Rhinestone Eyes

I’ve never felt closer to a Higher Power than I have while being in the presence of children. I started substitute teaching this week–fifth grade the first day, second grade a couple of days later. The little nugget children are full of piss and vinegar and inescapable honesty. A little over a month ago, I first started working with high schoolers at the same school as a mentor/electives facilitator, so I had a little bit of real-life experience in guidance before I began substituting.

Right before I began teaching, the Paris attacks occurred on 13 Novembre 2015. I felt angry and confused, just like most people. I also felt ignorant when I realized this kind of shit just happened in Beirut not even 24 hours prior–and I had no idea. The refugee crisis has resonated with me the most out of all of this violent horseshit for several reasons. First, people’s reactions to allowing 10,000+ refugees in our country is disappointing and xenophobic, especially considering ISIS wasn’t even successful in infiltrating this group of people. Second, little baby Syrian nuggets are being wrenched from place to place living homeless for months or years at a time. Lastly, many of us don’t realize that we are not powerless against the evils of terrorism; we have the ability to send our love forth through how we change and ultimately through how we treat people in our lives.

I read an article a couple nights ago about the magnetism of our hearts. Author Arjun Walia describes the importance of our hearts’ “intuitive intelligence.”

“Bottom line, feelings of love, gratitude, and compassion ‚Äď any positive feelings whatsoever ‚Äď have a larger impact than we could have ever imagined. These are all characteristics of consciousness, and as quantum physics is showing us, consciousness plays a definite role in the creation of our reality. If this is true, then how we feel about things must too, and with the research coming out from the Institute of HeartMath, it doesn‚Äôt seem unreasonable to suggest that feeling good might very well be fundamental to creating global change.”

The more we connect to the good inside of us, the better chance we have of radiating joy to others. This isn’t some kind of froo froo bullshit that has no basis in reality. When we feel good, we are more likely to be generous and kind to others. We might not have the tools to combat violence in the immediate, for example, but our nonviolent words and actions impact how others feel in a positive way.

Before I started subbing, I saw an image on Facebook of thousands of children meditating for world peace. I took that idea and applied it to the classroom. Both the fifth graders and second graders were STOKED to meditate. One of the kids took my hand and led me to their “reading nook” so we could all sit and meditate where the kids normally read stories. My heart felt so full when I saw these pure beams of light and love practice peace. Each time a kid gave me a hug, I imagined hugging a Syrian refugee child. A part of my soul became aware that the love we instill in children gives the little nuggets a chance to see how to love themselves in the face of adversity.

One of my 12th graders wrote on her daily gratitude list that she was grateful for music. She loves the band Gorillaz, so she wrote down some of her favorite songs from the band. I listened to Rhinestone Eyes, which reminded me of how precious those kids are. They look up to their teachers with these big, saucer-like eyes, sparkling like rhinestones with love and sweet promise. The lyrics struck me in a big way today: “I prayed on the unmovable” and “the storm brings strange loyalties.” I want to show these kids that they matter. They can pray when they feel sad or lonely. They can send love to other kids who have less than they do. They can grow up to be happy, non-violent, loving adults.

Recovery brought me joy and love. I never expected that love to come from children and adults. If you are reading this, I’m sending you love.

Just love.

Photo courtesy of DeviantArt

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Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo.

I am slightly obsessed with comedian Aziz Ansari. I just picked up his new book Modern Romance from the glorious Petersburg library. In his book, Ansari pulls data from sociologists, anthropologists and Tinder-user focus groups that span the globe–from Qatar to Wichita to France. He mines for information about how cultures date and how the¬†fantasy of choice has taken over. He manages to slip in some information about the hunt for “the perfect job” compared to the quest for “the perfect soul mate.” His findings are interesting because they are evidence-based. I am not at all surprised to see that, according to his data,¬†more choices do not actually lead to¬†more happiness.

Lately I’ve been questioning what my higher purpose is on this planet. Now that I am sober, I have the freedom to explore all sorts of choices because I am available to do so. I promised myself early on in recovery that I would work hard to follow my dreams. What I’ve found almost two years in is that my dreams have changed. As it turns out, I am in the “good enough” mind set that Ansari speaks about in his book. Many daters 40 years ago chose¬†partners based on proximity¬†and subsequently participated in life things with a less-than-perfect spouse. Who says I can’t do the same for a job? Or better yet, a vocation?

I realize I am not as important as I thought I was. I don’t mean to say that I am not a universe in and of myself; I am. What I’m getting at here is that my quest to find my higher purpose only yields results when I keep things simple–and keep my ego out of it. The world will go on if I get a shitty job just to pay the bills. Earth will keep spinning on its axis if I don’t find a job that pays more than minimum wage. My purpose right now is to keep my inner peace and to just show up.

I heard my friend say at a meeting on Friday that sometimes he has to say to himself, “You know what? I woke up sober. That might be the only important thing I do all day. And that has to be enough.” I¬†am elated when I hear shares like this one. It takes the pressure off of me to “make things happen.” I tend to put a shit ton of pressure on myself to find a job that reflects what a badass I am–in both my salary and my title. But that rubric of “needs” no longer serves me. Now that I have taken a very part-time job as a high school online electives facilitator (read, mentor) a new world of possible choices¬†has opened up to me. Yes, I continue to write during the day when I am not at school, but I also get to spend time with young people helping to set them up for a great future. My former sponsor told me before I started writing this blog to “remember why I started.” I do remember. In fact, I think about it every day. I started writing so I could help people. Now I see I want to help young people, too.¬†It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Today, I choose to apply calmness and rationality to my life situation. I live with my mother, who provides me rides to meetings and helps me get to my job. I am eternally grateful to her for being willing to help me out in the most difficult period of my life. I am filing for bankruptcy in December, because years of people-pleasing to get/keep cars for jobs to get/keep said jobs, to live in cool places well beyond my means, to buy drinks when I had no money to do so–all of that nonsense caught up with me. Simply put, today I choose to participate in a hard reset of my life and my dreams. My Modern Guilt about my Modern Romance with choice belongs in the rubbish bin, along with my old ideas about who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing.

If anyone reading this is around my age (29), then I am sure you have had your share of self doubt and impossible quandaries about¬†your future. The best piece of advice anyone ever gave me was that no one knows what they are doing. There is not a single person on this planet who “has it figured out.” Gratitude for the present helps me to see that where I am is “good enough.” A quote I’ve shared before that my friend happened to post this morning reminds me what living my higher purpose looks like:

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”

–Albert Camus

I wrote a paper in French about Albert Camus when I was a freshman in college in 2004-2005. I loved that French class, and I pursued a double major in French and Political Science simply because I loved both subjects too much to choose. People told me I chose not one, but TWO useless majors. I proved them wrong by obtaining political jobs right out of college for nearly six years. I applied French when I spoke fluently with Haitian cab drivers after nights of blackout drinking. I showed them.

Though I no longer have political jobs or drunken conversations with drivers from francophone countries, I am happy I followed my bliss when I was in college. Had I not taken the political route, I would have never ended up in Los Angeles. Hell, I may never have gotten to such a stressed out state to get sober, either. The truth is, I may never know. What I hold close to me is that my choices led me to where I am at this very moment: writing to help people, not just to help myself.

According to my good friend, Ziggy Stardust/Nicole (see previous blog post), I am experiencing my Saturn Return. In astrological speak, this means that I am undergoing a huge life change that shifts my perspective completely. Maybe in a few years all of this change will make more sense. In ten years, I might be having a very similar conversation with family and/or friends about how grateful I am I lived with my mother having no idea what I was going to be when I grew up. Maybe good enough is better than anything I could dream of right now.

Maybe good enough is enough, simply because it has to be.

Photo courtesy of uinterview

Part 2 Lady St*rdust is Born

Ladies and Gentleman, meet the woman, the myth, the legend–Lady Stardust:

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 I have never seen a more relevant (in my eyes) Halloween costume. I love Halloween because people get to be whatever they want to be in front of everyone. I think we should celebrate Halloween all the time–maybe it would give us all permission to actually be what we want to be without fear of reprimand or scorn. That is, unless, you want to unearth your secret racism or misappropriate cultural stereotypes for your own gain. 

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I’d like to wear more glitter and colorful hair. I’d also like to wear full body suits with high-heeled boots like Nicole did, because I think it would make the world a better place (just like she does). Halloween is a good exercise in the IDGAF mentality. David Bowie created an alter-ego in Ziggy Stardust because he did not give a fuck. His rock star persona made him a rock star because he took outrageous liberties when he cultivated this other-wordly character.

So when I gave no fucks, like Nicole and Bowie, yesterday turned out to be the best Halloween I’ve ever had. I joined my friend Fancie while she officiated a wedding in Chester. We traveled to the couple’s home where they were married in the back yard with their close families and friends. They stood next to the grave they made for their dog “Nicholas Cage.” The lovers were tattooed from head to toe, grinning from ear to ear with excitement and love. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen. The couple dressed as devilish ghouls and they looked amazing. They were so nervous, but their vows were heartfelt and I could feel their love for each other. It was an honor to be a part of such a rad wedding celebration. No one questioned the woman dressed as a Pineapple taking pictures for them on everyone’s iPhone.

PineappleThe only thing that trumps not giving a fuck is spending Halloween sober. I am so grateful to have my second sober Halloween in the books. Holidays–even the silliest ones–are tough for recovering addicts and alcoholics sometimes. Every now and again I get euphoric recall about the fun I had getting wasted with my friends. What I have to remind myself, however, is the unfun I had walking home alone getting lonelier and lonelier with every step. Half the time I ended up on some stranger’s couch, confused and disoriented as to how I got there. Even if I started the night out with my group of friends, I almost always ghosted them to stay out later at the bar or to go home with a stranger. I’m sure they were worried about me, but I didn’t have enough others-centered thoughts to care.

I look forward to dressing up for Halloween next year. Maybe in the near-future, I will be dressing up my toddlers in cute costumes. Half the fun of Halloween is getting to see my friends’ children dress as mini cupcakes, lions, Forrest Gumps or elephants. Me as a mother is a real-life costume I wouldn’t mind trying out.

Spookier things have happened.

Featured image courtesy of Popblerd