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The River Returns

"At the end, Siddhartha was only able to reach enlightenment through this realization: that no matter how much life splits from the source, everything tends to gravitate back towards it. As written, at the exact moment of enlightenment, Siddhartha experiences the emotions of humanity through the River all flowing from and to its source."
~Herman Hess

My fiance' is having shoulder surgery this Friday and next Friday my son will have his ears tubed and adenoids taken out. There is a certain anxiety that courses through my veins when those I love are sent into the foggy limbotic state that is anesthesia. I don't like it when people go away from me. This chemically induced sleep state is as close as a human can come to death and still be alive. And it frightens me to the core.

I remember the first time my son was put under and my heart went with him and did not return until he awoke. What is that saying about having children?
"It is like watching your heart walk around outside your body."

Maybe it is because I have lost people. People I love have left the planet.
I made the choice to drink around death and loss. To try to numb the helpless feelings I felt when someone I love was torn from me. When my brother committed suicide I dreamed he was only asleep for a long time. I would wake up in the morning and for a half a second think he was still with me on this planet. Only to be shattered moments later by the reality that he was never coming back. He had indeed found "this sleep of death."

When Shakespeare wrote,"For in this sleep of death, what dreams may come?" He was throwing Hamlet some choices about life and death, reminding him what death is. It is finite. This is the most miss-quoted line in Shakespeare! It annoys me when folks take it out of context and then mangle it so it is a positive note. An airy-fairy "What dreams may come!" La la la. It bloody drives me crazy. This mangling of the bards great words usually happens at AA meetings and therefore is not open for critique. So I suffer in silence.

Loss and the idea of loss has been the root of my misery and thereby became the root of my drinking. I had decided early on to "make liquid" my deepest feelings of heartache. In the eighties and nineties I lost so many friends to Aids it was a wonder I was present at all. I had to do something to ease the pain of that loss. I volunteered to serve dinner to Aids patients at a weekly event called, "Tuesdays at the Shrine". The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the oldest Catholic Church in Atlanta and the only church not burned in the Sherman's march to the sea.

Every Tuesday evening we served indigent Aids patients dinner on china with silverware, linen table clothes and napkins and flowers:lots of flowers. I went with my father; he washed dishes while I would glide through the dining room with plates lined up my arm. I had waited tables a lot as actor. So I knew how to be "Flo". And that's what the "boys" called me. "Flo Nightingale". There was always a guest chef from a local restaurant cooking. The chef always brought good wine. And we would drink and serve or as we put it, "dunk and dine". It was our way of dealing I guess. No one wanted to face reality in that room. No one. After dinner we would help convert the basement dining hall into a shelter for those who had no home to go to. It was good, what we did, even though we were a bit tipsy.

Right now I am sitting by a fire,feeling a bit grateful and a more than a bit scared. I love my son and my fiance'. I love my family. For some crazy reason I am still here on the planet. Many are not. Getting and staying sober is, in a way, a tribute to the people I have lost. For a long time after my brother died, I felt guilty. Like God had taken the wrong one. "How could God have taken my fathers only son and left me behind?" Crazy huh? I was thirteen. Then when friends started dieing from Aids and Cancer, the painful unhealed unrelenting guilt came again and it said, "Why am I still here?"
So I drank over the guilt. And I thought, "I am nothing like George Bailey." (It's a Wonderful Life) No one would miss me.

And like George Bailey I was wrong. I haven't been as great a human as George Bailey. But I have tried to be a part. I find service work to be a great tonic (sans the vodka). I just do it sober now. And I stay sober. It means a lot to my parents. After all they were the ones who worried over me when I was diving toward my bottom. Now that I am coming up on ten years up from that bottom, my Mom thinks I should have "a little drink" to celebrate.
Oh well, she doesn't get it:she doesn't need to.

Today life is all about the people I love and the community I live in. I take time for me too. That is the most important thing I do. I have found my own self worth. Maybe not every day all the time, but most days. I know I am here for a reason. I will be here when my son and fiance' wake up from surgery. I will put on an apron and be "Flo". Like the stream of thought in Siddhartha, the river returns.
Life like the river will return, whatever you put into it, it will return to you.

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