O.K.

The one (and quite possibly only)¬†person who constitutes¬†my “readership” pointed out tonight that I haven’t posted anything on here for awhile. I guess I didn’t have much to say.

That right there was a lie, right out of the gate.  The truth is, I made the executive decision to STFU.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “You don’t write because you want to say something,” (I always do); you write because you’ve got to say something (I do, either way).” So you can imagine the confusion my predisposition to constantly run my mouth causes me. It pains me to not interject myself in others’ conversations. I always feel compelled to constantly bring something to the table, verbally. At times I feel what I’m saying is very important when it’s actually very pretentious. But by shutting it for the summer, I learned a thing or two about shutting it even more strategically.

very important and very pretentious.png

And what I’ve¬†got to say to you tonight is “okay.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten in trouble at work already for not just saying, “okay” while being instructed (That’s another lie; ¬†I’ve gotten in trouble four separate times in the past month and a half [with two different bosses] for “defending myself” during a busy shift). I waitress almost full-time now, in addition to tutoring a beautiful young girl in third grade. I’d argue these are the best two jobs I’ve ever had. I’m not sure against whom I would be arguing this, other than my former self. A shattered ego has a way of resetting my perspective on all things, including (and most especially) jobs.

I don’t know what it is about being told what to do, but I’m not very good at it. To clarify, I’ve never been insubordinate at work on any job, at any time.¬†I’d like to thank my former friend, alcohol, for helping me fake that scam of workforce submissiveness. Sure, I didn’t talk back to bosses, but I sure talked a lot of ish behind their backs. And of course, I drank my work blues away to some oblivion not even a “forever deleted” email could reach. It’s safe to say that alcohol had the opposite effect on my behavior that it would on your run-of-the-mill drunk; that is to say, it made me behave better (not worse) than I would on my own, unimpaired. However, at my new job I’ve had to face the fact that I can be a bit of a smart ass, hot head and overall know-it-all.

And all it took for me to drop the submissive/perfect employee act was a good, solid Italian family — one much more Italian than mine. My bosses (boss family, legit) are really really really good at their jobs. The restaurant is run like a big, bold Sicilian ship. Turns out, they know A LOT more about serving than I do. True to form, my deficit in serving skills is precisely why I never stuck with a serving job for more than a couple of months.¬†I hate being 1. bad at / 2. not good at / 3. not the best at – things. Any and all things. When I don’t know what I’m doing, my ego feels exposed. I assume everyone around me can see that the Empress Wears No Clothes. In my humble(d) opinion, there is literally nothing worse for an addict/alcoholic who despises being called out in front of an empty audience. The biggest P.O.S. that is The Center of the Universe.

Charmed, I’m sure.

Up until last week, my mother and I have sustained the same argument every day for a year straight. Want to guess who had to be “right” in those arguments? Who had to have the last word? Who thoroughly “researched” her position before defending it? Who never just said, “okay?”

Me. The answer is me.

I don’t know how or why, but I was finally able to hear her message:¬†“Just say ‘uh huh,’ even when you don’t agree with me.” What a heinous proposition. But for some reason, I actually¬†heard her. I mean,¬†really took it all in. My need to say everything BUT “okay” or “uh huh” is what has been getting me stuck with her¬†and with my bosses.

My point here is, I had to shut up in order to shut up more. Know what I mean, Jelly Bean?

(Just say okay).

xo

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The Worst Four-Letter “Word”

Ahhh, the great paradoxes in life. Smart women meet Sexism, Smart Black Men and Women meet Racism, Everyone on the Planet meets Trumpism. All the various permutations of the “isms” creep up in everyone’s life, much to our dismay. It seems like any word ending in ism almost always has a negative connotation. And for the past two years, I’ve heard people cite their own alcoholic brand of isms hundreds of thousands of times. I hear well-meaning AAers discuss isms in their thinking as though emotions and thoughts and fears are all independent diagnoses. My internal dry-heave mechanism activates itself every time I hear that shitty, four-letter combination. “I took away the drink, I’m still an alcoholic. Because MAN those isms.”

Gaaaaaaaag.

I don’t like cliches. This is not to say I’m innocent of using them, I just think it’s a poor-man’s conversational trap door. “I have nothing original to say, so I’ll take a normal, human neurosis and slap ‘ism’ on the end of it.” All disgust aside, I think I understand the sentiment. As is our way, alcoholics tend to be self-absorbed. Our fear of say, public speaking, amounts to an enormous flurry of speculation about what others think of us.We might as well be leading a press conference at the Rose Garden. Forget about the thing we actually need to speak about; the immediate need is to analyze how and why the audience thinks we are blubbering, bullshitting fools. Like right now.

I don’t believe alcoholics are special people. I know special people who happen to be alcoholics. I think we are humans with a magnificent affinity for overwrought thinking…and alcohol. I agree that a program for continuous sobriety–any program that works–is necessary. But I don’t agree that we are superhuman or subhuman. We just need to be reminded that “the wolf is always at the door,” so to speak. I hate to feel apart from humankind, just like anyone else would. There is nothing special–or more accurately, unique–about that fear.

Because I want. To fit. In.

-Patrick Bateman, American Psycho

I guess what I’m alleging here is that addicts and alcoholics are way more normal than we think. There are times when I feel like such a weirdo for having the thoughts that I do. But I’ve noticed that the longer I am sober, the more willing I become to share those outlandish thoughts with my non-alcoholic friends. On any given day, one of my closest “normie” friends texts me comments about her bowel movements. I mean, this is the nature of of friendship, true. But it also shows me that my thinking isn’t so crazy, especially when we talk about serious things. She has insecurities and irrational resentments, just like I do. The only difference is, if I don’t work through the hidden complexities, I am wired to take it out on a drink. And there will most certainly be consequences if I do. Dire ones.

I’ve learned to block the isms. Audibly, mentally, figuratively. I keep in mind what I taught my kids to do. When they get rowdy, I tell them to “take a chill pill” (not to be confused with Xanax). Silently, they put out one hand, grab an invisible glass of water and slosh down their invisible chill pill. Miming this never fails to amuse them (or me). They can’t very well walk around thinking their problems are The Most Important Problems of Ever.

Leave that to the alcoholics.

xo

 

 

 

The Boomerang Nebula

The Boomerang Nebula is purported to be the coldest place in space. Science says so, anyway. It’s all relative in my mind–I could name about 300 galaxies in my own soul right now that would give this place a run for its money. According to mine and Carl Sagan’s calculations, we are all made of stardust. Einstein chimes in to further complicate the matter by proving¬†everything is relative.

‚ÄúThe nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Carl Sagan, Cosmos

I introduced the Boomerang Nebula to my eighth grade class this week. “Located 5,000 light-years away, this young planetary nebula has a morbid creator: a dying star at its center.” The kids didn’t catch the solemnity in my voice when I said this. Nor did they piece together the enormity of this reality. I explained to them that stars are at their brightest when they are dying. After nebulae are¬†done expanding and exploding, they’ve fulfilled their duty of¬†blowing our minds.

I heard one chuckle. Someone murmured, “oh cool.”

I should give you some back story to my star sadness here. Things have been a bit rough at school. This week was the first time I applied my newly-acquired, more complex teacher school skills to the classroom. Eighth grade responded the fastest and in the most positive way. It’s fair to say that all my classes responded well. That is, until the nebulae exploded Friday.

After lunch, ¬†my sixth grade class filed into the room more quietly than usual. I prepared the SMART board for our lesson on heredity. Almost immediately, two students raised their hands to ask if they could talk to me in the hallway, it will only take a minute. Keep in mind that one of these students recently got our class “MVP” award for most improved in science, not to mention the “Peacemaker” award for the month of April. In the hallway, they explained to me with hushed tones that they learned in a previous class they should confront someone when they feel disrespected. Their teacher told them to confront whomever made them feel bad in any way. One kid expounded on this, saying he has issues with anger management and he needed me to know he didn’t like it when I called him out on talking. He doesn’t like getting blamed when he isn’t¬†always the only one talking (note: he is always the one talking). I felt myself getting defensive, but I responded by saying I appreciate the way they approached me so maturely. I told them I was proud of them for having the courage to tell me how they felt. I listened more than I spoke. But when I did chime in, I explained that it’s my duty as their teacher to be consistent in how I uphold consequences when students break the rules. They shook their heads in agreement and we returned to the class.

As I walked in, every student looked up silently at me. There was an eerie feeling to the room. I sat down to scroll to our next lesson. I opened my mouth to speak and a student’s hand shot up. “Ms. Lucy, we have something to say to you…as a unit.” I told them to go for it, having no context for what they were about to say. For the next 30 minutes, each student, one by one, stood up to air their grievances. The class had choreographed a teacher roast, ostensibly to manage their anger. This was a “planned group confrontation.” Comments included how “disrespected” they all felt by me. How “wrong” it was when I shared a stat about women–African American women in particular–suffering from heart disease at a disproportionate rate than the rest of the population. How much they “hate” when I “talk about David Bowie.” That my class and their art class are “the worst classes we have.”

This was not a group confrontation–this was a mutiny.

I managed to keep my shit together for the duration of class. At about 5 til 2pm, I set them up with a reading, put a student leader in charge, and excused myself to “make copies.” I rushed to the bathroom downstairs to cry in private with what little dignity I had left. I wiped my eyes and returned to the room to dismiss the kids. I locked the door behind the last one to leave. After about 2 minutes, the kids came rushing back, banging on the door. They knew they had fucked up. I didn’t answer. My last period class came in and they could tell something was wrong. So amidst our chats about DNA replication, we discussed some strategies as a group for how to not take things personally. We decided to make this a “life lessons” class period. I did my best not to go into too many details about what just happened, but news travels fast in a small school.

Friday hurt. Friday hurt real bad.

So I did the next best thing I could think to do. I met a newcomer, new best friend, for coffee at the ‘bucks. She told me her story, and I listened. We went together to a speaker meeting afterward. One alcoholic talking to another–that is the glue that binds us. More accurately, when we share our joys and woes, we act as fundamental elements that work together with cohesion. I taught something along those lines about surface tension. Because science.

I felt like shit yesterday, but I didn’t drink. I didn’t want to. But I could see why I would have in the past. Instead, I exercised a recovery muscle by¬†listening to someone else. That halted the neurotransmitter shit show bonanza in my head, at least for the night.

The first thing I did when I finished breakfast this morning was meditate. Then I called a lady from the program. Then I got a 95% on my teacher school test. Then I remembered the most important lesson I’ve taught that sixth grade class thus far:


The Hater Ratio – 4:1 – which postulates:

For every one amazing person, there will be 4 haters who will try to bring you down. If you don’t have haters, you’re doing something wrong. ¬†Pay them no mind.


After many reflections filled with staring out into space, I came up with a lesson plan for Monday. I will have the students read the Saint Francis Prayer. The Objective: To identify effective ways to love one another. They will spend their 50-minute class period writing and re-writing this prayer. I will smile, but I will not speak. I’ll let Franny do the talking.

Saint Francis Prayer

Then I will tell myself this, over and over again:

“So, the next time you are having a bad day, try this:¬†close your eyes, take a deep breath, and contemplate the chain of events that connects your body and mind to a place billions of lightyears away, deep in the distant reaches of¬†space and time. Recall that massive stars, many times larger than our sun, spent millions of years¬†turning¬†energy into matter, creating the atoms that make up part of you, the Earth, and everyone you have ever known and¬†loved.”¬†

x0.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

While Patience Percolates

The sweetest sound in my mornings is the subtle music coffee makes¬†while it percolates. The only overture which guarantees I’ll make it anywhere–ever–is the promise¬†of coffee. I don’t have much luck once I get downstairs to pour my first cup because I outrun the speed at which the coffee drips. I remember when I helped my mother purchase our coffee-maker; I insisted she buy the one where you can pour a cup while the machine suspends its production. One can always put the¬†pot back on its burner. This mad rush in the morning drives my mother crazy. She doesn’t get why I can’t just¬†wait.¬†Maybe¬†put more makeup on or something? she asks. No, mom, it doesn’t work that way. There isn’t enough mascara in the world.

Lack of patience, she portends, will make for unnecessarily miserable days to come.

My coffee routine, of course, is a microcosm of my world view. My absence of patience has led me down many creative dead ends in my lifetime. This is not to say that my mistakes are less beautiful than my successes, just that they are less obvious and much more difficult to unravel. So we shall call them creative cul-de-sacs.

Thanks to my practice of silence with self, meditation hastens my patience production right along. What’s interesting, though, is it also makes me feel irritable or sometimes angry. When I sit still for 12 minutes, as I have done most days for the past week, I feel great until I don’t. It’s almost as if my addictive self gets frustrated with the few minutes where my spirit and soul spurn my brain’s anxious intrusions. I am rarely ever angry with a person or an event on these occasions. I feel frustrated for absolutely no reason at all–not one I can recognize, anyway.

I fell into a thought cul-de-sac this week with my teacher life. On Thursday, a parent of one of the school’s students came in to tutor me in science, equipped with cool demos and funny stories of his teaching experiences. I listened with rapt attention, hanging onto his every word. I thought, “How the fuck am I ever going to be able to understand the laws of the universe, let alone teach them?” My thoughts made their crescendo to a point where if this nice man looked up from his book, he would have witnessed the thought bubble¬†hover ’round my head. He kept talking, though, so I kept swatting the thought bubble aside to obsess over later.

I’ve started three careers since 2009. I’ve been a political organizer, a writer and now a teacher–five years, eight months and six months, respectively. Never once did I picture myself skipping into the sunset while fundraising for candidates. Never once did I imagine birds chirping as I write the final pages of my novel, greeting the daylight with no sleep on a deadline that looms. But more than once, I’ve pictured myself teaching sixth graders about protons and neutrons–and liking what I see. More than once, I’ve watched as the smile creeps across a students face when she correctly identifies the phases of the moon in order, no less. More than once, I saw myself fulfilling my vocation.

My twin called me on Friday to see how things were going. I told her how intimidated I was by the whole “being teacher-ready” process. I explained how much of a paradox it is that more people are leaving the profession than are coming into it. And why do I have to work so hard for credentials and placement when that is the case? She went into real-talk mode immediately. “What do you define as success?” she asks. And for the first time in my life, I answered without a convoluted response: “I want to be a good teacher, that’s all.” She told me how hard it will be to have that success. She is in her third year of residency as a podiatrist, living in something similar to a sleep-deprived hell. She told me that to work toward something I define as success, I can’t be fooled by self-doubt. That I have to work hard to remain focused. That I have to be patient–“Lucy. You HAVE to be patient,” she repeats thrice, for dramatic effect.

On many a campaign trail, I learned from training that a voter won’t be fazed by a candidate’s message until he’s heard it an average of¬†seven times–and in as many ways. I wonder at this point how many times my sis will have to repeat herself for the message to resonate. As it turns out, the pursuit of success as I’ve defined it will not be subject to my impatience. Lest I forget, I promised myself over two years ago that my ultimate definition of success is to remain sober one day at a time. That’s all. It is clear to me now that I will have to remind myself of this definition every day, multiple times a day. But when I don’t remember to do this, and my coffee is still brewing, I’ll need a little help from my friends. Who knows? Maybe I can remind them, too.

And like a good friend, I’ll tell them it’s “Time for Da Percolator.”

A good friend who gets songs from the 90’s stuck in their heads.

 

Photo courtesy of Healthy Home and Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

My Can-Do List

I teach a child–we will call him Aaron–who is too funny for his own good. He cuts up in class, but it’s hard for me to get mad at him because he’s so clever. He doesn’t show outright disrespect, he just talks A LOT. He also happens to have one of the highest grades in the class. He is funny to the point where I promised¬†if he could get an ALOL–Actual Laugh Out Loud–I’d give him a bonus point. I leveled the playing field with the other kids by awarding them two bonus points each if they could correctly identify a David Bowie song on every test.

Last week, I told the sixth graders they could name the skeleton I use to teach¬†them where different bones are in the body. They used the democratic method at an impressive pace to vote on the name “Sheldon Dipper.” Aaron led the charge, of course, because he approved of the class talking way too loudly for any extended period of time. After the vote, Aaron talked far less than usual for almost a week.

image1 (1)

His semi-silence didn’t last long, however. A couple of classes later, Aaron yammered incessantly. I asked him to move seats, to which he replied, “I can’t, Miss Lucy, that is not on my Can-Do List.” Setting aside the blatant insolence of this child, I burst out laughing. I made him write his quote down on the white board near Sheldon Dipper and took a picture of it. I would have given him a bonus point then and there, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. These kids are highly quotable, which makes it damn near impossible for me to remain stern.

image1

There is a lesson in this, naturally. On the same day the Can-Do List came into being, I had a 12th grade student reveal some disturbing details to me as I wrote notes on the board. While my back was turned, this student began making fun of his friend who was clearly hungover from a night of high-school drinking. He then tells the class of three students that he can rip “like five shots” before he gets too sick. I tried hard to keep my mouth shut. Now that I am an educator (or at least, on my way to being one), I have to set boundaries with the kids. I am openly sober, but it isn’t my place to Go Tell It on the Mountain with teenagers. This same student once told me that he had a problem with drugs and alcohol, “in the past”– that his way of dealing with childhood trauma has been to soldier through it with stoicism. All I said in return was that if and when you’ve had enough, you’ll know; there is help. I offered my support to him if he needed to talk about anything that was getting to him. And a split-second later, the only girl in this class walked up to me to say in hushed tones that she sometimes felt she couldn’t talk to her mom about her depression. I silently whispered, “Lawd Help Me.”

What I wrote on the board while this emotional shit show erupted was¬†the different types of chemical reactions that exist in nature. As I finished writing about “combustion,” I explained to the group that chemistry is easier when you personify the elements. Like a person who pushes down too many emotional things, combustion occurs. Except when humans explode, the volatility can be much more destructive to life than any chemical meltdown.

I have to walk a tight rope with the older kids. I am old enough to know better than they do about life things, but young enough that they are still getting used to calling me “Miss” Lucy without it being awkward. Turns out, talking openly about my recovery is not on¬†my¬†Can-Do list. That has proven to be harder for me than I anticipated. My instinct is to swoop in to save these teenagers from unnecessary pain. In short, the clarity in my sobriety is a Catch-22: I can spot an addict a mile away, but it isn’t my place to diagnose anyone, no matter what their age or pathology.

The best I can do is be there for them. The only way I can do that is to be sober. And study. The last time I took biology or chemistry was the year these kids were born.

Lawd, help me.