30 Days of Gratitude: Week Two

11/10/2019 (though it’s really 11/11/19)

It’s nearly 2:00am.  Technically tomorrow.  I haven’t gone to bed yet, so it still feels like yesterday.  That’s a perfect indicator that time is theoretical: time is a concept and a construct, something we have created to help structure our existence.

Perhaps human existence is nothing more than a series of coping mechanisms. Language, time, relationships, technology, art. It’s all grown out of the need to survive, to cope with this complex yet simple experience of being, something we can never quite describe, no matter how many words we invent, how many stories we tell, how many religions are born, how many wars are lost and won (though all wars are lost, in the end).

I’ve written before about my theory that simply to be alive is to experience trauma—about how, on an atomic/cellular level, our beings are constantly experiencing death/destruction as well as genesis, and how we are hard-wired with a coping mechanism that shields us from those constant traumas that happen within the most micro of microcosms, our personal universe of atoms. When our skin cells die and flake away from us, we do not cry. But when the traumas are slightly larger – a sudden fall that scrapes the skin off our knees – we are conscious of experiencing them, and perhaps have psychological/emotional/physical responses. We may avoid repeating the circumstance which led to that small-yet-noticed trauma. Or perhaps we attempt to recreate it because we are drawn to one of the responses we experienced in that moment.

All of us, even the happiest and most “well-adjusted,” “normal” of us, are following patterns of behavior and interaction which were primarily created by others before us in response to their surroundings.  We may follow them exactly, or adapt and evolve those patterns, or become inspired by them to seek something new; yet all these options are in response to what has come before, coping mechanisms for this journey of living.

I am sitting here at…now 2:11am having had a weekend in which none of the coping mechanisms seemed to have worked.  Or perhaps some did, but just enough.  Just enough to keep me tethered and connected to this thing called existence.

On November 9th, 2016, I took my last drink of alcohol.  November 10th, 2016 was my first day of sobriety.  Today (yesterday), November 10th, 2019 marks three years sober.  I celebrated by staying alive, though there were many moments today which I felt not so much alive, as just….a blob that is aware of its existence, whatever existence is (or is not).

~I just wrote out a too-long accounting of the details of my day but deleted it.~

All that needs to be said is, although I did some productive things today, including going to the Son of Semele company meeting and feeling delightfully surprised at the genuine warmth I received from these wonderful humans whom I barely know, yet feel very grateful to be associated with….and finding a great coffee place near the theatre…and later eating a really great Doner Salad at Spitz in NoHo….those parts of my day accounted for less than 15% of my day.  The rest of the day was spent in driving and driving and driving, and being slowly overtaken by this dull droning sensation, which resulted in some binge eating after getting home in the evening.

In a text to one of my best humans tonight, a couple hours after the binge-eating session, stomach still uncomfortable and bloated (physical discomfort to match the metaphysical discomfort in the head/heart) I wrote:

I just keep hoping that one day I will feel at home inside my own body, at home in my skin.  [I’m not just talking about] a positive body image, but for once to feel a wholeness and a sense of belonging and a peace and an ease that is unshakeable and doesn’t disappear the very next moment.

In class the other day, a classmate led a visualization warmup.  After a short self-guided stretch, he asked us to close our eyes and picture our favorite place.  It could be a real place or imagined, he said, but a place where we felt safe, happy, peaceful.

And I had nothing.  Any image, or any feeling, went away from me as soon as I tried to grasp it.  There was nothing.  I tried to recall some moment I last felt happy or safe or peaceful and I couldn’t think of any time or place.  Tears welled up and I did the motions of the rest of the warmup, but it was robotic and forced.  Like moving my body from a distance.

That’s pretty much always there on some level, and the best I get is when the level is low enough for me to tune it out.  I still know it’s there, but it isn’t the only thing I hear/feel.  For once I’d like that to just go away.

It’s not that I haven’t been happy or felt safe or had some peace—but that other thing is there the whole time. It’s like the single, droning note played in a horror film that’s always there, but in some scenes, you don’t notice it at all, and in other scenes, it drowns everything out entirely.

In this second week of gratitude — although I know there’s been much to be grateful for — at this very moment, and throughout this week, what I have been incredibly grateful for is this coping mechanism of language. Of being able to give some shape to the abstract and overwhelming experience that is human existence. I am grateful to have the physical ability to type and write and read, and I am grateful for my emotional and intellectual connection to language, be it written or spoken or non-verbal. I’m grateful to have the technology which allows me to type this out and upload it to my blog, where it will be for me to reflect on in years to come (or until WordPress goes under and tells us to archive our files….like Geocities did all those years ago). And I am grateful for other people whose language helps turn down the sound on that droning, ever-present personal soundtrack.

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