The Marrying Kind

I’m beginning to think I’m not the marrying kind.

-Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City


There was once a time in my life where I actually quoted that shit out loud. To other people. Who might have been listening.

In high school and college (admittedly my prime SATC-watching years) I had a recurring wedding dream. I pictured myself walking down the isle toward my groom. Each time, in a full–on black and white filter–he would turn around and all I would see is a faceless man in a tux.

Those were my only wedding dreams.

And here I am, fianced. After all of the years¬†of recklessness with other people’s hearts, I am responsible for this one very important heart. That responsibility is the honor and privilege of my lifetime. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be planning a wedding at 30 years old with a man I love. Frankly, it surprised me when I made it to my 27th birthday, let alone making it to a life worth living with a person worth loving.

Needless to say, I am a reluctant wedding planner but a willing¬†bridal participant. The level of details that go into a one-time wedding event stultify me. Except¬†for the hours moments I go on Pinterest or get a phonecall from one of my best friends; those tend to be actual fun. Left to my own devices, I would walk my candy-ass to a courthouse and get married in the city of Richmond. I know I’d regret it, so I have to keep reminding myself that I am not the only one whose dreams I need to consider.

Despite the frenetic degree of google-doc’ing, one of the best things to emerge¬†from this engagement is my burgeoning spiritual practice. I’ve maintained a joyful and fun daily yoga practice with the Gaia and Yoga With Adriene online communities. But I realized last week¬†that I needed more. I started meditating again, this time taking my spiritual cues from Krishna Kaur and Gabby Bernstein. I feel lighter and more willing to chill. My yoga and meditation practices commune¬†to bolster my self-esteem.

I still curse a lot, but I don’t want that to¬†ever change.

I maintain that gratitude for where I am today keeps me present. I know that being engaged or planning a wedding doesn’t define me anymore than singledom or marriage ever did or ever will. That knowledge of “enoughness” within me, as-is, remains the second best thing to emerge from this process. I still get caught up in the budgets and the apparent infinity that is wedding color schemes, but it doesn’t mean that I have to stay caught. Loved ones tell me to enjoy the planning process, which I intend to take to heart. Otherwise I will continue to rail against 1). The Wedding Industrial Complex and 2). The Patriarchy.

I am and always will be a compulsive, over-thinking, excitable, loving and inappropriate woman. As it turns out, I am enough.

I am the marrying kind.

 

 

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Cent’Anni! (But I’ll take Two)

A traditional Italian toast–“Cent’Anni!”–blesses the toastee with wishes to live 100 years. I’ve walked this earth made from 75% Italian and 25% French stock, never having toasted much of anything (with the exception of my twin at her wedding. But not before I got into the champagne). I jumped to drink before the host got a chance to toast. It’s kind of like being that girl who is two bites in before she notices that other people at the dining table are waiting to bless the food before they eat. Madonn’.

In other news, I turned two years sober like a week ago. On Saint Patrick’s Day. This might be a sacrilege, considering the patron saint of the Eye-talians is Saint Joseph. He has his own day, too. Let’s chalk it up to an accident. By the time I was ready to get sober, the days ran together. I had no idea if I was in March or May. Needless to say, I’m thrilled, I’m happy, I’m turnt–it’s March 26th and I know who the President is.

I am a #babyteacher now. My anxiety is at an all-time low. I still go to meetings. I pray to Bowie (perhaps another sacrilege). I give less fucks than I did yesterday. I give more shits than I did a year ago. I practice yoga. I am devoted to a man I consider the love of my life. I’m that girl–yeah, that other one. Lucy 2.0.

Point being, I changed. We all change. It’s possible for people to change. I’m not currently dying from the disease of alcoholism. My soul is intact. I love. I am loved. I’m here, should you need me.

Salut.

xx

 

 

 

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

A Heart and a Hologram

I hate that I love social media so much. I hate that I rely on “likes” after I post an article or blog entry I’ve written–tiny signals of¬†my competency which almost always¬†make me feel validated. Paradoxically, I love that I get the recognition as an artist I so¬†unabashedly¬†crave–regardless of where it comes from. I love that I can¬†harp on¬†social media for being the ego trip that it is, while secretly¬†savoring¬† the accessible attention it provides.

I love basking in the glow of my computer screen, but I am dubious.

I wrote an article a couple months back about my conflicting feelings toward Facebook. Ultimately, I credit Facebook as the reason I was first exposed to recovery. At the moment, however, I feel annoyed by the sharp turns my friends and I take on matters of public opinion on controversial topics via the internet. Example one: mass shootings in America. The second anything happens in the news, we erupt into an opinion-centric beehive. We end up shitting all over each other for not being empathetic or sorry or informed enough. I appreciate all of the articles I see posted (then share), yet I find myself more reactive to things outside (or inside) of my control. It turns out that social media can make me just as susceptible to vitriol as I am to validation.

Now that I am a substitute teacher for a Catholic school, my feelings on attention have changed. I feel called to be an educator, not a traffic-generator. I¬†discovered a¬†boundless joy for teaching that I never saw coming. The last thing I wanted after I began writing for a living was to discover I was meant for something else. I’ve traded my need for “likes”¬†with drawings and hugs elementary school kids give me. How the fuck did that happen?

Sobriety has a way of humbling me.¬†Reality’s insistence on continuing to be a thing is kind of annoying, yet magical. Life on life’s terms looks a lot less messy when my eyes are in focus and my head is not up my ass. I live in Virginia, not LA; I teach more than I write; I save money instead of spending it. I am what one might call “an adult.” This is unsettling to me¬† because I thought adulthood meant sticking it to the man to do whatever the fuck I want. I lived that way for awhile–albeit drunk–and I was miserable. With nearly 21 months of sobriety under my belt, I am happier than I’ve ever been. I think this is by design,¬†just¬†not my design.

I read something recently the Pope said about us needing a “tenderness revolution.” A lot of haters think prayers and thoughts for victims and inexplicable¬†hatred are futile. I know in my heart that using social media as a platform for sending condolences, receiving recognition or bombarding my friends with music I like is no less useful than proselytizing about the Second Amendment. I also know that the only way my world changed is when I decided to love myself. I think a lot of us find our hearts are cynical and suspicious when we see that nothing seems to change in the world. So we change our profile pictures. I testify that we can’t change anyone else’s behavior but our own, and that is¬†the ONLY¬†thing¬†that will change what goes on around us. Einstein may or may not have said this, but I found a quote attributed to him that I’ll share here:

Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.

Social media is an excellent tool to exchange information and opinions (and for finding good quotes in context). It is also a tiny representation of a billion big lives condensed into one small screen or status. We can’t know the truth about a person or a situation unless we investigate for ourselves by living our own¬†lives in the best way we can. We have to be honest and good to ourselves first before we decide to opine about things we know little about.¬†We can create an online atmosphere of growth or grandiosity, the choice is ours. We can create a life lived as genuine people rather than projections.

We are humans, not holograms.

The biggest lesson teaching has taught me is that everyone¬†starts out¬†as a child, and adulthood does not change that fact.¬†The internet got big just as I was coming of age, and I am eternally grateful for that. I am so happy I never had to worry about Snapchat or Facebook in middle school, mainly because kids were mean, so was I, so was my unibrow. I did not know how to be tender to myself as a child or as an adult, but I learned because I got sober. I think social media could facilitate a tenderness revolution, even as hurt people hurt people. It’s just as likely that healed people heal people.

I speak from experience.

 

Photo courtesy of PopSci

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