITATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY by Frank O'Hara ******** Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were French? Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth. Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a change? I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love. Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves. However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It is more important to affirm the least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and even they continue to pass. Do they know what they’re missing? Uh huh. My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time; they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me up. It makes me restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them still. If only I had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I would stay at home and do something. It’s not that I am curious. On the contrary, I am bored but it’s my duty to be attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above the earth. And lately, so great has their anxiety become, I can spare myself little sleep. Now there is only one man I love to kiss when he is unshaven. Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching. (How discourage her?) St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness which is like midnight in Dostoevsky. How am I to become a legend, my dear? I’ve tried love, but that hides you in the bosom of another and I am always springing forth from it like the lotus—the ecstasy of always bursting forth! (but one must not be distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, “to keep the filth of life away,” yes, there, even in the heart, where the filth is pumped in and courses and slanders and pollutes and determines. I will my will, though I may become famous for a mysterious vacancy in that department, that greenhouse. Destroy yourself, if you don’t know! It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I admire you, beloved, for the trap you’ve set. It's like a final chapter no one reads because the plot is over. “Fanny Brown is run away—scampered off with a Cornet of Horse; I do love that little Minx, & hope She may be happy, tho’ She has vexed me by this Exploit a little too. —Poor silly Cecchina! or F:B: as we used to call her. —I wish She had a good Whipping and 10,000 pounds.” —Mrs. Thrale. I’ve got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my dirtiest suntans. I’ll be back, I'll re-emerge, defeated, from the valley; you don’t want me to go where you go, so I go where you don’t want me to. It’s only afternoon, there’s a lot ahead. There won’t be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in the lock and the knob turns.
MEDITATION PRACTICE: 10 MINUTES PER DAY MINIMUM
NUMBER OF SESSIONS: 10
LONGEST SIT: 10 minutes and 30 seconds.
THERAPY SESSIONS: NONE
RECOVERY STEP WORK SESSIONS: ONE
OUTREACH CALLS: FIVE
SERVICE: CHAIR WEDNESDAY TSB MEETING, PREAMBLE AT SUNDAY MEETING.
EXERCISE: ONE-TIME BJJ
TOTAL SOBRIETY RATING FOR THE WEEK: 4/5
IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED: Less ego, more humility, less bad dreaming.
HOLIDAY ZOOM MEETING SCHEDULE THROUGH JANUARY 5th
Monday: 5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 ET
Wednesday: 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET
Friday: 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET
Saturday: Mental Health Focus (Peer support for bipolar/anxiety/depression) 9:30 a.m. PT/12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday: (Mental Health and Sobriety Support Group.) 1:00 p.m PT/4 p.m. ET
MORE MEETINGS WILL BE ADDED SOON!
If you don't feel comfortable calling yourself an "alcoholic," that's fine. If you have issues with sex, food, drugs, codependency, love, loneliness, depression —whatever-whatever–come on in. Newcomers are especially welcome. We’re here.
FORMAT: CROSSTALK, TOPIC MEETING
We're there for an hour, sometimes more. We'd love to have you.
Meeting ID: 874 2568 6609
PASSWORD TO ZOOM: nickfoles
Need more info?: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOME GREAT QUOTES THAT HELPED NEUTRALIZE MY IRRATIONAL, DESTABILIZING, STUPID FEAR THIS WEEK:
“It is likely that some bad thing will happen in the future, but it is not happening now.” — Seneca
“A man who is always preparing for either class of evil will not have a moment of peace left in him.” — Schopenhauer
“We magnify our sorrow, or we imagine it, or we get ahead of it.” — Seneca
“No one who is afraid or distressed or troubled is free, and whoever is released from distress and fear and trouble is in the same way released from slavery.”
GREAT GIFTS FOR SOMEONE WHO LOVE COFFEE OR TEA WITH A GREAT BOOK
TSB merch is a good thing. [STORE]
Enjoy your Sunday. — xx AJD
ALL ILLUSTRATIONS BY EDITH ZIMMERMAN