_________ My Life

FML. That’s what immediately popped in my head as I was watching this episode of ‘Match Game ’78’ on YouTube. BTW, I highly recommend the 70s ‘Match Game’ eps as quality entertainment…they never fail to make me laugh, and of course the set and the clothes/hair/everything of the guests and panel are absolutely a time capsule. But I digress…the actual top answer for the above question was “Love of” (my life). I mean, really, how times have changed! Tab Hunter was one of the guest panellists and he guessed, “You Light Up” (my life) and I thought he was joking. Then I remembered what a huge song that was back then. Everything’s relative, especially with word play.

Heads up: I’ll have my annual year-in-review blog up next week, with some of the old “Best of” categories removed and some new ones added. No need for a “Favourite Movie” category when I’ve only seen one new movie this year. (‘We’re the Millers’ was funny, but I can’t pick it as my fave when there’s so many great Oscar contenders this year. I’ll leave the movie critiques to the professionals.) So stay tuned for that…obviously my opinions are no more important than anyone else’s, but the year-end blog is something I look forward to compiling each year, so the tradition continues.

I wanted to re-address something I said in the last blog very quickly, and I’ll be done for this week. I believe my exact words were, “Truth be told, I don’t know how much of that relationship was real, all these months later. I honestly don’t; the more time passes, the more it seems like we were both in bad places and were fortunate to have one another to lean on for a brief while.” Bob doesn’t read this blog–I know because he’s told me several times–and I wanted to set the record straight (pun intended). Summing up things with him in two sentences was unfair. I still care about him a great deal, to the point I ask him the other night if he’d ever hypothetically give me another chance. (A resounding “no” was the answer.) Then I got another message from someone else in which they said they knew of my “deep-seated loneliness,” and I thought, am I coming across as that pathetic to everyone? I think where I’m going with all this is that I stand by saying Bob is the “______ my life.” I got some flack for that–from him and from others–back at the end of August when I wrote it. Feelings are a funny thing, though, and I still feel that way. We’re just friends now, but I keep thinking back to that quote which asks something like, “Where does the love go when you break up with someone?”

I think for anyone who reads this blog, it’s clear I’m still in love with him. He makes me want to be a better person. No one else in their right mind would go on and on about someone if they didn’t still have feelings for them. Part of growing up and moving on, however, is rationalizing those feelings and being realistic about the pros and cons of the relationship. I can stay friends with him because I care about him. But I do indeed owe it to myself to move on, as I told him after I received the resounding “no” of an answer to my not-so-hypothetical question. None of this is stuff I would mind him reading. And if you’re covertly reading, Bob, don’t be mad I screencapped our convo from tonight. It was a heartfelt exchange and I’m proud to call you my best friend.

Merry Christmas to everyone,

brt

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Real Happy

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about how to be real(ly) happy. This, as opposed to the fleeting, sometimes manic happiness that seems to come and go depending on my mood, situations, etc. As corny as it may sound, I’ve learned to like myself a lot more lately, and also to pat myself on the back when I make progress toward a goal. Or even when I exercise patience and/or compromise on something–both things that not so very long ago were difficult for me to do without being fairly passive-aggressive. All this plays into being happy with myself and becoming more centred, but I still have much work to do. Anyway, I read the above quote and immediately had a flashback to a scene from my last relationship. We were in Walgreen’s one night and Bob wanted to buy me a toothbrush, because in his words, “You’ve been staying over so much and you should have a toothbrush at my house.” I immediately teared up because that’s just the way I rolled for those several months after sobering up. He put his arm around me and asked me why I was crying. I pulled myself together and smartly replied there was no way he was buying me a toothbrush unless he bought me a Sonicare, knowing he wouldn’t do it. I explained that having a toothbrush at his house would jinx the relationship. The relationship that was perhaps a week-old at this point. Herein is where I’m reminded of the above quote: “Sometimes people just want to be happy, even if it’s not real.”

Truth be told, I don’t know how much of that relationship was real, all these months later. I honestly don’t; the more time passes, the more it seems like we were both in bad places and were fortunate to have one another to lean on for a brief while. I do miss holding hands with someone and laying next to someone in bed; both those things make me feel safe and calm the thoughts from whirring in my head. I don’t know when I’ll be ready for a relationship again, as I’m admittedly selfish with my time and am challenged when it comes to compromising on things. When I was at the beach with my parents last week, I had to just step away as they held hands and waded in the surf, so I went and meditated on the seawall. I realize I need to be happy with myself before I can be happy with someone else. Someone buying me a toothbrush or wading with me in the surf doesn’t equate to happiness, either.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor said the following in her 1987 book Elizabeth Takes Off:

“Today I think I am happier than I have ever been. There have been other times in my life marked with joy, like the blissful years I shared with Mike [Todd] and Richard [Burton]. But this is the first time that I’ve made my own happiness. It didn’t fall into my lap because I was young or lovely or famous. Nor did it come about because I was in love with a man. This happiness wasn’t ‘bestowed’ on me: I earned it.” (page 255)

Here’s to earning happiness each and every day,

brt

Calming the Crazy

Me on the Queen Mary in mid-March, my fifth or sixth drink of the day in hand before noon

Me on the Queen Mary in mid-March, my fifth or sixth drink of the day in hand before noon

A frenemy former friend e-mailed me a few photos the other day along with some messages indicating he might want to be friends again. Regardless, the photos he was attaching were from about March to May of this year, and I barely recognized myself in any of them. The one above is by far the most dignified one…I e-mailed him back after he sent a few and wrote, “I look so fat and drunk in all these.” Even in May when I got my act together, the combination of being newly sober, getting used to the side effects of the Topamax, and being in a new relationship made me seem erratic and strung-out most of the time. I’ve learned in AA, from my psychologist, and from just living life in general that instead of looking back and regretting any of this (or beating myself up for it–a lot of good that tactic did all the times I used it to shame myself from drinking), I simply must accept that I went through those times to get to where I am today. That trip to the Queen Mary in March was actually a delightful trip; I was bored with all the drinking by that point and got the prescription for the Topamax the very next week. Granted, I kept sneaking drinks, but I at least cut down.

Me currently, or at least after my last haircut

Me currently, or at least after my last haircut

It still flabbergasts me every single day that such a turnaround has occurred in my life in such a short time. I remember thinking back in May–when I legitimately thought I was losing my mind–that it would take years of therapy to get things sorted out in my head. I know I still have some work to do, and there’s always room for improvement, but the fact that I am presently at a place where I feel confident enough to take a break from both my psychologist and AA to just breathe and think for myself is a relief. The spiritual awakening I experienced back in late September put me on a course to ask God for the optimistic outlook, the realistic outlook, and–most recently–the Christ-centric outlook that have brought so much peace into my life. I need to read my Bible more, I’ll be the first to admit that. But praying to be more centred and focused on how God wants me to live each and every day has helped me tremendously. I’ve also learned to take care of my mental needs and to know the boundaries of things that will upset me. For instance, I knew when I was home last week for Thanksgiving that I didn’t feel like visiting the retirement home where my Granny lived. It was only a month after she had died and, quite frankly, I didn’t want to go and not see her there. Respecting that boundary for my own sake meant more to me than the temporary joy I might’ve brought any of the ladies I visited there at the retirement home. Perhaps that sounds selfish, but I know myself well enough to know it was too soon.

Hypolite Plantation, Sunset, Louisiana

Hypolite Plantation, Sunset, Louisiana

If anyone’s reading this and happens to want to know the answer to the question “How Do I Calm the Crazy?” Well, here’s a slightly short answer:

-Don’t stress about the past. As I said in the first paragraph, accept what happened as part of getting you to where you presently are. Don’t fret about the future, for we have no control over that. Live firmly in the present, doing your best to be optimistic, realistic, and Christ-centric. You’ll need God’s help with that, so don’t be afraid to ask Him for it each and every single day when you wake up. Other people are usually glad to help as well, but we’re all human and others will inevitably fail you or steer you in the wrong direction. Rely on Him and He’ll never steer you wrong.

That’s what’s working for me. Find what works for you and make it work. We each march to our own drum, so experiment until you find what motivates you to live a better life. Once you find it, you’ll know it. And you won’t miss the crazy one bit.

brt

11.22.63

JFK in lovely Las Vegas with then-friend Sinatra

JFK in lovely Las Vegas with then-friend Sinatra

I would be remiss if I did not post an entry in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. But this blog is not going to be the glowing, Camelot-praising tribute which some who know me might expect. The popular media will supply plenty of that this week, and rightly so. For as we well know, many people think of a scene such as this when they think of the JFK years in the White House:

Notice creepy LBJ in the back?

Notice creepy LBJ behind Jackie?

In fact, so ingrained is that picture perfect image of Camelot that years later–50 years, to be exact–I bought a piece of art which appears to be Jackie Kennedy just as she appears in the above photo.

"Jackie O" by Enrique Nevarez, aerosol paint on sheel metal, 18X13", part of the Viceroy exhibit at Trifecta Gallery in Las Vegas, August 2013

“Jackie O” by Enrique Nevarez, aerosol paint on sheet metal, 18X13″, part of the Viceroy exhibit at Trifecta Gallery in Las Vegas, August 2013. See the link *here*.

I went through a period–numerous periods, to be honest–in which I was obsessed with the Kennedys and their mystique. If you click on the Trifecta Gallery link above, I also own the Bobby Kennedy painting as well; it’s equally as brilliant as the Jackie one, though polar opposite in the emotions it conjures up. (And I have them purposely displayed inches from one another in my bedroom, at a vantage point at which I can clearly see them easily at any waking moment.) I’m proud to say the lengthy *blog* I wrote on Lee Radziwill, Jackie’s sister, has finally been getting upwards of 25 hits per day. All this to say that none of the Kennedys were perfect people, including JFK. It’s via my newfound realistic outlook that I can see not only John Kennedy, but the assassination, for who and what they were. That’s what I want to write about today.

JFK was a complex man and I won’t attempt to rehash the womanizing and other aspects which have been covered many times before. Many people aren’t aware, however, of the severe back pain and Addison’s disease from which he suffered. Because of these, he was chronically overmedicated during his presidency, at least by today’s standards. He also regularly received “vitamin injections” from Max Jacobson, AKA Dr. Feelgood. Dr. Jacobson treated many celebrities with his potions of amphetamines, the addictive dangers of which were completely foreign and as then unknown in the 60s. Jackie also received shots from time to time, most notably before their diplomatic trip to France. So tight were Dr. Jacobson and JFK that the doctor was invited on family holidays:

JFK, Chuck Spalding, Stas Radziwill, & Dr. Max Jacobson at the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach, Florida

JFK, Chuck Spalding, Stas Radziwill (Lee’s husband), & Dr. Max Jacobson at the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach, Florida, date unknown.

JFK’s allegedly gay school chum, Lem Billings, kept a bedroom at the White House during his presidency. Lem functioned more as an on-call assistant to JFK than anything else, though it’s interesting to me that his existence has been kept relatively mum all these years. Not that I think anything scandalous was going on; if anything, I think that’s the reason nothing’s been made of the arrangement. Mr. Billings’s Wikipedia page can be viewed *here*, and a book which was written on JFK and Mr. Billings can be previewed *here*. It’s sad to me that it seems Mr. Billings self-medicated in his later years to hide his sexuality, though that would be the subject of another blog.

And finally, it might be shocking to some that JFK did, in fact, entertain very young women within the hallowed walls of the Oval Office.

Carolyn Kennedy and her father enjoy tea in his office.

Caroline Kennedy and her father enjoy tea in his office.

As for the assassination, there’s nothing I can write today that hasn’t been written many times over the last half a century. OCD-me has been through several hardcore stages of conspiracy-centric research, and all I can conclude is that Oswald did not act alone. But that’s stating the obvious. I did want to share today what I’ve found on a couple of websites which might be of interest. Please be forewarned that–though I refuse to get into any conspiracy theories–the below images are harrowing.

Photo taken on 11.23.63, one day after the assassination. Flowers still lay on the back seat of the limo, even though it's been transported from Dallas to the White House garage.

Photo taken on 11.23.63, one day after the assassination. Flowers still lay on the back seat of the limo, even though it’s been transported from Dallas to the White House garage via airplane by the time this photo was taken.

This is a memo detailing the replacement of the windshield of the limo the day after the assassination. Obviously the bullet hole(s) would've been destroyed by the repairmen's feet kicking the glass in. Unbelievable.

This is a memo detailing the replacement of the windshield of the presidential limo the day after the assassination. Obviously the bullet hole(s) in the windshield would’ve been destroyed by the repairmen’s feet kicking the glass in. Unbelievable.

JFK was an extraordinary president, not to mention a great human being. My point in writing this blog is that he was a flawed human being like the rest of us. Perhaps it’s only fitting that his assassination investigation has had so many hiccups, though that’s putting it very mildly. Again, there’s absolutely nothing I could write about his murder which hasn’t already been written already over the last 50 years. Instead, I’ll end with this quote from him. In no way does it do his life or his presidency justice, but it’s realistic.

“If anyone is crazy enough to want to kill a president of the United States, he can do it. All he must be prepared to do is give his life for the president’s.”–JFK

brt

A Life That’s Good

Straight from London

Straight from London

Not much has been going on the last couple of weeks. Life has been a blur, in fact. I did get the above, autographed photo back which I’d sent across the pond for Joan Collins to sign, and I’ve been assured by other fans in-the-know that it’s actually her signature. I also finally broke down and got my Nevada driver’s license, as well as a Las Vegas library card. So I suppose I’m officially a local now, after nearly two years. The library card was necessitated mainly by the fact that I absolutely have no more room for the celebrity biographies I’m so fond of buying, and I’ve checked out five books since I’ve gotten the card (and finished three–going on four–of them!). I like this quote from the bio I read on Sal Mineo:

“I know that basically I’m a very eccentric person and always have been. It’s a marvelous life. How long it will last I’ll never know. But I have never gauged myself. I have never said maybe I’d better slow down because ten years from now, things will be bad. I live day to day. Every day is a new day and that’s it. My love of freedom is fantastic.”–Sal Mineo, from page 201 of ‘Sal Mineo: A Biography’

Natalie Wood, James Dean, & Sal Mineo in 'Rebel Without a Cause', 1955.

Natalie Wood, James Dean, & Sal Mineo in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, 1955.

I saw my psychologist on October 30th, a few days after I got back from the trip home for my Granny’s funeral. Immediately when I walked in his office he said, “You look more mature and put-together today.” I told him about going home and doing the eulogy, and how I was so relieved to have done it without drinking or making it all about me, or anything else I might’ve tried to do in the past. He listened and replied, “Doesn’t it feel good to feel dependable and responsible instead of self-defeating and manipulative?” I agreed and we talked a few more minutes before I was smack-dab out of things to talk about. About halfway through the session, I told him I have a good life and I hated to waste anymore of his time sitting in silence trying to think of something to complain about. And I still feel that way a few weeks later; I have nothing to complain about. I ended up leaving his office without making a future appointment, though I know I always can if I need to do so. I’m also taking a break from AA, mainly because–from my perspective–the negative energy I was feeling due to my refusal to attend more meetings per week was outweighing the positive energy I’m experiencing in the rest of my life. I certainly intend to go back, especially when I know I need to go back. It’s vital to know when to step away sometimes, and I’ll always be grateful for the help AA has offered me, and continues to offer me if and when I need it.

Connie Britton’s screen daughters on ‘Nashville’ sang a duet last month that really hit home to me; this week’s blog title is the title of the song they sang, in fact. The lyrics go like this:

Sittin’ here tonight,
By the firelight,
it reminds me I already have more than I should.

I don’t need a thing, no one to know my name,
at the end of the day,
Lord I pray, I have a life that’s good.

Chorus:
Two arms around, heaven to ground me,
  and a family that always calls me home.

Four wheels to get there, enough love to share,
and a sweet sweet sweet song.

At the end of the day,
Lord I pray,
I have a life that’s good.

The song actually has two verses, but they only sang the first verse on the show. Anyway, you can hear the Stella Sisters’s version of the song, as well as the writers’s versions, *here*. It’s a great song and it sums up where I am in my life right now: Less is more, family is everything, and I’m so thankful for the little things that make life worth living. Life has its ups and downs, and I still have plenty of fears and anxieties, but overall there’s no doubt that I have a life that’s good.

brt

With a grandmother like you…

Granny's 99th burfday card

Granny’s 99th burfday card

My precious Granny passed away in her sleep last Monday at the age of 98. I flew home for her funeral and did the eulogy, something that had been planned for a few years. In fact, Granny knew what I was going to say about her because I told her one day when we were riding around in my truck when I was home visiting her. Aunt Mildred had asked me if I’d speak at the funeral when the time came, and I wanted to make sure Granny was okay with what I was going to share about her. Granny’s response, in typical fashion, was something along the lines of, “Son, that sounds just fine. And thank you for doing it.” She was a very humble woman; her favourite part of the funeral by far would’ve been all the flowers. Granny died only a few weeks before her 99th birthday, and since I’d already bought her card, I even read it towards the end of my eulogy since it was so apropos.

I’m still a little numb emotionally–perhaps I’m in shock, I’m not sure–but I wanted to blog and share some of the things I shared during the eulogy. The quilt scrap which is serving as the background in most of the pics was used to illustrate her love of quilting, as well as the fact that she was the thread that held our family together the last 32 years. I also shared a couple of other cards, as she was so fond of sending and receiving cards. She also loved poetry–here’s a couple of poems I shared.

She wrote this one in a Christmas card.

She wrote this one in a Christmas card.

I found this poem when we cleaned up her house several years back. I read it at the very end of the eulogy.

I found this poem when we cleaned up her house several years back. I read it at the very end of the eulogy.

The funeral was lovely and it was wonderful to see so many friends, family, and loved ones and to hear so many stories about how Granny had touched so many lives over the years. The wife of the preacher who officiated the service put it best to me at the fellowship following the graveside service: “She preached her own funeral.” And she did, because she lived her life in such a godly way that all who knew her knew she loved the Lord. She’ll be dearly missed, but I know she’s up in heaven rejoicing with my Granddaddy and all her other loved ones who went before her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s planted some flowers up there already, either. In fact, I’m sure she has.

Granny and me at Cousin Kristy's wedding in 2007

Granny and me at Cousin Kristy’s wedding in 2007

When we were cleaning out Granny’s room at the retirement home on Friday, I was trying to find the last letter I’d sent her last month. I’d stopped by the afternoon before and couldn’t find it, and I thought maybe it would show up the next day. It never did, but wouldn’t you know she had every single Christmas card from our immediate family since she’d moved there, all stashed away in different places in that tiny room. I did find a letter I wrote her last year, though, and perhaps it was the one I was supposed to find. A couple of lines from it: “I will be 32 on Easter Sunday…I still don’t feel grown up, though! Maybe one day I will, but I’m happy with my life for now.” I remember clear as a bell writing those lines to her, so I’m not sure if I was drinking much at the time or not. But I’ve thought about those lines a lot the last several days. The fact is I’ve grown up an awful lot in the last few months. To be able to speak at her funeral and not be drinking before, during, and after the service is proof in and of itself that I’ve matured emotionally to a great extent. I always thought I’d be devastated by her passing, but I’m not. I know she’s up in heaven rejoicing. I miss her, yes, but I know I’ll see her again one day. And in the meantime I have so very many precious memories of her to remind me–as the inside of her 99th burfday card reads–“Thanks for being the sweet blessing you are!”

I love you, Granny. You are missed so much already.

brt

The Realistic Outlook

I’ve been meditating on the above quote for the last several days and each time I read it, it seems to ring truer. One of the main feelings that comes to mind is resentment. I was so resentful towards so many people for so much of my life. So many wasted years being hellbent on holding grudges; it all seems very trite now. In my case, cutting people out of my life was a means of control. I wasn’t controlling much internally, but I could sure control things externally by weeding people out of my life. I don’t feel that need any more because I realize no one’s as hard on me as I am on myself, and it’s good to surround myself with support instead of indulging my tendencies to be a hermit. On a lighter note–and there is one!–I was encouraged in my pursuit of an optimistic outlook and knew I could improve myself in other areas. Here’s the point I’m at currently, via my Facebook status from a few days ago:

About a week ago I began praying to receive a more realistic outlook on life, to go along with the optimistic outlook I’ve gained over the last month. This is a good case of being careful what you pray for…my blinders have been stripped away in the last 24 hours or so and I now see how much I was romanticizing circumstances in my life that in reality are a mess. For myself and my self-image, I needed to believe things to be true that simply never were. I flipped open a Bible here at work and read this verse: “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” (Jonah 2:8 KJV) Those grand delusions got me through some tough times, but God’s love will get me through tougher times. #personal #realisticoutlook #sobriety

Three days later and I’m in a bit of a funk (I hate that term, but it definitely applies to my current mood) because I’ve realized how much of my identity was caught up in delusions I’d absolutely fabricated over the years. The address of this blog, for starters…who was I kidding when I chose SouthernAristocracy.org?!? (I explain a bit in my “About Me” section why I chose it, but it still begs the question of why, and it was all tied up in the image I wanted to present, aspirational or not.) My psychologist told me months ago that I seemed much more concerned with my image than my own happiness, and I agreed with him then, but it’s only now that I’m realizing the extent of the issue. It’s one of the reasons reading the Lee Radziwill bio was so difficult for me; I was reading about someone else whom was making poor decisions in the name of their image, and sacrificing their happiness in the process. Not an ideal way to lead one’s life, yet I’ve done it for years. It’s really only in the last five months or so that I’ve begun making radical changes to be happier, and only in the last month that I’ve experienced the spiritual awakening necessary to embrace the optimistic outlook on life, which I still have to check myself on daily. The same will apply for the realistic outlook, and it already has; I caught myself on the way to work tonight entertaining a thought which I quickly shut down as being delusional thinking, yet it’s something I would’ve taken and run with in my mind even just last week. It’s time to move on, and I’m glad I’m at the place I can do it.

Deana Martin writes the following in her book Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes, which I’m currently reading:

“My life is like so many others. Filled with conflicts and serious psychological learning curves. But my reality is different. Whatever the myriad of influences that formulated my life, I found that anger was not my way of dealing with things. Nor was wallowing in the real or imagined turmoil I’d experienced. […] The message was loud and clear…I had to get on with my life. Don’t dwell. Don’t sit still. It was my life and only I could live it. Make my way in the world and do my best.” (page 156)

I couldn’t say it better myself. On that note, I’ll end with this hysterical GIF that has nothing to do with the realistic outlook, except that perhaps it’s wiser to stop and ask those vomiting in a Target parking lot if they’re alright rather than trying to run away from them. (I’ve realistically laughed at this loop probably 47 times since I saw it on Saturday.)

brt

Call for Survivors of the MGM Grand Fire

I recently began researching a topic at the UNLV archives which I’ve had an interest in for a few years now: the MGM Grand fire which occurred the morning of November 21, 1980. I wrote a blog on the fire which can be viewed *here* that averages 2-3 hits a day, which indicates to me there are others interested in the fire after all these years. Having spoken with several locals who lived here when the disaster happened, I’ve heard some firsthand accounts of the sights, smells, and sounds of that day, all of which have been harrowing. I’ve also seen some unreleased MGM Grand security photographs of the casino level after the destruction and I must say they prompted me to postpone my research awhile back because they were so difficult to process.

This fire inspector's account gives one an idea of the devastation the fire wrought in the casino level alone.

This fire inspector’s account gives one an idea of the devastation the fire wrought on the casino level alone.

That being said, I feel there are many survivors’ stories which deserve to be heard. And a few of them have been, don’t get me wrong; the local newspapers do a fine job each year of recalling the tragedy and interviewing a survivor or two who talk about how terrible the ordeal was, whether from the standpoint of being a guest or a firefighter rescuing guests. I know, however, that many people have not had the opportunity to tell their story, and I hesitated to post an open call on my blog as I’m sure I’ll get an impersonator or two trying to pull my leg. But I wanted to reach beyond the scope of local survivors, namely the hotel employees and firefighters whom I can interview here in town, and hopefully interview some of the hotel guests who would be willing to share about their experience surviving the fire. Interestingly enough, surveys were sent out a month after the fire to survivors, but many people weren’t included in those surveyed (employees, those living abroad, and–for obvious reasons–those who lost loved ones in the fire). Here are the first page of the survey which was mailed out, as well as the first page of the survey results summary, which gives some of the statistics:

At this point I’m not sure what the scope of the project will be, and if the end result will be an e-book or a printed book (or both). It’s my personal feeling that there’s a need for more people’s stories to be told who survived this disaster. Having worked in hotels for fourteen years, I cannot begin to imagine working a shift during such a disaster as this fire; it’s certainly not something I take lightly nor something in which I have a morbid curiosity. Believe me when I say it’s something I’ve been researching with the utmost respect, and something which I’d carry out the interviews in the same manner. If you or someone you know survived the fire and would be willing to be interviewed, please message me and I will respond back with some qualifying questions to proceed with the interview process. I certainly shouldn’t have to say this, but in this day and age I feel I must: serious inquiries only. This was one of the most horrific hotel fires on record, and certainly not something to be joked around about or “fake survived.” Please save us both some time and don’t bother e-mailing to set up an interview if you were not present during the MGM Grand fire in Las Vegas on November 21, 1980. Thank you kindly in advance for your cooperation.

The Optimistic Outlook

“When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that (s)he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which (s)he could not do before on her/his unaided strength and resources alone. (S)he has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. (S)he has been set on a path which tells her/him (s)he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered. In a very real sense (s)he has been transformed, because (s)he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, (s)he had hitherto denied her/himself. (S)he finds her/himself in possession of a degree of honesty , tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which (s)he thought her/himself quite incapable. What (s)he received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, (s)he has made her/himself ready to receive it.”–‘AA Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions’, pages 106-107

We read the above excerpt as part of the chapter on Step 12 in the Tuesday night Twelve Step meeting I go to each week. That last sentence hit home to me especially: “What (s)he received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, (s)he has made her/himself ready to receive it.” During the month since my last relapse, a change has come over me, which I now recognize to be a spiritual awakening. All I knew is that I was tired of being cynical and bitter and going through the motions, so I began praying to God each night when I woke up for work that He’d give me an optimistic outlook on life. I’d always prayed for a positive attitude at work, but it was lip service most of the time and more confined to when I had to deal with difficult guests, instead of life in general. I can honestly say that this has made all the difference. Instead of trying to buy happiness or find it in dating, I’ve been realizing it can only come from within, and that I have the choice each and every day to decide to be optimistic, even when things aren’t going my way. Along with this has come a renewed peace of mind, and I’m also finding that I’m choosing my words much more carefully. I used to spew out very harsh words without giving them a second thought; now–even when I’m thinking to myself–I think about my words before I say them to make sure I’m saying things in a way that’s more uplifting to myself and to others. 

I’ve also been letting go of the baggage I was still holding on to. This last relapse was brutal: I pulled a stomach muscle from vomiting so much, as I should have after the 10 or so drinks I had in one day. (Coupled with the back pain I was already experiencing, I could barely move at times in the weeks following.) But I realized that one of the things I was holding on to before this last relapse was my “right” to still drink if something “bad” happened to me. I’d been feeling sorry for myself about a certain aspect of my life, and though that’s not at all the reason I relapsed, that had been my ace-in-the-hole in case I ever felt like drinking. I’ve let go of that. First, because I don’t ever want to feel the way I felt a month ago. And second and most importantly, because I don’t need to be holding on to such negativity. Self-pity and self-deception are both manipulative monsters if we allow them to creep in; I was deceiving myself into thinking I was “owed” a slip-up one day soon for this situation I’d been pitying myself over. Such is not the case, nor should it be. I realize now what negative, defeatist thinking that was; I was absolutely setting myself up for failure. God has allowed me to move beyond that with this optimistic outlook on life.

So that’s about it for this week. I’m taking a break from working the steps with my AA sponsor per my own request. It’s been nice to just get to meetings and clear my head a bit without the lectures about getting to more meetings. (The last time I spoke with him, my sponsor told me he knows I’m going to die from the disease if I don’t get to more than two meetings a week. Yeah, that’s a little too intense for me.) There’s another guy in our group whom I might ask to be my sponsor; I actually sat by him at the Tuesday night meeting but I just wasn’t ready to ask him yet. It’s not unusual for people to switch sponsors; I just want to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons. Speaking of AA, my favourite current show on the air is back on for its second season, and Nashville is doing an excellent job again this year of portraying AA and the process of sobering up in a positive light. Here’s Deacon (played by Charles Esten) in an AA meeting on last night’s episode. He relapsed in the season finale and is getting his life back together this season.

I’ll end with that last sentence from the excerpt one more time. Don’t waste another day waiting to be happy, or looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Ask God for an optimistic outlook and He’ll allow you to unclutter your heart and your head and find it inside yourself, where it was hiding all along.

“What (s)he received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, (s)he has made her/himself ready to receive it.”

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Lee Radziwill: Princess of Indecisiveness

“Peter [Beard, her ex-boyfriend] used to tell me that Lee really needed love, but that her values prevented her from getting that love because she had such a checklist, with money and glamour and all that. He thought that if she could just let go and get rid of the phony side of her life, she could be a happy person. But Lee was someone who all her life could not find fulfillment in anything, no matter what she did. She is a person who has never and will never get her life together, and one can tell this about her fairly quickly.

“At the exact center of Lee is a quintessential confusion. With anything she undertakes, be it one project or another, it can be pursued only so far and then this confusion takes over, and it just dissolves. Lee can’t follow through with anything, and the fact that she never got her life together is related to that somehow. There is a dilettantism in her that cannot be overcome. And right at the middle of Lee, along with her confusion, is a lack of self-respect and confidence in herself. She doesn’t really believe in herself very deeply. I had that feeling about her many times, and believe me, it did not begin yesterday, and it will not change either.”–Peter Mellon, as quoted in Diana DuBois’s ‘In Her Sister’s Shadow’, pages 247-248

Lee & Jackie in India on a goodwill trip during JFK's presidency

Lee & Jackie in India on a goodwill trip during JFK’s presidency

Known as the “Whispering Sisters” to everyone in their social circle who knew them because of their tendency for sneaking off in corners and whispering to one another in private, Caroline Lee did indeed grow up in the shadow of her older sister Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. “Lee” was their mother Janet’s maiden name and–though she was actually descended from poor Irish ancestry–she invented the story that the family was descended from Robert E. Lee to keep up appearances in the social register. Thus Lee and Jackie were introduced to the concept of elitism at a very early age. It was one that would–and still does–serve Lee Bouvier Canfield Radziwill Ross very well at age 80. Speaking of bitter divorces, Janet & Black Jack Bouvier were divorced when Lee was a mere seven years old. From DuBois’s biography:

“Worse yet, in the aftermath of the divorce the youngsters were no longer merely prizes to be fought over by their parents but outright instruments of revenge in a bitter and ongoing feud. The legacy of all this conflict for both children was a lifetime of great insecurity, though Lee, for one, learned to use the rivalry of her parents to play one against the other, particularly when it came to getting things she wanted. But her emotional deprivation, her failure to obtain the unconditional love of her parents, who were too lost themselves to meet her needs, became the psychic origin of the vast sense of entitlement she would manifest throughout her life. Such expectations were the unconscious acting out of her deprivation to redress the balance.” (18-19)

Caught whisperin', just maybe...

Caught whisperin’, just maybe…

The prologue of In Her Sister’s Shadow begins with the story of Jackie dropping Lee off at an AA meeting at an Episcopal church in East Hampton in the summer of 1981. Jackie escorted her sister into the meeting and waited in her limo out in the church parking lot to make sure Lee stayed for the whole meeting. Such was the essence of their bond, but more on that later. As I wrote in my *previous blog*, I found while reading the book that I shared many unflattering characteristics with Lee. Not just with Lee, but all egocentric, self-involved alcoholics. Side note: I found it tough to read how 1950’s Debutante of the Year was reduced to selling off furniture and art nearly 30 years later to pay off her creditors. Suddenly finding herself between (ex-)husbands and drinking heavily, Lee had finally exhausted her resources–including loans from Jackie–and was forced to part with some of her most prized possessions. It still had not dawned on Lee that none of these material things had succeeded in bringing her true happiness over the nearly 50 years of her life.

Lee and the Francis Bacon she had to part with, as ironically pictured in her photo memoir 'Happy Times'

Lee and the Francis Bacon she had to part with, as ironically pictured in her photo memoir ‘Happy Times’

Lee’s first husband, Michael Canfield, was the illegitimate son of bisexual Prince George and socialite Kiki Preston, who was known as “the girl with the silver syringe” due to her propensity for shooting up in front of anyone and everyone with her solid silver syringe of whatever drug she had handy. A secret adoption was arranged by family friend and publishing magnate Cass Canfield, and the infant never knew his biological parents. (Prince George died in a plane crash when Michael was 16; Kiki jumped to her death out a hotel window when her biological son was 20.) In DuBois’s book, both Lee’s friends and Michael’s friends are quoted as wondering why the two married one another. The common consensus seemed to be that Lee wanted to beat Jackie to the altar, and that Michael seemed to be a good pick since he was from a good family (and vice versa). The fact that Michael drank a lot was a well-known one, but one which was brushed under the rug since he was quiet about it. Said Michael’s step-brother Blair Fuller:

“There was a lack of intimacy in the marriage and Lee’s personality was paramount in that lack of intimacy. Her agenda precluded real intimacy with Michael because she was always saying things for a reason. This was something you always felt about Lee, that she had an objective, an agenda, and it was more important than anything else.” (page 76)

Lee began dating her second husband, Polish royal refugee Stas Radziwill, while she was still married to Michael Canfield and essentially quite the toast of London society, where she and Michael had taken up residence at her insistence. (Michael’s father’s publishing company had an office there, and Lee thought it would further their continental social contacts if he transferred to that office not long after they were married.) Prince Radziwill, as he referred to himself, had settled in London after WWII, which had ended with his family losing not only all their wealth–namely landholdings–but their royal titles as well. For whatever reason, Stas Radziwill chose to hold on to his Polish title, and though everyone knew it to be an empty title, they humoured him and his jovial attitude by addressing him as Prince Radziwill and introducing him as such at social occasions. Immediately smitten with the man 19 years her senior–and the empty title of “Princess” which would surely come with marrying him–Lee set her plans in motion for leaving alcoholic Michael for the man many say resembled her father, Black Jack Bouvier. Says Diana DuBois:

“Certainly Lee found the colourful and talkative Polish patriot fascinating and unlike anyone she had ever known before. ‘There was a special kind of glamour to Stas. He was older, in business with Felix Fenston, and he was someone with a well-known name,’ said a London friend. Stas’s generosity and decency also impressed Lee, as did, needless to say, his supposed wealth and ancient title. Stas, in turn, thought Lee beautiful and bewitching. Most important, the two shared the same element of fantasy in the way they related to the world. Stas had continued to play the grand Polish nobleman even when he was broke in England, and Lee habitually romanticized her attraction to the good and the great. By the beginning of the summer, events had progressed rapidly enough for Stas to start thinking of whether or not he should leave his wife for her.” (pages 94-95)

And so it was…two unhappy homes were split up in order for the temporarily happy couple to be together. But not before the Pope got involved–long story short, the Kennedys strong-armed the Vatican into annulling Lee’s first marriage to Michael Canfield so that Lee and Stas’s marriage could be recognized by the Catholic church. (They’d long before had a civil ceremony, since she was pregnant with their first child and needed to marry Stas.) First Lady Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill took a goodwill trip to Vatican City for an audience with the Pope under the auspices of thanking him for his support of the first Catholic president. However, they were also there to plead their case to him for Lee’s annulment, which the Pope had already made clear he wasn’t in favour of. Magically, Lee got her annulment not long after their visit, and after years of much paperwork and pleading to archbishops and dioceses. The irony was that by the time she and Stas had their Catholic wedding, she was having an affair with Aristotle Onassis.

Lee and Jackie praying...hopefully not for the annulment.

Lee and Jackie praying…hopefully not for the annulment.

Lest one think Lee wasn’t happy with Stas, she was…for awhile. They had two beautiful children together, Anthony and Tina, and had two beautiful homes: a townhouse in London and a manor house about an hour outside of London, both of which Lee decorated lavishly with money Stas gladly gave her in the name of entertaining their house guests. After all, they were “royalty” (big quotes), and had to appear as such at all times. Another side note: Stas died in 1976 at age 62–two years after their divorce became final–owing the equivalent of $30 million USD to creditors. With their father’s estate bankrupt and Lee barely supporting her own lifestyle, Jackie stepped in and set up trust funds for Anthony and Tina. Lee was supposedly shocked that Stas had “mismanaged” his finances so much over the years; the reality was, he had been living well above his means for many years, especially the years in which he was married to her. His princely title and his connections gave him access to plenty of loans which–in the end–were never called in. Here’s a few photos from the Radziwill era, during which Lee truly blossomed and became a fashion plate of the 60s:

Lee insisted on using her maiden name for all professional assignments, including the two acting jobs she procured later on.

Lee in Paris, 1963

Lee in Paris, 1963

Furnished description: "Princess Lee Radziwill with daughter Anna Christina in the Turquerie room of their London house. Interior designed by Renzo Mongiardino."

Furnished description: “Princess Lee Radziwill with daughter Anna Christina in the Turquerie room of their London house. Interior designed by Renzo Mongiardino.”

Lee and her friend Rudolf Nureyev, the ballet dancer. Lee nursed a crush on him for years in spite of his homosexuality.

Lee and her friend Rudolf Nureyev, the ballet dancer. Lee nursed a crush on him for years in spite of his homosexuality.

At some point when Lee got bored with playing housewife, her good friend Truman–as in, Capote–convinced her he could mold her into a great actress. Another brilliant alcoholic prone to delusions of grandeur, Truman was just coming off the runaway success of In Cold Blood and had the world at his fingertips. True, Lee was gorgeous, but could she act? The answer to that question didn’t seem to matter much as long as Truman was backing her, and soon enough she was headlining The Philadelphia Story at the Ivanhoe Theatre in Chicago in June 1967. Though the reviews were scathing, the show sold out its run as fans flocked to see Lee the personality–not Lee the actress–take the stage in a custom-made wardrobe by Yves Saint Laurent.  Jackie was conveniently out of the country for the show’s entire run, so those fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the other famous sister in the audience never got their wish. Lee followed up her ballyhooed stage debut with her television movie debut–AKA her last acting job–in another part rigged by Truman, the title role in 1968’s Laura. Supported by an esteemed cast including Farley Granger, George Sanders, and Robert Stack, Lee’s acting was so wooden that much of her part ended up on the cutting room floor and she was nearly fired from the film for her on-set behaviour. It was clear Truman had called in one too many favours, and her acting career was dead in the water. Lee confessed to columnist Dorothy Manners after her play reviews came in:

“I am serious about acting, and I have studied diligently. The drama critics here do not think I’ve succeeded too well. It is difficult for someone raised in my world to learn to express emotion. We are taught early to hide feelings publicly. I feel I have gone as far as I could with a drama coach. The rest I had hoped to get through training and experience, which I might have done if I didn’t have a ‘name.’ I could learn in private. But I am finding that isn’t possible…” (page 172)

lee 33 yo play announcement

Lee & Truman leave the Ivanhoe Theatre in Chicago with a reporter there to do a story on them

Lee and Truman with an Emmy, undoubtedly not won for her TV movie role he secured for her in 1968

Lee and Truman with an Emmy, undoubtedly not won for her TV movie role he secured for her in 1968

Lee and Truman had a special relationship from the word go. They were inseparable for years before a gradual falling-out caused by Truman’s one-way descent into drinking and drugs, and his jealousy of any new boyfriend of Lee’s which took time and attention away from him. Truman’s biographer Gerald Clarke is quoted in DuBois’s book as saying,

“Lee was very depressed and lost at the time Truman first knew her. At least he saw it that way, and all the evidence points to it. He said she was a lost woman, and she did not have any purpose. She felt very much eclipsed by Jackie. She seemed to have everything, but it wasn’t enough.” (page 134)

DuBois goes on to explain how Lee uncharacteristically confided in Truman, who just ate it up. He had fashioned himself into the go-to confidante of the ladies-who-lunch in Manhattan society, but to be the BFF of the sister of the First Lady was almost more than he could handle thinking about. He was smitten with Lee:

“Lee complained bitterly to Truman that she was the one who was considered the beauty, who was chic, who was clever, who had the fashion and decorating know-how, yet it was Jackie who got all the adulation and publicity for those talents. Of course it was her sister’s status as a public figure that accounted for this discrepancy, but Lee was not necessarily thinking rationally. She only knew she stood to be permanently eclipsed by Jackie’s rapidly emerging prominence. […] From then on, [Jackie’s] historic role sealed Lee’s fate and made it official that she would be defined forever more as Jackie’s kid sister not only in the mind of the public, but, far worse, in her own mind.” (page 136)

As time went on, it was Truman whom Lee called to rant to when she found out about Jackie’s engagement to Onassis, her former lover. He got her the acting gigs, of course, and they went on trips and vacationed together. Truman stumped for Lee as she began doing press for her never-completed memoirs in the early 70s. Side note: Truman never finished his last book, Answered Prayers, and Lee had to give back the advance on her memoirs once she realized she had the inability to be open and honest about herself and her upbringing, essentials to writing a memoir one is given a hefty advance for. In many ways, they were two of a kind. Upon his death and after years of being estranged due to vicious “he said-she said” bandied back and forth after a libel lawsuit both of them were involved in against Gore Vidal (which is way too convoluted of a story to get into here, trust me on that), Lee said the following when asked if she missed Truman:

“I do. Yes, I do. I had wonderful times with Truman. Wonderful times. There is nobody who is like him. There is nobody who even reminds me of him at all.” (page 303)

lee and truman '67 alabama

lee and truman sweeping hair

Lee & Truman at his Black & White Ball...she was one of only three ladies he danced with the entire night.

Lee in her mask at the Black & White Ball

Lee in her mask at Truman’s Black & White Ball, 11.28.66

The 70s were a time of transition for Lee, from a more stilted society maven to a pseudo-bohemian goddess who hung with Andy Warhol and the Rolling Stones in an attempt to “find herself.” And she put forth a valiant effort…in-between very serious boyfriends. Peter Beard, Jay Mellon, Peter Tufo, Newton Cope–a string of gentlemen that all held her attention for awhile until she found a reason to cast each one of them aside. In the case of Beard, Tufo, and Cope, she would eventually about-face and beg them repeatedly to marry her when she realized she was running short on funds. All three men saw through the charade and as much as they enjoyed spending time with the attractive, enchanting Lee, they weren’t going to be taken for a ride. It was exactly this failure of her cunning–which she had relied on her entire life–that had Lee turning to the bottle more and more. She actually got Cope to agree to marry her in 1977, but negotiations on a prenup an hour before the wedding broke down and he called the whole thing off. Here’s a few pics of free-spirited, 70s Lee and her men from that time period:

Polaroid of Lee by Andy Warhol, circa 1970

Polaroid of Lee by Andy Warhol, circa 1970

Andy & Lee walk his dog

Andy & Lee walk his dog

Lee and Peter Tufo, 1976

Lee and Peter Tufo, 1976

Peter Beard with Caroline Kennedy in '77, around the time he was dating her Aunt Lee

Peter Beard with Caroline Kennedy in ’77, around the time he was dating her Aunt Lee

Tabloid-ish wedding announcement linking Lee with an unnamed Newton Cope, 1977

Tabloid-ish wedding announcement linking Lee with an unnamed Newton Cope, 1977

A very nippy Lee shopping with Jackie in the 70s...60s fashion plate Lee would've never been see out and about like this.

A very nippy Lee shopping with Jackie in the 70s…60s fashion plate Lee would’ve never been seen out and about like this.

Lee, Mick, & Bianca...just hangin' out.

Lee, Mick, & Bianca…just hangin’ out.

It was also during the 70s that Lee began trying her hand at working again. After her aborted acting career and her failed attempt at writing her memoirs, she pitched a talk show to her friend Bill Paley, founder and chairman of CBS. A pilot was shot in 1974 and Lee stacked the guest list with her famous friends and intriguing people she had connections to. Much to her chagrin, the pilot was chopped up and tested out as individual interview segments during a handful of local news broadcasts, instead of as an hour-long show. Conversations with Lee Radziwill ended up going nowhere fast.

In February 1976, Lee Radziwill, Inc. opened for business as Lee’s foray into the world of professional interior design. Desperate for money at this point, she saw this as a good fit since she had designed her own homes for years to much acclaim. With many contacts in the business, she had no problem securing commissions, especially designing suites for hotels (which is how she met San Francisco hotelier Newton Cope). One of her larger hotel clients, Americana Hotels & Resorts, used her for a period of two years to redesign suites in its hotels in New York and Bal Harbour. The president of Americana–a friend of a friend of Lee’s–stated the following when asked about working with her:

“I have worked with almost every major decorator in the world, and I have never dealt with anyone as extremely…well, not stubborn, but let’s say ‘determined’ in her taste and opinions as she was. But Lee had a tremendous charisma that set her apart from the other decorators. At the same time, one had to be aware of the power of her personality or else she would tend to dominate you. She didn’t win in the end, because the money came from us. It was very simple. Instead of her doing the large volume of rooms we originally discussed, we wound up only giving her a few sample suites to do. […] The suites Lee designed were very, very attractive.” (pages 275-276)

lee ID opening, march '76

Of her new career, Lee herself stated:

“I wanted a full-time job, and now I have really got one, and in this field I think I am as good as anybody. I expect to get well established, and remain and build on this business. I am very serious. In five years I’d like to see Lee Radziwill, Inc. essentially as it is now but with a larger staff and bigger projects throughout the world.” (pages 277-278)

By early 1984, Lee closed down her decorating business, citing the “hard work” and admitting to her close friends that she was bored with it. She took on private commissions from time to time, but the eight-year career was over for her.

When Lee joined AA in 1981, she was at her wit’s end. Her children were essentially being raised by her sister, she was in debt up to her eyeballs, and she’d just broken up with her boyfriend Peter Tufo for the umpteenth time. Like any alcoholic, she had turned to liquor to self-medicate from life’s unmanageable problems. DuBois writes:

“An old acquaintance from the 50s ran into her one day in the supermarket in Southampton. The woman was with a companion who tried to take Lee’s shopping cart by mistake, and as she described the encounter, ‘I told him, no! Let that woman have that cart. Look, she’s so sick. Then I said something dumb like, that’s Jackie Kennedy’s little sister. Lee was so shaken! I never saw anybody so tense! She was bone thin and literally shaking–and I mean literally. Lee just looked awful.'” (page 310)

DuBois admits in the acknowledgements that she infiltrated Lee’s AA home group while researching the book, in order to get some of the stories she got, such as the one about Jackie dropping off Lee at the meeting. Many would frown on such underhanded tactics, but the end result is that the pieces of the puzzle more easily fit together regarding being able to explain Lee’s alcoholic attributes. Yet another side note: It has now taken me five days of stops and starts to write this blog. A record to be sure! But finding so many life mistakes and character flaws in common with the subject has been grueling, to the point of me wanting to scrap the blog altogether and become another “late-in-life Truman,” or–better yet–“Lee trying to write her memoirs.” I’ve persisted, though, and I’m glad I have. This blog deserves to get finished.

A newly sober Lee with long-time friend Rudolf Nureyev

A newly sober Lee with long-time friend Rudolf Nureyev

Once Lee sobered up, she began getting her life and finances back in order. She downsized appropriately, moved in with new beau Richard Meier, and began working in PR for Armani in 1986. After she and Meier split up, she began dating–oddly enough–bisexual film director Herbert Ross, who had just been widowed. They both seemed smitten with each other and were married in September 1988 in Lee’s New York apartment. Jackie offered to host the wedding dinner, during which this conversation took place:

“Isn’t it wonderful that Lee’s happy?” [Lee’s friend] Karen Lerner asked Jackie, who had met the groom just the day before. “Isn’t he homosexual?” Jackie replied. Thinking fast, Lerner retorted: “Well, I never heard he wasn’t!” Jackie probably figured it would have been taken as a chop at the knees if she asked her sister the same question. (page 350)

Lee and Herb on their rainy wedding day

Lee and Herb on their rainy wedding day

Lee was soon up to her old tricks again, though. Herb complained to friends that all the money he made directing went to Lee’s grandiose plans for their new home, of which he had little to no say-so in the building of. She would show up on his movie sets and bring home freebies such as caviar which were intended to be shared with the entire cast and crew. It all came to a head, however, at the London premiere of the Ross-directed Steel Magnolias. Pouty that she couldn’t be in the production-only receiving line to greet Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Lee made a point of bee-lining for the theatre and sitting right next to Prince Charles on the front row…in Julia Roberts’s assigned seat. Several people involved with the movie production, including Julia, asked Lee to move, and she pretended to hear none of them. DuBois writes:

“In the meantime, Charles and Diana kept hearing, ‘Wrong seat, wrong seat!’ in spite of all the whispering. As a result, Diana got up, with Charles quickly following: they thought they were in the wrong seats! An embarrassing flurry ensued with Charles and Diana trying to relocate but not knowing where to go. When the Prince and Princess of Wales stood up to move about, pandemonium broke out in the theater, and every person there connected with Columbia Pictures had an anxiety attack: nothing is more nuanced and finely wrought in protocol-conscious England than who gets close to the Royals and why. Proper placement is submitted months ahead for approval by Buckingham Palace for security reasons as well. ‘It was really a very, very embarrassing, awkward situation,’ attested [Columbia Pictures PR employee] Steve Klain, ‘and a panic for us but in a sense rather absurd to see the Prince and Princess of Wales having to stand up and change seats on account of Lee Radziwill.'” (page 366)

The above folly of Lee’s cost her husband some business in the film business, and Lee herself was shunned from openings for awhile afterwards. Lee divorced Herb in 2001, claiming she had no idea being married to a director would entail spending so much time in Hollywood. [Insert obvious joke or smartass comment here.] Herbert Ross died the same year of heart failure and was buried next to his first wife, dancer Nora Kaye.

Lee & Herbert out on the town

Lee & Herbert out on the town

Coming full circle, the driving force behind Diana DuBois’s In Her Sister’s Shadow: An Intimate Biography of Lee Radziwill is how Lee always felt inferior to and jealous of Jackie when her older sister was alive. Quotes and anecdotes I’ve taken from the book and shared in the blog entry have proven just that several times. Even this last one proves it:

“But if Jackie had remained in the public eye in her last years, Lee still would have been struggling a lot more. It was not so much that Lee had outgrown the sibling competition with her marriage to Ross as it was that with Jackie out of view the pressure to compete had lessened.” (page 375)

Remember when I wrote that Jackie taking Lee to the AA meeting showed the essence of their bond? Jackie was always looking out for Lee, even when it seemed Lee wasn’t looking out for herself. The product of divorce, a domineering mother, and an alcoholic father, the two girls did indeed have to look out for one another growing up. But Jackie bailed Lee out time and time again, whether it was the annulment plea to the Pope, a loan for a penthouse mortgage, or by literally taking in her children when Lee’s drinking got out of control. Jackie died of Lymphoma in 1994 and left Lee nothing in the will:

“…not even so much as a trinket left to her, at least as a gesture, Lee was deeply–and publicly–mortified. Her will stated clearly that she was making no provision for Lee because she had already done so in her lifetime.” (page 380)

Furious at being slighted, Lee was still spotted in the drug store after the will-reading buying every single magazine with her sister’s photo on the cover. That was how complicated their relationship was…like most sisters, truth be told. After all, what sisters haven’t fought over guys, clothes, and popularity? Lee and Jackie just happened to do it on a global stage. (Perhaps that simplifies their issues a bit, but that’s what all the bickering boiled down to in the end.)

This press photo was taken a month before the assassination of JFK.

This press photo was taken a month before the assassination of JFK.

Provided caption: "High On A Hill -- Mrs. John F, Kennedy and her daughter Caroline, stand with the former First Lady's sister, Lee Radziwill, center, on a slope yesterday overlooking Arlington National Cemetery. Part of the thousands who filed past the graves of President Kennedy and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, can be seen at lower level. In far background is the Memorial Bridge spanning the Potomac River, and the Lincoln Memorial. At right is a military escort."

From the same photoset, but in hazy colour...

From the same photo set, but in hazy colour…

Lee Bouvier Canfield Radziwill Ross is now 80 and sat down for interviews earlier this year to reminisce about her storied life. You can see her interview with Sofia Coppola *here*. You can read the New York Times T Magazine article by Nicky Haslam on Lee *here*. Both are well done and she’s fairly forthcoming, until the subject of Onassis comes up. (And they were obviously told to flat-out not mention some subjects to her, but that’s alright as well.) So…how to wrap up such a lengthy book report on a subject who’s become so personal to me during the last month I’ve become so fascinated by her? It’s hard to answer that question without getting tears in my eyes; I see a lot of myself in Lee, and vice versa. I’ve always been very concerned with keeping up appearances, my image, and what others thought of me. It’s gotten me nowhere fast, as I’ve blogged about before. I think at 80 years old, Lee would agree that those modes of operating are destructive to oneself, though they are very hard to break. Incredibly hard, to be sure. Two last quotes to go out with:

“‘Lee is a very nice, very attractive fraud,’ offered her old friend from Washington, Sherry Geyelin, herself a decorator. ‘She is a fraud because she just isn’t true to herself. I don’t think she ever really knew what it was that she wanted in life, and when she got what she wanted, or what she thought she wanted, she was not content with it.'” (page 319)

“One could say that their relationship died of terminal vacillation. Lee’s conflicted feelings towards Peter were part of that same indecision and ambivalence she had about so many things. Once again it had been made abundantly clear that going back and forth in her values and choices the way she did was her most defining personality trait, the hard outcropping of character that more than any other determined her life.” (page 310)

Despite all her flaws–and she’s wondrously flawed–I wish Lee the best. Giving her the title “Princess of Indecisiveness” might seem cruel, but her life has seemed to be one chock-full of indecision. At the end of the day, I hope she’s happy. That’s really all we should want for one another, and it’s something I’m consciously striving towards each and every day in my sobriety. To be internally happy with myself…not because of money or a man or anything else. Just me.

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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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Expectations v. Reality/real life/real talk

You can send me all the BS you want. I do care.”

Reading those words tonight in a live Facebook chat back and forth with Bob meant the world to me. I relapsed again the other day–one-day relapses seem to be my new go-to–and I messaged him some slightly inappropriate sentiments. I can’t say I regret them because they were true, but they were a direct product of the alcohol. So I I didn’t apologize; rather, I just admitted that they were out of line. Getting the above response back made me realize that having someone care is many times more important than having a hero, or someone to be in love with. Knowing someone cares enough to chat at 1:30AM means more than any grand, fairy tale gesture, because it’s real life. Real life is also relapsing yet again for no apparent reason, and being so scared to call your sponsor and tell him because you don’t want to hear yet another lecture about how this is all due to not getting to more AA meetings. I’m almost beginning to think the relapse happened because I was tired of hearing the lectures about how a relapse was going to happen due to just that (not getting to more meetings), but that, too, is BS. I didn’t drink and drive the other day, but I did get incredibly sick and had to come into work that night white as a ghost and not even able to hold down water for several hours without throwing up. The lesson has been re-learned again for now, and the hard way.

Real talk: I’m still trying so hard to fill some void in my life re: peace, joy, and happiness. I still feel like half the time that I’m losing my mind. It all scares me so bad. I’m now so stressed out about this silly AA picnic on Sunday up on Mount Charleston that I want to drink before I attend it, so I’m just going to skip it. I already requested Sunday night off and was planning on leaving for Palm Springs for a long weekend after the picnic, so I’ll go to church and then leave on my trip after a nap. Not a big deal; hundreds of people attend the picnic and I’m sure I won’t be missed. It’s not worth me going if I feel like I need to drink to get excited about it. Not to bad-mouth AA–and that’s really not what I’m doing–but as with any group of people, it’s not a perfect organization. We’re all human and we all have flaws. I’ve felt so incredibly pressured lately to get to more meetings and that if I don’t then surely I’ll drink again that…well, see the above paragraph. I certainly own the relapses, but I don’t think it helps to be told they’re going to happen if I don’t follow someone else’s plan to the T. If only going to one or two meetings a week works for me, why hassle me to get to more? It’s off-putting. [End of rant.]

Nicholson in 'The Shining'

Nicholson in ‘The Shining’

Happy Friday the 13th,

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We Can’t Stop With the Blurred Lines and the Roar of the Applause

Christmas '88 at my Granny's house

Christmas ’88 at my Granny’s house

This week’s blog title is a compilation of the top four song titles on the current Billboard Hot 100. It also sums up how I feel about myself right now. In the last 36 hours, a momentum has swept over me that has erased so many of my fears which once paralyzed me. I was still scared I was making a mistake, but I knew it was now or never insofar as my sanity and sobriety were concerned. For that, I’m proud of myself and really have been patting myself on the back. Here’s the status I posted on Facebook 36 hours ago:

This morning my best friend and the love of my life flew to Mexico for an undisclosed period of time. It was all very undramatic; no tearful goodbyes or even a phone call, for that matter. Just a goodbye card mailed and a brief Facebook message exchange, which was all that was necessary after all the over-the-top drama of the last several months. Letting go of all that drama–and of him–is one of the most freeing things I’ve ever experienced. (And perhaps one of the most adult things, as I was still semi-planning a Brody/Kristin-esque send-off from ‘The Hills’ finale…I’mjokingnoI’mnotatall.)

Now it’s time to work on myself–to get to more AA meetings, to be happy to be single, and to finally, fully, truly accept myself as a gay man. It’s way too early Pacific time for cliche quotes, but to quote Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” #byebyebob #puertovallarta #thishasbeenalongtimecomingout #itdidnotstick10yearsago #free

This isn’t something I take lightly; having spent much of my life in the Southern Baptist Church and sitting in the pew hearing Sunday after Sunday how I’m going to hell for being gay, it’s been a godsend–or should I say a God-send–to have a loving, caring Methodist pastor counsel me for the last year who has told me time and time again that that’s not the case. I have a friend who went through the now-defunct Exodus program and needless to say they’ve closed their doors and apologized for their entire mission. All the anti-depressants, all the drinking, all the times I wanted to just die because I felt like such a failure and a disappointment–hopefully that’s all behind me now. Certainly that doesn’t mean the urge to drink is totally gone, as I’m an alcoholic, but hiding who I am was one of the main reasons I was self-medicating so heavily. In the end, I was trying to please everyone else and the weight of lying about the drinking and being gay was what nearly drove me off the edge. I’m not sure now how it didn’t; by the grace of God, I suppose.

The bottom line is that I’m the same person I’ve always been. I actually came out to my immediate family 10 years ago and it was a very private, emotional trainwreck that I grossly mishandled and we didn’t speak of much again. 10 years is a long, long time, especially with all that’s happened in the world in the last 10 years. Realizing that Bob was about to get on that plane yesterday made me personally realize I have nothing left to lose; I’m 33 and I have no clue why I care what people think of me so much at this stage of my life. (The fact is, I bet people think very little of me; the inflated, alcoholic ego convinces me otherwise.) I’m literally a grown man and as much as I respect people’s opinions, I have to be happy with myself. If I’m not, this vicious cycle continues. Even just recently I’ve been spending money like it’s going out of style. I finally recognized that all the retail therapy was substituting for the drinking and the drama I was missing and I cancelled some trip plans I’d made and a couple of things I’d ordered. Money can’t buy happiness. I knew that, but I had to figure it out again.

I could tell more of my story, but I think that’s enough for this week. I’m actually done convincing anyone of my decision to come out, but I did want to share my experience of the last 36 hours of my life. It’s been very freeing, and hopefully getting this out in the open will be productive in assisting with my sanity and sobriety. Speaking of which, I wanted to dedicate this blog entry to Bob. He saw me at my worst over the last several months on an almost daily basis, bless his heart. I’m sure if he never saw me cry again, that wouldn’t be soon enough. I wish him well during his sojourn in Puerto Vallarta, and he knows how grateful I am to him for being a good friend to me. It’s funny how God puts people in your life when you need them the most–pun intended, because Bob’s one of the funniest people with one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known.

Bob & me at Hugo's Cellar in downtown Las Vegas

Bob & me at Hugo’s Cellar in downtown Las Vegas

Happy Labour Day to everyone!

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Alternate Ending

Akin to the Bobby-in-the-shower scene on 'Dallas', Lauren Conrad flipped her hair in Brody Jenner's apartment in the alternate ending to 'The Hills' finale three years later.

Akin to the Bobby-in-the-shower scene on ‘Dallas’, Lauren Conrad flipped her hair in Brody Jenner’s condo in the alternate ending to ‘The Hills’ finale three years later.

Two weeks ago MTV released the alternate ending to Adam DiVello’s game changer ‘The Hills’. Even three years later and after pretty much the entire cast has done interviews since then about the show being staged and/or loosely scripted, the rabid fans eagerly awaited seeing what we knew to be the alternate ending. Lauren Conrad had not-so-secretly filmed a scene in Brody Jenner’s condo, posing as “the other girl” whom Brody had “chosen” over Kristin Cavallari. It was all fake and everyone knew it even by the time the show went off the air, but it was still fun to watch. And the dramatic hair flip reveal made the scene, as did LC’s meh just gimme a paycheck already lacking acting.

Calming sculpture at the Springs Preserve, where I just bought a yearly pass to enjoy the nature trails and museums

Calming sculpture at the Springs Preserve, where I just bought a yearly pass to enjoy the nature trails and museums

After watching clips of Lohan’s interview with Oprah–that could be a separate blog and certainly doesn’t deserve to be at this point in my sobriety–I realized that just as Lohan admitted she’s addicted to chaos, I have to admit I’m addicted to drama. It’s one thing to watch ‘The Hills’ or ‘Nashville’ or ‘Dallas’ or ‘Dynasty’ or ‘Mad Men’ or–my gosh, is that all I watch on television is high dramas? But to realize the fever pitch of drama which took over my life in the first 90 days of my sobriety, I recognize I traded one addiction for another. In doing so, I dealt with so few of my internal issues. And I was riding the Topamax train–which I’m back on because it helps my mood–and that has a way of creating a whir in my head that keeps me from dealing with a lot of things. Granted, I can interchange the Topamax and the Campral, which I’m doing. The Topamax just gives me a high which the Campral doesn’t. Pair that with Diet Rockstar and sleep deprivation which I’ve been dealing with in the last couple of weeks, and it’s easy to stay distracted enough not to deal with many issues except the surface ones. I’ve caught myself wondering if I should just yank myself off both meds and dive into the Big Book and my Bible. But I type that as someone who went on a one-day relapse five days ago, and who very seriously thought about drinking nine hours ago before I attended an art gallery cocktail party. And I type all this without any emotion; in that respect, there’s no drama. There was no drama with the relapse the other day, and for that I’m grateful. I owned up to why I drank on Sunday, and I also own up to staying sober again. I told my psychologist I might start buying my own chips at the wholesale AA store now that I know where it is. Perhaps they’ll mean more to me if I purchase them myself, who knows.

My super-nice brass three-month chip I just got last week. That paragraph is from the 4th step, which I'm currently working on.

My super-nice brass three-month chip I just got last week. That paragraph is from the 4th step, which I’m currently working on.

A year ago yesterday is when I sobered up the first time here in Vegas. I’d been drinking all night here at work and was so scared to leave work for fear of getting a DUI that I went and sat in a hotel room and just cried and prayed. God spoke to me in that hotel room and I knew it was time to quit; nothing was worth feeling like I was losing my mind. A year later, I feel much more in control. I have days where I feel nuts, but overall I feel much more grounded because I’ve owned my problems and given them to God instead of trying to hold onto them like an ashamed little child. Only He has the power to keep me sober; I’m powerless over alcohol, and that’s a fact. That was proven the other day when I walked in that hotel room and saw the tiny bottle of Tito’s vodka which immediately had such a grip on me. As un-PC as this GIF is, it sums up how I felt when I saw that stupid little bottle:

Hattie McDaniel in one of her many domestic roles. She got a lot of flack for these roles, but she also got an Oscar and was beloved by many.

Hattie McDaniel in one of her many domestic roles. She got a lot of flack for these roles, but she also got an Oscar and was beloved by many.

All that being said, there’s no time like the present to write an alternate ending to my sobriety story. I don’t need to wait for a DUI or to lose my job or–heaven forbid–something worse than either of those things to stay the course. Whether or not another relapse happens further down the road, I know  I can stay sober longer than three months or seven months, which have been my records thus far. As Natasha Bedingfield sang in the theme song for ‘The Hills’, “…the rest is still unwritten.”

BTW, here’s the link for the alternate ending of ‘The Hills’ if anyone’s interested: http://remotecontrol.mtv.com/2013/08/09/hills-alternate-ending-video/

Until next time,

brt

The devil’s name is Tito

… the devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wished for …”–Tucker Max, ‘Assholes Finish First’

This airplane-sized bottle of Tito’s was staring at me on the bed when I went into the vacant flight attendant’s room to change clothes after work and before church this morning. I always wanted to try Tito’s but was too cheap to pony up for it. I remember asking the guy in Bullock’s Liquors in Marietta if it was worth it and he said something like, “Only if you’re a vodka connoisseur.” I promptly put it back on the shelf, as I didn’t consider pouring it down my throat six times a day to be the c-word. For whatever reason, I threw the miniature bottle in my book bag as I left the room this morning. I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t leave it in the room. I’d give it to someone else, I told myself.

Next thing I knew, I was leaving Kohl’s after church and was exhausted and hungry and was about five minutes from my house. I’d drunk all my Diet Coke and Diet Rock Star and was exhausted. Then I remembered the Tito’s. Game, set, match…my mother has been telling me about the spirit of the python–Google it if you’ve never heard of it. I fell for the entire trap. Within 30 seconds flat I’d emptied the Tito’s while driving in my truck down Blue Diamond. It was just like old times, and the Tito’s was as smooth as I’d imagined it would be. Was it worth it? Not really. Do I regret it? That’s debatable. Was it dramatic? Not at all. Am I being honest about slipping up? Absolutely. I’m going to the fancypants Zappos block party downtown tonight with my friend Cory and am not drinking a drop, even though we get wristbands for AYCD and appetizers. The appeal isn’t there; I was never a social drinker, anyway. I don’t need the alcohol to be happy these days. It never actually made me happy; it just blurred everything and distracted me. And I always drank in the most inappropriate places: work, class, church, and–yes–while driving. Clearly those habits will never change were I to start drinking again. I’m an inappropriate alcoholic, what can I say.

[End confessional.] I read a blurb on CNN.com about social media being the new group therapy. That’s an understatement. Until next time, stay well. I’ll try to do the same.

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$120 Pink Velveteen Jesus

“This price can’t be right,” I thought to myself. “But I have to have this $120 pink, velveteen Jesus in my life.”

I was doing some blissful antiquing in serene Palm Springs last week–my mind is much more at ease these days, if it’s not already obvious–and everything else in this particular booth was priced at $5, $10, & $20. But this immaculate pink, velveteen Jesus which I was smitten with was unmistakably marked with a price tag of $120. I asked a guy working on rearranging stuff for sale in his adjacent booth if he knew anything about the pink Jesus and he just laughed when I told him the price. As his two little dogs came over to be petted by me, he explained, “Oh, that’s Jack’s booth and that’s his idea of a joke. Take that pink Jesus on up to the register and the store owner will tell you the ‘real price.'” So I kept browsing, all the time wondering what in the Hades the real price was gonna be. Turns out the store owner laughed and said the same thing as the guy in the adjacent booth! “Oh, that’s Jack. Name me a fair price on this pink Jesus and He’s all yours.” I said I’d pay $5 and the store owner replied, “Well you’re in luck because everything in Jack’s booth is 30% off, so you’re getting 30% off $5 on the pink Jesus today! And between you and me, the joke’s on Jack because I’ll tell him you didn’t argue with the price and that you paid 30% off $120 for it.” We both laughed as he rang up the pink Jesus and my other purchases. Alas, the $120 pink, velveteen Jesus was all mine for a mere $3.50.

Tennis time Palm Springs style

Tennis time Palm Springs style

Suffice to say that my R&R in Palm Springs put a spring back in my step. A Palm Springs back in my step, if I’m trying to be punny. I must thank my friend Chris for letting me stay with him at his absolutely 70s-tastic apartment complex, and I mean that as the highest compliment. It was stunning and I had a ball on the tennis court, sweated out the toxins in the sauna, and spent much quality time soaking in the Jacuzzi. It was just what the doctor ordered, and when I saw both my doctors the day I got back into town, they could both tell I seemed much more at ease. My medical doctor wants me to start working out to relieve my stress; he also wants me to start journalling both my physical exercising and the reading and writing I do (AKA mental exercise). For whatever reason he’s taken a great interest in me having been an English major. I told my mother he reminds me of a slighter, balder Morgan Freeman; he has that same soothing voice and presence as well. My psychologist told me I’m making good progress, but that I need to make sure I’m not getting bogged down in the little things, especially other people’s issues. Which is true; I have enough issues of my own without trying to preoccupy or distract myself with other people’s drama. The bottom line goal is to be happy, but I told him my worst fears are ending up alone and/or losing my sanity. He reminded me that losing my sanity represents losing control, which is what alcohol was doing to my life. I was losing control of my life due to the chronic drinking, and I can finally accept that now. I finally, truly accept that.

I’m going to end here this week. I still cry almost daily and want a drink almost daily, but as Agatha Christie said above, “…just to be alive is a grand thing.” And I certainly need more Jesus in my life, even if He is a pink, velveteen one that I got a deal on. Thanks for reading…and HAPPY 32ND BURFDAY TO MY LOVELY SEE-STER SUSANNE!

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90 Days Redux

My second semester of 11th grade, I took the second half of Algebra II from the worst math teacher I ever had. She was so lazy that she used the tests from the other Algebra II teacher, though she herself didn’t even bother to teach us everything we needed to know to do well on those tests. I knew going into the final exam that there was a chance I’d fail the semester. I’d already failed the first semester of gifted Algebra II the first semester of 10th grade and had to repeat it via the non-gifted version the first semester of 11th grade, so my self-confidence level was very low at this point. Back to this final exam for the second semester at the end of 11th grade: I wrote a pleading note on the end of my exam to please pass me. And it worked; I passed the class with a 70, which is a C, which was all I needed to pass and be done with Algebra II forever.

Reaching 90 days of sobriety yesterday should’ve been a happy occasion. It was not. The last few weeks I’ve been so afraid of relapsing that I psyched myself out, to the point I woke up yesterday and was scared to leave the house for fear I’d drink. Instead, I took enough Topamax pills that I felt buzzed out of my skull by the time I met with my sponsor before the AA meeting yesterday evening. I was a mess, tears streaming down my face and unable to concentrate on the resentments exercise we’d met to discuss. I didn’t even stay for the meeting to turn my old 90-day chip in for a new one. It didn’t feel like the right thing to do under the circumstances. There didn’t seem to be anything worth celebrating.

The difference between barely passing Algebra II and staying sober is that the latter is never over. 90 days was a place marker and I made it by the skin of my teeth, but it means nothing if I don’t stick with it. It’s all in my head and I know that. I’m my own worst enemy and I’m terribly hard on myself. I still want to drink so much every single day. Because drinking means ceasing to care, and it would be so nice to not care about my problems and my issues. Instead, I know I need to be grateful for the progress I’ve made.

This is me being honest, without the photos or GIFs or quotes or anything else. I wouldn’t relive the last 90 days for anything–there were some great moments and fond memories made, but overall it was pure hell. But now that it’s behind me, I need to look towards living the next 90 days with a brighter outlook so that I can experience the “light of the Spirit,” as the AA Big Book speaks of. Reliving the past will get me nowhere fast. It’s high time to move onward and upward.

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Like an Abandoned Japanese Strip Club

Eery scene from an abandoned, 70s-era strip club in an Japanese mountain resort town

Eery scene from an abandoned, 70s-era strip club in an Japanese mountain resort town

I chose the above photo to open this blog because after seeing a series of photos the other day from this abandoned, stuck-in-the-70s Japanese strip club, I was smitten with them and couldn’t put my finger on the reason. I’m still not exactly sure why, besides that I’m smitten with most any photo of an abandoned place in which it appears people just walked out and left everything as it was. Then I had a very self-involved epiphany: I related to this photo in particular so much because it’s what the inside of my head felt like at the time. I’d switched medicines that day–from Dopamax Topamax to Campral–and was missing the high that the Topamax gave me. That’s the reason it worked so well for the four months I was on it: I constantly felt buzzed and many times high as a kite, so there was no need for alcohol. (Disclaimer: I did indeed drink while I was on it, and many times experienced an overwhelming urge for a drink when I was taking it sober. The handful of days before I switched prescriptions were wrought with the desire to drink, to the point I told my AA sponsor I felt like giving up and just getting the relapse over with.) All this to say that the inside of my brain felt trashed: the Dopamax party was over, the new medicine gives me no sort of high, and I felt lonely, insecure, and scared. Probably the same way the photographer felt who captured this shot in the Japanese resort town where this strip club still sits empty, streamers still hanging from the ceiling and the stripper stages empty and dust-covered.

This week's change-in-tune pick-me-up GIF...I really love this one and it always makes me happy.

This week’s change-in-tune, pick-me-up GIF…I really love this one and it always makes me happy.

My focus this last week has been on changing the way I think. There’s a line in the AA Big Book that says something to the effect of (and this is a liberal paraphrase), “We all have God inside of us; it’s just a matter of unclogging our minds to seek Him.” And I think that’s so true. I’ve always prayed daily and gone to church and the whole nine yards, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to a truly intimate relationship with God. So very rarely do I sit still and just listen to what He might have to say; my prayers are very rote lists of requests (mostly for others) and things I’m thankful for. I’m trying to learn how to meditate, which should be easier on this new medicine. It was difficult for me to wrap my mind around the concept that there isn’t a big secret to meditating–it’s more or less breathing exercises which then facilitate calm thinking (or at least that’s the way it was explained to me). Starting at 30 seconds and working my way up to longer meditation sessions is something I’m working on, though it’s a challenge.

I follow some great recovery-centric Tumblrs and one of them posted this a couple of days ago. Reading these two simple lines is what made me realize I have to change my thought patterns. And it’s easy to throw up my hands and give up before I start…how exactly does one “change their thinking?” For someone who overanalyzes everything, it made me want a drink or four just pondering this. I know from the Boundaries book my first addiction specialist had me read that a big part of this is not entertaining negative thoughts. The minute they pop in your head, just don’t entertain them. I’ve wasted hours years obsessing over negative thoughts that I shouldn’t have entertained. I’ve worked myself into frenzies over problems that ended up essentially being imagined…imagine that, if you will. It’s letting go of frivolous, time- and energy-consuming behaviours like that which morph into a renewed way of thinking. Like most changes, it doesn’t happen overnight. I had a situation this past week that really got me worked up. I vented about it on Facebook (and then deleted the post…it was that negative and needless, though it felt necessary when I posted it), but thankfully I didn’t entertain the thoughts much past the venting. And I needed to vent because I was very upset; but I couldn’t change what the other person had done to me. The only thing I could change is how I chose to react to it, and so that’s what I did. Realizing his behaviour isn’t worth my time, energy, and negative thoughts is realizing he has no power over me. That’s what changing our thinking does–it gives us power over our emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical well-being.

I feel like that deserves a 'Mad Men' clap, especially from Roger Sterling.

I feel like that deserves a slow ‘Mad Men’ clap, especially from Roger Sterling.

Here’s some quotes I’ve found this week, again from the recovery-centric Tumblrites:

“Renewing the mind is a little like refinishing furniture. It is a two-stage process. It involves taking off the old and replacing it with the new. The old is the lies you have learned to tell or were taught by those around you; it is the attitudes and ideas that have become a part of your thinking but do not reflect reality. The new is the truth. To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. To the degree that you do this, your behavior will be transformed.” – Charles Stanley

abundance

“Life always give us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor, every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every breath. Every moment is the guru.”–Charlotte Joko Beck

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”–Kahlil Gibran

“You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago.”–Unknown

This one cracks me up...I think Carrie had just had her apartment redone and was hosting a tea or something.

This one cracks me up…I think Carrie had just had her apartment redone and was hosting a tea or something. Clearly the ban on cursing didn’t last long.

“The disapproval of those we love most is amplified so much that it overpowers the rest of the opinions that actually matter– like our own. It is a long road before we learn to turn them off, to release ourselves, and to remove value from how they think and feel before we’re able to hear everything clearly again. That’s when we start to hear the great opinions about us again; they’re so evident, so refreshing to hear. And we, more than anything, realize how the voice of that one person sometimes sounds a lot like ours, but we just don’t have control of theirs when it gets out of hand. And when it becomes louder than our own, we lose our way. It is through giving everything we have that we find all that should come to us. Loving ourselves is usually the aftermath of loving another so much that we’re exhausted and broken and have no other choice. Because loving someone more than they love you isn’t inherently a problem, but it becomes one the day you finally hear yourself say I deserve so much more.”–Unknown

“In the end loneliness is the most terrible and contradictory of my problems. I hate having only myself to come home to… It’s not that I want a sexual partner, a long-term partner, someone to share a bed and a snuggle on the sofa with – although perhaps I do… It’s a lose-lose matter. I don’t want to be alone, but I want to be left alone… And perhaps I am writing this for any of you out there who are lonely too. There’s not much we can do about it… But I want you to know that you are not alone in your being alone.”–Stephen Fry

rockin' chairs

“The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do.”–Anonymous

Mark Corrigan from 'Peep Show', one of the best Britcoms currently on the air

David Mitchell from ‘Peep Show’, one of the best Britcoms currently on the air

“The area dividing the brain and the soul is affected in many ways by experience. Some lose all mind and become soul: insane. Some lose all soul and become mind: intellectual. Some lose both and become: accepted.”–Charles Bukowski

Office of the Asylum at old state hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia. I took this photo three years ago on a visit there.

Office of the Asylum at old state hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia. I took this photo three years ago on a visit there.

“The Universe loves grateful people. The more grateful you are, the more you get to be grateful about. It’s that simple. Life is really that simple. We make it enormously complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.”—Louise Hay

snoopy dance

“There is mind-bending beauty in the fact that we are eternal. We come, we go, and we travel so far beyond our conscious understanding we’re left blindsided and brush it off as fable or tall tale. This is who you are now, but it is not who you will always be. This may be how you feel now, but it will not be how you always feel.”–Unknown

spiritual beings

I like that last typed quote and pictured quote especially, because they put into perspective how transitory our everyday problems and irritations are. Yet so much of our time and energy are consumed dealing with just those issues! Oh, the irony of life…for most of us who’re given the chance, it’s not until the end of it that we realize how petty and inconsequential most of those things we stressed over and tormented ourselves dealing with were. Yet we must deal with them daily or they get bottled up. And then people like me hit the bottle, and it’s off to the races. Realizing, too, that I was drinking simply so I wouldn’t care about my issues has been eye-opening. It was also the reason I wanted to drink so badly this time last week. I felt like I was doing everything I was supposed to do towards my recovery, yet I was so unhappy. Choosing to look on the bright side and reminding myself of all I have to be thankful for is what’s going to keep me sober. Not the medicine; my way of thinking.

stronger

I’ve written a book this week, but I do want to give a shout-out of congrats to my beloved Connie Britton from ‘Nashville’ on her fourth consecutive Emmy nomination (for three separate shows!). This speaks volumes about her acting ability and how well-liked she is in the industry, because as much as I love ‘Nashville’, the writers didn’t give her character much to work with past the typical primetime soap dramatics. So congrats, Connie…I can only hope you’re flippin’ your hair over your nomination.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the support from those I’ve leaned on in the past week. Sylvia Plath once said, ““I’ve been needing, more than anything, to talk to somebody, to spill out the tight, jealous, envious, apprehensive, neurotic tensions in me.” I can relate, and not in a suicidal, put-my-head-in-the-oven kind of way. I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have great friends and family in my life who’ve had the patience of saints with me, so thanks to those who’ve been there when I called, e-mailed, messaged, or saw them in person. You really are all saints in my book.

brt

One last bit of priceless advice from Horse ebooks. Best advice ever, to be honest.

One last bit of priceless advice from Horse ebooks. Best advice ever, to be honest.

The Image Awards

“You seem much more concerned with the image you put out there than anything else in your life. You hold what other people think of you higher even than your own happiness and self worth. This concerns me and I’m not so sure it concerns you.”

Those were the closing words my psychologist spoke to me a couple of days ago in my session with him. I was emotionless, because I knew he was right. As I left his office, I thought back on all my 33 years and realized those three sentences he spoke summed up much of my entire life. Not all of it, obviously, but a great deal of it. Always pleasing others, always craving approval, always doing what I thought was expected of me…until inevitably I cracked under the pressure, most of which was self-inflicted pressure, for lack of a better way of putting it. All of this to say that I’m very proud of the person I am, and if I had it all to do over again, I’m not sure what I’d change other than not to’ve started drinking. Because I always knew I’d have an issue with alcohol due to my chronic battle with depression, yet I started drinking anyway when I started back to school at age 30. But what’s done is done and I’m at the point now where I’m learning a lot about myself that I might’ve not learned otherwise, so that’s the way I have to look at it.

How about a little Dowager Countess to lighten things up?

How about a little Dowager Countess to lighten things up?

So I’m not exactly sure where I go from here. Obviously the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, as the preacher in the church I grew up in was so fond of saying. And in this case the main thing is my sobriety. I don’t know how to un-learn 33 year’s worth of behaviour overnight, nor do I think my psychologist expects me to. Who knows if it’ll ever be unlearned; but I can continue to make strides–as I’ve done in the last two months–towards being happier and valuing myself more. Life’s funny like that, that it takes something like this for a cataclysmic change to take place in oneself. All I really wanted was to stop drinking, but it’s not as simple as that. Because the drinking was merely a symptom of deeper unhappiness. And the unhappiness stemmed from how much I devalued myself and my own self worth…it all makes sense now.

As I did last week, I’d like to share some more quotes and GIFs and memes which I’ve found helpful this past week. Please feel free to copy and paste and right click them to your heart’s content…or refer your friends here to read them firsthand! (Well, second- or thirdhand, since I myself got them all off Tumblr.)

calvin negative

“That is why it is so important to let certain things go. To release them. To cut loose. People need to understand that no one is playing with marked cards; sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Complete the circle. Not out of pride, inability or arrogance, but simply because whatever it is no longer fits in your life. Close the door, change the record, clean the house, get rid of the dust. Stop being who you were and become who you are.”–Paulo Coehlo

“Slowly, the realisation emerges that the choice to continue what you have been doing is the choice to live in discomfort, and the choice to stop what you have been doing is the choice to breathe deeply and freely again. Once that realisation has emerged, you can either honour it or ignore it, but you can not forget it [Edit: I could forget]. What has become known cannot become unknown again.”–Gary Zukav

let things go

“Every single person you know has something in their life and past that is probably worth collapsing to the ground in an uncontrollably sobbing heap over, so be nice to each other and tell good jokes.”–Anonymous

This was a kind-hearted joke that Meryl Streep played on her friend Sandy Bullock during the Oscar campaign a few years back. Bullock ended up winning for 'The Blind Side', so all ended well for her.

This was a kind-hearted joke that Meryl Streep played on her friend Sandy Bullock during the Oscar campaign a few years back. Bullock ended up winning for ‘The Blind Side’, so all ended well for her.

In summation, I think I’ve done a decent job of protecting my image over the years. I may’ve failed at many other things, but I think I’ve succeeded at portraying myself in the best light possible given all the circumstances. Even when I was dealing with debilitating depression and/or drinking 6-8 drinks a day, very few people knew. To sit here and type, “I’m proud of that” is probably colossally screwed up, but I am. I’m glad no one saw me out at bars getting wasted and that I was doing all my drinking behind closed doors or at work or in my car on the downlow. (Clearly I don’t condone anyone drinking in their car or at work; that’s actually the whole point of drinking in bars, I suppose.) I’m glad that when I was 20, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and got myself to a psychiatrist of my own accord and played musical chairs with anti-depressants until I found one which worked for me. If I had it all to do over again, I really can’t say I’d do anything differently besides the not drinking. I’ve done the best I could given all the circumstances, and I think that’s what most of us who are being genuinely honest say when it comes right down to it. We’ve done the best we could.

charlie brown stupid things

That’s all for this week. Monsoon season is beginning a bit early here in Vegas and rain is predicted all day today. The rain is needed to help put out the wildfires up on Mount Charleston, so I’m certainly not going to sit here and bellyache about flooded streets when I don’t have to drive on them during rush hour. Hope everyone had a great 4th and is staying cool this summer!

brt

Childe Hassam's "The Avenue in the Rain," 1917

Childe Hassam’s “The Avenue in the Rain,” 1917

I’m Just So Glad to Be Here

After I got my new two month chip at last night’s meeting–I did the thing again where I traded in last year’s old one for a shiny new one–I left the meeting room to use the bathroom. (Thank you, Topamax, for no control over my bladder due to all the fluids I drink.) As I was walking back towards the meeting room on the lower level of the hospital, a bald-headed cancer patient was walking with her IV drip cart and she smiled at me. I smiled back and got tears in my eyes. The meeting went on and I didn’t plan on sharing. Finally, what I assumed to be the last person shared (she was sitting right next to me), and our leader said we had time for one last person to share if they could keep it very brief. I spoke up and said the following:

“I’m Brian and I’m an alcoholic. For anyone who doesn’t know, I came to these meetings last year and didn’t take them seriously. Well, that’s an understatement. Anyway, that’s why I’ve been turning in my old chips for new ones. I bought ‘The Big Book’ last year and read it all the way through, but I drug my ass in here late for the one meeting a week that I begrudgingly made it to, and I refused to get a sponsor. Now I have the greatest sponsor in the world–thank you, Matt–and, well, I’m just so glad to be here. Thanks.”

So much has happened in not only the last two months, but in the last week. But all of it’s been positive, and all of it’s been changes precipated by things which–while seemingly out of my control–I know for a fact are completely within God’s control. And knowing that and being at peace with that is–let me tell you–being in a completely, utterly different place than where I was a short 60 days ago. Not that I don’t still have panic attack-ish moments…I was telling my sponsor yesterday that I couldn’t find something I was looking for when I was fixing to leave the house to meet him, and I was so worried about being late for our session that I just nearly started crying. I popped a Topamax (instead of a drink, which–let’s be honest, is what I really wanted), found what I was looking for, and still made it to the session on time. So no, my life is by no means all unicorns and roses. But no one’s is. The joy of living is finding those moments in-between the hard stuff, savouring them, and being thankful for them. God never promised us a problem-free life. We somehow wished or imagined that up in our head, or at least this guy did. But He did promise us that He’d be there with us every step of the way if we’d trust Him and let Him do what He’s always promised to do from the start. All that being said–and this coming from someone who’s made a plethora of poor decisions–it’s so much easier said than done to let “Jesus Take the Wheel,” as Carrie Underwood sang.

I wanted to share a few quotes I’ve been hoarding saving up that have really been helping me along, so I think I’ll just “spill it,” as Thelma Harper once recorded on her outgoing answering machine message on ‘Mama’s Family’. Here they are, in no particular order:

“Breathe. You’re going to be okay. Breathe and remember that you’ve been in this place before. You’ve been this uncomfortable and anxious and scared, and you’ve survived. Breathe and know that you can survive this too. These feelings can’t break you. They’re painful and debilitating, but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass. Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon, they are going to fade and when they do, you’ll look back at this moment and laugh for having doubted your resilience. I know it feels unbearable right now, but keep breathing, again and again. This will pass. I promise it will pass.”–Daniell Koepke
Carve Out Un-distraction Time. When are you going to do your most important work? Schedule it with a block of time (1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, whatever works for you). Make this your most sacred appointment. Become incommunicado. Close the Internet, all notifications, hold all calls. Just do the most important task, then the next one if you have time. Slow Down. We rush through our days, almost in a single frenetic anxiety-filled non-stop movement. Instead, slow down. Life won’t collapse if you aren’t rushing from task to task, e-mail to e-mail. You can pause, take a moment to reflect, smile, enjoy the current task before moving on. Mindfully Single-task. Stop multi-tasking. One task at a time, with full focus on that task. Practice mindfulness as you do the task — it’s a form of meditation. Watch your thoughts wander to what you need to do later, but then return to the task at hand. Your day will be much simpler, and much more enjoyable, when you practice being present with your current task.–Leo Babauta
“Do not resist events that move you out of your comfort zone, especially when your comfort zone was not all that comfortable.”–Alan Cohen
t
“What a lovely surprise to discover how un-lonely being alone can be.”–Ellen Burstyn (Might I just say how much I love this woman.)
“You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people, but until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them.”—Iyanla Vanzant, ‘Yesterday, I Cried’
“Have you ever analyzed things to the degree where you can’t really remember the difference between what’s real and what you’ve created in your head?”–Edie Sedgwick
“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening […] Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”–Alice Walker
That last one by fellow Georgia native Alice Walker really got to me when I read it. I actually read it before the huge precipating change which took place late last week actually took place. But once that change happened and I was so at peace with it–and I handled the situation with such dignity and calm–unlike the old me, or even the me up until this very point in my life here on this earth has ever been capable of doing or has reacted to situations such as that–I realized that I was a-changin’. And I was telling my cousin on the phone last night that I’m certainly not patting myself on the back or tooting my own horn, because it’s not me that’s facilitating the change. And it’s not the Topamax; goodness knows the Dopamax isn’t changing me! It’s my Higher Power, or as I’d like to call Him, God. And to Him be the glory. I’m humbled beyond words, as I always am. He’s seen fit in all His mercy, and He’s known that this is the right time for me to finally be open to all this change. Change is scary and most of us resent it kicking and screaming. But this time I’m not. I’m absolutely not. I’m at God’s mercy and am willing to do whatever He sees fit for me to do. And being in this place, at this time, is right where I need to be. Nothing could possibly give me more peace of mind than that.
Well, I hope everyone has a magnificent 4th! We as a country have much to be thankful for. We’re a wondrously flawed nation, but we’re a United nation. I, for one, am thankful every. single. day that I was born here. Although, I won’t lie, it would’ve been fun to’ve been born in the UK as well. But anyway, here’s to a great 4th!
Liberace stole my 4th of July outfit

Liberace stole my 4th of July outfit

BTW, I’ve not changed so much that I won’t illustrate the precipated change that took place late last week with a couple of GIFs. I still won’t get into the story because the end result is that life goes on and we’ll both be the better for it, but needless to say I had a very heated phone/e-mail/texting conversation with a friend who’s no longer my friend and who was never supportive of my sobriety. Okay, that’s pretty much the whole story right there. It went a little something like this…

catfight
joansie telephone
Thanks for readin’, and thanks to all my new followers! Oh, and I hope everyone noticed the couple of Southern-centric pics I spliced in-between the quotes! Thanks to the *Simply Southern Tumblr* for those images…again, just mosey on over there for your fix of Southern Aristocracy for the time being. They really have so, so many neat pics and I’ve enjoyed following them the last few weeks.
Here’s one last GIF to end with, and I’ll call it a day. Life advice from Bob Ross is the best kind of life advice. Until next time–brt

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