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One of my favorite lines from a song is, “will I ever know silence without mental violence”. As someone who feels alone in a room full of people and someone who lies in bed with so much internal noise that sleep eludes me most nights, the line resonates with me. When I spent my thirtieth birthday in London this past week, I was pleasantly surprised how quiet I found the city to be. While I was there I began to reflect on how much I value silence and how little I have of it in my life.
I was raised an only child with a mother that obviously hated children. My childhood is a mix of books, jigsaw puzzles, and cable TV. While my mother, my primary caregiver, was a sporadic figure in my childhood I’m surprised I’m not a much louder person. The caregivers I had in her absence were by no means cruel or mistreated me in any way; they were either too young to know what to do with a child or had children on their own, and their kids naturally came first. I prided myself on my ability to fade into the wallpaper, be happy with what I was given, and take care of myself.
As I grew up and had to deal with untreated mental illness, my mental noise increased. So while I can have an outer environment empty of noise, my brain simply won’t shut off. When I entered treatment roughly a year ago, my internal violence started to fade away. However, I’ve yet to recapture the silence of my childhood.
Silence has many different moods. The awkward silences of a social faux pas. The comfortable silences and economy of words between long time friends or couples. The silences after your reach an impasse in a fight where the tension is crackling in the air like lightning. The silence of death. The silence as you watch the sun rise. All different moods of silence, some peaceful some nefarious, all necessary for us to process the human condition.
London is beautiful.
I spent a scant four days there but was able to evaluate my natural behavior comparing it to the people I observed. No wonder people think Americans are loud and rude. I unintentionally played the ugly American at times but mostly tried to fade into the wallpaper. The different emission standards, the difficulty to use a personal car, and just culture in my opinion contributed to what I perceived as a silent city.
Yes, I did manage to be into a pub on a Saturday night.
I can see how someone would describe England as old fashioned and quaint; though those aren’t the words I would choose to describe it. London is wonderful; I recommend a visit to anyone. The food is actually pretty good, they do beef very well. The weather is more like Seattle mist than Chicago rain. Oh and watch out for the ravens at the London Tower, they are cheeky little things.

Many years ago, when I was new in my recovery, the state chapter of my twelve step group had a day long workshop about the tools of recovery. My sponsor, in his gung-ho way of approaching the world, highly suggested that I attend. I did. In the moment it was enlightening but being young, and all the ignorance that goes with it, I almost immediately forgot about it. Until, some eight or nine years later as I sat in my philosophy class, talking about the life of Siddhartha Gautama.
One of the speakers at the workshop so long ago, explained that our addiction parallel The Four Noble Truths:
The Noble Truth of Suffering: The moment we enter our addiction, we enter into a cycle of suffering. There isn’t a part of us that isn’t impacted by it; our form, our feelings, our perception, our mental formation, our consciousness all focus around our addiction.
The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering: We suffer because we desire something that is destructive. Addiction encompasses out lives and we strive to relive that very first “high”. We want the thing we think will make us feel normal, the thing that will stop the mental violence. Even if we know that our addiction, our obsession, is slowly killing us from the soul outward.
The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering: “We came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity and made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood him.” There is liberation in admitting powerlessness over something bigger than you; even as an Agnostic I knew the magnitude of my suffering and knew I couldn’t do it alone.
The Noble Truth of the Way of Practice Leading to the Cessation of Suffering: For my fellowship we had the twelve steps (obviously). Also we had the “three second rule”, the “three circles”, but any tool of recovery would do. If our core was the twelve steps and a belief that there is a being bigger than yourself that will take away the suffering then your suffering will cease.
After explaining this to us, our speaker introduced us to the Five Precepts. Saying go slow, commit to one at a time, the first being not to take life and that was an easy enough commitment to make.
I imagine that my philosophy class will give me plenty to think on, but I’m especially glad I was given the opportunity to relive some of the insight I cast aside during my misspent youth.

Minnesota Winters

I was well warned about winters here in Minnesota, but I didn’t listen. I was excited that I would get an actual winter season, there was plenty to do in the snow, it couldn’t be that bad. Then winter came to Minneapolis.
Dear god.
It was, so I’ve been told, a mild winter. The temperature barely dropped below 10 minus zero. Most days ran a balmy 5 degrees. For me, it was wonderful until December 31st when I decided that all the snow needed to go away because it wasn’t Christmas anymore. That winter was the first time in almost ten years that I saw the temperature fall below zero and the first time in two years that I saw snow.
I acclimated to my environment, while I’m not quite the snow bunny; I’ve come to appreciate the three months of warm weather we get here. During Thanksgiving weekend I drove back to Indianapolis where it was rainy and about 20 or 30 degrees. I was excited, t-shirt weather! My family thought it weird that my children and I were all running around without winter coats. It was so nice out; I even took the kids to the park to play.
This winter was tough for me. I moved to Elk River, which is fifty some odd miles North (yes I moved even more north) west of the Twin Cities. The house is down a dirt road (yes they still have those) and in the middle of the state forest, beautiful to go walking in as long as it isn’t hunting season. So far I’ve been snowed in four times for about two or three days each time. I’ve drove off the road while coming around the dirt road curve and since triple A is like a mafia collector I had to dig my car out of the ditch by myself. I don’t have a horn anymore because of the impact and probably would have gone through the windshield if I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. It took me three hours to get out of the ditch, three days passed before I was warm again. I was lucky it wasn’t during one of the winter warnings where you get frostbite on exposed skin in less than three minutes.
Oh, but it was beautiful this year.
The snow was perfect, light and powdery, great for all things outdoors. Skiing was great, the ice was perfect for fishing and skating, the lake was freezing enough when you jumped in it on New Year’s Day (a habit I’ve picked up the first year I moved here). The horses, one white and three bays, looked so majestic with a thin layer of snow on their backs. Every time you looked out the back door across the deck to the wetlands in the back yard, it looked like a field of diamonds.
About a week ago I was coming home from school. It was about noon and incredibly foggy. So foggy I couldn’t see past the end of my hood. I was driving up one of the back roads and the wind blew the fog aside just for a moment, and you could see nothing but a perfect field of white on either side of the car and white fog ahead. This is what I imagine the trip to heaven will be like.
Next Thursday I’ll be travelling to England for my thirtieth birthday, and I have to say that I will miss the winter here. I sincerely hope that it won’t all melt while I’m away.


This is my second blog, to be a compliment to my other blog Convoluted Serendipity. My other blog is bright, filled with cartoons, and is (at least I hope) is funny.
Shortly after I started Convoluted Serendipity, I realized that I needed another one that would enable me to express the darker part of myself. In the moments that I can’t find the comedy in life and move on.
This blog is to still express the twisted thoughts that go on in my mind but in a serious vein.