I have no fear, I have only love

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I was keeping it together. No, seriously. I really thought that after several days of feeling utterly emotionally and physically destroyed that on this Sunday morning, I finally had my shit together. The sun was out. I was walking along the waterfront. I took the longer walk because damnit I finally felt good. Might as well extended that feeling for as long as possible. Typical addict. “This feels good! Make it last forever!’ But as I walked further the reality of what was happening in my life hadn’t gone away. No amount of sunshine and long walks could erase that. Then out of nowhere on my airpods, “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac starts. It’s a song about the isolation of choosing the path truer to who you are, despite the freedom that comes along with it. Before I knew it, I was crying. I had stopped to get a coffee along the way in this epic walk. I sat down at picnic table overlooking the river and I sobbed. Like ugly cry on a Sunday morning in public in the bright summer sun with nowhere to hide. I let myself sob because what I do know as a person who has been sober for over a decade is that there is freedom and magic behind those tears. There I was, me and Stevie Nicks, who when she sings “I have no fear, I have only love” really made the waterworks flow, just crying on a Sunday morning. So consumed and knocked out by emotions and my grief, by Fleetwood Goddamn Mac that I failed to realize that there was couple sitting across from me.  The. Whole. Time. A happy couple. The fuckers. The kind of Brad and Courtney couple with perfect bodies and an impossibly adorable looking dog. They were the sort of couple you’d see when you were hungover and instantly feel like you were failing at life. They had it together. In that moment, I had Stevie Nicks, I had coffee, I had tears but I certainly didn’t have it the fuck together. Brad’s eyes caught mine at one point and He awkwardly smiled like what else are you supposed to do to a middle aged gay man so blatantly and openly falling apart in public. When I realized what a mess I was and “Gypsy” ended, I grabbed my coffee and scurried on down the path. Despite a few moments, I was definitively not fucking keeping it together.

Two weeks later, I’d like you to define “keeping it together.” Like what even is that? Am I crying in public currently? No. Am I showering? Yes. Am I eating? Sometimes. Sort of. Am I still overcome with grief and heartache? Also yes. Before we go much further, I guess I should explain what happened. I’ve been stream of consciousness posting about my pain and general malaise for the last few weeks on social media. Without really going into detail because there are other people involved, because I need to process what i needed to process and because fuck you I do what I want. Also, the people who knew, knew. They were important and helpful. Everybody else could wait.  Anyway, in the course of 10 ten days a beloved patient whom I worked with for over a year died of an overdose, Michael and I decided to end our relationship of nine years and to just top everything off, I got the worst cold I’ve had in recent memory. It was a triple quarter pounder of grief and emotional pain. Everything hurt: my heart, my body, my life. I walked like a zombie to my streetcar to work, I went to meetings and cried, I picked at meals with friends. My life was so heavy and hard. It all hurt all of the time and I could not stop crying. Sorry, Brad and Courtney. The death rocked my whole team at work. We were all destroyed. It’s part of our job, sure, sure. But it’s a terrible and shitty part of our job. My marriage, on the other hand, was something that was dying in slow motion for awhile.

Watching nine years of your life spin away like one of Stevie’s shawls is surreal. As it was jointly decided that our marriage was beyond repair, sadness took over. It was a sadness that felt appropriate and horrible and just like something I’d have to acknowledge and get through. I tried to lean into it. There were days when I was fine for most several hours in a row but then out of nowhere “Gypsy”-sized tears would come on and I was unable to stop them. I didn’t even try. What I knew is that I needed to feel all of this horrific, bone crushing grief. However, I was lucky that I wasn’t living in a war zone. Things were not so deeply uncomfortable at home that it made it hard to be there. I kept things super simple: meetings, work, meek attempts at sleeping and eating. That was all I could handle. Mainly, I DIDN’T FUCKING DRINK OR USE DRUGS. I’m sure I slept walked my way through dishes and laundry but I honestly can’t remember. Grief like that is a coma. The world moves around you but you can’t necessarily feel it or even participate in it. Again, I was committed to staying present for these emotions. I knew there was freedom behind them. Eventually.

Two weeks later, here I am. More Stevie Nicks, more coffee and writing.  So I’m back to the velvet underground. There’s less crying daily but the heaviness of my life and of this divorce is still here. We are trying to be kind to one another while attempting to get all of this messy shit handled so we can both start new chapters of our lives. There are pockets of joy sprinkled throughout my day and support from so many people that it’s overwhelming. People text me all day long to make sure I’m okay, to make sure I’ve eaten and to just say hi. I’m overwhelmed by love even when my marriage is ending. Go figure. Therefore, I’m inclined to adopt Stevie’s attitude. I have no fear. I have only love. Sure I have heartache, sadness and grief. But I can also say with no bullshit: I’m not afraid of what’s next. There’s a shit ton of emotions but fear is not one of them. Also? I do have love. Love everywhere and from unexpected places. Love that shows up and says, “I got you.” That’s what I have. And for today, that’s enough.

 

 

a piece of cake

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I’m a talker, a communicator, a storyteller. I’m a sharer and an over-sharer.  I’m a chronic poster, tweeter and Instagramer. I’m a recovering gossip who occasionally relapses. I’m eternally the 4th grade chatterbox who took the report card note of, “talks too much in class” as less of a criticism and more of a challenge to talk even more. Therefore, when I suddenly fell mute for a few days like Ariel in the weirdest part of The Little Mermaid, I was concerned. After all, there was A LOT going on in the world and now was the moment I chose to shut the hell up?

After Valentine’s Day, you know that sad ass Valentine’s Day where 17 people lost their lives in Florida, I kind of didn’t know what to say. Now, I’ve written about shootings before. From Aurora to Orlando, I have endlessly wondered why and how this keeps happening. I write to process, to vent and to share. More than that, I wrote about these things to hopefully connect with others who are feeling the same way so I feel less alone. Lots of words and tears but virtually everything has stayed the same. I just didn’t know what to say this time. By the way, feeling sad or enraged about shootings is an appropriate response. Otherwise, you’re fucking soulless robot. Yet somehow Florida was different. Sure, this was yet another heartbreaking, head shaking American made tragedy but it felt like it was finally enough. So soon after so many others, this one felt like a shift. Parkland wasn’t going to let us forget it and keep moving with our busy little gun-toting lives. Parkland wanted us to do something. Thankfully, as we all have seen by now, the children affected by that tragedy are leading the charge. Will things stay the same? I hope not but at least we have the right group with a lot to say when folks like me have run out of words.

What I did instead of talking was bake. As we have discussed here before, I’m kind of obsessed with cooking and baking. Baking, in particular, is very relaxing to me. I have an entire ritual: I listen to Sarah Vaughn, I make coffee and I bake. An obnoxious friend of mine once said “knitting is the new yoga” but today I would challenge her and say that baking is the new yoga. But who am I kidding? There have been so many new yogas that by now yoga is probably the new yoga. Anyway,  ever since my home was blessed with a pistachio-colored KitchenAid mixer last fall, my baking game has been taken to the next level. Elaborate Christmas cookies in tins for gifts, biscuits for Sunday mornings, cupcakes for parties, muffins just for the hell of it. The irony in all of this is my husband is not eating carbs, dairy or sugar (and yet somehow we stay happily married!). This means my baked accomplishments often travel elsewhere. I brought chocolate peanut butter cookies to a friend fresh out of detox. I took cookies to fundraiser for Crystal Meth Anonymous because tweakers deserve cookies just like everyone else, dammit. When someone at the clinic I work at suddenly died, sending a shockwave of sadness through my workplace, I brought more cookies and some muffins because I’m a former Catholic whose grandparents taught me that’s just what you do when these kind of things happen. Those cookies and muffins worked out particularly well since death is another hard situation where you don’t know what to say. It was my calorie-laden way of saying, “Holy shit. This is fucking sad. I love you. Have a muffin.”

Therefore, two nights ago I did what I do when I don’t know what to do: I baked. I made a lemon coconut cake. I experimented with cake flour because that’s what people like me do when they no longer experiment with new ways to ingest cocaine. I got to also make cream cheese frosting which is always a good day in my book. I was taking it to a dinner with some beloved sober people. Selfishly, it also helped me get my mind of some heavy shit. Besides Florida, I got some terrible news. A loved one who has been battling alcoholism for a long, long time has taken a turn for the worse. Her poor body cannot keep up with her disease. Alcoholism: 1, The Body: 0. It’s a horrific way to suffer. If it was someone with cancer or an incurable disease, the attitude would be different. Instead, since it’s “just” alcoholism (which is like saying just a tsunami) we act weird, dishonest and maybe not as compassionate as we should. God forbid we talk about it openly and say, “Ain’t alcoholism a bitch?” and then cry over a basket of muffins. So this loved one, this family member, this aunt of mine is losing a battle.

And in true alcoholic fashion, I can’t help but make someone else’s death all about me and take it personally. Like it’s super present to me that this is what would happen if I went out and started drinking again. My death wouldn’t be instant. My death from drinking and drugs wouldn’t be a graceful. It would be a long, brutal nightmare and that scares the shit out of me. Unable to eat and soon maybe unable to speak, a basket of UPS’d cookies would be lost on her at this moment. But don’t think I didn’t consider it.  Instead I make the cake for the ones that are here, the ones who are fighting alcoholism, addiction and depression, the ones who have sprouted up in my life like a magical bean stock. But mainly, I made it for me. I made it for me, the kid who is losing his aunt, the sober adult who is watching the disease in action–and ain’t that a bitch and I made it for me, the grieving person who simply just doesn’t know what to say.

Previously On The Seanologues

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You know what I miss the most about old Aaron Spelling shows like Dynasty or Melrose Place, I mean besides the shoulder pads and catfights? I miss the voiceover before each episode, usually done by a cast member like John Forsythe or Heather Locklear that said, “Last time on Melrose Place” or “Previously on Dynasty…” It was this 45 second way to catch up on everything you missed or forgot over the last week. So dramatic and cheesy and so something we wouldn’t do today because we just sit down devour a whole series in one sitting like Garfield does lasagna. Wow. A Garfield reference and Aaron Spelling references. Way to keep it current. Anyway, I was thinking of recaps and more specifically recapping this here blog. It’s on my mind because today the is the year anniversary of The Seanologues! It got me thinking how in the world would I ever recap the last year?

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”- Lewis Carrol

Okay fine, Lewis. That’s where I’ll start. I sat down last spring with an idea that I wanted to talk about everything. My old beloved blog was mainly recovery based and I loved it dearly but I wanted a new space to say more. The upshot to getting older for me is that I now feel okay saying whatever the hell I want, whenever I want. The more years I have, the less fucks I have to give about what people think. Thus, The Seanologues as an idea was born. My first posts I wrote about pop culture and while they’re fine posts, I don’t really cut loose until two weeks into the journey. A real, real shitty thing happened in the world, that thing being the attack on a gay club in Orlando on June 12th. The news, unlike any headline in a really long time, devastated me. It felt personal. It felt awful. And I felt hopeless. I turned to this blog and wrote down my feelings. I wrote it just for me. I cried when I wrote it and I released it. This blog was suddenly more than just a blog to me but also a tool to channel what I was feeling. Turns out, this thing I wrote the day after Orlando struck a chord with other people too. I’m forever grateful to anybody who commented or read that piece. It gave me the motivation to keep going and changed the course of this blog.

After the doors of honesty had been blown open, there was no looking back. Which is fantastic because the last year of my life has been a roller coaster. From travel to death to moving and lest we forget major world news, the signs were clear that I pick one hell of a year to write honestly about my feelings and my life. However, just being a blah, blah, blah space to whine about my life wasn’t enough for me. As a writer, I wanted these pieces to be entertaining and able to stand on their own. To the best of my ability, I tried (and sometimes failed) to keep pushing the content to say more. I didn’t want to repeat myself or write things just to make other people happy. Time and time again, what I learned was the pieces that sounded the most like me were the ones that were the best.

I bring this up because if you are thinking about blogging or writing and don’t know where to start, be a good narcissist and start with yourself. Seriously. Your tone, your story, your perspective. Ain’t nobody got those things but you. For me, the honesty thing works best when I can have a laugh at myself. As the year went on, the posts I felt the best about were the ones that told some truth I never said out loud but were also really funny. Two benchmarks for this blog happened when I talked about being a drunk mess at summer barbecues and when I talked about my ass. These tell you all you need (or perhaps more than you ever wanted) to know about me as a writer and human being. By making these uncomfortable things to talk about more amusing, I let myself off the hook as an imperfect human being. This is integral for me as a writer and person in recovery alike. I need reminders to lighten the fuck up on a regular basis so if writing one liners helps me do that than so be it.

I continued to write about pop culture and the more I did it, the better it felt and sounded. Finding a way to interject my voice into a topic I love was tricky at first but with more time, the pieces got stronger.  Again, if it was something that moved me and I was passionate about it, I could really have fun writing about it. This came into focus in April as I blogged everyday. Forcing myself to create new works each day utterly changed me as a writer and it’s something I cannot recommend enough. By the end of the month, I felt my voice was more defined and I could talk about anything including pop culture in the most Sean way possible.

So what happened over the last year? I grew up. I fell apart. I leaned in. I moved on. I changed. I stayed the same. But mainly, I kept going. And The Seanologues will keep going too! In fact, many of these essays you’ve read over the last year will make their way into a collection I’m planning on publishing as a book. This means I’m starting at the beginning, as suggested by the King, but I’m far from reaching the end.

please talk about me when I’m gone

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What other people think of me is none of my business.

What other people think of me is none of my business.

What other people think of me is none of my business.

Rinse and repeat four thousand times. Sure, sure, sure. I believe this. Or I try to. See, I know it’s true and even for a narcissist like me the very idea can actually be comforting. Knowing that nobody’s opinion of me is actually important is a relief. Like if I am really “there” in that head space of truly and joyfully not giving a shit about what people think, it can provide a whole lot of freedom. Of course the whole idea of social media hinges on what people think about you and this is a tad difficult to reconcile. Still, I know in my heart that what people think about me is none of my business. Well, at least until I die, anyway.

Oh trust me we’re about to take self-obsession to a whole other level so buckle up. The level of the afterlife, specifically.  I do know that I can’t actually control what people think about when I die or maybe I can but that’s not something I’ll find out until I’m like dead. Uh duh. Still, that doesn’t stop me from thinking about what sort of legacy my big ass personality will leave behind. Listen, my real hope is that I’m not so exhausting that I kill off all the people around me. Likewise, I don’t want my departure from this realm to be a “Thank God that bitch is gone!” sort of thing. I also don’t have grand illusions of monuments being erected or holidays being launched in my honor after I die. Of course, I am open to these things but I am not counting on them. This all sounds odd, I know but I have been thinking about it a lot lately. At age 44, I spend entirely too much time wondering about death and old age all the other things I didn’t think would physically happen when I was drinking and using drugs. Not in a morbid way though. More like a “Hmm. I wonder what the hell that’ll be like” sort of way. I know death is a train on its own timetable that I cannot stop and I don’t wish to. But I’d be lying to say that I wasn’t curious about what happens after it picks me up from the station.

My sister, who is sober and living in Florida and therefore proof that those two things can in fact coexist, was telling me a story the other day about a woman she knows from the rooms of recovery. This woman, in her 80’s recently died, causing a shockwave of sadness amongst her sober community. She had been able to cobble together 18 months of continuous sobriety after years of struggling to get sober. It’s an incredible accomplishment at any age. So imagine my sister’s shock and disappointment when nary a mention of this woman’s brave struggle against alcoholism even came up at the memorial. Instead, it was a ceremony rich in religious practices that were more about her family than her own. My sister felt like it was slap in the face to this woman who had by all accounts busted her ass to get and stay sober. We then agreed that if our respective funerals were given an unwanted religious makeover that we would independently haunt this earth in a manner that would make Amityville Horror look like a housewarming. We also agreed “that” part of our story was worth mentioning and honoring in death. After all, it’s a heroic battle that should be celebrated. There’s no doubt that a bout with cancer or time spent in the military would be heralded. Thus we came to the conclusion overcoming addiction should be treated the same way.  I mean for us. You do whatever you want with your funeral and haunt this earth however you choose.

But yeah I think when I die, it would be nice for my whole story to be told. Not like I plan on dying soon, as I am from a decidedly salty stock of people who tend to hang on for 90 years and act sassy until their very final moments. Still, I fought hard for this whole story, dammit and would like it all to be remembered. The idea of having people who only knew me sober at my funeral is a nice one. The idea of people being there who saw the whole journey is even nicer. And since my cross to bear in this life as a chronic bullshitter is telling the truth, these testimonies to my character might as well be as honest and funny as humanly possible. It would be very “off brand” to have it any other way. Might as well celebrate the whole picture, warts and all. As long as it’s not in a church and there’s 80’s music and tacos, I think there’s nothing from my personal life that couldn’t be talked about in death.

Sure, I can’t control what happens at my funeral, although my grandmother who had everything from the readings to the food and the location on lock well before she died would argue with this sentiment. But I can control what happens until then. I can try my best to be less of a dick on a daily basis. I can try to tell people I love them whenever and wherever I can. I can take minute and smile and think, “Wow. I’m fucking lucky to be walking in the sunshine right now” like I did the other day as I strolled home after buying flowers.

Therefore, consider this my official notice that you can say whatever you like about me at my funeral as long as it’s the truth and as long as you say a lot of it. Also, conditions and terms of the aforementioned haunting are subject to change depending on what kind of shit goes down over the next few decades.

vamos

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Leaving is supposed to be my specialty. Getting the hell out of Dodge is something that I am naturally programmed to do better than the average person. As a Sagittarius, shooting my arrows in the air, the ability to pack up and bounce at a moment’s notice should be second nature. Yet there’s a part of me that’s decidedly cozy and likes to stay put. I hesitate to use words like reclusive or sedentary but yeah I will fully channel my human mushroom, if given the chance. Sometimes, my idea of an exotic destination is a new position on the couch as I binge watch a ridiculous reality show for hours on end. Not moving or going anywhere sounds really damn appealing a lot of the time. It also sounds a lot like another word. The “I” word. You know the one they caution against in rehab and therapy sessions and 12 step meetings? Isolation. Isolating is a big time no-no for folks like me who have the my flavor of mental health specialness. Therefore I gotta keep it in check. Admittedly, living a life under a pile of cats and blankets after the few weeks I’ve had is an incredibly appealing idea. Oh but the Universe, the tricky little vixen that she is, has other plans.

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In May, the husband, the ever diligent researcher and deal hunter, found amazing flights to Mexico. We didn’t think twice about it and we booked a trip to Puerto Vallarta for October. The thought was we’d probably need a little fall break. That turned out to be a really fucking great thought. As many of you know, my grandmother died last week. It was a heart wrenching but beautiful time that left me utterly exhausted. So much family, so much sorting through old cabinets and boxes, so much crying. So much. While I don’t know how someone feels after dying (I’ll be sure to write a blog post about that when it happens) I do know that it sure is an emotional marathon for everyone else. The weirdness around all of it alone is sure to wear a person out. Each day brings about a new WTF conversation and series of revelations that,while oddly entertaining,are certainly trying. Death creates some kind of twilight zone of emotions where the grieving say and do really odd things. It’s all okay because grief is happening and it is all part of the process. Needles to say however the process can really make your ass tired. So me and my tired ass are really excited to step on an airplane on Tuesday morning. If sun, sand, a trashy book, tacos and time away won’t recharge my batteries than I’m not sure what will.

Leaving and getting the fuck out of here is a recurring theme right now for me. Not only did my grandmother beautifully find the right time to say, “Adios!” But other things are leaving too. As if it wasn’t enough that we live on a planet wherein both Bowie and Prince left and are not coming back, other things are hitting the road too. The Obamas are days away from packing up their shit. The leaves are falling off one by one. And some of my old mental garbage has, thankfully, skipped town too. 2016 has forced me to get the hell over myself. Being obsessed about what people think or fighting change at every turn are just worn out patterns at this point that are serving me little or no purpose. Last year at this time I was in the hospital. A skinny and nearly dying bag of bones whose butt had been spanked hard by pneumonia, I had to think long and hard about what I wanted to change and what I want to hang onto. What I came up with is some of my crap needed to be left behind if I wanted to be happy. I couldn’t turn into a human Netflix-watching statue even though I really wanted to.

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Thus here I am. All of the writing of the last few months, all of the travel, all of the “holy shit this is different” life changes have dropped me in this moment. A moment where I’m leaving for Mexico in two days. A moment where even bigger life changes waiting for me when I get back. The truth is my romanticized human mushroom existence isn’t actually something I want. When I first got sober, I’d hear people say that their lives got bigger. That sounded incredible. My life was so tiny and depressing at the end. I wanted things to be bigger and to be able to leave and experience life, even the shitty parts. Well, I got the big life I wished for. Sometimes it’s so big that it feels like my life is Marmaduke and I’m the sadly drawn stressed out family just trying it reign it all in.

Yes, I am leaving in 2 days and will back in 8. This blog, my podcast and my life where I currently feel like I need a seatbelt, will all be back too. My grandmother and so many others who have left this year, sadly, will not be back. I guess it’s easy to feel abandoned. The heartbreak around that is authentic and appropriate. But the truth is we all leave. The trick is: what do we do until then? How do we savor every second of this massive life in between times of coming and going? I have no idea but I do know sometimes you just have to leave.