I didn’t write a blog post last month. There is a whole litany of excuses I could hide behind for not coming to the page and sending something new out into the world: I started a new job, volunteered for a service position for my AA group, my soon to be mother in law was in town, the pile of dirty laundry kept growing, the weeds needed whacking, the dog needed walking. But the truth is I thought about writing everyday. The desire to write nipped my ankles, pulled my sleeve, and instead of coming to the page and writing some words, I just thought about writing. I thought about it a lot.
Alcoholics have a special ability to overcomplicate things, to overthink simple tasks, to get lost in hum of neurosis and become paralyzed by the little bit of nothing that grow into huge insurmountable somethings. Alcoholism coupled with workaholism makes for some real mental gymnastics when I think about writing blog posts. I always want to make some grand conceptual connections or metaphors, and then I get stuck. Nothing is ever “finished” in my head. I ride my bike around the city trying to make sense of it all. Trying to come up with “something.” So, I have to learn how to keep it simple. I am working on this.
So, instead of writing about a grand “something,” this month, I want to write about all the things I have thought about writing, and didn’t.
I thought about closure and writing about saying goodbye to my two schizophrenic siblings.
The broken record addiction, relapse and recovery kept spinning over the last two months. My sister got out of the hospital, had a psychotic break, ran away from home, and disappeared for several days on the streets of Berkeley. My mom, dad and I panicked. We feared that she wasn’t safe, that she would get hurt again by someone roaming the streets up there in the Bay. This incident pushed some dominoes of our shared family trauma, and we all started falling over, reliving the horror of how this all began. We couldn’t believe that after 10 years of trying to support her, of opening our veins, sacrificing our time, emotions and relationships with each other, that we had ended up right where we started.
I had a long text message exchange with my father while this all went down. He was too upset to talk, yet wanted to know if I could help my sister, so we spent about an hour exchanging ideas and emotions in little blurbs on our smartphones. I felt somehow grateful to actually be communicating with my dad. We don’t talk often, so it was nice to talk about something, to have a shared connection.
Both my parents were ready to say, “we can’t do this anymore,” which seems to be part of the routine, one of the mental exercises we go through when exhaustion and disbelief overcome. It’s one of tracks that plays on the skipping CD of addiction, recovery, compliance, and relapse. This time, a part of my brain really believed that “this is it. This is how it all ends for my sister.” I felt gutted and relieved at the same time. The selfish part of me thought maybe it was my turn to get some attention, peace and normalcy.
Giving up isn’t a truth. It’s just a well worn mental path we travel as we make sense of crazy, because there is no such things as “being done” with your family.
A few weeks ago, just days after she was released from the hospital, my sister smoked weed, started having delusional thoughts about someone filing her apartment with noxious gas, so she jumped out of a two story window. She landed with bare feet on a concrete sidewalk and fractured both her heels. Hospitals, drugs, a plastic boot holding your foot still. There are no services for homeless, mentally ill people, so she’s at my parents house again. The record skips, heels break, systems fail, and the vinyl bumps right along.
In recovery, we don’t give up on people. We have hope. The sun rises tomorrow and you get another chance. These sayings are meant to provide some solace, some kind of anchor, something to provide clarity when the water is all muddy.
In recovery, we have boundaries. We don’t enable self-destructive behavior. We cut people off when they chose addiction over love, family, friends or stability.
You inhale all these truths and have no idea what to do next.
I thought I was going to write about the families I found living in sheds and cars and how I stopped sleeping and got drunker and drunker and drunker.
I thought about writing about the family that asked me to take their four kids if they were deported. I thought about the “official document” I frantically typed on school district letterhead addressed to “Immigrations and Customs Enforcement,” as parents waited nervously in our crowded lobby. My palms were drenched in sweat. I gleaned my wild thoughts in search of bureaucratic terms that might make sense in an “official, legal document.” The letter stated that Crashley Brakes needed to be contacted immediately if these two parents were deported, and that she would be granted full custody of their, infant 4 year old, 6 year old and 11 year old. I spent days and nights wondering how I would take care of 4 children. I called law offices and learned about how to get temporary power of attorney to care of children whose parents are deported.
I haven’t figured out to how to tell these stories—how to shed some light on the families I met, the stories I heard, the people I miss. I think about it all the time. But I guess this paragraph is a start.
I thought I’d write about Charlottesville. I checked out this weekend. I was in the woods this weekend looking for a spot to get married. I didn’t see any headlines until I got to work on Monday. The headlines are perpetually disturbing in Trump’s America, so we pick and chose what we get really upset about. The image of the car driving into the peaceful anti-racist protesters ripped a hole in my mind. I sat in front of my computer, “working,” distracted and disturbed for most of the day.
I wanted to write about what this moment in time demands of us, us meaning us white people. I thought I would write about what kind of white people we need to be right here and right now.
I think about whiteness all the time. I always want to write about it. I am just not sure where my thoughts fit within the current dialogue around whiteness. There is this trend of “listing ways to be a white ally” or people of color, articulately and accurately, calling out whiteness for what it is—a mechanism that has systematically and intentionally annihilated the black body and mind. There are reminders that us, white women, are complicit and have always supported white supremacy through the accident of being born with white bodies. I am not sure what I think or where I fit within this conversation. I am not sure what I want or need to say. But I think about writing about whiteness. I think about it a lot.