When I was an early teen, I could be found simultaneously reading (and re-reading) Rosalind Russell's autobiography and any book about Richard Nixon that I could get my adolescent hands on. Yeah, the contrast boggles my mind as well. But that's the kid I was.
I do not have Life is a Banquet handy, but I believe one of the first sentences in Russell's book is something like, "I never wanted to write a book." Well, I've always wanted to write a book. In fact, I probably have 4 half-written manuscripts on various laptops, waiting for that "right moment".
As we know, that right moment will never materialize. For example, it has taken me well over a year to get this website up. My former site was fine, but after a while it felt heavy, clunky, boring, too clinical. I took it down. I looked at other therapists' sites, picked out what I liked and didn't like and took copious notes. And then I just discarded them. Nothing resonated so I put this project back on the shelf.
My sister is an author, a writer of numerous novels in various genres. I'm in awe of her ability to sit and focus and just write. She's putting words out there! It's crazy to me. We were on the phone yesterday, talking about family and careers. Especially careers. We are older, married with kids who will be leaving their respective nests in a few years. We are dealing with deceased and ailing parents. And we are both trying to figure out what the next great thing in our respective professions will be. We know instinctively that there will be more. But what?
Because it’s now on my mind, I think I need to put this out that I am clearly aware that all of us are having wildly different lives during this period. But the one thing that I am determined to accomplish is that I will exit this moment in time a different man than when these lockdowns began. That is the goal. Ok, keep reading.
If you know anything about me, you probably know that Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert are probably my 2 favorite authors/mentors. They are my favorites simply because they do not expect perfection from me. Just try, they tell me as I listen to their audiobooks over and over again (Brown--any book; Gilbert-Big Magic) Just fucking try. And when I try and don't hit the mark, they praise me, which encourages me further. While I truly do not need permission, they offer it up anyway, and I am grateful to give something a shot. And it does not have to be perfect.
As this pandemic keeps the informed and conscientious at home (yeah, that's a slam against those who lack the ability to do the right thing and care for their fellow citizens), we all have had to make some initial adjustments. And then we had to recalibrate and make some more adjustments. And we will have to keep making some more to survive. It's the small price of being a citizen and a decent human.
And as we get deeper into this forced new world, I experience pangs of survivors' guilt. I have family, friends and clients who are being challenged. I read the news in limited spurts because the daily travesties can affect me on such a level as to render me ineffective. I cannot afford to be ineffective. I have a husband and daughter to be present for, as well as scores of clients. It's all a delicate balance. Yet, I continue to listen to Brown and Gilbert. I make adjustments, I try new things, I make adjustments, I make adjustments. Perfection is not the goal. Again, I'm just trying to be a better man.
As the early part of March has led us to October, I find myself shedding parts of me that I now understand were really not helping me. And now, I am trying to be more patient. I am trying to be more mindful. I am trying to be more health conscious. I am trying to be more brave. I am trying to be more grateful.
I am more grateful for my family. For this time we have been able to spend getting to know each other again. For the connection, for the mutual love and respect. For being able to rebound from conflict with a deeper understanding of one other. For being able to laugh together.
I am more grateful for my parents and the lessons instilled. I have pictures of both of them here with me as I write. My dad, looking somewhat frail as he makes a toast to Will and I at our Commitment Ceremony in 2000, and a photo of my mom and I enjoying a drink when we took her to St. John's in 2011.
I am grateful for my stronger embrace of my sobriety. After years of dicking around with moderation drinking, cold-turkey attempts, bargaining and any other defense that a substance abuser can use, I recently hit the 1-year mark on July 14, 2020. That day, coincidentally or not, is my dad's birthday. A guy who threw it all away near the end of his life to vodka martinis and Manhattans.
I am grateful for my practice and my clients who have the faith that I am somehow adding value in these times. Even if it means spending a session mourning RBG and bitching about Washington.
Yes, there is a lot to complain about. There is a lot to be fearful of. But that gets me nowhere. If I go down the path of fear and negativity, I am slowly destroying myself. And no one in my path will win. And I’m not going to do any of this perfectly, nor frankly do I really want to. I just want to feel as if I’m making some progress. Remember, I want to emerge a different man. Not perfect, just a bit revised, refreshed.
Rather than having a tab entitled BLOG, I chose Pardon me, but...because of my mom. My mom was an amazing woman who really came into her own after she and my dad divorced. But early on, she tended to veer more toward being scared and timid, a reflection of her early traumas.
I was in the 6th grade and was offered a solo in my school's Christmas concert. I was elated. Slated to sing Silver Bells, I rushed home from school to deliver the news. My mom was very happy for me, but casually shared that she was offered a part in her school concert as a kid but backed out because of nerves and would feel terrified as all of those in the audience would be watching her perform.
A casual comment, not at all meant to dissuade me, but it stuck. I backed out and Colette White got the honors. That off-the-cuff comment shaped me. I looked at the world more cautiously. I tried to play it safe most of the time, except when I absolutely had no choice. I know it probably contributed to me coming out much later at the age of 30. But the singing thing. That stung. I've always loved to sing. I finally confronted that fear a few years ago when I found a coach at The Opera Center in NYC. I was able to check this off the list. Not perfect, but a little more brave.
So here we are approaching October. I'm tired of the pardon me buts. I'm just getting too old to worry about this shit. I'm just gonna aim for grateful and braver.
To be continued.