Monthly Archives: August 2011

Losing Control

It has been that kind of day. Tried to turn on the television but I could not get the remote to work. Tried a second remote. No good. Tried them both at the same time, one in each hand, like a gunslinger. Still the stubborn LCD would not turn on.

The frustration with my Sharp Aquos is just the latest in a string of failed attempts to get the world to function the way I want it to.

The thing I love about the remote, when it works, is that you can get exactly what you want: the channel, the volume, the high or low def. You can choose Wii tennis or Guitar Hero, Al Jazeera or Telemundo, Mob Wives or Rachel Maddow.

How different it is dealing with people.

The problem I have with relationships is not that I want folks to disappear from my life because I can’t stand them. I just want my peeps at the right volume, tuned to the right channel, at the right time. I am a benevolent despot–not a demented Roman emperor. I only want to control other people sometimes, and usually all I need are a few minor adjustments.

I was trying to explain this to my son the other day: “It’s not that I don’t want your friends to come over. It’s that I don’t want them to come and sit on the porch from the moment you get up at 2pm until the moment you fall into bed at 2 am. One or two hours of college students with their colorful antics gives a liveliness and zest to the home ambience. Twelve hours turns it into outtakes from The Hangover.”

I know I know I know. You can’t control people. You can’t adjust their behavior. You can make requests, modify your own actions, and establish and keep boundaries. That’s it.

This does not feel fair at all. It seems as if we should be able to honcho the humans in our lives just a little bit: A tweak here, a tiny update there, an occasional reboot?

Here’s an idea:

Why couldn’t there be a remote for other people’s behavior with just a few simple commands: “Come Here”, “Go ‘Way”, “Be Nice”, “Hug Me”, “Love Me”, “Listen to Me”, “Tell Me I’m Not Fat”.

It seems like it could be a great thing–but what would we gain if everyone had one?

Problem is if we all had remotes for fine-tuning other folks, it wouldn’t really improve anything. People would still be trying and failing to manipulate each other, sending out mixed signals, battling, projecting, misunderstanding, even hallucinating their way through relationships.

I guess the only means to escape an uncontrollable world of frustrating human connections is to go back to where I started: grab the clicker, turn on the TV, and choose a parallel universe.

I’ll have to get the remote to work–but that I can master.


In My Head

I think I am trying too hard today.

I think I will try to not try so hard.

Should I try to not try at all or try to try a little less?

How much trying is too much? How much is too little? I want to try to get this trying thing just right.

I want to try to figure out the signs that I am trying too much or too little.

I want to try to perceive things correctly.

I want to try to understand why all my efforts to not try too much or too little appear to be fruitless.

I want to try to do all of this without trying.

I think I should try to keep my head from exploding.

Maybe I should try to give up trying.

I think I will try that for a while.

Should I try to give up completely or just a little?

I will try to figure out how much giving up is just right.

Then I will try to give up just that amount.

Maybe I should try to create total silence inside my mind.

If I try really hard will my mind be totally quiet?

Or does quieting the mind require trying less?

Maybe I should try to let go completely.

If I let go does that mean I have to stop trying altogether?

How do I try to stop trying altogether?

Maybe I need to try to stop this chatter.

How do I try to stop this chatter?

I think I am trying too hard to stop this chatter.

I think I am starting to lose my mind.

I think I should try to start praying.

I will start now:

Dear God.

Is that an OK way to begin? Of course it’s OK.

Dear God, I humbly ask you…

Should I say ‘beseech’. Aren’t you supposed to say ‘beseech’ in a prayer?

Does it matter?

OK, Dear God, I humbly beseech you to…

What am I asking for?

Now I’m stuck.


That’s it.

Dear God, I need help.

Please help me.

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Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Recovery Journal


Open Heart, No Hands

By now the Old Me would have scattered her entire wardrobe around the room looking for the Perfect Outfit to attract Him in an understated way. I would be panicking as I realized that I don’t own any Hoochie Couture and would have to settle for leggings and the best of my light and summery but not cheap looking blouses.

Next would come the anxious process of searching for physical flaws using every mirror in the house: the full length one on the bedroom door that has a bloating funhouse effect, the fluorescent lit bathroom one that makes me look like an Ancient Alien, the softly flattering wall mirror which always reflects a lovely glowing woman in her prime, and the final reality check in the small but deadly mirror that magnifies.

Then, sweating in the 100 degree heat whilst trying to figure out how to control the egress of water from my pores, I would grab my purse and anxiously head for the door and the place where I know He goes for lunch or coffee or to hear music at night. Or perhaps I would cruise down His street to see if I could spot Him. Could I park and hide behind a newspaper?

Today, however, I am not doing any of that. Instead I am relaxing at home, writing this and trying a new approach to handling the extreme emotional and physical discomfort known as Romantic Attraction.

I would describe my new strategy as Getting Over It. Call it preventive medicine for the broken heart. The way I see it, if I can get over the guy (and my own Big Feelings) on Day One, then I will save myself a lot of suffering later–starting with the disappointment I will experience if the frisson of attraction fizzles.

Getting over it means having a realistic approach to pheromonal urges from the first warning thumps of my eager heart. It means taking the fuzzy filters off my eyes, removing the chick flick script from my brain; not planning the wedding from across a crowded room nor breaking up with Him in my mind before our first friendly chat.

It seems to me that a lot of the pain of relationships comes from getting too far ahead of myself. A healthy love affair is the ultimate Twelve Step exercise in present-moment living without forcing anything or trying to race into the future. You are just there dealing with it as it unfolds, neither inflating nor deflating it with your imagination and projections.

I am not sure why I feel the need to rush a relationship. It could be an urge to control, to move rapidly out of the uncertainty that is part of new love into the later more secure stage of things.

After all, nothing is more ambiguous than a new attraction. True amours, lousy love affairs, crushes that crash, and one-sided infatuations all start out more or less the same way. I’m talking about the very VERY beginning: the idyllic fantasy-fueled interlude before red flags, epiphanies, disappointments, hating, blaming and heartbreak.

The fact that you cannot tell where something is headed at the outset means you have to endure uncertainty, unresolved feelings, fear and fretting if you want a relationship to develop. For control freaks and anxiety junkies like me, living with the unknown is agonizing. Sometimes I think I would rather wreck a potential partnership than wait to find out of it is a go or a NO.

In fact, I have done that very thing–more than once.

Some of my airbag-popping strategies for racing into romance (and crashing) have included:

Doing IT too soon in order to get IT over with and become instantly intimate (guys mistook me for a garden implement and tended to not call again–apparently nothing has changed in this regard since the 1950s).

Cultivating a passionate relationship via email before the first coffee (we got so emotionally involved that we had a huge cyber fight and broke up before meeting).

Really opening up on the first date, and sobbing uncontrollably (this is terrifying to a guy…a romantic buzz kill for sure).

Treating the hopeful like a husband by displaying all my worst personality traits in a single email: a paranoid, petty, possessive, jealous Gynormous Beatch Manifesto. This is the sickest way to lose a dude. Yeah, it’s instantaneous.

That is why today you won’t find me driving slowly down the Street Where he Lives (while singing the Broadway tune of the same name) nor surreptitiously scheming to get his email. If you pry into my brain you won’t find a single fantasy about the banging body I plan to have before He Gets to See It.

This time, I am dousing my flaming imagination with cold water, giving up on all hopes and plans, surrendering my will to God and the Universe. I am over him before I start, before I get a chance to ruin it.

Over him but at the same time completely willing, optimistic, and eager to see what develops.

Heart Open, Hands Off. I think it’s a good plan.


Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Clarity, Essays



Someone told me once that the Twelve Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous works because you can make it into whatever sort of healing experience you need.

For me, Twelve Step is bearable group therapy. Within its usually gentle, nonjudgemental rooms, I have found space to examine and begin to exorcise the worst of my self-sabotaging social behaviors.

In my experience, alcoholism is not so much a psychological disorder as a relationship malaise. It evolves, at least to some degree, out of a damaged ability to become close to others.

It is a truism of human interaction that liquor, when consumed modestly, can be a social enhancement. Small amounts of alcohol imbibed by non-alcoholics can loosen inhibitions fairly harmlessly, making certain gatherings more agreeable and festive.

When one drinks to excess it is often because one’s shyness cannot be cured by the temporary blurring of social boundaries. One feels the need to down cocktail after cocktail in order to connect.

It stands to reason that when one seeks to recover from alcohol abuse one not only needs to repair the damage to the body, and break free of physical addiction, but also heal oneself as a social being.

For me, and I am sure for many, this growing sense of a saner connection to others is one of the miracles that occurs over time as one sits in the circles of the Twelve Step program, listening and telling stories about recovery.

At first, trying to bond without the crutch of alcohol is a frightening reminder of how socially vulnerable one is. When I first started going to AA meetings, all my awkward feelings surfaced and spilled over. I experienced suspicion, fear, attraction, jealousy, anger, competitiveness, love, rivalry, triumph and defeat. Oh, and embarrassment about being such a Drama Queen. There was plenty of that. Sometimes I felt so hyped up after a meeting that I had to hasten home, lie down and just try to get my heart to stop pounding.

Over time I have realized that most of these dramas are of my own making–not pure invention but inflation, enhancement and neurotic reenactment of the past. When a powerful feeling emerges, I try to explore what I might be projecting or replaying out of my own personal history.The most important thing for me to remember is that revisiting these scenes and feelings helps me get better.

I am so grateful to the God of my understanding for leading me to this place. For years I ran screaming from the idea of a support group. Now, no matter what happens, I follow the AA adage to “keep coming back.” I have managed to hang in so far–and feel better for it. I look forward to the lessons still to come.


Posted by on August 2, 2011 in Recovery Journal