Five years and stitching together I life I want to live in.

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I have five years of continuous sobriety. And with more and more clarity each year brings, life has never been more mysterious.

 I'll elaborate: I've had some interesting dreams lately, interesting in that there's a theme. No one wants to endure the retelling of a dream so I won't bore you with the scene-by-scene but the fascination lies in the interpretation.

 The night before my five year sobriety birthday, I dreamt that I showed up for my five year celebration knowing that I'd actually drank a few times over the years. I would feel the real shame from the dishonesty, but I'd just swallow it, "No one will ever know." The next night I dreamt that I was showing some furniture I'd designed but I'd really only copied the designs from Ikea. When the shameful feelings came up, "You have no new ideas, you only regurgitate things you've absorbed", I'd try and swallow them again but was left with, "Everyone knows."

 When I was journaling out these dreams, the words that kept showing up for me was: fraud, pride, ego, humility. I always thought these words held only one meaning and that meaning only went in the direction of negativity. In recovery is when I discovered that most ideas I held so close to capital T Truth actually embody so much paradox. As a woman and a mother, when presented with those words, I recoiled. I thought that I'd already given up so much of myself and that was the capital R Reason why I tried to prop up what little that was left of me with alcohol. But when someone offered the idea that ego and pride doesn't always mean that I'm better than others but ALSO that I'm worse than others, that humility isn't just someone who is selfless but that thinks of themselves less, that it's both/and, those ideas turned me on my head. 

When thinking about the disease model and my own relationship to alcohol, the Disease of More is the nuanced version of that language that makes sense to me. That I have. I want experiences to be off the rails in either direction. The truth is, most sober days are pretty normal, devoid of extremes. Milestones are satisfying but they're also just another Saturday. But when I reflect on the collection of all of those days, they add up to a pretty good life. And when I slip into magical thinking, when I stop to check myself and my grandiosity is telling me that I'm above the rules, I remind myself that if that is so, then the opposite is also true: I'm not the fraud I dreamt I was. 

So what is 'it' then? What were those dreams telling me? I'm guessing it has something to do with fear. Doesn't everything? Fear of failure so I'll pick things I can't fail at. Fear of being too bright because then if the light goes out, I won't be able to handle the darkness. Both/and. Yes, that's right, five years of sobriety and I have more questions than answers. Having answers makes me feel resigned but questions, those are vibrant invitations and I will continue to open the door gladly, each and every day they knock.

Fifty.

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My fiftieth birthday has come and gone and yet I have words in my head that have not dissolved, so here I am. There is a line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that speaks to a “position of neutrality”, specifically referring to the company of alcohol. I like to take the concept further and apply it to expectations. This is big work for me. Before I quit drinking, I loved to indulge in future-tripping. I loved the drama of it, I let it keep me up at night, I wanted every experience to be OFF THE CHARTS good. Like any good sufferer of the disease of MORE, I scoffed at mediocre, okay or even good. I expected great, every time. As you can imagine, most experiences failed miserably at meeting my expectations. And arguably, many of them could have been great, but I was too drunk to notice.

So back to this big work for me practicing neutrality around expectations, it works. It worked when I went to Portland, OR a few weekends ago for a Tammi Salas lovefest/Unruffled Podcast meetup/Amanda Grace RAW workshop. I kept my expectations at a low hum and the experience well exceeded that to where I’m still riding a wave of creative inspiration and productivity. My actual birthday was interesting though. I experienced an emotion I’m not used to feeling and it really caught me off-guard.

Melancholy.

Melancholy is not a dwelling I inhabit very often. It was a bit of a paradox as while I was feeling every ounce of gratitude for even reaching this milestone birthday and was overcome with appreciation for all of the birthday love that was flooding my text messages and Facebook notifications, yet, there it was. In reflection, there were a combination of realizations that spurred the emotion, I’m sure of it, the biggest one as something I don’t often like to examine: impermanence. And not just impermanence as my own impending doom, which if I’m truly lucky, I’ve reached the half-way mark but the slippage of time in general. I have a teen that will be leaving my home soon and I know, I KNOW it’s going to feel like a limb has been ripped off. I don’t live in regret but there is always lingering some lament over the paths not taken, “the ghost ship that didn’t carry us”.

As quickly as melancholy engulfed me that Tuesday morning, it had left by the evening. I drifted in the wake of, What just happened? for a bit. In conclusion, I’m happy to be fifty. Practicing neutrality around the anticipation of this birthday was about to play out, so I’m glad to be here, that it’s come and gone. I don’t know what this decade will bring, but I look forward to being astonished, either way.

An Invitation

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I’ve recently embarked on a large writing project that had me going through all of my journals started since sobriety. I came upon one that I’d yet to revisit, my attempt at consistent Morning Pages in my second year of sobriety. Such tender and earnest expressions, I was so happy to have captured that as I hardly remember the feelings from that time. At the time, I’d been re-reading Marianne Williamson’s classic, A Return To Love. I only copied down a few quotes, one being “The truth doesn’t stop being the truth just because you aren’t willing to look at it.” Of course I was resonating with that sentence as a reference to my drinking, as I’d just accomplished the big one year milestone. But as I was reminded of that quote now, I began thinking about what current of truths I’m unwilling to look at today. There are many. Instead of addressing the parts of my life that were intolerable, alcohol dumbed me into submission, aiding me to simply tolerate aspects I was unwilling to change. Recovery gave me space and strength to slowly reassemble the parts of my life previously intolerable, the truths I’d been unwilling to look at, but it was like Sondra with a fresh year of sobriety under her belt invited current me, approaching fifty years on the planet and five years of rebirth, to take a look at all the things I’m still only tolerating.

“A miracle is a shift in perception.” —M.W.

How many times had I said that to myself in the early days. I know what that looked like then, but now I’m wondering what that even looks like for me today. I think it looks like continuously challenging your own hardened stories, the ones you are so convinced are true only because of their insistence and longevity. Because IT JUST IS. The questions I’m currently asking myself are: Am I really too old to start this thing? Has my ship really sailed? Can I figure this out? Can I do something I’ve never done before, even if I don’t see many examples of it in the world? I have come so far since those Morning Pages and I celebrate that, but I need to keep examining what else I’m just tolerating.

The truth is, I am turning fifty this year and I’m not denying that, but it’s also true that most days I feel better than I did in my thirties, so why deny that truth either. I was so self-conscious my whole life, fretting, editing myself as an attempt to control how others perceived me. It’s a tough exercise to retrain your brain to a place where you have zero inhibitions, but one of the gifts of aging is that it just happens, like you are retreating to childhood, aging in reverse. Do you ever look at those lists, the ones where people found their personal success much later in life, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Toni Morrison, Julia Childs, Martha Stewart, Vera Wang, Lucille Ball. Now, do you imagine your name there? If you’ve followed my blog since the beginning, you’ve probably noticed I don’t talk about the work of getting sober anymore, it’s evolved as I have. If you are like me, you’ve been challenged by motherhood, sobriety and now mid-life where society may be telling us we’re done when we feel like we’re just getting started. I’m adding my name to that list.

Change begets more change. That’s just how it works. Being all in on something elevates you, from mood to consciousness and science has proven it, even though I don’t need science to tell me. Artists do a better job, in my opinion. Thank you, Marianne Williamson. Thank you to the female artists who never stopped creating. Thank you, Sharon Olds, I do in fact feel very lucky.


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.

The Unsaid

Image is  Starball , by Keith Carter.

Image is Starball, by Keith Carter.

I’ve been struggling with a writing piece for weeks. I’ve avoided writing these words down for ten years, it’s like if seeing them on the page will make them more real and I’d rather them not be. The truth is, I am different, says my Soul, but to reconcile the Me today with the Me I was ten years ago is a hard restoration to make. The truth so convenient to reject: I am the same person. Many of the elements in this piece of writing I’ve written prior in a 4th Step, I’ve admitted them to another person in a 5th Step, but there was more. The More had been niggling and niggling, like a finger scratching at the same surface of my skin for years that it finally broke it open and I was left with gaping flesh I could ignore no longer. So I wrote it all down. I wrote it in a flurry of run-on sentences and memories that fade in and out, not really following any proper literary device, just an exorcism. Since it is about being a Mom and about my daughter specifically, the women of my writing class and I talked about burning it, deleting it from any digital trail, we talked about the honesty and how many Moms, specifically Moms that drink, it would potentially help. I don’t know yet what I’ll do with the piece, as it just rests on my harddrive, sighing out its very breath from just merely existing somewhere other than my guilted heart. I only know that it works. Writing it. Sharing it with someone else. It all works to make a heart I can live with. If you need to do the same, this is your permission.

The Fog*

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The fog was so thick this morning driving my daughter to school, I had to roll the windows down because children, parents everywhere, on bikes, walking, joggers, cars without lights on in intersections. I thought about how many mornings I woke up in a swirl of fog, a fog of my own making. How limited my vision was, how radically much I could not see around me. How apathetic I was to that limited vision. It wasn’t that I didn’t care like some sociopath, I just couldn’t even access that compassion. Why? Because I couldn’t access compassion for myself and if I don’t have compassion for myself—which to me means love in spite of flaws, love the whole even the flaws, more love because of the flaws—how can I have compassion for my family, my neighborhood, my country, my planet? It starts here and it may sound like an over-simplification to you but not for this girl. It made me put down the thing that was blocking me from my self-compassion, blocking me from me.

A beverage.

When the breakdown is this simplistic, the choice is stupidly obvious. “You mean that if I stop drinking this one beverage, I can clear this fog and access love for myself and a possibility that that love could potentially heal one tiny crack in this severely broken planet?”

Pshhhh.

Simple.

Bye.

*Journal entry 1.07.2019

Different In All The Ways

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I go to church on Sundays now. I go because I feel God there and I promise I mean it when I tell you that it’s the last place I thought I’d find God. I’ve looked there before and came back pretty empty. I’m not sure what’s different now except that I’m sure I am. I’m all the way different.

Last Sunday, I was sitting at the same spot on the same pew I’ve been sitting the dozen or so times I’ve been there. There was a young Daddy sitting at the front by the aisle, next to his little boy. The boy was probably around five but very small, glasses, toe-headed. He had this little ball in his left hand, it seemed to be a light ball like maybe a wiffle ball, and when he wasn’t rocking back and forth in his seat, he was ever so slightly bouncing that ball in the cup of his hand. The ball seemed to just hover there. And because a ball can’t defy gravity for too long, every few minutes, it would miss its landing and roll out into the aisle. In the length of the Sunday sermon, that ball rolled out into aisle no less than twenty times. Every single time it did, I watched the Dad get up, gently pass through the small space between his boy’s little legs and the back of the next pew, pick up that ball and place it back in his son’s hand. No impatient body language, no visible release of air from his lungs that would indicate a sigh, no head hanging in defeat, he just retrieved that ball, all twenty times. This scene destroyed me.

I flashed back to the years my son was that age, as he exhibited much the same behaviors as that little boy, and how slim my patience was with him. I thought of how many times he’d drop a ball but it would always end with him screaming in frustration because he was most likely reflecting my frustration. I know we’ve all done the best we could with what we knew, but as I sat there unable to stop the tears, I wished I could go back. I wanted a do-over.

So I’m back in church to remember that I’m already forgiven. I am given grace, even when I didn’t ask for it, even when I don’t expect to receive it, especially when I don’t think I deserve it. I’ve heard the term ‘unconditional love’ so many times but how many times have I stopped to think what that really means: love with no conditions, no strings, not a transactional exchange but like a one-way street, like water bursting from a hose. I am hosed down with so much grace that I get to love on my boy today. I get to gently guide him, help him retrieve the balls he continues to drop and despite my frustrations that still surface because I am far from perfect, grace has given me another chance.

Like I said, I’m all the way different now.




Rage, Rage Against The Dying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




What If This Is As Good As It Gets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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And that is the problem with need-holes.

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

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

Um, future-trip much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s no cure, but it is a solution.

Just For (Sober) Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Flood

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

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

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

I know, shame.

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

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

Worry, Worry, Toil and Trouble

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

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

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


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


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


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

This has been a Note To Self.


The Stunning But True Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman

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

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

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

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

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

 

Regret Is A Gift

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

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

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

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

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

Folie À Deux

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Excavation: 49 and 4 Years

Maman by Louise Bourgeois at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Maman by Louise Bourgeois at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

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

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

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

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

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

And Then She Just Up And Flew Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then she just up and flew away.

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

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

 

This Feeling Will Follow Me Wherever I Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Noche Oscura

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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.