January 29, 2008

A Meme

There’s been a meme making the rounds of some of my favorite blogs which caught my attention. Lilalia at Yum Yum Café has written a beautiful five part essay that stirred my thinking, and Wintersong wrote a thoughtful piece then tagged me. I felt I had to look up what a meme was before I could write one.

Richard Dawkins invented the term “meme” in 1976. On Wikipedia there’s a convoluted article on meme’s that defines them as:

“A meme (pronounced /miːm/), as defined by memetic theory, constitutes a theoretical unit of cultural information, the building block of culture or cultural evolution which spreads through diffusion propagating from one mind to another analogously to the way in which a gene propagates from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution.[1] Multiple memes may propagate as cooperative groups called memeplexes (meme complexes)”. Wikipedia continues, “Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity (such as a song, an idea or a religion) that an observer might consider a replicator.”

The current meme making the rounds can be considered as “a useful philosophical perspective with which to examine cultural evolution. Proponents of this view say… (that meme’s can)… lead to useful insights and yield valuable predictions into how culture develops over time.” Dawkins himself seems to have favoured this approach.

I’m asked to name five things in my life now that I never dreamed at age 25 would be in my life today.

1) That I would become a recovering alcoholic and a drug addict: My parents were alcoholics, and as a kid I always knew what bar to find them at noon or after school. At night, after punishing me for my failures, they passed out in their living room chairs at opposite ends of the living room. When I ran away from home to join the Army, I was determined that I would never be drunks like they were. I turned into them: a wino whose kids knew what bar to find their mother. In 1983, Duck hauled me off to my first AA meeting, and shortly afterwards Ba became my first sponsor.
In 1995, the week G and I were to buy a computer, I walked to my corner library and asked the librarian if she could show me how to find AA online. I had been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for twelve years at that point, and I had no idea what anyone was talking about in those rooms. The librarian kindly told me that she had no idea how to use the new computer that just showed up at her library, but we could learn together.
Lycos was the first “search engine” we tried, and by entering Alcoholics Anonymous into her computer over a several day period, we both discovered that there were AA groups online. Imagine that. Another lightbulb moment, so filled with joy I joined a “List” and found my new inbox at home jammed with so many email that I couldn’t read them all. I backed out of that one at the speed of light, and over a several month period inched my way back into AA Online.
AA Online saved my life. All of a sudden I could understand what folks were saying. What? Yes, I could understand via the written word where I could not figure out things if I just heard them. I began to change and grow at last. One day I was reminded that I could help the list, and thanks to one very determined and dedicated lady who held my hand continuously, I was able to be a Secretary, several times, and Chair of the Business list, a truly thankless task. I am forever grateful to her for all this….and too I made a wonderful friend.

2) I never expected a G in my life. Not at all. At age twenty five, I was a very sick person living in an abusive relationship and thinking it normal. Twenty five years ago, though I was clean, I wasn’t sober yet. I’d had a rather checkered history with a series of lovers and obsessions after my divorce from PAH, and my kids were beginning their own downward spirals with their own lovers. I was alone a last, settling into my job with the city, and learning to appreciate myself for the first time.
Ba brought this darling, young man to dinner one night, and I, the drunk, was all over him. He had just sobered up. A one night stand grew into a May December love that I appreciate now but will grow awkward as the years pass. We still share life, interests, love, joy, and laughter……twenty five years of still holding hands. I appreciate every day I have of this man in my life more than I can say.

3) That I would love learning. With a passion I love it. Who ever knew that I who failed school after the third grade, except for art classes, would love to learn. Who knew that I could learn; who knew I had learning disabilities. Not I of the poor report cards. The F’s of grade school morphed into the honors college graduate. Imagine. I still love to learn.
Today I learn not only from everyday experience but I learn from things I find online. Blogs to me are doorways to new things. Blogs with content that interests me leads to other web sites that keep me growing and going. I have no time to stagnate. I still believe in happy endings, and I believe that learning keeps the pot stirred. Indeed, learning keeps me functional with a smile.

4) That I would learn to love using computers: I found computers first in the Army. My military career found me in payroll where I was a failure. They sent me to IBM, since I was so smart, to learn to run the 1960 payroll computer. Wires and plugs and boards with holes made no sense to me. I was sent back and found myself building and painting sets for traveling Army entertainment. I never looked back.
In 1974, I began keeping a hand written and colorful journal as an adult. I began my feeble attempts to keep it with a computer in 1995 with Windows 95.
Computers and I had a difficult learning curve. That’s putting it mildly. This old lady with her learning disabilities took a virtual army to get her here. Thank you all especially my AA friend, Doc P2, and G. It wasn’t until I bought my first appallingly expensive Dell with Windows 98 on it was I able to do some of what I knew I could do as a retired newspaper layout and paste-up person. Life improved more with the second Dell. Wysiwyg editors defeated Windows 98 as well as me in those days, today they defeat only me.
In 1995, I discovered email with Netscape. Oh the joy of finding old friends out there and connect to them via email. One of my earliest years of journaling on the computer consists of a wonderful email exchange with an old college friend in Northern California. We journaled together that year. Now I keep in touch with friends all over not only through email, but through my blogs that are now illustrated with my photos. One email does not always fit all, but in my case my blogging is out there to joyously share my life as if it were my Christmas letter to the world.

5) Photography: PAH was a professional photographer. He laughed at my small attempts with a camera, so I stopped taking pictures. Twenty five years ago, I took a few snapshots. That was all. Photos of the kids out on the boat. I felt brave just doing that. Pictures of G fishing. Photos of the Mission Beach Plunge…record photos. Then I got sober. I went to college because my mother had always wanted me to go to college. Here I was working for the city, had a new lover, sober only for a short time, and applying to SDSU. And they accepted me. Why I will never know.
There I rediscovered my passions with art, color, drawing, and painting. I discovered a new love of architectural history, writing, learning, and found I had learning disabilities. I managed to graduate with honors despite myself, and promptly got shows and a gallery, a job to pay off the loans, and a stroke. Ah well. My short term memory and hand eye coordination became a thing of the past. What I didn’t lose was my sense of color or eye for composition.
Duck gave me his old Asahi Pentax…the best of them all, but only rarely did I take pictures. Film processing was expensive. CA, PAH’s second wife’s sister, yes but how else do I describe her, lived near us and took pictures of everything. I bought a good point and shoot camera, and began taking more than snapshots. Five years ago, when I began to work downtown, I also began taking my camera with me and began seeing the world anew. Now thanks to ThomaS, I have a newer Photoshop Elements, and I can at last treat my photos as I would drawing, paintings, or newspaper paste up. It’s really a new and exciting open door back into a world I love.
So there, the five things I didn’t know I would find in my life at either 25 or 25 years ago. A meme for growth and change.


  1. Alice of WintersongJanuary 30, 2008 at 8:47 AM

    Wow! I'm breathless! And have more admiration and respect for you now than I could ever imagine. You didn't give up. And now I see Duck's influence on you and really understand why you're so focused on helping him as he walks his own walk through the shadow. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Like Alice, I was very moved by this post. It strikes me as nothing short of miraculous that you have found love, a sense of self, and the ability to demonstratively express your thanks to those who have helped you along the way. I am saddened to hear of those terrible confused years of early adulthood (or even not so early). How terrible it must have been for you and those near to you. Yet, here you are! You give much attention and joy to those of us who read about your day-to-day experiences. Thank you for sharing it with us.


What a delight to get a note from you. Thanks for leaving one.


Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...