Grey Matter

The year is 2014.¬†I schlep¬†my possessions¬†through a heavy rotation of¬†¬†“living spaces” to cure my¬†homelessness.¬†I crouch¬†on some friend’s floor counting change to buy my hipster cigarettes. I fight¬†with my boyfriend over his¬†behavior that I can only defend but so much. I limp¬†under the weight of debilitating¬†anxiety. I wade through stress and loss with the grace of a newborn elephant drowning¬†in the middle of the ocean. My brain escalates its cortisol production with an obsessive fear and fierce determination not to drink.

I survive.

*

The year is 2016.¬†I wake up in my twin’s high school bedroom. I start the day sans¬†nightmares about my EBT money running out. I pour myself some Dunkin and ponder nothing. Two puffs off my douchey vaporizer soothes me.¬†My peace lasts just under five minutes.

One scroll through Facebook leads to fresh¬†pangs of envy–a few of which I wrote about here.

I weigh the many character defects of my personality. Impatience and judgement in spades. An inability to grasp being wrong–that one tops the list. I acknowledge I am not a jealous person. I call my sponsor to stop the circle jerk in my head. I recall that jealousy of other people is a wasted emotion. I cringe when I realize this has changed in¬†sobriety. In¬†AA, old timers taught¬†me to emulate people who have what I want,¬†not envy them. It seems I have given into an emotion I detest.

*

The year is 2015. I’m writing on borrowed time while the house of cards topples around me. I hate my life but I am in love with its possibilities. I marvel over my new LA writing gig, an obvious reward for my sobriety. I hate the reality of writing but I love the romance.

I feel isolated, anxious, inept and defeated. Duress¬†of this magnitude does not become me. I keep writing, as my resentment¬†festers.¬†I attempt¬†to¬†stuff my feelings down, but they plague me for months. It feels wrong and ungrateful of me to complain about my dreams coming true. I see sober women I look up to continue to write and be successful at it. I want what they have, but I don’t like what that looks like. I envy them.

*

It’s the last week of December, 2015. I’m hunched over my new laptop at my (now) husband’s apartment in the Bronx. I reach my deadline limit and impulsively email my editor to take an official hiatus from writing. I feel relieved and proud of myself. Fuck this noise, I think.

I make a prideful choice to stop writing. I hate the pressure and I loathe how isolated I have become. I carry this pride with me into 2016. I admire the universe for presenting me with the option to change. I become a substitute teacher. In doing so, I change my mind for the millionth time.

*

The year is 2016. I wake up feeling envious of other writers. This baffles me, as I have not thought about my previous gig for months. I’ve been preoccupied with science experiments and classroom management. The timing makes sense, though.¬†I start school to become a credentialed teacher on Monday. I give many, many fucks about learning to be a good teacher. I’ve never held a credential for any tangible skill, except to administer CPR. Much to my dismay, that credential has expired–so has my ability to reason.

My brain is a preposterous place. I gain consciousness within and just like that! I fall short of my own expectations. It’s almost like the brain is built to sabotage the good that befalls the thinker. The machine between my ears eludes me once more. It’s times like these where listing items of gratitude digs me out of a self-pitying mire.

To me, jealously and envy are distractions. We make choices–good and bad–that will always precede consequences. Our free will is like the First Amendment–we can say what we want, but that doesn’t mean we are free of responsibility. I made a choice to leave one job to pursue a career that fulfills me. As a teacher, I can’t afford to be self-involved. Students need to learn. They don’t give a fuck about what articles I’ve written or how many meetings I’ve attended to stay sober. All they know is they are one day closer to spring¬†break and one fraction of a point away from passing.

When the student is ready, the teacher(s) appear.

 

Photo courtesy of quotesgram.com

 

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Give Me Your Hands ‘Cause You’re Wonderful

The last thing my father did before he died was play a flute solo in church. Power move. He was an atheist who frequented our Episcopalian church with the simple excuse to play music for people. He ended on a high note–literally–sat down in his chair, slumped over and died. He felt no pain. He would elicit no such drama.

“Atheist Dies in Church, Performs Final Solo,” read the headline in my mind.

David Bowie’s last release, Lazarus, was ‘parting gift’ for fans in carefully planned finale,” crept across my screen in the still of the night.

Gordon Morrisette, aka Tony, died on December 10, 2006 at the age of 68. David Jones, aka David Bowie, passed away on January 10, 2016 at the age of 69. My heart shattered with the news of my father’s death. My heart breaks more quietly and more gently with the news of my spiritual godfather’s death. I knew Bowie’s death would come. I’ve heard this song before–

Love is lost

Your country’s new
Your friends are new
Your house and even your eyes are new
Your maid is new and your accent, too
But your fear is as old as the world

*

The most important gift I received during my last Christmas of drinking came from my neighbor, Fly. He brought me fancy Russian vodka, a wooden print of Hunter S. Thompson and a canvas screenprint of David Bowie’s mug shot. I was ecstatic. I drank the vodka with a friend in one night while Bowie flatly stared at me, his gaze steadfast and unmoving. The picture I took of those gifts turned out to be a prophetic one–I tumbled into sobriety not three months later. Even in black and white, Bowie’s steely glare penetrated the chaos in my mind. It was unsettling.

bowie print

The walls (one of which was blue, blue, electric blue) in my apartment at “Rampart Village,” Los Angeles, were incredibly thin. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. We tenants came to recognize the distinctive footsteps of every neighbor who walked up the stairs. Fly learned mine for Apartment 203. Every so often, he would blast Bowie next door to welcome me home. I could hear him playing Hunky Dory and Young Americans at all times of the day and night.

blue blue electric blue

In high school, my sister and I participated in every after school activity we could think of, which meant we got home late. When we’d turn onto Berkeley Avenue after a 45-minute commute from Richmond to Petersburg, we’d hear our father playing the flute from a mile away, making sure to keep the window open. He serenaded us at home, performing covers of Marvin Gaye and Big Band songs. I can still feel the exciting comfort in those familiar sounds. He showed unequivocal love through his music and art.

daddy.jpgGordon Morrisette, self-portrait circa 1978…

I know I’ve seen that face before.

Dance in bars and restaurants,
Home with anyone who wants,
Strange he’s standing there alone,
Staring eyes chill me to the bone.

*

I remember the day I declared Bowie as my Higher Power. I couldn’t wait to tell my sponsor. She giggled, then sweetly surprised me with Bowie episodes from Flight of the Conchords. I thanked her and gently asked if it was okay that I was sexually attracted to my Higher Power. She laughed as we both let that absurdity sink in. I knew Bowie was my One because he had been there all along. Labyrinth, released the year I was born (1986), 12-steps the year I came to believe (2014). The program required me to come to be willing to accept that something greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I knew choosing a mere mortal was tricky, but I gave no fucks. His music would be my muse. My shaky hands and my temples dotting with sweat ceased and desisted when Bowie came on the radio and that’s all I needed to know. As I binged on Netflix, three or four months sober, I began recognizing Bowie songs in some of my favorite movies and shows. His song Fashion plays as Cher chooses her outfit for school in the opening scene of Clueless; All The Young Dudes plays as the stoner dudes walk the “grassy knoll.” Cat People (Putting Out Fire) breaks out at the beginning dance sequence on an episode of The Office called Caf√© Disco. I couldn’t believe my ears.

My friends threw me a party when I turned one year sober. Our crew at Hollywood Latenight–the misfits, the miscreants, the tight-pant-leather-wearing pod people–rang in my new year and it was one of the best nights of my life. My male friend showed up in a revealing glitter onesie. My other friend, the matriarch of our group, brought me Bowie vinyl covers and lyrics scrawled out with purpose. Another friend brought me a Bowie mug that looked like a Warhol print. We watched projections of Bowie being all of the things. We talked about our sad pasts with music on our minds. That night, Lady Stardust was born…

And he sang all night long
Femme fatales emerged from shadows
To watch this creature fair
Boys stood upon their chairs
To make their point of view
I smiled sadly for a love
I could not obey
Lady stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and dismay

Hollywood Latenight.jpg

My name at Hollywood Latenight is “Judgy Snatch.” It suits me.

image

*

The last time I flew when I was actively drinking, I reeked of vodka. It was an early-early- morning flight, but that didn’t stop me from going hard the night before. My good friend met me at the airport, startled at the sight of me and my fire-breathing pyrotechnics. She furrowed her eyebrows and asked me if that was alcohol she smelled. I laughed it off, but the shame of her question cut me so deeply I couldn’t catch my breath. Not that I would have wanted to.

The first time I flew sober, I was skiddish and terrified. I paced up and down the airport’s corridor, trying to keep myself busy. I gave up and sat down after a couple of minutes because my heels were unforgiving. The second I sat down, Bowie and Freddie Mercury came blasting over the speakers. I wept with joy. I had arrived and Bowie hadn’t forgotten me. When I got off the plane, I met a woman from San Diego outside smoking a cigarette who casually mentioned she was several years sober. She gave me her number, whereas I was ready to give her my first-born.

You see, Bowie was always there. I never worshipped his human side; I prayed to his spirit. Somewhere in the far reaches of my body, mind and soul, I was able to differentiate between the man and the myth. Bowie tapped into something not many of us have access to: pure creativity. He helped us dream. He made it okay to be weird as fuck. To me, his death elevated Bowie to mystical, mythical proportions. And he makes even more sense now.

*

When I moved home, my mother asked me why I chose David Bowie as my Higher Power. (I think she wanted to get to the bottom of why in hell I got Bowie’s likeness tattooed on my right arm.) I told her it was because I found he had a power greater than I did. My mother matter-of-factly replied, “He’s not more powerful than you are, Lucy.” And she’s right, he’s not. But his flamboyancy gave me the permission I needed to be myself. Bowie the human is not who has kept me sober for nearly two years.  Rather, my connection to his music incited the imagination I never knew I had. His performances proved to me that I, too, could tap into the same power–absent of fear or judgement–that made him move with such freedom. With all that said, my dad wouldn’t have cared for the Bowie theatrics or for that matter, my tattoo. But because my love for you would break my heart in two…(sorry dad)!

bowie tattoo.jpg

I love you, Bowie. I don’t love you the way I love my father, but I love you all the same. And Dad, I know what good music is because of you. I remember your stories about playing back-up for Sonny and Cher and Marvin Gaye at the Norfolk Scope. Your sound was always jazz, but you played some mean funk with the greats. You never liked rock ‘n’ roll all that much, but you respected good musicianship when you heard it. You and Bowie left a legacy of dignified talent and love. I can honestly say that I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for the likes of you. I promise I won’t look for you, but I’ll listen. The Stars (Are Out Tonight), shining for both of you. The Universe honors you

Stars are never sleeping
Dead ones and the living

We live closer to the earth
Never to the heavens
The stars are never far away
Stars are out tonight

Bowie, my heart will be your moving shelter. I will love you forever and ever, amen. So keep your ‘lectric eye on me, babe. Put your ray gun to my head. Press your space face close to mine, love–

Freak out in a moonage daydream,

oh yeah.

Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

You Started It

Last year, man. WHAT a production. Gay marriage got really legal, fire arms were used for suffering, Bowie and The Weeknd released two new songs each, I filed for bankruptcy, LA had another earthquake (I think). And that Adele. The world danced on its axis–with the bravado of a psycho maestro.

2015, you were a real piece of work. Lots of emotions.

I began 2016 with Pellegrino, Ferrero Rocher, Ryan Seacrest and Times Square on the TV, transporting me back to where I¬†elbowed through thousands of¬†tourists not even 24 hours before. The drama of it all. I spent the hours prior to balls dropping ’round the world at an “alcathon” with my sponsor. We ate barbeque, listened to Scorpions and¬†managed to stay sober. All in all, I’d say it was a proper way to ring in the New Year.

I ushered in the daylight portion of January 1 with my (late) dad’s side of the family. I saw my cousin and his wifey, who¬†are in from Brussels. I informed him immediately¬†how I realized–as I hope he did–that¬†Antwerp is, in fact, also¬†in Belgium. I was really proud of that.¬†He tried to¬†humor me. Americans me and our my¬†bunk geography, boooooo. I then¬†went home to complete my first day of Yoga Camp, a 30-day, in-home yoga challenge. Yoga is legit the only thing that makes my spirit feel connected to the rest of my body. I took up a practice with YouTube–more specifically Yoga With Adriene (I seriously cannot say enough good things about her). Don’t fret, though, I’m not a resolutionist. It took about two hours of talking myself into doing something I already¬†wanted to do¬†before I could commit to the mat. Whatever, I did it and I loved it.

Yoga With Adriene

(That’s Adriene,¬†my new bud. Look how proud of me¬†she is).

I decided 2016 is already great. Great, because I’m alive, sober and still slingin curse words. I’ve already had about 40 million obsessive thoughts so far, but none of them were about drinking so FUCK. It’s working. And I’m working. Got a surprise paycheck from substituting, so I’m not complaining. Great, too, because I made a decision to start saving. Maybe for a car, but maybe for something else. Perhaps a move. All I can think about (not that this is anything new) is going back to Los Angeles. I won’t make any rash decisions because that shit is too expensive. Several thousand¬†ill-conceived moves led me to a mountain of debt that is currently getting “mitigated.” From 2008 to 2015, I had 12 different addresses. No more double-digit logistics. No, no, that’s not my way anymore. Only one.

The kicker is, I’ve set my intention to be where I am. Except I travel to Pennsylvania tomorrow to help my sister and her husband pack up for him to move. From NYC to VA to PA. Thank God for Greyhound. I straight up have no idea where I am headed in 2016. I was told early on in sobriety that if you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. I’m practicing The Big Pause. But my heart knows what’s up. I’m not ignoring it, just priming it. My family is here, my boyfriend is in NYC and my heart is in LA. I have faith I’ll end up where I’m meant to be.

A big thank you to all of you for a great first year of bloggership. I’ve loved the process of spilling my guts to total strangers and friends in over 30 different countries. Thank you for reading…and listening.