2016, what can I say? You were a dog from hell, you were the best thing that ever happened, you were a combo of both that had me stressed out and hopeful. So much upheaval and change occurred that I barely had time to contemplate a reaction and instead I just went into autopilot. More than once I found myself heading toward some “unknown” destiny repeating the mantra, “there’s nothing I can’t handle, there’s nothing I can’t handle, there’s nothing I can’t handle…” And you know it turns out that there’s nothing that I can’t handle. Which is much better then in the past when I just avoided everything (although I admit I still haven’t been able to read an entire newspaper, or watched any political summary of our upcoming administration’s deplorable self aggrandizing and inhuman political atrocities). But the harsh reality is that the universe in a constant state of flux and nothing stays the same, no matter how hard we wish it to. So here’s to you 2016 as I once again share a little gratitude for all that has transpired.
After seven years of trudging away in the educational trenches my part time (in salary), but really a full time teaching position (in how much time I put in) abruptly ended and I was left scrambling to figure out how I was going to make a living. Really I’d been wanting to do something different for a long time. I was burned out and slightly disillusioned with teaching at a community college. But I was pulling in a paycheck and probably would have just stayed, too fearful to make the change. Luckily I still had an even more “part time” second job facilitating groups at an inpatient rehab—and you know what they say, when one door closes another opens—and a part time position opened up and I was given the opportunity to combine writing with recovery while utilizing my teaching skills and my former drug and alcohol counselors chops. I’m now a clinician/writing therapist/group facilitator and I conduct one on one writing sessions with individual clients and facilitate educational recovery groups. It has been ten years since I worked in the recovery field and I have to admit that I really missed working with addicts and alcoholics—well, at least the ones that are trying to get better—half my damn students at LAVC were stoned out of their minds, but that’s another story.
I turned 60 this year, something I thought would never happen – yet here I am. No other birthday was this hard. I’m not talking about the shallowness of vanity or worrying about being youthful physically. At 60 you cannot escape the fact that you are old, no matter what stage of denial you are in: 60 is the new 50’s; you’re as young as you feel; it’s just a number; blah, blah, blah. You’re not middle aged, or having a mid life crisis – because there’s no “mid” involved here. I am not mid way to 120. Nope. So yeah, I’m that much closer to my death, which sucks as I have so much to do before that happens—but all that really means is I don’t just get to sit on my ass and relax.
Last year, due to the hard work of Natashia Deon, I was granted a “Certificate of Rehabilitation” by the State of California – which automatically made me eligible for a Governor’s Pardon, only “automatically” means, a mountain of paperwork, letters of recommendation (thank you, you know who you are), and a year of waiting with fingers crossed. The Friday before Christmas Governor Jerry Brown pardoned me—which is like winning the lotto—I actually broke down a cried.
Jenn and I have been living together now for over a year. It was a really big move for the both of us. But oddly it seems like we were just deciding where the couch was going to go in our living room and then we were signing the next year’s lease… Which obviously means that the year went by so easily that us being together was meant to be, and somewhere in the middle of it all, I proposed—uh huh, yup, we’re engaged, with a wedding date yet to be set. Best decision I ever made.
I finished the first draft of my novel. My car died several deaths. Jenn’s car was totaled. Jobs were lost. Debts were incurred. There were several trips to the ER. A big vet emergency to the tune of a few thousand—but a really sick cat we almost lost is healthy and busy ignoring us as usual. A ton of friends and family stayed with us. I read at numerous events, guest lectured at several universities, and was asked to coordinate the Los Angeles chapter of the Why There Are Words reading series. I taught several online courses at AULA’s I2P (and still do), and the good folks at PEN USA allowed me the opportunity to mentor a really amazing new writer, Jian Huang, for the Emerging Voices Fellowship, whose talent and energy were so contagious that I was forced to look at my own writing practice and up my game (hence the first draft of my novel).
And last but not least, yesterday, January 8th was my clean date (sober date for you AA’ers) and I got to celebrate it with Jenn and our two lumpy Maine Coons, Jagger and Shepard. I know I’m writing about 2016. But I couldn’t have done any of this, or gotten through any of the hard times, without being in recovery for the last 16 years. A big THANK YOU to all of you for being in my life. Just knowing you all has been amazing and supportive.
Here’s to 2017. Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
Art Work by Joel Landmine