I Figured It Out

Last week, I got to spend some time with my first college friend, friend for 30 years this year, friend for life. I'm also simultaneously working on a personal essay for my writing workshop about a boy I was in madly, deeply with, also from that college-era-early-20s time. Yesterday, I went for a run and tried and tried to keep my head where my feet were, first day of Spring, an equinox. I could feel my freckles popping with every bright bloom, but my thoughts kept saying, Let's go back, back, go back to that time, 20, 25, 30. Let's go back and dissect and examine, let's cut and splay it open and see what went wrong, what went right. 

I have a mix of love and hate with time travel, I'm certain we all do. I hate that it doesn't make me angry, or maybe that is what I love. I love that I am okay with what happened, or maybe that is what I hate. It was before I understood the gravity of the situation and maybe it was more ignorance and less denial then, but even though I always blacked out, even though I had woken up on city pavement, I still did not know that alcohol had already enveloped me, stunting my growth as it swallowed me whole. I still thought there was some magic formula yet to figure out or it was just some moral failing that I could rewind somehow, but when I did, and I was so determined, then I would reap all of the benefits from drinking again. I would be less stupid, less careless, less sloppy, less vomit, less piss. I would be all fun, all promiscuity and precociousness, all dancing on tables.

Hell, if I could have ever successfully pulled off dancing on a table, I may still be drinking.

And that's the thing.

I wanted it to make me into a table-dancer, and it never did.

I wanted it to make me irresistible, and it never did.

I wanted it to make me into a funny girl, the funniest girl in the room, surrounded by adoration and when she snarked that line, everyone would crack their heads back in a roar. And it never did.

It never happened.

I went to a George Saunders book signing event a few weeks ago. I went alone and it was standing room only and I wedged myself into a spot in front of a book shelf, next to a plant. I was fully there, I was feeling so embodied, so joyful, unforced laughter and nods spilled out of me, I felt uninhibited and free. After the presentation, I waited in line for my book to be signed with about 150 other Austinites. I approached a little shakily as I would approaching anyone for whom I have much respect and because my body shakes now, it shakes when scared, excited, anxious and he told me, Hey. You. You are a terrific audience member. I noticed you.

If you had told me then that that person I was looking for was right here, I would have never believed you. I would have shook my head and cried and smited you even. Come on, fish swim, birds fly and I drink, of course I drink. Just hang on while I figure it out.

Hang on.

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I finally figured it out.


I published a new tiny vignette on Medium in my series about relationships and alcohol, if you get the boreds and feel like indulging me!

If Not Now, When?

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The weight of impermanence. When you say it, it's like it wants to be light like, Hey, Nothing Lasts Forever. And then you remember that yeah, it's not just that shitty mood or that gallon of ice cream that doesn't last forever but also joy and grief and time on this planet. That is the paradox. The only things permanent are the most subjective: relationships and experiences, because even when they've passed or ended, they stay with you. They live inside smells and music and photos and laughter, thank you Impermanence for laughter. 

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

We can cheat impermanence by paying attention and then paying more attention. Lately, I've had to go inside and regroup, take some time to refluff my nest. And with my nest organized and comfortable, I've slowly been able to return my attention outward. A gratitude journaling meetup and workshop with Tammi Salas a couple of Sundays ago was just the reset I needed.

Cultivating relationships and experiences, making connections don't exactly cheat impermanence, it's still there, but they do establish relevance.

I was here.
And so are you.
We did this thing.

I've written about impermanence before and I'm no Buddhist, but it seems like the older I get, the more the lessons keep showing themselves. Now I contemplate the future, and not in a future-trippy way, I don't do that to myself anymore, but I do like to write out what I want my life to look like.

And funny, that looks a lot like it actually looks right now.

 

 

 

 

 

A Change Is Gonna Come

The biggest lesson I've learned in getting sober is that change doesn't just light on your shoulder like a bluebird in a Disney movie. Change is an action and sometimes it is brought forth by many tiny actions that accumulate over time. Sometimes change is the final tip that happens as a result of many small tips, one bumping up against the next like dominoes, until the last one topples over. Sometimes it's just the act of saying, Nope, this isn't working for me anymore, and that becomes the thing that knocks the first domino over. Some days, you may have more to give towards this change than other days, but the only way that last domino will tip is if you are actively moving towards it.

This could be a blog post about why I marched with 1000s of other like-minded people across this planet on January 21, 2017. Or this is simply a post about change. While I don't think that change begins or ends with one march, it did tip a domino that is bound to hit the next one. There is a giant mess to clean up right now, or many messes if you want break it down into smaller, less overwhelming heaps. And you can't toss a sponge without hitting one. There was a chaotic mess that had been growing for a long time in my head and soul and it had spilled out of me and into my life, family and home.  I finally got to cleaning that up in 2014. Now that my eyes are clear, I can better see the work that needs to be tackled outside of myself. Showing up for that march made me feel like I wasn't showing up with my bucket all alone, but that there are so many to lock arms with, showing up with their buckets too. If you are in recovery, you know the importance of the tribe, the weight of the community that will hold your mop when you need to take a break. That is what the march showed me.

Shaming anyone on either side is not helpful. Arming yourself with compassion is. Making signs and tshirts for the march, I got to express my passion creatively and carry my compassion around, literally, for everyone to see. Love is an action too.

This wasn't my first protest march but it was my kids' first protest march and hopefully it won't be their last. When I marched against apartheid in college, I wasn't thinking about the oppressor's feelings, but this time I did. I guess this is growth and what do you know? Change.

Daily Practices

Don't you love a good creative daily practice? I find that they really keep me grounded in the day, whatever they are at the moment, because I can get distracted like a MFr. To be clear, I'm not talking about prayer and meditation, yoga or brushing your teeth, although all of those obviously have value (and these are arguably creative too). I'm referring to a daily, creative activity that because you do it every day, it sort of forces your creativity to come out and play. Some have come and stayed, some have died for the moment. Morning Pages and a happy jar are the first that come to mind that seemed to have fizzled for the moment, but they can come back anytime. Some I adopted about a year ago I'm still successfully sticking with, like drawing a tarot card a day from The Wild Unknown deck or listing daily gratitudes in a gratitude circle comprised of some dear friends, both of which juice my brain and soul equally.

I always seem to come busting out the gate at the first of the year with some kind of new daily practice I've schemed. Right now, I'm posting one #dailygratitude on IG and I'm numbering them in hopes that that will keep me accountable for the year. I'm a photo-taker, so that one doesn't feel like too much effort. 

And speaking of tarot, there is a card that I often draw, more than I'd like actually. It is the Four of Cups and it's about being discontent (keep working on the gratitudes, Lady) but at the end it asks this question: What are you longing for? Name it. Well, my husband came back from the art store shortly after the New Year with a handful of journals that were in the sale bin. I grabbed one, not sure what I was going to do with it and then it hit me. Okay 4 of Cups, you win. I will name it. 

 

So I'm naming it and holding nothing back. 

I don't know about you, but I have high-level problems with expectations. I'm almost always left disappointed and sometimes resentful. This practice gets these 'wants' out of my head and onto the page. Done. Gone. It sort of deflates the expectation like a sad little balloon left in a hot car. If they happen, neutral. If they don't happen, neutral. It is just about the practice. And then it sort of magically frees my mind up to think about ways I can GIVE than GET. *Magic*

You know what else I get to include in my list of wants? Things I already have, because things I already have are things I want. And this is NEVER not the case.

What are your creative daily practices? I'd love to hear in the comments!

A Lesson in Surrender

The Recovery Gal's latest art exchange for the Winter Solstice has come and gone. If you want to catch up on what I'm referring to, you can here. The theme for this exchange was SURRENDER. Ah, I thought, and smugly I may add: I got this. I had the perfect, most Pinterest-worthy interactive piece of art all dreamed and schemed in my head, but there was only one problem. I couldn't start it. I was having so much resistance to making the thing and I couldn't figure out why. I knew I wanted it to be about a metamorphosis, the evolution that comes when one surrenders. The problem is that it's not the whole story, it's not my whole story. The bathroom floor, down on my knees moment had to be a part of it too. Most of my ideas come either in the shower or in a dream and this one floated through me in my sleep. I surrendered.

With this idea, I needed a box, a perfectly imperfect box that I made (without woodworking tools, mind you, and I wouldn't recommend) with my hands.

The two elements I kept from my first idea were a chrysalis and a butterfly, the metamorphosis, which I made with embroidery and applique. (I'm exchanging with two ladies as why there are two.)

I wanted to cover the box with words from an old journal. These particular words are significant because they were written in the middle of the night in one of the last years of my drinking. It was right around a birthday and I am attempting to describe, in barely legible handwriting, how my creativity only lies in the moments between sober and passed out. (If you want to see the journal entry in its entirety, it is here.) I thought that was the only magical creative moment for me and I chased it for decades. I cried as I made several copies of that journal entry to glue to my boxes. It's so hard to relive those moments, those lifetimes, so stuck, so miserable, so far from a solution. 

I used a decoupage-type glue and added many layers, so many layers of journal paper. I also added the words AND YET, NOT YET, which describes that continuous, incoherent state I was in, like purgatory. When the glue dried, I used an old grease marker to distress it more.

I glued the chrysalis and the butterfly wing to the front and back to finish it. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, exactly like my dream actually. It was very hard to make as it brought up so much emotion and the whole experience was one long exercise in surrender, the final piece, the metamorphosis.


I have to share the two stunning pieces I received from this #artexhange.

This is from Sarelle and please visit her blog to see her description of her process. It is so good. 

I can use it when I surrender to the day to get cozy under it with a book and a cup of tea. It reminds me of water, which is incorporated in the one and only tattoo I got when I was 19. One of my favorite things to do since I was a kid is to float in water and listen to my breath...surrender. I love this, the details are gorgeous.

My second piece came from Rachel. I'm going to paraphrase her description.

The idea is that when we stop trying to make the world go away and put down the umbrella and just experience the cold, wet rain, the pain, the discomfort, it isn't so bad. Just as the tree surrenders its leaves in the winter for new ones to grow, so should we. And the umbrella is actually a sketch collaged on to the piece, which is a metaphor for what we think is protecting us is sometimes just a mirage, or a story in our head. This piece is utterly beautiful, the woman looks so at peace, just putting her umbrella down and feeling the rain. It is going to hang in my studio for every moment I need to remember this.

If you want to follow along on Instagram to see the full collection of art exchanged this Winter Solstice, search the hashtag #artexchange and #recoverygalsartexchange . The pieces are still trickling in as the holidays threw some of us behind. If you are interested in joining in the next one planned for the Spring Equinox, contact me or Tammi Salas. We'll be coming up with the next theme in the next few weeks. This is seriously one of the most meaningful things I'm doing right now. I love all of the art we are making...pinch me.

JOY

Lately, I've been suffering from a bout of catastrophic thinking. Do you do this? It is a thing and I've only known it to be a thing for few years now when I heard Maria Bamford talking about it on a WTF pod with Marc Maron. I don't know if it's been all of the celebrity deaths this year or just the general suckiness of 2016, but this week I had to drive my kids a couple of hours away to visit family and I'd decided that we would definitely have a wreck, my house would burn down and my cat would get run over. And once the thoughts start, they just cycle over and over until I'm exhausted. I thought for a minute that I was the only one plagued by this, me and Maria Bamford, but when I posed the question in a secret Facebook group, turns out I'm not the special snowflake that I always assume I am. This is something I've always done and since the monkeys are no longer sedated, the intensity has only gotten worse in sobriety.

Simultaneous to the recent feelings of dread, this word has been jumping out to surprise me from every corner. It has passed through my ears from podcasts, shown up in my tarot cards and horoscopes, and has even taken center stage from all of my recent book recommendations. Just as change and death are inevitable, so is paradox, and thank god because this word has given me a way to distract and redirect my thoughts. I decided to make it my word to focus on in the coming year. Much like my chosen word for 2016, EVOLVE, kept me focused had me saying YES to so much that I couldn't help but evolve, I'm determined to continue my quest to find what brings me joy, and do that. I'm determined to find joy in giving and receiving, find joy in community, creativity, in the bigness and the mundane. I realize that joy won't necessarily always be waiting for me in toilet cleaning and dental chairs, but if there is one key that unlocks this whole thing we call existence, it is that our thoughts create our experiences, and those include roadtrips and toilet cleaning.

Today, on January 1, I climbed 1000 feet up a giant granite rock into this big, blue beautiful sky. Even as shit may swirl around us, I will keep filling up my joy cup. Let me know if you need some. 

Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock

Housekeeping

Me and housekeeping go way back. I was never taught to love housekeeping or be mindful over it. I was never taught anything except to have disdain over it. So when I figured out that it could be a drinking activity, it became not only tolerable but an event that I looked forward to for the ritual I had created around it. Back in my single apartment dwelling days, I would save all of the cleaning and laundry for my day off, buy a giant bottle of Gallo Red and a pack of smokes and drink and clean, and drink and smoke and clean and fold and smoke and drink some more, all day. Usually, I would get lost in some old photos or a particular record would have me journal illegibly, but I would always wake up to a hangover and a clean apartment. 

The hardest things for me to get back to after getting sober was cooking and then surprisingly, doing the ensuing dishes. In the beginning, I just had to take time off from cooking and it was both sad and hard. I love to cook but I hadn't done much inspired cooking without my companion glass(es) of wine. I had my husband step in instead while I would head out the door, earbuds in, for a walk at 5pm. Or we had lots of pre-made dinners during that time that just required time in the oven. The crockpot saved me as well as that was loaded up before noon and I was generally safe from the obsessive thoughts. 

The dishes, though. You wouldn't think a task so seemingly blameless and uninvolved is still something I only approach if I am of strong mind. Doing the dishes was always something I would save until after everyone went to bed and I could finish the bottle, or open another most likely, and drink without six discerning eyes on me. Now, I often go to bed with dishes in the sink because you know what? Who cares. I go to bed sober with dishes in the sink and no one is marred from that. I figure my kids have therapy to look forward to over many things but it won't be because I left dishes in the sink.

My love for cooking has reblossomed and I'm very grateful for that. My Granny was a baker and just an all-around fabulous Southern cook, so it is in my DNA. I get great comfort from preparing a dinner or baking a pie, and I'm so pleased that this is the warm emotion that I feel now.

And you will know peace.

If you are reading this, maybe you made it through Thanksgiving sober, and maybe you didn't. And we have more to get through. My first Thanksgiving was very hard and I just powered through but just know, you don't have to power through. You can do less or you don't have to do it at all, I promise it will all be okay if you choose your sobriety and sanity. There will be another overly stimulating, inflated holiday next year, I promise.

I really do love to make pie. All of the Southern women in me love pie. Buttermilk is my favorite but this year I also made a pecan, which was my Daddy's favorite. Every time I've taken a walk in the last few weeks, I've brought a bag with me to gather pecans that have fallen on the streets and sidewalks in my neighborhood.  I'm sure to feel wistful when they've stopped falling.

I won't give you a pie recipe because they are all mostly the same. I will tell you that I make my own crust and I use butter AND Crisco. I don't care what anyone says, it's the best crust ever, end of argument (winky face). 

I would recommend making yourself a pie, on a Tuesday even. I would also recommend having pie for breakfast, with a fat cup of coffee. Go ahead. I give you permission.


Now for a bit more housekeeping. I have made some recovery themed embroidery art and it is over in the Marketplace. Perfect gift for that sober person in your life that seems to have everything!

The next bit is that Tammi Salas and I are going to be on the Since Right Now podcast this week! It will be live Wednesday evening but then rebroadcast after. We're going to talk about creativity and how it informs our recovery.  Look for SRN on Itunes, Soundcloud or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Finally, I am currently accepting submissions to Meet The Unruffled. If you are in recovery and find that creativity really fuels that, I would love to feature you and highlight your words/art/photography/poetry/music/hog calling/indigenous mushroom collecting/swamp dancing/whatevs. Bonus if you live in or around Austin, TX and I'll come and photograph you doing the thing. Hit me up!

Day One

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. --Albert Einstein

So what does this mean, on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, the day after one of the most divided Presidential elections I've seen in my lifetime? Because I need to find the miracle in this. 

Choosing love and compassion every damn day feels like a miracle to me. And when I say that, I am not just talking about compassion for the marginalized, but compassion for the ones with whom we disagree, and even the ones we fear. Because when we are talking about the marginalized, as much as the white, liberal, educated elite (which includes me, by the way) don't want to look at this, we are talking about the unemployed or underemployed, uneducated, and sometimes addicted white person that voted for the one person they thought was listening to them. My kids are watching me and they are acting how I act, doing what I do and I can't teach compassion unless I'm doing it. There is a miracle in that.

If we've hit rock bottom as a country, and many of us know a lot about rock bottoms, the only direction to go from here is up. And being in recovery, I also know that that requires change and making good choices and showing up and staying present and pushing up my sleeves to get to work. If there was ever a time to be sober and present, it is now. If there was ever a time to ask, "Where does it hurt?*", it is now. I can't ask that if I'm shackled to the throes of self-absorption and pity-parties that I was in when I was drinking. There are miracles in rock bottoms.

So what do we do now? I'm going to look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers would say. Helping always yields miracles, without fail. I will continue to speak up for injustices, to not agree with the unagreeable, but I know I need to be a listener. Because that is what feels right. There are miracles in listening. 

*This was a question asked by Ruby Sales in an interview she did with Krista Tippett on On Being a few months ago. I highly recommend listening to it, twice even, as she talks about non-violence, public theologies, finding true middle ground and really makes sense of the spiritual crises in white America (and why that white America would elect a man like Donald Trump).

A Love Letter

After a weekend of transporting my kids to performances, gymnastics and elementary school Halloween carnivals, I finally got to escape one early evening to go to a reading, hosted just out of town at a friend's ranch.  I pulled on to the tollway, the sun was beginning to set and as I started driving into the magic hour, INXS's Don't Change came on the radio.

I'm standing here on the ground
The sky above won't fall down

I increased my speed to 80 mph (the speed limit, by the way, I try and follow most bylaws now) and flying down the tollway, blasting that song and singing to the top of my lungs, every hair on my body was standing on end. I even said to myself, Please remember this, this is joy.

I think back to when I was a teenager, before I started compulsively tamping down or amping up the way I felt with booze. I remember wanting this pair of purple Jordache, purple nylon Nikes and a neon sherbet plaid Santa Cruz crop top SO BAD that my stomach would ache. They would catch my eye at Foley's and I would stare longingly at them until I felt like I would throw up, I wanted them so bad. But I wouldn't. It would pass and I would go home without them and live another day. The outfit was eventually a birthday present, I think, but the point is, I moved through the pain, anxiety and sadness over not having that outfit, felt it fully in my body, felt like I may puke but got up to go to school the next day. And without being able to tell you specifically, I'm sure I channeled that energy into something productive or creative, even if it was Algebra.

I don't think pain and anxiety and sadness necessarily feel good, but I can feel them. I'm no longer numb and I have some gratitude for the extremes because it makes me feel alive. The danger zone for me is discontentment. It's that feeling that you can't put your finger on but it sounds like meh. There's a line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (pg. 61) that says:

Is (s)he not a victim of delusion that (s)he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if (s)he only manages well?

The context is about self-will and control and, drinking or sober, it's about telling the world, This is my perfectly curated world, everything is fine, nothing to see here. And don't get me wrong, some days simply managing my life is parade-worthy. But if I stay there, as Good Life-Manager and that is all I am, I am not satisfied or happy and I am extremely discontent. I have to wake up every day and consciously Surrender. I have to surrender to change and evolution. I have to surrender to possibilities, to mystery, to magic...to freedom. That is the only place my happiness and satisfaction lies. It's taken me two and half years to name that feeling that I've felt for 47 years.*

So now when I'm feeling the super uncomfortable feelings, which is joy sometimes, ironically, I try and channel that into creativity. This is why I love working with my hands, particularly, because expressing myself outwardly means that my outsides are finally matching my insides. 

Self-portrait. It's okay to still call them that, right?

Self-portrait. It's okay to still call them that, right?

It's fun to think of life as a performance piece. Or my Mid-Life Solution, as I oh so affectionately like to refer to this time as. Your creativity doesn't have to be channeled as art, per se. I want to take up boxing, get a new tattoo or five, write a novel, get my nose pierced, because I'm not done. I'm not done evolving or changing and surrendering to that everyday is exciting.

I dressed UP for Halloween this year because I was Barb in high school and still basically am and will always be Barb. #strangerthings

I dressed UP for Halloween this year because I was Barb in high school and still basically am and will always be Barb. #strangerthings

I recently got to dress myself for a wedding and I imagined my outfit and then I made it. I haven't gotten to do that in a long time, so it was really fun. All hand stitched with a needle and thread and my two capable hands.

This is probably as close to teenage Molly Ringwald as I'll ever get. #myhero

This is probably as close to teenage Molly Ringwald as I'll ever get. #myhero

I knocked this design off from Lanvin Spring 2017 RTW (vogue.com if you want to check it out).

I knocked this design off from Lanvin Spring 2017 RTW (vogue.com if you want to check it out).

*This post started as a love note to my future self that I can refer back to when I'm feeling stuck in a rut. And a funny thing happened on the way to writing it, life. Yep, I've been so busy with events, tasks and tedium that something I started three weeks ago, I'm just now finishing and changing and adding to and embellishing. And sometimes, skimming the surface and not taking myself too seriously is the other thing I need and it is just as important as contemplating my existence. Life is such a melange of paradox, no? Some days I do need to surrender to the possibility of growth and magic and some days I just want to laugh at fart jokes and say, screw the work. Both are me. Both are okay. I'm just grateful to even find meaning in the tedium.

 

 

Reflection

I know I keep yapping about this #artexchange, but it's seriously been one of the most fun things I've ever participated in, so bear with me. When creativity and recovery collide, this is the ultimate climax (for me and I *think* the other participants are feeling it too). I can't wait to start working on the next exchange and I'll speak more about that in a second. 

You have to see what I received. This is from my friend, Caitlin, whom I'm just getting to know in this community. She made two of these, and she pressed one up against the other as a reflection, which was the theme. 

Isn't it stunning? I think it's stunning. It looks like the ocean at night with the moon reflecting off its waves. It has so much texture that it almost becomes interactive (re. I just want to touch it).

And it came with this beautiful poem.

Gah. How lucky am I?

We have exchanged names for the next #artexchange and it's going to be a huge one. They will be presented the week of the Winter solstice (December 21) and of course I'll be back to yap some more on my process first, what I've received later. This exchange's theme is surrender and that could be the title song to the soundtrack of my life. Everyday is a surrender, so I can't wait to jump in. Be sure to follow me on Instagram as I'm sure I'll be giving some little sneakpeeks in the process. We're also using the hashtags #artexchange and #recoverygalsartexchange if you want to see all of the work as a collection.

In the meantime, Happy Making! And thank you for my beautiful Reflection, Caitlin.

Renaissance Girl

My first year of college, I finally got brave enough to sign up for a theater arts class. Away from my small town and that identity I thought I was stuck with, it felt like a fresh start. My first monologue was from The Glass Menagerie and I couldn't even tell you one line of it now, but I do remember that I was so nervous and I know I didn't nail it. Afterwards, the professor's critique was that I could have worked on it some more but he could see that I had natural talent and I should keep going.  I actually thought he lied to me. There is a line you hear in the rooms: I was the biggest piece of shit in the center of the universe. I had zero self-worth yet I thought I was so special as to be the one student who this professor, one I found out later rarely doled out compliments, would lie to. So what did I do? I never took another theater class again. In fact, I stayed away from the arts almost completely because I had decided I just wasn't that girl.

So I continued my education in the liberal arts and lurked around the performing and visual arts. All of my friends were visual and performing arts majors, I participated in various art projects on campus but always as a transcriber or a researcher of some sort. It wasn't until post-college that I really allowed myself to pursue photography. And while I always had an individual style, that was when I really began to own it and started making my own things and really expressing myself. I also started writing in my journal fairly consistently and wrote a lot of letters at this time too (pre-internets, youngins').

The more creativity I engaged in, the more I wanted to do it and the more confidence I gained around it. I don't think it would be fair to say that booze was completely working for me at this point in my life, but it also didn't have me completely unraveling at the seams quite yet. I can now see that had I been sober, I probably would have been able to more successfully wear all of my different hats and step into that place with aplomb. Instead, when someone would ask me, What do you do? I would make a self-deprecating joke that I was a Renaissance Girl: Jack of All Trades, Master of None. 

Like with most things, the more I said it, the more comfortable I got with it and now completely embrace it. I love the more recent terms to describe a person who does many things as multi-passionate or a multipotentialite. What I loved most about my adopted title is that it's humbling. It means I'm always a student. And right now, the most profound thing I need to master is abstinence from alcohol. I also aspire to master standing in the way of truth, beauty, service, gratitude and courage. Yeah, I want to master that.

Getting back to logistics though, what does it look like when a person wears many hats? We all should know by now that the idea of a perfect balance is a total myth, especially if you throw in partnering and parenting. There are times when it feels leveled out though, and I thought I would talk about that a bit. My personality type is INFP, which means I'm not a meticulous planner but am an okay executor. Especially now that the booze has been removed from my life, I can follow through like a motherf*cker. Amazing how that happened. 

Here are some other things I do:

I commit whole days to one thing. I can get distracted by ANYTHING, but if I stay with one project for a day or two, I have a better chance of seeing it to completion before moving on to the next thing. And I sleep better.

If I have to move from project to project, I set a timer. Okay, sometimes it's an internal timer, but you get the point. Sometimes deadlines all fall around the same time, so it's necessary to jump from thing to thing. Or, and this really never fails, I'm sewing and I think of something I want to write about OR WHAT REALLY NEVER FAILS is that I'll get some clarity around something I was stuck on and if I don't stop and write that minute, poof, it will be gone. So I'll let myself do that but then I always try and go back to the thing I was originally jamming on.

I don't have much of social life. I don't watch TV. I'm not saying this is for everyone, but this is how I do it. And honestly, I wake up so excited about what I'm working on, I want to work and it doesn't feel like a sacrifice. I have to be careful, though, about the isolate-y tendencies. You know, introverts, you know. 

I try and focus on the experience and not the outcome. Yes, I need to make money and yes, I am human and care what people think about me and my work, but if I get too wrapped up in that, I get overwhelmed, it's not fun anymore and I want to curl up in the fetal position, cry and question the meaning of life. So I really try and just enjoy the journey and then I do.

I know when I need to FULL STOP. Sometimes, it is time to hang it up and go to bed with a book and a cup of tea. At 4pm. And that's okay. Because I am only truly mastering staying sober and if that is a book in bed at 4pm or if it is impromptu coffee date with a girlfriend or if it's wandering around a library for nothing special and that is what my soul needs to not want something that doesn't nourish it, then that is what I do. 

As a multi-passionate, I think about this stuff ALL THE TIME. Another thing we hear in the rooms is, Keep it simple. My heart won't let me go there necessarily, so to keep it sober, I am always trying to make it all work. Please, if you are a sober wearer of many hats, how do you do it? Do you have any tricks? I'd LOVE to hear from you in the comments!! In the meantime, embrace your inner Jack, okay?


PS. If you want to read the latest words that I was stuck on for weeks when I was trying to write the thing but seemed to want to flow out of me when I was sewing, here's my last essay in my Relationships and Booze series on Medium. Thank you for the indulgence! 

 

 

God, Help Me Change The Things I Cannot Accept

I've had a couple of friends in my life recently that have wanted to talk to me about their drinking. I really like these coffee dates as it forces me to dig back, way back before this blog, before I met my beloved recovery community, before I ever Googled "Am I An Alcoholic?", before I'd ever uttered one word of the Serenity Prayer. It wasn't that long ago. It's a lifetime ago.

That morning in the summer of 2014, I woke up and knew it was finally time to change the things I could no longer accept. It was one moment in time, like the Sun breaking through a cloudy sky, and if I didn't raise my hands and my head upward, the next moment would be different, it would be dark again. 

I could no longer accept breaking promises to myself. I could no longer accept breaking promises to my family. I could no longer accept disappointing my son and hearing him say, No More, Mom. I could no longer accept my unpredictable behavior. I could no longer accept my lack of sleep, interrupted nightly with 2am full body sweats and shakes and the sensation that my heart was beating out of my body. I could no longer accept spending money I didn't have on booze, spending my kid's money on booze, selling family heirlooms for money to buy booze. I could no longer accept waking up and not knowing where I was or waking up and saying, "Thank you for getting me home safely" to a God that I only spoke to when I was up Shit Creek. I could no longer accept those tingling hands, the year-long eye twitch, the normal of feeling like curdled milk everyday. I could no longer accept not seeing one single dream of mine to fulfillment. Not one.

I didn't know what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but I was going to do something. I took some of my power back that day. Now, every day I live sober is a celebration of this new life. There is not always a parade, but I am grateful every damn day. 

Gratitude is an action and making some art expresses that. So many friends I've made in the last two years, friends that I am so grateful for, are converging on Austin in November for a conference. I want to be armed with not just any old business cards but with my little cards of gratitude, and since this is right around the corner, I best get started!

I love LOVE collecting boxes of cool, vintage playing cards. And these little artist trading cards you can get at any art supply store and HOW CUTE ARE THEY?? Other supplies you'll need are pens, glue, easy peasy.

I like to wing things, so I'm going straight to pen but that also means that each one will be different and that is what I'm going for. After I've added a butterfly and sufficient info, glue. Done.

I'm in love with my cards almost as much as I'm in love with my life. This is not just a thing I'm doing. I'm not just trying to get through it. This is my life now. This is me.

What can you no longer accept?

When An #artexchange Is More Than An #artexchange

Do you know what it's like to be enthusiastic with someone? Like really dork-out hard on ideas, projects and dreams and just be down-right giddy, nothing withheld? I've had relationships like this in my life and if these brainstorming sessions involved booze (which they often did), the ideas were left right there with the empty bottles and over-flowing ashtrays. 

And then it happened when I met Tammi. Initial social media exchanges revealed mutual interests and before long, there were phone dates and ideas for projects with actual plans and timelines for follow-through. I've not buzzed so electric with dreamy creativity in a long time. We laugh about being separated at birth and I don't know if that ever really happens, but if babies were delivered by stork, we were definitely hatched from the same egg. 

After some thoughts tossed around about the possibility of our kids doing an art exchange, we got the idea for an adult version and put the call out to our creative sober community. The response blew me away. Tammi always says, Pinch Me and honestly, that thing you hear that if you wrote out the best possible version of your life post-sobriety, you would have sold yourself short? Well, that's true. Pinch me. 

The specifics of the art exchange are the participants make a piece of art from any medium (visual, poetry, photography...as long as it can be snail-mailed or emailed) on a recovery related theme. We drew random pairs and the dates for exchanges were set for the equinoxes and solstices. The theme that Tammi and I decided for this first exchange was Reflection, and our participants were encouraged to interpret the theme in any way that seemed fitting.

Sitting in reflection is a place I've spent much time in sobriety. Whether you are taking steps or doing the actual Steps, unpacking the events in your life that have led you to where you are is something that most of us in recovery feel compelled to do. I personally try not to get too tangled up in the 'what ifs'. Every road that we didn't take in our lives, we have no experience of  and therefore, without getting into the metaphysicality of it, doesn't exist. So for the artist or creative person, in trying to make sense of your life, the examination becomes its own product. It can be art or words, it can be meaty or syrupy, but what is happened, exactly the way it was supposed to. I need reminders and need to be reminded, and then I need to pass it on.

I knew I would probably go with some textile art since textiles are my jam, but the grand idea came to me where all grand ideas originate, the shower. I've had these antique hand mirrors for a while. They are such pretty dust collectors, *sigh*. I just knew they should be the premise for my pieces. (Note: My exchange is a three-way because we had an odd number of participants. So I made two pieces and I'll receive two pieces. Lucky me.)

I broke out the mirrors and got to work on the replacements.

What a pretty reminder, right? Still beautiful, nothing has changed and it never will. How comforting. And so is embroidery, by the way. I highly recommend picking up some thread and hoops. Couch activity, need I say more.

Perfectly imperfect.

Perfectly imperfect.

I added a little quilt padding, stitched it onto a felt backing and glued it in.

It's perfectly fine lying down.

It's perfectly fine lying down.

Or it's interactive!

Or it's interactive!

This is one of the funnest experiences I've ever had. The photos are coming in, so follow over on Instagram (and Tammi's IG here) and I'll post what I've received when they come in. There are a bunch of us beauties (15 to be exact), so if you want to see the whole she-bang, we are using hashtags #artexchange and #recoverygalsartexchange .

If you are a sober creative and are interested and jumping in on the next #artexchange, contact me or Tammi! We'd love to have you. Next exchange date is set for the Winter Solstice, December 21st, theme TBD.

Pinch me.

When Things Keep Falling Apart

I'm starting to post a series of vignettes over on Medium that are about relationships and booze. I've been working on these essays for a little over a year now, reading them aloud in my writing workshop and then stacking them in a pile in the corner. So I decided I may as well collect them on a public platform, right?? I'm going to try and post one every other week, so I'd love it if y'all come and check me out over there from time to time. I'm sharing the latest one here, but I won't every time. So in the meantime, Write On!


It was supposed to work. This trip was supposed to fix us. I do remember this. But the rest of that year? It's like trying to remember the year I turned ten. I remember how I felt about turning double digits. I remember how I felt about flying down that hill on my bike, banana seat between my legs, going so fast that I didn't have to hold the handlebars but only feel the streamers flutter in my face. I remember I felt strong and in control of that particular moment, Queen of the Banana Seats, joyfully reigning on that one wild ride of my tenth year. I don't remember if I had a birthday party or who my teacher was that year. I don't remember who my best friend was or if I could even count the number of people who I knew loved me. That's how I remember all of 2004 and particularly that trip to the Catskills for a wedding that was supposed to fix my broken marriage. 

There are other feelings I remember from 2004:  anger, so much anger and vitriol, which always bubbled right below the surface just dying to be poked. It never matter who started it, who hated who more, who was the bigger victim or martyr, it was always there and reeking. There was no sequence of events like clues in a Scooby-Do episode where you can review and say, YES, obviously it was that guy who would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids.  There was just always a low-level rumbling of wrongness and the gallons of booze poured over that made the land far too murky to find the source.  

I also remember laughter, so much laughter everyday until my stomach hurt. Funny how the anger and the laughter caused the same pain, two sides of the same coin that I didn't even want in my pocket, much less tell you how it landed there. But somehow all of that laughter and all of the Lonestar-fueled Jackass antics felt like we were doing something very important. It entitled us to mock and ridicule life and society and anything that remotely resembled being a grown-up, even though being married and having a house and a kid would attempt to argue otherwise. 

I remember always feeling anxious over my toddler and particularly over him never wanting to fall asleep, in spite of the near-nightly loud adult noises and wafts of food and booze going on in other rooms that I had always imagined toddlers should be able to sleep through. I was always anxious over loud thumps in the night that forever will be the sound that is made when a toddler falls out of his bed and hits the hardwood floor. I remember how a cabin in the Catskills sounded like sweet relief from having to manage a chaotic environment of toddler tantrums and biting hangovers, even if only for five days and four nights.  

I remember I packed too much for a cabin in the woods built for two, but where only one would actually stay.  I remember feeling nervous about attending a wedding where I would be mingling with the New York indie scene and I thought someone might actually see me. The days leading up to the wedding, I remember drinking lots of wine alone. I remember there was never enough wine in this beautiful cabin in the woods built for two, while my husband was surely out there in another part of the woods doing things that involved lots of beer and did not involve wearing shirts. I took a lot of walks on the wooded path that led up to the cabin and I remember wishing I would see a bear. I imagined a bear would wander out onto the path, too far ahead that she couldn't outrun me if I had to run but we would both stop and look at each other, or rather, she would notice me. And then we would resume walking. The morning of the wedding, my husband came by to put on his suit and I remember putting on the darkest purple eyeshadow that I had. I remember I felt dizzy and hot and I that I couldn't to talk to him. I remember it took a long time for him to tie his tie. 

I remember missing my toddler because I knew he was the one person in the world that would wake up that morning and notice I wasn't there. And he would still miss me even though in the short time we had known each other I had not really been there because I was always checked out, fallen down, dead drunk or just not noticing. The need to be seen yet not seeing, that is what I remember. 

One morning back in Texas, I was up watching Good Morning America and the scene still plays in my head as clear as anything from that year.  "Up next we talk to a couple that is celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary!" The gray-haired couple smiled at the camera, perfectly nestled into each other, knob into crevasse, as if they were one being.  After commercial, the jolly reporter asked, "So what is the secret to staying married for so long?" They looked into each other's milky-glassed eyes, and he said, "We just never fell out of love at the same time." My mind screen-shotted that moment and filed it away, methodically without one single produced feeling. 

Our marriage was over two months later. 

 

Lessons In Impermanence*

Do you feel that? It's in the air, almost palpable. It feels like unrest. It feels like I've spun the Wheel of Fortune and it's landed on Lose Your Turn or Bankrupt (cue the Wa Wa Wa music).

You see, I've not been sleeping well lately. My usual, blissful sleep has been interrupted every night for the last two weeks with thoughts, fears, worries, not-enoughs, never-enoughs and why-bothers. A happy life (or a good night's sleep) isn't served to us with a money back guarantee. Building something does not ensure they will come. Unrest happens and sleep doesn't. Pain happens and contentment doesn't. Self-doubt happens and a pink cloud doesn't. The world is influx and so must I be.

So I've tried to walk. To walk, one foot in front of the other and I've tried to stay present and do all the things, but it's hard. It's hard when your head is in a fog from not enough sleep. It feels familiar. I felt this for a decade. It feels like sleepwalking and I never want to sleepwalk again.

So I've surrendered to the feeling. This is the well from where creativity bubbles. If I can keep doing tiny things that have a beginning, middle and end, this keeps me walking and keeps me grounded. And when I find I'm being launched back out into the stratosphere, this is what tethers me. I know the trust-line is sturdy and eventually I will land safely back on the Planet of Me. 

My brain can only work in the literal right now so making a tiny chapbook was really beckoning me. 

Self-deprecating disclaimer: I am no book binder. There undoubtedly exists 1000s of book-binding tutorials that are better than mine. I'm just a recovering perfectionist who likes to make things.

Here are roughly the things you will use. I used regular card stock. I also used a rotary cutter with a mat, but scissors and any type of paper would work as well.

I counted out how many pages I wanted for my book (mine has 8 pages with a front and back cover), and from there, I cut the stock in half, folded them into quarters and nested them together.

Then I sketched out a template for my cover and since I am adding stitching with embroidery thread, I placed the template over my cover and used a pushpin to punch holes in my design for the stitching. You want to make sure the punch goes all the way through your cover.

Then start stitching.

Next, I stamped on my title. Or you could stitch your title. That would be cool as well.

Next comes the binding part. Re-nest your pages and use your thumbtack again to punch three equally distant holes. Take another piece of embroidery thread (don't tie it), thread down the middle hole, up through the bottom hole, down through the top hole, then back up once more through the center hole. 

Pull your two strings tight and tie. 

Since this is a book about impermanence, I just started the first page. Things will keep changing, that is inevitable, so I'll keep adding to it. I pulled out some paper lace I have stashed, some vintage carved stamps and walked into my first fear that's been keeping me up at night. 

I hope sleep comes before I get to the end of my chapbook. Regardless, I'll keep walking

*I have to give credit to my brilliant friend Spike who started this conversation about impermanence. Also, I lost this entire blog post once, so this is draft two. And the lessons continue.

 

It's All Going To Be Okay

Whenever anyone asks me, HOW? How do I do this? My answer is always,

  • Can you meet me for coffee?
  • Can you meet someone for coffee?
  • Can you take a walk?
  • Can you take a scalding hot shower?

My answer is always to ask a question back and that question always involves an action.

For the years leading up to July 13, 2014, my question was always, WHY? I remember a point somewhere in between the time I was so hungover, I had a panic attack, hyperventilated and spent time in an ambulance to the time I threw up red wine everywhere until it looked like a murder scene, both incidences under the impressionable eyes of my little family, the only question I could ever ask was, WHY?

WHY do my friends get to drink and carry on and are never miserable like I am? WHY do they never have any consequences? So many WHYS while I continued to bang my head against a glass door, over and over (and my god, how many sliding glass doors I actually walked into, I've lost count). It wasn't because I was stupid or an imbecile, I just wasn't asking the right question. I didn't know HOW to do it. I didn't know HOW I could live my life without alcohol. I didn't know HOW to write that story where I was the main character who lived her life without drinking.

WHY does not incite an action. WHY keeps you down, as low as a victim as you can be, pity-party of one.

Now that I have been sober for two years, I can start to look back and question, WHY? One thing I've figured out is that drinking compromised my structure. I wasn't being good or bad, better or worse than anyone else. I wasn't a complete fuck-up or a victim or a princess. Drinking compromised my structure until my structure no longer worked. And now I am getting closer to whole.

I am not an efficient machine. There are days when I'll most likely fuck something up at some point. I am messy, complicated, imperfect and contradictory and life is a bewildering, enchanting, exquisite conundrum. I love routine but being open to a certain amount of surprise, curiosity and opportunity keeps my creativity in a flow and honest to God, keeps me sober.

Today, my actions are:

  • Interacting with men and women who have the same struggles and desires as me
  • Moving my body
  • Stretching my mind
  • Being of service to someone in some tiny way
  • Spending time in deep thought and prayer
  • Putting words onto paper
  • Making something with my hands

It requires effort. It requires action and faith and sometimes that means I have to do something different, something that I have to be open to or willing to try. But ultimately, it requires surrender. It means I have to stop fighting the thing I'm resisting.

I don't have a creative project to share today. Honestly, I'm working on too many things at once that I needed this. I've been feeling overwhelmed and I needed to come back to the basics.

Sobriety 101.

 

 

Flipping The Story

Before I start this blog post, will you please join me in a moment of silence followed by A serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept that Summer lasts exactly ten weeks, the courage to keep showing up even when I want to run into traffic, and the wisdom to know that in four days, our beautiful routine will return. Amen.

Thanks for that.


When I was a freshman in high school, amidst the early excitement of attending our first football games, my best friend and I immediately noticed the lack of female gender representation on the sidelines. Of course there were the ever-present cheerleaders, or the times that the drill team would descend from their perches on to the field to dazzle the spectators with their swan-like graces, but there were no girls on the field otherwise. It was the 80s in a small East Texas town and I would say that was my first bud of feminism, but if I really think about it, that would be wrong. The fact that women were only Sunday School teachers or in the nursery and never in front of the pulpit in church never sat right with me. And the three words that only the bride had to repeat in every wedding I attended, "love, honor and obey", always, always made me cringe, even as a little girl. So it shouldn't surprise me on reflection that my best friend and I eventually got to work to fix the little sideline problem.

That first season, we convinced the head coach with a very compelling two page letter why he should allow girls to carry water to very thirsty and sweaty football players throughout the game because, hydration. And by the following season, a female athletic coach was hired and she was more than happy to have us. That year, we learned to wrap ankles, knees and *ahem* groins and since we had the longest losing streak in all of 5A high school football at the time (seriously, it was even reported in Time Magazine), we learned how to treat injuries as well. Our team grew and I bet there is a student athletic trainer program at my alma mater to this day. 

The reason why I tell this story is because I forgot about it. I forgot I did that. This was way before I even met alcohol, much less shook hands with it and invited it in. 

For forever, I beat myself up for working in restaurants for the decades I did. I beat on myself while I was in the trenches and out. I always felt like I was stuck there and it was never ambitious enough. I always had something I was feeding on the side, photography and later designing and sewing, and that would be my optimal career once I caught my elusive lucky break. In hindsight, there is the blinding argument that working in restaurants kept me closer to booze but if I were to flip the story, or even adjust a smidge, the independent agency in me started way back, as evidenced. The few times I did attempt an office job, it always felt like a slow suffocation. And the skills I learned from restaurant jobs are innumerable: thinking on my feet, on-demand-problem-solving, sense of urgency and focus, calm amidst chaos, my best self was almost always revealed, and I know how to not be an asshole to service industry. 

This is flipping the story. This is turning an old story that you've hung on to about yourself upside-down, shaking it until some lessons fall out onto the floor for examination. These are things we used to drink over and now that that is no longer a solution, we must change the meaning so we can move on to better solutions. If you would have asked me then, I would have freely told you that I wasn't living up to my potential but I couldn't unstick myself. If anything, booze kept my confidence tethered to its small denominator where I couldn't fully tap into my own resourcefulness to make my other endeavors more successful, but you know what? At that time, that WAS my highest potential. And that is okay.

Inspired by my friend Tammi Salas, I decided to make a few mantras to stick in all the places for when I feel stuck. I used watercolor paper, watercolors and a Sharpie, but use what you have. Go to town. And Pinterest is chock full of hand lettering tutorials and fonts to practice. 

I cut my paper into fours and wrote my text out first with a pencil, mostly for placement. I'm not the most prolific visual artist, so I just went with some color combinations I liked and basically made  big dots. I like it when the colors bleed into each other, so I used extra water to make that happen. When they were dry, I went back over them with a Sharpie. Not perfect, but perfectly imperfect, as Tammi would say.

2.png

When I revisit my stories, I know that I've always been a bit of a rebel. Nothing validates that more now than sobriety. I don't worry about my path anymore because I trust my Higher Power and because I trust my sobriety, the path I am on is the right one. If you are still in the beginnings and are still spinning in the wheels of regret, try shaking out your story. See what falls out.

 

Sobriety Is Your Umbrella

I've been through the muck of the yuckiest of feelings this week. What started as neck deep in Compare and Despair led to Letting People Down and I'm pretty sure the first domino toppled over the next. These were both things that would have previously made me bottles of wine thirsty. And since ripping off my skin or running into traffic didn't seem like viable options either, I had to get creative.

We can all be guilty of occasionally spending too much time lurking in someone else's space. If I spend too much time there, pretty soon I'm thinking of all the ways I could do it better. Before I got sober, this would all build up to overwhelm at even the prospect of starting anything and my solution was always, open a bottle. Mull over it some more. Stew in it. But never do it.

Now, the cure for me is to start something, anything. Activity is the antiserum. It forces my eyes back into my own lane. I just can't live there for very long because it really makes me feel so gross and so low. 

Letting people down pierces my serenity just as hard. Even though I know intellectually that I can't control how other people feel or react, I think that capping my own emotions around it will take an eon of work. There's been some progress though. It used to feel like shame, the shamiest of shame. When I was drinking and disappointed someone, it was almost always directly correlated to my alcohol consumption. I either couldn't follow through with something or the follow-through was impaired because I was impaired. The aftermath was always, I feel like shit = I am shit, and forever the twain shall meet. This always induced the heaviest drinking and life is inconspicuously reduced to one cyclical diagram. 

Now when I disappoint someone, it's usually because I've said no to someone or something. Or that I've been my own advocate. I no longer feel like I'm a shitty person but I still feel like shit for a bit, and that's on me. I don't walk around with an impenetrable warrior shield (damn, where is my warrior shield?). I'm sensitive and I mostly embrace that. This week when I experienced it, for the first time I noticed where I felt it in my body. And get this, it felt like my forearms were about to sweat, profusely. But guess what happened next? The feeling went away. Yep, it left. I didn't stew in it, watching it circle the drain as I made up a new word for LOSER with every gulp. Nope, it just went away. And I got to smile and say, I'm sorry. I got to make it right, like a grown-up would do. So this is how you adult?

I said it last week and perhaps it was a little foreshadowing, but when the shitstorms rain down on you, sobriety is your umbrella. No matter how confident you are in the driver's seat, the road will have some unexpected potholes. It's just part of the road. And let's be honest, the urgent need to escape the feeling is still there. Lying down to get lost in a book sometimes feels like an indulgence I'm not ready for in the middle of the day.  I sometimes need to step away and do something entirely different while I wait for the lesson, because there is always a lesson. 

I've found it helpful to have one really long, like no-end-in-sight long, like no-sense-of-urgency long, like absolutely-no-guilt-dampening-it long project that I work on a bit here and there. It's always there, I can pick up where I left off, I can get lost in it for hours or I can give it a little attention when I can. I have a research project going like that for a novel I dream of writing, someday. It will be based on a historical event but I'm taking my time with it, swimming around in some Ancestry, spending time in the library like I'm back in college.

And what about Ancestry. Hours or minutes, it's a fun activity.

Eating a healthy bowl of humility soup, surely the more awful it tastes going down, the better for you in the end. I think a big lesson for me is to rely on my intuition, which for me is my Higher Power.  My other lesson is to know my limits and then know them better. Stay resilient, if something doesn't work, try something else. Perhaps old energy and old ways of doing things are always being cleared for new energy and new ways of doing things. That is an exciting thought. I heard this the other day from someone, maybe Tony Robbins? Who am I? But anyway, he said something like, 'Replace expectations with appreciation'.  Stay curious, because there is always a lesson.

 

Never Cease To Be Surprised

A common theme throughout my drinking years was that I constantly did things I didn't intend to do. I didn't intend to jump off that cliff on the rafting trip, I didn't intend to go home with that guy, I didn't intend to skip Thanksgiving, I didn't mean to piss people off and I didn't mean to not come home that night. My last day of drinking was the best example of this. I went to a party I didn't want to go to, I drank when I didn't want to, got drunk when I didn't intend to, pissed off my husband and scared my children when I didn't mean to and woke up at 2am in an unwanted sweaty panic, again. Once I had my first drink, I could never ever make a single decision that aligned with my intentions. It turned my life into one big reaction. 

This described my life even outside of the party, the party of many and of one. I never felt like I was the captain of my own ship, the person responsible for the quality of my life. And I honestly felt like this was something that could never be fixed. I felt like I was too old, it was too late, the patterns were set, the story was written. A bottom can be any moment when you've had enough. It's when you are ready to jump back in the captain's chair, take over the wheel and right the course, even if you don't have a map.

After the shock of waking up without a hangover subsided (actually, still amazing), I had to find things to do and actions to take that were meaningful to me. I needed a thing to get me out of bed each and every morning. That thing started as my morning zen run with podcasts I was excited about, books I could be present for, coffee, more coffee. That thing evolved into this blog, personal projects and collaborative projects that have developed from new relationships I've made through sobriety.

That brings me to something I've shared on some of my other social media platforms but I wanted to put out one last call here.

My friend Tammi Salas and I are looking for some creative sober bloggers or instagrammers who would be interested in doing an art exchange and then be willing to share what you receive, tag/link participants, etc. Themes will be recovery-based and all mediums accepted (as long as it can be emailed/snail-mailed). Contact me if you are interested. We want to get this party started in September and there will be more info to follow.

Some days are just to be tolerated. Some days I just need to merely get through to get to the elusive 'something better'. That's okay.  Regardless, when the shitstorms come and rain down on me, and they do, sobriety is my umbrella. It is intentional and ready.

 

In My Life I've Loved Them All

A few days before I left for a summer vacation, I stopped by the library to wander the aisles. I didn't need anything. I have stacks and shelves of books that I own of which I've not even cracked the covers and yet some days, I just like to roam and see what catches my eye. Two books jumped out at me that I recognized from my Amazon wish list or some other list, two separate aisles, both about friendship. One was "Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship" by Gail Caldwell and "Truth and Beauty: A Friendship" by Ann Patchett. I grabbed them with an urgency.

In the very beginnings of sobriety, there is a need to hermitize yourself, to hunker down and go inward, literally and emotionally. You have to change your patterns, you have to do things differently than you did before which challenges any and all familiar social interactions. I had whittled mine down in such a way that the only ones that brought me out of isolation involved booze, every time and most likely at my insistence. When I got some clarity, I began to question and doubt all of my relationships. I honestly didn't know which ones were built on booze and which were built on a more solid foundation. I'm still slowly figuring it out. 

In the meantime, it's hard. It's hard to rebuild relationships and it's hard to build new ones. I know that to have good friends you need to be a good friend and I know I haven't always held up my end of the deal. I'm not sure if I was ever taught how to be a good friend. When I read those library books, I sobbed. I know I've had moments where some of my friendships mirrored those described in those lovely books, but the intensity hasn't always sustained. You can't really give yourself to friendships when your first relationship is with booze though. Once that bond was broken, I know in my heart that not all of my friendships didn't just ride on the surface but I don't know how deep some of them go. It's like being an archaeologist and carefully digging out the artifacts, the bones, dusting them off, seeing what is there and deciding if they are still useful or meaningful. And that's just my side of the street. If the other person wants to do their own digging, it's work for the other side of the relationship as well. 

It's been hard to even find the words to talk about it, which probably explains all of the tears released this week. I know that nothing changes without taking action and showing up here is my first step. I celebrated two years of sobriety this week (woo-f*ing-hoo) and I made a list of all the things I would like to manifest in my life for the next year. Generosity was at top of the list again because, action. I always thought that gratitude was a feeling that you felt inside but it's really an action, it's showing someone you care about them, that you are grateful that you have them in your life, and you tell them with your words, you show them with your actions. This is how to make friends, this is how to grow friends, this is how to be a good friend. 

To celebrate my two years, I wanted to show the friends who have nudged me, listened to me, picked me up and propped me up how much that has meant to me. So I'm making them all lavender eye pillows!

First, you want to draw out your pattern. I just traced outside of an old sleep mask I had lying around.

And I'm going to add some actual eyes with embroidery, so I drew those on as well (I later added lower eye lashes to the open eye, btw). 

Next, you'll want to take some tracing paper and trace around your pattern, tracing the eye embroidery pattern as well.

And yes, you can buy tracing paper in modern packaging, but please enjoy my vintage variety. You're welcome.

Next, you are going to put your fabric in an embroidery hoop and get to town. Just be sure and not cut out they eye pillow yet or it won't fit in the hoop. I included a photo from one of my favorite textile books of basic embroidery stitches, but just Google, my friend. Don't be afraid of it. Anyone can do it and the longer you do it, the better you'll get at it. Embroidery is a fantastic Netflix companion. When you're finished, cut that baby out and cut a back piece out while you're at it.

Mix up your filling next. If you're fancy, you may want to use flaxseed and dried lavender. I had some rice on hand, so I used that. I also sprinkled a few extra drops of lavender oil but fyi, a little goes a long way. It takes about two cups. While that is mellowing, stitch the front to the back, right sides together and be sure a leave a little hole for your filling. Flip right ways out and before I filled it, I did a top stitch around the edge to give it a little extra reinforcement. There would be nothing less relaxing that a rice pillow busting in your bed. We're trying to make friends, not lose them.  I used a funnel to fill, which expedited that a little.

When it is filled to your liking, stitch up the hole, either by hand or machine (or both, which is what I did). 

It's not as wonky as it looks in the photo but even if it was, it smells heavenly. 

And does its job, as you can see. I could barely take this selfie.

The things I have learned in the last two years are almost innumerable to list but learning to be a good friend has moved to the top. It will take some time, but action will get me there. Making all of these friend pillows will take some time as well, but anything worth doing does.