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Guilty or grateful–or both?

31 May

1:20 pm

I feel guilty today. I am only just watching the news on TV, only just reading about all the protests (in the US; I think everyone knows what’s going on, so I won’t get into explaining it here) on social media (Twitter). I am not there, and I feel guilty for not being engaged, for seemingly not caring. Even if I was there–I am not on the mainland–I am not sure I would be at a protest, and I feel guilty about that. I am even feeling a twinge of guilt about not being active on social media (I have been off Facebook for about 1.5 months and I haven’t been on Twitter, as a user, for like, a decade)–I got off for my mental health’s sake, and I don’t see it helping me to go back on right now.

(Actually, I went on Twitter yesterday and this morning, for the first time in years, after having realized that that’s where a lot of people are getting their news these days; and I have to say, it’s been really helpful to see all the user-generated video content of the protests. However, I don’t want to log into my account and start scrolling endlessly through a feed that is so tailored toward my specific, and illusory, reality.)

Anyway, I also feel this restless anxiety toward…I don’t know, the uncertainty of all this, how it’s going to end, how it’s going to affect the COVID situation (so much for the easy re-openings!). In my opinion, this will never be fixed unless we stop telling ourselves, collectively, that “it’s a few bad apples” and “99.9% of cops are good guys.” If that were the case, why the EFF is our entire country, across cities, coast to coast, totally enraged? Why are these so-called “good apples” teargassing everyone, from peaceful protestors to journalists (who are doing their jobs!?). It’s akin to the “hearts and prayers” crap that has been on repeat in this county for decades, which does nothing to fix the problem of gun violence in America.

Like most Americans, I see these “bad apple” incidents happening over and over and over again; I see these “good cops” suit up in their wartime garb, for situations that are NOT riot scenes; I watch them commit murder again and again and again, and they never get charged. I was wondering the other day, what kind of treatment would I have gotten when I was picked up, stumbling drunk and ridiculously belligerent (a few times, years ago), if I were a person of color? I definitely don’t think I would have sobered up in peace in the slammer as the “good apple” (sincerely, there must be some!) cop just turned his or her head to my angry insults.

I don’t know what this country should do, but it’s obvious that police culture and training needs to change. Accountability somehow needs to happen–for me that means, cop-killers should not get life in prison while killer-cops don’t even get arrested or charged. It’s not as simple as that, but that’s one thing it boils down to, for me anyway.

I feel grateful today, on the other hand. Grateful that I am here, safe, and that I don’t have anything huge to do today. I mean, I feel scattered, sort of angry, so, not sure what I’ll get done; but I am willing to pull it together, to stop the black-and-white thinking, to have a day. And, I have the time and space–and safety, and privilege–to do that.

Guilty, and grateful, that’s for sure. And, there is no way around feeling both, at the same time, today; so, all I can do is feel and move on with my day, feeling what I feel.

Information–I used to love you, but I want to kill you

27 Mar

11:05 am

I am not sure if anyone understands just how much Too Much Information triggers me. Maybe it’s a legitimate pressure–if I can’t keep up, then I should bow out of this profession. Maybe I’m simply addicted to information? I should go online and search for a support group: Information-aholics Anonymous?

Today, I’m supposed to be Taking The Day Off: that means, for ONCE, no working. And, by no working, I mean, not just no story pitching, writing, or “job searching” (which, I admit, is part of the freelance game; I’ve had several job applications turn into freelance work); but also no sorting through scientific press releases; no stressing out about finding an outlet for a story that I wrote but that was subsequently rejected by the magazine that I thought I had it matched with; no checking journals, blogs, and the other quintillion sources of science news. And, it means, no other news, which I tend to do AFTER I “breeze” through the science and health news–radio stations that I like, talk shows, mainstream news, magazines here, there, and everywhere.

You get the picture. Information is endless these days, and if you’re not careful, it could blow your mind.

And then there’s social media. Dun dun dun. I was just commenting on someone’s blog about how back when I first started blacking out and getting angry, I would always take it out on my phones and my laptops–I am embarrassed to say that I have thrown oh, about 10 to 15 phones to the ground in drunken rages, and banged the shit out of at least three or four laptops (yes, my drinking was a lot more expensive than just the cost of the wine). And, I knew back then that I was missing real connection, and I was sick to death of the fake stuff: connecting to people through phones and through computers (via chat, email, and Facebook).

I’m learning balance these days, but it’s hard. If your profession is literally, dealing with information, then you can’t quite say, Fuck it, I’m quitting Facebook and never reading the news. If you want to be in this profession, I’m finding, you have got to find balance, which means, learning how and when to get just enough information to “keep up,” but not enough to drive yourself to drink.

Sigh. It’s my day off, and I’m already feeling that feeling I get–tight chest, upset stomach, a feeling of defeat washing over my brain. And I haven’t even gotten my social media fix yet! You know, I hate Facebook these days, not so much because of the rather “ill” interactions it encourages–I don’t really post anymore–but because I Just Can’t Keep Up. With all the information. And, it stresses me out. It doesn’t necessarily make me want to drink, but…it does something. Let’s not even talk about Twitter (which I use sparingly, mainly because I basically think it’s nonessential to my career at this point, and for lack of a better word, masturbatory–like, the same people re-tweet and post about each other, and then, they all convince themselves that that news piece or idea or meme is “important” or “hot”).

Yet, before I even got out of bed this morning, I was on my phone, checking the science news press releases. And then, after popping out of bed, and making it (ahh, diversion!)…I was on my laptop, checking work email, reminding myself to go to one of the big science journal’s web sites to see what came out today, and, then, to my blog to check on all y’all–which, I have to say, is NOT part of the cycle and is something I really enjoy and don’t consider stressful!

Oh, well. It’s all part of my story, right? We all have different triggers, things that bug us to our cores and make us want to numb out; mine happens to be this information thing, getting older and not being able to parse it all as enthusiastically as before, and not really giving a shit as much as I care about other stuff (inner knowledge, silence, listening to the birds and wind draw patterns on the inside of my brain, for example).

Most of the time, I don’t allow myself to consider this a real stressor–I mean, it’s not like I’m chasing kids, or commuting three hours one way (I did that once, for 18 months, remember?), or taking pictures in a war zone, or triaging AIDS patients in some poor African country? But sometimes, I think all of that would be preferable to playing with information all day.

At least I have the day “off,” right?

“People need to be nurtured out of addiction”

25 Feb

11:17 am

Great piece on a heroin addict’s addiction through his own eyes in NY Mag today. So many spot-on points about what addiction does to the mind, and to our sense of pride. Please read!

Do you ever worry that you’ll relapse?
No, I don’t. I mean, I think the reality is that there’s a slight chance everybody could relapse, but I don’t worry about it. It doesn’t even cross my mind. It was such a deep, dark destructive journey for me, and recovery — the whole process of being where I am now — has been so enlightening that I can’t even think what would push me back down that line.

Recovery is as competitive as Alcoholism; don’t play into it

12 Jul

1:33 pm

So much science news. So many scientists, and science journalists, all vying for that same small slice of the pie. It might even come a close second to “addiction and recovery”–all the blogs, the books, the memoirs, the “solutions.”

So much noise. Mind officially blown. No fucking wonder I drank.

Is it just me, or are we totally off track on WHAT causes addiction and WHY? It’s not always about acute trauma.

Competition. Ego-worship. Winning and me, me and winning. Just because you get sober and “win” a newfound grace, doesn’t mean you’re out of the matrix. It seems apparent to me when I see just how many people are still seeking to acquire things, places, trips, experiences, states of being–after they get sober. I mean, working the steps is a form of mastery, and isn’t that striving for mastery a form of ego enhancement? It’s like getting an A+ on your homework assignment; are you doing it for you, and more importantly, what does it allow you to acquire? The ego remains. In my HUMBLE (and irritated) opinion, unless we address this, which unfortunately seems to thread through every area and endeavor, whether “altruistic” or not and whether recovery-related or not–and stop feeding into it–true healing is never going to be possible.

I sense that recovery, for many people, is as competitive as anything else. And, I see a society ideal–ours–of competition, of winning, of having and acquiring more than others as being one large root of dis-ease. I’m barely able to, but when I extract my own self from this reality that I’ve been socialized to think is OK, well, it’s a bitter smack in the face.

I almost want (need) to withdraw from the noise, and all the shaming and blaming and theories; all the pathologizing of human nature–in order to maintain my sobriety. I get angry, and I get sad, and I get jealous. Why do we pathologize these things in “recovery?” More importantly, why do I get the sense that there are so many people looking to acquire the opposite of these things?

Example: Facebook. To me, Facebook seems to feed off our worst–but innate–human traits: the tendency to compare, the tendency to want to have what others have in order to acquire a sense of completeness, or to feel good about ourselves. To feel SAFE. The fact that membership on the ‘Book is so prevalent illustrates how pervasive these tendencies actually are.

Another example: To hustle to publish a piece before (or instead of) someone else? To me, that’s also about fear: if you get the story, you get to subdue that fear of “losing,” and you get to build your ego. What if there was no byline, would you still write the piece?

Gah. I’m either going to have to accept that I’m just not that competitive, or, learn how to deal with my competitive nature better. Get off Facebook. Restrict the “recovery” work. Focus on what interests me in the science news, but don’t invest more than a disposable amount of self-validation from this work. At the end of the day, I am happiest–most sure of my growing sense of peace in the cosmos (the order of things, my own life and death, literally)–when I am not thinking about either my defects or my strengths. Neither matter. What matters is that I am here, for however long, and there is nothing to gain, no one to beat, no ego or defect to ponder, no right recovery to make.

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