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The title means nothing. I’ve recently found myself using those three words a lot and when you put them all in a line like that it looks like an extremely pretentious version of this newsletter (that can already get a little pretentious, if I’m honest). 

It’s incredibly goth of me to even suggest that I could approach the topic of “interrogating the burden of delight” and I confess that the concept appeals to me. But that’s not what I’m writing about today, because I don’t feel like asking too many questions about my feelings. They are what they are and I deal with them.

My dear friend, during a conversation about Fetch the Boltcutters, said she was delighted by my Thou Doth Protest Too Much denial of my own romanticism. She pegs Fiona and I as hopeless romantics who have been pressed into self-imposed asceticism by our own need to, say, interrogate the burden of our delight. I asked her if I could relate this observation, and she allowed it, but then told me to go for a walk. What she meant was “stop spending so much time in your head, dum dum, you’ve done enough of that already.” And, of course, she was right. 


“I didn’t smile, because a smile always seemed rehearsed
I wasn’t afraid of the bullies, and that just made the bullies worse” – Fiona Apple, Shameika 


Nature vs Nurture Revisited

When we’re babies, how much of who we are will be who we are as adults was the topic of the last newsletter, so I won’t dwell much on it again, except to say that I heard from some of my pals who had similar stories of their young selves very closely resembling the adult versions. 

My favorite was this one, from Andrea, lately of the Washington Damn Post, but also a great newsletter that deserves your attention. If you know Andrea (and I just gave you a couple of links to do so), you’re as delighted by this as I am:

“A bunch of my cousins went sled riding and I tagged along. I went down the hill one time, and then at the bottom, I put one hand on my hip, leaned on a snowbank and said, ‘Hey girls, why don’t we go back inside and get some hot chocolate?’” 

Even Little Andrea knew what was important and it ain’t sledding.

A small but manageable drinking problem

After Howard Stern left terrestrial radio, he was replaced with David Lee Roth. I enjoyed the show, because it featured the surprisingly good storyteller, David Lee Roth, telling interesting and occasionally funny stories from his storied life. He didn’t last long, but I listened to it, because I was working a boring data entry job and had nothing better to do. I remember his advice to becoming a rock star included the heading, which he alluded to having.


“I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass.” ― David Lee Roth


I worry that I have one of those. It’s small because I don’t drink every night, just most nights, and manageable, because I don’t drink a lot. As any alcoholic will tell you, that’s how every large and unmanageable drinking problem begins. 

I have only ever been addicted to two things, coffee and cigarettes. I quit one and the other will be with me until my life depends on not drinking coffee anymore, which is not beyond possibility, but at least has not happened yet. 

Addiction and dependence are two different things, though one often follows the other. Casual use becomes constant use, which becomes problematic. One’s life starts to take a turn for the worse because the small amounts you take in the beginning to get high are no longer enough and you take more than you did before and you’ve gone from one drink at night to relax to, well, a lot more. 

The rough guide for alcoholism is more than 14 drinks per week, though it’s not the only sign. Worrying that you might have a drinking problem is one of the first warnings. 

Addiction 

Being addicted to something has two features: physical and mental. The physical addiction occurs because, and this is a radically oversimplified version of the mechanisms involved, your body gets used to having a certain chemical in it, because you’re using it to get high, and it crosses an invisible boundary where you no longer use the chemical to get high but to keep from feeling bad. 

There’s a mental element that covers non-chemical addictions, like sex, love, relationship, etc. They might have chemical factors involved but the addiction is in the feelings you get from the behaviors you’re addicted to. 

There is some debate about whether an addiction to anything that’s not a chemical counts as an actual addiction, but that seems to be missing the point. Much like people who like to dismiss cancer that doesn’t spread as “not real cancer,” the real measure of an addiction is not in what caused it but how it fills up your life. 

The pursuit of that thing we’re addicted to is the problem, because if it were as easy as just setting it aside, it wouldn’t be a problem. This is compounded by addiction to chemicals that are dangerous to the body using them. Drinking til you’re blotto might be fun (or so I’ve heard, I never enjoyed it much), but you tend to make very bad decisions when you’re uninhibited by alcohol. You do things drunk you would never do sober. 

The removal of inhibitions brings out those parts of your character that you might not want anyone else to see, parts of yourself that you’re embarrassed by, or that might be hurtful to other people. We all carry with us the capacity to inflict damage on the people around us, and we wisely keep those feelings inside, where our better angels can isolate them and browbeat them into silence. 


“Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.” – Dr. Who


Radical forgiveness

There is nothing worse, no personality disorder, no mental illness, no personality quirk, worse than an unrepentant addict. An addict who wants to get high and have fun and doesn’t care who gets hurt is one of the most destructive forces one is likely to encounter. Add to this the layer of whatever their drug is doing to them, and it’s an unspooling ribbon of disaster. The ribbon ends, eventually, the same way every time: death. 

There’s no use pretending otherwise. An addiction ends with a snuff of a candle. Either you stop doing what you’re addicted to, and acting like an addict acts, or it kills you. Untreated addictions always lead to death. Always.

I have turned away very close friends who diverted into unrepentant addiction and refused to even consider trying to get better. They chose death, and I am not going to watch anyone die. You can do that on your own time, and I don’t need to see it happen. 

A person who is trying to surpass their addiction, and is really truly honestly making a go of it, deserves understanding and compassion. They are fighting for their survival, in a very real sense. They are struggling in ways I can’t imagine. 

Every addict began as a person with a small but manageable problem. We shouldn’t see addicts as others, but as ourselves. 

The title of this section is “radical forgiveness” because sometimes that’s what it takes. When a person who has done you wrong comes along, maybe long after the damage has healed, talking about their sobriety, or asking for your understanding, or apologizing for what they did, they are expressing a desire to live. They might not be ready to apologize, but they’re ready to live. 

The minimum you owe any person is to allow them to live. You don’t have to let them move in, but you do have to let them survive.

I’m Not Done With Forgiveness

This discussion makes me think of the topic that has occupied many minds lately, especially on social media, and the phenomenon of “cancel culture,” which is what it’s called when someone makes comments or engages in behaviors that are reprehensible to polite society, or at least a segment of it, and that person is therefore “canceled,” a term borrowed from entertainment, where a show that doesn’t perform well is canceled, and is no longer produced.

You can’t really cancel a person in the same way, because a person is more than just a bunch of opinions or actions or statements. Even those who apologize are often questioned even further, and their apologies aren’t enough. They didn’t apologize adequately.

I’m not sure what an adequate apology is, but I don’t think anybody else does, either. We demand one but then the person apologizes and it’s still not enough to quell our desire to see them punished. I don’t even think we could ever reach a consensus on what transgressions earn cancelation and which ones we can forgive.

I think we should be open to forgiving anyone who appears contrite. Everybody should get a second chance. And then a third chance. More, if we’re feeling generous. I think we should always feel generous. It’s easy to say this as someone who is of the ethnic group that most often gets canceled in the modern sense. Some would say that this was appropriate, since so many generations of vulnerable people had much worse things done to them by people like me simply for existing. I don’t support what happened. I want to fix it, if I can. I am trying to be better than the people who came before me. I am imperfect. I am trying.

What more can I do?

I can forgive. I can do that.


Anyway, that’s kind of a bummer.

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