quotes

I'm Afraid of Coming Out Sober

I'm Afraid of Coming Out Sober

My question is about being public in your writing about your struggles with addiction and getting/being sober. Do you worry about your daughter being affected socially by your being “out” as a sober alcoholic?

Just Another Cycle of The Tide

"Perhaps the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of the relationship is valid." - Gift from The Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I do not think it's a mistake I live by the sea. I live by the sea for the same reason I have 'beauty and terror' tattooed on my forearm. Because I need the most stark reminders of the ebbs and flows. Because, as my friend Kate once said, when someone asked her to describe me, "her rainbow is very bright." I do not experience things subtly, on the surface, from afar. I run right along the nerve of things - like maybe I was born without some protective layer - and now that I'm not numbing that space with alcohol, there is nothing between me and the hot, burning brightness of my own spectrum.

I got the tattoo when my husband moved out of our house over two years ago in July. I got it because I'd had those words lolling around in my head for so long at that point, and because he hadn't understood them or why I'd want to put them on my body. It was an act of solidarity to myself and a prayer to the universe. I went right from the tattoo place to the bar across the street - all before noon. I slept with a boy I barely knew that night, and went swimming in the ocean. I had friends visiting from Colorado that weekend. We sat on my porch and drank beers and I had a hollow phantom limb feeling - a ghost limb that would stay with me for much longer than I could have expected.


I have that same phantom limb feeling sometimes now, about drinking. This thing that used to be there, my go-to, my ever-present pal. I feel weird without it sometimes. Exposed and less confident. Too close to my me-ness. Too bright.

But I look out the window and I catch the words on my arm and the light in the room and I close my eyes and hum, hum, hum, it's just another cycle of the tide.

Just Another Cycle of The Tide

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"Perhaps the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of the relationship is valid." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh "Gift From The Sea"

I do not think it's a mistake I live by the sea. I live by the sea for the same reason I have 'beauty and terror' tattooed on my forearm.

Beauty and Terror from Rainer Maria Rilkes poem
Beauty and Terror from Rainer Maria Rilkes poem

Because I need the most stark reminders of the ebbs and flows. Because, as my friend Kate once said, when someone asked her to describe me, "her rainbow is very bright." I do not experience things subtly, on the surface, from afar. I run right along the nerve of things - like maybe I was born without some protective layer - and now that I'm not numbing that space with alcohol, there is nothing between me and the hot, burning brightness of my own spectrum.

I got the tattoo when my husband moved out of our house over two years ago in July. I got it because I'd had those words lolling around in my head for so long at that point, and because he hadn't understood them or why I'd want to put them on my body. It was an act of solidarity to myself and a prayer to the universe. I went right from the tattoo place to the bar across the street - all before noon. I slept with a boy I barely knew that night, and went swimming in the ocean. I had friends visiting from Colorado that weekend. We sat on my porch and drank beers and I had a hollow phantom limb feeling - a ghost limb that would stay with me for much longer than I could have expected.

I have that same phantom limb feeling sometimes now, about drinking. This thing that used to be there, my go-to, my ever-present pal. I feel weird without it sometimes. Exposed and less confident. Too close to my me-ness. Too bright.

But I look out the window and I catch the words on my arm and the light in the room and I close my eyes and hum, hum, hum, it's just another cycle of the tide.

I Can Fly

I've had these words bangin' around in my head for the past few days. They're from the one and only Pema Chodron in her book "When Things Fall Apart." I first came across her and this book back in the early days of my marriage, when life was throwing us one massive curveball after another, and I myself was gasping for air daily. I was in an unrelenting state of not wanting to be where I was. Wishing for things to be different than they were. Wishing I could disappear, runaway, and save everyone around me from the pain that would cause. I had no idea how to proceed.

I would listen to Pema on my iPod every night in bed, on my walk to the train, on the bus. Her words were oxygen. She told her own story of her marriage, how her husband approached her on their porch one hot, dusty summer day in Arizona and announced that he was leaving, that he was in love with another woman, and that she threw rocks at him and spit words of hate. She described the hot anger, the frightening rage she felt towards him and this other woman, the plans she made to hurt them, the arresting thoughts of violence and how her own mind attacked her moment after moment.

She also described how that experience set her life on a different course. Not immediately, and not easily, but it cracked her open in such a way that the former version of herself and her life were annihilated. In an attempt to find some way out of her pain, she was talking to a friend who recommended she read an article written by Chögyam Trungpa. The article was about how we relate to negative feelings - and that it's not the negative feelings that hurt us, but the stories we tell ourselves about them, which are often filled with thoughts of shame, self-hatred and blame. It awakened something in her. The possibility that there was another way to move through this. This set her on the path to being a student of his and eventually becoming the first Tibetan buddhist nun, a prolific author and one of the most renowned spiritual teachers of our time.

In my own case, working through her books and workshops and listening to her words helped me navigate the next several years. "When Things Fall Apart" is one of the seven ten books I keep on my desk at all times. As with all big lessons, they take different meaning over time. You could study buddhism until the day you die and never grasp it all -- the lessons never end. But there is something pure and essential about the idea that sometimes you just have to let everything fall apart.

2014-10-01_9-27-45

2014-10-01_9-27-45

Two years ago this concept meant letting go of my marriage without having any guarantee of what the future would hold. Letting it all fall to the ground without knowing if I would be forgiven, if I would be loved again, if I would be able to support myself, if I would have to fight to keep custody of my daughter, if I would one day regret my decision and if I could even make it through the next day, and the next, and the next without being swallowed whole by the fear. It meant telling the raw, honest truth about the mess we'd created and my own part in it. It meant not knowing a fucking thing but letting it happen anyway.

Today, the story has different characters and circumstances, but the lesson is the same. I've found myself thinking, again? We are here again?Really? But this is the part of the lesson I missed or ignored the first time around.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”

Until we learn something the universe will keep feeding the lesson to us. This is the good news and the bad news. We are given a lot of chances. As long as we wake up, we have another chance. But we have to do the work to actually change. We have to jump off the cliff.

Two years ago, I jumped off the cliff that was my marriage. It turned out to be okay, but it was not okay for a long time. There was a lot of free fall.

Today, the characters and circumstances are different, but the concept is the same. I'd avoided jumping off the cliff into sobriety for a long time. Really jumping off; not just peeking over the edge or hanging from it looking down while still clutching onto the rocks and dirt. I'd asked others to push me off (they cannot). I'd even hung some limbs out there in hopes that maybe a big wind would just scoop me up and throw me over (also does not work). Turns out the only thing that works is actually closing your eyes, taking a breath, bending your knees and launching yourself forward. Only when you've jumped do you need to fly. I'm remembering I can fly.

You Must Do The Thing You Think You Cannot Do

It started with getting up this morning, then sitting your ass down to meditate and tell yourself positive things you do not yet believe, then getting dressed and putting on some big girl shoes even though you feel like a child, then collecting your keys and your bag and putting some mascara on even though I know it's a futile effort, and then bringing your brother and his wife to the airport through traffic and talking and listening to my brother laugh at the WTF podcast with Marc Maron that you put on because you knew it'd make him laugh and that laugh is carbonated holiness as Annie Lamott says, and then driving to the train parking lot and pacing around outside crying big fat tears while talking to your ex-husband who is impossibly the most comforting voice you can hear right now, and telling the truth and listening, too, and then getting on the train to State Street with all the other bozos on the bus, looking around knowing we all carry these impossible and beautiful lives within us, and then putting one goddam foot in front of the other and walking to your building, the elevator, your office. Any of these steps felt impossible today, but so we go. So it goes. I'll spend today believing in things I don't feel and don't see, yet.

Just because you told me to.

If You Could Imagine The Most Incredible Story

The cycle of drinking slowly wore down my dreams. Small, daily life tasks were near impossible toward the end, let alone reaching for the big bold dreams that come from the gut. A large part of me was flattened into a two-dimensional world of drinking and everything else, but there was still a thrum of a heartbeat that couldn’t stop beating the rhythm of my sacred heart. This is the same part of me that needs to write, that strives for higher love-making, that longs for light I can name but do not know. It’s the mama part of my heart. The part that falls into synchronicity when I hear beautiful music and swoons at the vastness of the sea. Drinking always felt like a fast track to that part of my heart, but it never quite took me all the way home.

I took this picture during my last trip to San Francisco. A trip where I was still very heavily reconciling these two sides of me. The part that could not imagine staying sober, and the part that knew there was no way to honor the sacred part of my heart if I didn’t.

The largeness of the ocean has always been redemption. I stood looking out over this particular coast thinking I can not possibly do this.

And yet, I was. Right that moment I was sober. Right then I was impossibly in the middle of my own, sacred heart.

Every day I spend sober, I begin to (only very slightly) believe in the possibility of the big, bold dreams. Things I realize I’d all but given up on. Things I convinced myself I didn’t want and could live without. But it’s not true; it’s just not true. I do want the big bold dream. I can live without my sacred heart but I’d rather die.

This is a piece of a passage my friend Holly shared with me by John O’Donahue.

If you could imagine the most incredible story ever, it would be less incredible than the story of being here. And the ironic thing is that story is not a story, it is true. It takes us so long to see where we are. It takes us even longer to see who we are. This is why the greatest gift you could ever dream is a gift that you can only receive from one person. And that person is you yourself. Therefore, the most subversive invitation you could ever accept is the invitation to awaken to who you are and where you have landed. Plato said in The Symposium that one of the greatest privileges of a human life is to become midwife to the birth of the soul in another. When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become. The greatest friend of the soul is the unknown. Yet we are afraid of the unknown because it lies outside our vision and our control. We avoid it or quell it by filtering it through our protective barriers of domestication and control. The normal way never leads home.

That’s what I’m starting to not only to imagine but actually live. Crazy impossible. Crazy possible.

The First Girl Will Always Be Alma

I got the name Alma from my favorite book, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. It’s a magical, gorgeous, achy book that stole my heart. I love so many bits from that book, but one of the favorites is this: The first woman may have been Eve, but the first girl will always be Alma… Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone’s hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted – wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don’t look at me. If you don’t, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.