Drunken squirrel mind


Lately, what with the combination of the holiday/new year blahs,  general discontent with my relationship, an ailing cat and rather significant birthday on the horizon, I feel as if a drunken squirrel has taken over my brain.  This drunken squirrel mind likes to leap from precarious thought to precarious thought with no rhyme or reason, nary completing one cohesive sentence.  And it never chooses a nice strong branch, a healthy branch on which to alight for a while.  Oh nooooooooooooo.  That would make far too much sense for drunken squirrel mind.

Now, when you think of drunken squirrels, you might assume they are fun drunks, maybe even slutty drunks.  Put a little lampshade on them and watch them go.  But, not my drunken squirrels.  My drunken squirrels  are of the more maudlin variety. This drunken squirrel would be found alone at the end of the bar nursing a big bowl of nuts and asking the bartender to keep pouring the sauce as he chews off the barkeep’s ear about he ‘coulda been a contenda’.  “If only I’d found my Bullwinkle, I coulda been a real Rocky, ya know?”   My drunken squirrel mind is a bit of  a downer.

After a day of watching from drunken squirrel go from introspective to petulant, it finally got sobered up with a bit of perspective with a call from my old friend, former boyfriend, Gary.

To be perfectly blunt about, Gary is a loser.  Well, maybe that was more mean than blunt, but I’m afraid it’s true.  Gary lives off disability and goes to AA meetings. Oh, and watches sports on TV.  That’s it.  There is not a shred or ambition or curiosity left in the man.   He is merely existing and seems to be OK with that.  I’m all for practicing contentment, but I don’t I think that opting to vegetate your life is actual contentment.  It’s like he’s simply opted out of life and it’s hard to maintain a relationship with someone who has done that.

Gary and I met in the dorms at college.  He had a huge crush on my roommate (who didn’t?), but he ended up with me.  It made sense, we had a lot in common – we both came from families with active alcohol abuse and we both felt a bit out of place surrounded by classmates who seemingly came from much better circumstances.  Later, both our parents died before we were 25, and both of us followed our parents’ leads into alcoholism. While we only dated for a couple of years, we remained tight long after.   In our 20’s while I was reeling out of control, I could always count on Gary to bail me out financially so despite whatever turmoil I was going through I always a roof over my head and wine in the fridge.  Gary was the stable one, the one with the good job.  Me, well, not so much.

Gary decided to get sober about a year before me. I can’t remember whether it was mandated by the court or by his employer.  But, he took his sobriety very seriously, and started to attend  AA meetings.  Me, I stopped drinking when finally got serious about getting treatment for my depression.  Sure, my route was much more expensive and time-consuming, but I just didn’t see the use in going to meetings where all you did was rehash how awful you were when you were drinking.  Besides,  in my humble opinion, drinking is just the symptom of psychic pain and if you treat the source of the pain, the symptoms kinda go away on their own.

Over the ensuing years, I plugged away at therapy and Gary floundered.  He had decided to quit his stable, well paying job to pursue his “dreams”.  And I really do admire people who do this, but there is a big difference between taking a calculated risk because you truly believe there is something better out there for you, and foolishly jumping into something simply because you’re discontent where you are.  Soon the tables were turned, and I was the one bailing him out financially.

Eventually, Gary had his own mental crisis after one of his schemes fell apart and he became suicidal. He checked himself into the local county hospital as he feared he was going to hurt himself.  In some ways, I was relieved.  Finally, I thought, he would start getting treatment for his depression.  The hospital hooked him up with state and local resources to pay for his treatment. And ultimately, he hooked up with a therapist who then qualified him for permanent disability.   When he told me, I was pretty well outraged, though he was pretty pleased for himself.  I mean, he had barely begun getting his depression treated and he was being written off as permanently disabled?  Give me a freakin’ break.  While I wanted to see him get the help he couldn’t afford, it ticked me off to no end to see him given a free pass to just opt out of life.

So, now Gary lives comfortably on his disability checks in a small apartment in a not so good part of town.  He takes his anti-depressants unquestioningly and chose not to pursue the therapy that was offered him because he “felt just fine now” that he was on his meds.  He still regularly goes to his AA meetings even though it’s been close to 20 years since he’s had a drink.  And he watches TV.  Even though he has all the time in the world now,  he doesn’t pursue any hobbies, much less dreams.  His world has become very small, and it’s all of his doing.

Labels can be dangerous things, if you take them seriously.  Gary has fully taken on the labels of alcoholic, depressive and disabled, and he seems to have no interest in transcending them.   It makes me sad and it makes me mad.

Every moment is new, even though it often feels like the same old shit.  Once I was a really fucked up young woman, and soon I’ll be qualifying for wise old cronehood, not mention AARP.  My drunken squirrel of a mind can and will sober up.  In fact, I think it already has.

18 responses »

  1. It is interesting that you two at one time were at the same place in your life and how making a different choice lead you each to such different places with such a huge gap between where you are now and where Gary is. Perhaps Gary called to see where and how you ended up.

    Anyway, hats off to you and what you have accomplished and the road you climbed to get here. You deserve another bowl of nuts. 🙂

  2. One of the things that makes us all different is what we choose to do with the bowl of nuts we’re given. We might start in the same place (in front of the bowl of nuts) but where we end up will be different. You ended up in a better place, or at least better for you.

  3. always a roof over my head and wine in the fridge ~ I hope it was a box of whine

    hey drunken squirrel – check out my nuts = keep a pixcher of sarah palin on yer shrine so you can rejoice that we collectively dodged her bullet = that shud cheer ya up ~ besides this ride is likely to git a hole lot ruffer as we head twards our impending groneyhood.

  4. Ah! Good term for it: drunken squirrel mind. I went through that prior to my big 5-0 birthday in December. I discovered it’s so much easier to be 50 than it is to anticipate it.

    I think AARP should fire the genius who came up with the idea of making sure those AARP cards are in the mail on or near our birthdays. I mean, really. Who wants to be reminded they’re approaching cronehood when they’re in the midst of having a mini-crisis about it?

    I also think Corina is right. 🙂

  5. hmmmm, maybe those meds of Gary’s are at least partly responsible for sucking the Will out of him. I was on SSRI’s for 18 months to moderate my depression and, while they worked to make me feel less suicidal, they also made me “okay” with everything – even things that weren’t okay, like giving up on actually living and experiencing new things.

    Having said that, you worked darned hard to get where you are right now from where you were, so HUGE pat on the back to you girl!

  6. Hmmm. Gary sounds a lot like me. Not the alcoholism or permanent disability part, but the dropping out/no ambition part. I realized in my mid-40s that ‘my’ ambitions weren’t mine at all, but ambitions society and marketing people and employers had thought up for me.

    So now my life sounds somewhat like your description of Gary’s. I’m in a small house, which I own free and clear, in a not-so-good neighborhood. But my neighbors, though poor, are honest and friendly. I could have gotten a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, and then I’d be trying to achieve the ambition of making a mortgage payment every month.

    My whole world, which once included interviewing mayors and governors and meeting presidents, is now down to a coffee shop and a handful of restaurants, all within five miles of my home.

    As the Zen master Bankei wrote, “My miracle is that when I’m hungry I eat, and when I’m tired, I sleep.” That’s my miracle, too. And I’m much happier now than I was when I had ambition.

    As for the AA thing, I went to one Al-Anon meeting and decided it wasn’t for me, but I don’t begrudge anyone for going to meetings. I have about a half-dozen friends in recovery and the only one who’s gone back to drinking is the one who didn’t go to meetings because he didn’t think he needed them.

  7. I like the drunken squirrel bit, too — only the pups & I wish it came with rodentia video. Edie and Ernie are *fascinated* by squirrels. (Edie sits outside and will watch for hours, praying for a stumble.)

    Corina: well put about the nuts. Robin, Mrs. Ombud was wickedly pleased to hand me my mail the day the AARP card arrived. And Trucie is spot on right about that pat on the back, LB.

    Give yourself credit. Seems to me Gary is a warning of sorts, and you’re heeding it well.

  8. I wonder, is drunken squirrel mind anything like Monkey Mind?

    Gary sounds like he’s living in a worse state than when he was at least alive to his depression and trying to work it out. He to the monthly payments but has lost everything else. It’s very sad but also maddening. How can someone just do that and not see how it’s worse than being alive to one’s ills.

  9. Very thought provoking LB. Corina’s comment is, too. Reminds of that movie “The Butterfly Effect” and the different outcomes from different choices made.

    I often wonder where my life would be had I made different choices… prison? Iraq? Wealthy? Homeless? Dead?

    I feel for Gary and the results of his choices.

  10. Ron – Point taken. Both squirrels and groundhogs are members of the Sciuridae family. However, in behavior, they are quite different. I would think a drunken groundhog mind would probably be very slow, bordering on passed out. Drunken squirrels bring to mind wreckless random acrobatics. But thank you for remembering the importance of Groundhog’ Day for me. 🙂

    Another Q – Gary and I have never really fallen completely out of touch over the years, but sadly I have had less and less incentive to make the effort to keep in touch. Our phone calls sadden me, and I don’t know if he gets that much out of them himself. Before this call, it had been over a year since we had last spoken.

    Corina – You’re absolutely right – our lives are just a series of choices. Sure, there are forces out of our control, but at least we always have the choice of how we are going to deal with them. We can be a victim or choose not to be.

    BBG – Hey, I’m going to check out your nutz today. That is by “nutz” you mean your paintings. If you don’t mean your paintings, I’m hoping you’re referring to some tasty shelled snacks. And if that isn’t what you mean, sir, I slap your face for your sheer impudence.

    Robin – I haven’t received my card yet. If I’m lucky that bit was part of the mail that was stolen last week. But, yes, I agree, that is downright cruel of them. Besides, in this economy can anyone actually retire at 50?

    Truce – Thank you. I know what you’re saying about the SSRIs. While I wouldn’t say they had a flattening effect on me, they certainly modulated my mood. But, for me, since I was working on some pretty tough stuff in therapy, that stabilization was helpful.

    Mcarp – What you are describing (and what I have read in your blog) is a life of simplicity and contentment. From the outside, your situation may look like Gary’s – humble lodgings in a humble neighborhood, no big to-do lists, no big aspirations. However, I believe the big difference is that you have chosen this life as a reflection of your own spiritual and personal leanings. Gary, however, has just fallen into this life driven by unresolved psychological forces.

    Omsbud – Ever since I moved my desk in my office I can now see the squirrels playing on my huge ass walnut tree outside my window. I have become quite fond of them, and bring them nuts now that the tree is bare. Oh, and thanks. 🙂

    ybonesy – Yes, drunken squirrel mind is very much like monkey mind, but I think drunken squirrels are a bit more random and precarious than monkeys, which was a better description of how my mind felt. Also, squirrels don’t throw poo. It is sad that Gary is just content to wither away. Before, he had a lot of ill-formulated plans and schemes in hopes of avoiding the day-to-day grind of a 9-5 job. And while the schemes all came to naught, at least he was making an effort.

    Jules – I think it’s good sometimes to remind ourselves where we could have landed had we made different choices. Have you ever watched the show “Intervention”? These are some pretty sick puppies, yet I can totally identify with many of their background stories. I could have gone down that road, but I chose not to. Just because someone had a fucked up childhood, doesn’t mean they are destined to a fucked up life. Yet, so many use that as an excuse.

    Harry – don’t worry about BBG. He’s actually a good guy, but is a bit nutz himself. Good to see you drop by again!

  11. Noooo, it was supposed to be a joke. It’s probably better though if you didn’t get any dirty images from what i was loosely insinuating. BBG does seem nuts. Which is probably why i like him 🙂

    Ps: i always drop by this corner. I always enjoy your posts and the others always have something good to say too. It’s become like my local bar really. I’ve said this before, i know, but i do think you have real talent with writing. What gets me most is the gritty stubborn honesty which gives your writing a lot of power i think. No matter the subject, your posts don’t usually fail to inspire me, and i’m sure others on here feel the same. I don’t post much i know… i think maybe i’m a better listener than talker. Although i got a lotta learning to do in that department too. Always got a busy distracted western human mind on me. I see a therapist who tells me that i have a terrible attention span! You need to focus good in order to listen good methinks.

    Wishing you well x x h

  12. I have a friend very much like Gary, though he’s not on meds. He’s a delusional dreamer who never gets anywhere and feels very put-upon by life. I find him very difficult to deal with. I feel very put-upon also, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying as hard as I possibly could. Life is hard. Trying is hard. Sometimes you try for a long time before you get a result. The Garys of the world don’t seem to get the point of deferred rewards … a crucial piece of growing up, I think.

  13. as a frequent fryer I git preferred awards on my credit card ~ does that count?

    o yea n btw = insanity is the only sane reaction to an insane whirld ~ unless of course yer nutz all red eye sew in that case = time to skinny dip in the punch bowl – last one in has to chug whats left but ~ save some for Gary ~

  14. eye half a fiend like delusional dreamer Gary too ~ only he shares his meds ~ sometimes – hey weight a minute eye thinks thadz zme = aweshuzgamintz. next time I slobber up lemme know wear eye put my real alley tea.

    maybe we all get to make our own special mess of life even if itz a preeeetty won ~ then we spend the next won cleaning that up an makin a new won = till we er dun!?!

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