growth · recovery · surrender

Friend Breakups

When I limped into recovery over 12 years ago in San Francisco and raised my hand as new to the group, I cried.

I cried with mourning and grief; I also cried with relief.

The mourning was multilayered: I was grieving for having realized how much time I’d spent battling a demon in single-handed combat—a battle I could (and would) never win but continued to launch attack after attack to get under control, to get my life, my heart, my sanity under control.  And I could not.

My efforts were meaningless, but I railed against that monster for a decade.  The opposite of “chasing the dragon,” I quickly learned the consequences of waking the beast and fought tooth and nail to put it back to sleep.  Like an overtired toddler, the beast of addiction could not be soothed with my mortal tools.

So, I cried in that meeting because of all the wounds I’d suffered in that hopeless fight.

I cried, also, because that dragon and the fight I’d waged with it had become the most constant companion I’d ever had (or at least realized I had — it would be a little longer before I came to realize the benevolent forces abundant in my life during all that hellacious time, too).

I cried in grief over the pal I knew I was coming here to say goodbye to with a finality.  Oh Palsy, the times we had!  Together, we travelled from small-town suburbia, to college-town alleyways, to South Korean karaoke bars, and all over the South Pacific.

All the way, like a boulder tumulting down a cliff face, onto a couch in San Francisco.

And here we were, you and I, palsy, having the same ol’ fight again.  The scenery changed, but nothing else had.  And I knew, ultimately, that I had to leave you to find other folks to talk with, to give me new and different ideas and new tools for walking through this marvelous miasma of existence.

And so, I cried for the loss of this dragon-friend with whom I’d traversed continents and decades.

I also cried with relief.

The clatter of swords, I call it.  That moment when you see the brave knight tete-a-tete with the gilded beast, the hero all sweaty and injured and launching her assault again and again.  And you can see, anyone watching can see, that she cannot win.  That what is happening here is a travesty of power — this is twisted and sick to make her continue to fight that monster.  What kind of sick bastard are you continuing to encourage this harm to our hero??

And the hero finally understands.  She realizes the hopelessness of winning and she lets her longsword fall.

It’s slow motion, an end-over-end descent of metal, til it clatters to the floor of the dark cave and echoes against the stone, bouncing and oscillating just a little in its death throes before it comes to a deep stop on the ground.

There is silence.

The hero stands there now, empty-handed, the dragon overhead watching this change.  This isn’t some battle tactic, this isn’t some sly made-ya-look.  Our hero has dropped all of her fight and knows that, if absolutely nothing else, her fight is over.

Relief tumults upon her in waves.  Cleansing, heaving, sobbing waves that I cried in that new room of people who understood.

I am intimately reminded of that moment today as I continue to do my work around Judgment and Control, these friends who have been with me since before the above dragon was awoken.

These two friends have been so close to me, I have thought of them as myself.  I have not seen the molecule of air there is between me and them; I have thought we were the same.

But something has begun to shift, G-d’s Infinite Crowbar prying these stranger, more insidious demons apart from me, and showing me that they are, in fact, not really me.

I have worn them as closely as my skin, and it is a painful process to pull them off, or have them pried from me.

You remember being in ballet when you were little, and you had those thick opaque tights for recitals?  And dancing in your ballet shoes, all the friction created from that movement rubbed your ankles raw?  You sucked in your breath as you danced because a smile was required, and you let those shoes and tights meld into your skin, wearing away parts of yourself, and replacing them with the fabric of this alien material.

You remember after each performance, sitting in the changing room with tightly top-bunned heads, unwrapping those gorgeous silk ribbons from around the white opaqueness, and impatiently yanking or tenderly pulling off those shoes and beginning to unfurl your tights back off down your legs?

You remember that moment when the tights are down to your feet and they have caught?  They are attached to the skin of your heel with blood and a little ooze?  It’s a moist but hard affixing, and the fabric of the tights pulls thin as you tug on it to see how deeply attached it is to your body.

You tug, you make bargains with god, you tell yourself “1,2,3” but start back at 1 when you’ve chickened out.

Sometimes in that moment, you take a deep breath, steel yourself, and rip it off.  You watch the raw patch of skin saturate with new blood and maybe begin to pool into real droplets.  Sometimes in that moment, you know you’re too scared to handle it on your own, and you ask a friend to come and just do it and, like how you do with a phlebotomist, you look the other way while they do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

I am right now both the puller and the asker for help in the pulling.

Judgment and Control are so enmeshed in my person that this individuation is painful, raw, grief-laden, and … a relief.

 

deprivation · fear · joy · recovery · self-love · truth

Getting the F*ck off my Knees.

On Friday night at 10 minutes to midnight sitting in my parked car outside my apartment building, I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone.  I usually do this as a ‘before getting out of my car at the end of the night’ ritual.  I don’t know why.  Like I’m getting a few minutes’ alone time before I go into the house… but I live alone… with a cat. … so…  In any case, I came across a post about that evening’s blue moon, looked quickly at the clock and exclaimed, “Shit!”

I shut off my phone, dashed out of the car up to my apartment.  I took off my heels, slipped on flats, grabbed my loaner tambourine and climbed excitedly and nervously up the stairs to the rooftop of my building.

Pushing open the door, I saw before me a whitewashed roof with long pipes and what look like abandoned solar panels.  Dropping my keys by the door, I carried my tambourine to the center of the rooftop, shielding myself slightly from the view of neighboring buildings, and turned around to see the full, audacious moon before me. Then, I began to jangle the tambourine, and finally I began to sing.

…uh, what?

As I’ve come to the part of my recovery/internal work where we are instructed to “Humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings,” my mentor asked me how I’d done this step in the past. I told her I usually get on my knees and say some kind of prayer.

“Get the fuck off your knees!” she replied emphatically.

You see, I have a habit of being small.  Of minimizing myself, diminishing myself, down playing and ignoring my own needs out of fear and, mostly now, out of long-grooved practice.  This habit of deprivation and hiding causes many problems in my life, mostly because I am surely aware that I am not “meant” to be a mouse.

Being a mouse, though, often looks like me withholding my truths, not admitting what I really want from others and from myself and from life.  Things like. … I want to get married.  *gasp!*  It was near torture to say this aloud to her when we were discussing truths I never tell anyone.  It feels embarrassing to say it.  To feel it.  To want it. “I’m a modern woman, proud brave able! What a simpering, waif-like desire to have!,” goes my internal monologue.  And I wither to admit it to anyone else.

My mentor and I spoke at length that day, and she finally suggest-/insist-ed that I get a tambourine, dress up in something exciting and shout this truth, and all my others, to the heavens.

*Gulp*

So on Friday morning, two weeks after this suggestion, I finally obtained a borrowed tambourine (you’d be surprised how few there are around!).  I texted my mentor that tonight was the night!  And then I read online that it was also going to be a full moon, a blue moon in fact. This seemed most auspicious.  (For a woo-woo hippie shit chick like myself!)

The evening found me on the roof of my apartment building, fresh from a salsa lesson/live music dance in the city, in a hot dress and pulsing with feminine wiles, furtively tapping this noisemaker in my hand, trying not to feel embarrassed.

And then I began to sing.

I started softly and whirled myself into a crescendo, abandoning decorum, delighting in the jangle and thrill of the truth.  Gyrating, gesticulating, twirling around the rooftop, I sang loudly all the secret desires of my soul and my heart, echoing a refrain of, “I let go of being small!” and hammering wildly on the tambourine, an elegant, alight grin streaked across my face as I hopped lightly over the pipes, spinning around the roof until all my heart’s desires, all my tiny wishes I’m too ashamed to speak, had poured out of my throat and into the moonlit darkness.

Laughing, giddy, adrenalized, I headed back to the entrance door, calling brazenly to the bulbous moon: “Peace out, Blue Moon.”

faith · fear · recovery · spirituality

Float like a Waterbug, Sting like a Bee

It isn’t so much that I’m afraid of heights as it is I’m afraid
of falling from heights.  Therefore, when, 2 months ago, I found myself
in Moab, Colorado dangling on the side of sheer rock face
struggling to find a toe-hold in the millimeter-wide crannies, I began to
panic. 
Now, to pull back the scene a little bit, I was about 15 feet off the ground, strapped into a harness, and attached to a grounding line held by my belay partner only a few feet below.  But it didn’t feel safe.  It felt like I
was stabbing the rock cliff with my feet, trying desperately to find purchase in thin air,
my adrenaline kicking up so high I could taste it.
Muscle-fatigued and terrified, I called to my partner below that
I wanted to come down – I was done.  The rock climbing guide on our trip overheard my plea and walked over from the lines
and climbers parallel to me.  He
suggested that I sit back in the harness, take a break, feel my weight being
held, and catch my breath.  Then he called
up, “You can come down, but if you want to keep going, I’ll help you.” 
Later that evening, back on flat earth in front of a
crackling fire, he chuckled he could see my shoulders slump at that moment, a
moment of resignation, a knowing that, indeed, because of his help, I was going to and was able to keep going.  This sanguine moment of, “Shit, alright, fine.  Let’s do this.”  And, together, we did.  He called out places where I could find my
footing, and shortly thereafter I was at the top, my heart a fluttering canary,
stress-tears straining back in my eyes, weak from fear and exertion – and once
safely back the 60ft to the ground again, proud.
He told me of a concept called a “retro-climb.”  It is only after
you have accomplished this ridiculous feat of effort that you feel pride,
accomplished, and glad you did it at all. 
In the moment, you only feel fear, anxiety, terror.  Honestly, I’ve not felt so frightened in
recent memory, despite the intellectual knowledge that I was completely safe,
held, and cared for.  (My naturopath had
a field day turning down my maxed-out adrenaline once I’d returned to SF!)
In my own personal work lately, my mentor suggested I seek
an internal guide to show me my blind spots. 
As some of you know, I sometimes use a Shamanic Journey meditation
practice that introduces you to internal guides of both human and animal form.
And so, the other morning in meditation, I “went in” to find
a guide to show me what I’m missing, since there are whole areas of my life
that still feel unresolved and cause me distress (see: “romance and finance”; aka
serially single and perpetually under/un-employed).  In this meditation, as the title of this blog
may suggest, I came across a waterbug.
… Now, the waterbug does not
seem like the fancy-dancy spirit animal one would hope for!  It’s not a lion or eagle or even
antelope.  And yet, here it was.  I won’t “bore” you with the details of the
meditation, but the lesson was clear: 
The waterbug floats on the top of the water, not because it
is defying the law of physics, but
precisely because it knows, believes, and trusts in them so completely that it knows it will be held on the
surface.  It is not defying gravity, it
is embracing the truest knowledge that because of the laws of nature, it must and will always be held.
The rock climbing guide and I had a long conversation one
evening about spirituality, and he revealed that his largest question for “God”
or the Universe as he continued to expand his life and open his vulnerable self
and admit all parts of him was, “Can you really love me that much?”
I replied to him that my question is, “Can you really hold me that much?”  Can you really let me know, help me feel, to
my core, that I am held?  That I am
safe? 
The waterbug teaches me that it floats because it doesn’t tense and struggle.  It floats because it relaxes and trusts, and simply embodies a knowing that if it steps onto
the clear surface of a pond, it will be held. 
And furthermore, having seen that it has been held and carried before,
it doesn’t continue to question whether it will be held again in the
future! 
So this is my lesson for the moment: to embody the true
knowing that, like sitting back into a climbing harness, I am expertly and even
lovingly held.  And, should I ever choose
to question (as it can become a choice rather than a habit), there will always
be help offered me.
And p.s., if I mess up and tense up and fall through the
surface of the water… I can swim.
deprivation · faith · fear · recovery · self-denial · spirituality

The Facts of Life

Not like “the birds and the bees”; like the theme song: “You
take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…”
In this great rumpus race for which we have signed up by the
very nature of being born, we are subject to a variety of experience.  Some of these we deem good, some bad, and
being pleasure-seeking beings, we are partial to those we deem good.
In my own personal relationship to the universe, life, fate
and its many faces/facets, I have oriented my understanding to be one
that says, Everything happens for our own good. 
Even the bad things.
For my alcoholism, I have found recovery, a community, and
way of life that brings me fellowship, understanding, pleasure, laughter, and a
sense of being deeply understood.
For my childhood, I have come to tell myself that because of
my experiences, I’ve become sensitive, compassionate, empathetic, resourceful,
strong, and creative.
For my cancer, I have taken my struggle and survival as
impetus to engage in my life more fully, playing in a band, flying a plane,
acting and singing in theater.
For all these horrors and more, I can look back and deem them “good,”
because they have led me to becoming more useful and engaged as a human.
And yet.
Fuck. All. That.
That we are thrown against the shores of life brutally onto
the rocks of experience, shaping us, reshaping us, and winnowing us down to the
raw beauty of ourselves—  Hey Universe, would
you lay off a minute, huh?
Because perhaps, Shit. Just. Happens.
And that is the worst understanding of all for me.  It is the least controlled, the least
controllable, the most chaotic, disordered, entropy-laden reasoning for it all.
What it means is that we are not “safe.”  And if there is anything I have struggled for
in my lifetime, it is to feel safe.
But in this quest, this blazing, self-propelled quest for
safety, I have built up around myself an armor, a buffer, a multi-layered
sequence of dance steps that I believe if I dodge left, you, it, experience,
failure, hurt, calamity will needly dodge right.
Yet, the Universe has its own dancesteps, and sometimes they
are to bowl you over like a rhino in a football helmet.
Furthermore, by dodging experience as a whole –monstrous as
I believe or fear it to be– I also dodge whatever good that rhinoceros might be trying to hand me.  And therein lies the rub, eh?
As I mentioned a few days ago about the dam, restricting my
own self, need, and experience out of fear of what might happen if I let things
flow, I am scrubbing up against my own realization that I
am restricting myself for fear that bad shit might happen.  I am hoping to control the all of my
experience so I am not harmed anymore.
Because forget all the above bullshit (which I also happen
to believe) about all those bad things becoming or being seen as good things –
don’t fucking think that I want or wanted them too.  They were all still egregiously painful.  And, as I mentioned, human as I
am, I don’t want pain.
In my attempt to restrict my experience of pain, however, I
believe I restrict my experience of benevolence.  Grace. 
Fulfillment.
And so, I am stymied, victim of my own prison, of my own
design to be safe, I am restricted from the greater joys and rewards of life.
“You take the good, you take the bad… “
Am I willing to expose myself, to be vulnerable and open to
the whole of life’s experience, knowing that in my disarmoring, I am (also)
opening myself to unforeseen goodness?
deprivation · need · recovery · self-denial · truth · wholeness

Buying Desire a Hat.

I was at my therapist’s once several years ago now and we
were talking about my closest friendships. 
I was telling her how I was scared to admit my full self to someone
because I feared that my full self, my full array of needs and personality,
would be too much for them to handle.  I
explained to her that I felt like my needs were like a tidal wave, that letting
them out would be releasing one, and I couldn’t do that to any one person.  Or to any several people.  Better to keep it all locked up tight.
But what if I begin to think of my needs and desires not
as a tidal wave, but as held by a man-made dam? 
A dam has immense strength and power; the pressure behind it is exponential.  The
power there, the pressure, comes from the restriction of motion, from the
forcible and intentional holding back of something that had previously flown
free.
You can see where I’m going with this, no?  I’m no expert in engineering, so I don’t know
how one goes about dismantling a dam—and maybe for the purposes of my own
internal metaphoric dismantling, that might be interesting to learn—but
I do know that once the dam has been removed and the water again flows free,
it’s not a potential tidal wave of need anymore.  Now it’s just the normal, everyday flow.  The normal, everyday rise and fall of desire.
Without the restriction and denial of qualities such as
desire and need, they are free to be absorbed into the landscape, a part of the
whole, neither something to be feared or ignored. 
Desire in our culture has a pretty bad rap of it.  Desire, the seat of sin.  And yet, what is it but simply an expression
of self, like humor or wit?  My mentor
and I have been discussing and prodding at my relationship to my own need and
desire, to try to bring them out of the haunting shadows, to not treat them like
the disturbed family members you try to forget you have, til they show up on
your doorstep at Christmas with soggy string bean casserole.
What if, instead, they were invited guests?  Do I even know anything about what and who
they are, after being so keen to shut them out for so long?  Or do I only now know the legend of them,
instead of the qualities themselves?
There is a bit of terror and a bit of awe as I begin to
reintroduce myself to these qualities of self. 
As a person who is so adept at self-denial and deprivation, to allow
that there might be a proper place for need in my life is… incomprehensible.  Like someone who’s
been on a Paleo diet for years, touting the benefits, trying to recruit
converts, suddenly being told that in order to live they must eat cake.  Because not only will it change their entire
metabolism for the better, but, hey, it’s fucking delicious.  And you’re allowed to enjoy it.
Permission to be allowed to enjoy.  Permission to be allowed to want.  Permission to be allowed to need.  And actually, screw the whole permission
thing – it’s not that at all.  It’s not a
choice.  Or an earned prize.  It’s a basic human right. 
To deny yourself a basic human right, like having chosen to
drink fetid water your whole life because you’ve somehow made yourself believe pure spring
water wasn’t for you or that your imbibing it was a danger to the balance of existence… well,
self-denial like that causes a whole host of problems, not least of which is
unfulfillment.

So, the dismantling, the right-sizing of desire and need,
the introduction to them as they are, not as I’ve feared them to be.  And why? 
Because I have a suspicion that fulfillment, purpose, and wholeness are
on the other side of that shift.

determination · fortitude · health · life · recovery · spirituality · surrender

Snookered.

See, the thing about being saved is that it’s not an
absolution.  You aren’t swept back from
the cliff’s edge and wrapped in a cosmic swaddling, rocked into unseeing bliss.  What you are is placed back firmly onto a
path.  A long one.  Back from the edge, back from the place of
giving up on the work of this lifetime, you are nudged—not so gently, but not
without compassion—onto a path that will require of you work for the rest of
your lifetime.
The cliff’s edge, the leap from it, the ultimate sacrifice
as it might be called is the choice to give up all the work that will ever be
asked of you.  It is to say, Forget it,
too hard, too much, there’s no help, no hope. 
To be placed back onto the path you had made some kind of decision—by
omission or commission—to leave means that you are now responsible to take up
the work you’d abandoned.  It is to look
up from your crumpled knees and see winding before you the path of your
lifetime, the work that will surely be needed to accomplish it, and the
knowledge that to be alive is to do that work.
To be alive is to agree. 
To be alive is to sign an agreement daily that you will, however
falteringly, place one foot before the other. 
To be alive is to agree that you yourself and your life are more
worthwhile than eliminating all the possibilities it holds, all the better and
all the worse. 

And so, pulled back from the edge, “saved” as it were, you
walk with a grim humor, knowing that somewhere you have chosen this.

abundance · compassion · deprivation · family · love · motherhood · recovery

Maybe Baby 2

I have been looking at porn.
This porn comes in the form of a Facebook page for local moms who are selling or giving away baby stuff. 
I’m on this page because one of my best friends is pregnant, and I have hopped so far aboard her baby-train, I’m surprised I’m not morning-sick myself!
In the past few weeks, I’ve begun reading a book on pregnancy that she read and loved (The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy), crocheting baby bibs, buying scrap fabric for burp clothes, and practically stalking her to ask if she wants a breast pump I found online. 
As I spoke of in my 2014 blog post “Maybe Baby,” I am not sure whether I want children. 
As then, I am not in a serious relationship, and I still am not willing to go the motherhood route alone, so there’s no real reason to question if I do or do not. But, reasonable or not, that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it. 
With every article on our drought, the cost of living, the planet’s imminent demise, the expansion of the stupid class — I am convinced for a few moments never to bring children into this hateful world. 
And with every true breath of fresh air, every warm hug, every belly laugh — I am convinced for a few moments that I want another human to bear witness to this world’s incandescent beauty. 
I am the age my mom was when she carried me (33), and then my brother at 36. I have been emailing and asking her all kinds of questions about her pregnancies since I began reading the pregnancy book — what was your morning sickness like? what does pregnancy feel like? did you have food aversions? stretch marks? hemorrhoids? (god help us, she did not!)
I have had the liberty and the luxury of asking my mom these questions, and too, my friend who is pregnant, does not. And I am very aware of this fact, and I think it has spurred my devoted interest in her pregnancy — I want to be there as much as I can, because I want to make up for any absence she might be feeling (real or imagined, to me, since I haven’t spoken to her about it yet). 

I was on the phone with my mom this morning, telling her that I feel my heightened interest in my friend’s impending mommy-hood is also that she’s my first local BFF to be pregnant. One of my other best friends in Long Island had a baby last year, and I was able to be there for a few days when the baby was a month old, but that’s all. There wasn’t the same imminent babyhood. 
I told my mom that I’d been thinking about my very best friend from childhood, a woman I’ve known since we were 3 years old, and how I can’t imagine what it will be like if and when she gets pregnant across the country from me. And I began to cry. 
Of course, it’s about her, my New Jersey friend, and it’s also about me. About how I’ll feel, if and when I also choose to have a family — assuming I’m able — so far from her and my own family. 
This is big business. This mommy stuff. 
And I am wanting to prepare to make that decision in a realistic way — so I have doubled-down on my work around intimacy and relationships (or in my case, habitual lack thereof). This morning, I told the woman I’d been working on these issues with by phone for about 6 weeks (a stranger whose name was passed along to me from a woman I admire) that I have reached out to someone local to work the rest of this stuff with. 
And I have. I will continue this relationship work with this local woman who has known me for nearly 8 years, who has seen me at my best and worst, who can call me out, see patterns, and provide so much space for my feelings and vulnerability that I can practically swim in them and still feel safe. 
Yesterday morning, this same woman (as we were talking about what my issues were and what I wanted to work out) said that she’d always felt for me that my issue was around deprivation. 
… 

She’s very astute. 
And it’s also funny to me because it’s one of those things that doesn’t come into focus about yourself until someone else (who knows you well) reflects it back. 
I am very aware of this time in the generation of women around me. My friends who are certain they don’t want kids, ones who know they do, the ones who can’t, and ones who, like me, are unsure.
It’s a particular, cordoned off time in our lives. And I’m holding the space for that, leaning into the grief of potentially not seeing friends change their whole lives, them not seeing me do the same. I’m aware this is “future-tripping,” but it’s fair to acknowledge my feelings around it, anyway. 
I’m allowed to not know what will happen (for me or for my friends), and I’m allowed to have feelings either way. 
Today, what that looks like is picking up a bitchin’ breast pump for my best friend. Continuing to do the work toward an intimate relationship with a man. And letting myself be both sad and happy for and with my peers. 
anger · community · isolation · recovery · trauma · truth · uncertainty

The Look-Good.

I was with a group of close friends on Friday night, celebrating one of their “not getting drunk and sleeping with strangers” anniversaries. These are women I’ve known for nearly my whole 8 years of not doing the same, and who know me and have seen me through my best and worst. 
And I couldn’t tell them the truth. 
It wasn’t until the assembled group was about to close that I got up, walked to the podium at the front of the room and said, “This is the place you’re supposed to tell the hard things. And, things are really bad.”
I began to sob. I eeked out that 5 months ago, I burned my life down, and I’m exhausted and isolated. I told the group that I realized I had to say something when, tonight, I couldn’t hold eye contact with my friends over our dinner. That the closest women I have in my life, I couldn’t look at for too long, because if I did… they would see… and I would break down crying. 
And I didn’t want to do that. 
Because it doesn’t feel like there’s anything to do. So, why talk about it?
I told them about being an expert at looking good on the outside, and feeling like dog shit on the inside. Now, the thing about the “look good” is that, sure, who doesn’t want to look good? Especially when you are feeling crappy, sometimes it’s nice to say, Well, at least I can still pull myself together. At least I can assemble an outfit, put on a little makeup, and … look good. 
However, the other thing about the “look good” is that generally, if you look good, people assume you feel good. And that’s part of the guise of it, of course; that’s part of its purpose… is to fool people. Because if no one asks, you don’t have to tell. 
It’s a pretty little prison we wrap ourselves up in, in an effort to try to do it alone. Because, again, what else is there to do?
In my case, I’m going on interviews, auditions, tours of school, taking tests, ordering physics books. I’m going about the wildest flurry of activity, the other day, I called it a blizzard. 
All this manic pushing to get out of my current situation that I feel ashamed I got into again. Molly, quitting another job without a plan. Molly, struggling to find work, again. Molly looking into a hundred different career paths, and feeling like a strung-out shell of a person through it all. 
Because, as I said earlier: Things are really bad. 
There’s a lot of crying, a lot of hopelessness, a lot of just trying to make it through these extended, exhausting retail days. 
A co-worker I’ve been sharing some of my, “Someone get me out of here” activities with said yesterday that shouldn’t this (the retail job) feel laughable in comparison to what I’ve been through? (She knows about the cancer.) And I said, No. 
Instead, it feels like, “Haven’t I been through enough that I shouldn’t have to deal with this fucking bullshit?” That’s how it feels. 
It feels like I push and try and explore and push and try and explore, and nothing moves. 
I feel like the hamster on the wheel, working so fucking hard, and getting no where. 
I will say that this new idea to pursue teaching feels like the first thing that makes real and doable sense in all my career lily-pad hopping. So, that feels like a win, and progress, and hope. 
And in the center of that remains the fact that my feet and legs ache, right now, I’m earning half what I did when I was at my office job, I have a dwindling savings account that was really fucking hard-earned, and I have no back-up.
So. What? Why do you talk to anyone about that anyway? No one really has anything to tell you of use, except, “We love you and you’ll get through this.” … And take that to the bank. 
But, no. It’s fabulous that I have people around me, and I know there’s something to telling the truth, and so I did. When I realized I couldn’t look my best friends in the eye for fear they might see the truth of what’s happening beyond the “look good,” it was time to say something. (Though, perhaps earlier could have been better, too.)
Did they particularly have anything that shorn through the bleakness in which I find myself, again? Not really. No magic bullets. No words of enlightenment. Just simple suggestions like, Go to a meeting everyday with people who actually know you, and share about this. 
And so, I am. 
I hate it. I feel vulnerable, and I want everybody to not talk to me about it afterward — but there’s no controlling people. 
Because here’s the undercurrent of all this surface nonsense, all this struggle to stay and get afloat and to try to believe that things will change and get better if I keep doing “the next right thing,” that life will even out, that I’ll be okay…: 


The undercurrent is: I. Don’t. Know. That. (None of us do, surely.)


But, specifically, I’m talking cancer. I have a lot of cancer grief to go through, and I don’t know how. 
Partly I don’t talk about it because I feel it’s so dramatic to talk about, because I’m scared people will roll their eyes, and think, “Sheesh, enough with the cancer already; you lived, didn’t you? Move on!” 
I don’t know how to share with people about how angry, betrayed, and every day still terrified — with every cough, or sleepless night, or strange headache — about a recurrence I feel. 
I don’t know how to begin to put faith back into a universe and a universal law that arbitrarily may decide to kill you “just cuz.” How to “come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to wholeness” when everything solid was ripped from under me in an instant. 
And that’s what I’m being asked to do. I’m at the point, again, where I’m supposed to contemplate my idea of a “higher power,” and I want everybody to take their, “It’s the cycle of life and death,” it’s love, it’s community, and shove it with red hot poker down their own throats. 
Because: Fuck. You. (non-cancer having people, she mumbles mentally.)
I am going at all this activity pretty much on my own, without the guidance and space of meditation, without a wisp of a belief in the goodness of the world, or in the belief that efforts bring results. 
And it’s really hurting me. 
There’s a lot of work I’m going to have to do on this, and I feel SO TIRED. I’m so tired. Have you fought cancer and then had to go about the daily business of living, getting parking tickets and paying bills you can’t afford? And are you now being asked to reconcile that traumatizing experience with a belief in goodness or constancy in the universe in order to stay sober and not kill yourself?
Few of us have. And I don’t know how to do it, because I don’t know who to turn to. 
And so, I’m doing this — or have been trying to do this — all alone, in many ways. Sure, I’m reaching out, and the shell of isolation is cracking, and I imagine “good” things will come of it. But for now, I’m just so tired. 
So that’s what’s beyond the “Look-Good,” friends. It’s not pretty, or happy, or palatable for many, including myself. It’s sad and raw and real and really fucking painful to be where I am right now. 
And… if one of you tells me “this too shall pass” or “everybody dies sometime,” i’ll shove an iron through your cranium.

(Because it is small comfort, even though it’s true.)
fear · finances · insanity · isolation · recovery · relapse

Without Defense

In the summer, I’d texted friends nearly daily, asking them to help me not quit my desk job. I wrote to them that quitting my job without a plan would be just like an alcoholic taking a drink: Disastrous. Painful. An uncharted trip through hell. 
But. I wasn’t connected to the things I knew to do. Few meetings, no sponsor, stuck in the middle of step work I’d started months before. 
And so, I drank. Metaphorically. 
In the fall, I quit my job, without a plan. I felt elated, relieved, free. Exactly like taking a drink. 
And now, I am living the consequences of that decision. 
Yesterday, as I walked back to my apartment after more than 8 hours on my feet and little to show for it, I catalogued all the things I missed about my old job. 
The short commute, with no bridges or tunnels involved. The normal hours. The flexible hours, when I could take off to go to Trader Joes at lunch, or walk around the gorgeous suburban landscape, or nap at a nearby friend’s before rehearsal. The co-workers I could have conversations with about things that were intelligent or fun or informative.

The kids. The chickens. The pianos.
The sitting. 
For all I wailed about wanting a job that didn’t require me to sit in front of a computer for 40 hours a week (and granted I still don’t) the ability to actually sit at all during the day sounds vastly luxurious. 
And as I walked home, the catalogue ever increasing, I said aloud, “I made a mistake.”
It was a mistake to quit my job the way I had, without a plan. I knew and had catalogued all the ephemeral perks of that job countless times, knowing what a cush place it was. But I was antsy, restless, hopeless and defiant. And I made a decision to leave. 
Now, in the school of life that I’ve come through, I hear much about “not regretting the past,” and true, through the interim period without work, I befriended another unemployed bright person who suggested a crowd funding campaign to pay off my back-rent cancer debt. The campaign was wildly successful, and a check is in the mail this week. In addition, because the goal was quickly reached, a very generous family gave me a donation insisting I spend it on “something fun,” which is how and why I have this fancy new laptop to replace the dinosaur I’d had. 
But… other than that? I mean, couldn’t those goals have been accomplished anyway? A campaign have been suggested another time? 
Look, I know this retail job I’m in now is temporary. I am trying my best to stave off the Stockholm Syndrome that seems to have engulfed everyone who works there, or anywhere in retail, into thinking that the paltry, hiccuping pay-scale, weak health insurance, and unpredictable schedule is acceptable. 
Today, I am trying to forgive the faulty thinking of mine that sent me on this fool’s errand in the first place, comparing it to how I did behave when I was drinking: It’s not cuz I was an awful person that I did what I did, it was because I didn’t know any better, and I didn’t have any tools to combat my insane thinking. 
I have to offer myself compassion for the misguided, instant-gratification seeking decision I made. I was not using the tools I knew to use. I was disconnected from the community that helps me not make insane decisions, financial and otherwise. 
I do feel, however, that admitting that I made a mistake in quitting that job without a plan is a good first step for me. I am not immune to my own thoughts. I am not solved from throwing myself into the abyss because I think my house is on fire. 
I have decades’-driven ruts and habits that I fell over into. And I did not have the diligence or connection to haul me out before I burned my life down instead. 
That’s okay. 

I mean, it has to be. Right? 
dating · fear · isolation · love · recovery

"I want to go to there." Good thing I am.

Where there is smoke, there is fire. And where there is fire, we take off our knitted gloves and hold our hands to it. 
It’s not that bad. This work. It’s tragic and awful, and would certainly raise eyebrows in most circles. I just got through chronicling the years from high school through, “Then I got sober.” 


The phrase “shit show” comes to mind. 
And yet, I remind myself, in small, calm handwriting at the end of each of these morning writing sessions that I am not that person anymore. That I have been shaped by her experiences, surely, but that the shape and essence of who I am can’t and couldn’t be eroded. 
Someone commented yesterday that I am courageous. And as I go through and into this work on healing my relationship to relationships and love, I know that I am. 
Not (only) because I’ve chosen (or been “forced” by fate) to do this work at all, but because of all that has come before that hasn’t broken me. 
Injured, scarred, frightened me. Sure. But I sit here today, in my sweats, a space heater licking my calves, half-philz half-trader joes coffee in my mug, and I’m not broken. 
I have been through things and experienced them in a way that makes me cautious to the point of isolation against romantic relationships, but that doesn’t make me broken. That makes me habituated to a way of being. 
It all comes, for me, down to safety. With others, in my body, in relationship, in intimacy and authenticity. To slowly peel back the traumas and defenses and reveal that there’s nothing to be scared of anymore. Nothing that can harm me the way my high school/college/post-college years did. 
I won’t say that my love life in sobriety has been a cake walk or the pinnacle of wise. It used to have a lot of the same patterns as my drinking days. But it doesn’t anymore. 
However, there’s a middle ground, I know, between wanton and nunnery. 
I want to go to there. 
I want to go to the place where I am safe, even in exposing myself. Not because other people are so trustworthy, but because I am. Because my spidey-sense is coming back, and I want to get to a place where I trust it. I don’t have to tap out of the dating game entirely. I just have to listen when the alarms go off, and act accordingly. Take action accordingly. 
In previous iterations of my love-life, I have pressed the override button so forcibly, for moments, I did break. 
But, I’m not that girl-woman anymore. As I said, I’ve been shaped and molded by her experiences. But I also have my own inherent grace, fortitude, and hope. 

And so, where there has been smoke (read: my love life), I have sought the fire (read: my fearful heart). And it will be there that I remove my (boxing) gloves. And learn to love and trust my own self.