the heart asks for pleasure first

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I guess the idea shows up in your brain when you’re watching an Emily Dickinson movie on Amazon.

The film being A Quiet Passion starring Cynthia Nixon as the elusive poetess. The title doesn’t lie as it’s a quiet little church mouse of a movie but honestly it’s worth the watch for the poetry alone. Long a poetry nerd since childhood, the movie reminded me the Emily Dickinson is overused, over-quoted and maybe even overrated for a reason. The woman was a genius. Her sensitive soul and deep affection for her family mixed with a famously reclusive nature have always spoke to me. Therefore, the film’s choice to have Nixon read her work in voiceover is a brilliant one. In one scene in particular, my jaw fell open when I heard her speak these words:

The heart asks pleasure first,
And then, excuse from pain;
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;

And then, to go to sleep; 
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.

Well, that was it. Ms. Dickinson, as portrayed by Miranda from Sex and the City, nailed it. The “it” I’ve been thinking about for the better part of a month: the journey of the heart. Of my heart, specifically. See, without me even trying or setting an intention or making vision board or visiting a witch (all things I approve of, just things I didn’t do) my heart changed. Love changed. Listen, this might sound like a bunch of nonsense so feel free to close your laptop or go read a really important article about the best episodes of The Barefoot Contessa.  But the best way I can describe it is it all got bigger. My heart could suddenly handle more. More love, more heartbreak and more change. And love, dear sweet love whom I’ve tried to push around and control my whole life, proved to me it was the boss. In the world of recovery, we often say “life on life’s terms” but I think we should say love on love’s terms, too.

Maybe it also shows when you hear a Savage Garden song in a Lyft.

“Is the music okay?” my sweet 50-something year-old driver asked me. “Perfect,” I said. Sometimes you just need to lip synch, “I’ll be your dream. I’ll be your wish. I’ll be your fantasy” in the back of a stranger’s SUV. Last week, was one of those times. For that 10 minute ride, I was happy to listen to Savage Garden and give my brain a breather. It was an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend. From a joyous evening to celebrate with new friends to watching a loved one suffer, it was clear early on that my role was to just be wherever you invited me. The fact that I’m even able to do that still blows my mind after 9 years sober. Had you known me before when sending me a text message was akin to tossing a folded letter down a dark well, you’d be impressed too. Sure, I wasn’t doing as directed by Savage Garden and standing with you on a mountain or bathing with you in the sea,  but I was showing up for you last weekend and it felt good.

What happened by just showing up, is it availed me to some amazing experiences. One of which was sitting in a room with fellow addicts where someone I love was sharing their story. I scanned the building and noticed that 95% of the crowd was gay men. Gay men of all ages and varying lengths of sobriety. This is special for me because I never in a million years would have ever thought I’d have groups of gay men across several states that I felt  loved and accepted by. But here I am, gifted with male friends who are more than just fucks, adversaries or exes. We are connected to one another by the heart and by a common journey. What these people do, with varying degrees of success, is just show up and support each other and hopefully get better. The fact I get to be a part of something spectacular like that isn’t lost on me. By the end of the night, I soon didn’t feel like I needed my retreat into Savage Garden nor was my act of showing up all that remarkable. I felt honored just to be there.

It’s probably present too every time a friend picks up the phone.

The pursuit of being the cool bitch with a whole gang of friends has taken me to dark places. In the name of “cool” and on the never-ending quest for approval, I’ve done everything from shoplifting to trying heroin to snorting Special K with drag queens. Now at age 45, I am finding myself again seeking, finding and cultivating new friendships. It’s humbling to put myself out there, call people and be open. On some entitled level, I feel like I should just get a group of new friends each time I move to a new town without having to do any work. Like can’t we just have a casting agent take care of it? Can’t we hold auditions? Sadly, no. However, I have somehow found cool, funny, brilliant people to hang out with who I want to get to know better. I’ve rallied and pushed aside my shitty attitude to make friends. What’s more, and this is that expansion of love at work here, is I am open to be vulnerable and real with people I barely know, cool kid status be damned. I don’t take people hostage anymore and force them to get wasted with me. I’m just letting friendship happen. Already, I’ve been gifted with more than one phone call to a friend who somehow always gets what I’m going through, despite us not knowing each other for that long. This person speaks my language, lets me be myself and I try to do the same. It’s an incredible gift especially for someone newly back in the friendship game. Yet my heart is also grown up enough now to know that I can love these people in this moment, without expectation and somehow that feels like enough.

Maybe it’s always there.

Coming home the other night after being out with friends, my husband was already tucked in bed. A sleepy, funny random conversation that only couples who really like talking to each other followed, despite it probably not making a hell of a lot of sense. My heart and the rest of me wanted to go to sleep but it was later when I thought about those snuggly seconds before passing out that I realized that my pursuit of love and friendship begins and ends here, at home. The beings who live here: my cats Maeby and Larry and mainly, my husband Michael are the ones who teach me how to love all day long and who remind me that no journey my heart wants to take is too dangerous or too scary. No friendship too risky, no act of kindness without reason. Because every road leads back here–home. As Emily herself once wrote, I dwell in possibility and where I live is filled with precisely that.

 

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Sunday Reads– Again.

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Oh hey, Sunday.

Well, here we are smack dab in the middle of the season of bunnies & tulips. The sniffles, exhaustion and pure Sunday-ness of the current moment are prohibiting me from saying something about spring and renewal and religion and or even chocolate. I mean. Me not coming up with 500 words on chocolate? There is clearly a disturbance in the writing force. The old battery pack is drained and my body is sending me a clear message to take it easy or suffer all week-long. Message received, body.

However, I’m carrying on and much of today will look like me resting, nibbling on candy and reading. Here’s a list (I promised you it would happen!!) of things I liked and read or want to read:

Rachel Syme on Cynthia Nixon Playing Emily Dickinson: Ever since I read about A Quiet Passion, a new film about Emily Dickinson starring Cynthia Nixon, I’ve been dying to see it. Here, in The New Yorker, Rachel Syme talks to Nixon about the film as well as her career.

Alex DiFrancesco on Disappearing Before Coming Out: Whoa. This is a tour de force about disappearing and coming out as transgender. I was blown away and cannot recommend it enough.

Alison McNearney on Fabrege Eggs: Okay, so I am a straight up nerd for art mysteries and I will be gobbling down this story about the missing Fabrege Eggs along with some Cadbury Mini Eggs later.

Emily Nussbaum on Colbert: I don’t always agree with Emily Nussbaum and that’s a good thing. Her analysis of television comes from the place of a fan who wants to see it at its absolute best and sometimes it’s peppered with some harsh truths. This piece about Colbert will be devoured and enjoyed by me today (and probably tweeted about later.)

Yours Truly on Lots of Shit: If you can’t promote yourself, how the hell are you gonna promote someone else? Can I get an amen up in here? RuPaul misquoting aside, I’ve been writing everyday this month and if you’ve missed a few, Sunday is an excellent day to catch up. Why not read about my man crush on Aquaman? Or my take on the new documentary Strike a Pose? How about taking in spring flowers even as the world collapses around us? Or maybe read an unexpectedly popular post about potatoes?  In all seriousness, I’m so grateful for the new subscribers, followers and forwards that April has gifted me. I’m glad this crazy ass idea of writing ever day is paying off. So thank you for that.

That’s all for now. Back tomorrow with an essay about, well, my ass. So that’s something to look forward to. Enjoy your own Sunday and as always tweet me or leave links in the comments section of what I should read!