You’d Never Believe It (audio)

Saturday night. Earlier in the evening than you might expect. We enter the bar and it’s a fucking madhouse. People are jam packed wall to wall everywhere, laughing, eating, drinking, shouting over the electric hum of voices and cold clink of glasses and silverware. They say in sobriety it’s the little epiphanies that strike you out of nowhere that can be so beautiful, fortifying, fascinating. I would have to agree.

When I take the first sip of my crisp tonic and lime, I have this wild joy tear through me. The kind you might get if you were meeting a blind date for the first time and he turns out to be ferociously handsome and super sweet, too. Surprising and yet you kinda had been hoping for it, too, just with very low expectations. My sudden joy is mostly pure but it’s a smirk actually, also. It feels like the warm simmer of a delicious emerging power and also kind of smug. Forgive me, I’m new at this.

But anyway, I have this brand new very enchanting thought: I get to stay with myself all night. I feel no sense whatsoever of deprivation, loss, denial, or sadness. When I would get wrecked in times gone by, it was to not just escape myself but run full speed away from everything. Like I couldn’t bear the feel of my own skin against the vicious world. But on this bitter cold February night, while downing my boozeless drink, I realized I actually liked being with myself. I didn’t want to disengage from this version of me. I didn’t want to lose her ever again, in fact.

I’ve also heard it said that “One is too many and a thousand is never enough.” Yeah. I get that. But the wild bit – the thing I find so gorgeous it borders on hilarity – is that none is more than I ever, ever would have believed.

It Will Come for You (audio)

There are stories within stories that we tell ourselves to keep the truth alive but buried deep inside. To keep the light from falling in and ruining the blood sport game. The game is, of course, to hurt ourselves as hard as possible. And then to turn around and do it over and over and over again in the name of calling sickness healing. How much can you take. How much can you handle before you break. We are full to the throat with our own choked needs. What I had forgotten was that the light would not stop coming because the light does not fear the darkness, it needs it, it loves it. It belongs to it. And somehow the story within the story crawls out of its tiny shell. Makes a run for it. Dares to leap. Risks the impossible. A strange new wilderness reveals itself. But you do not yet know how to tell that story. All you know how to say is, Today I am 36 days sober. And you are the only one who knows that a day is a lifetime and a single night is a miraculous escape from the jaws of death and the story is that you are saving yourself. And if the light can come for you, you want to tell anyone who will listen, it can come for anybody else.

Not What They Sold Me (audio)

A springtime breeze slides in through my open window and it makes perfect sense to me even though it is still the dead of winter. The ground is the kind of mud that is so thick it makes a sucking sound when you trudge through in your rubber-soled boots. The fog was so dense yesterday I couldn’t see two feet in front of my face. The warm currents turning to a haunting white vapor as they met with the snow still cold and clinging, but slipping away, on the gray winter landscape. Wet train tracks. A bridge to nowhere as if suspended in thin air. A time of transition. A time of – what was the word from Eat, Pray, Love? Attraversiamo….. we cross over. An end which is a beginning. A risk which is somehow reckless and not at all reckless.

I pull a tarot card which confirms my wildest hopes for renewal. Artistic. Sensual. Grounded in the earth. The waters of my own emotions, gentle and placid, red and violent, in turns. We find ways to abandon ourselves. But something inside is always calling us back. The battle is as real as the pink streaks of light at dawn, the calamity of night against day. The pain and the danger, too. We were made for it, though. Built and designed for all of it. Distorted as this culture is. Twisted. Fucked up as its norms and pressures and false gods may be, we come from someplace so far beyond this world that there is no place we can point to. No star we can promise or claim is home.

Honestly, I am not about this ethereal shit until all of a sudden I am. My tarot tells me this is just the beginning. Of discovery, adventure. Of learning what I actually love, not what I’m told. Of finally knowing what true pleasure is, not what they sold me. Not what I have been swallowing down in gulps of hysteria, panicked of losing a life I only barely knew in glimpses anyway. It’s funny though, isn’t it? How sometimes a glimpse is enough. How if you are very, very lucky, the sweet fresh air will sweep through unexpectedly. And you will recognize it for what it really is: the first next breath you are finally brave enough to take.

If Your Friend Jumped Off A Bridge (audio)

That voice in your head right now, can you be sure what it wants for you? When you pour the coffee when you add the sugar when you notice your feet are freezing even though you are wearing wool socks. The night descends inside of your bones at the beginning of the day. When things aren’t right, which is to say normal which is to say the same which is to say habitual, your whole routine is shot to hell. You scramble the eggs and sort through the thoughts like separating the laundry you now remember you left wet in the washing machine last night but, wait, more importantly, what is today? Is there something special in it that perhaps you forgot about?

The letters.

The letters you weave together to collect words into existence to make the voice make itself. You forgot to send the letters off in the mail, again. I love the sober community or at least I think I do, right now they are all just heads on a screen which is full of heads and bodies and a crippling cascade of advice.

Sober sob stories. Condolences.

Some of us make it and some of us don’t but maybe death is a doorway or a gateway or a trap or a trick or an illusion. Try not to think about that. Try to take the coffee and the eggs and the cold and the letters and one day at a time. I want to tell them I’m just in it for the sober sex which is quite honestly mind blowing. I want to say today feels like the greatest day of my life since yesterday and that tomorrow burns in me like a triple sun, three large suns orbiting one another. It is very hot. It is very menacing the way they smile.

I cannot stop the words and I cannot imagine telling anyone about any of this. I remember what he said when he said ‘ . . . you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.’ and how that has irreversibly fucked me up. When you are a writer you are always in your head unless you are fucking your lover or eating the eggs or downing the coffee which tastes like the high point of your entire life to be honest, but even then it isn’t so easy to disengage from the voice. You need it or it needs you.

But what would you do to fit in with the chatter. If your friend jumped off a bridge would you do it, too? My mother would ask me that when I was small. Because the fear is that you are just like everybody else and the fear is that you are not like anybody else who ever existed or ever will. And the fear is in the holding on to one of those beliefs or the other but never both at once.

Your mother cannot understand that you would jump and you would not jump. It is possible to commit opposite acts simultaneously not in the body but in the mind. You look at your hands and see that they are holding a coffee mug and they are buttering the toast. And you are also ending your thoughts and you are also following them as they multiply. You listen to them and you do not listen to them. You get up and you stay in bed. You can jump and you can not jump. You can pick up the glass and not pick up the glass. You are doing so right now.

Savior Complex (audio)

I am not your savior in any sense of that word. I cannot save you from boredom or fury, jealousy, rage, desperation. Can’t take those sharp-toothed desires and soothe them for you so you can sleep it off and buy yourself some time. But something about the way you look at me makes me think you think I could if I would just put my body close enough to yours. And lord forgive me, I like the way you shift your eyes from the corner to the floor to the inside of my thighs. It’d be cute if I were writing you into the plot of some kind of fantasy. Maybe I’d give you everything you think you want right before I rob you blind.

People are full to the neck of complicated story lines, the amount of conflict out in the world is nothing compared to the wars going on inside our own brains. We are quiet about it though. So quiet you begin to believe you are the only one with the problem. But none of their stories are my business. I keep my head down and stay in my lane. I don’t know what you have done in your past and you don’t know what I’ve been through in mine. Either you want to listen with genuine curious detachment or you want to sell me something money can’t buy. But maybe it could.

Maybe if the price weren’t too low or too high. If it cost me just enough that I feel the risk in my stomach. Have to turn it over and over in my mind before I finally give in. There was a man once who wrote something so obscene to me that I had to trash it so nobody else would see. Strangers. Comics. Clowns. Perverts. Obstacles. Everybody is a carnival all their own inside. Distorted mirrors and the smell of funnel cakes and lemonade and ice cream melting into the hot, hot, blacktop. A large painted metal trash can overflowing with sticky mangled trash. Empty bottles rolling around and around the fairgrounds for miles and miles in the oppressive summer sun.

On Some New Shit (audio)

You ever see something that wasn’t really there? I’m not talking about the fucking paranormal I’m talking about staring into the mouth of a thing that’s trying to fucking eat you alive and seeing in its hypnotic venomous eyes the most decadent heavenly sky. It’s a hell of a thing, really. One hell of a fucking insane ride.

We sit at the bar and my mind is screaming at me because I am wearing the body of the fool who has put myself into this ridiculous situation. Everything is clawing at me. The scent of the musty polished hardwood of the floors and the barn ceiling and the barn walls and the old, old bar top. The stools are narrow and hard and for the life of me I cannot understand why I notice every goddamn thing like each one is slamming me in the nerves.

When the bartender asks me what I will have to drink I recognize her but she is as alien to me as I am to myself. I have never before had lips or a face or teeth or a tongue or the ability to make any kind of important or unimportant decision at all. For some reason I hear George Thorogood in my head saying ‘The clock on the wall say three o’clock’ over and over and over again on repeat but he never gets to order the bourbon, the scotch, or the beer.

She blinks and I flinch. For a split second everything I thought I knew so solidly about how to take care of myself is buzz sawed to shavings of fine saw dust and piled in tiny clumps around me. I order a tonic with lime and when I say the words nothing feels amazing at all just muted and deafening at the same time. I trace the grains in the wood with my thumbnail and talk about nothing I am actually thinking.

Out on the street, the hot winter sun has streaked the cold horizon line with deep bloody crimson strands of ribbon-like light. The snow-crusted hills roll out forever behind the snow-covered fields, stuck through with dry cut stalks of things that once grew soft and wild in the open summer wind.

It is not 1984, though I remember that year when I was only six. Fireflies and ice cream soda. It is not Kansas anymore and it is not the home I thought I built inside of me to keep me safe or warm or true. As the smoky scent of a far off bonfire sweeps across the parking lot, I am silent and I hear the crunch of the gravel beneath my heavy boots like thunder rumbling across a naked plain. It occurs to me that some hurts can’t be easily or readily explained. It occurs to me that to grow a new life, some old things are gonna have to burn. One of them is me.

Chalk Outline

She sets the tall glass of club soda down in front of me and immediately I hate that the glass is tall and I hate that the particular lime wedge she has limply skewered onto the rim looks as if it has spent the last three months of its pathetic existence rotting in the back of the refrigerator. It’s literally not even green. Or yellow. It has no color it’s like the ghost of a lime gone by.

Have you ever seen the John Mulaney bit where he talks about going to a party where people “Know ya don’t drink!” and so they offer him like a fucking turnip or an old NuvaRing from the freezer? His delivery is hilarious and so on point. I think about this and laugh to myself as I shove the offending slice of sad citrus into my napkin. Everyone else downs their wine and beer.

Life is very sharp these days. I am very aware and often feel very naked. I think it was Catherine Gray who said early sobriety feels like you are a de-quilled porcupine and I must say I feel that for sure. I’m cool in my own home. My husband still drinks and I don’t sweat that, it’s fine. But the outside booze-drowned world is super loud to me for some reason. Even talking to other sober folks online feels like I’m a tiny awkward newborn foal on brand new legs trying to take a couple timid steps.

It’s funny though because those vulnerable images of tiny quivering animals in their shivering unprotected nakedness also burns a deeper feeling inside of me that I am not sure I have ever known this viscerally. Compassion for myself. Not like sappy pity but the actual solid feeling of a desire to treat with extreme care and fierce protection. Compassion for the me that is just trying to re-emerge in a way which isn’t paranoid or self-sabotaging.

As I write this right now (and please forgive me I have no idea if this is any good I just need to write because I don’t know wtf I’m doing) a mangy blizzard is pummeling the area, white whirling snow is rushing sideways past the window to my writing room. It occurs to me this must be what it would look like if you were looking out from the inside of a snow globe. All shook up and softly blinded by the muted grayish light. Kinda magic. Kinda disorienting.

Out there it’s harsh and brutal. But in here I am warm and safe with my coffee and keyboard and a stack of quit lit towering on the bed. And I don’t know how but I know I’m gonna be okay. I can feel it because I am so aware of every little thing now. I was never grateful enough for all that I have. I couldn’t see it clearly enough. I was very busy numbing it out and then nursing my sickness after it was too late to stop it from crippling me.

I guess sometimes it takes staying awake when there is a storm raging all around to really get to know the unshakable calm at your center.

The soft-strong-self-calm my addiction tried again and again to convince me didn’t exist.

For twenty-two years, it worked.

Fairly Certain I’ll Regret This (audio)

So this is not my “usual” content whatever the fuck that means. I am a storyteller and so far all my stories were written by someone who was struggling mightily to control alcohol and was not doing great in that regard let us just say. I wasn’t the worst. I wasn’t the least worst. And I don’t want to be a motivational-self-help-self-care whatever the case. Because I don’t want to preach or sound preachy, the very thought of that makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn.

I don’t want that. I just want to write. Just fucking write about the little bits of life that elude or escape most of us on a daily basis. But now I am sober. I am fucking sober and I want – no, I need – I need to sit with this reality for a minute. Let it really sink in. I have gone through so much to get to twenty-six days which probably sounds quite extremely melodramatic, right, and the hilarious thing is that I get that. I get how if I were reading some shit like this from a blogger I trusted to never be . . . I don’t even know.

I do not know yet why this feels so jarring, so ‘off’ and yet also so beautiful and true and healing and mind expanding, soul expanding. It is all-consuming these days I guess is the thing. When you have an addiction, when you are in it, you can’t see it from the outside the way you think you can. Your perspective is warped and you tell yourself things that are lies and even though part of you knows they are lies there is another part of you fully convinced they are the truth. You will rail against reality tooth and nail.

You don’t have a problem. Ok you have a little problem but it’s not as bad as so and so other person’s problem. Ok so maybe it’s a big problem but not every day, like not all the damn time, so don’t be overly dramatic. Keep it together, you know what I mean, you can hang you just have to be stronger, stay more vigilant, etc. etc.

But then enough scary shit takes place at your own trembling unsure hands and then somehow stars align and this and that fall into place and you start to wake up a little bit. And you don’t think you could ever possibly make it through one single day without your precious fix. You are one hundred percent certain one day will kill you dead. But somehow it doesn’t. And then neither does the second day or the day after that and then you turn around a month later and realize you have effectively blown up your entire life and everything in your little world you thought you understood or had a handle on. Nothing feels the same. And it is frightening and astonishing and very, very surreal. But the trouble is – you like it. You very much like yourself in ways you never thought you could or ever would.

It is fucking insane how we can make decisions that literally bring us back into closer communion with our deepest selves (Jesus Christ, I just said communion someone please send help) and at the same time we worry that making such monumental decisions will cause people to judge us or worst case, to abandon us altogether. The worst of it, tho, thinking about it now out loud, is the fear that somehow my edge was in – not the bottle – but in whatever it is about me that caused my addiction. Who am I if I am not so anxious. So cynical. So adorably broken. So fixated. So obsessed. What if what fucked me up also made me magic. How fucked up is that.

I’m fairly certain I will regret having said all of this out loud and posting it in the wilderness of a public domain. The trouble is I can’t seem to not say it. It’s like I am in this new wobbly place where I can’t keep things inside that are bursting because if I do they will eat me alive. But maybe, quite possibly, holding back is not the way to go. Maybe if you just go on ahead and pour the poison down the drain that is your former life, you lift your tiny head up to the wide, wide sky.

It’ll Blow Your Mind (audio)

I don’t know you and you don’t know me but sometimes I wish that were different. Sometimes I wish I knew what you were thinking. What the air feels like up there with all that perspective on the bigger things, the wider world we hold inside. When shit gets too loud do you get so quiet you could hear a pin drop in an empty room across town? I don’t know why but when I look into your water sky eyes and listen to you say the words I have been dying to say for half my half-lived life, I feel like maybe you do. Maybe in the strength that is you there is a way out of the trembling bits that are me.

It’s the beginning of any given Monday in a city with no claim to anything famous or even noteworthy, really. It’s too dark to tell you how I actually feel because you are so lovely it ruins everything inside my otherwise laser-focused mind. When the sun rises I guess we will know better but right now before the curtain comes up I don’t know what I don’t know and that frightens and excites me in equal parts.

It has been so long since I felt this way. Maybe I never have. Full of a fuck ton of energy I don’t know what on earth to do with. Do people get to live like this? With possession of all of themselves all the time? From sun up to sun down and all inbetween? Can you tell me what friendship actually means? Self care? Because I am not sure what I have been doing but maybe you could call it avoidance. Maybe you could say I’ve checked out in circumstances where I couldn’t bear to handle whatever shit I was actually in. Or thought I couldn’t bear it. That’s the thing about clarity I guess. you know what I mean, the things you thought would crush you suddenly aren’t so big a deal. But other things – the most beautiful, kind, soft, miraculous things – come out of nowhere and you cannot stop the way they suck you in.

Shelf Life

Circling the block for the thousandth time, I pay close attention to my thick boots hitting the frozen pavement. The sounds of outdoor things are so much clearer, sharper, in the winter but I couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps it’s the way the blackened trees can only stand skeletal against the white clouded January sky, motionless and without sound. The way the air stiffens your face to glass.

The hour is earlier than it should be but I have stopped imposing the world’s way of keeping time onto my own. These days my body tells me what it needs and I listen. When she is tired I put her to sleep. Even if it’s nine p.m. Even if it’s eight. When she is wide awake with wild dreams, thoughts, ideas, words scratching at her little morning bed head, I let her get up and drink coffee and write to her heart’s content. Even if it’s five a.m. on a weekend. Even if it’s four.

The heavens blush a rosy peach as I tug my wool hat down over my ears. For a few minutes, the coffee slides down my throat and warms almost every bone in my frail frame. In the silence I can hear the clatter of my own radical hopes and my own desperate fears as they battle it out someplace inbetween reality and illusion. It’s all in the mind but then sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s right in front of you, as tangible as a loaded gun pointed right at your brains. When you have been lying to yourself for a long, long time about what is saving you and what is ending you, it can be surprisingly hard and unexpectedly painful to try to separate the two.

Sometimes the very thing I want the most feels so exhilarating that it pangs in my stomach like a terrible sickening dread. Sometimes I think I should turn back and undo it all but I fix my eyes on a flock of geese soaring high overhead. I snuggle my empty hands into my pockets, put one foot in front of the other, and walk one day at a time instead.

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