What If Rainy Walked Into Starbucks?

I had a solid morning of writing. Now I need some human connection. I’ll get some mint tea, veinte, for $2.45 and sit in the corner by myself and write.

I got a couple of hours of good sleep with my CPAP until I got frustrated and took it off.

That was an important Skype conversation Sunday. I’m learning to negotiate, to listen to others, and to take their feelings into account. Negotiating relationships is not natural to me. I tend rather to cut them off.

The shrink in 2000 said that in relationships, I’m only looking for mirroring.

January 1, 1983. That night was a turning point in my life. I learned to kiss. It was the first time I made out with a girl and liked it. It made it easier that we wouldn’t have to keep running into each other. It made it easier that there weren’t messy emotions. It was just a Saturday night and we met at the party and we went into the loft and one thing led to another.

Making out is so much more pleasant than getting spanked by your parents. It’s a whole different type of touch. I knew that touch could be pleasant but I hadn’t really experienced that until January 1, 1983.

I wonder why my parents converted to Seventh-Day Adventism as teenagers? I wonder if they had many of the same motivations I did when I converted to Judaism?

I know my dad was profoundly touched by the kindness shown him by the first Adventists he met. His mom didn’t like his direction, so she ordered through the mail a book against the church. Dad read it, was not convinced, and got himself baptized at age 16 as an Adventist.

I suspect that the Anglican church he was raised in was boring. He was looking for high intensity religion. His home life was miserable, he wanted to transcend his problems and lose himself in the Lord.

My mom was boarded out with Seventh-Day Adventists in Sydney so she could get a good education. She liked her Adventist high school, liked the Adventists she knew, and converted (along with her mother some time later).

I wonder if the yearning for God and religion is genetic? I heard there’s a 17th Century Ford ancestor who writes in a style similar to my father. I suspect that religious extremism runs in our genes along with dispositions towards addiction and melancholy.

My dad’s mom was a sex and lovely addict, making his life miserable by moving around the country chasing after various men. She was a selfish woman, much like myself. She used everyone and everything in her life to meet her addictive needs.

My father became a man who denied needing anything. I became a man who wears neediness on his sleeve. Our two extremes meet somewhere I can’t quite see.

My father has lived his life in service to others. I’ve lived for myself.

On the cover of my mother’s book, Fireside Stories, is a drawing of a koala bear in a gum tree. He looks like he’s found his place in the world. That was probably my mom’s wish for me.

The death threats I used to get frightened me, particularly when the policeman said to call back if the guy came to the door. I was operating in a realm where the buses don’t run no more. The ordinary rules didn’t seem to apply. Police wouldn’t help. Friends couldn’t help (except to tell me to get out). I had to rely on my wits.

I suspect that many people thought I’d run away. I didn’t. I have a backbone. I looked at everything logically and just kept trucking with my blogging.

I knew that much of the blowback I got was my own fault. I had carelessly disregarded the rules of attribution and not attributed many quotes in my usenet postings. I had stepped on toes and then people retaliated.

Remember that girl in Starbucks who had a thing for me? That was 2007, 2008. I wonder where is today? Last I knew, she was at Santa Monica Community College. She’s probably 23.

Remember the old rabbi I used to meet here? I owe him. I tried to give his wife a ride once but she took fright at my vehicle.

It’s frightening how easily I slip into my father’s writing style, tying together long quotes with short segues. Like him, I enjoy controversy too much. I don’t have to make the same type of choices he did.

What would happen if my first love, Rainy Jackson, walked in here right now? I’d definitely smile and wave her over. I’ve maximized my chances of meeting her by leaving the house and putting on clean clothes. Whatever happened to her? I don’t think I’ve seen her since that summer of 1983.

I think our conversation would be easy. We never fought head on. We always avoided difficult topics.

Seeing that well-dressed Orthodox woman reminds me of all the stylish Orthodox Jews I’ve met and we somehow lost connection. I sit here at Starbucks and see all the connections I could’ve had if I had made different choices.

No matter what group I join, I always find ways to isolate myself.

At least I have not been crippled by life. I stand taller than ever. I move more easily. Few possibilities in life are closed off to me. I’m poised for greatness.

In 2000, the shrink said I had poor identity integration. Not any more. All the parts of my life work together. For the first time in memory, I am not at loggerheads with myself.

How I would love to see … walk through the door. I’d light up like a Christmas tree. And she’s always so nice. She’d have a polite conversation with me and then move on.

What’s God’s reaction to me? He’s OK with me. He’s not thrilled. He thinks I can do better. He understands me.

How does my 12 step work affect my Orthodox Judaism? For my first few months in the recovery program, I felt like it was a competing religion. I only have so much time. Sometimes I was going to meetings instead of something Jewish.

Then I did some research and went to more meetings and came to saw the program as a para-religion. It wasn’t competing with my Judaism, it was complimentary. It was removing impediments from my practice of my religion. It is reconfiguring the reward centers in my brain so I can make better decisions.

What does it mean to turn your life over to God? That’s steps four through twelve. The first three steps are just simple affirmations that your life has become unmanageable, that there is a force that can restore you to sanity, and you make a decision to turn your life over to God. Doing the Third Step doesn’t turn your life over to God, it’s just a decision to do so.

The work begins with the Fourth Step, the complete and fearless moral inventory. Everything else follows from that. You identify and decide to ask God to help you to remove your defects of character. You make amends to those you’ve wronged. You take stock every day and when you are wrong, you promptly admit it. And you work at increasing your daily contact with God.

Am I just going to sit here and sip tea until I have a genuine connection with somebody or can I go now and make dinner? I’m going to boil some soup. I want to watch Netflix. Connection can wait.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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