The Wine: 2020 True Acacia Head (Albarino), Central Coast (A Rare Find)
The Winery: Brecon Estate, Paso Robles, CA (A Hidden Gem)
The W(H)ine: Getting High (A Challenging Task)
Wanna get high with me?
You thought I would never ask.
I write about hard stuff, like heartache, heartbreak and healing.
Some suggest I foray into the unfathomable too often. Some say I ought to find friendlier fodder.
I get it. I think.
My life’s stories compose some hard shit. Stuff like abuses, losses and laments. Life has brought its share of blessings, too. Yet the trauma tales tend to take precedence.
It is okay. I am okay.
All is well in my world.
The whole of my life experience got me here. To you.
So, Wanna get high together?
How high can we get, I wonder?
During last year’s wonky election, and maybe the one before that, one major player repeated the following line as a resounding battle cry as the political atmosphere waxed more and more polarized, “When they go low, we go high.” Clearly, opposing parties preferred to frame the other as conniving, manipulative, or at minimum, wrong.
But she had a point. Seriously, who can perpetually tolerate so much mud-slinging, name-calling, beneath-the-belt slanders, anyhow? A sad state of affairs, no doubt.
How does one rise above the fray brought on by such belligerence, as well as the other hard stuff handed us in the last year. I, for one, lost a home, a house, a job, and a partner. Almost lost my mind, given the tumult. Yeah, that’s hard shit.
What presents is one of two dichotomous responses: bitter or Better? victim or Empowered? low or High? How do we get to the place where we can actually choose?
I am a newcomer to Susan David, PhD’s work on emotional agility (www.susandavid.com). I am hooked. Her research renders every human emotion valid, acceptable, and relevant to living a full, healthy and meaningful life. She deems all attempts to slap labels such as “negative” and “positive” on emotion not only unhelpful but harmful! Furthermore, while much of psychology labels those of us who suffer from seemingly abnormal amounts of “negative” emotions like anger or sadness with pathological terms such as “depressed,” Dr. David suggests these emotions ought not be avoided, fixed, or repressed, but rather interrogated and most importantly, integrated into our full understanding of our presenting persona as the most meaningful DATA for self-awareness, mental health and core value appreciation.
Unexpected plot twist.
In all my studies of human behavior, I reflect through the lens of my unique personal and professional experiences, as that is the work I know best (and may not wish on anyone). It is in the crux of personal pain I stare transfixed at the transformations occurring within, and without.
One of my six sisters commented once, “We were raised emotionally retarded.” She wasn’t wrong. In my familial sphere, some emoting meant meeting criticism, invalidation and punishment head on (or bottom). Repression saved many an ass. And led to adult relationships wrought with dysfunction. We were masters as pretense, performance and repression.
My coping mechanisms over the decades since include approval-achievement-eating-drinking-working-emailing addictions. They all work until they fail. Getting “high” on whatever kept me from feeling “low,” or feeling anything, felt better. Runner’s high, even. I tried a half-marathon once. Ended up with dislocated shoulder in a fall, so I sought other means.
But those “highs” kept me from feeling. And thus, from healing.
The only road travelled was a low, depressed one. One shielding me from immediate pain, but promising future problems the depth of which poets write about.
So when invasive interventions of all kinds sought to allay my presenting sorrows, I found myself unable, and ultimately, unwilling, to keep from emoting. Tissues? Hell, no, Towels needed here, my friends. Lisa’s Laments Let Loose, like Hoover’s Dam, flooding therapeutic furniture, my bed sheets, and many a church’s altar.
Better out then in, I learned. Did you know that crying releases cortisol? Feeling difficult emotions frees imprisoned souls? Dealing with the deep shit renders demons powerless?
In their recently released book, “What Happened To You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing,” Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry put forth the following neurological explanation for why the wounded might be not only wound tight, but wield many a manic obsession, including a plethora of addictions:
Dr. Perry: …when it comes to finding solutions to substance abuse and freedom from it, we will never truly solve the problem until we begin to focus on what happened to them.
Oprah: Yes. ‘What happened to you?’ Always the question to ask first.
Dr. Perry: This is why a developmentally informed, trauma-aware perspective is so important for all of our systems impacted by or dealing with substance use and dependence…It is impossible to find any part of society where this is not an issue…We are ineffective because we are not understanding mechanisms that make someone vulnerable to chronic substance use. It comes back to dysregulation. There’s always a pull to regulate, to seek comfort, to fill that reward bucket. But it turns out that the most powerful form of reward is relational. Positive interactions with people are rewarding and regulating. Without connection to people who care for you, spend time with you, and support you, it is almost impossible to step away from any form of unhealthy reward and regulation…Connectedness counters the pull of addictive behavior. It is the key. [Emphasis mine.] Copyright 2021 Flatiron Books, pp. 65-66.
Right after my LATalk Radio show aired May 20, 2021 (on which I proclaimed I would post this blog), I ventured out (per the usual), laptop in hand, to my local hangout to sip wine, edit and post blog, then eat and relax after the show. As I awaited my order and tapped meaninglessly on my keyboard, seeking inspiration for a meaningful conclusion to this post, they sat down next to me.
Ron and Sandy, they introduced. He, a beer drinker/connoisseur/blogger; she, his wife, delegated driver, and easy conversationalist. Engaged, we were, immediately and for two hours thereafter. I, sipping my substance; he, his; and she, water with lemon. Turns out both beer and wine cause her sudden throat closure and clearly, medical harm. Yet she appeared just as high as the two of us in our happy hour imbibing. How, I asked, does she navigate this space without partaking along with her hubby of three decades?
“Oh, I get high on the connection.”
Need I say more? In one sentence, paired with piercing eye contact, precise proclamation, and given with gusto, truth and zero hesitation, she proved Dr. Perry’s point above.
Though my new, sober acquaintance further explained she finds sheer joy in listening to others, learning from them, and sharing stories, if not drinks. I wonder if this is what Dr. Perry mean. What if this is how we heal individual, relational, communal and historical trauma????
Wanna get high? Apparently, it takes two. People. At least.
Think that ship sailed? Think again.
As my pastor puts it, “Wellness is spelled with ‘We’.”