Busted Brain Journal: Frozen Alligator Fauna
I chose that title because the ones I considered were just pat and cliché and this is my first post in quite awhile, so why not? I assure you, no alligators were frozen, burned alive or otherwise maimed during the course of this blog post. Well, except for Larry. But he deserved it.
Actually, wouldn’t it be wicked awesome if I did actually get an alligator to share my apartment. As it happens, I could do that if I wanted to, as long there is nothing in my lease that prohibits me from having a dinosaur in my apartment. I’m paying the pet rent anyway and, as of a few weeks ago, I live alone full time.
I gave my beloved golden retriever Zimmer to my ex-girlfriend permanently. I put all of his toys and bones a bag, folded up his three blankets and took him to her house for the last time. When I first moved out of the house, I proposed using one of the web sites I found that allow the owners of dog to interview prospective families that want your dog. I knew Zimmer would be immediately snatched up by a family with children and a mother and father that have the wallet to pay for his vet bills, which even at just 2 years old are considerable. And Z is so adorable, he makes up for the fact that he is dumber than a bag of hair. He is a sweetheart and I knew that we would be able to give him away no problem, wash our hands of the whole affair and me and Kim would go our separate ways. I didn’t have Zimmer long enough to form any lasting bonds with him and Kim was his favorite anyway. But Kim wasn’t having it. She stated that she would have Z until the day he died and I could choose my own level of involvement in his life. A couple weeks went by before I realized that, damn it all to hell, I loved Zimmer too and I have read enough of the literature to know that people who live alone report greater satisfaction from their lone star life if they have a companion animal. So, I got an apartment that allows dogs and I have paid the additional $25 per month since January to have him here.
But he didn’t like it here. I could see that when he hesitated to get in my car on Wednesday nights, knowing full well that my one bedroom apartment was a far cry from the fenced back yard and walks in the park nearby and a couple cats to stare quizzically at as they YEEOOOOOW’ed at him. Plus, I think Kim and he had a bond stronger than me and him did. I loved him and he loved me, but Kim redirected her doting from the kids she never had to the Z and he loved her for it.
In the weeks building up to Sunday, I have been looking at every aspect of my life through a lense of detachment. Kim dumping me was the first real emotional collapse I’ve had in sobriety and, twice over the last 9 months, I’ve nearly “gone back out” (that’s AA code for drinking or using again) and had suicidal thoughts. Of course, it doesn’t help that I was living with my now ex-girlfriend during November and December last year and this year has been chock full of changes to my work schedule, changes to my wages, and thus changes to my daily routine every 3 months. So along with the emotional volatility of being dumped by a woman I was convinced I would live out my days with, I moved into an apartment alone, and then was told by my superiors at work 5 weeks ago that I would be taking on new responsibilities at work, spending my work days not in one building but seven, and adjusting to an entirely new routine with a new work schedule. My employer has afforded me the new schedule because they know how much I need to find a second, and maybe third job but quick.
The Buddha said the root of suffering is attachment. You would think that, in light of this truth and the amount of fluctuation, turmoil, volatility and unrest I’ve experienced since discovering this truth 6 years ago, I’d be in a state of bliss and enviable harmony with all beings and the universe at large.
Thing is, though, I kind of am.
It’s not ice cream-and-lollipops bliss. It’s not smoke-a-blunt-and-drink-a-forty bliss. It’s …
Except that’s not the right word.
Close, but still not there.
I don’t know if I feel emotions in the same way that someone without brain damage does, but I’m pretty sure there’s a heathy chunk of unique suffering that only people with Traumatic Brain Injury and/or people in recovery can truly understand. I possess both distinctions so I’m pretty sure my particular brand of pudding is different than anybody has ever tasted.
I’m a 43 year-old Traumatic Brain Injury survivor with 7 years of sobriety to boast about who has never been married and has no children.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about all of it but believe me, I’ve done both plenty of times.
What I have never done is ask God “Why me?” because, well, I don’t believe in God, at least in the manifestations that any human being has ever concocted. They’re all rather quaint and antiquarian if you ask me. But I’ve never asked that question because, frankly, it would be a waste of time and effort and energy and I decided 7 years ago when I got sober that I had some “get busy livin’” to do and didn’t have time to wait for someone to answer that question.
Back to attachment. Really, right now is the first time in sobriety I find myself gazing at the Chinese buffet of life and wondering if I should should go with Kung Pao shrimp, then Szechjuan chicken, then a vegetable stir fry; or maybe half a dozen potstickers, crab rangoons and egg rolls; then again what about just heaping 2 pounds of rice and General Tso’s chicken on my plate? All are choices, and regardless of the ramifications,the choices don’t defne me. I am not my choices, just like I’m not a “dog-lover” and not a “writer.” I love dogs and I write every day, but trick is not being attached to those labels, not being committed to those roles. If I call myself a dog lover, does that mean I can never be an alligator lover or a tofu-lover or a Tammy-lover? I’ve never actually met an alligator in person, I’ve tried tofu once and didn’t like it and I don’t know a Tammy, but will I be any of these things tomorrow?
Probably not, but maybe.
I think that’s what the Buddha was talking about when he preached against attachment. We become so involved, so concerned, so attached to many things in our lives and if those things go away, are we suddenly nothing?
Of course not. We are still ourselves and I realized something a few weeks ago that opened the veil of mystery before me. Reading my newest book about the mystery of the human brain and how all of our experiences, the food we eat, the choices we make, the repercussions of those choices, it is all simply a becoming.
Each of us is no more, in this moment, the culmination of every drug, person, experience, fear, pleasure and on and on we’ve ever let into our reality to culminate in the person we are in this moment.
And the person we are now, in this moment, are not the same person we were before because in this moment, this person we are now has read the sentence I am typing at this moment in time.
Did you see it? Here’s another one coming.
Miss it again? Dude, pay attention.
Here! Right now! Look up from your phone or computer and savor, relish, enjoy this moment, because this moment right now because it will never come again.
I think that’s the nuts-and-bolts of what the Buddha meant when he admonished listeners to not become attached. We get attached to a thing or a person or an event or whatever and we take it and hold onto it for dear life because nothing has ever made us feel that way before and we want to so badly to hold on to it.
But we can’t. I mean, you can try. You can eat potstickers every day, three meals per day for the rest of your life or you can see the same band 6 times or you can read the same book over and over and maybe you will find new reasons to love potstickers or Dinosaur Jr. [Wow, really Andy? Long way to go to catch up with that literary device, but you did it. Nice work] or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but it’s not the same reasons as you loved it the first time or third time or even 100th time. I eat a lot of pot stickers and I love Dinosaur Jr. and Mark Twain, but I can’t recapture the feeling of tasting pot stickers or hearing J. Mascis or reading Twain for the first time again.
And I don’t want to. May I be free from suffering.
Guess what? To be free from suffering, we have to be free of attachment.
To any of it. Ever.