Biased Cut

Now feels like the time to break with tradition: waiting the painstaking hours-minutes-seconds until the clock strikes 12AM on March 17th to blog something–

Instead, it’s 9:16PM on Thursday, March 15th.

I realize that time is but a construct and the day-counting is more like a superstition at this point than an actual measure of my recovery.

So with the grace and pre-supposition of a power greater than myself carrying me over the line, I will turn four years sober on Saturday. This anniversary means everything to me.

And nothing at all.

Year three created a new paradigm of sobriety for me. I married my favorite person. I discontinued my studies to become a teacher. I moved. I started a new cooking job. Saint Bonaventure beat UCLA despite the shadow of a 48-year heartbreak. Any one of the above entitled items, in and of itself, is life-altering (well, most of them).¬†But stats over time don’t really do it for me. I am accustomed to these types of changes. More to the point, I am comfortable with the chaos that accompanies turmoil. I know what it is for my actions to precipitate reactions in others–to my words and behaviors. I have intimate knowledge of the fallout when my ambivalence toward, say, my career, causes confusion in others and panic in myself. It’s tough stuff, but it’s kind of my wheelhouse.

Time is neither friend nor foe. I am the same person I was last year, except a lot more honest. I forgot to doubt myself.  I am at peace. It has been exactly two months since I felt the familiar pangs of extreme anxiety. My brain is neutral and my heart is full. I am still clumsy in my intimate relationships and messy in my day-to-day planning. My 2018 planner and my station at work are nothing if not a perfect reflection of a hyper-active mind.

*

The process of planning our wedding caused my husband and I stress unlike any other we’ve known. Granted, I (technically) caused this stress–I¬†did say ‘yes,’ but then, so did he–asking me to marry him and all. We signed up for it, enthusiastically.

We found ourselves a newlywed nest, but not without months of searching what seemed like every apartment in the city up for rent. I switched jobs two months later on what felt like a whim, but was really a moment of gumption. As a result, we run on opposite schedules like two tired, creaking ships passing in the night. This break in our routine surprised even me–I’m not certain what came over me. Perhaps a smidge of impulse and a little selfishness. I stopped mid-shift and swiveled my Danskos in the direction of my restaurant’s kitchen manager to switch from Front of the House to Back of the House.

I had a lot of nerve this year.

See also: I am someone’s wife. A wife and a prep cook. A former playgirl turned lush for commitment. I did something I promised myself I would never do: I followed a man’s lead. I came home that night with the overwhelming desire to tell my husband his delight and love for cooking to nourish others inspired me–enough to start all over again, again. From politicking to freelance writing to classroom teaching to oyster shucking–I am dizzy from the trip. I never imagined I’d be elbow-deep in condensed milk or grilled asparagus, yet here I am.

My work mentor (second only to my chef-husband-mentor) taught me some kitchen basics, least of all how to make a biased cut. Visions of celery, onions and jalapenos dance behind my eyes, all reminding me to cut identical sharp angles for continuity. My instinct was to scoff at the peculiarities of this new kitchen jargon, but I held my tongue. I remember all too well entering the rooms of recovery, ambling around the confusing vocabulary of hope in my beloved 12-step program. I am humbled by the temperatures and textures I have yet to learn. I have been here before. I recognize the need to know nothing in order to learn something. My recovery has taught me the precise need to know that I don’t know. Every heartening moment of growth is a direct result of ignorance terminated by experience. My higher power has protected me in more uncertain times than these. I’ve made it this far and I am in the company of some greats.

After all, I am a little biased.

 

Featured image courtesy of Get Inspired Everyday

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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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

(500) Days of Sober

Five Oh OH!

Double O face today, my friends.

Because my math is shaky at best, I assume yours is, too. Five hundred days = 1.36 years, 11,985 hours, 16.38 months of sobriety. None of these numbers matter more than 24–my span of ruin, rapture or radiant joy in a convenient day-shaped package. Now that I have insomnia, I live 20 out of those 24 hours with a motherfucking smile, tears or a confused look on my face. Sometimes all three.

Here is how I’ve changed in 500 Days of Sober:

1. I connect to something more powerful than me. Love, acceptance of self/others, the sex powers and musical stylings of Bowie.

2. I hone my decision-making skills. I don’t cajole, manipulate or conquer choices. I ask for guidance then make my decision. I ignore self-doubt because that’s boring. Consequences happen, either way.

3. Honesty. What gets under my skin, why and what part I have in that. The truth is kinder to me these days. I don’t apologize unless I mean it.

4. I honor my intuition. These guts turn for me and me alone. I don’t obfuscate my view of the truth within me by drinking. I listen. And I cry now.

5. Authenticity or bust. I am strong in my vulnerability. I relay where I am with no filter, aside from a deep wellspring of joy. It’s my nature.

That said, I am the proud owner of multiple new (or newly discovered) character defects. What the fuck ever, I’m human. I can’t answer several million of the questions I have for my life, so I’ll stop trying. There is a greater force working on my behalf. Because my mother has cable, I caught this Oprah show about attitude. A woman she interviewed described how her life changed when she began thinking, “The world is rigged in my favor.”  Or as my sponsor likes to say, “You can have it.”

In the movie, (500) Days of Summer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt convinces himself he can’t live without Summer, Zooey Deschanel’s character. He gets bent out of shape that she won’t love him like he thinks she should. He sees what he wants to see. Granted, she feeds his fantasy. He throws himself headlong into a murky romantic entanglement. He controls, he cries, he crashes. Summer, like my cruel lover, booze, does not reciprocate the feelings. This is not a love story. There are no winners. Thank God booze is not a person, or I’d have wasted many hours waiting for texts and calls that would never come. Booze hits it and quits it.

Who wants angst when you can just be? I woke up this morning, happy. I get to create beauty. I write, I speak, I listen, I laugh–I laugh harder when someone knows the exact right way to make fun of me. I spend time with my mother. I work. I eat. I yoga. I listen to Joy Division and Rhye. I do not cower before my emotions.

When I untethered myself from alcohol, I created the space to change, to be. The most pressing question I will answer today is, “What do I want to create?” instead of “Will the liquor store clerk give me a discount on Bullet whiskey if I flirt hard enough?”

I am not afraid to be who I am. I am not afraid of much these days, come to think of it. Except maybe intimacy. I cop to that. But that’s where faith comes in. My relationships to friends and family teach me to be less afraid. Fear has little use for me. Action steps, doing the right thing–those replace ambivalence. Or in my case, fear of failure. Also something that bores me.

In short, it is physically impossible to follow fear when my Higher Power is David Bowie.

Bowie is Paris

xx

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Too Much

I chaired my first meeting in Richmond tonight. My heart was pounding so hard that I was sure it made the top of my red sundress move involuntarily. I scrambled to find the right words. Then I remembered there is no such thing. I turned my recovery inside out for a group of randoms whom I loved before I met. I cursed, I apologized for cursing, then I dropped a few more fuck bombs for continuity. I made my point, is the point.

I scoured my brain to find a topic which fell out of my mouth before I could approve: expectations. I accidentally chose this topic because I’ve had it up to –>here with my own set of them. I felt a heat wave of irrational anger just minutes before the meeting started because I hate when I don’t understand my own heart. I cried to my mother in the car on the drive to Richmond about all the ways I couldn’t make sense of the arc of my life. Why have I not had a long-term relationship? Why don’t I own a home? When will I ever afford a car again? FEELINGS.

I played verbal hopscotch all over that group of unsuspecting AAers. And out of the blue I referenced a page number from the literature like the fucking Rain Man. I don’t really remember what I said, but I know that I shared the page number accurately because I double-checked when I got home. I felt a bit better after the meeting, but the miasma of my thoughts lingered. (Note: I have now Rain Manned twice–I read the word “miasma” in a book like two months ago and it stuck. For fuck’s sake.)

It feels like [all of the feelings of ever] to go through life sober. I told my sponsor tonight that I feel like Katherine Heigel in Knocked Up when her blowhard of a doctor won’t give her anesthesia before she gives birth. She Satan-screams “I FEEL EVERYTHING!” and I’m all, “I FEEL YOU GIRL, ME TOO.” Except she fake-births a child and I real-birthed a new life. I don’t know what I expected would happen. One removes the numbing agent, one feels all of the things. If, then. Cause, effect. Me plus you equals us. Math. And, oh, physics.

My sponsor walked me through step work a few nights ago, pointing to a page out of the book on FaceTime. She says, “You are here.” What a profound bird, she is. I am a speck in the Milky Way, even when it feels like milk was a bad choice. The significance of my ego’s insignificance shocks and awes me to no end. Who am I to say that I should have things or that anything could be different? Here, now, present.

I expect joy. I know that I won’t have PTSD brain forever. I feel like I got a do-over in life. I witnessed in myself a profound sense of gratitude tonight. There was this endearing moment when I looked down during another person’s share to see that a row of men were all wearing top-siders or some alternative form of boat shoe. What an adorable local quirk. And oh! A friend from my Hopewell group traveled to come support me while I led. This guy is an amazing preacher-man who says shit that hits me like an A-bomb all the time. Then he laughs at my stunned face. What’s more, I might have said something remotely compelling to make someone feel less like drinking tonight. Or more like laughing.

Expectations, they say, are future resentments. The future doesn’t exist, though. Ipso facto, neither do my resentments. It’s a choice. Our human minds construct time and ideas to make sense of the present in all of its forms. Human alcoholic minds fixate on resentments to make us drink over the past and/or the future. At present, I don’t have to drink tonight. Neither do those preppy dudes at the meeting. I can’t filter the present through the past or the future when I am here. Sober.

R.I.P. Expectations. You did me dirty, you tetchy bastards. But tonight I say, au revoir.

xx

Photo courtesy of www.motherandbaby.co.uk

The Lion, The Witch and the Warhol

I relish the nights when songs get stuck in my head. One of the reasons for this quirk is my desire to quiet a rambunctious mind. I find that songs replace thoughts I would otherwise discard. I don’t particularly mind the repetition, as I am a creature of habit if ever there was one. A familiar song is like lullaby for me, anyway. I experience insomnia every couple of nights, though it doesn’t bother me one bit because I learn more about music when I’m waiting to fall asleep. For the past few weeks, I’ve had Donovan and Louis Armstrong keeping me company. The latest addition to the nighttime collection I’ve amassed is Bowie’s Andy Warhol from his 1971 album Hunky Dory. I love me some Bowie, but this song is most def in my top three. It’s just so…weird.

As I lay down to sleep one night last week, I attempted a meditation practice. Approximately three million nonsensical thoughts crowded my consciousness until it got very quiet. I heard the murmurings of Bowie as Warhol on the track and I became instantly calm. I remembered what I had read about this song–that Bowie was all proud of himself for creating a tune that he was sure Warhol would love. Turns out, Andy was annoyed and super bitchy toward Bowie for writing it in the first place. Bowie revered Warhol, but the feelings were not exactly mutual. (Not to worry though–Bowie ended up playing Warhol in the movie Basquiat, which gave him some closure, I suppose). Ahhhh, the webs we weave.

My brain did a rather curious thing as I played the song in real time. I began to free associate during my meditation. Free association, to me, is like interpretive dance for the word-happy ones among us. On the third play through, I thought of my favorite book as a girl, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I used to love this book, especially because one of the characters shared my name (I love self-referencing, because I can). My brain then jumped to a possible title for this blog: The Lion, The Witch and the Warhol. I googled the title to make sure no one had used it yet. To my delight, I did not catch it anywhere. What I did find, however, was a collection of Warhol pieces known as The Witch Myths Series. Thanks, Universe! The Myths collection includes works of American villains and/or mythical figures of the collective consciousness, redone in a most distinctive Warhol way. I’ve seen this collection before, but I never knew its name. He believed many of the characters, like the Wicked Witch of the West and Uncle Sam, represented parts of his own personality. I think he loved self-referential things even more than I do. Just a theory.

The Witch Myths made me think about the facets of my own personality. Lately, the “character defects” motif continues to inspire me to get to know myself. Though I’ve walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Defects in my sixth step work in AA, I have only caught a glimpse of what constitutes a defect of character and what serves a higher purpose. My dad used to tell me that crazy, narcissistic or wayward people were exciting and interesting for a reason. He did not mean to tell me I should revel in these attributes, but my teenaged brain clung to his words as validation. I don’t consider myself crazy, just complicated. I have let go of judgement recently, considering how weird I am. It is way more fun to be free–it leaves room for other weirdos to come be free with you.

I am experiencing a period of self-transformation by being still. I have decided that it’s okay to discard some of my old ideas of what’s supposed to make me happy. I am open to more people, places and things because resisting the experience of being home no longer serves me. I meet new people and I see new things. This strange world in Virginia inspires me to be myself. My old beliefs float away as easily as the the little florets on a dandelion. When I was a little girl, I would pick these flowers that are actually weeds and blow on them like birthday candles to make my wishes. Being home is the flower, not the weed. I made a wish and I said a prayer for my Higher Power to help me heal and be happy. He listened. And just as my defects are open to interpretation, I will interpretive dance in words to free-associate once more: dandelions, Andy Warhol, the Dandy Warhols, Bohemian Like You. Or weird, like me.

Go be free, ya weirdos.

xo

Photo courtesy of modernartcollecting.blogspot.com