Writing

You Are Already Forgiven

It’s been almost three years since my ex-husband and I separated. I don’t write much about our marriage, or what we are like now, because he asked me not to and because I respect the delicate privacy of our history. But I also strive to put down what’s real, to unearth the truest narrative I can because I think that’s how we come to understand each other, and life. Sometimes not writing about it feels like a barrier. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a tough, but necessary balance to strike, and I’m learning. I think I can write about this, though. I think this is less about me or him or us and more about the way love shows up in our lives.

Yesterday was shit. I was stuck. Heavy, heavy stuck. I had no muscle memory of anything good or light. I was sure I never felt much joy to begin with. Any past sweetness felt very far away.

When I get like that I am wholly un-loveable and too needy. Nobody will ever want me again. I was feeling rejected by one person and so I felt all the rejections of a lifetime. I heard all the men who've ever said, “No,” and “No, thanks,” and “You’re the most wonderful, but I cannot.” They were the only voices I could hear.

All day the pain wouldn't budge. Not even an inch. No amount of yoga, prayer, running, TV, hot water, wise words from friends, ice cream, writing, or logic was making a dent. I thought about drinking and wished it still worked. I dragged myself to a meeting and rubbed my eyes the whole way through. I tried to read the best bits of my go-to books but couldn't focus. I waved a white flag on Instagram.

I railed on myself for spending the day I took off from work in this headspace.

But nothing was moving, except the clock. I was reminded by Momastery that pain is not a mistake.

“Pain is not a sign that you’ve taken a wrong turn or that you’re doing life wrong. It’s not a signal that you need a different life or partner or body or home or personality. Pain is not a hot potato to pass on to the next person or generation. Pain is not a mistake to fix. Pain is just a sign that a lesson is coming.”

Pain is just a sign that a lesson is coming.

So when I woke up this morning, I hit my knees first and said, show me in a way I can understand. I sat down and wrote. Pen to paper, freeform, three pages, without editing myself.

Afterward, I was drawn to pull out a stack of post-its. I started to write something about myself on each one. Something I’ve accomplished. A way I’ve changed (one of the recurring thoughts yesterday was that I cannot change, that I haven’t, that I don’t know how or have the capacity to). A shift in perception. A marker of growth. On each square I wrote something real and true about me in the most simple words possible.

They said things like:

 YOU CAN DO SMART THINGS WITH YOUR BRAIN.

 YOU KEEP YOUR HEART OPEN.

YOU HAVE FORGIVEN THE PERSON WHO WAS HARDEST TO FORGIVE.

YOU HAVE RUN MARATHONS.

A lot of the notes are specific and new to my life in sobriety:

YOU ARE NO LONGER CAUGHT IN AN INFINITE LOOP.

YOU CAN HANDLE CRITICISM.

YOU CAN SEPARATE OTHER PEOPLE'S OPINIONS OF YOU FROM YOUR OWN.

YOU CAN READ BEDTIME STORIES.

YOU CAN OPEN ALL YOUR MAIL.

YOU CAN TELL THE TRUTH.

And some were just regular, but profound, reminders of where I am:

YOU LIVE IN A BEAUTIFUL PLACE.

YOU ARE COMFORTABLE IN YOUR BODY (This was not always true.)

YOU CAN SPEAK IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.

YOU ARE TEACHABLE.

In the end, it looked like this:

The post-it that’s crumpled up didn’t seem to fit with all the others. I folded it up just after writing it, unclear where it came from, or how it belonged.

It has one word on it: my ex-husband’s name.

I let it sit there all day with the others – my weird little grid of affirmations, or whatever we want to call them – on my kitchen countertop. I went through my day. Ran six miles. Did laundry. Sat in front of the coffee shop and watched people walk their dogs. Opened every piece of mail I have. Called the IRS.

I thought about the black, dark, stuck place I was in yesterday. How I'd bound such deep, existential pain to one particular person, one rejection I was feeling, and that it just didn’t add up. I wondered what I was getting at with all those squares of paper?

I thought about one of my favorite quotes from Cheryl Strayed, “Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.”

I think I had to write out all the other pieces of paper - all 31 of them - to get to the one I crumpled up.

I think Glennon was right in that I just had to let pain do its job. If I could still, it would show me the way home.

The crumpled up note has my ex-husband’s name on it: four letters that still spell out a large part of my heart, even though we have moved on. They spell out mercy and grace and finding a way through our individual shortcomings to build a peaceful space for our daughter. They signify so many apologies I've yet to make, so many regrets about the way I handled things before I knew a better way to handle things.

The note has his name on it, but when I hold it in my hand and close my eyes, I see these words: YOU ARE ALREADY FORGIVEN.

Love is Louder and Boston is Strong

This is a repost from April 19, 2013. So much love, excitment and reverence for the runners.You are in the arena today.

 APRIL 19, 2013 - It’s taken a few days to assemble the words, but while on a run today, wearing the way-too-worn-out shoes I wore during last year’s marathon, thoughts started to string together.

I moved to Boston in 1999 from Colorado, at twenty-one, and with enough naiveté to go somewhere I’d only been once before - without a job or a network. When people asked me why I moved here, picked this city, I still don’t really know. My friend and I were throwing out cities while I was blow drying my hair in my college house bedroom in Fort Collins. It was May, just before graduation. I can still see the light and smell the air in the room as we were talking. The electricity of those first seconds as we locked eyes and surprised ourselves. “I’ll do it. I'll go,” we said.

It was one of those moments where you knew your life had already changed; that it would happen; that it was already written. We went out that night and started telling people we were moving in September.

Have you ever been there?

Nope.

Why Boston?

I don’t know!

And so that September we packed up and drove cross-country. Moved into a laughably small apartment in Davis Square (long before Davis was gentrified), on the 3rd floor of a house that smelled like old Chinese food and stale air. My room was actually a sunroom or a converted porch. I could only fit a twin-sized bed and a teeny bedside table in it. Windows on three sides surrounded by big, floppy, green trees. No dishwasher. No laundry machine. We had maybe $500 between us, an inflatable couch, one computer with shitty dial-up, no cable and no jobs.

It was awesome.

It was so hot and humid that fall compared to the dry air and lower temps of Colorado. I remember once while we were waiting for a train at Park Street, exhausted and overheated. She backed up against the sticky wall of the station and slid down it, very slowly, sweat pouring everywhere, red-faced. We looked at each other - exasperated, like "what the fuck are we DOING here?!" - and then started to laugh maniacally.

Everything was so much harder than I’d been used to and for a lot longer than I’d imagined. Little things. Lugging laundry for blocks. Not being able to write a check for food on our first day there. The hard edges of strangers who were “all set.” Only one person in the entire city that knew me.

Yet I fell in love every day. I fell in love with the struggle and the newness and I got a job near the North Station T stop (back when it was above ground and smelled like even more piss and vomit). Every day as I rode the red line over the bridge to MGH, I was awestruck. It was such a departure from my life as I'd known it - so new, so foreign, so exciting and scary - I was a stranger and oddly at home. My throat would swell and my eyes would well up regularly as I'd say to myself on that train ride, Thank you. I am so lucky.Thank you. I am so lucky. I’d repeat it over and over, safeguarding my appreciation. Blessing my adventure.

Over the next thirteen years in this city I:

  • Witnessed 9/11.
  • Attended my first Boston Marathon and thought: this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I vowed to run one day.
  • Ran it in 2002, 2008 and 2012.
  • Lived in Cambridge. The North End. Southie.
  • Went to my first Sox game. And Bruins game. And Celtics game.
  • Watched the Sox break hearts.
  • Sat next to Green Day (ha!) with my best friend at a bar while watching the Sox win the World Series.
  • Went to grad school in Wellesley.
  • Met my husband.
  • Had my daughter.
  • Fell in love with the ocean.
  • Moved away for six months and came back with the urgency of a child returning to her mother. Within the first hour, I handed off my baby, ran to the ocean, dove in and swam until I was blue and numb.
  • Ran thousands of miles around the city and matched my heartbeat to its own.
  • Learned to love yoga at Baptiste in Cambridge and then really love it at South Boston Yoga.
  • Made a chosen family of friends.
  • Drank. Ate. Loved. Cried. Won. Lost. Grew up.

And so, so much more.

But of all the moments that fill up 13 years and really through all 35 of my life, the marathons are among the most sacred. For myself, but also for this city. It’s a day to be proud of this place. Incredibly, unabashedly, shmoopy proud. I posted to Facebook from the Sox game on Monday that it is the “best day to be in Boston” and it’s true. Enough has been said about this, and by people much more eloquent than I.

Suffice to say when we heard what had happened, my mind flashed to last year, where my husband, daughter, best friend, co-workers and others were there at the finishing stretch to cheer me on. My mind raced to all I knew who were running. True helplessness and panic. It was personal. Someone is fucking with OUR CITY.

No.

No.

No.

No.

NO.

It’s been a long, terrifying and exhausting few days and nights for everyone. I am grateful for the people who ran to the victims the way I am grateful for the ocean. As Anne Lammott says, the kind of gratitude that is boundless.

And I am making space in my heart for the victims. Constantly reminding myself to breathe for them. Breathe in their pain and breathe out peace, light, warmth. Breath in, breath out. Everyone can do this. If you are feeling helpless, you can do this. We need to breathe anyway.

I have loved watching everyone come together. You can taste the pride in the air. And the sadness. The fight. I was in the city Tuesday morning and although it was quiet, people were walking with purpose. I have never loved this city so much.

(And I will be running the shit out of the marathon next year.)

Love is Louder.

image

And Boston is Strong.

image

The Girl in The Big Red Chair

I got a migraine last Friday that hung around until Saturday afternoon. The kind that pulled me into catatonic sleep – pillow over the head style – and also woke me up several times in the night, from the pain. At one point I woke up parched, head pounding, and thought I was hungover.

A surge of panic rushed through me, followed by the familiar-as-a-second-skin wave of nausea, the “Nonononono. Not again. What happened. Fuck.”

I realized immediately that I wasn’t hungover, but the adrenaline had already released. I closed my eyes and gently put the pillow back over my head while my heart pounded and waves of anxiety lapped against my psyche. I repeated to myself You are ok. You are ok. You are ok. until my heartbeat slowed.

All day thereafter I thought about what it was like waking up that way, over and over again. How grateful I am that I haven't woken up that way in a while. How far away that feeling seems, but how close it is, too. How goddamn slippery the slope was to get here. How lucky I feel to have kept climbing, to have kept reaching, for something I couldn’t even see. How lucky I am that I still want to keep reaching.

I wrote some things down to try and describe exactly what it was like for that year and a half when I didn’t want to be sober but knew I couldn’t keep drinking. When almost every day was an utter struggle. To drink. To not drink. To find my place in the world.  To come to terms with what felt like a shit hand I’d been dealt – the unfairness of it, the anger, the loneliness, the incessant questions beating in my heart:

Who will ever love me? Who will want this?

So yesterday I wrote down exactly what made it so hard because I never want to forget. I want to remember so I can say to someone staring down the same uncertainty: I have been there. I remember. I know. Let me tell you.

I flashed back to a Sunday in the fall of 2013.

My husband and I were recently separated. The transitions with our three-year-old daughter were still new. He had just picked her up and the silence that fell after they shut the door was deafening. I was alone. In the house that we lived in. A house much too big for one.

It was a beautiful day. The afternoon light danced all over the empty living room.

I was newly single. I had blocks of free time to myself suddenly. My instinct was to go out, find some pals to play with, to drink away the afternoon, the emptiness, the space.

But I had lost that right. A couple months prior when I very publicly left my daughter unattended while I was drinking (not the first, or the last, of my low points) I lost the right to go drink an afternoon away.

I couldn’t justify saying “fuck it” one more time. Not with a clean conscience. I knew too much.

Suddenly it felt like the world completely closed in on me. Like I could actually hear doors shutting. SLAM! There’s the door to fun. SLAM! There’s the door to love. SLAM! There’s the door to excitement and spontaneity and silliness. SLAM! There’s the door to life as you know it.

I crumbled into a pile of tears in my oversized red chair. I wailed to the empty room and the beautiful light. I cried for a long, long time.

Some might hear this and think, Really? All those things you’d yoked to drinking? And my answer would be, Yes – all those things. Over 36 years of living and 20 years of drinking, I had linked a lot of life to drinking. It had not always been my enemy; it was actually great fun for a long time. Omni-present but not oppressive. A glue in my relationships. An activity that spun up whatever I was doing into something a little more sparkly, giddy, enticing. And now that I was to give it up, I didn’t know where to be, or how, or with whom.

Yet, the saddest girl in the world sitting there on that red chair was the same girl who woke up in her bed almost daily in a panic, shaking, and confused because of drinking. She was the same girl who didn’t know how a night would turn out once she started – truly did not know – and that aura of possibility had turned from excitement to terror somewhere along the way. She was the same girl that was afraid of herself much of the time. Whose hands shook. Whose heart raced constantly. Who couldn't look people in the eye. Who needed caffeine in crazy doses to wake up and long runs to quell her nerves. She was the same girl, and yet, she couldn’t reconcile the two.  No conscious connection in the light of day.

So I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore and then I just sat there, staring across my empty living room.

I’m not sure what else happened that day, but I know I didn’t drink. And I know I was very aware of this fact. That’s how the earliest days felt to me and what was so goddam unnerving: I was aware of myself constantly. Like an invisible current of electricity was circulating through me – a low-level, barely detectable, but everywhere current that left me raw and jumpy. Aware of everything I was doing and not doing. Here I am, driving my daughter home from school, not going to get wine. Here I am taking a walk to the park, not drinking. Here I am, cooking dinner, without wine. Here I am riding the train home. Here I am sitting in a meeting. Here I am running, sipping coffee, talking to a co-worker, eating lunch, sending a text, watching House of Cards. Here I am coming out of my skin.

I constantly had the urge to unplug that current. Like someone running around with their hair on fire looking for any body of water to plunge into. I wanted relief. Fast. Now. Sometimes I wanted it with terrifying urgency. A lot of times I just said, Oh, fuck it, and I’d order the wine, go to the liquor store, say yes to going out, or whatever. Because it works. It worked. Drinking let me unplug, say yes, care less, be social, be a part, be free. And even at the end, it still worked, even if only for an hour. But that hour? That time when the chemicals in your brain are rearranging nicely--it’s a relief, and it’s powerful, and I get why we do it.

So for a long time, a year or more, I kept doing this yo-yo thing. In and out, back and forth, ugh and stuck. And I get why. I get why it was so hard. I also wish I could tell that girl on the big red chair a few things about how I feel today.

If I could, this is what I'd say:

I know it sucks, sucks, sucks.

Don't drink.

Tell the truth.

The raw current will subside, and in its place you will plug into something beautiful.

The thing you are afraid of giving up -- it is not what holds you together.

You are going to fall apart. This is good.

You are brave.

You are so much stronger than you know.

You wonder who will ever love you? The whole universe.

You wonder who will ever want this? You will.

Just keep going.

This is the beginning, sweet girl, not the end.

Tribe, Ritual and God Energy: Why AA Works for Me

NOTE: This post is a guest post on Hip Sobriety's blog for Outside The Rooms: Hip Sobriety and Alcoholics Anonymous: An 11 Part Series

A couple months ago, I listened on the phone as Holly read to me a draft of a long, thoughtful, honest piece about her experience with AA and its part in her recovery journey.

When she finished I took a long, deep breath. Holly’s story is gorgeously brave – just like her. She’s an example of the deep well of power we can find in the softness of our human hearts. She is also fiercely fierce.

She's been sober for two years, and has had a mostly negative experience with AA. Whenever she describes her story I find myself getting defensive, which is interesting.I think it’s natural to want to defend things that mean something to us, especially when those things feel so connected to our own safety. But I also get it. While my experience has been very different, I get it. I’ve had mixed feelings about it at many points. I’ve wrestled with the language, the people, the groupthink mentality, all of it. I’ve wished I could be one of those people who walked into the rooms and never questioned a thing, but I’m not.

But today I’m grateful that I don’t fuss too much with how I feel about AA. How I feel about it – like many things – changes all the time. Maybe a little bit like a long-term relationship, when you’ve reached that place where your love and commitment to the thing, the respect, the reverence that you’re in the hands of the Universe anyway, trumps the inevitable and lesser ups and downs. The benefits far outweigh the perceived costs. Are there things that bug me? Sure. But my relatively short experience has taught me that when I put myself in the middle of AA, I don’t drink. When I go to meetings regularly I feel infinitely better, emotionally and spiritually. When I don’t, I start to feel jiggy. I don’t totally get the connection, but that’s fine. I also don’t get how electricity works.

I spent a lot of time intellectualizing my thoughts and dissecting my feelings about AA and you know what? None of that helped me stay sober. Because what I was actually intellectualizing was my drinking – and that’s not an intellectual exercise.

So what if the same annoying person drones on for twenty fucking minutes about the story you’ve heard 100 times before, again. There’s someone who might need to hear it. Patience. Tolerance.

So most of the language in the big book is male-centric and simplistic – maybe even offensive to me as a writer. It was written in the 1930’s (and yes, it could use an update), but the underlying message is still brilliantly beautiful and profound. Take what works – leave the rest.

So there are some weirdos, crazies, and people I find incredibly annoying in the program. Welcome to life. Everywhere. By and large, the majority of people I’ve come across in the rooms of AA are wonderfully compassionate, surprisingly funny, and exceedingly honest. They possess the rare qualities I most love in human beings who’ve gone through and survived some kind of hell: humility,  tolerance and a deep respect for life. It took time to find my crew and appreciate this vibe. It took a lot of shopping around meetings, sitting through bad ones, tolerating annoyances, time. But I can honestly say that when I’m in those rooms I feel a sense of calm and hope I don’t feel anywhere else.

It’s also important to note I do a lot of other things to keep moving forward, and by no means do I think AA is the only way to get and stay sober, nor do I think it’s the best way for everyone. It’s just what has worked for me so far. The other things I do – some of which are technically part of the program (meditation, prayer, honesty with others, service work) and some of which are technically not (yoga, running, lots of sleep, baths, writing, engaging in any creative outlet possible) have only been encouraged and enhanced by what I’ve learned in the rooms and through the people.

When Holly finished reading me her post I said I was bummed she’d had such a bad experience, because mine has just been so different. She asked if I’d write about my experience and I said, of course.

So I distilled why I believe AA has worked for me so far into three primary points: the people,  ritual, and God energy.

The people. I found a tribe.

AA Alcoholics Anonymous Sobriety Tribe Addiction Recovery

AA Alcoholics Anonymous Sobriety Tribe Addiction Recovery

We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. – Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness

Being a human can be lonely. Being a human with an acute alcohol addiction is desperately, painfully lonely. By the end of my drinking I was surrounded by people, but nobody knew my insides. Nobody knew how much I was drinking, the crushing shame and anxiety I felt because of the things I did when I drank, how important booze was to me, how much I relied on it to feel normal, social, human. Even I didn’t know. We go to such great lengths to protect the addiction – such great lengths – that over time, incrementally, despite ourselves, we create a separate world with a population of two – us and the alcohol. While we exist in, manage, and are part of entire lives that include families and co-workers and big, vibrant circles of friends and houses and plans we are constantly, dreadfully alone.

In the rooms of AA I heard people describe my insides exactly. I heard people speak in a way I thought impossible. I’ve had more than a few friends say that while sitting in their first meeting, they were sure the person who took them there had tipped off the room, told them about their story, because the things people were saying were just too familiar, too close to their own experience, how could they possibly know? It’s funny but true. Of course nobody tipped them off. As wonderfully unique and special we all are, our human experiences are collectively, boringly similar. Love is love. Pain is pain. Fear is fear. Addiction is addiction. The thing Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson captured in the Big Book is the essence of what it’s like to experience alcoholism – the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the disease – and every time we sit in a meeting we get the chance to recognize and be recognized, to hear how others have walked through it, to nod our heads and say, Yes, me, too. There is magic in Me, too. Me, too is the antidote to loneliness.

Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.' – Kurt Vonnegut

So by sitting there, listening and talking, I found a tribe. I now have a large circle of people I know from AA – some are very close friends, some are acquaintances, some are just familiar faces – all sharing this common, bizarre experience. I know so many people I wouldn’t have otherwise come across in my everyday life. People who used to be homeless, CEOs, Broadway dancers, insurance executives, total misfits and weirdos, wonderful humans. I hang out with these people inside and outside the rooms. When I first came in, they invited me to parties – sober parties – and I saw people having actual, real fun without drinking (gasp!). I was invited to dinners, to coffee, to run 10Ks and go on ski trips. They said, come along with us. They let me be weird and self-conscious and shaky like the most awkward days of junior high. When I said I was angry about everything, uncomfortable as fuck and sad, they nodded their heads, I know and I have been there and Me, too. They told me to call whenever and picked up their phone when I did and didn’t ask why I was calling. They smiled when I showed up at a meeting after going missing for a few weeks and didn’t say, Where have you been?  But instead, I’m so happy to see you.

Anne Lamott talks about how at some point in her recovery process, she had developed relationships with so many people who were invested in her sobriety that she couldn’t just disappear anymore. If she went off the radar for more than a day or so, she’d get calls or people would show up at her house. She called them “The Interrupters.” I have a crew of them myself now, and 90% are folks I met in AA. They keep tabs. They send texts and call. They show up. They don’t let me disappear, even if I want to. This is a tribe and it’s important in sobriety (and life) because we humans get lost easily, we imagine ourselves alone, we float off to the edge. And the edge is where you can fall off.

Lest you think this sounds like a total love fest, let me be clear: it’s not all a love fest. Sometimes when I’m sitting in meetings I press the palms of my hands into my eye sockets willing someone to shut up. I’ve walked out of meetings because I can’t listen for one more second longer. I’ve wanted to punch certain people right in the face, make-out with others, and sometimes I just shake my head. But underneath all that I get access to some bigger, deeper realm where none of that shit matters – the “good” or the “bad” – because I know we’re all doing something so much more important just by sitting there, being totally imperfect.

The ritual: patient action

The ritual of meetings and the emphasis on action is another reason AA works for me. For a couple reasons:

I am lazy and dislike routines. I want to do things on my time, when I want to do them, the way I want. Which is fine and all, except when it comes to changing behaviors, paying bills and getting my kid to school on time. Particularly now, in early recovery, the simple practices of AA has been crucial. I remember when my first sponsor told me to call her every day. I thought, Every. Day?! I don’t talk to anyone EVERY DAY. But after a while (and enough falling on my face) I figured out why: recovery is a daily thing. Like one of the old timers said, “You wouldn’t skip a shower today because you took one yesterday would you?” (Well, yes. Yes I would skip a shower today, but point taken.)

It’s the same as any behavior we want to change. We must rewire our brains with new behaviors and that means action. Not talking about it, thinking about it, writing about it, but actually doing it. Sitting your ass in a chair and doing it. Over and over.

I also think it’s important to say, nothing “bad” happens if I don’t go to a meeting or call my sponsor every day, the program doesn’t require anything except a desire to stop drinking – these are just suggestions. Yet things seem to go a hell of a lot better when I follow those suggestions. At minimum, I stay sober. And at best, I help someone else do that.

Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness (thinking) that created them. - Albert Einstein

ALSO: I have amnesia. We all do. We romanticize horrible relationships when they're over, we revere the dead even when they were assholes, and we forget the negative consequences of our behavior, over and over again. But when you have amnesia about a thing that can cause as much damage as drinking, it’s actually dangerous. When our neural pathways have been formed for years upon years (for me, 20!) to do a thing -- and that thing is so closely associated to daily living (laundry, dinner, restaurants, sex, 5:00 pm Monday - Friday (happy hour!), sporting events, sunny weather, fall weather, snowstorms, holidays, birthdays, thirsty Thursdays, celebrations, tough days, whatever) a hell of a lot of rewiring needs to happen.

When I first knew I had to quit drinking every day felt so fragile. Like I could step on a crack in the sidewalk and end up drunk again. Having a place to go and physically put by body was helpful and necessary. The rituals of going to a meeting, reading the preamble, hearing the same words, seeing familiar faces, the format of meetings, the daily-ness of it, I needed it. I like it. They say, move the feet and the heart will follow and I have found that to be the case.

God energy

AA Recovery Addiction Sobriety Alcoholics Anonymous Alcoholism Alcohol

AA Recovery Addiction Sobriety Alcoholics Anonymous Alcoholism Alcohol

Every act or decision we make that supports life supports all life, including our own. The ripples we create return to us. – David R. Hawkins, Power vs. Force

The third reason AA works for me is that in those rooms I find what I call “God energy.”

This has nothing to do with religion.

It’s the energy I feel when I am near the ocean, lost in a beautiful book, watching my daughter sleep, teaching yoga, in the writing flow. It’s an elevated energy - the vibration of hope and change. I want as much of it as I can get, on a daily basis, because it makes me feel better. And not in a bottle-of-wine-or-six donuts-way, but in a long, restful sleep and a hug-from-your-favorite-aunt way. It reminds me I am connected to you. It reminds me how strong and also how powerless I am.

I wrote the following four months ago, which sums it up better than I can now.

I know AA isn't for everyone. There are many parts of it that kept me away and still turn me off sometimes. I know it isn't the only way, but if I look at my path over the past year, I feel deep gratitude that it exists.I thought about it as I was sitting at a meeting tonight, feeling at ease, comfortable in my skin and at peace for the first time all day. Just listening and nodding and smiling at faces I know and strangers' too.Why I go now is the same reason I kept going back to the yoga mat so many years ago and still do today as often as possible. It is the same reason I bury my nose in my daughter's head and smell her 100 times a day. It is the same reason I never tire of looking at the ocean. I go because I feel God in those rooms. I feel God in all the broken bits of us sitting in those chairs. Because I can see the fear in someone's eyes when they are very new, and the way the room holds them. I can feel my own brokenness being seen and understood and thus, some kind of alchemy taking place. I can speak my own voice, even when it shakes. I see people hold space for one another, even when they are irritated, annoyed, angry, or disagree. I see people belly laugh and weep. I see people change…actually change. And it feels like witnessing miracles.So yeah, that's why I go. Because I need to be with God to remember who I am.

[NOTE: This post is a guest post on Hip Sobriety's blog for her "Outside The Rooms: Hip Sobriety and Alcoholics Anonymous: An 11 Part Series. To read the rest of the series, go here."]

Primary photo credit: Larissa Coutihno on Flickr

Our Relationship with Alcohol and Playing Small

Happy Friday, lovelies. There are a few things I’ve been thinking about lately and I wanted to share. The first is about our “drinking” stories. Our relationship with alcohol.

Since I started to talk about my story, a lot of people have come to me.

Most recently, a woman messaged me on Facebook and said, “I don’t know if I have ‘a story’ but reading your words makes me want to look at my own issues.”

My first reaction was, of course you have a story.

I was referring to her life story; she was referring to her drinking one. Either way, it gave me pause. She’s not sure if she’s got a drinking story ‘big’ enough to qualify her bringing it up. A lot of messages I get are like this. Women who don’t see themselves in the image of what we’ve labeled ‘addicts’ and so they question the fact that they’re questioning themselves in the first place. Because once you say, “this might be a problem,” well then what the fuck does that mean? We’ve made it quite weird as a society to talk about our relationships to drugs and alcohol, and it keeps a lot of people quiet and alone (raises hand!). I often wonder what my path would’ve looked like if I knew more women growing up, or in social circles, at work, wherever, that didn’t drink and talked about it as openly as we would, say, our food choices, or our preferences in bed. Not something we need to make unsolicited statements about constantly, but when asked, or if it comes up, or if we feel like talking about it, it’s on the table and fair game and not something we have to save for a special, anonymous group.

A big part of the reason I started talking openly about it is because I want women (or men, I like men too!) to reach out to me, to feel like they can explore the topic without labeling themselves anything. To say, “Hey, this is sort of freaking me out, what do you think?” or “I don’t know what it means exactly, but this is how I’m feeling.”

And another reason – an even bigger one – is that I had this idea that people who didn’t drink must really, truly, not be very happy. Like not really happy. Like it must be always a little less shiny and fun. Sort of boring, or at least less exciting.

I saw being sober as either a choice made based on religion (in which case, no thanks, because you were probably highly judgmental and closed-minded) or a consequence of being an addict who spun out of control, and so you were forced into it.

Either way, I didn’t want it, and I didn’t know anyone who did.

So I've decided to be someone who’s out there in the world – a woman, a mama, a lots-of-things – living a big, whole life – who’s willing to talk about the fact that she doesn’t drink anymore - and more importantly - share why, and what it's like this way. It's not a secret. I don't think it should be.

(Sidenote: I read an interview once with an author talking about the process of writing her first book. The interviewer asked how she came up with the topic for the book? She said she'd searched and searched for the book or the person that was going to save her from herself, the perfect words that would help her through her own struggles, and while she'd found a lot of words and a lot of folks who touched on bits of it, she couldn't find the whole story, stated exactly how she wanted, anywhere. So she wrote the book she needed to read. It's like that.)

Which brings me to my next point: something my friend asked me a few weeks ago:

Do you think anyone has a healthy relationship with alcohol?

Yes. Sure.

I don't think everyone needs to stop drinking and I don't think alcohol is categorically "bad." At all.

I don’t care if you drink. I don’t care if you drink around me, and in fact, please do if you want to, because it makes me feel weird when you stop being you around me.

I am not anti-drinking.

I’m anti-hiding-from-ourselves-and-each-other.

I’m anti-shame.

I’m anti-let’s-pretend-that’s-not-happening.

I’m anti- anything that is fucking up your life and keeping you from being free.

I’m anti-playing small.

*************

So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. 

Keep talking. Keep reaching. Keep on playing big.

Love, Laura

Oh, also, I’m on day 12 of Oprah and Deepak’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge and it’s getting so much better. YAY

Truths and Clues

God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night. - Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes we have a big truth sitting inside us. A knowing. Maybe that our job is wrong, our relationship is dead, our child is suffering, our health is in danger – but we don’t know how to live into it, to navigate through. Clues will get us there.

And sometimes, it’s the clues that lead us to the truth. They can point us to our treasure, when all we have to guide us a vague feeling of discontent or misalignment. A general sense that we’re off course.

Clues are a breadcrumb trail fed by our curiosities and appetites, curated through the people and events that show up in our lives, and they are available to us always.

When I wrote the the hypothetical story about my friend’s elephant tattoo and how it might lead her through a winding but definite path to explore her heart, if she kept open and kept following the clues, I was brought back to my own path – the interplay of truths and clues that have led me to where I am today.

There are millions, of course, but a few I want to tell you about.

The First Truth

I knew somewhat early in my marriage – to a man I loved and love very much – that it wasn’t quite right. This was a massively inconvenient and complicated truth, a brutally painful one, one I didn't even understand. I didn’t know what life would look like on the other side of it, but trusting that tiny, clear voice that wouldn’t stop no matter what I did, or how I wished it to, was the hardest and most important thing I’d done in my life up to that point. Not because my life improved on the outside (in many ways, it did not and has not) as a result of listening to it, but because it was my truth, my gut – even though I didn’t have the right words to explain it, even though I didn't want it, even though it crushed me and a lot of others – and honoring it meant not denying myself, my core.

As Cheryl Strayed says in one of her Dear Sugar columns addressing three women who are questioning their own inner voices in their relationships,

“If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.”  – Cheryl Strayed

And this was it. Alongside the truth this tiny voice kept whispering existed so many other contradictory truths: I loved him. He loved me. We have a child we adore. He's kind, and good-hearted, and so many other things. And yet, at some point I knew this voice would eventually win out. I knew silencing it was futile.

The Second Truth

“What is not brought to consciousness, comes to us as fate.” –Carl Jung

Long before I was willing to acknowledge, and even longer before I was willing to accept, I recognized I had a problem with alcohol. Some deep part of me knew that all my future happiness, and likely my life, depended on stopping this thing. The starkness of this thought seemed so dramatic when it came. I told myself it was for a long time. But in the end it turned out to be exactly that stark, exactly that serious.

There were so many clues along the way, an uncountable number. But we don’t listen until we listen, and sometimes we must be forced.

Once I couldn’t deny this truth any longer, in the same way I couldn’t deny the tiny, clear voice in my marriage, the question was how to proceed. And in this case again, I was completely lost. A girl without a map, a faulty compass, and a three ton backpack of fear.

One morning last summer, after a year of trying and falling down in sobriety, I woke up in a hotel room in California, having made it through the night before without drinking at dinner. This was a huge feat for me as traveling for work and drinking were well-worn pals. The chant from Friday Night Lights that I’d written on napkins and paper scraps and hummed in my head countless times, “Clear Eyes Full Heart” popped into my mind and I had the idea to start a new Instagram with that name.

1st_instagram.jpg

So I created it. I didn’t follow any of my friends or co-workers; I followed nobody I knew in real life. I started it because I needed a place to write and post about this thing where people who didn’t know me could see it. My truths with the people in my real life were all mixed up and I didn’t want to keep track anymore. I wanted one small place to be brutally honest. Plus, I love words and pictures, they come easy to me, creating them makes me lose time (these are clues). It was a seemingly small little thing (clues usually are), but it set forth a whole trajectory.

Following The Clues

Through the Instagram account, I started to connect with people on the same path. Each time I created a post it felt like a tiny piece of art made of my insides. Each time I hit publish, a bit of me was released, and known. I started to let strangers know me. I started to find my words, and my need to pull those words together grew, until my posts became too long for Instagram and I started to write here again. I put more things out and got feedback from these strangers, who were starting to become people I knew.

Last summer I found out Elizabeth Gilbert was doing a book signing at Brookline Booksmith for her latest book, The Signature of All Things, and despite it being inconvenient and sweltering hot, I went with my daughter and my friend, Alex. We sat in the front row because I wanted Alma to see her and hear her talk about the main character in the book – whose name is also Alma – and so that I could ask her a question if the chance arose. We sat and listened: me, mesmerized and Alma, delighted if not a little confused about the character reference (Is that me? Who is she talking about?). When Liz asked the audience for questions, I raised my shaking hand. My heart pounded as I explained to her that this was Alma, my Alma, and that I wanted to bring her here to hear about the story of her Alma, but also that I’ve loved her work since before Eat, Pray, Love, that her words helped me navigate through my own marriage and separation and life. She smiled graciously and then proceeded to have a one-on-one exchange with Alma amidst hundreds of people in this theater.

She asked her, "How is it can I see your blue eyes in such a dark theater?"

Alma answered, "I don't know."

My heart exploded.

Elizabeth Gilbert's book signing for "The Signature of All Things", July 2014

Elizabeth Gilbert's book signing for "The Signature of All Things", July 2014

The bit of this day I'll never forget, the part that cut right through to my bones, is her response when someone asked her how she got over "writer's block." I loathed this question, but her response was something like:

“Whatever it is that keeps you afraid, that lets fear run the show, that holds you back from letting creativity work through you, you have to work through it and let it go. It might be an illness, your body image, the place where you live, resentments you have toward your father, I don’t really know. It might be alcoholism or an unhealthy relationship…”

--- she went on, but my heart stopped there.

“It might be alcoholism.”

She mentioned it in a list of a bunch of other things and she moved on, not placing any more emphasis on its significance or difficulty. And in that moment I knew, again, that it was the thing I had to move through first. That everything else – including any potential future I might possibly have as a writer – was on the other side of that.

It was that stark, that serious.

Through having been connected to Lindsey from my old Instagram account for years (someone I’ve also never met, although we are neighbors in Boston), I found Aidan, a mama and writer living in New York, who hosts “Happier Hour” literary salons, where she brings together women in her stunning home to talk about writing and support the chosen author’s book. One of the Happier Hours finally coincided with my bi-weekly work trips to the city, and in January I was able to attend a Happier Hour with Jane Green and Mira Jacob.

It was a freezing night in Manhattan and absolutely magical. I talked to women who were very well-established writers, and several who'd left their careers in legal/healthcare/real estate to pursue writing. On that night I realized, these women are just like me. This mystical, far-away place where “writers” lived and my own place in the world were not so far apart.

I started to write more, and to be more honest in my writing, particularly about my struggle with addiction and sobriety and the dissolution of my marriage. I started to write from my heart. I started to write even when I didn’t want to. I took Ira Glass' advice and let myself write horribly. I focused on producing a bunch of work, to show up every day for this thing because it’s really all I’ve ever wanted to do.

I started to stay sober.

And because I was sober, I could write.

Because I could write, because it helped me tell the truth in words, I started to learn how to tell the truth in-person.

In meetings, in day-to-day conversations, in my friendships, I told the truth.

Because I could tell the truth, I could stay sober for another day, and then another.

I grew lighter. The thing I thought impossible to do was the thing making me lighter.

One Saturday last fall I got an email from a girl I knew from high school and college. Someone whose life ran parallel tracks to mine, but we never really knew each other well.

She told me that she wasn’t quite sure if she should reach out, but felt compelled to, that she identified with parts of my story, that she really looks forward to reading my posts, that she hoped I kept writing because it helped her.

This note came at a time of doubt and it nudged me to keep going.

This same girl then tagged me in a note on Facebook about a writing retreat Cheryl Strayed was hosting in Greece the following summer, urging me to apply. I thought, No way. Too big. Too fabulous. How would I afford it? I'd never be chosen.

But a little voice in me wouldn't shut up: Why not?

Then I couldn't stop thinking about it.

So I applied, and a month or so later, on a Friday night, I got an email that I was in. I screamed and danced around my apartment like an insane person.

So this summer I'm going to Greece to hang out with Cheryl Strayed. Pinch me one hundred times, and then again.

There are so many other details - people, twists of fate, frustrations disguised as blessings - that have played into these stories I'm telling. To map it all would be a book itself (it's happening).

This Ain't No Whimsy Thing

There are so many more details - people, twists of fate, frustrations disguised as blessings, detours and guideposts - that have played into these stories I'm telling. To map it all would require a book itself (it's happening).

The point of it all is this: we must tell our truths and follow our clues.

Hearing your truth and following your clues requires being brave. It requires staying open, being patient for so much longer than we think we can, and then moving quickly. It requires trust that we are guided, and learning to identify the difference between our ego’s will and the divine (which is tricky, because our egos are sneaky bitches). Following clues requires that we slow down and take notice, regularly. It means we sometimes have to do things that are inconvenient and against our plan, or someone else’s, entirely. It means we often proceed without clarity or a promised outcome, which is to say it requires faith, and faith is often hard-earned only by surviving our cuts and bruises.

Following your path, trusting your heart, living out your dream – all this stuff might sound so whimsical and airy-fairy. Like extravagance, a luxury, a selfish pursuit. But I think it is the exact opposite.

I believe there’s great danger in so many of us walking around separated from our hearts, unknowable to ourselves and therefore each other.

There’s great sadness, but also real risk, in not showing up in our lives as we were meant to (and I do believe we are all meant to do something) because it robs others of our gifts, and our gifts are what bring us joy, and love, and healing, and often life-saving grace. Our gifts are the least selfish thing we can bring forth, even though it may require selfishness to own them, and grow them.

I have no idea where my own path will all lead, but I do know that as of today I've been sober almost six months and I'm writing every day and I feel like I'm finally coming home. Following this path feels right in the deepest center of my being - my core - and I'm committed to staying open to what comes next.

You, too?

Do It Afraid

I posted this picture on Instagram last week.

I received a bunch of messages about it. One was from a dear friend who went to get a new tattoo, a cute little black elephant on her wrist, symbolizing a large part of her heart – her deep compassion and passion for animals. She got nervous sitting there in the waiting room of the tattoo shop. Nervous about putting this on her body, yes, but I suspect the anxiety ran a little deeper, too. By getting that little guy inked onto her wrist she’s showing a bit of her heart. She’s saying, this is a thing that I love and also, please understand me.

When she saw my post while she was waiting, she thought, perfect, and did it.

It’s curious, how hard we struggle to claim our own space in this world. We make big, bold, very public and sometimes expensive proclamations about our choices in partnership and love when we get married, but when it comes to the more private, soft whispers of our hearts we cup our hands over them, we swallow our words, we won’t even write them down.

This same friend told me a few weeks prior over brunch, “I started journaling, and it’s been life changing, but I kind of stopped, because I started to feel so self-conscious about it.”

What was she afraid of? What about this made her so embarrassed?

That someone would find her journals and read them?

That she had thoughts inside her nobody – not even her husband, even those who love her best – knew?

That she had a private, inner life to begin with?

We laughed, I nodded, said I understood – because I do – it can feel so awkward, even precarious to take up space with these things. I used to feel that way when I prayed or meditated. Back in the day I felt that way in yoga class when we were instructed to “Ohmmm.” It’s so personal. So tender. So odd. Yet I felt at home when I did it. I wanted to keep going back there.

Our Deepest Fear

I haven’t stopped thinking about that conversation, of what it was that actually made her stop writing in her own journal, to herself.

As I mulled it over, these words kept bubbling up, by Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?Actually, who are you not to be?

This is it, I think. We shy from giving voice to the most scared whispers of our heart – for so many reasons, but I believe this is at the root. Because:

What if the words don’t jive with what our life looks like today?

What if we secretly long to be somewhere else, or with someone else, and we don’t know why?

Or what if we do know why, and our reasons seem selfish, and terrifying?

What if we can’t stop thinking about elephants, but have spent so many years working on our chosen “career” that it just seems so wasteful/impossible/impractical to change course now?

What about the people who have invested so much time and energy in who we are – how would our thoughts confuse, or betray them?

What if we don’t think we’re qualified, worthy or deserving?

What if our desires just seem silly, and strange?

What happens if we breathe air into these thoughts…and they grow?

What if we shine so brightly we scare ourselves?

The Big Desire

The first time I experienced big, magical desire was when I was six or seven. I saw Olivia Newton John play Sandy in Grease and just about died of desire. I wanted to wear her outfits, to sing like her, to dance with John Travolta and transform from poodle skirt wearing, innocent cheerleader to powerful, cigarette-smoking, leather leggings wearing badass. I watched that movie at least fifty times, memorized the songs, sang them in my bedroom alone in front of the mirror. I rehearsed all the lines, pretended I was smooching John Travolta and blowing the Pink Ladies’ minds, who thought I was so dull, wholesome and sticky sweet.

I practiced “Hopelessly Devoted to You” while singing into my reflection in the bathtub and “Better Shape Up” while wearing my mom’s heels.

The love of musicians continued. I so badly wanted to be one. Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and then later, Jewel, Alanis Morrisette, Gwen Stefani, Ani DeFranco. I would watch them on MTV and The Grammy’s – so bold, so beautiful, with their voices and their expression. So in their element, pouring their talent onto a sea of crooning hearts, connecting to the places inside us that breathe love and loss and jealousy and heartache and angst. I wanted to do that. I wanted to do that so very badly. I wanted to have an instrument to express myself, to tell people how I felt and how to feel and to do it so heart achingly beautifully. I wanted to do this I didn’t know how, because I could not sing for shit, and all that stuff was for someone else who wasn’t a girl living in Castle Rock, Colorado with a basic life, freckles and a bunch of average skills. I wanted to do this and I didn’t know how else it could be done. I didn’t know that my instrument could be any number of things – that it was not the medium that was important – but the big, aching desire to create and express. That mattered. That matters. A lot.

As we grow up and we set about making decisions – in my case, often by rote or because I wasn’t confident enough to listen to my own voice – about school, our jobs, where we live, who we spend time with, we create a life. Sometimes that life very much reflects our insides. Sometimes only parts of it match. Sometimes – often – we outgrow things, our desires change, and we adjust. And sometimes, we can’t recognize ourselves in any part of our life. I’ve been on all parts of this spectrum, but even on the more “matching” side, I had this unnamable ache, a longing – the same ache I felt when I was six.

I have come to realize: I didn’t know what it was, but something inside me did.

Something inside you knows, too. We just have to follow our clues.

Following The Clues

Getting the little elephant tattoo wasn’t a proclamation that my friend is changing her life, but it’s a small expression of the very fabric of her heart. She’d been thinking about it and wanted to do it for months or longer; she couldn’t stop thinking about it (this is a clue). So she did it. Right now it’s a little ink on her wrist – a symbol of something she loves.

But perhaps one day, she’ll be sitting on the train reading a book, and a stranger will ask her what it means. Perhaps she’ll find herself explaining to this person not only what it means, but much more, and did they know that Barnum & Bailey’s circus just stopped using elephants in their act because of cruelty? And the stranger may say, no, but that’s interesting. Perhaps an eavesdropper will say, I just couldn’t help but overhear, and I’m reading this beautiful book by Barbara Kingsolver called Prodigal Summer – have you read it? And my friend will say no, what’s it about? And the eavesdropper will explain it’s not about elephants, but about wolves, who are not extinct, but are also magical creatures for sure. That she’s learned more about her own relationships with humans through reading this book about wolves, and that she highly recommends it.

Perhaps my friend will pick up this book, will read it, devour it, and will look up more about the author.

Perhaps she’ll notice Barbara Kingsolver is doing a reading at Brookline Booksmith this spring, and she’ll get tickets and get there early to sit in the front row, and while she’ll love the part where Barbara talked about the book, what will mesmerize her to the core, what will speak to her very guts, is to hear Barbara talk about her brief time living in the Congo as a child.

She will mention tigers and tell a story about them, and my friend’s heart will explode with joy and longing for tigers that she didn’t even know existed.

Barbara will sign her book and my friend will place it on her shelf, at home. Perhaps one night she’ll be having a dinner party and one of the guests will grab the book off the shelf, casually. The guest will ask my friend if it’s good, and what’s it about, and my friend will get a chance to share the experience of the tattoo that led to the train conversation that led to the book that led to the book signing that led to the conversation with Barbara Kingsolver that led to this book the guest is holding and that yes, it’s a wonderful book, but the story behind it is what’s most special to my friend.

Perhaps the guest will say, that’s amazing, do you want to work with animals? And my friend will explain that she’s always sort of longed to, maybe, but she doesn’t know what that looks like, and the guest will remember a podcast she just listened to on Radiolab about Dolphins, and that she also has a cousin that just started volunteering at the zoo, where he gets to feed rare animals, and maybe he can connect my friend with his cousin?

And my friend will say yes, perhaps, or maybe she’ll say no, but realize that she was so thrilled by the conversation, so lit up inside by getting to talk about this thing that her heart loves, this thing she’s so curious about and has been since she can remember, that she’ll remember to keep talking about it more, to putting a voice to her desires, to put her intention out to the universe again and again – reminding it to keep throwing signs her way, to keep reminding her who she is, to keep tossing her clues to follow – and that if it does, she will follow them.

Perhaps one day, my friend will get the opportunity to work with elephants, or tigers, or dolphins. Or maybe along the way she’ll realize she wants something else entirely, but the only way she’d have found out, is to keep following the clues. To pay very close attention to her curiosities, to the whispers of her heart, to not regard them as silly or strange – but as sacred and beautiful and important.

You Can't Miss Your Boat

I get really anxious when I think I've missed my boat. Particularly creatively, with writing, with writing a book, with the things I want to do with my life that don’t look at all like my current occupation. I get anxious that the time - my time - has passed. I think about the abundance of creativity that's passed through me that I didn't pay attention to because I was doing other things – some important, some dreadfully wasteful. I get all twisted up in knots and paralyzed when I think about this. Then I remember this, from Momastery. It's one of the most important messages there is, I think.

For anyone who takes care of others.

For anyone who’s wasted years only thinking of themselves.

For anyone who has a dream lingering in their belly.

For anyone who has that aching knock of a muse inside them begging to be ushered through.

For anyone who worries their time has passed.

For anyone.

“There is always more on its way – more opportunities, more ideas, more love. Think abundance- always think abundance. Belief in abundance is the source of all generosity and peace. Know that there is enough. Know that you are enough. Know that you have enough. Enough time, enough talent, enough love.

You can’t miss your boat. It’s yours. It stays docked till you’re ready. The only boat you can miss is someone else’s. Let them have theirs while you wait for the boat God made for you. God’s never early and never late. And know that love and life are patient. And that God is forever tries.”

Love.

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.