Tell me what you think about your sit-u-a-tion
Complication – aggravation
Is getting to you
Back in 1995, I attended AA meetings for 89 days, partly because I thought I had a drinking problem, but mostly to get closer to a girl I was interested in. Approx. 50 days in, I found myself in a bar with her because she had to pick up something from a bartender friend of hers. I hesitated at the door for a second, wondering if I’d be able to handle the temptation, before going in and staring in awe at the elaborate spread of liquor behind the bar. The awe came not from uncontrollable desire, but from the realization that I had a pretty simple choice of whether I would drink or not, and if I didn’t want to, I could easily choose not to. My meeting attendance began to drop precipitously after that day, from 3-4 meetings/week to 1-2 at the most. My attitude was changing, too, from a sense of wonder at finding a group of people connected by what I thought was a common weakness, to annoyance at the impotent whining of people who simply lacked the self-control to say no. I simply lacked the desire.
On the eve of my 90th day sober, the first significant AA milestone, I went into the bar I’d first had a real drink with my father at the age of 19, and ordered a screwdriver. I drank it and left, never to return to an AA meeting again. I’ve had my ups-and-downs since, but nothing I couldn’t handle, and that night will always stand out as the moment I decided to deal with my “problem” as opposed to run away from it.
Last night’s Acentos was kind of like having that drink. My primary reason for quitting the poetry scene has always been that I had no more interest in poetry and wanted to concentrate on writing fiction again. Last night, I realized that was a well-intentioned lie, and I have Magdalena Gomez to thank for that.
Poetry, for me, is liberation.
When I came on the slam scene back in 1997, I was at one of the lowest points in my life, and poetry was like discovering Islam in the prison courtyard. It filled a hole in my life that had always been there, gave me a sense of purpose and an outlet for all the manic tendencies that otherwise manifest themselves in all sorts of self-destructive behavior. It’s also represented the only time I’ve ever really considered myself a writer.
This blog; the sporadic, aborted attempts at short stories and novels; the comic book reviewing I’ve been doing for the past 6-7 months; while enjoyable, none of it comes close to matching the feeling I got from writing poetry. And performing it for people. And being part of a community of poets and fans of poetry.
With her four poems last night, Magdalena Gomez reminded me of all of that, and like that one screwdriver hours before my 90th day of sobriety, I realized that running from a weakness doesn’t fix anything. People in AA still consider themselves drunks, even after years of sobriety, and cautiously live their lives one day at a time, focused on “not drinking today.”
I knew back then that there was no way I could live like that, and yet years later, I somehow thought I could just walk away from the one thing that’s ever made me feel like I had a purpose.
There’s somethin’ wrong with the world today
I don’t know what it is
Something’s wrong with our eyes
As a husband and father, I’ve had to make a lot of compromises over the years. It comes with the territory and it’s not like it’s a secret that’s only revealed after the fact. But for all the things I’ve let go of, or tempered, or altered, there’s always been this nagging feeling that there’s other ways to do things. Other ways to do the right things, to sacrifice yourself for others, modifying your dreams and aspirations, without having to become a martyr, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a selfish egomaniac.
We live in a society that says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too, and it’s the most insidious, fucked-up rationalization I can think of, and it’s the one thing that keeps this country rolling along. Because the American Dream is all about compromise. Not about following your dreams, not about being true to your self, but about doing the things society says you should, suffering the indiginities of life because it’s what you’re supposed to do, swallowing your pride every step of the way because that’s just the way things are. Or, it’s about the complete rejection of all those things, the rebel without a cause version.
And, frankly, I’ve had enough of it.
My heart is about to burst from goose-stepping along with the status quo.
I don’t know yet what I can do about it, but I finally realize I have to do SOMETHING. In an attempt at finding some workable balance in my life, I’ve simply tipped over to the other end, like an alcoholic in AA, going from one extreme to another.
One thing I need to reclaim for certain, though, is my identity as a writer. I’ve always scoffed at those who claim they’d “die” if they didn’t write, considering it a melodramatic overstatement. But I’m realizing now that it’s true; that the “death” isn’t, of course, a literal one, but that of one’s soul.
After last night’s show, I thanked Magdalena Gomez for her set, told her she made me want to write again. She said that was the best response she could ever get to her work. The writer in me remembers that feeling of connecting to someone, of touching them on a profound level that precipitates a major change in their thinking, of feeling like what you’re doing has some actual meaning and purpose.
The writer in me wants that feeling back and is going to figure out how to get it.