Remembering Bugles


Today I ate too many Bugles, the corn chip snack, not the instrument. Yesterday I was flitting through the grocery store on a quest for eggs when a sighting of Bugles stopped me in my tracks. Bugles have that effect on me. The last time they stopped me in my tracks was this past Christmas season. I was visiting my sister in Texas when we both spotted the tasty, nutritionally empty specimens at the same time. We looked at each other, and she spoke first, “Remember these? Bugles were the only snack that didn’t make me sick when we were kids.” In adulthood she would learn that she has celiac disease.

Her simple question, “Remember these?” caused my heart to jump because there are many times I cannot answer such a simple question. I have large memory gaps from childhood, and anytime I can actually answer a memory question from childhood I am pleasantly surprised much the same way that Buffalo Bills fans are surprised when the Bills are faring well. The moment I saw those Bugles on the shelf at the HEB grocery store I saw a snack size package of those buggers flying out of a vending machine at the community swimming pool where we took swimming lessons as kids. She would get Bugles, and I would get Boston Baked Beans, the brown candy-coated peanuts. I’ve always been a sucker for snacks with nuts. But that is all I remember about Bugles, that they were part of our post swimming lesson repast as kids.

When I find something I remember as a child I tend to overdo it in my quest to find answers. It’s like the Bugles could be a possible missing key that will unlock more memories that are unavailable to me. And there I was this afternoon with the bag of Bugles unopened on my counter. I thought to myself that I could use a small snack. I should have known better, these were Bugles after all. With every crunch I would close my eyes, and see if anything would come to me in the form of memories. Nothing. I would crunch them cone end first, then cone end down, to no avail. Nothing except an overconsumption of salt.

Sometimes you just have to ask

Christmas in the post-War United States

I’m going to see my sister Cate for Christmas this year! I’ve been singing Christmas carols since yesterday when Cate and I first started talking about it. I think that somewhere in the back of my mind I convinced myself that I was not entitled to have a nice Christmas with family. I never asked her if I could visit for Christmas. I believe I presumed that she was not interested.

It seems like I just eliminated holiday happiness from my list of life possibilities. This year I said to myself, “Why? Why have I decided that the holidays have to be lonely for me? Why do I choose to be alone?” I did not have a satisfactory answer.

I made all these assumptions without even investigating them. The irony is that I was an investigator for a number of years, and I was a good investigator. Perhaps I was only good because I wasn’t investigating myself!

Last Christmas was pretty good, but I was at the residential program at McLean Hospital. I told my sister that I think we can easily top last year’s Christmas since I was at a psychiatric hospital. I think the bar is low. She laughed. I love making her laugh. She’s always been wiser than me, even though I’m older. But, I can make her laugh. She’s a laser-focused type-A personality, and it always feels great to make Ms. Serious laugh.

I just took a chance, and asked her if I could come for Christmas. She not only said yes, but she offered and used frequent flyer miles to get me an airline ticket. I almost cried. I’m turning 40 next month, but I think my birthday present came early this year.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the lesson continues …

Cover of "The Four Agreements: A Practica...

Amazingly, I actually went to an AA meeting. I parked, got out of the car, opened the door, and stepped right in! Though as soon as I did that I ran to the bathroom. I really did have to use it, but I am guilty of hanging out in there 3 minutes longer than needed. I found a place to sit in the meeting room, and made myself remain seated. A nice woman whom we’ll call Lori came up to me and introduced herself.

Then the meeting chair rang the little bell and the meeting commenced. As she was talking, the heat and haziness in the room started triggering my dissociation. Unfortunately, heat triggers my PTSD. My therapist and I can only conclude that it’s because most of my trauma happened in a desert climate, which is what I grew up in until I left home at 18. As I felt myself start to drift into that parade float feeling I just told myself where I was, and made myself listen intently to whomever was speaking. It worked to a certain extent. The floaty feeling didn’t entirely disappear until I left the meeting, but I was able to be present most of time.

At the end of the meeting Lori came up to me, and asked me if I had been to that meeting in the past. I said I had, but lied and said that Sundays were hard for me. She then said that Sundays used to be hard for her until she relapsed, and after her relapse nothing came between her and her meetings after that.

After a few more minutes of conversation, I then told her it was great meeting her, and left. I got in my car, and started thinking about the interaction as soon as it was over. I cocked my head, and wondered what was different. I knew something was different, but I couldn’t immediately identify it. Then I realized that I wasn’t offended by Lori’s remark about Sundays being hard for her before she relapsed. Previously, I would have been offended by her remark. I would have over thought it, and presumed that she was telling me I needed to attend more meetings, or I was at risk of a relapse.

It dawned on me that perhaps I’m finally starting to soak in what a number of people have been telling me for years about what people and say and do, and that is the fact that what people say and do is not about you, or in this matter, me. It is about them. What people say and do is about them. What Lori shared with me was about her experience, not mine. This is similar to what Cindy was trying to tell me about Cate.

All of this also got me thinking about an old friend I made when I first go into AA. I became friends with an Irish chef, whom we will call Brian. I used to drive Brian nuts talking on and on about how my supervisor at work (this was at a previous job) was insensitive to me. I felt she was very insensitive in her manner towards me.

One day after Brian had enough of my complaining he had me meet him at a cafe before a meeting. On cue I started complaining about my boss. He then pulled out a book, and handed it to me as a gift. The name of the book was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. As he handed it to me he brought my attention to the second agreement in the book:

“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

This was a revelation to me. Actually, all of the the agreements were a revelation. But it was the second agreement that was immediately applicable to my life. I got what Brian was trying to tell me, and for a few days I was able to follow the second agreement. But it was very hard to carry on long term. I shortly forgot about it, and it wasn’t until today that I realized the second agreement was applicable to my sister Cate, and Lori at the AA meeting. Cindy, my therapist, and Brian, the chef, were all trying to tell me the same thing, but in different ways. Cognitively, it’s easy for me to get the concept, but being as sensitive as I am, it is an altogether different story in applying it on a regular basis. I hope it’s finally sticking in my brain.

Cover via Amazon