Part 1 Becoming Lady St*rdust

I had the best/worst Halloweens in Los Angeles.

In 2012, I joined my friend Molly as¬†an “egg” to her “bacon.” We got schwasted at the Cha-Cha Lounge in Silverlake, along with every other 20-something in the city dressed as¬†Sexy R2-D2s. We finished the night strong at 4100 bar, where I met my ex-Mormon-future-boyfriend-future-future-ex-boyfriend after puking in the bathroom from too many pickle-backs. Romance is not dead.

VooDooWhoDoYouDoIn 2013, I dressed as a Voodoo Doll. This was a lonely night for me, even while standing next to my High Priestess and several million San Diego friends. I ended that night passed out on a couch outside.

In 2014, I had my first sober Halloween. I met my program friends for a scary movie night, where I won the costume contest for my “Blackmail” costume. I was a nervous wreck all night, but I went to bed¬†by¬†1am–without the spins.Blackmail

This year, I’ll be joining my good friend, Fancie,¬†for a Halloween-themed wedding where she will be the officiant. I’m going as a Pineapple, because it’s the fruitiest fruit and I can make my hair green. Pictures forthcoming.

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The most exciting part of this Halloween is not my costume depicting one part of a balanced diet; I get to witness my spiritual love nugget transform herself into Ziggy Stardust. Nicole is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. She teaches me how to respect myself, to own my naughties and niceses, and¬†how to be¬†an unapologetic badass.

When I discovered David Bowie as my Higher Power, I promised myself I would never try to dress up as him for Halloween. So it could not be more perfect that the Iggy to my Ziggy would announce this year as her year to become Bowie. She is currently on the hunt for the perfect, high-intensity boots.

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“I’m doing this. Because I know exactly what I’m doing.”

-Nicole, Lady Stardust in waiting, in LA

This is Nicole in her one-of-a-kind unitard. Between the two of us, we could not fucking figure out the difference between a leotard and a unitard. But, I digress. I will unveil her costume in these next couple of days leading up to Halloween.

Update: No news on her shoes. This evening, we attempted to figure out what kind of foot shape she is. Pear? Banana? Apple? Who the hell knows. Her friend, who is shoe-knowledgeable, offered these fruit-themed foot shapes as reference points. Wish her luck.image1 (1)

 

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Scheduling Worry Time and The New Adele

I’ve given the new Adele song teaser from her album 25 just about 25 listens. (I’ve listened to it three times back-to-back in¬†the past 15 minutes). I like seeing people–especially my lady friends–get so jazzed about her singing. I always wondered what made her songs¬†that delicious to listen to, but then I found this article that explains it with science¬†in “Anatomy of a Tear-Jerker.” I am not quite there with emotions being in my comfort zone. Actually, I don’t really have a comfort zone to tell you the truth–I’m not usually comfortable most of the time. But when I hear Adele songs, I can’t help but get drawn into my own emotions because it makes them feel beautiful.

I had to schedule my listening time for Adele and Curtis Mayfield this morning. My brain gets overwhelmed when it doesn’t have the¬†wherewithal to relax. I saw my counselor on Thursday, where she told me that I needed to be more disciplined in how and when I relax. This was news to me because I don’t ever relax, even when I’m relaxing. She gave me¬†solid suggestions after I told her that when I took a selfie last week (one of those cheeky ones where I give an over the shoulder glance) I could visibly see the knots in my back. I told her I was so grossed out that I almost puked. She suggested not puking, practicing yoga, giving guided meditation a go and scheduling “worry time” for 30 minutes every day. I might be the only person on the planet who gets excited that I have a way to siphon off my worry for a concentrated period of time.

I woke up at 8am to¬†ruminate over¬†everything from finances and work to health and exercise. It helped me to write down all of the things in a stream of consciousness. When I read them back to myself,¬†it made me laugh. Many of the things I worry about are not actually areas of concern. My worry is a manifestation of my¬†perceived lack of control. In the 12 steps, feeling out of control tends to mean that it’s time to give the 3rd step another round–“Made the decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.” I have the opportunity today to turn my worries and confusions over to a power greater than myself–or to Time, which is my version of a higher power this morning.

I begin my yoga practice (again) on Wednesday. I am a highly anxious person by nature, but when I develop a flow in yoga I don’t think about myself too much. I am much more present and happy when my German teacher guides us to do poses in her thick, aggressive accent. She is a lovely woman, really.

Photo courtesy of UnicornBooty

How to Choose Your Decibel Level

Once I found my voice, I could not shut up. The ‘voice’ I reference here is my authentic self–the one I clawed my way to find in recovery. I worked day in and day out to get my AA program going. Through an act of Bowie, I lost my political job six months into my first year sober. Six months after that, I got my first writing gig. From that point forward, the door flew wide open for me to become as vociferous as I saw fit. I wrote just like I spoke–loudly, and with frequent usage of the word “fuck.”

I’ve noticed a distinct hesitation in my willingness to vocalize things lately, however. I shrink before the bold ideas I initiate in inner dialogues; I don’t pitch articles to other publications; I am reluctant to speak “too much” about addiction and alcoholism. A part of me has succumbed to the fear I once allowed to shut me up. In doing so, I’ve unwittingly invited my alcoholism to crush my courage.

And I’m not sure why.

I believe in synchronicity. More specifically, I have faith in it as a means of recognizing my Higher Power in seemingly random acts of awesome. On one such occasion, I heard a guy say at a meeting that the difference between faith and belief is that when he believes in something, he has blind faith, he is hopeful. Conversely, when he has faith in something, he has evidence-based confidence that things will work out, simply because they always have. At this point, I have faith that my voice will grow louder and more boisterous–

Simply because it usually does.

That being said, I’ve learned I have different decibel levels as a writer and as a person (I’m convinced the two are separate things entirely). Growing up, my sister and I always caught shit from our teachers and my father for being super loud. We decided it was impossible for us to whisper, most likely due to our Italian-ness. Furthermore, we didn’t give two fucks–no fucks from me, no fucks from her–nary a twin fuck was given. Whenever we were loud AND sassy, our father would cover his ears and ask us to please keep it down. I always thought that was funny coming from a life-long musician who spent most of his adult life in front of elaborate speaker displays on stages the world over.

Now that I’ve begun my part-time job as a high school online electives counselor, I’ve had to tone down my voice. For the last seven months, I’ve dropped several expletives in every piece of writing that’s been published. I’ve also spoken at length to randoms all about recovery. I realized  when I got hired for my new gig that this wouldn’t be the proper platform for me to go on about the rawness of recovery. I did have a proud moment, though, when the kids clapped after I announced on my first day that I did not curse once. They were beaming with pride.

I know that not everyone needs or wants to hear about what life is like for someone in early recovery. I also know that people expect me to give a quantum leap of shits about the impending presidential election. On both counts, I am without a care. I think speaking up about my recovery is not only a blessing, but a duty. Now that I no longer have the pressure of being a political professional, I have the pleasure of sitting this election out. In short, I get to abstain from being heard and shut the fuck up for once.

I remember a night right before I got sober when I walked across the hall (approx. three feet away) to my neighbor’s apartment to have a glass bottle of wine together alone. I brought with me a large Trader Joe’s two/four-buck-chuck, as my friend put on Graceland while she made jewelry. Four glasses into my writing project, my handwriting became as unintelligible as my thoughts. I continued to write, but nothing I put down on paper made any sense. I drowned my voice that night, like so many other nights before it. So I looked on longingly as my friend created beautiful pieces of wearable art, sipping on my bitter defeat. That was one of my saddest moments because I knew I couldn’t connect with myself anymore. The addiction was louder than me…whoever that was.

Now that I live with my mother–who has inherited bad hearing–I am forced to be loud. Each time she asks me to speak up, I do. Sometimes I even shout

A little bit louder, now.

Photo courtesy of HD Wallpapers

 

Spiritual Feminism

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately–and not the OCD kind. I don’t know if my newfound spiritual curiosity has to do with the recent¬†articles I’ve read¬†or if this is my way of “branching out”¬†in the¬†Higher Power / God department.¬†I spend a lot of time with my mother, who is a die-hard Catholic, and that woman really loves her saints and her Christ.¬†Her¬†hardcore love for¬†her church family inspires me to think beyond my Catholic School Biases.¬†Her journalistic work on the Pope, including seeing him in Pennsylvania, has helped me keep an open mind. The Pope himself has readily become my ongoing¬†#MCM for months now. In short, I’m really feelin’ the Catholic Church. All of the Christ-like examples in my life are shining forth with unconditional love and service work.

I just got¬†off the phone¬†with my sponsor whose conversation resulted in both of us agreeing Jesus¬†was a¬†G. He threw tantrums in temples, he hung out with “women of the night,” he¬†defied physics¬†and he gave his 12 besties guidelines to be super nice to people who needed someone to be super¬†nice to them, even if they didn’t deserve it. Not to mention he converted water into wine. I don’t drink (now), but even as a person in recovery¬†I concede that¬†a miracle of that magnitude wouldn’t be the worst for people who enjoy pairing a fancy red with their steak.

Furthermore, I think Jesus was a feminist. He hung out with Mary Magdalene on the reg, who was purported to be one of the busiest “whores” around. He told judgmental people to step off, then she washed his feet with her hair. One image comes to my mind where Mary Magdalene is¬†holding an egg (that I interpret as her owning the eggs in her body like a feminist would). According to biblical folklore and/or fact, “Caesar laughed [at Mary M], saying, Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red. But, before he could finish speaking, the egg had turned¬†bright red! The miracle of the egg turned many to Christ that day.” Men not listening to a woman who¬†is right?…hmm.

Lest we forget that Jesus’ teenage years and roaring 20s are conspicuously absent from the New Testament–I doubt very sincerely that this was an accident. Maybe Jesus went through rugged terrain finding himself during those years. Maybe his calling to be The Coolest Dude on Earth got figured out when he acted as people typically act¬†at those ages.

The articles I’ve read are vast in their subject matters, from Christianity to Planned Parenthood. The most recent ones that got me thinking are about Planned Parenthood. I know a few people who are pissy about the government’s hostile takeover of PP, as well they should be. The (white) men who are hellbent on legislating our sexual reproductive systems are a bit shortsighted in this matter. My guess is that many of these unfortunate-looking men got lucky a few more times than they’d care to admit–and by “lucky” I mean to “get some” after a night of tipping back whiskeys with the Good Ole Boys in DC taverns, cutting back-room deals to defund Planned Parenthood. My deductive reasoning leads me to believe many of the women these blowhards bedded were on birth control, have had mammograms and/or have had access to treatment they would not have otherwise had if it weren’t for PP. Seems like a double-standard to me.

I don’t know how Jesus would feel about any of this. But my understanding of the Beatitudes is that every person is equal under the eyes of God. My¬†understanding of the Constitution happens to coincide with Jesus’ words–that all PEOPLE are created equal. As a nation founded on equality and rigid Judeo-Christian “values,” I think something has gotten lost in translation. America may have been founded by gun-toting white people, but this country was built and sustained by women and black people. That’s just economics.

I seek to understand people, though I know this may never happen. The best I can do is find the God within myself and act accordingly. I am of the belief that Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are all euphemisms for Right Here Right Now. My version of God speaks to me through music, and that’s just me. I have Stevie Wonder’s song “As” on repeat as I write this. He seems to know a thing or two about godliness:

Did you know that true love asks for nothing
No no her acceptance is the way we pay
Did you know that life has given love a guarantee
To last through forever and another day

Blessed are the female badasses, for they shall love no matter what.

What Thinking is to Feeling

French philosopher and all-around¬†top notch thinker¬†R√©n√© Descartes once said, “Je pense, donc je suis,”¬†[I think, therefore I am].¬†This is a wonderful notion when¬†our thoughts aren’t obsessive. But what happens when we no longer have the luxury of making our interminable thoughts who we are? How do we separate what we think to be true about ourselves from who we actually¬†are?

I spoke with a good friend of mine from the program today.¬†She shared with me her struggles¬†against negative thinking. Our conversation veered into how our thought patterns as women too-easily¬†become opportunities for negative self-talk. We talked about how hard it is to separate our images from our hearts and souls within. She told me how she practices saying “my body feels sick,” as opposed to saying “I am sick.” I found this simple action to be quite profound. It reminded me of what my sponsor used to say, that a part of her feels sad or disappointed, but that an emotion does not consume her entire being. The French say “J’ai faim,” meaning¬†“I have hunger,” rather than “I am hungry.” Language–whether spoken out loud or within–is everything.

Lately, I’ve experienced obsessive thoughts of my own. Though I was diagnosed with OCD in early sobriety, I know that part of what is going on is spiritual malaise. I have become distrustful of the processes I am currently participating in: finding my feet in the 12-step community in Virginia, filing for bankruptcy by the end of 2015, being in love in a long-distance relationship. All of these things are big opportunities for growth and change–arguably the two biggest¬†buzz words in recovery–both of which¬†bring on a torrent of unrest and unease within my psychic chambers.

Two friends recently sent me an article that outlines the science behind happiness. I jumped at the chance to see science backing what I have found to be true so far: positive thinking affects positive change. Neuroscientists found four rituals that help us change the shape our thoughts before they turn sour: practice gratitude, label negative feelings, make decisions and touch people (not in a lude or lascivious manner). These thought behaviors stimulate serotonin and dopamine production, not to mention eradicate self-pity and discouragement. Who’d have thunk it?

Sensory overload helps with a brain like mine. It’s almost like exposure therapy when I drown my thoughts with very loud music or extremely bright colors. I have never felt more at peace than when I visited LACMA a few months into sobriety. I joined a friend who wanted to check out the new¬†James Terrell exhibit. It is nearly impossible for me to explain the peace I felt, being overtaken by silence and color. My entire body breathed a sigh of relief with every gradual change in the neon landscape.

I am grateful to the art of science. I have more of an appreciation for it now that I¬†believe in¬†a Higher Power and/or God. I know that more often than not, my thinking tends to stymie¬†my progress.¬†I am sober to feel better about myself and to have the chance to share my joy with others–not to stew over the “what ifs” or the “coulda, woulda, shouldas” that make me miserable. I am grateful to friends who appreciate the science behind what we all want in our lives: to be happy.

When I think (happy), I am (happy), at least, over time. Just a small amendment to a great thought. Way to be, Descartes.

xx

Photo courtesy of LACMA