I Don’t Want to Be Stuck in Any Frame

Edward Ruscha, "Exploded Crystal Chandelier Headache," 1987. Oil on canvas. A part of the permanent collection of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Edward Ruscha, “Exploded Crystal Chandelier Headache,” 1987. Oil on canvas. A part of the permanent collection of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

This week’s blog title is a quote from Lee Radziwill, the subject of a book I’ve been reading for about a month now and have finally, really gotten into. (It’s the first book I’ve honestly read since being on Topamax, and I started taking that in March. It’s so hard to focus enough to sit down and read, but this book has me hooked.) Lee, the younger sister of Jackie Onassis, was defending herself in the early 70s while doing interviews to promote her memoir she was writing. Interviewers were asking her if the book would actually come to fruition, or if it was merely a passing phase as her acting career (which spanned precisely one play and one TV film) had been. Ladies’ Home Journal threw a lavish party for Lee in December, 1973 in celebration of the 1,000-word serial from her supposed “book” which they were printing in their January issue. Her friend Truman Capote–himself in hot water from his publisher over not delivering promised manuscripts–was on hand to assure everyone how great the book would be. Alas, the book never got finished. Nearly 30 years later, Lee published a 168-page photo memoir of sorts entitled Happy Times through the publishing house of her friends the Assoulines.

I’m not throwing shade at Ms. Radziwill; truth be told, I’m so taken with this book I’m reading on her because I see many of the same character flaws in myself. Self-involved, manipulative, too many irons in the fire, alcoholic, intent on keeping up appearances and one’s image at the risk of being unhappy, the list goes on and on. I’m a little over halfway through the book and as I see her drift from one relationship to the next, from one passing whim to the next, I want to reach through the pages and shake her by the shoulders. And the alcoholic stage of her life hasn’t even been covered yet, though the author continues to foretell of it. It never ceases to amaze me how much easier it is to spot the trainwreck of another’s poor decisions, especially when they’re repeated time and again. I wonder sometimes why it isn’t easier to do that with ourselves, and I think it boils down to being in denial, and/or putting our blinders on. (Factor in addiction, and it’s next to impossible to spot one’s flaws. True story.) That being said, I do want to devote an entire blog to the fascinating Ms. Radziwill once I finish the book, which should be soon. The book, by the way, is Diana DuBois’s In Her Sister’s Shadow, written in 1995.

Reading, I mean, flipping through my new/vintage Liz Taylor-authored book I found in Palm Springs, poolside at La Mirage

Reading, I mean, flipping through my new/vintage Liz Taylor-authored book I found for $2 in Palm Springs, poolside at La Mirage. Liz wrote this self-help book not long after getting out of Betty Ford.

I had a nice visit to Palm Springs, as I always do. My friend Chris was kind enough to host me again at his gorgeously 70s condo complex (that’s a high compliment coming from me…I’d kill to live there), and I soaked up plenty of sun, got in some tennis, soaked in the Jacuzzi several times, and fried in the sauna (that thing doesn’t mess around). I also visited the Palm Springs Art Museum for the first time and made it to the same noon AA meeting I went to the last time I was out there. One of the guys in the meeting, who shared that he has been in AA over 20 years but chronically relapses every couple of months, said this: “You have to want to stay sober more than you want to stay drunk. It’s as simple as that.” And he speaks the truth. It’s been 10 days since my last relapse and I still feel as though I’m paying for it mentally, physically, and emotionally; in fact, I know I am. I called my sponsor after the meeting in Palm Springs for the first time since my relapse and he has yet to call me back. I’m not sure what to make of that and I’m trying not to overanalyze it. I figure I’ll get to my regular Tuesday night meeting and be honest about what happened. After all, I won’t be the only one in that room who has relapsed in the last two weeks…that’s the reality of the disease. But as far as my own situation goes, I’m striving to look deeper at why I drink/want to drink in the first place. I wrote this on Facebook the other night in Palm Springs, and I think it fits in a bit with the blog title and the anecdote about Ms. Radziwill not finishing her memoir all those many years ago:

I came to the stark realization as I rested my weary back in the glowing, swirling waters of the Jacuzzi tonight (go ahead and accuse me of being overdramatic, I don’t care) that–as my friend Chris pointed out earlier today–perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment. Maybe I’ve made little to no effort to put my English degree to good use because it’s easier to play the role of the “could’ve been” professional writer who got screwed by the recession; perhaps I can’t stay sober very long because it’s more convenient to continue relapsing and stumbling around than progressively working the steps and getting to the bottom of my issues.

The main thing I’ve learned in AA is that we’re all adults and we’re all responsible for our own decisions, whether they’re good ones or bad ones. It’s easier to blame others or our life circumstances, but we have to eventually take ownership. I called my sponsor and left him a voicemail today for the first time since my relapse last week. I could tell everyone but him about slipping up again, yet he’s the first person I’m supposed to call. In the end, I’m trying to be more honest with myself and others after lying about so much for so long. I still need to push through the drama and the melodrama to reach my goals, both professional and personal.

I think at some point I need to want to be stuck in a frame. I’ve spent all of my adult life refusing to commit to a certain career, refusing to sign binding leases, racking up failed relationship after failed one, and now I find myself in limbo with my first AA sponsor. (Truth be told, it’s clear I need a new sponsor; I think even my current sponsor would admit that at this point. I also need to decide how serious I am about staying sober.) The adage, “I don’t want to be stuck in any frame” is quite apropos for anyone running away from responsibility. Simple as that. So perhaps I should be begging to be framed–but begging with my actions, not my sarcastic words. Food for thought.

Limes ripe for the pickin' in Palm Springs (the first time I'd ever picked any citrus in my life)

Limes ripe for the pickin’ in Palm Springs (the first time I’d ever picked any citrus in my life)

Hope everyone’s enjoying the fall-ish weather in your neck of the woods. We’re even having some here in lovely Las Vegas–it’s been terribly windy here and we’re expecting a high of a mere 80F today. So yes, perhaps the next blog will be a glorified book report on this book I’ve been reading on Princess Radziwill (who is still turning heads at age 80, by the way). Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks for the encouragement. Here’s a good quote to go out with…

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”–Thích Nhất Hạnh

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  1. Lee Radziwill: Princess of Indecisiveness |

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