662. Which way?

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It is a lazy Sunday.  I was out last night with very good friends, all drinking loads.  You should see the dinner tables around which I sit!  It is lovely at times, and not so at others, and I think that the outcome starts and finishes with me and my state of mind.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, laughed and joined in as if I was just drinking along with them.  The hostess had a nice sober drink prepared for me.  Good start.  Good nibbles… good company and I was away.  I felt included right from the beginning, but not only that, I was happy in my skin when I went there.

Not drinking just suits me.  I watched as the evening melted down (not in a bad way) into raucous funniness and I laughed along with all, but knew that in the morning my head would be clear and fresh, and I would have not a single regret, and that I would be full of integrity and able to look myself in the eye.

If I ever EVER think that drinking just a good glass of wine – just one – with dinner …. if I EVER think that is a good idea for me then I hope that I will have the good sense to wait 24 hours before I decide and that I will email Belle and warn her that I am going to… because I will want to be talked out of it.  ONE GLASS??? Come on.  I get more and more excited … not less and less keen … as the drink goes down.  That is just me.  And probably thousands of others, but for me it is ME that counts.

I have changed direction.  And I am going in the direction that I want to!  Thank God.

Talking of change of direction… I am thinking that maybe this blog is going to start to focus less on not drinking and more on what MY CUP OF TEA IS!  Focus on the things that make me tick.  On the things that I can now do and want to get excited about because my battery is not half drained from a big night even once a week.

So friends, and you are few… watch this space.  Give me ideas and we can explore together…

 

Love to you  x

654. Wanderings and ponderings.

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It has been a time of strangeness this enforced isolation with our families.  I kind of miss it a little.  But obviously I am so glad that I am able to go out without a little piece of paper and a guilty conscience.

I had one obvious flash of drinking-related ire during the time.  I wrote about it last time, and then went onto my post and deleted half of it, afraid that I may alert people to my unstable mind and I got cold feet about being quite so ”out there”.

I have had a chance to reflect on this reaction.  I was over the top.  I realise that when I start to feel antsy and triggered then I need to remove myself from the situation.  Do a reality check and then re-think.  I guess this goes for most tricky situations face, drinking related or not.  I often times find myself emotional about not drinking.  I know that Belle will say, and has said, that I am drifting from my supports 1)  If I feel left out 2) If I feel jealous of the drinkers and 3) If I feel cross that I ”cannot” drink.  I think all three things are related and basically boil down to the same thing.  I want to drink with them.  And if I feel that then I am adrift from my supports.  And this is okay.  What is not okay is not realising that one is adrift.

What I really know deep down is that I do not want to go back to the days when I woke up feeling shaky and horrible.  The days when I just wanted bedtime to come.  If I start to drink wine or whatever it will only be a matter of time and I will be experiencing those feelings again.  That is the reality check.  Then bolster up the sober supports.  There are trillions of people who are sober and really cool and having a really fun life.  Find this online.  Give yourself sober treats.  Take reality checks often.  Find a sober gang.

I watched this.  Just brilliant.

It made my day.  Paid my child money to watch it with me.  Even though afterwards he did not want the money!  He liked it too!

So meltdown rules:

  1. Remove oneself from situation
  2. Take a reality check
  3. Bolster up your supports.

I love with all my heart the integrity, hope, calmness, opening up ness of life and all the good that has come with not being in the booze trap. I will not be giving it up!

Bye

PS I have lots of views from very far flung places.  Please email or message me at anytime.  I will always answer.

640. Odd bod.

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Are you still there?  Hanging in.  I must admit I have found it a breeze most of the time, during this shutdown.  I have had no triggers to drink, no one is drinking in my house.  I have a momentary stab of oddness when I think of the ”release” and all the promises of parties and the only mention being of drink drink drink.

I am very pleased I don’t drink.  As well you know if you have followed this blog in all its 640 days!  But at times I get a very lonely feeling when all are drinking around me, and I feel like a bit of an odd creep who is misunderstood, and cannot explain herself.  Happened recently, and it stings.  It stings because I should be over that shouldn’t I?  I should be grateful and pleased that I am making choices which are good for me.  Good for my mental health.  And believe me, I am!  But it does not mean that there are times when I really do feel like a pariah.

632. Unified

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A short thought for this Friday…. I have been ruminating on this drinking thing.  Surrounded by photos, stories and memes of alcohol…either what is being done with it during lockdown, how it is getting people through, or how the shortage of it is causing major hassles…  And also, in my family, who are largely not drinking during lockdown… what they will do when lockdown is over.  And exams, and finals of university and so… It is very ….. there in your face, and if I am not careful, I can want to join in.

So I keep myself in touch with Belle, my sober penpal, with my other sober friends, with books and not so often, but still, with my blog.  All these things help me to stay focussed.  And the thought that came to me yesterday was this.  When I was drinking it was like I had a splintered soul.  It was divided against itself if you like.  I was doing something that made me deeply mentally down, yet I could not for the life of me just stop doing it.  I bargained, I tried moderating, I had rules… and yet I (not so often in the end but often enough) always went that little step over.  It was SUCH a good idea to open that last bottle or just to have ONE for the road.  And those were the ones that sent me into a spiral of despair the next day… So instead of being a gathered focussed me, I was a split and splintered person inside.  That is the only way I can describe it.  For me, alcohol just did something inside my head/heart/soul which scratched me, drove me deep into dark places in my mind.  Why it does that to some people and not others I do not know.

But now, without it, life is not perfect… but it is whole.  I am operating in one sense, in co-operation with my soul, with me deepest self.  Wholeness.  Not splintered.

Love to you all.

B x

 

My contribution….

To your Easter Education…. I could not insert the link.  I find this most relatable to, and very good to read.  No strings attached…

For Sunday April 12, 2020

Lectionary Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, Year A)

 

Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18

 

Easter will feel different this year.  If we were living in “ordinary” times, our celebrations this week would be communal, festive, and well-orchestrated.  We’d wear our best clothes, sit in packed pews, and listen to trumpet fanfares. Some of us would gather before dawn to listen to the great stories of our faith.  Some of us would process with the Alleluia banners we buried at the beginning of Lent. Some of us would share brunch together in our parish halls. Some of us would delight in watching our children hunt for Easter eggs on our church grounds.

Whatever our traditions, we would enact them together, gathering as church families to celebrate the best and boldest news ever told: “The tomb is empty!  Death is undone! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

The news has not changed.  But the world around us has.  Or at least, the pain that always wracks our world has been freshly uncovered.  This year, most of us will not gather in person on Easter. We will celebrate online, as best we can, or create Holy Week rituals within our own homes.  But the fear, sorrow, numbness, and shock we feel in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic will stay with us, infusing our worship experiences, and maybe even mocking them.  What does it mean, after all, to celebrate resurrection when people near and far are dying by the thousands? What good can it do to insist that the tomb is empty when body bags are in short supply, mortuaries are at capacity, and mourners can’t gather to bury their dead?

I don’t know.  I’ll begin by saying that, because it’s the most honest thing I can say.  I don’t know. I’m scared, I’m grieving, I’m bewildered, I’m struggling. Yes, I believe with all my heart that Christ is risen, and that his rising was and is radically consequential.  But I’m still fumbling. There is so much I long to know, but don’t.

What feels possible now is to stay very close to the story.  Not to everything pretty we’ve added to it over the millennia, but to the messy, chaotic, barely comprehensible Easter story itself. Scattered graveclothes.  Confused running. Timid peeks into empty tombs. Tears and more tears. Hope and uncertainty, intertwined. Faith waiting in the shadows for understanding.

 Resurrection Anastasis

I’ve spent the past few days reading John’s account of the resurrection story over and over again, hoping to internalize it.  A few lines have stood out to me as especially relevant for these perilous days, so here they are:

“While it was still dark.”  In John’s version of the story, Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb before sunrise, while it is still dark.  Frederick Beuchner expands on this detail to comment on “the darkness of the resurrection itself.” He describes the first Easter morning as a time “when it was hard to be sure what you were seeing.”

The Gospel tells us that the disciples stumbled around in the half-light on the third day after Jesus’s crucifixion, running here and there in their confusion.  Were those really angels, sitting in the unlit tomb? Were those misshapen shadows Jesus’s graveclothes? The stranger lingering outside with the oddly familiar voice — was he a gardener?  Or… someone else?

Early in the morning, while it was still dark.  That’s where Easter begins.

Needless to say, this is frustrating.  Why can’t the promise of Easter come to us in blazing brightness?  With unmistakable clarity? Why all this stumbling around in the darkness?  Why so much occasion for bewilderment?

Could it be that Death is such an abyss, such a horror, such a violation, that only a mystery as profound as resurrection-in-the-dark will suffice?

Over these past few weeks, we have seen Death magnified, Death exceeding all boundaries we try to impose on it.  Can we rest in our shiny religious certainties any longer, given the scope of these losses? Maybe we need mystery right now — mystery commensurate to a planet reeling in loss.  Angels in murky places. A stranger’s voice, revealing the divine. Transformations both inexplicable and uncontainable.  Maybe we need God, who dwells in light so bright and so unapproachable, he covers us in merciful darkness to protect our fragile sight.

In my own life, clarity, hope, and healing come when I’m willing to linger in hard, barren places, places where the usual platitudes fall flat, and all easy answers prove inadequate.  Jesus comes in the darkness, and sometimes it takes a long time to recognize him. He doesn’t look the way I expect him to look. He doesn’t let me cling to my old ideas of him. He disappears again just as I grab hold of him.  But he comes, nevertheless, and he calls my name even when I’m lost in grief. And in that instant, I recognize both myself and him.

There is so much about the resurrection that we don’t know.  What we do kno  — what we need to know — is that somehow, in an ancient tomb on a starry night, God worked in secret to bring life out of death.  Somehow, in the utter darkness, God saved the world.

“He saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand…”  This is an odd, almost throwaway line in the text, but I find great comfort in it.  John’s Gospel tells us that the “beloved disciple” entered the tomb after Peter, saw Jesus’s linen wrappings lying in the place where a body should have been, and believed without understanding.  Even though he’d been raised on the Scriptures, he didn’t yet comprehend their significance for his circumstances. Still, he believed.

It’s not clear from the text what he believed, or how deeply.  Did he believe that Jesus’s body had been stolen?  Did he embrace the possibility that Jesus was alive?  Did he trust that God had vanquished death and vindicated his Messiah?

We don’t know.  We only know that he “saw and believed.”  Meaning, he leaned into the truth of his experience, the evidence of his own eyes.  He gave himself over, without cynicism or despair, to whatever messy faith was possible in the moment, and then he left the door open for his faith to deepen.  He believed as he could, trusted as he could. No more, no less.

I love very much that this text honors the gap between faith and understanding, because it’s a gap I know too well.  I believe but I don’t (yet) understand. I believe in the resurrection, but I don’t understand Death’s ongoing cruelty.  I believe that Jesus reigns, but I don’t understand the elusive nature of his kingdom. I believe that all things will be well, but I don’t understand why they’re not all well now.  

Saint Anselm of Canterbury’s motto for the Christian life was “faith seeking understanding.”  I like that. It invites me to begin right where I am. What have I experienced of Jesus so far?   Can I hang onto the faith that is possible in light of my experience, incomplete though it is?

 Anastasis Watercolor

Often, it’s only in retrospect, only as I look back at the “gravesides” of my life, that I see how faith has led to understanding.  Poet R.S. Thomas describes the process this way in his poem, “The Answer:” “There have been times/when, after long on my knees/ in a cold chancel, a stone has rolled/from my mind, and I have looked/in and seen the old questions lie/ folded and in a place/by themselves, like the piled/graveclothes of love’s risen body.”

“Why are you weeping?”  In our Gospel story, both the angels and “the gardener” ask Mary why she’s so desperately sad.  I’m drawn to this poignant, heartrending question for two reasons. First, the question honors sorrow as a legitimate and faithful pathway to revelation.  Mary Magdalene sees Jesus because she stays put in the place where her pain is. She stands and weeps, giving the grief, desolation, hopelessness, and agony of her circumstances their due.  Peter and the beloved disciple leave when they see the empty tomb, but Mary stays, bewildered and bereft. She refuses to abandon what is real, even when what is real is unbearable.

Second, the question suggests that God cares about our sorrow.  The question is offered to Mary two times, giving her ample opportunity to express her pain.  Why are you weeping? What is it that you have lost? What are you seeking?  What has caused you to linger at the grave? What is breaking your heart?

I’d be hard-pressed to find a better question for the time and place we find ourselves in this Easter.  Why are youweeping?  Are you weeping for someone who has died of the coronavirus? Are you weeping in fear that you or someone you love might contract it?  Are you sad because you’ve lost your job? Are you grieving for the unemployed and uninsured? Are you in tears because the world has changed, and your place in it feels newly uncertain or shaky?  Are you grieving because your faith isn’t sustaining you as wholly as you thought it would? Are you sad because you miss the weekly comforts of church, Eucharist, ritual, community? Are you crying because you’re lonely?  Are you weeping for your children or grandchildren, who must inherit a world so filled with pain?

Why are you weeping?

To ask this question — and to answer it honestly — is not faithless.  It is truthful and it is loving, and it is a place to begin.  Loving truthfulness is God’s signature.

“Do not hold onto me.”  I’ll be honest: this line makes me wince, and part of me wishes Jesus hadn’t said it.  Didn’t it make all the sense in the world for Mary to hold on tight to Jesus? Who among us wouldn’t cling, if a loved one unexpectedly returned?  Wasn’t Mary simply expressing her love?

I wonder if what Jesus cautioned her against in his seeming rebuke was not love, but possessiveness, insecurity, and fear.  An unwillingness to let things change. An unwillingness to mature in her comprehension and her calling. I wonder if Jesus was saying, “Mary, you are more than a disciple now.  You are a witness. A preacher. An apostle to the apostles. Do not hold onto what you thought you knew about yourself and about me. Do not cling to the way things used to be. Loosen your grip on the past.  Stop expecting life to be what it was before the cross and the grave. I am doing something new in the world. I am doing something new in you.  Don’t cling.  Don’t hold on.  Grow.

When the worst of our current pandemic is over, we the Church will be strongly tempted to “hold on” in nostalgia and lethargy.  To pretend that nothing has changed. To cling to our old, most-familiar practices, and avoid asking hard, creative questions about our place and our relevance in a post-Covid world.  Can we hear Jesus’s painful but necessary words as words of wisdom, spoken in love?  Do not hold onto me.  Allow new life — risky and uncertain though it is — to spring forth.

“I have seen the Lord.”  The Easter story begins with tears and ends with proclamation.  Having encountered Jesus, Mary runs to tell her friends the news.  She doesn’t hesitate to bear witness to what she has seen and heard — even though the context into which she brings her good news is rife with anxiety, exhaustion, trauma, and disbelief.

We know from the other Gospel accounts that the disciples don’t believe Mary right away.  But she knows what she has seen, and she doesn’t allow the zeitgeist of doubt, cynicism, and incomprehension to blunt her proclamation.  She insists on resurrection because resurrection is so good, so essential, so life-saving, so true.  She knows that the world needs to hear it, so she says it boldly, bravely, joyfully.  Without apology.

The world still needs to hear it.  Especially now, as Death breathes down our necks, the future feels precarious, and all of our worst fears run wild.  The grave is empty, this sorrow is not forever, and the same Jesus who conquered death is still here, with us and among us.

 Byzantine Harrowing Of Hell Anastasis Of Christ

So.  Where have you seen the Lord?  What is your proclamation?  Who will you tell?

This week, as I was preparing to write this essay, I came across a 2004 Easter sermon from Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.  In his beautiful words about the ongoing significance of resurrection, I saw the Lord. I saw the radical nature of the Easter faith we profess during this season of illness and death.  So I’ll close by sharing his words:

“The goodness of the resurrection news is most evident for those who have lost people they love to any sort of incomprehensible evil – the tragedies of dementia, the apparent meaninglessness of accident, the horrors of violence or injustice. Think back for a moment to the days when death squads operated in countries like Argentina or El Salvador: the Christians there developed a very dramatic way of celebrating their faith, their hope and their resistance. At the liturgy, someone would read out the names of those killed or ‘disappeared’, and for each name someone would call out from the congregation, Presente, ‘Here’. 

“When the assembly is gathered before God, the lost are indeed presente; when we pray during the eucharist ‘with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven’, we say presente for all those the world (including us) would forget and God remembers. With angels and archangels; with the butchered Rwandans of ten years ago and the butchered or brutalised Ugandan children of last week or yesterday; with the young woman dead on a mattress in King’s Cross after an overdose and the childless widower with Alzheimer’s; with the thief crucified alongside Jesus and all the thousands of other anonymous thieves crucified in Judaea by an efficient imperial administration; with the whole company of heaven, those whom God receives in his mercy. And with Christ our Lord, the firstborn from the dead, by whose death our sinful forgetfulness and lukewarm love can be forgiven and kindled to life, who leaves no human soul in anonymity and oblivion, but gives to all the dignity of a name and a presence. He is risen; he is not here; he is present everywhere and to all. He is risen: presente.”

Yes, Easter will feel different this year.  But even now, angels accompany us in the darkness, faith remains possible, understanding will come, the voice of the risen Jesus calls us by name, and the God who destroyed death is ever able to turn our tears into joy.  All is not lost. Remember: we have seen the Lord.

 

620. Easter Sunday vibes

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What do you think of when you think of Easter?  TBH I thought this morning of an Easter Sunday 11 years ago – the day after my sisters’ wedding – when I woke up with the MOTHER of hangovers…. In the dim recesses of my memory I perceived having crapped on a man (best friend of new father-in-law) for trying to take advantage of a drunk young  girl…. turned out it was his daughter.  Eek. There were quite a few flashbacks of shameful actions.  My head always did that to me with booze.  I would creep around, after a massive night,  like a pariah.  It was excruciating.  I fumbled through the Easter egg hunt with the kids and then we were meant to be going on to a big BBQ at the new father-in-laws house… I could not face the shame of my actions and stayed in bed the whole day, missing out on the fun action (we were in South Africa) of plenty of hungover people drinking and eating round a pool in a beautiful house on the coast….. Thank God those days are in the past ….

I have always struggled a little with Easter.  I am a practicing Christian (for my sins) heheheheh. But have never been able to get all that excited about it.  Even believe it properly… and this year is no real exception.

My thoughts about religious holidays which are hijacked by everyone for boozing and excess are …..well …. I would rather we all (they?) just boozed and excessed in the name of a massive party at the end of the year or a welcoming of spring, instead of attaching it to religious stuff.  I cannot really be sending Happy Easter messages around the place.  It is just not my style.  Same with Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the big family and friend gatherings associated with these times of year but struggle to want to mix in the religious element.

The resurrection however is something we can relate to.  Us boozy types who want a better way of being.  For me, the best thing about Christianity is this.  There is always hope.  There is always a way out.  You are not going to be in your dark hole forever.  That I can relate to and that I can celebrate.  I am super surprised that I have still not had a drink after 620 days.  I am 100 days off two years.  Guys, this is just not like me.  I could not stick to a fecking thing.

BUT I HAVE GOT OUT OF MY DARK HOLE!   and this is good news.  And what is better news, is that you can too.

Here is my contribution to your Easter education.  Take it or leave it.  And read nothing into it!!!

 

 

 

606. Keeping low profiles

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We are well into the quiet phase of the worlds’ history.  I have to say that when I got a post or meme or whatever they are called … asking:  “Can anyone recommend a good breakfast wine?” I did have a little laugh.  But the truth is, this lockdown situation is bringing out the booze chat large scale.

My husband, bless him for all his non existent and real faults, has decided, for unknown reasons, to not drink over lockdown …. so has my daughter…. and my son has had three small beers in 8 days.  They are now finished and we have no booze in.  I am very grateful, as I did not realise quite how strange I would feel.

I have had the whole range of emotions, from YIPEEEE this is the best thing ever… to OMG are we ever going to be the same again… to OMG I hope we are not going to be the same again… to …what a massive opportunity for all sorts of self improvements and no one in my family really cares… disappointment… to dreamily snuggling up all four on the sofa…to sleepless nights just feeling WEIRD.  If my two adult children and husband were imbibing I think it would have been MUCH MORE TRICKY to stay on a relatively even keel.

Thank you to my family for just choosing not to drink.

Drinking complicates all sorts of emotions.  I am the first to admit I love a good piss up.  What I really don’t love is my brain the day after.  Cripples me.  So thank God they that we are all on the same page at this really different time.

 

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