Stay.

In high school, my sister and I ran cross-country and track. She was the prodigious sprinter, while I was the patient long-distance runner. The amount of comparisons I made between myself and my twin were alarming–her smaller BMI and legs, for starters–disqualified me from being a “real” runner. I opted for the inconspicuous art of running long distances hoping people would get too bored to notice me. The whole sport was a practice in disappearing, slowly but surely. I found it all to be a really dramatic joke, but I needed to be well-rounded. Frankly, I thought that this would help me lose weight and look good. As insecure as I was, I secretly wanted to be like Flo Jo and impress everyone, while simultaneously never being seen. My uniform was about two sizes too small, yet I continued to wear it with the hope that I would soon fit into it.

During one particularly humiliating meet, I got lost in the woods after I fell far behind the girls in front of me. I also tried to spit (like I had seen so many other runners do) while moving at a moderately-fast clip. Instead, I spit up on my extremely short shorts in front of the entire men’s team. I do not know which part was worse: my shorts riding up my See You Next Tuesday, my thunder thighs fighting each other with every stride, or the waterfall of mucus flowing down my shorts. If I were a betting woman, I would have wagered that this was the time to give up. But for some reason, I kept on running for the rest of the season. My times were ‘eh,’ so my desire to distract myself from my insecurities freed me up to socialize. Our coach used to tell us that if we had the breath to talk to each other during one of our six or eight-mile runs, we were doing it wrong. I told myself I’d rather make friends than run faster. As a result, I got team MVP for my senior year. The irony was, in a word, dripping.

All told, I did eventually become a real runner–only after I stopped practicing the sport. Drinking comes in handy that way. I became an All Star Life Sprinter. That is to say, I learned how to run VERY quickly away from things. In fact, I sprinted, hopscotched and hurdled through twelve different locations, spanning from Vermont to Florida, Virginia to California. My resume read like a well-worn map. At one point, I worked in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where I became a crowd (and bouncer) favorite at a fine establishment known as The Electric Cowboy.

The only reason I know the actual number of addresses I accumulated over a ten-year period is because I had to make note of them when I filed for bankruptcy in 2015. And those twelve were only the addresses I could¬†remember. How does one forget where she has lived? It’s like when you’re driving down a busy street and you see a discarded pair of pants on the sidewalk–like, how do you lose your pants, guy? What happened there?

The short answer is, I panicked (I suppose you could say the same for the man who lost his pants). I have had plenty of opportunities in my 12-step program and through therapy to spiritually and psychoanalytically analyze my past behavior. It is clear to me that time is not what slowed me down. In fact, I have moved on four different occasions in recovery: once when I couldn’t afford my place after the accident, several times when I kept breaking up with my boyfriend (staying on friends’ coaches), the move from Los Angeles back home to Virginia (at my mom’s house) and finally to Richmond in the apartment I share with my husband. What has made the difference between my pathological moving while drunk and my displacement while sober is an indefinable sense of finality. I am who I was always meant to be, even as I continue to grow. And more honestly, there is nowhere else I have the energy to be.

I used up all of my panic. And then I ran out of steam.

Two weeks ago, I began seeing a life/career coach. This is a huge deal for me, and here is why:

One of my favorite activities while wasted was chatting up Uber/Lyft drivers. At times, I broke out into French if I sensed the driver was Haitian or from some francophone country. As presumptuous as I was (and still am), I did meet quite a few interesting characters–one of whom was a life coach. He sensed my lost-ness (and perhaps my vulnerability) when I yammered on about how much I hated my job at the time, seizing the opportunity to take on a new client. We exchanged information, which I naturally forgot as I closed the car door.

A couple of days later, he called me. I was a fastidious drunk, therefore I always kept clear notes on whoever left their number in my phone. Very specific things, like “Uber man coaches life wears too much paco rabanne <emoji emoji.> We talked for about five minutes, wherein we set an appointment to do a phone session the following week. Time flew the drunker I got, so a week came and went pretty quickly. I will never forget where I was when I got that phone call. I will never forget because it was one of the last angry drunks I had. I was angry at myself and my life choices, but mostly angry because I could not actually get drunk. I had spent the ensuing week since my phone chat with the Uber man in a cosmic haze of vodka and cocaine, sidled up to a man whose father was a semi-famous producer with a Malibu beach house. He was a writer, something I wanted to be but was too drunk to follow-through with; he was a rich kid, which is something I was fascinated by because I had no money; he had unlimited liquor, which blots out anything else I knew about him. He poured me Bloody Mary after Bloody Mary and I was bloody pissed because nothing worked. After two hours went by, with no drunk luck, we all went outside to watch dolphins pop out of the water over the dwindling horizon’s pink backdrop. Even that miracle of nature bored me. I began to feel the sting of tears emerge from my eyes, and suddenly my phone rang. No one noticed as I slipped away through the window-to-ceiling glass french doors to take the call.

Uber driver began asking me rapid-fire questions about my childhood, my hopes, my dreams. I became increasingly irate as he continued to press the issue of why I seemed so angry, so dismissive. I sputtered off some incoherent ramblings about my mother, my dad’s death, my sister and my Catholic school experiences, but he would not hear any of it. Instead, he simply asked me to talk out loud to myself as if I were a child. I was furious. I told him to shove his Freudian platitudes up his ass, in so many words. We never spoke again. And I never did get drunk.

So I ran until I fell. Straight to the bottom of my pitiless existence.

And then I got sober.

Four years later, I find myself sitting across from a woman I’ve known only through the recovery process. She is a friend who I’ve asked to help me decide what to do with my life, once and for all. During our first session, she recommends that I do not make any job or career moves–no quitting a job, no starting a new job. I felt my ears ring and my chest tighten. I was about to start a job I was convinced I didn’t want. I was there to beg her to tell me anything that would encourage me to leave. But instead, she told me to stay. I was horrified.

Through a series of questions and answers, meditations and surveys, I’ve prayed my way through 1,000 forms of escape fantasies. Every cell of my being screamed at me to turn and run away on my first day at work. Who did I think I was? Why would I start a job with as many doubts as I had? What if I wasted my time, stayed, only to become staid? The vicious memories of conversations I’ve had with past lovers and friends floated to the surface–“I promise, I’m not going anywhere” was my infamous line. I never meant it then, and I did not want to mean it now.

But I am here, staying.

While cleaning up our work kitchen tonight, my supervisor looked at me for a beat too long. I asked him what was up. He says, “There are times when I look at you, trying to read your face. I keep thinking to myself that you will be just like the cooks before you, ready to run away from this place. I see you and I wonder if you have the desire to be here.” It was like getting that call, to hear those words–heartbreaking and entirely justifiable. I looked at him with awe and glee. For the first time in my life, I said it and meant it–

I’m not going anywhere.

xo

 

Photo Courtesy of The Indianapolis Star

 

 

 

 

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Surface Tension

I was never “good” at science. With one exception–biology, sophomore year. I think it was something about the exotic vocabulary and pictures that piqued my interest. Ironically, two years ago I became an ad hoc / extemporaneous long-term substitute teacher for the sciences, ranging from biology and chemistry to physics and astronomy.¬†¬†Thank God it snowed for the first four days I was supposed to start teaching. I played catch-up the entire time I was snowed in. The last time I studied that hard was sixteen years ago. Note: I was 16 years old sixteen years ago. I just got a little faint.

I still have some work saved from High School. On paper and floppy discs! In one big folder, I tucked away several essays from my English AP classes and notes from bio. The diagrams are labeled and colored with such exquisite detail that it almost seems as if a science person drew them. When I moved back home in 2015, I exhumed my notes and found one section totally dedicated to¬†surface tension. Its definition stuck with me then, and continues to float around in my mind now–

Water molecules want to cling to each other. At the surface, however, there are fewer water molecules to cling to since there is air above (thus, no water molecules). This results in a stronger bond between those molecules that actually do come in contact with one another, and a layer of strongly bonded water. This surface layer (held together by surface tension) creates a considerable barrier between the atmosphere and the water. In fact, other than mercury, water has the greatest surface tension of any liquid.

The more you know.

What gets me about the concept of surface tension is that it can be personified, which is probably why so much of bio makes sense to me. We all know the feelings associated with water metaphors: learning to tread water; feeling like your drowning in paperwork; singing in the rain, when it rains it pours. But surface tension never gets its due in our vernacular. Today I felt so many feelings that the “floodgates opened,” which of course means I cried. Again. But what followed, as is always my way, were the thought bubbles. Why is it so upsetting to be seen upset? How is it that in a very stressful work environment, the less I want to lean on other people the more I absolutely must?

How, I often ask myself, is it possible for other people to handle pressure at work? Why is no one else crying? The immediate answer to one of these questions is that dudes and ladies handle stress differently. The quota so far is for every one cry I have in a two week period, there are three nights where any one of my coworkers slams dishes, lashes out at a cook or decides not to show up for work. The odds are in neither party’s favor.

There are so few of us in the kitchen. We work anywhere from 50-80 hours a week, morning noon and night. We kind of have to work well together. It’s like being marooned on an island. We have to try not to cannibalize each other to survive (all due respect to the profession which, thankfully, requires us to know how to cook enough so that we don’t have to resort to such measures–emotionally or otherwise). Like water molecules, we have to stick together. But oh, the tension. God forbid someone walks into work with a sour mood. We all feel it. I often put a voice to this when it happens, which my coworkers do not appreciate. Conversely, when one or more of us is in great spirits, it can uplift the whole crew. I swear it makes the food taste better.

It’s like a pressure cooker. Everyone is exhausted. I have burns and cuts and aches that just keep happening. Yet it’s part of the deal. The physical burdens of the job are nothing compared to what it feels like to be a complete novice in a world where everyone else seems to know what they are doing. Not to mention the fact that I am hyper-sensitive/critical of any sideways glances, comments or insinuations about my femininity. For the most part, that’s a good thing. Recently a male coworker asked me what it felt like to be one of four females out of 20+ people working in the kitchen. I told him I was excited–it meant I had a front row seat to watch the Patriarchy crumble.

My bark is almost always more vicious than my bite.

What it actually feels like is quiet defeat. I can pitch a fit or become spontaneously combustible, but people still need to eat. SOMEONE NEEDS TO DOUBLE-BOIL THE FUCKING cr√®me br√Ľl√©e. That’s the way it goes.

As embarrassing as it has been to lose my shit on the regular, I am also relieved. Several of my kitchen mates remind me I am in the right place. Remember that guy, what’s his name, GORDON RAMSEY? That guy loses his shit for millions of dollars a year. He doesn’t cry; he yells.

Image result for gordon ramsay memes

He’s straight up abusive to his staff, but at least he has a sense of humor. I won’t even discuss the parity of positive public opinion on women cooks versus male cooks, but I think you can piece it together. Bad behavior gets rewarded. In any other profession, our vastly inappropriate conversations about literally anything would get us fired. But in the kitchen, you better buck up and shut up or someone will show you the door. It’s refreshing. It’s also brutal and infuriating. But in every job I’ve ever had, no one is above the law of proving themselves. And for someone as impatient, perfectionistic, judgmental and sensitive as I am, time is an imperious bully. I want to be good at everything before the oven timer for the bacon goes off first thing in the morning. Not going to happen.

So there is acceptance. And that surface tension. We are all little water molecules buoying each other up. I had a conversation with Bowie today about it. In recovery and otherwise, this is where I’ve been led. These coworkers and friends are my current spiritual teachers. I pray, as I have on many stressful days, to acknowledge to my Higher Power that I’d be crazy not to follow, follow where He leads.

There you have it: spirituality on the fly.

xo

 

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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

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.

 

 

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

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.