Thursday, January 14, 2016

Age, Wisdom, and Radio Pop

I woke up this morning with the phrase "grammatical relativism" in my head, which makes no sense at all because I had a dream about samurai, with lots of fleeing and hiding and beheadings and blood, and katana that moved through the air like seaweed swaying in an ocean current. Which also makes no sense. But I'm determined to work "grammatical relativism" into conversation at some point today.

If you're keeping score, the blog post proper begins here:

I am grateful that Adele's "Hello" has been supplanted on the radio by her "When We Were Young" not because I don't like the former and do like the latter but because radio repetition can make me react to even the best of songs the same as I might nails on a chalkboard. Not that "Hello" is the best of songs. Or the worst. I'm just saying, Jesus, do I have to hear it ten times a day? Similarly, why can't they play more Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats songs? That whole album is great, but all we get, over and over and over again, is "S.O.B." Why? Why you damned, rich music industry fat cats, with your pinky rings and cigars and...

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. For someone who famously names her albums for her age, and whose latest is 25, she uses a lot of phrases like, "after all these years," "we ain't kids no more," "when we were young," "that was a million years ago," etc. At first, I was like, "Girlfriend, please." Because, you know, I'm a 43-year-old white man from the suburbs who likes to appropriate as my own outdated pop culture tropes that I have no business using.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. Today it occurred to me: no matter how old we get, there will always be someone older, devaluing our age and experience because they are not as great or as extensive as their own. I imagine in the nursing home, there will always be a 95-year-old looking at the 75-year-olds and thinking, "Punk ass kids. Think they know shit about how things really are..." Hmm. Wait a minute. "Someone" is singular. "Their" is plural. Therefore, my '80s public school education tells me that there is no agreement among my pronouns. I should have used "his," because it is the correct choice both for masculine antecedents and those of neutral or unspecified gender. The judgmental 95-year-old in my imagined scenario is not described as either male or female. I should have said, "[t]here will always be someone older, devaluing our age and experience because they are not as great as his own." But I recall vaguely somewhere some discussion that we are living in a non-binary world now, and assignment of the masculine pronoun when the gender of the antecedent is undetermined is a construct of the patriarchy, meant to keep women and the LGBT (LGBTQ? Are we adding a Q to that now? Sounds familiar...) population oppressed, silent, under-represented. Traditional notions of grammar be damned, much like the rich music industry fat cats! Singular/plural agreement isn't as important as human equality! So bam. Grammatical relativism, right there. Done and done.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh, yeah, Adele. You go on and be jaded and world weary, young lady. Your (or perhaps your songwriter's? Do you write your own lyrics? I don't even know) life experience is as valuable as my own. Hell, more so, because the older I get the only thing I know with more and more certainty is that the scope with which my knowledge and experience can be applied to real life situations becomes more and more narrow with every passing day, week, month, year. Perhaps by the time I'm a 95-year-old in a nursing home, I'll know that it doesn't actually apply to anything in the present or future at all, only the past. Which is pretty damned (like traditional notions of grammar and rich music industry fat cats) useless, actually.

Wait, What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. I give her my permission to sing about the passage of time and the lessons it imparts, even though she is young. Also: I like Taylor Swift. There, I said it. "Blank Space" is a good song, I don't care what you say.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Divorce, Sobriety, and New Beginnings

One year has passed since Mrs. Rodius told me she wanted a divorce. About 2 1/2 weeks have passed since we signed and filed the Final Decree of Divorce. In about a week, it will have been a year since I had my last drink. 2015 was a helluva year.

In that year, I lost a wife. I lost about half of my time with my son. I lost my financial security. I lost my identity as a full-time stay-at-home dad. I lost my home, and my neighborhood. The best of my losses was the 50 pounds or so I shed, mostly because I quit drinking and spent a lot of time in the first half of the year angry walking, roaming for miles and hours every night after Thumper went to bed, stewing and avoiding fights with my future ex-wife. I put a lot of miles on my shoes in the spring of '15.

At the same time as all those losses, I had many gains, too. I gained a new relationship with my son as we navigate all these changes together. I gained independence and responsibility. I gained a new identity, returning to full-time employment after an 8-year hiatus. I gained a new home, a space of my own, something that I've never had. And most surprising, because I was certain that I wanted nothing to do with long-term romantic relationships for at least a couple of years, I gained a girlfriend.

I don't think I'll blog much about her. I'll tell you now that she lifts me up in ways that I didn't know I needed. She was a dear friend who mentored me through the early days of the implosion of my marriage, who told me often, though I didn't believe her, that I would be happy again. She is an amazingly down-to-earth mother who regularly talks me down from all of my intellectual flights of fancy and over-analysis of everything I do and think when it comes to Thumper and to myself. It was a surprise when that treasured friendship evolved into something more. She likes to give what I like to receive, and she likes to receive what I like to give. She is a gift. She is a gift that I don't want to share with you. So you may never hear another word about her. Though who am I kidding? I talk a lot. She'll probably come up again.

Something else I gained that I didn't think I would, though I wanted it very much for a very long time, is my sobriety. I drank. Too much. Through most of my adolescence and all of my adulthood. Most people who know me, or knew me, would be surprised, I think, to know how much I drank. I was good at hiding it and at functioning well enough. But it was a lot, and it would have killed me eventually, I have no doubt. Now I'm sober, and I don't even miss it. Sobriety is yet another thing that 2015 brought me, including divorce, and happiness, and a new and very different romance. If someone had told me a year ago that these things were coming, I wouldn't have believed any of it.

If you are here looking for advice on how to quit drinking, I don't really have any. I went to one AA meeting. The people there were kind and welcoming. I participated. I stood up and called myself an alcoholic. I cried. I got a hug, and a desire chip, and someone bought me a copy of The Big Book, though I don't know why they call it that. It's really not that big. I read every word, and some of it twice. I never called the number that the person who bought it for me wrote on the inside cover, and I never went back to another meeting. AA just didn't speak to me. I wanted to be done with alcohol, not spend much of my life talking about it. I had no stories to share of waking up in jail after a three-day blackout bender. I hadn't lost everything to alcohol. I don't even believe that alcohol killed my marriage. If anything, alcohol kept my marriage stumbling along long after it should have lain down and died. Most of all, though, I couldn't see myself ever getting past steps 2 and 3. For many non-religious people, the phrases "a power greater than ourselves" and "God as we understand Him" make it possible to reconcile a lack of faith in God with the faith necessary to work the steps. One person even told me that I could make that power and that God entirely symbolic, substituting something as mundane as a doorknob if I chose. But I still couldn't do it. I couldn't conceive of the power and I couldn't admit powerlessness. But reading the book helped, and knowing that I really never wanted to go back helped, too. I'm not denigrating it. It's a stunningly powerful and effective program, and its grassroots development from a handful of people to a worldwide movement is virtually unprecedented. It's famous because it works. It will work for you if you work it, as they say. I just didn't work it.

But I haven't had a drink in a year, and it hasn't been that hard. Outside of the first couple of weeks, especially the sleeplessness, it's even been easy. I don't want to drink any more. I don't know why I don't, but it's a huge relief. Some people I drank with seem puzzled, maybe even baffled that I would never drink again. Like Andre 3000 in Outkast's "Ms. Jackson," they wonder, "Forever? Forever ever? Forever ever?"

Yes. Forever ever. That idea was scary to me before I quit. To never drink again? Unthinkable. But now, it's more than fine with me. It took from me, but it didn't give anything back. What I thought it gave me was truthfully just another way it took from me. I don't want it back. I'm free. You can drink. You can drink when I'm around. It doesn't bother me to be near it. I'm just done. Don't know why. Just am.

And yes, I know the Big Book is full of stories of people who quit, and were sure, and started again, and never truly made it until they did steps 2 and 3 and the rest. And I haven't. And maybe that puts me in jeopardy. We'll see. Right now, I'm fine. I'm better than fine.

 And that's pretty much the sum total of my life philosophy as I move from 2015 to 2016. I don't know about next week. I don't know about next month. I don't know about next year. But right now? Right now is good. And that's more than enough. I don't really have any resolutions for the new year. I don't know that I need any. I do have a goal: run the Cap10K in under an hour. That's a pretty big one. I'd have to check the race bibs on my wall to see if I've ever done it before. I've done 10Ks in under an hour, but maybe not that one. It's all uphill for the first half. But I want to keep my weight loss going, and I want to get back the sense of accomplishment that running gave me in 2010, 2011, 2012. I don't know if running will ever again be for me what it was. I don't know anything, really. And I'm keeping my focus right in front of my feet for now. But if 2015, the worst year of my life, brought me so many unexpected and truly priceless gifts, who knows what 2016 will bring?
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