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.

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.

Love is Love

Love is Love

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Over the past few days I’ve been beating myself up for not having the words to write anything down. I’ve been talking a lot, but writing significantly less. And then I got an idea. What if I just talked. I’ve seen countless women do it on countless platforms, what if I just tried. So this is me trying to have a conversation with you all. It’s a tentative unedited 9 minutes of me talking about love. The different forms it takes in my life, the ways I want love now and tomorrow, and it’s inspired by all the love I currently have in my life. Love is something that we all get to share. Although it varies in the forms it takes, it’s the one universal tie that binds us all. I’m speaking from a place of fear, of hope, of LOVE. For you and me and for this. I mention the podcast I posted yesterday featuring Anne Lamott and Glennon Doyle Melton. I mention Cheryl Strayed who has one of my favorite quotes about love in her book of letters, Tiny Beautiful Things:

“It is not so incomprehensible as you pretend, sweet pea. Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep.”

I want love for you. Whatever form it may take. I know we are worthy. Please let me know if you want to continue this dialogue with me. I’d love to keep holding this space and having conversations with as many of you as I can.

PS: Sometimes we need love bowls. I suggest you keep yours well-stocked. Let yourself see love, really see it, and suddenly you’ll see how surrounded you are by it. All the damn time.

Just Listen

Just Listen

 

Hey you loves! I’m having trouble finding my words today. I started crushing a little bit on someone. It’s making me shaky and doubtful and excited and I blush constantly. So I’m getting grounded by listening to these ladies. Bird by bird as Anne says. That’s all that’s required of us today. Right now. There’s so much goodness here. Listen with me. Please.