Sunday, January 27, 2013

When I'm Sixty-four

I spoke today with a couple of good friends, with whom I was discussing life and work and how things are going, and the conversations turned to the whole topic of "Where did the time go?" You know, now that I'm beginning to think in terms of retirement and what that will mean for me in terms of income and work and... (ominous musical sting) The Future! (The other day I was thinking of the Beatles' song, "When I'm Sixty-four", realizing that when I first heard it 64 seemed eons away. And now... I'm 64!)

Who knows, as Judy Collins once sang, where the time goes? A couple of weeks ago I celebrated 29 years of sobriety and I was, as I usually am on these anniversaries, struck by how quickly the time has passed. It doesn't seem that long ago that I finally had that moment of clarity, the spiritual experience people talk about, that led to me putting down the drink for good. I had known for years that I had a problem with alcohol, as did most everyone I knew, family and friends. And as hard as I tried, I just couldn't stay sober. Then one night it just hit me like a ton of the proverbial bricks: I can't do this any more. I remember saying it out loud. I can't do this... So I polished off whatever it was I was drinking at the time (I think it was one of those Manhattans-in-a-can I was so fond of) and took myself to bed. There's no earthly reason it should have "stuck" that time, but it did. That was my last drink, January 12, 1984. Miracles do happen.

In the meantime I have: been through several courses of therapy, moved to Los Angeles, started a small business, starred in a no-budget independent movie, met and lost a partner to AIDS, traveled to Canada, London, Ireland and the Dominican Republic, moved back from Los Angeles, was reunited with someone I had a crush on who is now my partner of eleven-plus years, was diagnosed with clinical depression, got my Actors Equity card, got acting work and an agent, then wound up working at Drexel University, was diagnosed with bladder cancer, anemia and diverticulosis...oh, and I wrote, produced and directed two shows for the Philly Fringe Festival, went through some Landmark education courses, and got a couple of tattoos. And those are just the highlights.

It has been, as many friends can attest about all our lives, a roller coaster. And every time I think things have smoothed out, that I'm in for some smooth sailing and uneventful times, things change again -- for better or worse, in big ways and small. I've been privileged to know some remarkable people in these 29 years, many of whom I count as friends. And I've been fortunate to have been shown that it all fits together somehow. That as random as things may seem, it's all part of a pattern. The pieces of the puzzle all fall into place. The trouble is, we can't see that until after the fact. When we're in the midst of it all (whatever it all may be) it just seems like a maelstrom that makes no kind of sense, nohow. It's like thinking you've been on bumper cars, then looking back and realizing you've been on a straightaway four-lane highway the whole time.

Apart from the thousand physical "things" that seem to come with aging, my mental and emotional outlooks seem to change from year to year. (Or month to month or week to week, even.) Lately I've been having that vaguely OCD thing I recently wrote about, and this vague anxiousness (not really anxiety) that tends to keep me off-kilter. I guess it's due at least in part to the fact that things will be changing in ways big and small, and fairly soon if the amazingly fast passage of the last 29 years is anything to go by, and I wonder if I'm ready.

Well, maybe not right now. But I trust I will be. I trust that whatever's in store, I'll be taken care of. As my new, favorite philosophy says: Don't worry about tomorrow, God is already there.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy Obsessive Compulsive New Year!

Like many people these days, I've had my share of therapy -- on and off -- for years, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. From time to time issues come up for me that I can't shake off with positive thinking, gratitude lists, prayer or a diet of "super mood foods". Sometimes it takes sitting down with someone who's been trained to deal with what author John Cheever used to call his "depresh".

So I've not been particularly concerned about the tinge of anxiety that's crept into my consciousness in the last year or two, the occasional panic that something's wrong (particularly at work), or something will be going wrong very soon. Ask me exactly what I'm afraid will be going awry, the dreaded event (event horizon?) that will derail my life as I know it, and I have no answer. "I don't know," I'm likely to say, "but it's on its way and I can't stop it! Medicate me now!" 

I'm told that meditation helps too, regular, daily meditation. Focusing on the moment at hand, not living in the past or the future -- neither of which exists -- and paying attention to this moment, which is, of course, all we really have. So I've started meditating. I meditated yesterday morning for ten minutes. And this morning for ten minutes. I'd like to say everything has changed as a result, but I don't need to tell you that's not the way it works. Meditation doesn't work on "issues" the way ibuprofen works on a headache. It will take time. But enough people, whose opinions I trust, swear by the practice, people who (not to get too New Age-y about it) definitely have a different aura about them.

All that said, I've become aware of something new, a different wrinkle in all this that alternately amuses and concerns me: I think I'm developing a little late-onset OCD. Not possible, you say? I say, you're wrong.

To wit: I find I'm constantly checking to make sure I have my wallet. Several times a day I pat my butt to assure myself that the new, compact, skinny wallet I recently purchased with a Groupon, has not slipped out of my back pocket. Then, having made sure that the wallet is there I take it out of the pocket and open it to make sure my money and/or credit/debit cards haven't fallen out somewhere, to be used by unscrupulous people out to steal my identity. Okay? Several times a day. Is that OCD? And when I have the wallet out to pay for something, I take that opportunity to check its contents. 

The other new development is checking my keys: I received a new key ring for Christmas, a very nice one, engraved with my name. One of those key rings you can pull apart so as to hand only your car keys to the parking attendant or valet. Since I've started using it, I find I check three or four times before I leave the apartment to make sure I have it with me. It's in my hand, but I have to look -- to make sure I have the right key ring? Maybe.

But also to make sure all the keys are there. As though sometime when I wasn't looking, some of the keys (which have turned into little anthropomorphic, cartoon keys) jumped off the key ring and have been dancing around on the kitchen counter, then hiding behind the coffee maker as soon as I get ready to go out. I swear I'm not making this up, and I can't for the life of me figure out where this is all coming from. 

Only I do wonder if it isn't connected with the fact that, the older you get, the more things change and fall away. Having lost two siblings, both parents and a life partner so far, and more aware than ever that everything changes, maybe I just want to be sure of something, that I'm in some kind of control. Even just a little bit. Even if it means listening for those dancing keys, trying to catch them before they jump back on the key ring, giggling because they know they're driving me crazy.