You Can’t Hold Me Forever

There is a lot to think about in early sobriety. Maybe that’s part of what starts it all, the over thinking, the addiction to the substance that can kill that off for a little while. Went to the Elton John concert last night in Philly. It was the perfect evening surrounded by people I love and cherish and adore inside out. He was phenomenal, of course. It’s his farewell tour, last time to perform in Philadelphia, on his way to perform his last time in any American city. It’s called his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Tour. It was my first time attending a concert sober.

When he played Candle in the Wind, silent videos of Marilyn Monroe flashed all across the jumbotron screens behind him. There were numerous sequences where she was drinking white wine from a long flute. There was always a hand pouring her more. She was so impossibly beautiful. In her anguished expression, you could feel her falling apart. She laughed and danced and winked. She smiled, or tried to.

I don’t have a lot to say at the moment except that I woke up sober this morning, just like I went to bed sober very early this morning. And I remember every single song he performed. I remember the chills that ran up my spine and the tears that fell down my face when he sang Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me as clips of photos and videos of his amazingly creative and wild life played out, one after another after another, all around him as he sat on stage in the spotlight, playing the piano as only Sir Elton John can. This giant of a man, in the sunset of his giant life.

We watched the sun go down over the stadium. We watched the supermoon glow burning orange over the river all the way home. I think of Marilyn and the beauty that lit her up and crushed her out. Of saying goodbye to the old road. Stepping on to a new one. He closed the concert with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. And then it was over. Waving, in his gorgeous fuschia floor-length robe and signature rhinestone studded square glasses, the Rocketman disappeared offstage into the darkness.

If You’re Gonna Play the Game (audio)

As pale peach light creeps along the leaves of the trees, a small bird can be heard fluttering past the window, swooping on the humid morning air to land on a telephone wire which slinks up and down our quiet street. The coffee grinder whirrs to life downstairs in the kitchen and I click off the alarm on my phone in the dark. Too much stress in my mind. Too much worry about how my day will go. I dream of being someone else with someone else’s life. A life where I am not tied to anything. Not a job. Not money. Not the east coast. It’s all a gamble, this life, even if you stick to what you know. Even if you cling to the familiar there’s still chance involved. The chance you’ll miss out. The chance you will die with regret.

And I know there’s old people out there who will lecture us and say ‘don’t waste it’ or ‘you only get one life, this is it’ and yadda ya, but they only think that way because they have squandered everything, too. They know the feelings they warn you about because they have them and you don’t yet. It’s the fact that you don’t yet that makes them mad or sad or whatever. In any case, I wonder what it is we are all looking for and cannot seem to find. I have a hunch it’s our own hearts.

I wonder if I have found it, here and there, and if I should try to get better at recalling those times so I can recognize them in the future. Today, for instance. Hot sticky gross July day in the middle of the week. Will I transcend the monotony of this day at least a few times during it? Am I playing too small, as they say, whatever the fuck it means? Am I to gamble bigger, more dangerously, daringly, recklessly? I cannot help but think that gamble was part of what I loved about drinking. It was stupid, yeah obviously, but after a whole day spent wishing just about everything was more beautiful, as the evening opened up wide in front of me, I wanted nothing more than to toss myself into the waiting arms of oblivion. To throw caution to the wind and myself out the window of the same bloodless scene and into the free fall of come what may.

Come what may after drinking was never pretty, of course. But I’m not drinking anymore. And what’s funny is the gambler in me is still alive and kicking, apparently. What is it inside that wants me to take a chance on myself? The chance of staying present. The chance of letting go. The chance of finally, once in a lifetime, taking a chance.

But Oh How Close We Came

I busted up my hand trying to open a window that didn’t want to open. Apparently. Whatever I did really messed up my knuckles and now holding a pen is painful as is lifting my insanely oversized coffee mug because the damage done is to the right hand. The most precious, the most necessary. This matters little if at all to you, it would seem, except that now instead of scribbling trails of wandering thoughts in my notebook, as I normally would before I started typing up a blog post, I can only scribble by typing. Typing is less painful than writing with a pen or lifting coffee, though only slightly. I very much hope this doesn’t last more than a few days. The irony is that I was just telling my son the other day how I keep giving myself the stupidest injuries completely by accident. How does one destroy her knuckles by opening a window, it’s so dumb.

I came across a small quote by Clarice Lispector which goes like this, “It’s inside myself that I must create someone who understands.” I thought how true that is and how it’s a little bit sad. I feel that way and I am sure so many other creatives do, writers, poets, artists. We find fewer and fewer people around us who understand the depth of our feelings, the breadth of our souls. It is impossible, it seems, to find another soul who meets you where your soul is. Like satellites drifting by one another in the dark vastness of space.

Perhaps the whole truth though is that we don’t actually want anyone to get too close. To be able to undo ourselves we need our own space, our own time, our own universe. So we can breathe. Remember our own minds, our own consciousness. People are noise, people open their mouths and it’s all static and distraction from what we have going on inside of our own world.

The world around us is collapsing it seems. I read a blog post by a woman who said she isn’t surprised because in all honesty, how else could this go? And I get that. We have been too brutalized, too abused for too long to have this unravel any other way. The way we have been living with our anger and outrage in each others faces constantly, this kind of arrogance and simulated interactions instead of real flesh and blood ones, it breeds all kinds of human devastation. We have lost something we never quite had but oh how close we have come to goodness at times. It is that hope to get close to goodness once again that keeps our little hearts thumping into yet another day. Thinking we may just find it in ourselves to make it, maybe not to rise above but at least to carve a new and more beautiful way through, to find the kind of magic we’ve been looking for all along.

Meanwhile, my hand is not happy with me for typing so much and my brain is wishing I had a point to make which was clever and clear but I haven’t the slightest of either. I would love another cup of coffee but I don’t look forward to lifting it.

And Baby It Don’t Stop

There are thoughts you think about but would die if anyone knew. You spend a lot of time hoping those thoughts are not you. That what you cannot speak about in public doesn’t mean you are a freak in private. Lust. Desire. Shame. Weakness. Cruelty. Confusion. Disgust. Hatred. Fury. Disconnection. Indifference. Dishonesty. Incompetence. Frustration. Fantasy. I’d love to talk about them all. I bet you would, too, if only anyone would give you the time of day or night or ever. People won’t though, they don’t know what the fuck to do with themselves let alone what to do with you and all your bizarre shit. But don’t you ever think that the more we hold back from each other the less we have access to ourselves? I mean are there some things that just have to come out, right, or they get distorted, crushed into regret or denial or addiction.

Or do we just like that feeling of those dark messy things scratching just below the surface of our palatable exterior. Do we get off on shoving them in, pressing them down. Like not being who we truly are, but revealing something just shy of that, is some kind of emotional edging. How explosive, how euphoric it would feel to burst into a trillion sparks of light, to come clean all over every damn thing that’s ever held you back or kept you quiet all these years. How long has it even been? Can you remember a time when what you were matched what you said you were? Before you started contorting yourself to fit in, to make a living, to raise the kids, to keep the peace, flash the fancy car.

Sure there’s the stuff you do all day and the silliness you soothe yourself with like booze or smokes or coffee or chocolate or whatever but underneath all that, below all that, in a place you think about like clockwork when the silent privacy of evening settles in all around, and the dust on the empty air twists and twinkles in the sifting, dimming light, do you ever wish you could touch yourself in soulspaces you have never explored before? I’m not talking about sex or sexual seduction, that’s so fucking tired and pedestrian the way it is , it’s so predictable and useless, it’s stress release, it’s not transcendant. I’m talking about something nameless, timeless, something so mindbendingly beautiful and haunting, almost frightening, at the same time there is no way of describing it coherently. Only the exceedingly rare artist or poet or musician can get you there but even then it is not the same as getting there yourself, by yourself. Doing it with and to yourself.

Someplace inside that has yet to be understood because it has yet to be uncovered. But it is there waiting, breathing. That thing you are meant to create. The words you have been meaning to say if only you could get at them, pull them up from the well inside that is you. And won’t stop being you, calling you, driving you mad with the living deadness of unrealized possibility. That deep deep well that you keep praying and wishing would stop because it isn’t you, isn’t you, isn’t you.

Can You See It In Your Mind? (audio)

I am Emily Dickinson with a smart mouth. I sit upstairs in this little room and write about staring out my window onto the same view day in and day out while thinking thoughts and dreaming dreams which come and go like the pink-streaked clouds, stretching and separating at dawn, only to evaporate entirely by the time the noon sun reaches its cruel summer peak.

You don’t need much of anything to write, I guess is what I’m saying. You don’t need good looks or fancy equipment or any kind of flash or status whatsoever. You just need your mind in its purest form, a mind unshackled by the rules and norms and restrictions of this stuck-up world. You just need yourself and a keyboard. Yourself and a notebook and a proper pen and by proper I do not mean expensive I just mean one that fits your hand perfectly and from which the ink flows the way you want it to, feels the way you need it to, and lasts a good couple weeks at least.

These are the rules and I make them up and share them with you as I sit in my spot overlooking nothing spectacular but thick green lawns which are made possible by the relentless assault of the haunt of suburbia, the sinister invisible cripple of climate crisis, and those silly little decrative floral flags people are always putting up in the dirt at the base of their hedges. I suppose if you cannot grow actual flowers, wedging a more expensive painted-on version of some will suffice if you are in any case fully out of your mind.

I’m not really Ms. Dickinson, of course. She was a rare, exquisite, and eerie talent who truly never went out much and I am just some rando poet writer author blogger, typing away in the hopes of making a connection with whatever the thing is that calls me to the page over and over again. Writing has been my love and my lover since I first became aware of it as an activity one could perform that would transport and transform me in the blink of an eye. You pick up a pen and you are a completely new person, a person other than just yourself, somebody bigger, someone with agency and power. A wizard, a sourceress, a demon, a magician. Writing makes you real in a way nothing else ever did or will or could. Because when you can write you can create anything at all and no one can stop you. You can say anything and mean it and then the next day think better of it and rewrite it to suit you better and better still.

Why on earth I have gone on rambling about writing this morning I haven’t the slightest but I will say that it feels mighty smooth and rich and good like this coffee I’m drinking now. Do you see me drinking coffee in your mind? Across the street there is a perfectly manicured house with a finely trimmed green lawn in front and under a tree on that lawn there are two robins fluttering around, chirping and smashing into each other in the air about six inches off the ground. I do not know if they are sexing or sparring but they repeat their strange dance moves until one or the other gets too tired to carry on. Mating is exhausting and grows less and less interesting with time.

Anyway, it’s all about making a kind of connection with the wilderness which aches and cries and flutters and smashes within. And of all the ways to truly untangle and dance with the soul, writing is by far the most sincere.

Sticky Seedy Sloppy Needy

His high pitched shrieky howling is on my last nerve. It’s before 6am on a Sunday morning, not that he gives a shit of course, being unable to tell time much less understand what it might mean for the people in his neighborhood, and I have the window open while trying to write a cover letter for my manuscript submission. Truth be told I do not know if the dog down the street losing his marbles is a boy or a girl but for some reason my first instinct with dogs is to think they are male and cats female, which I am certain is problematic in ways I’m not quite sure of but should be, but it’s early and I’m only one cup of coffee in, and again with the dog and its relentless yapping. Is it in a yard? Bring it in and give it food, christ. Do some fucking thing.

My Sunday morning tarot reading tells me that a chapter of my life has now come to a close. This explains a lot about how I feel lately, to be honest. Last night we had dinner at an outdoor bar-restaurant which used to be where I would go as a young thing to get drunk and hook up with boys. The place has been renovated but only just enough for it to feel a bit more sophisticated and slightly less seedy than it once was. Still, the ghost of twenty-something me was there in the sticky hardwood floors and the giant wrap around bar that took up the entire front room. The guys throwing darts and speaking too loud and too sloppily could have been the same tools as were there twenty years ago. Sex and cigarettes, booze and lust and an idiotic kind of intoxicated plea for the return of innocence. Some things never change I guess. Even as we shed our old selves and slip into our new ones, we all carry with us our own hungry ghost.

I don’t miss the way it was and I wouldn’t wish its return for anything in the world. But the uncomfortable pangs of nostalgia are as real as the natural human instinct to pine for the cheap thrill of dollar beers and messing around in the parking lot with a sexy guy you’d never be able to pick out of a line up after the buzz wears off around sometime in the evening the following day which you’ll inevitably spend face down on a mattress ingesting cold pizza and cursing your idiotic – and for some inexplicable reason, repeated – poor life decisions.

The dog down the street has suddenly quieted. I hope he’s okay and I’m glad he isn’t mine. I’m fond of having fewer and fewer responsibilities as the days roll on by. My kid is grown. My dogs were gorgeous and now they are wherever the spirits of dogs go to frolic in the soft grasses of eternity. The day job is the job and it stays where I leave it at 4:30pm.

I used to care what those guys back in the day thought of me. I used to need them to find me attractive and all the rest of the silliness I held in such high esteem as only a young lady was brought up to do whilst being shamed for it all the while. If the ghost of past me could see me now what would she think? She’d think I was such a fucking cliche. Married in suburbia surrounded by dogs, lawn mowers, and expensive SUVs. Lacing up my running shoes on an early Sunday morning when most people are sleeping in like normal. Headed god knows where but headed there faster than I, or she, ever could have imagined.

Dead Heat

It isn’t a butterfly exactly but it could be something similar, like a fire, like something which purifies, burns and then resurrects. A phoenix, is that what it would be? I just don’t want to ink something permanently onto my body that I can’t get behind, that I don’t feel absolutely belongs to me. I want a design which reflects the magnitude of the transformation I have gone through this year. Sober day one was six months ago but it could have been a lifetime, it could have been many years and it could have been yesterday. They tell you to take one day at a time because otherwise there is no reliable sense of time at all. You are ten thousand years old, you have lived and died ten thousand times, you are new born every morning, every evening, every minute of each and every day.

As it happens, this particular Saturday afternoon is gray, rainy, and not hot, which is a relief to me because I hate the heat. I am also not terribly fond of the sun or sunny days, though it seems they bother me less now that I am off the drink. I’d no idea how imbalanced my hormones, my inner chemicals and therefore my emotions and feelings, were – shot to shit by my daily indulgences. Did you know that drinking kills off your ability to experience pain and also pleasure, and not just pleasure from drinking but all pleasure from doing anything? It’s fucked up but it’s true. These days the thought of licking on an ice cream cone sends watery anticipation sliding all across my little pink tongue. Back then I couldn’t imagine wasting time, money or calories on anything that didn’t promise to sever my prickled senses from the unbearable pain of reality.

It is still strange to me, jarring in a way, to see people drinking in movies. I think because I have no immediate or instinctual desire to actually pick up and do it, too. I could never have watched people drinking before. Not without joining in. Whether they were with me in real life or not, drinking was always the thing to do around other people. Or alone, as it were. Didn’t matter. Only the drinking really mattered. Only the beautiful euphoria of the numbness softly blanketing my limbs and organs and brain. Maybe I’m not supposed to romanticize that part but christ it was so sweet, so smooth, so divine. And that is exactly why it is so hard to clutch sobriety close to your precious chest each time you think you want to drop kick it in the mouth. You know what rock solid bliss you’ve got but damn if you don’t still, sometimes, secretly, fantasize about what you once had. The shimmering siren of succulent self-abuse.

I should shower but I’m sick of showering every goddamn day. Instead I sit sipping coffee and observing the long tendrils of my lovely green ivy plant as they sway gently in the breeze which flows through my open bedroom window. I’m preparing to send my manuscript out to a very cool small press on Monday, they issued a call for submissions and they seem very genuine, very devoted to the beautiful craft of writing.

For no real good reason, I think of all the friends who have come and gone in my life and wonder what some of them would think of me now if they knew I was clean. It doesn’t matter. All of my old lives are very much over and done with. At this very moment I am all alone in a room not missing or wanting for anything or anyone. No cravings. No illusions about writing or alcohol or relationships or life in general. No nothing except for what is. And how this is what life is for the most part, little did I ever previously realize. Just empty nothingness, unchartered waves of peace and confusion on repeat. Until we crash in with our arrogance and greed and trembling anxieties, roughing it up just to fuck with the silence because the silence doesn’t answer to us and that pisses us all the way off, which the silence doesn’t care about either. It just stays and stays because it’s got nothing to prove and no one to please.

Sucker Punch

Early evening drapes itself in hazy light and a kind of warmth which is too heavy, too insistent. I finish my espresso as I stare out the upstairs window into the street. The sun is too high but that’s all I ever say. I’m dying to write but all that spills out of my empty brain are these few words worth so little. I read somewhere that fame is what most people crave not realizing it’s the best way to kill off your creativity. Privacy is a must, secrecy a necessity, and these days we are hella short on both. A friend sent me something by Hemingway about having to do the work of writing for no applause. I get that. I do that.

I used to do it with a lot more magic, a lot more lust and juice. Lust for what I am not really sure anymore. But I did have this thought earlier today as I drank coffee and stood at the copier machine: where has the magic gone? I swear I once had it. I once had poetry and desire, visions and hungers, thirsts, cravings. Part of my trouble, of course, I know. But also the beauty of words, their power to seduce, electrify, and enchant, once held me completely captive to their charms. I struggle to even grasp any of that now, in this muggy regular late afternoon. What used to excite me simply doesn’t anymore.

I pick up a black ball point pen. Draw snakes wrapped around long stemmed roses in the pages of my notebook. They are not very good but it doesn’t matter, really. You know, I wanted to tell you that when a sick kind of oppressive menace grips a culture, one that demoralizes, shreds, skins, deadens you inside, there are no marchers in the streets screaming about it, because of the deadness. It is not a ferociousness which cries out in the heat of night but a colossal silence, a cripple of inability to speak, to dream, to flower. Each day is the same as the last, each day is as gray and plain and sad but not impossible to get through. Just emptier. More vacant. The way it happens is the magic slides away. Dismay disorders the soul and clouds the eyes.

The Fuck?

As I wander the tiny boutique shop off the main street of town, my eyes skim over all the various outrageously over-priced items: fancy stem ware, stuffed animals, books, candle holders, scented bath crystals, etc. I stop in front of a small table adorned with assorted charcuterie boards and tiny cheese slicing knives which are accompanied by a package of cocktail napkins (8 for one hundred thousand dollars). The napkins are white with bold black cursive lettering which reads – and I am not making this up – “Shut Up, Liver, You’re Fine.” Aside from being really stupid, the napkins make me cringe in another sense entirely. I find myself imagining actual people at an actual festive event, attempting to *party* around these pitiful napkins whilst trying not to think about their disgusting livers which are, apparently, speaking to them? Begging for mercy? It’s so gross for so many reasons, not the least of which is that I guess we’ve now graduated to a next level kind of collectively kitchy suicidal alcoholism? Like literally on purpose offing ourselves in plain view at social events? Cool, cool, cool.

I’ve not had a lick of alcohol in 188 days. I run like the wind and sleep like heaven. But I still wake up and live in this same bizarre, ignorant world which makes so little sense to me, drunk or sober. I try to wrap my head around going back to the office and working as the country I live in descends further into absolutely horrific, chaotic madness. The thing is though it isn’t totally chaotic in the sense that it is not uncalculated or random. Any semblance of a rational, sane society is willingly dismantling itself right before our very eyes. We take the lunacy and give it ammunition. We take the innocent and we make them weaker and blinder and dumber still. And idiotic we stand laughing and snacking and partying all around it.

Killer On the Road

Jim Morrison had the sexiest voice of anyone ever and now he’s gone but still he sings gravelly voiced from the speaker down the hall as my husband takes a bath after his morning run. This country is fucked and we are stuck right down in it for better or worse (worse, mostly, it turns out). I’ve no idea what to do about that but I feel it a lot deeper than he does, this I know for sure.

Not much I can do about that either. Can’t yell or scream or cry or seethe enough to make it as real for him as it is for me because he is a man and he is from another generation. One that may actually be taken care of til it dies off. But I am a woman and I am of a generation which will likely not be taken care of even though I have earned it, doesn’t matter. Faith? Hope? Drugs? Lies? Truth? Life? Addiction? Death? Who is in charge and who is not. Do we fight or do we flee. Should I post on the blog today? I think this over as I sip my coffee. What to say? Why am I doing this and who is it for? I have recently considered becoming addicted to cigarettes on purpose just for something shit to do.

I text with a friend about moving to Costa Rica. I know nothing at all about Costa Rica but turns out I know pretty much fuck all about America, too, so whatever will be will be. Independence Day is hilarious. Peace and love, hot dogs, water ice, and bullshit all down your naive throat. I don’t blame myself for getting drunk all the times I did. Or trying to blunt the pain of this extremely painful life. Outside my window there are green trees and soft breezes blowing through them like whispers of a time when I was too young to understand how my life was being disassembled right out from under me.

Fireflies. Fireworks. The smell of a charcoal grill and the feel of a cherry popsicle dangling from my tiny little mouth. There was an innocence to summer grass beneath my feet and the red and blue twinkle of July 4th party lights reflecting on the surface of the pool in the yard at night. I remember it and smile for a second, smile briefly but sincere none the less. I hate it here. Jim Morrison is drowned out by hedgetrimmers. Poetry is a wheel of cotton candy pink birth control pills that some bible thumper prude Christian refuses to distribute to a hot young thing at the local Walgreens because #religiousfreedom. I never want to have sex again because everything is politics and smells like stale beer on abusive breath and tastes like the butts of cigarettes drowning in the stagnant water left for the mosquitos in the bird bath which sits peeling and rusting in the 12 noon suburban sun.

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