While Patience Percolates

The sweetest sound in my mornings is the subtle music coffee makes¬†while it percolates. The only overture which guarantees I’ll make it anywhere–ever–is the promise¬†of coffee. I don’t have much luck once I get downstairs to pour my first cup because I outrun the speed at which the coffee drips. I remember when I helped my mother purchase our coffee-maker; I insisted she buy the one where you can pour a cup while the machine suspends its production. One can always put the¬†pot back on its burner. This mad rush in the morning drives my mother crazy. She doesn’t get why I can’t just¬†wait.¬†Maybe¬†put more makeup on or something? she asks. No, mom, it doesn’t work that way. There isn’t enough mascara in the world.

Lack of patience, she portends, will make for unnecessarily miserable days to come.

My coffee routine, of course, is a microcosm of my world view. My absence of patience has led me down many creative dead ends in my lifetime. This is not to say that my mistakes are less beautiful than my successes, just that they are less obvious and much more difficult to unravel. So we shall call them creative cul-de-sacs.

Thanks to my practice of silence with self, meditation hastens my patience production right along. What’s interesting, though, is it also makes me feel irritable or sometimes angry. When I sit still for 12 minutes, as I have done most days for the past week, I feel great until I don’t. It’s almost as if my addictive self gets frustrated with the few minutes where my spirit and soul spurn my brain’s anxious intrusions. I am rarely ever angry with a person or an event on these occasions. I feel frustrated for absolutely no reason at all–not one I can recognize, anyway.

I fell into a thought cul-de-sac this week with my teacher life. On Thursday, a parent of one of the school’s students came in to tutor me in science, equipped with cool demos and funny stories of his teaching experiences. I listened with rapt attention, hanging onto his every word. I thought, “How the fuck am I ever going to be able to understand the laws of the universe, let alone teach them?” My thoughts made their crescendo to a point where if this nice man looked up from his book, he would have witnessed the thought bubble¬†hover ’round my head. He kept talking, though, so I kept swatting the thought bubble aside to obsess over later.

I’ve started three careers since 2009. I’ve been a political organizer, a writer and now a teacher–five years, eight months and six months, respectively. Never once did I picture myself skipping into the sunset while fundraising for candidates. Never once did I imagine birds chirping as I write the final pages of my novel, greeting the daylight with no sleep on a deadline that looms. But more than once, I’ve pictured myself teaching sixth graders about protons and neutrons–and liking what I see. More than once, I’ve watched as the smile creeps across a students face when she correctly identifies the phases of the moon in order, no less. More than once, I saw myself fulfilling my vocation.

My twin called me on Friday to see how things were going. I told her how intimidated I was by the whole “being teacher-ready” process. I explained how much of a paradox it is that more people are leaving the profession than are coming into it. And why do I have to work so hard for credentials and placement when that is the case? She went into real-talk mode immediately. “What do you define as success?” she asks. And for the first time in my life, I answered without a convoluted response: “I want to be a good teacher, that’s all.” She told me how hard it will be to have that success. She is in her third year of residency as a podiatrist, living in something similar to a sleep-deprived hell. She told me that to work toward something I define as success, I can’t be fooled by self-doubt. That I have to work hard to remain focused. That I have to be patient–“Lucy. You HAVE to be patient,” she repeats thrice, for dramatic effect.

On many a campaign trail, I learned from training that a voter won’t be fazed by a candidate’s message until he’s heard it an average of¬†seven times–and in as many ways. I wonder at this point how many times my sis will have to repeat herself for the message to resonate. As it turns out, the pursuit of success as I’ve defined it will not be subject to my impatience. Lest I forget, I promised myself over two years ago that my ultimate definition of success is to remain sober one day at a time. That’s all. It is clear to me now that I will have to remind myself of this definition every day, multiple times a day. But when I don’t remember to do this, and my coffee is still brewing, I’ll need a little help from my friends. Who knows? Maybe I can remind them, too.

And like a good friend, I’ll tell them it’s “Time for Da Percolator.”

A good friend who gets songs from the 90’s stuck in their heads.

 

Photo courtesy of Healthy Home and Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

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Snowlidary Confinement

Day six of snowed-in-ness and the plows JUST arrived. Side streets all over Petersburg¬†were¬†caked with snow and ice, long after the storm had passed. Snowzilla–or Storm Jonus–swept¬†Virginia¬†last Thursday night, right on the heels of news that I’d be my school’s new¬†permanent science class substitute.

I haven’t been to school yet.

But I now know a hell of a lot more about plate tectonic shifts, velocity, photosynthesis and convection. I saved about 100 articles on Facebook from I Fucking Love Science, too. I’ll¬†do myself the favor now and¬†tweak that URL for the kids, out of common decency.

Kids love snow days. I have never much cared for them; I don’t do cold weather, nor do I revel in snow play. I’m sure that¬†teachers appreciate them a whole lot, though. These snow days were different for me, however, because they were my first ones spent sober. I was grateful for them, but¬†with a caveat: I fear¬†loneliness. And, irony/pun intended,¬†I am not alone.¬†Isolation of any kind¬†is a big cause for concern in the recovery community. The same can be argued for those experiencing depression. Often, individuals dealing with addiction qualify as¬†dual-diagnosis¬†cases (myself included)¬†facing the double-whammy¬†that is¬†mental health issues AND addiction. Generally speaking, isolation makes me feel kinda bleh. This means that I have to get out to meetings where other humans are; coffee, dinner and movie AA dates are nearly non-negotiable (trust me, I’ve tried). I’m not a fan of contrived socializing, any more than I am a proponent of Netflix for a week straight with no outside interaction.

But now that I love being in my own company, otherwise-isolating snow days¬†are a blast. I did online AA meetings, I spoke on the phone to my recovery and non-recovery friends and I blossomed within my at-home¬†30-day yoga practice. Thanks to a few¬†hours of intense yoga sessions–with candles burning as I wore my skivvies–I can now do headstands. I have been practicing yoga for NINE years without ever achieving such a thing. The best part of all of this is what I discovered: isolation is not the same as spending time alone. Being snowed in was not my choice, but spending quality time with myself very much was.

Not every¬†person in my very (very) small circle of AA friends out here agrees with my opinions on alone time. I don’t blame them; alcoholics in a snow storm is like a set-up for a bad punchline. Setting aside the pleasant shock of seeing snow for the first time since 2008, I had a few reservations myself. At the slightest glimpse of a storm, I would be the first one in the liquor store line to stock my shelves with “provisions.” But the closest I came to that kind of self-sabotage were the relapse nightmares I had for the past two nights.¬†As scary as it is to imagine a life back in active addiction, a dream is just a dream. (I had one exception: I dreamt three nights ago I went to space with Rob Lowe.)¬†My reality is much sweeter, albeit quite cold. Altogether, free of any Rob Lowe not on a screen.

I’m not saying it’s good to hole up inside your home and tell the world to go fuck itself. I’m merely pointing out that it can be nice to take a break from constant socializing. I think we could use a little more of that.¬†What is most¬†important for me to remember is to jump back into face-to-face interactions as soon as possible. I’ll do so, with snow boots on. Maybe some flannel.

Enjoy the sun, Cali.

Photo courtesy of ToppixGallery