Twenty-Four Things I Know To Be True

Twenty-Four Things I Know To Be True

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.

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.

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.

First the Pain, Than the Rising

First the Pain, Than the Rising

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.

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.

The People of The Bathroom Floor

The People of The Bathroom Floor

You guys this OPENED UP MY HEART

How many bathroom floor moments have you had? Where you knees hit the cool tile, your head presses against the floor, and your heart bursts open. I’ve had a few. I’ve asked for help. I’ve slammed my fists into the ground. I’ve cried and yelled. I’ve asked forgiveness. I’ve heard God. Eat, Pray, Love begins with a memorable bathroom floor moment. Glennon Doyle Melton shares about hers in Love Warrior. In case you’re unfamiliar, a bathroom floor moment is rock bottom. It’s the moment when we fall apart. When we don’t know how to keep going, if we can keep going. It’s when we turn our wills over, ask for help, listen to someone, anyone to give it. We people of the bathroom floor know that everything starts from the bottom up. We don’t get to rise if we start on our feet.

Last night during a moment of doubt, I finished watching GDM’s family meeting on Facebook Live. In the last 30 seconds she mentioned her people, the people of the bathroom floor, the people of rock bottoms, and how her people know that before we rise we have to fall: “As people of the bathroom floor we know that everything beautiful starts on the bathroom floor.” I LOVED her words. I loved her words so much. I’ve always been looking for my people. Last night it became VERY clear that my people of the unicorns of the bathroom floor. The unicorns of the bathroom floor. Because anyone who has had there knees pressed into the ground, anyone who has lost anything understands that to rise we have to be mythical. We have to be stronger than we’ve ever been before.

As people of the bathroom floor we know that when the going gets tough that’s when the miracles start happening. And boy are they happening in abundance in my life. Beauty stacked upon beauty. I’m trying to stay in the day, trying to stay even in the moment, but mannnn I just want to think about all of the future beauty that’s about to be born. I think what I’m really trying to say is I’m embracing a new way of living my life. In any moments of doubt, I’m putting the heavy right on down. In any moments of beauty I’m dancing my freaking heart out. I’m loving and showing-up and slowing down and remembering that I once prayed for days like these. Today was in my past prayers. How can I even begin to get over the beauty and awe of that? I hope I never do.

Walking Through the Muck

Walking Through the Muck

The tiny, beautiful note that changed my life.

The first time I saw those words I was waiting to cross the street in front of my childhood home. My heart was heavy. I live in a hell that I couldn’t get out. Everywhere I turned was misery. I felt helpless and terrified most of the time. I was 105 pounds and 5’6. There was nothing healthy in any sense of the word happening. I hated – no I loathed – my mother’s new boyfriend. And for really good reason. He was AWFUL. He was gross. He made me feel small and wounded even more than my mother already had. I had turned to a wise older friend for many years and on this particular day she sent me the advice of Sugar aka Cheryl Strayed aka one of my now favorite writers. I remember clinging to the words with all the hope of a survivor in a life raft. I was dessssperate.

Almost 8 years later I look at the note on my phone where I saved the words that changed my life. Acceptance is a small quiet room. Acceptance is not taking shit. Acceptance is not resigning myself to a life of monkhood. Acceptance is not bawling my eyes out every night. Acceptance is showing up today for my fucking repressed feelings. Acceptance is coming to terms with the fact that yup I have a problem with alcohol and commitment and intimacy. Acceptance is going to a professional and saying those words aloud and trying not to worry how I sound. Acceptance is not making some grand statement about change and relishing in a pretty bow on the ending of every blog post because this is my life and I don’t even own a bow let alone have enough energy to insert one into every life lesson. Cause sometime life lessons suck. Big time. And I’m still alive and sober and breathing and I can also feel my pain and feel raw and allow myself to just sit. There’s no shortcut through healing. We don’t get to the other side by a nice tidy raft. We walk. Usually alone. With a lot of self-doubt plagued by every other time it didn’t work out. This time I walk with a little bit of a whisper in my ear. I’m not in fact alone. Because if I was I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be okay. I wouldn’t feel safe and loved a lot of the time.

Acceptance is a small quiet room. It’s an understanding that today is where I need to be. That one day this helpless period of sadness and depression and loneliness will add up to something beautiful. There’s a scene in Love Warrior when the author Glennon Doyle Melton is talking to her God who’s sitting in the corner knitting. She’s telling her all the horrible ugly truths of her life. And she’s getting really frustrated that God just keeps knitting. Like what the fuck God? And then she takes a closer look and she realizes that God is knitting her life. Of course.

On the ugliest saddest loneliest days I think about my God knitting. Rocking back and forth. Working on the tapestry of my life. And literally a feel a pop in my sternum and I breathe.