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.

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sea change

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Look at the ocean long enough and you’ll hear it. It’ll be whispered to you as the waves hit the shore or in your ear as an ocean breeze pushes its way by you. It’ll gently tell you as you feel hypnotized by watching the water do its thing. It will remind that you, a white dude in his forties, isn’t really that important. And for this particular white dude in his forties this is something I needed to hear.

The ocean, as we’ve talked about, is one of those massive, overwhelming but really comforting forces for me. Whenever my problems feel too large and never-ending, the ocean says, “Oh no, girl. I’ll show large and never-ending.” As I stood by the water at the rocky tide pools of Cannon Beach this Saturday, that feeling, that reassurance was still there. The ocean and its power had not changed. But me? Honey, that’s another story all together. See from where I stand, ocean in view or not, change is about all I’ve been doing since last fall. From my grandmother dying to moving to Portland to spiritual and creative shifts, my world has been pulled like taffy and rearranged several times over. This is all okay, by the way. I long, long ago listened to some old crusty sober person who croaked out in a meeting, “The only constant is change!” This is usually said by a person who has the same shirt on every time you see him, by the way but his point is valid and one I’ve taken to heart. Besides, I’ve lived a life of stagnant, repetitive alcoholism before and to say it’s depressing as fuck would be the understatement of the century. So the only other alternative is to lean into it.

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As we sat jointly sighing, looking at the ocean for an hour or so, it occurred to me that I’m currently at a pit stop between even more changes. Mainly, in the career department. On September 11th, I’ll be starting a new job. Thru the utter magic of the universe, dumb luck and my ability to talk the ear off anyone, I have landed a job as a Peer Support Specialist with a state mental health organization. In a job interview which felt more like a 12-Step meeting, I was able to express my desire to help other while really, really wanting a regular gig with great benefits to help support my creative life. I had a good feeling about the position for the get-go. I mean it’s talking to other addicts which I love and the interview itself was on Madonna’s birthday, for crying out loud.  So it felt like a sure thing. Yet after a recent busload of rejections, no thank yous and straight up professional ghosting, I was cautious. Therefore, I stayed out of the results, I showed up and did my best and attempted to let it go and not obsess over it. Thankfully for Michael, the cats and my nervous system, I got word two days after my interview.  I’ll have this week at my silly cooking school job, a week off and then a whole new adventure begins.

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But it’s not just work that’s changing–I’m also going to Europe in 5 weeks! This trip is mainly what my husband and I yammered about like excited little college kids while we were walking around the beach shops. Kitschy beach boutiques and food stands, while not as powerful as the ocean are an essential part of any ocean side visit for me. I mean there’s only so much natural beauty I can handle until I need to nibble on fried clams and peruse the finest in local tchotchkes. Luckily, Cannon Beach provides those things very well and in spades. It was a celebratory backdrop to discuss a trip we’ve been dying to take since we started dating over 7 years ago. Plus, it was nice to talk about a big life event, that unlike death or a career shift, doesn’t deal with fear of the unknown or loss. This trip, and we by no means planned it this way, lands nearly 25 years after the last time I was in Europe as a high, hot mess 20-year-old.  It’ll be nice to reinvent Europe, a place whose centuries old buildings have not changed, through the eyes of a person who certainly has.

And yet none of my changes, as the ocean reminds me, are that important. In fact, compared to love, staying sober, helping other people and travel, I’m starting feel like a lot of things aren’t that important. This could be my biggest personal change of all. Maybe I’m biting some of the ocean’s style but I’ve recently felt like the world around me doesn’t have the stranglehold that it once did. I feel dissatisfied with modern culture, social media, politics, celebrity culture, popular ideology, did I mention social media? The thing is I’m feeling like a bunch ways I react, participate and engage in life in 2017 are starting not to fit anymore. This is an odd thing to articulate but I feel like I’m less and less interested in what everybody else is interested in. Not in an alienated way at all. But like I’m being freed from unimportant crap that’s bogging down my time on this little planet. It feels good. It feels like I’m being streamlined to let bigger things in and let little stuff just float out to sea. What any of this means I don’t know. But what I do know about change, especially the ones we don’t understand, is that it can be as magical and surprising as the ocean herself.

 

 

 

over there

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“Nothing is ever really over…just over there.” – Carrie Fisher

“A writer must really be in a bad place if they start their blog posts with quotes.”- Me

Both of the above thoughts happen to be true for me in this moment. Maybe I’m not in a bad place per say. Like the emotional equivalent of Detroit. There’s no immediate danger or lying on the kitchen floor sobbing. But a sort of sad place? Yeah. Which is odd because I had, by all accounts, on paper, a very happy celebratory weekend. Yet here I am drinking coffee, looking at the misty hill outside my window feeling pretty damn fragile. Fragile is a great word and I’d like to take a moment to whoever it was who started using it to describe not just glass and fancy breakable things on your grandma’s mantle but the human condition. Maybe it was Trent Reznor. Let’s just say it was Trent Reznor, for the hell of it. Thank you, Mr. Reznor because that’s what I am today. Not a crying mess but fragile. There are a couple of reasons for this here fragility.

First of all, it’s not lost on me that today is June 12th. It marks a year after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I remember expressing to a straight coworker last year how heartbreaking I thought it was and they replied, “Did you know people there?” My first reaction was to sarcastically say, “Yes. Because we all know each other.” My next reaction was to snap, “No but people died and I’m not a robot so can’t I be upset?!?” Instead, I just said, “No” and moved on. What broke my heart then and still today was that it even happened. That it happened to people like me and that because it happened to people like me and it happened at the hand of guns, it would be lessened over time and not treated like other tragedies. Thus far, I’m sad to report I was right. One year later, this tragedy has been quietly swept under the news carpet and rarely brought up, despite being the biggest death toll due to gun violence in the United States. It has not brought about legislation changes. It hasn’t even been over-sentimentalized or over-politicized. It’s been so shrugged off that when people like Hillary Clinton have mentioned it I’ve found myself shouting, “Thank you!” Listen, we all know the reason why and we know had this happened at a sporting event or somewhere involving families it would be a different story. But it didn’t so it isn’t. And ain’t that a bitch. All I can do now, today in 2017, is think about those 49 people who lost their lives and shed a tear for them. My sadness for them isn’t over, as La Fisher said at the top of the post, just over there.

Also “over there”? Me the little kid from an alcoholic home. He showed up this weekend unexpectedly. It happens when I’m around family sometimes. This little kid, being just a kid, still gets his feelings hurt by my parents or siblings. He still feels less than his perfect brothers. He still feels like a big gay weirdo who won’t ever be enough. He still thinks he isn’t okay. Me, the 44-year-old sober man, knows that these old stories aren’t true but also knows, despite the mass amounts of work I’ve done to heal my past, that this kid is bound to show up and have his little heart-broken again. My old sponsor like to remind me that family could push my buttons because they were the ones who installed them. While I’d like to think said buttons have been modernized to a touchscreen, the point is I still have them and they were still pushed over the weekend. But the good news is I didn’t react. I was there to have fun and celebrate. My own emotional baggage or hurt feelings could wait until I got home. Clearly, they did wait and I had a moment to cry in my Starbucks yesterday while on the phone with someone who gets it.

The truth is this kid, this part of me, might not fully ever get over old wounds. Pain and grief? They’ll probably always sting too. And that’s okay. I know for a fact that I hurt less than I used to, that it feels good to cry, to have authentic reactions and that it’s okay that, like the hill from my window, it’s all still over there.

Carrie On

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“Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.”  

-Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

In a Barnes & Noble in Glendale, CA, there she was. Carrie Fisher. No, not in person but in book form. It was her memoir Wishful Drinking. I was just a month or so sober, shopping with my mom and utterly miserable/confounded/fucked up. In times of crisis my mom and I often go to bookstores and libraries and getting sober and leaving a ten plus year relationship certainly qualified as a crisis. Like every newly sober person ever, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But I knew I needed her book. And I needed it badly.  I devoured her first novel Postcards from the Edge at age 15 and she instantly became a source of storytelling inspiration. Here was this actress, this princess I always wanted to be, writing her soul out; utterly truthful, hilarious and talking about really dark shit. It blew my mind as a teenager from an alcoholic home who still had problems even acknowledging the truth, much less telling the truth about anything. So in 2009 with my head up my ass, I knew I needed that book. I knew this because she had been there for me before and I knew I could count on her again.

The usual snickering and laughing like a crazy person by yourself that happens with a Carrie Fisher book ensued once I got my hands on Wishful Drinking. It came at the precise right time in my life, as books usually do. Dishy, sad, profound and really funny, it was the tonic required to deal with my life. But what didn’t I know then or even as a fifteen year old is that Carrie Fisher wasn’t just entertaining me. She was actually helping me figure how I could someday talk about my own really dark shit too.

But in that moment with a life in turmoil what Carrie Fisher was giving me was a good laugh. Wishful Drinking is so jam-packed with Carrie Fisherisms that it’s sort of like hanging out with an old friend who maybe overshares a little too much which could be exhausting in real life but makes for one hell of an entertaining read. There are literally hundreds of gems and nuggets of wisdom in that book especially for addicts and alcoholics but here’s a few of my favorites:

“I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am.”

“Happy is one of the many things I’m likely to be over the course of a day and certainly over the course of a lifetime. But I think if you have the expectation that you’re going to be happy throughout your life–more to the point, if you have a need to be comfortable all the time–well, among other things, you have the makings of a classic drug addict or alcoholic.”

“Anyway, at a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“And not that it matters, but my mother is not a lesbian! She’s just a really, really bad heterosexual.”

“Having waited my entire life to get an award for something, anything…I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill. It’s better than being bad at being insane, right? How tragic would it be to be runner-up for Bipolar Woman of the Year?”

This gift, this memoir, this book picked up in a bookstore on a Sunday with my mom was the beginning of the long process of what I like to call “the light turning on.” For me it was never a simple flick of a switch but a billion positive messages, a million tears and thousands of laughs that eventually lead to the light being turned on. Wishful Drinking and Carrie Fisher were a part of that. I’m incredibly grateful that Carrie Fisher was the one to show me that the truth could be funny, fierce and freeing. And more than that it could help other people too.

When news of her death took over the internet yesterday, I realized instantly that I wasn’t the only one to have the light turned on by Carrie Fisher. My amazing editor Anna David wrote about it in Time. Sober friends tweeted about her impact all day long. And friends and relatives who knew how much she meant to me texted to offer their condolences. See, the thing is that even though Carrie Fisher and I never met, she was important. By following her example of learning how to laugh at the shitshow of my life, I’ve been able to recover. I’ve been able to get better and I’ve learned how to laugh at the other curve balls life has thrown my way in sobriety.

But now that Carrie is gone, it’s up to us. It’s up to us make one another laugh about really dark shit. It’s up to us to keep writing our truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us and the people around us. It’s up to us to speak out for people with addiction, alcoholism and mental illness. We get to carry this torch for one another and laugh together and what an incredible gift. I don’t treat it lightly and plan on doing my damnedest to continue her work.

I was given the writing note this fall that a piece of mine needed to be “funnier and sassier and Sean-like.” While I rose to that challenge and fired on all smart ass cyllanders, what this person was actually saying was, “Be more like Carrie Fisher.” And from here on out I will keep trying to do just that.

“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”
― Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

 

 

swim toward the light

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Wander around on a dark beach with two sweet ladies from West Texas long enough and you’re bound to find something miraculous. That or you’ll twist your ankle, whatever comes first. Nevertheless, that’s what I found myself doing on Friday night. While most tourists were shaking their stuff at local nightclubs, the husband, the aforementioned Texans, myself and a guide were wandering around a Puerto Vallarta beach in the dark. The task at hand? Sea turtles. Baby ones, to be exact. The husband saw the “awwww!” look on my face when he mentioned a tour that worked with a sea turtle rescue and responded by booking said tour. From July to about December, big mama sea turtles pop up all over the shores of Puerto Vallarta, kinda like American tourists but better dressed. That guy I married and I often say to one another,”It’ll be an adventure.” This can apply to going into a really sketchy looking discount store or waiting in line at the post office or, in this case, helping sea turtles.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: sea turtles who have been doing their thang on the shores of the planet for thousands of years certainly know what the hell they’re doing so why do they need people to help them? Thanks to our polluting and generally destructive asses, sea turtles are in trouble. So if we can make laying more eggs easier, protect those eggs and then help these little infants back into the ocean, we can hopefully grow the species as a whole and therefore reverse a teeny bit of the fuckery we’ve caused these poor creatures by ruining their oceans and hunting them.

Our five person turtle loving brigade walked along a stretch of beach populated by posh hotels and the obligatory white people who come along with them. Our mission? To see if we could find any mammas laying eggs. The tour doesn’t promise you’ll see this phenomenon and wisely so. These mothers are on their own schedule and won’t pop ’em out just so some family from Pomona can snap photos for their Instagram pages. But we optimistically trudged along the sand anyway. It was warm and quiet, the kind of beach quiet you can buy if you’ve got enough cash. I’m more of a hustle and bustle type so we were staying in a part of the city that actually looked like Mexico and less like glamour Burbank by the sea. After no sighting and with one of our Texas ladies exhaustedly taking solace under a tiki covered patio, we started to head back to the nursery. It wasn’t going to be a complete wash. The rescue had set aside a bucket of flapping baby sea turtles that we could release when we returned.

As we walked, we ran into a 40-something Owen Wilson type and his equally blonde girlfriend crouched down in the sand with flashlights. The pair, along with some Solo cup clenching randoms, had stumbled on a hatching nest of baby sea turtles. Hundreds of them, as a matter of fact. Their ingenious but totally uninvolved mother buries the eggs by the dozens in the sand so when they hatch they spring up, in the words of our guide, “like popcorn.” And boy did they. The little guys kept crawling out of the sand, one by one. The minute you thought it had to be the end of this adorable family reunion, a bunch more would show up with sand covered heads and their itty bitty slits-for-eyes just barely opened. We’d pick them up and place them in the bucket, seen below. With their funny flapping arms and soft rubbery shells,  I fell in love about 300 times that night  as I placed them gently in this plastic waiting room before they went out into the world by themselves.

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We were instructed not to use our flash as turtles use the light of the moon to guide them and a bunch of flashing lights could really disorient the little fellas. All on their own and without parents, these babies would learn to swim, eat and come back to shores like this one. It was all instinct and mystery and had nothing to do with me. What our group of five could do was help them out of the bucket. Turtle by turtle, we watched them flap, stumble and march towards the surf like little soldiers. In fact, they were off to quite the battle. Our guide informed us, because of predators, mainly shady birds which we saw earlier in the night nibbling on turtle eggs, only one in one hundred would survive. Our guide stood in the tide holding her flashlight acting as a beacon to hopefully direct turtle traffic into the water.”They’ll swim towards the light,”she said and gosh darn it despite being only alive for a few moments they did precisely that. Waves rushed in and swooped some of them in the water. Others walked with purpose into the ocean. And a few more sort of meandered, taking their time and often required additional help getting near the water. I think we know which group I identified with.

As we wished them well on their journey, it struck me that really none of our odds are very good but somehow some of us make it. If you’ve beat cancer, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve come back from the brink of mental illness, you know what I’m talking about. And if, like me, you’ve somehow managed to stay sober you know what I’m talking about. Over the last nearly eight years, I know I’ve had tons of people help me out of metaphorical plastic buckets, brush the sand off me and guide me towards the light. My chance for survival if I try to do anything alone are not very damn good.  Hobbling along alone in the dark, whether human or sea turtle, fucking sucks. Sure, instinct will help a turtle out but we people? We need one another.

2016 has felt like a never-ending process of me swimming towards the light. Despite darkness, difficulty and a brain that really wants to uses drugs and drink until it explodes, I’ve somehow kept swimming. From job stuff and life stuff to Orlando and the election to the recent death of my grandmother, the battle to fend off depression and addiction and alcoholism has kept me on my muthafucking toes this year. Any more time on my toes and the damn Bolshoi will be calling me. Yet it’s all part of the gig called life. A gig I’m lucky to have.

Our trip back to the nursery got delayed–twice. The not-guaranteed-but-wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if sighting of a mother turtle laying eggs happened! Two gals, one successful and one who sort of fell asleep during the process and didn’t really seal the deal (again, I identify), laid eggs. Just like that: more little lives, more daunting odds and more trips towards the light were set in motion. The whole journey humbled me and my own does too. It puts a lump in my throat when I think about how many people have held up the light for me. Inexplicably, dozens of folks in person, online and even people I don’t know have lit the way and told me to keep swimming. If you’re reading this, you are probably one of those people. Thank you for that. Seriously. I cannot do any of this alone. I’ve felt so much love in the most trying and horrible times of this year, it truly knocks me out. Like those little guys on the beach in Mexico, I could do it by myself but your help makes it a fuck ton easier.

And just so you know, I’d gladly stumble around in the dark and hold up the light for you too.

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.

time heals everything (but loving you)

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Time, a British drag queen with hit records once told me, is like a clock of the heart. Meaning, or at least this is how my 10-year-old self interrupted those words, time passes and feelings along with it. But love?  I don’t know if love ever passes. If all of this seems rather sad and confusing like that girl you sat next to in 10th grade art class, that isn’t my intention. It’s just that I think a lot about time and loving someone forever during the summer. I think about all of this and I think about Bernadette Peters.

In 1997, I had returned to Los Angeles from a jaunt around South America. I was 24 with no job and no apartment. So I couch crashed, went to clubs 7 nights a week, did extra work in movies and somehow found a way to drink and party every night with no money. Oh to be 24 in the 90’s in LA. I gathered a group of good gal pals and a boyfriend so I lived my life-like some flapper song about a party girl who danced her cares away. Of course it was way messier than that and always problematic. It was particularly troublesome when real life interrupted my Playboy-gayboy lifestyle. In June of that year, I received a voicemail (on a real-life answering machine!) that my grandfather had died. All of the sudden, the gin joint darkened. The record playing “Anything Goes” stopped. The lights went out. I was numb for the first time in my life not due to drugs or alcohol but because of real, deal category 5 grief. I fell into a black hole and didn’t feel shit until I was able to get on the plane and go the funeral in Denver. Except for about two hours with Bernadette Peters. La Peters in 1997 was touring with an album called Sondheim Etc. wherein the Broadway songstress performed, you guessed it, Sondheim songs as well as songs from the zillions of musicals she starred in. My roommate at the time who worked at a big time talent agency scored tickets to her show in Los Angeles. The timing was shitty. Just a few days after my grandfather died and the night before I went home for the funeral. But timing, schiming. It was Bernadette Peters. A legend. A goddess. An icon. Especially to musical theatre nerds like myself. So we went. The grief of the time coupled with my 90’s drug induced memory loss has made the exact details of the show fuzzy. However, I do remember seeing 80’s stars like Joan Van Ark in the audience. I do remember feeling special because we got VIP parking and entered backstage. Most importantly, I remember Bernadette Peters blowing the roof of the place with her voice, warmth and personality. Each song was an education in Broadway, Sondheim and her career. And I lapped it up.Music,in the eye of that grief hurricane, delivered as it always had. Music took me outside of myself. Music let me know it was all gonna be okay. It never mattered the genre or where it came from. In this case, it came from Bernadette Peters. I’ll be forever grateful to her for providing light in what was about to become really dark period of my life.

Even though he was in his seventies, I naively thought my grandfather would always be around. Because up until that terrible fucking voicemail, he always had. In fact, I had talked to him just days before. According to family lore, I was the last grandchild to speak to him, a distinction that should have made me feel better but somehow always made me feel worse. This guy, Bob, my grandfather and my grandmother lived around the corner from us when I was growing up. They cheerfully showed up to every lame sporting thing I miserably participated in, cheered me on whenever I was on stage and most profoundly, read everything I ever wrote and loved it. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. I discovered many years later that I was so heartbroken in fact that I drank myself silly in hopes of forgetting how heartbroken I truly was. What I didn’t realize at age 24 was this guy Bob taught me much of what I knew about compassion, about helping people and about love.  He did all of those things seamlessly and without condition, without wanting applause. He, although not an alcoholic himself, was instrumental in helping my dad get sober some 30 years ago. This wasn’t unusual for him. His funeral was filled with people he helped. People he helped at work. People he helped at church. People he helped learn how to read. And people like me who he helped simply by being himself.

Flash forward some 19 years later and I still can’t help thinking of him every summer. Except now it’s different. Now, it’s not this throbbing pain I’ve ignored and allowed to fester and getting worse due to neglect. That pain has been healed by time. Well, time and a fuck ton of personal growth. Today, I’m left with love. At age 43, I woke up on the anniversary of his death and I felt lucky to have loved him and to be by loved by him. I feel even luckier to have been shown how to love by him. I even feel lucky to have grieved him, as crazy as that might sound. I have healed and changed. Since getting sober in 2009, my life has been turned on its head and for the better. I’ve even seen Bernadette Peters again too. The last time was on Broadway in Sondheim’s Follies, the day before I married Michael in Central Park.

As I sit here with coffee in hand, on a hot summer morning, I remember something else from that show some 19 years ago. Bernadette Peters sang a song that night. A song that made a promise. A promise that time healed everything. It sounded lofty yet I clung to that promise. for the most part it’s turned out to be true.  What I hadn’t heard in that song until recently, however,was the caveat.”Time heals everything”,the lyrics tell us, “but loving you.” That “but” in the song has also turned out to be true. Maybe hurt can go away. Maybe pain can dissipate. But love? I don’t think love ever passes. Thankfully.