Thursday, November 17, 2005

Standing at the Shore of Life.......


I lay the glass down
And rest my eyes upon its ring
Of condensation

Buoyed to the surface
Of a mahogany sea;
Harbor of my mind.

As I focus
On the geometry
left there

I raise the vessel
And methodically finger
Each droplet of circularity.

As they get smaller
Under each probe
I watch them gather

With the speed of molecules
From the adhesion
Of nature’s way,

Until I become aware
Of an isolated dot;
Perspiration, at the end of a line

That wrinkles
My already aged

I offer this post not as a new direction but as an added dimension to my blog. Everything that I have written and will continue to write will in some way reflect what I am about to share. I have come to understand that it could not be otherwise. I hope that my readers will accept it as a gesture not unlike a handshake of trust.

I'm never quite sure where to draw the line as to what is and isn't appropriate to bring to my blog. Sharing seems to be the primary ingredient that blogs feed upon. At least that's my perception. Growth seems to be another. Taking that into consideration I have become more and more comfortable with the maturity and compassion that I have seen displayed on various blogs and have decided to introduce and share an intimate part of my life. For many readers it may not seem all that intimate considering that what I am about to share is a situation that pervades our society on many fronts: alcoholism

It is important for me that my readers understand that I am very sensitive to the feelings that they might have when it comes to reading about someone's very personal past; especially a stranger. I will do my best to respect that.

It is true that alcoholism is not an unnoticed malady in our society. It is also true that it is a malady that needs to be addressed head on. But one of the remedies, and herein lies a conflict, is a treatment that calls for anonymity as part of its general process toward recovery. It is also true that anonymity must be honored and respected within the fellowship of AA since it can affect others who are in recovery. But each individual in recovery decides for themselves the parameters for their own anonymity. For some, total anonymity is embraced at all costs, for others there are varying degrees of disclosure. I am choosing today to widen the parameters of my own anonymity because I think it might serve a purpose not only for my own recovery ( which is now more than four years of sobriety) but that it might lead to some insights that could better serve the malady in the many areas of life it touches. I include in that generality my own life, my art, and all the things that up to this point I have tried to share on my blog.

I would like to begin with an email I recently sent in confidence to a fellow blogger. My intention was to place into context some understanding of the position I had taken in an ongoing dialogue between us about my life and my art. It was the following:

Hi. I'm Dan. I'm an alcoholic.

When we discussed issues about memories, journals, and most recently symbols, my arguments have usually centered on what I called moments qua moments. I think of it that way because as an AA member I have come to understand that for me to go back into the past and try and resurrect instances of a life that has led to some very unhappy conclusions does not serve an alcoholic like me very well. In most cases I will tend to define much of what happened as "good" and try to relive them. When in fact most of it was an ego-induced fantasy about myself that in reality didn't serve me well. Alcoholics can easily find room to sit on the pity pot and blame unhappiness on a lot of things that simply haven't been true. In fact the fantasies that I built as an active alcoholic still haunt me at times. So for me, it is important that I understand that to move forward means just that; live the moment and don't look back. That's not to say that everything that happened in the past, especially my art, can't help me gain more insight into getting better, or recovering. It just means I need to maintain a grip on reality.

PS. Here's one of the poems I wrote that has been influenced by some of what I have said. It is a poem (thought?) that centers around regret and the idea of "If only" or "What if." It reflects an anxiety connected to a decision I made about a possible relationship. It's inspired also by part of the serenity prayer that says " God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..."

I notice that the form, which is a centered format, does not copy that way. But, I think you can get a sense of what I have tried to convey.

Song to the sound of the waltz to “what if”

Missing something one has never had
Is like searching for the chord
That makes you sad.

“What if” has no part in this melody’s heart.

Like the wind that orchestrates chimes
Or rides on the waves of a cymbal
There is no doubt to its start.

“what if” has no part in this melody’s heart.

Aware of the sound and the source
Of its beat, the music goes on
To the end; to repeat.

“what if” has no part in this melody’s heart.

So a search for the chord of “what if”
In this melody struck in three-four
Plays to the sound of the riff:

Therefore, Therefore, Therefore.


Blogger Brenda said...

My first reading of "A Period of Time at Sea," and my second one, after reading everything, was not entirely different, only deeper, more compassionate. Thank you for sharing this story, this part of your journey: it's a profound one, and obviously helped you to become the kind and generous person you are. You are very talented, and a successful artist in every sense, yet I was always struck by your humility, your graciousness, and now I understand it was hard won. And I'm glad you're in recovery, glad you found your way here to share with such beautiful words your life, your past, who you are. *hugs xo

7:07 PM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

As always, your kindness and encouragement shines. Thanks Brenda. I hope all the sharing that takes place between us bloggers continues in the spirit it has. It's really quite wonderful! Take care kiddo.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Mark Daniels said...

Having worked, as a pastor, with many who have dealt with their alcoholism--and some who have not, I have some sense of your situation. What's so incredible to observe in those who are in recovery is the sense of liberation they experience. Yes, there are struggles. Life's best blessings come from the struggles. But these folks always report that recovery feels like a new life, a blank check.

Keep cashing your checks, Dan, and God bless you on your courageous journey.

Mark Daniels

5:58 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Thanks Mark. Your observations are right on the money! It's wonderful, as I turn each new check over to life, how rich every new experience becomes.

Thank you again for the kind and insightful words.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Mark Daniels said...

I just linked to this post on my blog. I tried not to assume too much. But I referenced both your courage and the roots of the AA program to which you refer.


11:07 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

That's wonderful Mark. Thanks again for stopping in. Hope the birthday is all you wish for.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Tamar said...

Dear lhombre,
I am agreeing with what Brenda wrote. Especially the part about your humility and graciousness. I have always been struck by that. I feel privileged to read this post. Thank you.

Yes I think Mark is right when he says that some of our best blessings come from the struggles. Even though I do look back into my past to make some sense of how I came to be who I am now, at the same time, I understand and agree: "to move forward means just that; live the moment and don't look back."

3:13 AM  
Blogger Tamar said...

lhombre, As I reread the conclusion to my own post yesterday I realize that I am thinking more like you re: being here now and living the moment:
"Memories warm the cockles ... the core ... but here and now is in the making. Yesterday I was talking to one of my students, a young woman, probably 22 or 23 years old. She sighed while talking about plans for her future, 'I wish I could start my life already,' she said referring to after completing her degree. 'You're living it now, already,' I replied softly. 'This is it, your life, you're in it.' She smiled and nodded her head. As I write this I realize that I think, 'Might I be starting to understand, perhaps for the first time ... ? That ...'

... This is it, my life, I'm in it ..."

3:30 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Thanks for the kind and insightful comments Tamar. You touch on many things that life brings to us. I especially found your teaching experience enlightening. It brought back some memories of when I taught beginning painting. Students painting for the first time would stare at their white blank canvas and wonder how much of their past would inform or inspire them as to what subject to begin with. Sometimes they would stare for hours. Even days. Finally I would have to encourage them to try describing something about the day they are living. That it was as good a place to start as any. After all, they were only 17-18 years old!

I don't mean to imply that the brief past they possessed had no relevance to their project. What struck me, and sometimes continues to strike me, is how easily we ignore the wonders of the here and now! I believe it takes many years to begin to understand ones past. And for those, like me, who's past is blurred to the degree that an addiction like alcohol can cause, the present becomes incredibly important. I wouldn't attempt to speak to the issue of how the past plays into the life of each individual. I think we would agree that reality for some of us is simply not the same for others.

I will be posting a follow up to my post tomorrow. In it I try once again to come to some understanding of the role of the past and, for me, how it relates to some notion of art and life.

Thanks again for your kind comments and your wonderful blog.

5:39 AM  
Anonymous natalie said...

Dan, I too appreciate your opening yourself up this way.There certainly is a feeling of liberation about confessing publicly about one's private past or present traumas, griefs,mistakes. Or joys, for that matter. It can be very inspiring to ourselves and others because in the process of finding words (or images) in which to make the confession, we create a work of art. Was it Chagall who said that his art had only one subject, his village and his early life there. I sometimes feel I have only one subject; the difficulty is admitting (or singling out what it is. Blogging is a terrific tool for this process and I'm glad you're using it.

4:28 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Natalie: Thank you for the kind thoughts. I too wonder ar times what actually fuels the creative side of my life. I've always felt that it was a side of me that related very strongly to play and humor. Those are the two things that seem to surface on a daily basis.

As to the confessing side of personal anxieties, yes there can be a liberating effect in the process. It relates closely to atonement which also is helpful in clarifying and rectifying ( as best as is possible)past regrets.

As to publicly speaking to alcoholism and its recovery, in AA one of the steps ( there are twelve)toward recovery is speaking with one individual, usually ones sponsor or someone close who you are comfortable with, and acknowledging incidents of the past that are regregtable. That was a step I took over four years ago.

As to openning up in a more public way to my addiction and recovery; as I indicated in my post I chose to widen the parameters of my alcoholism and recovery because I think it could add to the discussions that take place on the blog as well as further reinforce what is an ongoing process in recovery for me and hopefully for anyone else who suffers from an addiction.

As to how any of this feeds into my art and life is still a mystery and wonder. I still believe very strongly in my muse. I should also add that there is a very strong spiritual component to all this. But that is something I try not to discuss because it is such a personal dimension to ones life.

Thanks again for your kind words. Good luck on your journey. I look forward to continuing to visit your blog.

PS. I still absolutely love that cartoon of the computer person slammin' away at the keys!

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Natalie said...

Dan, a few people I was very close to were afflicted with alcoholism so I'm quite familiar with the devastation it can cause and the courage of those who choose to recover. The 12-step program has certainly been of huge help to many but others were put off because they didn't like its religious basis. Maybe you could write about some of your experiences in AA, if not too personal to share.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Natalie: Thanks again for your comment. You raise a very important observation as to the 12-Step program for recoverinng addicts. I have just posted a response. I hope it will be of some help.

8:10 AM  

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