The bright red Mickey Mouse socks my kids gave me before the pandemic were now going pink and faded with holes opening at the heels. These socks, like so many things in my life, held small resonance. They meant something to me on a different level, as did the thought of going back to Disneyland as a kind of redo, to experience what I hadn’t the first time we went, when the kids gave me these socks.

I told my therapist I was considering another career change, moving industries for a second time, wanting to believe it wasn’t too late for me to do most anything. So I mentioned the mental health industry and she listed a few conventional career paths (life coach, chemical dependency counselor) but then a less conventional route, shamanism.

Shamanism? I was really shocked shamans still existed I said, like with websites and Twitter handles and so on. I had to laugh, “shamanism.” And we got to talking about Carlos Castaneda and this idea of cording: that our energy is connected to people or entities in ways that can become parasitic and even require a cord “cutting” to protect ourselves. That we can get overly attached to things so much it interferes with our lives.

That was maybe what happened to me the last time we went to Disneyland. Getting to the end of the day both days and at dinner talking with the family about what would come next, making plans to see the fireworks and ride more rides. Me, I just wanted to go back to the hotel and collapse I said, to take a bath, relax. But what I really wanted was a drink, or six, and to slip off—which is exactly how the family found me later with the lights still on, glasses bent on my face.

That’s what I did each night at Disney, and woke uncharacteristically hungover, three days in a row. Even took an unexpected, ad hoc telephone interview from the LA airport on our way out. And no idea what I said to convince them I was worth interviewing again but they did.

I don’t think my family knew I was hungover though it was the kind of hangover where you’re still basically drunk, and that’s how we started day one at the Magic Kingdom, arriving just as the park opened in hopes we could get on the new Star Wars ride but could not, instead opting for a water ride which had no line (for good reason, it being February, still a bit cool in the mornings).

So being hungover I thought it would make sense to sit in the front of the ride where I was guaranteed to get wet, and get wet I did, and remained so for many hours in that cold, clammy, wet way I thought I deserved.

And so we stood in the lines, me in that condition as the hangover bloomed into a more sickly state—and watched the same people slowly advance and change positions as the direction of the sun did the same, and I got to thinking about my next drink. Not really seeing my kids ride the rides, I mean somewhat, but that’s the thing about being overly attached like that: you’re there and not there at the same time. Your family gets just a part of you. And I was okay with that.

In fact I remember how I felt on the walk back from the park to my hotel, a spring in my stride as I entered the corner convenience store, where I’d befriended the Latino teenager working the cash register and plopped a few bottles of high octane beer on the counter, ran my card, and had him bag the bottles, clanking all the way back to my room, plopping into bed and pouring myself one.

I considered that idea of cording and even pictured an aquatic monster’s tendrils snaking their way through the park, luring me back to the beer shop and away from my family. But it’s that way with addiction isn’t it? You give yourself willingly to it even though you have the ability to stop. You actually lose that ability over time. It’s like the Tarot card for the Devil which shows the man and woman chained by his side, how the handcuffs are drawn loose around the wrists to show they could free themselves if they wanted to, but they can’t or won’t.

I found the idea of cording a bit crude but interesting. And remembered what I could from that Castaneda book, when he takes the mescaline or peyote with the witch doctor and starts tripping, he sees people in their spirit form as like glowing egg-shaped balls with cords coming out of them. It freaked me the eff out.

But the cording image works as a metaphor if you think about how we use electrical cords for devices or appliances, to direct power. Maybe shamans intervene when the power supply reverses, when the person becomes the source—and the cord starts drawing power away.

I see that role reversal with the power we give to phones, because on the surface they seem to give us so much—but why does it feel so freeing then, the rare times we leave them behind? And to think they’re “cordless,” but are they really?

I think the idea of cording applies to anything we’re overly attached to, to consider whether it’s giving us power or taking it away. For it seems the direction can change without us noticing, leaving us with less of ourselves to give to the people we love the most.

Categories: Memoir, writing

Tags: , , ,

25 replies

  1. I supposed there’s a certain transitory (is that the right word?) cord connecting any of us who read each other’s writing, maybe “ephemeral” is more the idea, although that’s a little fancy-sounding. Reading this created a definite tension – like watching someone walking on the high wire – so I guess there’s definitely an effective transmission of some sort of energy taking place. It must’ve pleased the kids that you wore the socks enough to wear them out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hadn’t thought of that connection we make with each other through the writing or sharing of ourselves, that’s cool Robert. I was really struck by the idea as you can see here because I hadn’t heard of it or didn’t tie it back with the Castaneda books I read somehow. Yeah wearing the socks now, funny that! I get attached to socks (or vice versa ha ha). Thanks for reading, for cording with me 😀


  2. Baptism by carnival ride …

    You know, if anyone can make a good 21st century shaman, you can, Bill! I don’t think a modern shaman has to be especially ritualistic. Just has to be connected to things the rest of us don’t quite get, and I think you’re there.

    Hang on to those socks, even if you never wear them anymore!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Bill, you did a great job conveying the hell of trying to live your responsible life while hungover. The only thing worse is when you need to let everyone down for the same reason. Was this your ‘rock bottom’? Mine was standing up an important company client at a professional football game I invited him to because I couldn’t get out of bed. I still drank for 15 years after that, but hangovers became a thing of the past. — Corded to the cordless. I love that. For the record, I think you’d make a great life coach.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey that’s a kind vote of confidence of the coach thing Jeff, thanks for that! Noted! To answer your question yes, this was a rock bottom of sorts on more of a sentimental, reflective level rather than a public one. I think getting to a point of acceptance and complacency about my drinking and not seeing then how damaging it was, but more seeing it in hindsight. No dramatic “rock bottom” as much as the slow drip drip drip until the bucket topples over maybe. Thanks for this, glad you enjoyed it. And for sharing your story too. Bill


  4. Going straight to the tangent, I decided to suspend disbelief whilst reading this piece, to suspend it in the way I did when reading Castaneda so many years ago, just to see where it took me. And that decision took me straight away to Sonny Rollins’ ‘The Bridge’ and to ‘John S’ in particular. Fine work. Both of you.
    To paraphrase Rollins: a lot of us did stupid things (but) there’s something special you’ve been given by the gods.
    That’s enough tangent for now.
    Thank you Bill.
    Kind regards
    David Don

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been reading a book about fungi and how much they intertwine with all life forms, forming cooperative networks. Perhaps it’s not that surprising that some chemicals produced by mushrooms, including both mescaline and LSD, can produce a sense of interconnectedness.
    It’s interesting, though, how you contrast the negative ways you would disconnect with contemplating a do-over, as well as a career that would connect you with others, while also considering the ways we can be overconnected, or perhaps not connecting in the right way.
    No pun intended but there really is a lot to disentangle here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fantastic Fungi? The Paul Stamets book? Yes you’re right about the entanglement, maybe enmeshment? Good observation, I’ll have to ponder that. Funny how what connects us can be so under-the-surface, with your mycelium example there. Dig that! Paradox abounds with me, contradictions too (that Whitman quote, right? You know the one I’m sure). Thanks for this Christopher, appreciate your always shrewd and warm insights.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually I’m reading Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, but I may need to pick up the Stamets book as well. And, yes, I know the Whitman quote. I think he spoke for all of us for we all contain multitudes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Watch that Stamets-related documentary if you haven’t already, Fantastic Fungi. I realize now that title is the name of the documentary, not his book, which is Mycelium Running. Interesting stuff. To the multitudes!


  6. Interesting indeed, Bill! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You should do it. I don’t even care what it is, you should definitely do it. It’s never too late. If it’s shamanism, that would be awesome. I’d totally come to your tent and waft in whatever you had burning in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha thanks. You’re being crystal clear there thank you, I love it! Jim Morrison would be proud I guess, that’s something. The Lizard King, 2023…


  8. I remember having a similar discussion about connections, years ago, when I was critiquing a manuscript a high school buddy was writing about spirituality and philosophy. It was more about the thickness and strength of the “cords” than how the metaphor might apply to addiction or a direction of electrical current, but still, an interesting way to look at relationships. I like the “cutting the cord” notion for dealing with negative influences. Maybe the trick is to recognize the cords in the first place, so you can deal with them before they get too strong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that! Recognize them before they get too strong. And I absolutely messed with the cording concept here I think, acknowledging how little I know about it. Full-on bastardizing caveat! Cool you have some first-hand experience with it, through your high school buddy. Thanks for sharing that Dave and for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I kinda made it up on the spot when swapping emails with the guy to illustrate a concept, so I guess I bastardized it too. 😉
        My buddy ended up writing a 500 page book. And even if we didn’t agree on a lot of things, it was a pretty profound exercise on figuring out what I really did believe in – questions I probably would have never addressed otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow that’s super cool Dave. 500 page book! Fantastic. Hope you’re well and have a great weekend!


  9. Reading this, and your earlier posts, it strikes me that you’re in the labyrinth and now heading back on out. Follow it, wherever the path takes you. Even to exploring shamanism….

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This one clearly struck a chord. (See what I did there?) Our culture is big on “connections.” I build entire marketing plans around the idea. But we forget those connections can be negative or harmful. “Only connect,” E.M. Forster wrote, and he meant the prose and the poetry. Balance between the brain and the heart but really balance in all things. Anyway, I like cords as a metaphor but as actual parts of us? Yuck! Too wiggly.
    Speaking of yuck: “as the hangover bloomed into a more sickly state.” Remember that too well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can never get it straight between the cords and chords, that’s one my brain never accepted. Thank you for the Forster quote and the depth of thought here. I think this is as close as I get to confessional ha! And like you, so glad to not have the “blooms” anymore, there’s that.

      Liked by 1 person

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