Le Noche Oscura

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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

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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.

 

Connection

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. 

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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. 

 

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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

 

 

Eight Weeks

Hi.

I am eight weeks from three years of sobriety, and yes, I know this is breaking the one-day-at-a-time rule, but let's just go with it (*cough*rulebreaker*). Because I am fast approaching the date, I've been thinking a lot about what it was like. In the first six months of my sobriety, I journaled almost every day, pen to paper, not because I was told to but because I felt compelled to. I didn't know what else to do and my brain felt like it may explode on the daily, so I got it down. I'm so glad I did. About a year ago, I went through that journal and made color-coded note cards, like a good nerd, and separated my journal into categories. I thought for the next eight weeks I would expound on a card I pulled from the deck. I was one lucky and determined chick from Day One and was immediately blessed with the Feel Goods, so the thoughts from this deck are more about epiphanies than a daily, internal struggle. I hope they will help someone reading this, while helping me remember.

Many of these thoughts or epiphanies had to do with old stories, things I had always thought and because I had always thought them, they must be true. So here is one. I always thought that if you didn't have some damage, like some sort of dysfunction, subversion or demon, if you were not flawed or fragmented, that you were just boring. Some of this story still stays with me and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by the Lutheran minister and theologian Nadia Bolz Weber, "If you don't have any demons, I don't really want to have coffee with you." That resonates. The thing is, I only associated this subversion with drinking, like you had to be drunk to be any of those things. 

The association made sense. It was the only time I had those cut-to-the-chase deep conversations, where you told your deepest secrets, rehashed that shameful event, exposed your soft underbelly. It was the only time spontaneity happened, the middle-of-the-night-three-hour roadtrips, the Jackassery antics, the naked full moon raft trips. Subversion and raw, guttural vulnerability only happened in the middle of the night, surrounded by empties. I had no idea there was any other way to connect, like really connect.

Where did this story originate? I always surrounded myself with people that were smarter than me, funnier than me, more talented than me, or at least that is what I projected. Perhaps it was my own feelings of unworthiness as I trodded through young adulthood. Perhaps it was aspirational of me, hoping some of them would rub off? I know that alcohol was the only thing that seemed to make me funnier and less self-conscious. With the magic of hindsight, reality would argue that alcohol made everyone funnier and me only the more self-critical. And we know how this story ends, the introspection later would turn to guilt, shame and self-deprecation that eventually ended with the most miserable girl on the planet. Now that sounds like a party.

"Below the anger is fear."--Robin Williams

I think you could substitute the word anger for sadness, shame or self-sabotage, and it all comes back to fear. It took a very long time for me to see that the scale was tipping, to see that my coping strategies were backfiring and I could no longer deny the noise. And when you become more afraid of life, of exposing your insecurities, vulnerabilities, struggles, demons, than you are afraid of death, that is the ultimate in self-destruction. 

So I've come full circle. People that are striving to glue the pieces back together are way more interesting to me now, charging a way more subversive act. Exposing demons, unguarded is way more punk to me now. Do you have to get sober to do this? No, maybe not, but I think you have to be willing to change something drastically in your life that isn't working anymore and in doing so, you have to be willing to take a good, hard look at your ancient stories.

Emerge

I'm late. I'm late. I'm late.

These are the only words I can say these days. I am in a constant state of lateness, not-on-timeness, not emerging. So it's funny, writing about the past #artexchange that was supposed to have been exchanged on the Spring Equinox and the topic was Emerge that I have done the opposite. Not that I haven't been social on media or started a podcast or left my house, because I have done all of those things but I have gone far and deep inside. I have cried and cried until I'm not sure if I have anymore tears. I have listened to the Hamilton soundtrack so many times, the ending is written in history books and yet, I'm still devastated by Act II. I know to trust the plan even if the route doesn't make sense to me right now, but the route is taking me through some dense fog. The plan says to just keep walking, so I am.

This piece that I made for my exchange partner meant one thing when I first arrived at the idea, but it is continuing to unfurl like a flower, a flower emerging in Spring. I'll attempt to put words to my thoughts but they may fail.

The last few years of my drinking felt like I had fallen down a well, I could see the light above me, people walking by and carrying on with their day, but I did not know how to climb out. The background of this piece has the layers of wallpaper that may have appeared fine to anyone else observing it, but if you looked closely, you could see that it was patched and barely holding itself together.

Occasionally, small leaks of light would come in until there were enough promising beams that I knew if I just started grabbing these little bits and scraps and tied them together, I may build a ladder to climb my way out. 

Sometimes I tumble back into that well. It's not as dank now, the walls aren't discolored, I'm not trying to patch them and pretend there are spots that don't need a little tending to. But I do have all of the scraps I need to build another ladder, to emerge once again.

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.