100 Mondays

Tammi Salas, my creative friend and podcast partner, and I just celebrated 100 episodes of The Unruffled Podcast. That’s 100 weeks, 100 Mondays in a row, showing up with a recorded conversation either between the two of us or with a guest, talking about recovery and creativity and then launching it out into a sea of podcasts, just hoping that someone finds it that needs to hear it. Contemplating the significance of that got me thinking about my big Why, why for starting the podcast and this site before that. When I first quit drinking and started to do the work of recovery, I began hearing these questions from other women in my sobriety circles, “Okay I’m sober, now what?” Putting this site, and eventually the podcast, out into the world was to help women answer that question and more importantly, to help myself. It’s been an exploration for me, still is and in an effort to revisit that Why, I counted down to the release of the podcast and for seven days, I posted something on Instagram that I’m currently doing that stretches my creativity and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, keeps me in this gig. I thought I would repost all seven here, just to have them in one spot so that we can all revisit them if and when we need a reminder.

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A robe? Duster? A swing coat? I think we'd have to ask a Reagan-era Neiman Marcus salesclerk.
Really though, in an effort to breathe a little new life into my IG account and to countdown to the 100th (!) episode of @theunruffledpodcast, I thought it would be fun to revisit the roots of why I started theunruffled.com and why @tammisalas and I started the podcast. It was for the person who got sober and said, Now what? What do I do with all of this time, all of this space, all of this energy? We share how we fill that void on the podcast, we have guests that do the same. Some things I did in the very beginning of my sobriety and still do, but my interests change, my attention is always in flux. For the next seven days, I'm going to post some things that I do in a week that keep me sharp, motivated, fulfilled, that keep the bow of my ship pointed north. 
I love to thrift. I love vintage. I love that I can nearly reinvent myself with clothing on the daily. It's also an inexpensive way to explore your style because maybe you had a style but you lost it along the way. Sometimes I like to dress up a piece and then get back into my leggings for no other reason than because it's fun. And to post funny commentary on IG, of course 😉

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My current library haul 📚
Perhaps it's obvious that you can fill newly expansive sober time with reading but maybe you're asking: what does that have to do with my own creative endeavors? When I got sober, I started reading differently. Not only was I better comprehending what I was reading (not to mention all of the paragraphs, pages I didn't have to reread like when I was drinkin' and readin'), but I started to treat each book like a class, like I was back in school. That's why my journal is there on the top of this stack. I use books as a launching off point, other's words to inspire my own. And P.S. Do you use your library's interloaning system? Life-changing for me. I catch wind of a book I want to read, I request a hold and it shows up on my personal shelf at my local library. I'm on that site more than Google some weeks, definitely has cut down on impulsive Amazon purchases 🤣

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Look, I'm almost 50. I've done some things but there are many creative challenges I'd still like to try on. And yes, I realize some ships have just sailed and I'll never be a Fly Girl on In Living Color nor be Eliza in Hamilton 😑 But when I first got sober, I really laid into myself for squandering so much time, that elusive, scarce commodity that only ever seems to bullet train when we want it to slow the F down and then not more than waddle when we want to be there already. Instead of resigning into wistful regret and staying there, sobriety has given me a "let's do this" attitude and maybe it's also a bit of that Fuck It that comes with age, but I'm much more of a Yes-sayer than I've ever been. If there's something you've wanted to try and you're tired of hearing yourself say, That's not for me, I beg of you to challenge that. Why not? What else are you going to do? 🤷


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Could have swam in the springs yesterday but just like that, back in soup weather. Never boring, Texas.
I love to cook. I always have, except for that ten year stretch when I was with someone who convinced me that I was a terrible cook, buuuttt not relevant to this story. I come from a line of very good cooks, I love a warm kitchen, I love the smells of roasting peppers and banana bread. For twenty years (minus gestating two babies), there was never a night that I was cooking that there wasn't a bottle of wine open. Never. The two were so intertwined for me, like Sonny and Cher, long past the time they were even good for each other. I have many horror stories that I won't get into here but believe me, they go beyond burned cookies. When I quit drinking I honestly thought I'd never cook again. I didn't for a long time. I picked up pre-made food, had my husband pick up the slack but when I got tired of that, I broke out the crockpot and loaded that in the morning while I drank loads of coffee. It worked and eventually, I lost my muscle memory and I could get back in the kitchen without fear. I love Pinterest, I have two shelves of cookbooks, I enjoy providing nourishment for my family. There's an essential joy i experience that alcohol couldn't rip away and I'm really thankful for that.

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In the mid-90s, I went back to college for photography. I had a Sociology degree and a teaching certificate but I knew I wasn't done. It was the first time I acknowledged that I had a creative desire and I finally let myself get off the sidelines to jump in, even though I had no idea if I could even make a viable career of it. I worked hard, I accepted lots of opportunities to work on my craft, I was eager to get better. I've definitely put in my 10K hours, but booze shelved my ambition on many occasions. Sigh. Now, it's just something I do, like breathing, I've lost my competitive edge for it and that's okay. The most miraculous thing about a phone for me is that I always have a camera in my pocket. A wise teacher once told me that a good photo can exist regardless of the equipment, which was a pretty sweet thing to say to poor college students 😍 I love to play with composition, lighting, color even with a few phone pixels and sure, who doesn't like the Likes, but self-gratification is the ultimate reward. There is nothing I love more than Springtime and a slow, exploratory walk, even if I go nowhere but my own hood. I'm the lady in the hoodie, stooped over a flower. Just jog around me 😂

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Sit. Stay. Heal. (Those are my friend @spike.gillespie 's words, not mine. She wrote an amazing book with that title that you should read, btw.) I don't sit on a pretty meditation pillows (even though I make pretty meditation pillows, you own one, right 😂?). I sit right here on my 70s La-z-boy that's in dire need of a reupholstery job, by the window that looks out to my front yard, birds, cars and joggers to distract me or lull me, depending on the day. I read, I meditate, I write, I'm quiet. You can find me here every morning before the sun comes up, and 4.5 years later, it still feels like peaceful bliss. There are many gifts I received from getting sober that I never knew I needed and this morning time is top on my list. This is my antithesis to frenzied, chaotic, sweaty, heart-palpitating days and refills the well from which I draw anything I do creatively. Everyday, a reset, everyday, a reprieve, everyday, a recipient of this crazy exhilarating and complicated life 💜

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To have a room of my own, especially after I had kids and suffered losing my identity, was all I ever wanted. And then we built a whole studio. It's small, it's in the back of my yard, not attached to the house, close but far enough away. All of my favorite things are in that studio: shelves and shelves of fabric and lace, trim, crochet, bits I've collected for 20+ years. It's pretty magical, I can wander in there and not come out for hours, a whole day. I also did a lot of sneaky drinking out there, hiding, pretending, in denial about a lot of things, mostly the implications of sneaking, hiding and pretending. When I quit drinking, I could only spend a few minutes here or there, threw out bottles, moved my sewing machine into the house for a while, for a long time actually. The ghosts lingered but eventually I aired it out, tidied it up, let a fresh breeze in. It's a place I can stretch a possibility to a tangible, beautiful thing and it receives me just as I am ✂

Happy 100 episodes, Unruffled listeners! It’s been a ride, thanks for coming along.

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.

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.

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.

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!

A Love Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Reflection

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

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

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

And it came with this beautiful poem.

Gah. How lucky am I?

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

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

Renaissance Girl

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some other things I do:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

When An #artexchange Is More Than An #artexchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfectly imperfect.

Perfectly imperfect.

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

It's perfectly fine lying down.

It's perfectly fine lying down.

Or it's interactive!

Or it's interactive!

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

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

Pinch me.

Never Cease To Be Surprised

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do You Tarot?

Do you tarot? I'm a just beginner and that could be obvious as I may have errantly used that word as a verb. I'd wanted a deck for a long time but I couldn't find one that I vibed with until a friend showed me her deck from The Wild Unknown. Lordy, it is so beautiful, you just have to hold it to see what I'm talking about. So over the last five months that I've had it, I pull a card a day in my attempt to get to know the deck. It's become part of my morning routine, where I get in a quiet place, say a prayer and meditate on something. Usually that is on my gratitudes for the day, sometimes though, it is about my concerns for the day and then I usually ask the question, "What do I need to know about today?". It's like a non-affiliated Daily Reflections for your inner realm.

This week I pulled the SAME card two mornings in a row. So strange, right? After you get over that part, my next thought is, "Okay, I'm listening!" The card was the Four of Cups. It's a yucky card about greed and discontentment.

I've had money on the brain the last few weeks. I don't like to be here, I really don't. But Summer is almost here and so will be two years of sobriety for me. With that comes the questions, "Am I where I am supposed to be or should I be farther along...in life, in business, in success, in money?" 

The card goes on to warn against taking things for granted and my knee-jerk reaction would be, "Wait a minute! I practice gratitude and mindfulness daily. I don't take anything for granted!" But the truth is, it is SO EASY for me to forget how shitty things were just a few short years ago. Am I swimming in abundance? My instinct would be to say, NO, because I'm not out of debt and I don't have a surplus in my bank account. But just a relatively short trip down memory lane shows me just how far I've come. I'm not selling my things at pawn shops, for instance. I'm not stealing my kids' money. I'm trusted with the credit card again. I'm not borrowing from friends knowing I'll never pay them back. I'm not taking money for services or goods and not delivering. I'm not making promises I can't keep. That's how far I've come. To not acknowledge that as abundance is doing myself a giant disservice. The cards reminded me.

The reading ends by asking, "What are you truly longing for? Name it." I didn't have to think about that for too long. Integrity. 

in.teg.ri.ty - 1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness 2. the state of being whole and undivided

Funny, it doesn't mention money.

So yes, I want all of my integrity back and that is happening, slowly and surely. But it is only surely if I stay sober. It is surely if I stay sober and keep walking forward, one foot in front of the other. And when I stop and look back and see just how far I have come, I can see that integrity builds this way. Am I swimming in abundance? I'd say yes, yes I am.

Here is a peek at my morning set up.

And by the way, did you know that amethyst is a sobriety stone? Get out, right? It guards against drunkeness and instills a sober mind. I shuffle with my non-dominant hand, divide in three's, restack and pull the top card. Invariably, the card I pull reflects some thoughts I've had in my mediation. It's pretty magical, if you like magic and all.

Do you tarot?

 

 

Things I Used To Know

I've always been very empathetic. One of my earliest memories of this was watching Robbie MacDonald get picked on so horrendously bad in elementary school for his unaltered cleft lip that I would feel sick to my stomach. I remember several times not being able to watch it anymore and walking over to his oppressors and shutting it down. I don't remember what I said. I know I didn't launch a campaign to protect him but I did what I could and I went out of my way to acknowledge him. I'm certain that he gifted me the ability to see the vulnerability in people.

That gift is something I have always been able to switch on like a light. Even when I can catch myself going to a place of judgement, I can reach in and flip that switch and boom, a person's tenderness will almost glow before me. For a time in my twenties, I worked for a photographer who shot scantily clad women, for lack of a better description, and we were at this beautiful spot on a Jamaican beach that also happened to be a clothing-optional resort. The photographer scouted a potential model, and while she was flattered to be asked, she had reservations about taking off her top. After some conversations, some convincing and promises of Photoshop, she finally conceded and reasons for her hesitancy became instantly obvious. While she had the enhanced breasts that are quite perfect for this genre of photography, her plastic surgeon had really butchered her. The scars around her areola looked exactly like a child would draw on his face to play Frankenstein on Halloween. For about three seconds before the big reveal, my head was, "Seriously, you have a boob job, you're at a topless resort, a photographer wants to shoot you for a calendar...if you want to do this, just cut the demur act." But then, I immediately felt every vulnerable bone in her body. I just wanted to cry and hug her and tell her I was so sorry that had happened to her. After she eased into it, she looked like she was having fun, hopping the waves for the shoot. I hope she felt pretty. I will never forget that day.

One of the downsides of being highly empathetic is that it puts you in a position of an observer. This could be why I was ever attracted to photography, sewing, dressing people, making them feel beautiful, is that I could stay on the outside looking in. Participating only as an observer, a spectator, I could feel all the feels but not ever have to be in the middle, one of many. This all changed when I got sober. It had to. I had to identify with people not only as someone who empathized but as someone who shared the same experiences, not just someone who intellectually understood but who also walked the same path. 

I'm happy to say I have a few of these tribes of people I now call home. All are flesh and blood, however some are close in proximity, some are thousands of miles away. Although my virtual and literal groups carry the same weight for me, they are only as effective as the extent I am willing to engage. When I find myself sitting on the outside again, watching, observing, I have to walk back into the middle. The middle is dynamic. I never thought I would say that, but it has been the key that has unlocked the door to my recovery. And I'm creating more groups with the creative workshops I'm hosting. This is the part I hope continues to evolve. My new addiction.

I made a flag to remind me that I'm just an internet click, a phone call, a meeting away from anyone who is walking this path with me.

Welcome Home, seemed appropriate enough.

After I drew out a pattern I liked, I cut that out of some hearty vintage fabric I had. I used an upholstery fabric, but I would recommend any fabric that has a little weight to it. I didn't get too precious about it though.

I chose another weighty fabric for the background of the flag. You don't want it to be too flimsy. Then I laid out the lace as I liked, machine stitched that on and pinned my applique piece on after all of my flag stripes were stitched. If you don't have lace, different strips of varying patterns of fabric would work as well.

Then I went to work hand-stitching the applique, using a simple running stitch. Grab some coffee and a podcast, this takes some time.

I didn't do anything about the frayed edges because I kind of like them, but you could always use a blanket stitch to enclose the fabric a bit.

This took a couple of blissful, meditative hours. Seriously, enjoy!

When I finished, I sewed on a piece of felt backing, just to give it even more weight. I included a couple of lace loops on either side before I stitched it up, so to hang. 

If you are just starting out on your recovery journey and you haven't found your people yet, please message me. Don't do this alone. Not only is it not fun, it's not necessary and I would venture to say, impossible. It requires an action that is not our first reflex, but once we flex it, every next time becomes a little easier.

Welcome Home. 

*This is dedicated to Laura McKowen and Holly Glenn Whitaker who bravely put out a podcast called Home every week. They started one of my favorite tribes of which I feel so lucky to be a member, straight up in the middle.*

 

 

Writers Gonna Write.

One of the biggest gifts of sobriety has been the desire to try new things. I didn't expect this gift. I thought I'd tried everything I wanted to try and if I hadn't, well, it just wasn't for me. That was one of those big lies we told ourselves to keep us stuck in our old stories though, because if I were truly honest, there were so many things I hadn't tried because they would have interfered with my drinking time. That's the truth. If it happened after 5pm or too early on the weekend or too late on the weekend, nope, wasn't happening.

One of the first things I said YES to after I felt a little more sure on my sober feet was sign up for my first memoir writing class. I don't really have an interest in writing a memoir, per se, but I've always wanted to take a writing class. I've always loved to write, I'd journaled on and off since middle school, I didn't know if I was a good writer or even if I should call myself a writer (which, I've come to decide that if you write, you are a writer), but I didn't care. Now I do have to add one caveat, and that is when I turned the magical number of 4-0, something did happen. An I Don't Give A F*ck light came on above my head and it's gotten a little brighter every year that has passed since. The only problem was that I had fallen so far down into the well of despair, no one could see it. Hell, I could barely see it until I got sober. It didn't have a chance to shine until then. 

Now, I've taken this memoir writing workshop on and off for a bit over a year. Have I penned a best-seller? No. But I have published some essays, I started this site, I write most days, I show up to class and listen to my fellow writers as we all spill it on the page and for the third time last night, I read an essay I wrote to a small theater audience. And there was applause. I'm not saying this to appear fearless, because I'm nervous as hell every time, but the sheer joy I feel from feeling it and doing it anyway is electric. 

If you are new to sobriety, I encourage you to just stay sober. Don't drink. It's so hard in the beginning, it's like a full-time job. But when you get to a place where it feels more like a part-time job, I would suggest trying something new, put your head out, cross the line, make yourself uncomfortable. I promise you, it is a gift. If it sucked, no one would ever get sober.

I'd love for you to share the new thing you want to try in the comments!

How Sturdy Is Your Tether?

We all have those days, even weeks where we feel like we are floating around untethered. It feels like we are unattached, even though deep down in our soul we know that we are not. We know because we meditate every day and work hard to keep that conscious contact, but sometimes that tether feels thin. Not always the case though. Sometimes, oftentimes,  it feels thick and sturdy as a rope. And then sometimes, it feels as just the wispiest, transparent line that you know in your heart is there, but it feels so unstable. You can't read it away, because there are too many damn books to read. You can't write it away, because there are too many beginnings and not enough ends. You can't sleep it away because suddenly, you're sleeping like shit. Like, really bad. Not quite the same terror you would wake up with when you were drinking, but it reminds you of that because it's that same dreaded hour of 3am and you can't fall back to sleep. You can't pray it away, because you've forgotten all of your prayers. Your many creative ideas can't make it go away because there are so many, you just stare at them all, overwhelmed. Your eyes dart from project to project, you make lists, you stare at your Pinterest board but your brain seriously feels like it may explode. There's like a 70's slide projector flashing slides from a Yosemite vacation in your head, but the clicker is stuck and the carousel is just clicking through so fast you can barely make out each image: There's a mountain! Is that a bear? Old Faithful! Omg, look at Dad's socks!

Until you just scream...STOP!

STOP! JUST DO ONE THING. Just do ONE thing. What do you want to do today? You know, besides all of the other things you do for other people, just do that one thing for yourself.

One day, I decided I wanted to wear a new dress. Perfect. On my to-do list: Make a dress today. So I started. I found a vintage pattern, found a print I liked, something I already had in my stash. Kept it simple. I cut, I sewed, I stayed steady, meticulous and slow. For a little while that day, I felt the slack come out of my rope. It started to feel a little thicker, a little sturdier. This is what recovering through creativity means to me.

I made I little chart for myself as well, for those days that I'm especially out there spinning. This is mine, your's may look different.

PICK THREE:

  • Fitness
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Sew/Create
  • Read/Write
  • Self-improvement
  • Clean/Chores

I have a few caveats, for me, there is rarely a day that family isn't one of the three. Self-care and Recovery are sprinkled throughout this list, but there was a time that Recovery had it's own line. And for me, Work falls under the Sew/Create line, so you guessed it, if it's not chosen that day, I don't get paid. In looking at this neat, clean list, I am reminded that there was a day when Drinking had it's own line too and the days that it was checked, that made everything else a half-ass, no quarter-ass attempt. This really helps me when I'm spinning out. It helps to sturdy my tether. Just pick three. If we just hang on, we have time and all will happen the way it's supposed to, in time.

 

What happens when the newness wears off?

What happens when the newness wears off of a project? A relationship? A commitment? What happens when the newness wears off of a diet, a New Year's resolution, a new year? What happens when the newness wears off of sobriety?

Does this happen to the general population? Are those of us in recovery the Special Adventure Seekers: Slayers of the Mundane? When I look back on my drinking years as a collective, it does look like Groundhog Day as there were no significant changes in my life, no upwardly mobile strides towards potential. But in the minute, day to day, I never really knew how my day would unfold after my first drink. No matter how unexciting it would be in reality, even if I didn't leave my house, it was unpredictable. It was reckless. And it kept me drinking. Do we just especially abhor repetition?

The thrills I sought changed over the years: men, career aspirations, spontaneous dance parties, but they were all in an attempt to change how I felt. Fueled by alcohol, I wanted instant gratification. Be Here Now was never in my wheelhouse but Change This Now was my jam. So what can I do when zipping off my own skin everyday is not an option?

I suppose the most effective solutions would be to hop on a cross-country train with nothing but books and a journal or max out a credit card or have an affair or...drink. None of which are valid options. Next. I'm not going to say meditate and do yoga because (a) duh and (b) going deeper is not what I want when I feel this way and perhaps I'm not a good enough meditator or yogini to transcend this mortal coil, but I'm not. Long term goal noted.  

So this is a non-exhaustive list, all of which I've done, never all on the same day although that is not beyond comprehension:

  • Write myself right. Right about it, just like I'm doing. Hit publish. Make a connection. New connections are just the dopamine hit I need.
  • Drive myself to nature, since it isn't in my backyard, and go for a long-ass hike. Bonus if there are hills/mountains/water involved.
  • Start another fucking creative project. I need this like I need another oozing orifice in my skull but it really, really does the trick.
  • Watch a movie or read a novel. And by that I mean, NOT a documentary or a non-fiction book, suggesting I do life a different way. When I am at this place, I don't really want to be told what to do but I do want to dream about something different. Attraction rather than promotion.
  • Put on make-up and jewelry, fix my hair and go somewhere. Even if it's the bookstore, even if it's the library, even if it's a meeting or a cafe, go somewhere, bring my journal, spy on people, eavesdrop on conversations, make assumptions about other people's lives, observe, take notes. 
  • If all else fails or even if they don't fail, pray. Pray a new prayer, one you haven't used before or pray that same one, but louder, in a more distinct tone so that there is no mincing of words, "You take this, please."

I do know this, always seeking something new is exhausting, and ultimately unfulfulling. I've conducted 46 years worth of experiments and they've all eventually led me to the same conclusion. Sitting with something for a long time is where the real growth comes from. This is a brand new lesson for me and I'm still learning. And with everything we want to change, no matter how we try and circumvent this part, we have to do things differently than we did before. Change is the antithesis to stagnation and it will materialize if we do the work, more slowly than quickly, I've found. This life is new, these lessons are new and herein lies the thrill.

The Music Trigger

I can be nostalgic to a fault, and the fault point can be dangerous territory for an alcoholic. They say not to romanticize the drink, but some fun was had and I have some records to prove it. Aside from the fun records, there are also the break-up records, the make-out records, the dance party for one records, the road trip records, the lay on the couch and cry records, the paint all night and indecipherably journal records and every single one of those musical relationships involved booze, in copious amounts. Of course there are all of the other musical montages of dance clubs, dance halls, festivals, dive shows and arena shows---all booze fueled and duh! It's hard to navigate in early sobriety. Sometimes I think I'm longing for a band or a song and I put it on and then, bam, I want to drink. I've had to re-enter with some trepidation and avoid some altogether. Nothing zaps you back to a time and place quite like a song can. 

I have now seen a few shows in sobriety. A few things stand out, some more obvious than others. Buying a ticket, picking out an appropriate outfit, paying for parking, sitters and a tshirt and remembering the entire show is hands-down, pretty amazing. Not losing your phone or purse, pretty cool. Knowing how you are getting home, also not to be scoffed at in the least. The smaller, surprising nuances were having to leave for the bathroom only once and not feeling a cringe over swaying into someone's personal space during my favorite song. I saw Nirvana, the Nevermind tour in 1991 and I remember the very beginning, maybe one song and waiting in line for the bathroom, my entire music concert history X 1000. I've not been to a dance club or a dance party yet. Maybe it will happen, maybe it will never happen, maybe it's already happened and that will just have to do. To be determined.

I've had this relic since my Grateful Dead days, if that is not obvious. They definitely represent a time when some fun was had, I can remember some flashes of fun. I like to pull them out every once in a while and work on them, add a patch or a scrap, repair another hole, add some embroidery. 

Fun tip: Mexican or South American textiles make the best patches. They are already embroidered, the are thick and durable and are found aplenty at most thrift stores (feel free to correct me if that is just specific to Texas thrift). And embroidery is the best way to pass some time, even if you are doing it in front of some Netflix or with some records spinning. I'll do a more embroidery specific post someday, but easy enough to fall down the Google tutorial hole or use a 1970's craft book, my personal fave. 

 

Some days, it is easier said than done. I have become very good at compartmentalizing and it works. It keeps me from walking into traffic most days. It's those days that I really want to shut that door, slam it even, that the thoughts start spilling under the door like smoke. If I just crack it a little, eventually I'll get used to breathing some smoke. And then I put on some Fleetwood Mac and know that everything is going to be okay. 

Evolve.

Do you pick a word for the coming year? For 2015, I didn't officially pick a word but it picked me and kept showing up in my life over and over. That word was THRIVE. For the first time in a couple of decades (yes, decades), I really feel like I did more than survive, I thrived. I started things that I wanted to start, I did things, actually followed through with action, I joined some amazing communities, in person and on-line and I tried to just raise the tide so others could rise with me. It's really been an amazing year and it's been so long since I've said that. I am marveling at the fact that I can reflect back on an entire year and see every ebb and flow with such clarity. There are no gaps, no missing weeks or entire months gone. I can see it all, big, wide and open. I am in awe and it is nothing short of a miracle. 

In picking a word for 2016, I got a little more intentional, so much so that I thought Intention would be the word. There was also Abundance and that wasn't so much as to manifest abundance but to acknowledge the abundance that already exists in my life. Then there was Supernova! That came to me from Rob Brezsny's astrology forecast for the 2016 Gemini. I could just visualize 2016 blasting the brightest light as my old stories and fears burned out to make way for a new star.  Great imagery, right? And then I went hiking with my family a few days ago at one of my favorite places in Texas. It's called Enchanted Rock and it holds my spirit, this place. We found a butterfly in a grassy enclave in the granite and she chose my word for me. I think she was dying and she was beautiful.

Evolve. Evolve into this new star, this next, new layer of life. Evolve to my better, best self. Evolve this site, the stories I want to share, the community I want to build. 

How will you evolve? Do you have a word for 2016? Comment away!

And if you want some brass tacks, some tactical information, intention and purpose, here it is: I will be adding more consistent content and creative ideas to the blog. I will be featuring more stories in the Meet the Unruffled section, which bytheway, if you know or happen to be someone in recovery who relies on your creative pursuit to guide your journey AND you live in TEXAS (sorry, this is my baby *cough*controlfreak*cough* and for now, I'm the sole photographer) and you want to be featured, please contact me! And I will be adding art/product from featured Unruffled artists in the Marketplace. You will also be able to find more essays from me over on the Since Right Now/Recovery Revolution's amazing site and I'll be on the podcast next week (Ackkk! first of the year, no pressure, right?). Love these guys, love their work, check them out if you haven't. And more, MORE. Big, wide, open, blessed and lucky. Happy 2016! And if you need help recovering, please reach out, you don't have to feel this way ever again. If you extend your hand even one inch, I promise I (or someone) will grab it. Big love.

Collage It Out!

I totally get you guys and your life-changing magic of tidying up. I really do.  But it's not excess if you use the things, right? And how would I while away hours with scissors and glue, snipping cool graphics and type to make ransom note style collage without these?

It's curated! Promise!

It's curated! Promise!

You know those affirmations and platitudes that no one person on God's green internet can resist passing around? Make one. Hang it in your bedroom so you can look at that shit everyday. Make it pretty so it sinks in, becomes an action rather than a nice thought. Especially easy if you have your own curated collection of tidy, well-used magazines. Or hit a thrift store.

You can do this. Anyone can do this. It nicely fills up the witchy hour, and it's a big, fat bonus that you can reap the benefits of this project in one night. Just a couple of hours and you are done.

Then you can put yourself to bed at 8pm with your Passionfruit  La Croix and marvel at your work! Just me?





Baby steps, baby cakes.

We step because we can, right? Immediate gratification is a thirst that still exists in me.  In stepping forward, giving it a little water everyday, I satiate it. Satisfied is better than hurried or stuffed or grap-all-you-can. I like this intentional life and being able to stop and reflect, making sure that my actions are aligned with my intentions feels good. All of this to say, it's coming together! This site, that is, in it's sweet, precious time, is forming beyond my intentions, head and heart. Thank god, because feeling overwhelmed is a useless emotion, amIright?

This is the beautiful Sandra. There will be more of her in photos and words at the site launch. She is one of the steps that is nudging this baby along to help it come together. It's a great time to talk about creativity and going for it, with Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic and Brenè Brown's Rising Strong, there is a hum in the air. I've been in tune to that particular hum most of my adult life, but in sobriety, it is louder than loud. So soon, there will be lots of stories of beautiful, creative women in recovery, beautiful photos, inspiring ideas and oh!...a marketplace. Because we have time for this and we're moving forward.

So with this post, another baby step but soon there will be a JUMP. Because I can.