Wednesday, January 16, 2008

That Lonesome Valley

You got to walk that lonesome valley
You got to walk it by yourself
Ain't nobody else can walk it for you
You got to walk it by yourself.

Watching this election cycle become all about "change" has really begun to work my nerves. They are already frayed folks. I've been mostly without income since the writer's strike. I've been working on improving my health issues. Me, the dentist, and the blue bottle are becoming fast friends. My surgeon is whetting his scalpels while we talk now. I'm doing all the things I said I'm going to do.

A quick update though. My friend Sgt. Major Larry, with his family will be coming up to the rez with me soon. Once there he will be given an Apache name and brought into the Butterfly Soldiers. It won't make him an Apache, but we all hope that he will find some spiritual protection by going through these ancient ceremonies. He's a good man. He is my friend. That is something I don't say or give lightly. It's even tougher for me in person.

I tend to make better connections online somehow. When I'm online and begin to be washed around by my moods and general surly outlook I can be a real bastard to be around, online, I can simply step back and away. Throw in some dental procedures and it gets downright ugly face to face. There was a question of the day at Shakesville where they asked us to describe ourselves in one word, or as few as possible. Like a fool, I asked my kids. Two out of three said, without hesitation, "Moody." Luckily I kept asking and my wonderful son, featured prominently in my amended will, thought for a bit and said "Cool." That's my boy.

But back to change. It started with Obama. He talked about being a unifying force to bring the country together. That's nothing new. I remember Richard Nixon, who I met personally on more than one occaision, talking about "a young woman holding a sign that said Bring us together." Yeah, right on that one, Mr. President.

Now, Hillary is big stuff and all about change. Okie-Dokie. Edwards is for populist change. Hell, even Romney wants to change things. Mike Huckabee wants to change the constitution so that we can have our very own American Southern Baptist Taliban forming commitees for the "Supression of Vice and Promotion of Virtue" or some shit like that.

Here's what I know about change. I've been dropping hints and stuff all over in various comment threads, but I wanted to make a whole post. Both to clarify and expand some of the things that I've said, but also to blast myself out of the funk I've been in since I heard about Larry's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. That's the way I do change.

Almost fifteen years ago I changed my life. I changed by first stopping the wildly out of control and dysfunctional drinking and drugging that I had been doing, but I soon found, that while my life was dramatically better when I was sober, it wasn't enough. I needed more than simply not getting stoned. Too much of my world was exactly the same. Just being straight and dry made me feel like I was a very sick puppy without a lick of medicine anywhere in sight.

I went to work. I got me a sponsor in AA who had been sober for a long time. Jesse Joe Vasquez became my sponsor when he had over forty years of successful and happy sobriety. I didn't have forty days under my belt at the time. He told me that it was going to be some tough sledding, but that it was the only way to make this trip.

It was the single best thing I've ever done. Taking the twelve steps changed me. It changed me deep inside. I quit focusing on the changes the world and society needed to make, and got busy changing myself. I went deep inside, I wrote about it and talked with people. Then I went deeper. Then I went deeper still. I'm still making this journey today.

Thing is, just like the book promised, before I was halfway through I noticed that my life was becoming better. It was better, because I was better. When I'm in a meeting talking about this process I will sometimes use this example:

Before my 3rdX looted my art collection I had this very cool painting. It was a French Impressionist who did it. It was small, only about 8" by 10", a still-life of flowers in a vase. The thing that was so cool about it was that when you stood fifteen to twenty feet away from it the thing looked like a photograph. It was a perfect rendering of the subject. As you drew closer to the canvas though it changed, right before your eyes. The sharp lines began to waver and move, the focus began to blur. Upon close inspection you could see the drips, and blobs. You could see where he attacked the canvas with his palette knife and smeared with his fingers. If you moved side to side while going closer the ridges and changes in the surface would throw subtle shadows which would make it come alive. It was only in sobriety, after that painting was long gone that I realized its fascination. What I saw depended completely upon where I was standing and how I was looking at it.

Get it? I didn't change the world. I changed me. I was able to begin and live a different life because I changed. I made painful, often difficult changes. My life is better because of that.

You'll just have to forgive my skeptical look when I hear about how these great folks are going to "change Washington." That's not how it happened for me. It isn't something that I've seen in my lifetime. Like all politics is local, to me, all change is personal. Like the song says, you can't pay somebody to make your changes. You can't elect them to change things for you either. . .

You got to walk that lonesome valley
You got to walk it by yourself
Ain't nobody else can walk it for you
You got to walk it by yourself.

When I hear them talk about change, my inner voice is saying:

"You best get stepping then motherfucker."



Blogger Sherry said...

glad to see you writing. i was going to write to ask if you were o.k. but i thought that might be too forward and intrusive. i know by your posts that you have a lot on your plate and some of it isn't anything to look forward too.
you've been more than kind to me and so i will send good thoughts your way.
i hope everything works out well.
please keep us all up to date. you've got a lot of people pulling for you.

11:55 AM  
Blogger somewaterytart said...

That was absolutely beautiful. Eloquence, she is an elusive bitch, but oh when she descends!

...I think you're pretty cool, too.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Mustang Bobby said...

Amazing writing. Thanks for putting it in perspective.

12:52 PM  
Blogger katecontinued said...

That was very beautifully written and it speaks to my own life and my own journey to create my own blog about that individual change. I am so glad Melissa linked this post. Cool . . .

1:37 PM  
Blogger Brave Sir Robin said...

"Cool" is nice.

If I had to describe MB in one word it would be Wise.

Beautiful post. We've been missing you lately.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Instigatrix said...

Incredible. Wisely stated, beautifully written. I'm grateful to have read it.

(And if a lurker may be so bold of face, I'd also like to suggest "Fierce.")

3:17 PM  
Blogger nunya said...


I think the MSM is determined to force us to wear rose-colored glasses that only focus on the candidates that they can do business with.

This is the best post I've read in a while. One effing dentist visit at a time, eh? :)

3:48 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...


This is a favorite topic of mine. Gandhi said we must be the change we wish to see in the world, and "As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves."

I believe Proust said the true voyage is not to travel to new lands, but to see with different eyes. Sounds like you are on that true voyage.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Rez Dog said...

I would describe you as courageous, one not deterred by his own fear and weakness. Godspeed, brother.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous tw said...

Thanks MB, that was very helpful and inspiring.

As far as these candidates promising change let us remember that GWB campaigned with the promise to restore integrity and dignity to the White House after the Clinton years.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous El Caracol said...

I think Jimmy Carter gets to the nub:

28 years too late, but hey....

El Caracol

10:20 PM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

My word to describe you as I know you through your writing, would be "kind".

With every new prez we get some kind of change. I want a great big change with a cherry on top.

4:46 AM  
Anonymous constant comment said...

I second Brave Sir Robin's "wise."

Like Sherry, I had thought about writing to inquire after you but thought it might be too intrusive after all you've been through of late.

I hope Maj. Larry's trip to the rez will bring you some peace.

11:51 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

Inquiries are always welcomed. if it is a question that i am unable to answer, or is out of bounds with apache tradition i will say that, without anger or reproach.

12:30 PM  
Blogger somewaterytart said...

Speaking of change, have you read Barbara Ehrenreich's latest piece in the Huffington Post? She's a total badass.

1:24 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yes, i had read it. and yes, she is total badass.

when you can get an apache, even a halfbreed to call you a badass


1:55 PM  
Blogger creature said...

Good stuff, MB. Thanks.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous oddjob said...

As to the politicians' speeches about changing Washington?

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

It's only in truly dire circumstances that you get actual change, and then not always for the better (Patriot Act, etc.)

12:23 PM  

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