The Truth of Here

The Truth of Here

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I commissioned this beauty from Tammi Salas’s Ray of Light series

 

I’ve started and stopped and started to write a post just like this one so many times over the last few weeks. I think one of the scary things for me about being so public about my life, on both my blog and my Instagram account, is when something changes (in this case dramatically so) I feel like I’m somehow deceiving me little community if or when I stop communicating. In this case, it comes back to my drinking. I am drinking again and have been for a few weeks. I have also made the decision to stop talking about my drinking story after this post. I’m revamping my blog and in the midst of just starting Tiffany Han’s, Raise Your Hand and Say Yes, year-long course. I want Etched in Awe to be a place where I talk about the creative work I’m doing, share essays and meditations on daily life, and starting in a few weeks…interact with other creators and makers in my brand new interview series, Women Who: Make, Create, and Collaborate.

With that said, I have been avoiding coming clean, so I do feel like I owe a small amount of an explanation. Because I chose to start drinking again I had to deal with two specific things I was in the midst of being involved in. Firstly, I chose to not take a course I had signed-up to take and invested in. I chose instead to delete the emails, let the books sit on my shelf, and find another course that I felt aligned more with where my head is at. I had and have a lot of guilt about this since the course was being taught by someone I consider my mentor. I just felt guilty showing up weekly to a mostly sober, albeit virtual, community.

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This was the beautiful art exchange I received, made by the lovely Rachel

Secondly, I was involved in an art exchange in a community of sober women. Again, I felt too guilty to post about the lovely piece I had received because I didn’t feel like it was any longer my place or space to do. Above is the piece Rachel made for me, where it sits proudly on my mantle. I gave her the first painting I’ve ever made which, even after a few weeks, still feels like a huge and beautiful accomplishment. I’m only sorry I didn’t post about either sooner.

Interestingly enough to me, this feeling of being ousted, or feeling like I don’t belong anymore, has absolutely nothing to do with either of these welcoming communities filled with women who only want to help me wherever I’m at, and much more to do with the guilt I feel about changing my mind (again) when it comes to alcohol. I do fully support all my friends anyone who feels like recovery is the right choice for them, but ultimately after years of dancing with sobriety, AA, and recovery, I feel more like it’s taking up space in my life and my head, instead of allowing me to fully be present on my own two feet in my own life.

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I am someone who really clings to the past and drags it around with me until it fully takes over.

I think I’ve done something similar with drinking. There was a story I told myself for months and months and months and when I looked up, I saw that the story didn’t match my behavior and vice versa. But there was a lot of fear for me in leaving, in saying this isn’t right for me. It was mostly self-inflicted fear, but also the fear of losing a community of people I trust with my whole heart. It isn’t going to be easy, writing this isn’t easy, but I really feel it is essential to take some space from a topic that has driven almost the last 5 years. My creativity is finally coming back thanks to having a new job which doesn’t deplete me and thus allows me to spend time doing what I love when I’m off. It’s October and finally feeling cooler here in Boston.

I’m finding through writing in my journal almost daily that what I want to talk about doesn’t have very much, if anything to do with drinking, and mostly includes things like: relationships, boundaries, the beauty of every day rituals. Through my 100 Day Project I engaged in this past summer, I learned that I love to make collages and I want to give myself the space to continue to make and share those here on my blog. In short, I am pulling away from the part of myself that wants to obsess about my drinking and my drinking story based on my own assumption that either it will become really crucial to come to or slowly fall away.

The truth of here is this: I am a constantly evolving human being. What’s right for me today, may not be right for me tomorrow. My friend Christina always reminds me that we can change our minds. This is a scary thing for me to post, but it feels scarier not to. I’ll leave you with words from my favorite, Cheryl Strayed:

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”

Twenty-Four Things I Know To Be True

Twenty-Four Things I Know To Be True

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Me with my grandfather on my second birthday 

Is it wrong to say that the most memorable birthday I’ve ever had I was wasted? I mean, like drunk enough that I don’t remember most of the conversation that happened. It was my 21st, so maybe that makes sense to you, but I was already two years into a drinking story that would take everything and leave me on my knees begging for someone, anyone to save me. I’d been drinking all day with my two close friends. That night we’d have a big birthday dinner at a trendy restaurant downtown. It would be the first birthday I would celebrate with my dad in over 9 years. Afterwards, someone told me my dad had said some really heartfelt things. People had cried. I still don’t know what he said. But, I do remember how happy I was. There are photos of me laughing. I’m skinnier than, have straight brown hair. But my eyes, my eyes are the same: crinkled in the corners already, my face flushed, my lips turned upwards in celebration.

That was truly the first birthday I enjoyed. I’ve spent birthday’s in tears – days that only serve to remind me that my relationships with my parents which was tenuous at best.  I planned a big 16th birthday bash. I remember the pink and sparkles. I remember family taking the train in to Manhattan to eat overpriced Chinese food. I don’t remember having fun.

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My twenty-first birthday

Last year I got engaged on my birthday. Well, to be honest, I bought myself a diamond ring and told my ex at the time who had accompanied me to Durham for a trip, to break up with who she was seeing a marry me. I relapsed on my birthday.

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I’m pretty sure I turned twenty here 

This year I right out told my partner “I hate birthdays.” We’re going to go to a trendy place for dinner in Boston. I have a gift I’ve been saving from my Dad to open. I took the day off and I’ll probably read, go to a bookstore, spend too much money. It’ll be quiet. I’ll be sober. I’ll be 24. In honor of that & because my friend Laura McKowen is a genius here is a list of twenty-four things I’ve learned in the last years:

1. You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. Real love moves freely in both directions. – Cheryl Strayed

2. There is no rule book, there are no rules. Trial & error lends to self-discovery and heartbreak. There’s no scooting around the hard bits.

3. Figuring out I was an alcoholic was one of the most painful conclusions I’ve ever come to / or will ever come to. Pretending I wasn’t, was harder.

4. If you know you are something like a writer, an artist, a mother, a friend: be that thing. Don’t wait for anyone to crown you. They won’t. Buy yourself your own damn crown. Then show up. Continuously and no matter what.

5. I’m still convinced my sister was a tiny love bundle sent from heaven to help me practice not being a sick selfish asshole. However, also to remind me that my sick selfish asshole side is loved no matter what by this small human.

6. Sex is NEVER EVER an obligation, a requirement, painful, or something you should feel coerced into. If any of those things happen or have happened find yourself a therapist and start talking. These things will damage you. Talking and therapy will help.

7. A therapist is worth the investment. Invest. Find someone you trust and sit with them weekly. Try to trust them. Try to understand that the very best relationships take time. They’ll ebb and they’ll flow. They’ll glow.

8. Be present. Work hard to cultivate a presence you like. Don’t wait for your future self to get on board. Plant your feet firmly here and now.

9. If you ever feel lost or confused or lonely or all three or other hard feelings look up. Anne Lamott says that’s all you need to do to see God.

10. Look for the teachers. I spent an adolescence trying to find the adult. I never found them then, but I’ve found them now. I count: Cheryl Strayed, Chloe Caldwell, Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, and Glennon Doyle Melton as my very closest teachers. When I think “how” or “why” I pick their books up and go “oh.”

11. Believe in something greater than yourself. It can be as small as twig or as great as Allah, God, a higher power. There is magic in the mundane too.

12. Listen. This is something that takes time to master. Listen. To me. To you. To the noise the leaves make against your window, to the homeless woman on the train, to the customer who is at the end of their rope, to your nearest and dearest. There is no hierarchy. We’re all doing our best.

13. Pain is not a competition. Don’t use it to level up. You will lose. I believe it was Amy Hempel who said just because you scrape your knee too doesn’t make mine hurt any less.

14. Love is love is love is love is love. Times a million. I know this to be true even though my track record with love is…really sucky.

15. Buy the shoes/dress/wooie tarot deck. Life is short. Life can be ugly. If these things help, don’t deny them.

16. People will leave your life. Don’t cling to them. Let them go. That’s a hard painful thing especially if you love them. That love probably most likely flows both ways. Try to hold them in their pain too. Remember: we’re all human.

17. Stephan Cope says “there are, of course, a thousand ways of being stuck.” Find what releases you. Do those things. Stuck does not mean stop. Actually, it means the very opposite.

18. Tattoos are permanent. That’s about it.

19. Don’t believe your eighth-grade art teacher when he says you’re a bad artist. Make art anyway. You’re not. He’s a bad teacher.

20. A hot shower, a cup of coffee, a few words, and sleep have the power to fix just about anything.

21. Don’t lament too much about not being the best. If you want to be the best in something you have to be the worst first. Anybody who doesn’t start on the first rung, will, eventually, burn the heck out. It takes momentum to get to the top and once there you’ll search for what’s next.

22. Pick things that soothe you and do those things daily. Make to do lists. Make notes to yourself. Make love to yourself. Make art and noise and mess. Choose you every damn time.

23. We don’t get to know how the story ends, no amount of tantrum throwing will get you an answer. Try to understand that in time and patience are virtues to embrace.

24. A birthday is not a death sentence: it’s a cause for nostalgia, wish making, & a clean slate all wrapped up in one beautifully sweetly tied gift. It is solely yours.

Happy birthday to myself. I think I’m liking who I am today.

Live The Questions

Live The Questions

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Beautiful bracelet c/o Satcha Malas

The first time I said the words, “I love you,” to someone who I was dating I was 21 years old. I was eager to be with my first partner — obsessed even. The line seems blurry now, but back then everything seemed meant to be. Inevitable. I felt connected, safe, cherished, by a woman I’d matched with on Tinder. She lived miles away from my home of Boston. She was a couple of years older. I mistook lust for love. She made me want. She made me rush home after class to rip off my clothes and message her dirty, dark things. I kept my phone with me at all times, it tethered me to her, without it who knows what could (would) happen.

I’m almost 24. My birthday is next week. My phone is still tethering me to others – ex’s, partners, friends, family. It stopped working, though. It stopped bringing me any sense of safety or comfort. My phone has become a hindrance, a painful reminder of my past. It makes me desperate, obsessed, and anxious. I’ve stayed up days at a time, talking myself down because my mind reads “ok” as “bye” and “fine” as “you fucked up.” Putting down alcohol 70 days ago was tough, but it pales in comparison to this, this emotional OCD I’ve diagnosed myself with; this demanding compulsion that ties my self-worth to a white bubble and a handful of words.

The first relationships texting ruined for me was back in high school. We were given school address books listing the numbers of every student. I felt compelled by what I can only describe as a very peculiar, but convincing force to obsessively text message several upperclassman. They were my peers, and our lives were somewhat entangled between extra curricular activities and peer tutoring, but definitely not to the extent I wanted it to be. It got so bad, my texting that is, that I was called into the guidance counselor’s office and told there would be repercussions if I didn’t stop. My messages can probably be summarized easiest by: want me. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to be liked. But, I wanted to be wanted and liked not like they wanted and liked me, but how I needed to be wanted and liked. I was completely lacking the comfort of friends my own age. I wasn’t getting what I needed at home. Texting felt safe, felt easy, felt like the closest I could get to the connection I so desperately craved.

Texting came back to haunt me in various ways throughout my various relationships. I’ve been told too many times to count some variation of “you want more than I can give.” It stings, truth be told. Still, the sting wasn’t and hasn’t been enough to break a habit I can truthfully say I’ve had since I was 13 years old.

Augustan Burroughs in his self-help book, This Is How, writes on drinking,

In 100 percent of the documented cases of alcoholism worldwide, the people who recovered all shared one thing in common, no matter how they did it:

They didn’t do it.

They just didn’t do it.

While Burroughs was talking specifically about drinking, I’ve thought several times about his words in response to what I’ve deemed my “emotional OCD” or the compulsions that drive me to stay up all night, phone gripped in my hand, terrified that I’ve ruined my relationship with my partner. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is? Almost as terrifying as it is to find oneself bent over, vomiting up shots of something from the night before, on the T-platform, late for work, with zero idea how you’ve got there and no idea how to stop. What worked for me in the last 70 days isn’t necessarily advisable, I’d say it’s even borderline crazy, but it’s worked. For 70 days I haven’t picked up a drink even though, no matter what, despite, etc. I just haven’t. I just didn’t and don’t and can’t and really, really hope, I won’t. Can you drop a defense mechanism as easily? Maybe. I think it’ll take work. It’ll take practice and more tears and writing and talking to my therapist about it. It’ll take being honest even though this is one of my deep, deep dark secrets. The texting thing isn’t a thing I wear proudly on my sleeve. It’s not a truth I discuss openly with friends. I’ve told two people in this world: one I see weekly and have seen weekly for going on four years, the other is my partner, the catalyst for making me want to break right on open, no matter the risk, no matter the complete and utter vulnerability.

What if? What if we breakup? What if the world ends tomorrow? What if I get run over by a bus? What if I fall in love with someone else 5, 10 years from now? What if she does? What if one day we get married and have children and live happily ever after? Will it matter how many texts we’ve sent? Will it matter how many words were exchanged back and forth through corresponding blue and white bubbles? Will GIF’s play a role in forever? I ask myself questions, I have been asking myself questions, in my last three essays, mostly because I don’t want it to seem like I have all (any) of the answers. Asking myself questions is a way for me to figure things out though, to untangle the mess my brain makes of things, to see where a thread is loose, to recognize where and when I need to ask for help.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke writes:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

When my friend Christina first shared his words with me I was stumped. I’d rather live the answers, I thought. Wouldn’t you? But, upon, going on three weeks of asking really specific questions about sobriety, and love and life and god, and now texting, I’m not so sure. I’m not sure I’d rather know the answers to the things that remain unknown to me. Are they unknown for a reason? Would it to any good to find out? Maybe. I take comfort in knowing that questions make me think and thinking makes me talk and talking leads me to connection – the same connection I sought for so long via text, but better.

I still am figuring these very basic communication things out. I want to say “okay” and mean it. I need to be able to trust my girlfriend when she says we are, “fine.” I need to know that a one-word response doesn’t mean the ending of our relationship. But, I need her to know how my mind works. I need her to know that I am working, everyday, to find solace in the quiet spaces, to trust that love won’t runaway after a few weeks, to understand that two humans reconciling two complicated pasts together isn’t an overnight job. It will be work. It will be play. It will be utterly devastating and entirely new. Perhaps, one day, gradually, we too will live into the answers.

The God Question

The God Question

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Some people see grass, I see God. 

When I was 18 years old and life felt just about impossible I thought about killing myself. I considered it. I didn’t think about the way I would do it or the timing, I thought only about the people I would leave behind. I wondered who would care. I wondered what people would say. I wondered if my mother would cry. The thoughts only lasted a few days. I casually told a friend one night over noodles. She gave me a sad sort of smile and said something along the lines of, “but you won’t, right?” She was right. I wouldn’t. But, not because I didn’t want to, but because I somehow had the uncanny ability to remain unscathed as fires burned around me. Most people I came into contact with chalked it up to luck. You’re lucky that although your mother is a raging alcoholic and your brother is a drug addict and that none of what goes on behind closed doors is okay, you’re like you are. Occasionally, someone would mutter something about someone looking out for me as they pointed their face, briefly, upwards.

I didn’t believe in God because I had no conception of God and so Luck and I held hands and kept going. Abuse. College. Rape. I never considered death as an option. I continued to smile. I continued to laugh and invest in a social life, friends, cute tops I only wore once. But, I never considered God.

One night, luck would have it, I stumbled into an AA meeting. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a miracle. It just was. I sat in a pew and craned my neck to listen to some older woman who looked, as a friend of a friend put it, like she led a “simple life.” She smiled and chatted about the tomatoes she’d eaten for dinner and the way she said “please” and “thank you” each day to God. Please. Thank you. Each and every morning and night. That seemed like a lot of work. And for what? An invisible friend?

Though, I didn’t feel particularly called to God, I did start to ask questions. Who was this person and could I have one too? Did it matter what they looked like? Did they have to be a “he?” Could I see them for coffee ever? Was God like a 24-7 hotline? Was God open on holidays? Laugh as you may, these were the sincere questions I would ponder for the months leading up to finding a God that made sense to me.

I wasn’t raised religious and I had no intention of adding another relationship to the crumbling stack on my shoulders. But, I’ve come to understand we rarely choose the really true things. The really true things have a way of showing up. Always. Especially when we least expect it.

I hit my knees the first time I ever spoke at an AA meeting. A dingy bathroom. Gross tile. I was scared and felt lonely and I’d heard that this is what people did for relief, so I did it too. I didn’t feel any differently when I rose. I spoke my story to a room full of people who all responded in their sweet, honest way. But, there was no God that I could feel, no aha moment to share, no unicorns and rainbows. Just me. And an echoey silence.

I didn’t have a God moment, I didn’t know what a God moment was, until last March. March was the month I truly started to talk to God, to treat God like the second person in the room, to confront her when I needed help, when I was scared or scarred, or in love, or broken-hearted. God became my right-hand woman. Me and God. God and I. It was God and I on the floor at 2 o’clock in the morning when no-one would answer my texts. It was God and I when I announced to a room full of familiar faces, that this was day one for the fourth, fifth, sixth time. It was God and I when I felt misunderstood, anxious, at the end of my rope.

God always picks up. She always answers. She. Always. Shows. Up. But, just because she does, doesn’t mean I do. I’m stubborn. People say, hit your knees and I mutter slowly before I drift off to sleep. People say, don’t ask for you ask for them and I spend minutes asking for every last thing on my list. People say, God and I say Mine. That’s the connection. That’s what matters most. It doesn’t matter what Mine looks like. It just matters that they’re not yours. It just matters that they’re not you.

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I’m pretty squinty BUT total God moment: when myself and Jamie met for the first time we both pulled out matching Passion Planners! God moment!

I’ve started to trust God more. I converse with God on a daily basis. Sometimes without even realizing it. Sometimes it’s all I can do in a day. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. That’s how I found myself for a few weeks torn up about the question my friend, Bethany, asked me one night. She’d asked me what I prayed for because she said sometimes she didn’t know what to ask for. Usually, I would rapid-fire back a response: health, healing, hope. Or, an easy commute. Or, coffee. But, none of those answers felt…right. What I wanted to say was more than a few short sentences. What I wanted to say was I spent a lifetime trying to solve everything alone, only to figure out that it’s a losing game. What I wanted to say was leaning on God is the only way I make it through more days than I’d like to admit. What I wanted to say were the words passed down to me by countless women, written by the God-send herself, Anne Lamott: help, thanks, wow.

I don’t know if there is a right way to pray or a wrong one. I don’t know what you pray for and really, I don’t truly care. I’d just advise a solid higher-power figure to anyone who finds themselves lost, with questions they don’t trust any human with, or with answers they can’t find solace in. I’d say find a quiet spot, look up, and say hi. It doesn’t have to be bigger than that. Or it can be. You’ll start to find that God shows up in impossible ways at impossible times. I like to share this story with non believers:

One Sunday night when I’d first moved back to Boston, I asked my rapist (E) to meet me for coffee. We settled on the following Wednesday. My sponsor at the time advised me not to go–I wasn’t going to get the answers I wanted. She also told me I had no obligation to let E off the hook. I didn’t cancel, but Wednesday morning came around and E did. I bitched and moaned for the entire day. I wasn’t going to show up, BUT how could E cancel? This wasn’t about her. This was entirely about me. A new AA friend told me she’d take me to a meeting to clear my head. The meeting was a new, Buddhist one she’d heard was good and healing. Perfect. Boston is a pretty small city, but there are tons of meetings throughout. I felt pretty confident when I walked into the space, until I looked up and saw E. There. She was sitting on the couch, laughing. E in the flesh. E on the couch that I too would sit on for the next 90 minutes. Maybe you’ll say it was just happenstance. Maybe you’ll say it was a coincidence easily explained by consulting a list of meetings and times. I call it God. That meeting healed me in ways no coffee could have. I still carry the scars, but I don’t carry the fear. God moment.

Tonight, I stumbled upon these lines in a poem: “You cannot sneak through life.” I sincerely hope you don’t sneak through yours anymore. I understand that I was and am never alone. I don’t chalk surviving my past up to luck anymore, I thank my God that she took such incredible care of me when no one else did. I don’t think it was a miracle I never hurt myself, I think I knew just enough to know I was taken care of. I do know that isn’t everyone’s experience. I do know that my conversations with God are in the top three most important things to me. I do know that it doesn’t really matter what I pray for, what really matters is that I do. I do know that you can’t sneak through this life, because even when you don’t think anyone hears you, they do. I sincerely hope that you ask yourself the God questions and then stick around and listen. You might not like what you hear at first, but you’ll learn to love, in a better, brighter way, the answers.

Same River, Different Boats

Same River, Different Boats

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Photo Credit: Grace Buckingham // Me talking to God in a Wichita field.

I haven’t seen my therapist in three weeks. I’m worried about seeing my family and not seeing my family and writing and not writing and working in retail or doing something I love. I’m scared that somehow I’m lying, but I’m not right? It’s just hard sometimes because I feel a lot of things and the voices inside my head tell me I’m okay when I’m not and I’m not when I am. And maybe I should go to AA or maybe I shouldn’t. And am I loving my partner enough or right? Or too much? And should I change my sheets? And does a pickle count as dinner? And why on earth won’t my heart stop racing? And why when I think of working out my stress and my stuff, do I think of running, but every time I put on my sneakers, I can’t budge? And ouch. Oh, also, I’m bleeding this week.

Sigh…It’s been almost 4 months since I’ve written on here. I drank again and then I stopped and then I started quickly thereafter and then I stopped just as quickly. I kicked people out of my life and invited them back in. I re-downloaded Tinder for the 5th time. And then OkCupid. And now I’m in a relationship with the most wonderful woman and every day I’m scared I’m going to fuckup. And God feels further today than ever before. And all I want to do is write, but the words keep escaping me faster than I can get them down. I’ve been told more times in three weeks how grounded and emotionally available and magical I seem and that all sounds like bullshit to me because I can’t wakeup without a pounding heart and the only thing that offers me slight relief is online shopping and mindlessly scrolling through Instagram at midnight. And does anyone know what the hell they are doing?

There was a time in my life when I would do absolutely anything not to be me. That time can be measured in years, but it also can be measured in things. I’d buy what you had because I believed money maybe couldn’t guarantee happiness, but it could guarantee a version of comfort, not my version (because I had no idea who I was), but a version. Wasn’t a version better? I spent years and many dollars chasing a high I could only ever catch the tail end of. And then I found drinking a couple of years ago and I felt…more me than I’d felt in a lot of years. A me that wasn’t a reflection of you. A me that could look herself in the eyes and think, ‘not too bad.’ Then I found women and God and sex and my life changed. Dramatically. If there was a moment that I had to pick and pinpoint to show when things changed it would be the moment in a dingy bar when a girl kissed me for the very first time and I felt lust and love and loneliness all in her lips and that was ALL I wanted to chase. And I did. And I almost lost myself entirely along the way.

I talk about being and getting sober. I talk about drinking. What I don’t talk about is everything else. I don’t talk about the nights my knees hit the wood floor in my bedroom or the printed bed’s sheets or the cold tile of the bathroom floor. Again and again and again. I don’t talk about the number of times I teetered from the middle to the edge and out again and again and again. I don’t talk about the things. I talk around them and through them and over them, but never directly at them. Because the things are scary. The things are the things that are the deepest, truest things. The things that hurt big and wide. The things that make me cry and then keep crying. The things that call to me in the middle of the night. The things that push me to sobriety and take me out. My vow is to talk about the holy fucking things. All of them. Each ugly, beautiful, and holy thing. Until I’ve run out. And by then I’ll probably have more. So, my work I’ve decided is to just keep writing about the things today and tomorrow and the day after that, until they start to feel less like bowling balls and more like cotton: small, malleable, light.

Dani Shapiro in Still Writing, says:

“In order to do what we love–whether we are woodworkers, legal-aid attorneys, emergency room physicians, or novelists–we must first know ourselves as deeply as we are able. Know your own bone. This self-knowledge can be messy. But it is at the center of our life’s work, this gnawing, this unearthing. There is never an end to it. our deepest stories–our bones–are our best teachers. Gnaw it still.”

I don’t entirely know what tomorrow holds or what my promise to keep unearthing will look like. I don’t know what the deepest, dirtiest secrets are yet because I haven’t felt like I could look. I haven’t felt the urge to uncover what lives within my bones as much as I’ve felt called to cover it (whatever it is) up. I look to the women who are feet ahead of me. I look to them as the guiding lights I need to do the work, to chance a look at the real, to see what it may mean to tell a different story than the one I’ve leaned back on for so many years. Different? Truer? Older? I won’t know until I do.

It is my belief that my best teachers are those who have spent many days investigating their own shadows, hunting around in the dark, for slivers of a greater truth — a truth they may never have seen, but have grown, overtime, to believe whole-heartedly in. Some are women I’ve sought solace in for years, others have sought me out, offered me comfort, a shoulder, their time. They’ve acted as sounding boards across miles and cities. Sent me GIFs and affirmations. Loved me. Reflected my love back to me, so I could see how love moves — mutually.

I’ve heard many many many anecdotes over the years, but the ones that always stick with me are the ones from the rooms. Last summer, a man, big, burly, tattooed, sat teetering on the end of an old wooden chair and he looked into the eyes of a room of people who all wanted the same thing (all of us trying for freedom) and he looked at us and described how he would sit in his basement and drink. Day after day. His pregnant wife would be in the kitchen and his daughter, his world, was at the top of the house, as he put it, “closest to God.” He said all he wanted was to take part in his life, but he didn’t know how, and so the basement became home. And after some trying, sobriety stuck. A miracle. And he went to a wedding, and at this wedding, he didn’t drink, and he partook in his life, and when his daughter cried, he scooped her up and sat with her. And three weeks later he got a gift in the mail and it was a photograph of him, sitting, holding his daughter, taken from the perspective, so it looked like God was watching him cradle his child. And then he cried. And we all did too.

Today is 56 days sober. It feels big and it feels small. I don’t really know what any of this means, but I do know that it’s somehow important. Massively so. I’ve been here before. But. Tonight, I’m here differently. I’m here in a way that feels known and completely sacred and scarred. I’m here. You’re here. God is also here. Maybe not in this room, but somewhere nearby. Maybe there’s something to be said for thinking about our best, instead of a best. Because there isn’t just one and just maybe if we start thinking in “we’s” and “us’s” and “our’s” we won’t feel so damn alone. Maybe just maybe if we imagine ourselves being here together, all of us in different boats, but on the same damn river, maybe, we can get closer to shore. Together, and apart. Apart and together. Gradually, not all at once, but, in time.

 

First the Pain, Than the Rising

First the Pain, Than the Rising

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Having an aha moment the other day. I mean is there anything better than that?

The title of this blog post is a well-known quote from the lovely and inspiring, Glennon Doyle Melton. I’ve been a fan of hers for about a year. I read Love Warrior in a two-day blur and ever since these words have tolled around my head. Recently I’ve been feeling everything on the peripheral. I’d rather talk about my feelings, than say what they are. Anger. Happiness. Sadness. Disappointment. LONELINESS. That friend right? But, I had an aha moment over breakfast the other day (need I say coffee was involved), where I realized it really doesn’t matter what YOU think. Or you. Or you. As much as I embrace and live for my community, my tribe (a word I don’t ever say lightly since I’ve worked so hard to find my place in this often isolating, scary, messy world), I need to embrace my self just a hair more.

Okay, this is what happens: way back when we are like 13 and standing in the school cafeteria (all these shaming moments somehow begin with a plastic tray of poorly cooked food and high school chatter), we make a choice. We either find our place at one of the tables and sit and stay out the remaining years of our adolescent OR or we spend the next handful of years trying desperately to find our place. Guess what my cafeteria experience was like? And I said I didn’t care. And I said there was just too much going on at home anyway (like that was some well-thought out justification for NOT having friends). And I said they, these girls who had never seen pain, had never known what it was like to think “maybe I just won’t make it through tonight,” whose parents not only came to every event, but came with cameras, and flowers, and other family members, they didn’t want a girl like me. Right? So I had already started to categorize myself as other.

When I got to college I wore really fancy clothes, and I didn’t care about very much, and I was in a hell of a lot of pain. If you touched me I swear I’d just bruise on the spot. And then my junior year happens in college, so we go through three years of more school still numbed to my pain, and then I figured out…I’m gay! Oh man those feelings of other than, and not good enough, and where are my friends, came whirling right into focus, but this time I decided not to wander, I just sat. I sat where I was and I started talking. A lot. About who I was and what I was doing and wearing and who I liked and didn’t like. And I got my heart broken multiple times and I wrote about that. But I did so much talking, so much talking about, that I still wasn’t feeling right? If you asked me how I felt it would’ve taken me 10 minutes just to find the right word.

Two weeks ago I made a shift in my life. I asked my therapist for her guidance and together we looked at a feeling wheel. I started naming my feelings one after the other. Fear overlapped with desire overlapped with joy overlapped with disappointment and loneliness and contentedness. I was starstruck because when I started to allow myself to feel, I started to feel better. More at ease, less like I was other than and more like I just was. I. Just. Am. Miracle right?

To add another layer in the last few days it’s all come back to me, how I feel, what action I take, what I put in my body, what I put on my body. I’m gathering the evidence wherein the times I feel lonely or scared are the times I’m so disconnected from my body, I’m in so much pain because I put the blinders on and choose something destructive over just sitting with my emotions. The sitting is scary, but it’s human.

I’m embracing it. And I’m feeling better. I’m feeling like I can show up for my life and be present without constantly thinking, “but when this happens I’ll be better off.” There are no future guarantees in this life, but I have now. Right now is a guarantee. Do what you want with it.

One Reason Why

One Reason Why

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A simple, unfiltered photo of my home // Carpet thanks to Experimental Vintage 

Oh loves there are a million and one reasons why I haven’t written a post recently, so I cut the crap and I’m writing instead. Isn’t it funny that we can put so much between us and what we love to do? Why do you think that is? Fear? Anxiety? Groceries? Today was my first day off in a bit and I’ve lulled around in it, cleaned, spoken to a friend who warms my heart, and now I’m here, inhabiting this small space I’ve cut out for myself in the very very enormous internet. How are we? I’ve been a bit sick (probably has something to do with drinking after a long period of time in sobriety). I’ve been busy at work, getting to know work. I’ve been reading and trying to finish the memoir I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This. I need to get some snail mail out. That’s more my to-do list than anything else. Recently I’ve been learning what it means to embrace being alone. I’ve been alone for long bouts of time, but I’ve always struggled with sitting in there. Recently, I’ve been very cautious towards letting anyone hold my heart for too long. If I see a red flag or I’m just not one-hundred percent there, I pull myself out. It’s hard though. That space feels comfortable in the way growing up did: it was scary and confusing, harsh, and abusive, but it was home. Maybe we can redefine home. Maybe home doesn’t have to be a place. Maybe my home ebbs and flows, like the tide. Maybe it just is. Just is. Reminds me of my new favorite last lines from The Orange by Wendy Cope: I love you. I’m glad I exist.

I had sex for the first time in a long time last weekend. It was strange in the way sex is with a stranger. It’s a new space, new spots, an entirely new feeling coexisting between you and this person. It’s raw and made me feel uninhibited and fulfilled. Definitely choosing a bit of freedom in my sex life right now. It feels good to be in a place where my longing doesn’t unspool, but rather lingers, quietly, afresh, ready to be touched.