Rage, Rage Against The Dying


I should have known that it would come rolling in like a thunderstorm across a plain when I pulled the Five of Cups (a tarot card that deals with grief and disappointment) three times in one week. The first time I pulled it was before any actual climax but all the weeks leading up was wrought with enough worry and fret, there was bound to be a tipping point. I’ve talked a lot lately about wanting to change the way I feel, I’ve also talked about acceptance. Even while working through some things on the page I can still present well, maintaining my “I’ve got this” face, but that’s how it happens. We get blind-sided by something or it’s a culmination of little things, like a thousand paper cuts, but they say a relapse starts long before you take a drink. Luckily, I only drank in my dreams but whoa, I threw it down.

A week ago while on a short trip to a most loved place in the Texas mountains (yes, we have mountains), my husband and I took an early morning hike. I almost passed, but there was a never-before-experienced thick fog that had settled into the range, so I reconsidered at the last minute. The normal breathtaking vistas now made invisible by the fog invited our eyes to take in the details and a few steps after we pulled off the trail to take photos of this amazing spider web, my husband stepped into cell range (we get very little cell coverage out there), and his phone exploded in foreboding chimes. One phone call later and the thing we were holding our breath over happening happened, Mark’s father had passed away around 4 that morning. He spoke to family, we spoke to each other, we held each other and cried on the top of that fog enveloped mountain. It was like poetry we could never have written.

I said I wasn’t at all worried about Thanksgiving. The presence of alcohol has become neutral to me, just like the Big Book mentions (page 85) and even that morning, I hadn’t given it a thought. But as the day wore on, the more I felt I was being drank AT, feeling my resentments boiling over not being able to check out over the loss of this person who although was only related to me by marriage, I had a special connection with as we shared recovery. I am now evolved enough to see my ego when she comes out to play and yet, I sat in the back seat for the hour drive home and did nothing but imagine that warming, red liquid sliding down my throat.

In times of crisis, mantras and anecdotes don’t do much for me. It’s just the way I’m wired (enneagram 7, perhaps). In fact, throw any one my way and I’ll pick it apart until it loses all meaning. For instance, “You’ll never wake up and wished you’d drank.” “Perhaps I wouldn’t, but if I was really successful, I just wouldn’t wake up, would I?” Bleak dialogue I know, but as you can see, they don’t always work for me. To be true to thine self, one must know thine self and I know that only fresh ideas and new connections penetrate my heart when I’m in crisis mode. A walk in nature can do it for me, there is always something new to see, especially in the change of seasons. I will search for something I’ve never seen before, see proof of God outside of me until I can feel the connection inside of me.


I found myself on my city’s 12 step meeting list and my eyes landed on a meeting I didn’t even know existed, existing only a block from my house. As I put on my shoes and trudged down the street, heading for the church which housed my daughter’s former preschool, my spirit nudged the body memory. How many mornings had I walked that same path, holding my little girl’s hand, so hungover and praying I could slip in and out of that same hallway without having to look any other adult in the eye. Another poem I could have never written, only by grace, I received.

Books also (and always) seem to come when I need them. I finally picked up Russell Brand’s book, Recovery, and his smart and fresh take on the 12 Steps have landed exactly where I needed them to, exactly when I needed them. I also randomly picked up Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal, written when she was so young but so wise, “Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon I see and myself is the Earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am would or could see, but what I am afraid of, Dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that is blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know you, God, because I am in the way.” I’m not sure if a request for conscious contact has ever been described in a more beautiful way, but I do know that without contact, I would most surely be drunk.

There are those happenings that some call God winks, but then some appear as a not-so-subtle burning bush. There is so much, volumes of books’ worth in fact, that I do not know. However, I do own a slim volume of things that I do know. One of those things is this: the winks and the fiery bushes have always been around. I know I’ve noticed a few before I got sober and looking back, I can see they always marked a pivot. The difference is that now I can see them as they happen, like in real-time, as I write the narrative in my head, “You did not mince words, dear Sondra. You put out the Big Fear SOS and here’s your answer: wherever you go, there I am and that will take you to all the way, to the very end.”

The morning after our hike, my husband and I went outside to watch the sun rise up through the valley. The fog had rolled out as quickly as it had come in and even with the sky half lit, we could see every star (and an unmistakable planet or two) available. I’ve seen plenty of shooting stars and never in a half-lit sky, but we saw two that morning. I guess it’s all a miracle or nothing is, but I think that looking for the miracles is a choice and one that I’ll choose again, for today.

What If This Is As Good As It Gets?

 I used this image of a pie because some days, the smell and taste of pie and a hot cup of coffee is as good as it gets.

I used this image of a pie because some days, the smell and taste of pie and a hot cup of coffee is as good as it gets.

Sounds morose even misanthropic, right? Especially coming from someone whose middle name is Pollyanna (it’s really Dean but stay with me). I had an epiphany this week and I honestly could be enlightened now, remains to be seen, but it does feel that significant.

I have come to the striking realization that maybe this is all there is.

I may never win the prize, write the best-selling book, go viral, have an overflowing bank account, have a bathroom full of new towels. This may be it, destiny’s fulfillment.

Acceptance is next. Which, I’ve decided, is not resignation. Resignation is giving up, it reeks of stagnation but acceptance is a receiving of what is being offered and saying, This is enough and I am okay.

What if I’ve already had the most fun I’ll ever have? What if I’ve already seen the most beautiful thing I’ll ever see? What if right now, I’m the most successful I’ll ever be? This is a radical idea for me because I am a perpetual, future-focused, borderline magical-thinking optimist. What if all of these things are true and I still wake up and live my life everyday? This idea knocked the wind out of me this week. I think this is acceptance.

The question for me now is this: Can I still move through life and stay sober? Can I still create knowing that my best work may have already happened, that I may not get anymore validation beyond what I have today?

Maybe this doesn’t sound like an epiphany to you, but this is what this striking realization has done for me; it feels like a big sigh of relief. It sort of takes the pressure off of everything. It makes me lead with curiosity instead of expectations because expectations do NOTHING but let me down. And I don’t mean after you’ve had the gift of hindsight, can reflect and say, In the moment that sucked but now I can see it was the best thing that could have ever happened. No, expectations and reality never meet each other at the same place and even if reality does exceed your expectations, the fulfillment from that lasts about 60 seconds before the brain is off to seek more. But if I come in from the vantage that THIS moment is as good as it will ever get, I can be led by curiosity, curiosity carries with it hope and then I can truly enjoy the ride.

I was hoping I would get to keep hope. I can stay hopeful but accept this moment for what it is. Evolution is inevitable but it may not be “better” and I have to be okay with that. I’ve realized that I have hinged everything on, Things will be so much better when { fill in the blank }, or if { fill in the blank }. But what if it isn’t? I can set goals but I can’t expect that in reaching them I will actually emerge a better person, that it will bring me more validation or success, because it may not. I can no longer let my peace, my joy even, depend on that moment. I can choose my peace now, my joy in this moment and then again tomorrow. So I am now on repeat, out loud even, What if this moment is as good as it gets? And I look around and see that yes, I am okay right here.

This may then be a weird time to pitch a program. If you are like me, then you’re probably thinking, If I see another program pitch, I may vomit. The last time I was talking about the Mid-Life Solution, I wanted it to be the best thing I ever made. But I put in on such a high shelf, I couldn’t reach it. I know what I don’t want my program to be. I don’t want it to be another space where women are just validating the shit out of each other, and even though validation is appropriate WHEN it’s meaningful, I wouldn’t expect anyone to devote precious energy to only receive fluff. I also don’t want it to be another offering that promises you will emerge a better version of yourself because this version we have, it’s the best one we’ve got right now. The questions I do want to explore are these: How can we squeeze the most out of this moment? Then the next? How can we make do with what we have, right now, exactly where we are? I don’t know if this exploration will change anyone’s life but I have this insight to share, so why not share it with a few who may want it. If this sounds interesting to you, I will be sharing details soon.

So look around you right now. What if, at this very moment, what you see is as good as it gets? When I was pumping my gas this morning, I asked myself the question. I had the credit card that I share with my husband, so I got to fill up the tank all the way to full. The sun was coming up and there were a flock of black grackles above my head, their songs were in time with the breath of the trees, as the limbs expanded and contracted, I thought, This may be as good as it gets, and I am okay with that.

I hope there is some beauty, perhaps a speck of joy in your current moment because this is likely the very best it will ever be. Now breathe in, do you feel that? That is the peace of acceptance.

Can You Fill Up This Need-Hole For Me, Please?


And that is the problem with need-holes.

When my life gets tedious, mediocre, BLAH is exactly the place I struggle the most. When I have to do the dishes, again, when I have to make dinner, again, when one week becomes indistinguishable from the next is when my brain starts seeking stimulation. And yes, a trip to the museum or a movie would most likely satisfy, but that is not where my thoughts go first. That feeling of lack, void, is the hole I filled with booze or sex or new shoes, so now when I feel its insatiable mouth gaping open, my first thought is ACT OUT.

I can't always see these feelings coming, but the longer I'm sober, the more certain patterns become clear. This is that time of year with Halloween on the horizon, I know Christmas and the New Year will come blazing in like a speed train and I'm already regretfully looking back at 2018 wondering if I've done enough, if I've landed where I want to be.

Um, future-trip much?

I've found myself fantasizing that I'm floating in a lake with my ears underwater, where all I can hear is my  own heartbeat. If I stay there, time seems to stop. I just want to float and float, oblivious to time, ignorant of its slippage. 

Let's face it, I still want to change the way I feel. I don't want to sit with it, move through it, lean into it. I want to throw any self-helping book-quoting meme across the floor and watch it smash into a bazillion pieces. But I don't. I don't act out either. I stitch. Stitching, with a threaded needle, is the one thing I've found in sobriety that forces me still except for my hands and that thread, in and out. It's the one thing that makes me okay with the maddening idea that I have to just stew in my feeling of lack, that there is nothing outside of me that is going to fill my hole so I may as well stitch up my fucking jeans because nothing else is going to get done and I have to be okay with that because I am okay. Time will still slip, dishes will once again accumulate in the sink, I'll make burgers for the 20th time this month and soon enough, it won't all feel so dreadful as it does now. I once heard that if you are drinking (or insert whatever you use to fill the need-hole) to make life tolerable, you must look at what is intolerable. Even though I haven't had a sip of alcohol in four years and some change, this feeling is here to remind me that I'm only tolerating some things and my guess is, it's bigger than dishes.

*Addendum: I published the above words in a newsletter that went out to my subscribers earlier this week. It resonated with many, so I wanted to add some thoughts I’ve had since.

I don’t think there is a cure for pain, as Morphine’s Mark Sandman’s words searched in song, but if he ever arrived there, he surely wouldn’t need his drugs. I wish that Mark’s addendum would have been that he found it, but his heart finally broke all the way on a stage in Italy in 1999. I guess my conclusion thus far is no conclusion. When pain comes, we have to see it, acknowledge it like I did in my words above, recognize that it’s in the room, give it a comfortable chair. Let pain prop its feet up, as it may be here for a while. See pain as a teacher because without the contrast, we wouldn’t really know joy. And when pain gets up to leave, know that it is never Goodbye, only Until We Meet Again.

It is no cure, but what I have realized in the last few days is I am much better when I have goals. Maybe that is my future-focused tendencies but I got out my Name-It Journal and jotted down the Big Ideas that I’d like to see to fruition in the coming months. I put so much energy around that yearly calendar flip, but it really is just an arbitrary construct and time is as expansive as I intend it to be. Over four years ago, I left the particular pain I co-created with alcohol behind, so I now have room to see that when I am feeling angsty, it is always something bigger than the dishes. The creativity I am not bringing forth will always be a pain-point for me, the universality of that said best in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas 70,

If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.

It’s no cure, but it is a solution.

Just For (Sober) Fun


You may think those words are an oxymoron, sober and fun. Even if you are only in the contemplating and curious stages of getting sober, that fact that you cannot reconcile those two things may be the thing holding you back. I get you. I am a thrill-seeker, an enthusiast. I run screaming from anything that even smells of boring and monotonous. I had convinced myself, with the help of my friend Denial, that drinking was the thing that kept life spontaneous. And it did, for a long time. When alcohol came along for the ride (and it always came along for the ride), I never knew what kind of mischief I could find myself in. That thirty-foot cliff off of the river-rafting jaunt? Hell yes, I’m jumping off that cliff. Pull over for this dive bar and find some crotchety cowboy with whom to two-step? Get out of my way.

But here is how drinking worked for me: it stopped working. My decades of spontaneous fun and mischief turned into a sad, pitiful party of one, at home with my bottles of wine and the most spontaneous event was not knowing if I’d wake up on the couch or my son’s bed. The biggest mischief I could manage was trying to decode mysterious bruises that I couldn’t even remember getting. If I did actually leave my house for some projected “fun”, which slowly became less and less of an occurrence, the event could only ever be described as a Shit Show. I would inevitably lose something, like my purse or my car, or I would just lose my way home, as in I wouldn’t make it home, the only whimsical part left of the adventure was trying to determine where I’d landed for the night. Movies and television try and shed some edgy light onto this sort of scene, but that vibe is completely lost on a forty-year-old wife and Mom, whose kids wake up for pancakes and wonder why Mom is MIA.

So what is a fun-seeking girl to do when she’s faced with the reality that booze is no longer delivering the kicks that it used to? Well cry, at first. Mourn the loss of the silly, drunk girl who never knew what drunken adventure was around the corner. Hate to be the one to break it, but that girl is long gone and she’ll never be recaptured. Next comes sleep, and a lot of it. Sleep like you’ve never slept before. Sleep like you’re dead. But what can happen, when you finally wake up rested and clear headed is you will see this world and its thrilling opportunities in a whole new light. What surprised me most after I got sober was that my need for fun didn’t leave me. I always thought it was permanently married to alcohol, that drinking was intrinsic to every fun adventure that I would ever take but what I found was that fun-seeking was inherently me.

I remember my first spontaneous urge so well. I had just picked up my kids from an improv rehearsal. lt was a Thursday, early evening and I’d just noticed an email that Chris Hadfield, the David Bowie-singing astronaut, was doing a book signing at our local, independent bookstore. At the time, my kid was really into all things related to space and was enamoured by Chris Hadfield. The bookstore was downtown and it was rush-hour, we hadn’t had dinner nor even a dinner plan, but I called my husband and told him that the kids and I were heading downtown to meet my kid’s hero, with twenty minutes to spare. It may seem like such an elementary act, but I can’t tell you how thrilling it was. First of all, I was driving around sober at wine-o’clock, heading to a place that didn’t serve booze. That seemed magical enough. I’d only been sober for about four months, and I finally didn’t need to cry or sleep or even eat anything, I just needed to get us there. It pushed all the buttons I needed to push for an impulsive spree. We squeaked in right before he was to take the podium, slid into a spot on the floor in the standing-room-only space, and I had the biggest, impenetrable grin across my face. I knew right then that this sober life might actually deliver.

I could list all of the fun I’ve had since then, and will mention some just to rouse your own ideas. I have zip-lined and hiked up many mountains. I have jumped into ice-cold water and swam with the fishes. I have danced my tail off at live music shows, a silent disco, in my living room. I’ve seen impromptu comedy, improv and musical theater. I’ve started personal projects with no other supportive reasoning than, Because I Can. I’ve ridden bikes, horses and waves. I’ve dressed up for Halloween, I’ve dressed up for Tuesday. And those author signings? I’ve been to no less than twenty over the past four years. I’ve even jumped on stages to read my own written word. Just know that your idea of fun may look different than mine, but your own definition is available to you too.

This fun train hasn’t reached her destination yet, not even close. I envision having a whole Fun House, a space to house all sorts of fun activities and options for those of us seeking adventure, even mental stimulation, sans booze. A hub, if you will, for meetups, workshops, stories, parties and discos. You know what happens when you think, Someone should really create a (fill in the blank), right? It’s like a package, wrapped up in a pretty bow and delivered right to your doorstep, just waiting for you to open it. What’s more fun than opening a present? Not much.

The Flood


Do you ever have those memories that sometimes blindside you? The ones where you are just going about your day with your menial tasks and BOOM, one knocks you on the side of the head. Except that these are drinking memories I’m referring to so it’s more like they knock on your heart instead of your head.

I had one of those this week. I was in the bathroom doing bathroom things (not that, I’ll spare you). We have one tiny bathroom in our house of four and it was built in the 60s and has the typical 60s aesthetic: pretty green tile, tiny wooden drawers and cabinets (in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint), laundry shoot, built-in shower/tub. The sharp memory I had was one of flooding that tiny bathroom, not one, not two but three different times. I can’t remember why I’d start the sink water and walk away but I can deduct a few other variables from the context to sort of piece it together.

Each time it was in the evening and to be so out of touch that I would flood the bathroom meant that I’d really tied one on and to really tie one on in the evening meant my husband was most likely out of town which meant that I was really tying one on while I was home alone with my children.

I know, shame.

There’s a part of me that wishes I could put these especially horrible memories in a drawer, shut it, lock it, throw away the key, set the thing on fire. It’s different now. I know better, I do better. But doing that would feel like an attempt to rewrite history and I can’t, it happened. That specific, painful memory is right there nestled with other memories, tucked away and waiting for their moment to ping my heart when I need to remember what it was like. If I can’t remember what it was like, I can’t remember why I quit and if I can’t remember why I quit, I’m very likely to go back to that old story, pick it up where it left off, me cleaning up a water-soaked bathroom again, kids no longer wondering why Mommy flooded that bathroom again, but now knowing exactly why Mommy flooded the bathroom again, knowing the bathroom sink wasn’t the only thing neglected under this square roof.

I carry these memories inside of me for other women too, to open that drawer and let them take a look, to let them pull them out, try them on and say, Oh this fits me too and thank God I’m not the only one.

Worry, Worry, Toil and Trouble

 If you don’t know what these mean, in a nutshell, not good.

If you don’t know what these mean, in a nutshell, not good.

I grew up believing that worry and fret over something or someone meant you cared.

Worry is a futile exercise that brings forth nothing but anxiety and fear.

Yet, sometimes I feel that if I’m not worried, I may not care enough.

I prefer to be a passenger in this VW bus traveling through life, knowing the direction but enjoying the view.

This has been a Note To Self.

The Stunning But True Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman


I went to church yesterday and it was the first time in thirty years that I went to church voluntarily and it wasn’t to fulfill a parental request or attend a wedding. I could blame it on my daughter. When she returned from church camp this summer, it was one of her first requests, “Can we go to church, Mama?” But I would not be entirely genuine if I didn’t mention that I had already been doing some online church trolling weeks before.

I can’t tell you exactly what I’m craving right now, but it feels like simplicity. It looks like a woman who goes to a job every day, earns a paycheck, pays her bills and goes to church on Sundays. I’ve been inching towards this feeling all summer like a cat looking for a spot of sunshine to warm herself in. I can’t explain it because it’s not me. I like things complicated, normalcy feels like bouncing from thing to thing, but lately I’ve been feeling pangs of regret and they shoot up my spine like a bolt of lightning. What if I’d focused on one thing, where would I be? What if I’d put all those eggs in one basket? I had a dream this week that a very good friend of mine started a women’s gathering that became a movement. They focused on spiritual, emotional and physical well-being and my friend had worked on the concept for so long and then suddenly it gained momentum that very quickly, she had thousands of women joining and there were focus groups and spin-off groups all over. I couldn’t be happy for her and didn’t even want to join in because I was so, so jealous. I woke up with that nauseous pit in my stomach, Why didn’t I think of that? Why can’t I focus on just one thing? Where is my break? When will I break?

Writing resumes and filling out job applications has sealed these feelings for me, I shouldn’t leave that out. Having to face the timeline of my life, I look at my thirties and think, what happened there? What did I do? I had babies, but there isn’t a place to put that on a resume. I attempted to start some businesses that arguably honed my creative skills but never really left the Labor of Love stage. Oh and I drank. A lot. When I look at it on a document like that and there’s a whole decade, just gone, I feel the expanse of that gap, like I could fall right into it and never climb out.

On Sunday, my daughter and I went to the bible class before the worship hour so she could get the full experience. I found myself in a women’s class because I didn’t know where else to go. At the end of the lesson, it was suggested that we go around the room and introduce ourselves. From the very first woman, the introduction went as follows: Name, Marital Status, Kid Count. “Hi, my name is Delores, I’ve been widowed for 27 years, I have 2 kids, 5 grandchildren but no great-grandkids yet. They need to get busy!” I sat there thinking, I just need to give up, live vicariously through my children like so many do and seem to be perfectly content. And yet, right now, I’m weighing whether I should just try to get a job at the grocery store and go back to grad school, get an MFA so that I can teach or continue to financially struggle but write that novel that’s been scratching at the inside of my eardrum for five years and try to sell it even though the chances of selling your first novel at fifty is slim to Good Luck.

My Mom had a stroke last week. She’s going to be okay and that feels nothing short of a miracle. I watched friend after friend, people from her church, people from her job show up to sit with her, bring her flowers, make sure she was getting what she needed and offering their help for beyond. It looked nice, it looked uncomplicated and I could only think, I want that.


Regret Is A Gift


I've written about my fascination and brief connection to Patti Smith before, but the one sentence summarization is that I was once accidentally very close to her with my camera, tasked with photographing her while getting pelted by a rain of her saliva. Was this her process? Ritual? Did she just have a bad cold that day? Unanswered questions still, and while I loved Horses like any other proper fan of female-vocalized rock and roll, my unforeseen love for her blew wide open with her book, Just Kids. I've read that book twice, and I never read books twice. I'm not the only one who has loved this book, so I won't be so arrogant as to assume I can properly critique it here, but just know that I've treasured it. So when she released M Train, I was hesitant to actually take the steps in owning it in my attempt to continue to savor Just Kids, that is until a few days ago when I stumbled upon a hard copy at my favorite thrift store. It was time. Just as I suspected, pen in hand I'm underlining at least a phrase a page. 

As of this writing, I'm only about half way through the book. She claims in the beginning that it is a book about nothing but it's all the nothings I marvel at, specifically how she allows herself to travel down any wormhole that her curiosity will take her. And not just trips to the library either, she'll go places that require planes and passports. At one point, I had to put the book down, overcome with a sadness that can only be spurred by regret. Most of the scenes in this book take place in a cafe or bar and she always describes her order: black coffee. I couldn't help but cycle back through my entire 20s and 30s, regretting my choices, wondering about that path not taken, the one where I'm drinking black coffee over booze. What if I'd traversed through life with only a camera and pen in hand, documenting details to later recount in the most eloquent prose and poetry instead of drinking until I fell off barstools, feeling so carefree and witty, determined to go home and transcribe the profundity of my experience only to either pass out before it happened or manage to jot something down that later proved illegible or meaningless and feeling so miserable, carved out and vacant the next day as not to even care? That times 365 days times 25 years. That's a whole lot of regret.

Immediately after my morning reading (and regret) time, I did the thing I always do and went to my tarot deck to pull a card. The first card I pulled was The Hermit, illustrated as a turtle with a candle on his back in The Wild Unknown deck. Lately when my intuition has guided me to, I've pulled a second card as a companion to the first and this day, the second was what may as well now be my default card, the card I always seem to pull when I'm stewing, the card that prompted me to start the Name It Journal as it begs of you to consider what you might be taking for granted in your life, finishing off with the question, What are you longing for? Name it. Good grief. It never doesn't feel like big dose of tough love, bittersweet because sometimes I like to hang out in that pity party for a bit longer. Sometimes I want to wallow in the muck, feel sorry for myself even when there is zero productivity there, I want to validate my own yuck with a You're right, you are definitely a piece of shit self-inflicted kick while I'm down. But there was that little rat resting on those Four Cups saying, You know what, Miss Sad? How about we think for a second that some people leave this Mortal Coil before they've even had the opportunity to experience regret? Some people never get to turn their ship around, right their wrongs, make up for lost time, do better because they know better? This is the moment to seize, not because it's the dregs or the slim seconds or an afterthought, but because it's the moment I have. So like a dog that just rolled in poop, I felt a slight pull of dignity, at least some resolution.

All doors are open to the believer.--Patti Smith, M Train

I was listening to an older podcast interview with Lidia Yuknavitch, another author I admire. She was talking about her experience as a teacher at a community college and that satisfaction she receives from helping students choose self-expression over self-destruction. I wonder if I'd had someone to guide, nurture and nudge me, would that have changed my trajectory? Would I have been open? I don't know the answers to those questions either. I only know that I'm open now. 

Folie À Deux


folie à deux :: a shared psychosis, the madness of two

And perhaps that is bit of hyperbole as I'm not claiming any diagnosable psychosis, however, it is the best phrase I can use to describe the kinds of relationships I'm attracted to, romantic or otherwise, despite their inability to maintain any real longevity. It's true and in those that have lasted, there is always one more stable in the pair and spoiler alert: it's usually not me.

When the separated folies do attempt another à deux, because like flies to turds they just can't help themselves, one of them is inevitably working on their shit. "I renewed my driver's license! Granted, it took me a year after it expired but I did it and didn't get a ticket!" or "I just opened my first bank account in five years!" and it becomes a competition until one of two things happen: the one really striving towards stability is reminded again just what an epic fuck-up she still truly is and just how far she has to go before she'll be able to walk amongst the people who do things like renew driver's licenses on time or she owns how far she's come and can no longer be associated with people who remind her of where she came. Either way, it doesn't last.

I really hoped sobriety would fix this--all of it, but especially this attraction. I really thought I would suddenly be someone who drove around in a clean car, who used a bluetooth instead of illegally talking on the phone and who met other friends-with-their-shit-together for lunch. But it turns out, I still want the misfits in my life, the people that still don't quite have it together. Those people that only manage their lives well, still not very interesting to me. 

With most things, there is a middle place but some qualities are consistent. There is always some grit in my people, there is definitely resilience, but these people also seem to be the ones that are most open to change, to spontaneity, to excitement and I'm drawn (to use another bug simile) like a moth to a flame. This is the flame I want to watch, as it burns from a bright light to a flicker and then back to flaming, it is beautiful to me. 

Summer Excavation: 49 and 4 Years

 Maman by Louise Bourgeois at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Maman by Louise Bourgeois at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

I'm experiencing much nostalgia right now. Not for my own past, per se, although my current excavation my have sparked it. I'm back in my writing class, back to writing on the daily. A few months ago during an exceptional meditation, one where your brain lights up, I was visited by an old boyfriend, which is such a casual descriptor for what this person was to me for a period of time in my 20s. Excavating this time in my life, reacquainting myself with the person I was in the early 90s by digging through old journals and photos and fuzzy memories has definitely ignited this feeling of nostalgia, but I'm not pining for that time nor that version of me. However, I am pining for a time before technology, a time when we gathered our ideas, information, inspiration from books and words and photographs and art. Before I could write this soliloquy and hit, Publish. I'm laughing at myself as I just typed that and sure, I'm grateful for this digital diary. Why don't I just burn it down and get my Walden on in the woods? Well, because ego. Because this is evolution. Because either option is available to me anytime and really, no one cares. Except me, I do. 



This is the last Summer of my 40s and it feels very significant to me. I made a list of my goals and then priorities and decided that there is no end to the chores of life (and I'm going to throw in any social media commitments/non-commitments/pleasure here), I must do my most meaningful work first. I have to get very quiet to be able to write, and I have. I've spent some time in the forest, in books, in words, in museums. I'm reinvesting in film photography. I'm even looking for a job right now, where I have to put on an outfit and be amongst the people. Stop it with balance already but if I think of it more like a seesaw, I'm up, I'm down, I'm in, I'm out, that settles my mind. My internet quasi-connections, as quasi as they may be, are invaluable to me and that includes the podcast and all of the community and conversations that have built up around that, invaluable too. It's like a safe house for me. 

So I'm keeping my foot lodged right here in this space on the web. I've been churning this site around in my head the past few months, the cosmetics as well as the intention. I want this web presence of mine to be like you stepped into my safe house, my studio, my beloved space and I'm not sure if it reflects that right now. Since I put down stakes and opened The Unruffled, this was about a woman in mid-life, getting sober and rediscovering all of her creative facets, like polishing a gem. This Friday, I will celebrate 4 years of sobriety and as I'm reflecting on this person, me, 4 years sober from alcohol, I am so much more than just that. 

If you've been coming to this space since the beginning or you're just finding me, thank you for giving me even a minute of your time. My words will stay here, they are part of me, and I'm recommitting to adding more and staying diligent. The rest of this space will be going through some changes (once I get over my fear of Squarespace design) and I'm not yet sure what that will look like yet, but it is unfolding, like me. I'm also going to keep excavating, keep creating sentences, pen to paper, weaving together stories and garments of silk and lace and thread, snapshotting the story I want to tell that stitches together ALL the facets of me, in this space on the world wide web that I hope will reflect my truest truth.

And one more thing, sobriety. I can't tell anyone how to get sober. I can tell you how I did it and I can tell you why I did it and I can tell you why everything, and I mean everything, in my life today is more important to me than drinking alcohol again will ever be. So I'm going to keep doing that.

And Then She Just Up And Flew Away

Another Recovery Gals Art Exchange has landed. When Tammi and I started this exchange a little over a year ago, we didn't have any expectations, we only knew the power of making, of giving and receiving, the power of connection. We had over fifty women participate in this past exchange. It is a beautiful gift to witness the connections made through this exchange and for that, I'm so grateful. 

The theme for the Spring Equinox exchange was Metamorphosis. Such a good word. 

My partner for this exchange is my now new friend, Nicole. We just happened to be about the same age, but after many days of furious texting, that commonality only scratched the surface. She made for me the most amazing collage that the photo almost does it a disservice. I will be staring at it for hours before I've examined all of the tiny but meaningful elements, down the Scrabble logo and cats. She also sent me some vintage bits and bobs and it was like she'd been peeking into my studio. I'm pretty sure I've made a friend for life, she's my person.

I played with ideas for months. I've been so driven this year in all of my affairs that it wasn't until Spring Break, when I was forced to slow down and get quiet, did one idea start to come into focus. I knew I wanted to try a technique that I hadn't tried before, so I let that take the lead, and my intuition filled in the rest. 

I photocopied a photo of a dead relative. I honestly don't know where she falls on my family tree, but we're obviously related, just look at her dress and flower corsage.

I used Liquitex Gloss Heavy Gel and glued it face down to a piece of fabric. After it dried over night, I sprayed it with water and slowly (it took several tries) peeled the paper off until the image remained affixed to the fabric.

After that was completely dry, I put another coat of Liquitex over the image. Then I just collaged a sort of butterfly headdress over her head. I used some sequins and beads, all things either given to me or treasures I've rescued from thrift stores. Some I thread I used was given to me by Tammi. All of the elements have passed through many women's hands, I'm sure.

After the headdress, I made a vintage lace frame and stitched some words on the bottom, some I heard her say:

And then she just up and flew away.

She wasn't flying away to escape, no. She is our ancestor. She is in the Earth, in the air we breathe, she's the light from the stars. So no, she's flying out of her pain, her despair, her circumstances and into the realm of mystery, of creativity, of miracles.


If you are interested in participating in the next art exchange, drop me a line.


This Feeling Will Follow Me Wherever I Go


When I was a kid, I had a few places that made me feel safe. I coveted them like they were as precious as a newborn kitten. Deep under the blankets of my queen-sized bed was one of those places. I got the queen size bed because my room became the guest room when we had guests, but we rarely had guests. I would turn the radio on to the Easy Listening station, the one that played Air Supply and Hall and Oates or the slow Foreigner songs. I would climb into my blanket fort and could happily stay there for hours. I craved it. It was my calm place. It was my alternate reality. It was a dreamland. I was meditating. 

My other physical spots induced the same feeling. The woods, and we had some 20-odd acres surrounding my childhood home, invited me daily. I was a latch-key kid and had a good four hours to myself after school, so I was either exploring previously unexplored areas by foot (and oftentimes barefoot) or climbing a tree. I knew all of the climbable trees. I knew the nooks best for sitting, I knew the trees with the highest vantage point, I knew the limbs that you could hang your fanny from when you needed to pee. Just like my blanket fort in my big bed, I was safe in a tree.  

My Grandparent's house in Alabama evoked that feeling of safety like no other. There is so much freedom in safety. Going through my Granny's creams and perfumes in her vanity drawers, exploring her Harlequin novels, carefully picking through her jewelry box, examining every little piece multiple times, under her tutelage at the standing mixer, sewing machine, in the crook of her crocheting arm, nestled on the couch, Bible shoved into the cushions, Lawrence Welk on as background. I can't explain that feeling of utter safety, but you know it when you've felt it. 

For the last three and half years, I've come to learn that everything I've ever wanted in my adult life was on the other side of sobriety. Some of that I've realized in accomplishments. But you look beyond the tangible rewards, life is just less chaotic, it is more manageable, less baffling. So it must be the feeling I was after. I longed for that feeling of safety. I didn't have to be in a blanket fort or my Granny's arm nook, but the feeling I desperately wanted, I have now.

As the calendar year flipped to 2018, I found myself entering a phase of something I can only refer to as Sobriety 2.0. It seems like that while everything I wanted was indeed on the other side of sobriety, MORE of everything is on the other side of this next version. I have a new quest to go deeper and I intuitively know it's through meditation that I'll get there, just like a knew as a kid, before life got really noisy and distracting. I don't know what is there exactly, but I have a hunch that there is an even deeper reservoir of creativity that I may have barely tapped. I believe there is more compassion there, less judgement. I'm fairly certain there is more love. 

Not much will look different around here. There may just be a little less talking and a lot more listening.

Le Noche Oscura


Thanksgiving week began better than fine. Sure, I had a list, but it was more about how I wanted to feel that week than what I wanted to accomplish. Less doing, more being, and even in 'doing', my expectations were low. Thanksgiving Day festivities came and went. It was not particularly exciting but there was no drama either. It was nice and even. There was one element missing though and that element was my son. He spent the day with his father and grandparents and I honestly felt that I lovingly gave my consent, again, no drama. He hadn't seen his grandparents in a while. Intellectually I was fine, however, I didn't check in with my heart too much. That night as I was waiting for his return, it started. I began to compulsively text his phone, his Dad's, his grandparent's and when they wouldn't return fast enough, the catastrophic thinking was triggered and it wouldn't stop. Even when he eventually arrived at home safely, it didn't stop and wouldn't for days. 

I don't know if you've ever had episodes of catastrophic thinking, but it's maddening. There are only two certainties in life: one is change, the other death. So yeah, we're all going to die. When you are stuck in a catastrophic loop, unfortunately often the natural progression is all out depression because if we are all going to die, then what's the point? What is the point of taking this next breath, much less take a shower or eat something? Except when you are depressed, you can't even think in options. Your brain doesn't even lay it out like that, "Sondra, you could take a shower today or not, your choice." No, it sees nothing, a vast void of nothing and the only response is uncontrollable waterworks. 

I think I've had a propensity to depression my entire life but I self-diagnosed and wrote my own prescription: alcohol. Alcohol worked enough to anesthetize myself to the feelings of it in the moment but as alcohol is a depressant, it would get right back to work, doing its job every morning  to convince me that not only was I still depressed, but I was also a piece of shit. Now that the alcohol has been removed, yep I feel the feels but at least I'm not piling on a distorted sense of worth. Remarkably now, because I know what feeling good feels like, I can become an observer, at least for a minute, a second, I can stroke that part of me that says IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS FOREVER, and say, "Nope, it isn't. Even though you can't remember what to do right now, you can't remember the things that make you feel better, you will. In the meantime, it's okay to bury your head into your teenage son's shoulder and sob through Lady Bird because everything is impermanent. He will leave someday and your daughter will probably hate you for a minute and you will say that wrong thing or not say the right thing but it will be okay." 

I'm pretty sure I got sober right when I was about to launch into perimenopause and I don't know if that was divine intervention or an ancient intuition guiding me (perhaps they are the same), so it is hard for me to separate regular depression from alcohol induced depression from hormonal depression. I don't know if it is hitting me so hard this year because I'm sober or because perimenopausal hormones are like CRAZY. When I woke up after a few days of it and, after crowdsourcing and asking for help, I remembered that acupuncture made me feel better so I showered and went. My acupuncturist was sitting in for the receptionist, so she was right there when I walked in. The words barely came out of my mouth, when she said, "Me too", and our words just spilled from our mouths almost simultaneously, each confirming the other's story. Funny how that works out. When I was kicked back in the comfy chair cooking, needles protruding from heads, hands and feet, I remembered that I had come to her years ago, maybe five, and cried as I told her that I needed to cut back on drinking and asked her for help. I had completely forgotten about that too. I then drifted into a meditation and I was an owl flying very low through a dark wooded forest. There was just enough moonlight to make the ferns and rocks glisten, it was still very dark but very beautiful and I was not afraid.  

Since I've shared a little of my experience this week, I'm gathering some resources. (Thank you if you have reached out, I really appreciate it!) Coming out of it, I have so much more than what I had going in, more connection, more resolution, stronger solutions. If you can believe it,  I am grateful for the valleys because without them, I don't think I would really appreciate the mountaintops. It's just a different view, and sometimes down there in the dark, you can really see your own layers, your depth, your fears and your resilience.  And then Sister Moon comes to shine a little light so you can fly your way out.


Holding Space

 Selfie taken at 3am while 'working', re: polishing off a box of wine, sometime in a life, my life, not too far away.

Selfie taken at 3am while 'working', re: polishing off a box of wine, sometime in a life, my life, not too far away.

Not just another term on the self-improvement landscape in which you are clueless of the meaning.

Most of the homes in my neighborhood were built in the fifties and many have either been removed, remodeled or modernized somehow. What has remained is a shopping center in the middle, where our very lively neighborhood grocery store still resides. I'd never noticed this elderly couple before I got sober, before I started taking daily walks or runs and started noticing things. Everyday around noon, the couple would trek to and from the store, the gentleman navigating, she along for the ride in her chair. If I caught them on their return home, there was usually their bag of sundries dangling from the back handle. I must admit, I didn't notice if or when I stopped seeing them take their daily walk, but several months must have passed when I began to see the same activity, only there was just the sweet, elderly man, pushing an empty wheelchair. His bride's human form was no longer there, at least as visible to my eyes. I now see him every day that I happen to be out at the same time, doing his diligent pilgrimage, pushing that empty wheelchair to the store. 

The first few times I heard the term 'holding space', I'm sure I rolled my eyes. I'm an eye-roller. What does that even mean? I didn't fully understand what it meant until I saw that elderly man pushing his wife's empty wheelchair to the store. Now I get it and now I can see where I hold space. I hold space for the old Me. I hold space for the one that still has a dark sense of humor and thinks inappropriate jokes are the funniest. I hold space for the one who used to shoot for a zine about drinking. I hold space for the one who used to love a good random hook-up. I hold space for the one who used to work as a photo assistant in the sex industry. I hold space for the one who saw Nirvana in '91 and only remembers a few scenes that flicker in and out like an old home movie.  I hold space for the paradox. I've changed some thoughts and behaviors but I'm still the same girl. There's no identity crisis, I don't need to scrub my hard drive. The Me I am today is pushing the chair, but the old Me is still riding along. She has a forever pass to ride along. She's not going anywhere. 

Maybe instead of being the one pushing the chair, you are the person in the chair. You are still your old thoughts, your old stories, but you are holding space for the person you are meant to become. I feel a calling to help women define that space, women that are like me, have gone through a major transition, afraid to change some of their old stories and afraid that if they do, they may have to let the old ones go entirely.  More of my thoughts on this soon.

My struggle this week has to do with an old story, one left over from the old Me that I'm working on integrating instead of sending to sail down the hill. These last few weeks, I've had many balls in the air, but 'self-care' has not been one of them. That word still feels very precious and indulgent to me and maybe that is where it should stay for now. Whatever I eventually do for self-care (and still trying to even define what that means for me, right now, it means going to bed at 8pm), I want it to feel like a precious act. I don't want to take it for granted that I even have space and ability to think about these things, to hold myself in that regard, that I am worthy. It may be my forever work, and that is okay. In the meantime, that girl that does not fully get self-care can still ride along.

The Mid-Life Solution

IMG_20160507_140239 (1).jpg

It is not a mid-life crisis, it's a mid-life solution.

Those are the words I wrote on Day 7 of my journal. My sobriety journey started as a one year experiment. "You can do anything for a year," is what I told myself in those early, earnest words scribbled in a journal, a journal whose previous pages contained scribbles of a different kind. Those earlier scribbles were mostly illegible late-night drunken epiphanies that were chocked-full of resentments, pity-parties and vitriol by a woman who was completely cemented to any given day, which looked like any other day, and couldn't figure out why. 

"Probably the thing that got me to quit was the feeling of inertia. I didn't think, if I don't quit, I'm going to die (even though that was a real threat) but, if I don't quit, I'm never going to change."---Sarah Hepola

In our latest episode of The Unruffled Podcast (which has been my favorite episode to record so far, just to say), I described the way I felt the last 5-10 years of my drinking. Acute hangovers were not my daily experience (not to say that they didn't happen as well) but it was more like this constant and overwhelming sense of exhaustion and it was all I could do to slog through the day. I could be productive, but it was all busy work and menial tasks. What I didn't have was explosive creative energy to problem-solve, connect the dots, build something that required lots of intense thought and configuration. 

That feeling of stuckness was my baseline. It was a baseline that didn't creep in until my late 30's, early 40's. In my 20's and early 30's, I could rally. I could pop out of bed, squirt some Visine in my eyes, and I was ready to rock and roll. I could still get shit done. It wasn't until I eased into my 40's that the tired feeling from drinking everyday (and as a result, not getting enough good, quality sleep) became my baseline. It was the place I began everyday. There was no dramatic, sudden event. No one warned me, Hey you, you may need to slow down that drinking thing when you hit 40. No switch flipped. Instead, it was more like the dimmer lowered a little everyday until before I knew it, I was operating in the dark. After several days, weeks, years pass and you've been operating in the dark for so long, it's your normal. It's been too long since you've operated with the light on, you've forgotten what it's like. That's what I mean when I say that fuzzy, crappy, tired feeling being a baseline, my baseline.

It wasn't until I put some real time between my last drink and the present that the light started to come back on. It happened pretty quickly for me and maybe that is why I called this my Mid-Life Solution. Maybe I got some momentum from a combination of things, a big one being journaling. Also on Day 7, I started keeping a daily list of things that made me happy, something I would now call a gratitude list but I didn't have those words then. And perhaps that was a way to keep me mindful in the day, noticing things, staying in the present, but I didn't have that terminology then either. Perhaps it was all of these things, like brick stacked upon brick, that set me up for success, but I don't really know. I know that finally, for the first time, I knew it was something I wanted to do, not something I had to. Removing alcohol didn't solve everything right away (not by a long shot) but it did give me the clarity and energy for the rest of it. 

I've alluded to some new things I'm working on, and while I'm not trying to be cheeky, they aren't quite ready to launch. One of them is a program that I will be offering called The Mid-Life Solution. I did it. Through sobriety and pursuing that light, I found my creative voice again and I want to help you too. With the help of my She's Like A Rainbow photography offering (that I am also still fleshing out), we're about to get this party started. Stay tuned, big things to come.

PS. If you want to get my new weekly newsletter, click on the teal bar on the homepage and sign up, won't ya?


Ch Ch Ch Changes.

I have always been change averse, reluctant at best, downright unwilling at my worst. I've stayed in relationships long past their expiration dates. I don't rearrange my furniture or home decor much. I hang onto collections of things (it's not hoarding, it's collecting) long into indeterminate usage territory. Unsurprisingly, I had the death grip on my glass of wine, and I say that with zero irony. Yes, motherhood was a very blunt change of circumstances, one day you are not a mother and the next day, you are. Quitting alcohol felt this abrupt, at least it did that day that led me to this one, three years and some coin later. Did I have stops and starts and I'll NEVER drink again? Of course and I couldn't tally them up if you asked me. But there was something about that day, I'd come to end of the line and the end of myself. I changed.

Change begets more change. It really does. Motherhood was one of the hardest changes I've ever made, but sobriety was harder. I know it was harder because nothing has empowered me as much. I'm pretty sure there are few things I can't do now, seriously, bring it on! Okay, well maybe I will never play Angelica in Hamilton on Broadway, unless I can sell them on a slightly older version with a slightly inferior vocal range but, bring it on!

All of this to say, things are going to change around here in The Unruffled websitelandia. I sent out my first newsletter last week and if you haven't signed up, click on the teal bar on the homepage and do it. I hinted there last week at a new offering I'm working on and still working, so it will be rolling out soon. The offering is called She's Like a Rainbow and I can't wait to tell you all about it, just need to gather a few more ducks.

 My beautiful friend, Jenn James.

My beautiful friend, Jenn James.

I'll be making some cosmetic changes as well. I may be in over my head a bit with some of the design and technological changes I want to make, but again, sobriety is my superpower. Tweaking a website? Please. 

Kill your darlings, said Stephen King said William Faulkner. The darling that will be killed soon here on the site is the Meet The Unruffled section, so if you haven't read some of the stories over there, do it soon. They have served this site since its inception, and I hope they have served you, dear reader. There are so many other sites that are collecting stories and interviews really well, I think, like of course my girl Tammi's Ray of Light series. But you know that. And perhaps I'll just hide it for now until I figure out how I'll make it all work with the new sections I want to highlight, but that is still undetermined. Spotlighting creativity in recovery is still my jam, but the edges of my particular agency and influence sharpened, more defined. 

It's been a while since I've been excited about big changes, and I'm super excited about this one. Thank you, my Unruffled tribe, for following along.



The Fall #artexchange, officially scheduled for the Autumnal Equinox, has come and gone but I want to share what I made, what I received. The theme was Connection, so sharing this time around feels very relevant. It's what the impetus and execution for the whole #artexchange project was about for me, connection. When I first began to meditate on the theme, I immediately went back to adolescence.  I thought back to a time when friendships seemed easier, when I could while away an afternoon on my bed, gabbing on the phone about boys, listening to records, playing Scrabble until midnight on a Saturday. It was all so effortless. 

 I wanted this piece to feel like a young girl's room. Feminine. Sweet. Effortless.

I wanted this piece to feel like a young girl's room. Feminine. Sweet. Effortless.

Now, initiating connection, maintaining connection, nurturing connection, all feels so hard sometimes. But making this piece forced me to think about that. It made me ask questions, like, is it? Is it hard? Does it have to be hard? I don't want it to be. I want it to be as effortless as it was then. This entire Recovery Gals Art Exchange project that Tammi and I initiated has definitely nudged connection along in this past year, and they have all felt real, organic and meaningful. Do you have to launch an art exchange to make connections? Perhaps not, but it was the thing I needed for my recovery at the time, so I'm so glad we did.

My partner in this exchange is named Heather, and she gets me. She sent me a beautiful stack of twenty (20!) collaged meditation cards that cover four connection landscapes: self, duo, spirit and community. She said she could see me using them as I sat in my favorite spot by the window. They are unbelievably gorgeous, complex, multi-layered. I am such a visual person, I like things all laid out in front of me, so I will use these a lot. 


I love the #artexchange for a myriad of reasons, but connection is at the top of the list. Maybe connection will become easier as I continue to recover, grow and evolve but if launching a project means I get to reflect, make and collect art while connecting, then let it be so.

Shame Ate My #artexchange

It started in the the middle of my third grade year. I don't know why I decided to stop doing my homework, or if it was a decision at all. It's not like I declared some internal manifesto, I Will Not Do Anymore 3rd Grade Homework From Here On Out, no. It just started with one homework sheet. One sheet that I decided that instead of doing right away, I would stash neatly under my bed and use those parentless few hours to make myself and my little brother a pb&j and watch Sanford and Son. Perhaps it crossed my mind a second time, right before I slipped out the backdoor, hopped on my banana seat and biked down to meet my neighbor to continue our business of exploring every inch of our combined twenty acres of wooded property. 

I'll do it later.

I'm pretty sure I didn't meant to LIE lie to my Mom, who would come home that evening and ask me if I'd done my homework. I was a good, Christian kid who made straight As in academics and conduct. I was only taking out a loan on the truth because I knew that I'd have plenty of time to pay it back. I'll just double up tomorrow. When the next day's homework was again stacked neatly on the first, still tucked under my bed, I borrowed a little more. I'll do it over the weekend.

Third grade was the first time I experienced denial, avoidance, overwhelm. The memory is still so acute. The ever growing stack under my bed, I knew it was there but I couldn't look at it. I couldn't internalize the dread. Instead, I would eat another bowl of cereal, polish off a stack of Oreos and back out I would go to climb another tree or I'd hide inside a blanket fort in the living room  and listen to Crystal Gayle, but I would not think about it because thinking about it made it real. When the thoughts forced their way in, the only image I could conjure was one of completion. I wasn't the kid who hadn't done her homework since Christmas break. I wanted to be the kid who had already done it but I didn't even know how to start.

I remember at some point my Mom forcing a confession out of me. I remember, through resistance and tears, I revealed that stack of homework under my bed. I remember my Mom bringing it out and setting it on the fireplace and it was ten feet tall. Mom must have been alerted by my teacher, Ms. Noske, because it wasn't long after that we were both called to a conference. I sat off to the side of the room and stared out a window while they talked. I had no idea. This is very unlike her. I vacillated between needing to throw up and being so detached from the situation that in my mind, I had already snuck out the back door and was back home in my blanket fort, safe and sound. When Ms. Noske finally called me over to her desk and I took that first long look into her face, that was the first time in months that I'd felt some relief. She knew, my Mom knew, no more hiding. At that point, I didn't care what the solution was, nor the consequence. The gig was up.

 It appears that Ms. Noske was so exasperated with me that she couldn't fill in my third trimester's grades and that maybe '4th grade' end of year placement was an afterthought. But perhaps I'm projecting.

It appears that Ms. Noske was so exasperated with me that she couldn't fill in my third trimester's grades and that maybe '4th grade' end of year placement was an afterthought. But perhaps I'm projecting.

In the end, the adults did come up with a solution. They decided that I was most likely bored with the third grade, that it would be punitive for me to have to repeat the third grade, so Ms. Noske pulled around twenty worksheets from the stack and would pass me through upon completion. 

What does any of this have to do with this Summer's art exchange? There are consistent demons I battle, some rooms would call them defects. I don't know if either of those words are helpful to describe characteristics that don't necessarily need a value placed on them. Sometimes they just are. They consistently show up, I consistently have to work with them, around them, through them and sometimes I question if anyone can inherently change.  The topic for this exchange was Abundance, and because I know what that means intellectually, I had an idea for where I wanted my piece to go. What I didn't have was a plan for execution nor time management nor a good handle on expectations, which to me means that I don't inherently get abundance. Will I ever, remains to be seen. 

Because my proportions felt off, I almost scrapped it a number of times but instead, I kept adding to it (another ironic nod to abundance) and I don't really know if that served it in the end. I also grapple with the existential of abundance versus enough. Perhaps they are one in the same, two faces of the same coin. Third grade Sondra would say that in a sea of homework abundance, twenty pages were enough.

I do want to share the happier side of this exchange on abundance. Here is my piece from my exchange partner, Susan. I'm in LOVE love with it.

It was covered in dried Iris petals that she used to hand-dye the fabric. It's tattered and torn, decaying and ephemeral, delicate but sturdy. According to her letter, I think Susan also struggled with abundance and enough and how they tug two sides of a beautiful, tender thread. I love Susan so much, as an artist and as the friend that she has become. If the quality of creative, sober friends were riding that tender thread, I think I would lean toward enough over abundance, any day.

Flying By The Seat Of My Pants

This title is the best description I can think of for Summer, 2017. That description could also include a head that was down, focused and determined. It was a hard summer but it was also an exciting summer, both, and. And it was fun, but it wasn't capital F Fun, like riding the unicorn on a merry-go-round while eating a cupcake. It wasn't that kind of fun. But it was the kind of exhilaration you experience when you do challenging things and you get to the other side, accomplished and grateful for the journey, bruised knees and all. 

The Summer Of Hard Things included (but not limited to): getting to THREE YEARS of sobriety, hiking eighteen miles in a week up some very steep mountains, making a podcast happen while managing a family and work, not turning down a single summer job so I could buy Hamilton, The Musical tickets for myself and kids, driving my kids to Chicago to see said musical. 

I was so looking forward to transitioning into the new school year and Fall, Tammi and I even recorded a whole podcast about it. But at only two days in, I felt like I was at a stalemate. That vision I thought I had cultivated acutely, blocked. Then the apathy started to settle in like a thick fog, and I suddenly felt like I was lodged in mud. Funny how I always find the thing I need to read at the right time, and this NYT essay explained it all. Being ALL IN for something, eyes on the prize, puts you in a flow and actually elevates your mood. Even though I felt I could barely look up this summer, I was happy. Happiness is never my goal but alas, there it was. Now that I'm in transition and all options seem open, I feel untethered and in slow motion. My job is not to put a value on this because this too is life. 

My city is currently getting hit by the periphery of Hurricane Harvey, so now I'm forced to sit with this. Instead of busying, I have no distractions to take me out of the discomfort of transition. It is the nature of the modern human to get ON with it already, to be there already, in the thick of it instead of being on the way. On the way is boring. I was always on the way to something when I was still drinking, which inspired more drinking and there I was, eating my own tail. If you keep following the signs, eventually you will get to the precipice of the thing that requires your next leap. 


Why do you write like your running out of time?
I'm not falling behind or running late.
--Aaron Burr, Hamilton

What You Resist, Do That (Seven Weeks)

I mentioned in my last blog post that I'm pulling a notecard where I categorized my first sobriety journal, in anticipation of three years of sobriety, I'm reflecting on a bit of what I wrote. Yes, I know, breaking the ODAAT rules, but I like how this exercise is forcing me to look back. My past is not where I live nor where I want to put my valuable energy, the shame that brings up throws me right back in fear jail and once again, I am stuck. But I do need to remember how fragile and precious those first days and weeks were, and how I was like a sponge, sopping up every bit of wisdom I could lay my eyes on. The one I pulled today is about resistance.

It says, "Instead of looking what you are willing to do, look at what you are unwilling to do. Look at the resistance. Because if what ever you are doing isn't working, it's time to try something different." When I reached three months of sobriety, I remember very distinctly the extent of my willingness. I felt so different after that short time, I was much more afraid of going back than I was to try something new. That started with reaching out to people I knew that were sober, telling my friends, No, it's not just for tonight, I'm NOT drinking. This was when I started thinking about a 12-step program, and I didn't dive in just yet, but I began to think it could be a possibility. I started asking myself questions like, Well, why not? Is that true? Maybe, perhaps, I could? I took out that very long list of things I'd been adding to for decades, things that I didn't do, couldn't do, wasn't willing to try, Oh-that's-just-not-me and I took a long look at it. I examined every item. I had an inch of willingness and that was all that was needed.

Will it be uncomfortable? 100% of the time. And there is a 100% chance of failure. If you are willing to jump into that ring, only everything on the other side. Don't compare your first attempts at something to someone else's that is way down the road. Instead, let that be something to aspire to. If someone has what you want, set your intention on the path to get there. Name that thing you want and if you feel contempt come up (sounds like: I could never have that, that is just not me, I've never been able to do that before why do I think I could do that now...THAT voice), that is your resistance. And that is your next bread crumb, grab it.

So those words above me there, yeah, written a month ago and sat here unpublished. The same lessons keep showing up, don't they? I could give a million excuses why I couldn't commit to this series, even though the resistance is the obvious one. I've mentioned that working in seasons really flows for me, since I do have several passions that vie for my time. Lately, I have yearned to work with my hands. Writing is such a cerebral activity and when I neglect my hands for too long, I can feel their ache. My biggest lesson (and by virtue, gift) in recovery has been living in the moment. Whatever program you choose, rigid or loose, meetings or mats, I hope it is a program for living because that is all of it, wrapped up in a pretty bow. 

Living, showing up and say Yes has afforded me friends and opportunities that I just didn't have before. Sure, I had friends and opportunities but I always had an agenda, expectations. Now my checklist is much shorter, my first question true to my intention, Will this bring my joy? If there is a check by that question, the rest seems to fall into place.

This brings me joy.

If you live in the Austin area and haven't been to one of my meetups yet, please come! This was a succulent planting party that my friend Jenn was kind enough to host at her beautiful home. My one item list was definitely checked this day. Friends, this is what living in recovery means to me.

If it takes fighting a war for us to meet, it will have been worth it. --Hamilton, the Musical