Bateau Ivre

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Since I got back from Paris, I’ve become one of those people who starts off a lot of sentences with “Since I got back from Paris…” because the trip turned my thinking upside down. I know, I know this idea that “Since I got back from Paris, my point of view has totally changed” all sounds very PBS low-budget travel show but it’s actually true.

We got home on October 16–or was it the 17th? All I know is it was an odd time of day and I was hungry. But that could very well be said of any day for me, travel or not. It was one of those days that started in another time zone, in another country but somehow miraculously ended on the same day in a different time zone, even though 15 hours had been spent somewhere along the line. All this travel math and 8 hours of airplane movies turned my brain into mush. By the time we returned to our little abode in Portland, I just wanted to collapse and hang out with my cats. I did just that for the better part of 2 weeks. But the longer I’m back from Paris (and Amsterdam and Vienna who I also hung out with on my voyage) the longer I’ve realized a few things about myself and the country I grew up in: America.

First of all, we ain’t shit. Look, I know that’s not poetic but that was the overwhelming theme I left Europe with. After nearly 2 years of emerging Trumpism, bombastic headlines and daily reminders from every digital platform that the world is fucked, it was a breath of fresh air to be on a continent that legitimately did not give a shit. As I checked Twitter while in Europe, it shocked me that Trump or Mueller or any other thing we were freaking out about were not trending. Case in point: dark alternative rock god Nick Cave was trending while we were in Amsterdam on a week where the US was still shocked from the horrific shooting in Las Vegas. Speaking of Las Vegas, it barely came up while we were there and while I can’t be sure, I’m guessing it’s because from a foreigner’s point of view, events like that happen all the time in the US. Hard to argue with that logic, sadly. Horrible redundant American tragedies aside, it felt good not to matter. It felt good to not have the impending shit storm of dread that so many of us have woken up with for months. It felt good not to be the center of universe for 5 minutes and realize that nobody cared about my paltry American nonsense.

IMG_2563.jpgWhich brings me to the other realization I had, and one as an alcoholic I need to remember regularly: other people are going through stuff too. France, a country which has arguably seen more than its share of heartbreak and violence over the last few years, maybe couldn’t be bothered with our hot messes because it’s still trying to heal. Michael and I attended a life altering exhibit chronicling the life and work of Christian Dior. The exhibit had dresses, designs and the art behind the famous designer. Told exhaustively on several floors of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, it was an uplifting and inspirational journey into the birth of what we know as modern fashion and fashion branding. But what knocked the wind out of me and gave me goosebumps was the reaction of the french speaking visitors to the museum. Filled with pride and curiosity, each person seemed personally invested in the works. After a massive line to get in and packed galleries, the spirit was unwavering and I think that says a lot about the French and perhaps humans in general. Devastated together by heartbreak but united by a love of art and beauty, the Dior show felt less like a fashion exhibit and more like a window into the French soul. In those moments watching them take selfies with the mannequins or devour the text about Dior’s life, I finally got it. These people needed this show and they needed each other. And I needed it too.

The other thing that hit me is that despite traveling several countries over the course of over two weeks and getting far, far away from Sean at Home, I am still me wherever I go. This is an unfortunate but inevitable fact. My carry on luggage comes equipped with my own personal baggage and ain’t that a shame? I will say that it is lighter these days and as a travel companion, I am pretty fantastic. The gorgeous photo at the top of the post was taken by husband the last night we were in Paris. It was a perfect, sun-kissed moment while amazing music played in the background. This was a snapshot, unlike the dozens of photos of cake that I took and posted to Instagram, that needed to happen. Such a significant moment, the image has since served as our screen saver since we got back from Paris. Out of curiosity and since my junior high French only took me so far, I wondered what “bateau ivre” meant. I cackled when the magic of Google revealed that it means “drunk boat.” Perfect. That’s me–bateau ivre, a little drunk boat floating around the globe. Except now this little drunk boat has safe harbours like the meetings I went to in Paris and Amsterdam (spoiler alert: alcoholics are the same everywhere), the sober friends I messaged from random locales and the moments of peace I got by staring at views like this one.

Lastly, since I got back from Paris, I haven’t felt like an American or just an American, I should say. Listen, I’m  not unpatriotic or a spurned former lover of the USofA. I just feel like more of a human. You know, a person who lives in the whole world, instead of in just his small American bubble. I feel like a person who is lucky to have these adventures and people who I love to come home to. But mainly I feel like if I love myself and help other people than this little drunk boat is safe to dock pretty much anywhere.

*This is the first in a three-part series about my recent travels to Europe. If you hate travel posts, I apologize but I promise to fill each of them with my signature brand of neurosis to not deviate from my brand too much. hearts–S.

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Time I Saw Paris

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Let’s get this out of the way: the following post has nothing to do with the glamorous Elizabeth Taylor film in the title other than the fact I’ve pretty much always wanted my whole life to be an Elizabeth Taylor film. No, the title in this case is quite literal. The last time I saw Paris, I was 20 years old.

While I suppose a blow-by-blow account of a love tinged trip to the city of lights wherein I came of age and not only found a new city but found myself(insert barf face emoji) would be just damn delightful, I have no such recollection. Thanks to the mountain of drugs ingested in the 1990’s I recall very little of that era. I mean if you’re gonna do drugs might as well do so many that you experience memory loss. That’s what I always say. Well, when I remember to say it. Yet what survives from that era is the feeling of who I was. 
The faces, names and places might be gone. But the emotional landscape of Sean Mahoney, age 20 is something I’ve never forgotten. Just a small town gay boy in oversized raver denim, I realize now that that kid had the deck stacked against him. A shook up soda pop bottle of a human, he bounced from place to place and person to person. Panning for gold in goth clubs, raves, bathhouses, gay bars, on stage, he spent a shit ton of time searching for someone to say, “You are alright.” 

So thank god for drugs. I say this a lot in what sounds like jest but I absolutely mean it. See, without drugs I would have never came out of shell or maybe ever came of the closet. Drugs helped moved past my big, gay effeminate self. Drugs connected me to people and gave me friends. Drugs created a better reality than the harsh shitbox one that was always lurking for me when I came down. 
By the time I got to Paris at age 20, drugs had already put me through the ringer. Broken up and gotten back together several times by that age me and drugs were like the aforementioned actress and Richard Burton. I’m Liz in this scenario, just so we’re clear. Coming off my first summer of meth(because it took me two full insanity soaked summers of meth to figure out how much that drug sucks. Some people go to Hamptons every summer. I did meth.) I scooted off to Europe to find myself that fall. I was with a close friend and the trip as a whole, from what I can remember, was good. But somewhere inside of me at that time I knew I was sort of in trouble as far as the whole drugs thing went. The pendulum always swung from fun to problematic pretty quickly in those days. This break was supposed to help figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my 20 year old self. 

I know now that the idea of knowing who you are and what you want at that age is utter horseshit. I was a lost satellite and dancing and doing drugs at least provided some direction. So I did that in Europe too. But we did all the other Europey things as well. I remember eating gelato in Venice and having my mind blown open. I remember finally finishing Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon on that trip and having mind blow open even further. 

As far as Paris itself goes, it’s more of a fuzzy slideshow that lives on. The smallness of the Mona Lisa, the magazine stands on the Champs Eylsse, the view of the Effiel tower across the river, an old lady yelling at me to take off my hat inside Notre Dame, a croissant here and there. 

What didn’t happen is me finding myself. In fact, I came back more lost than ever. Only gone for a month, life moved quickly among me and rave going, drug doing friends. One group who dabbled in heroin back in May now seemed lost for good in October. Another group who had a meth fueled misunderstanding were now permanently at odds. And me and my friend who I traveled with drifted when we got back. Making things worse was the fact that I was not yet 21 and many of my closest pals were now able to go to bars. I would remain lost in Denver, the city I grew up in, until age 22 when I moved to Los Angeles.

Thus the last time I saw Paris was a blip and blur but luckily I get to see it again! Now nearly 45 years old, sober and married this post comes from you on a plane to Chicago. My decidedly epic travel day will take me from Portland to Chicago to London and finally Vienna where we will be for five cake and museum filled days. Next, we’ll take a two day jaunt to Amsterdam and finally end up in Paris. 
Travel, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of my passions and one I share with my husband. We do it extremely well together. Part comedy act, part reality show, we have found a balance in travel that works and one that is downright enjoyable. I’m traveling with a person who routinely says, “You are alright.” And that is something I didn’t have at age 20. Make that two people.

Unlike Sean age 20, I am no longer lost. I know who I am. I’m not slowly killing myself. I give less of a fuck about what other people think and I even kind of like myself.  This is all excellent news whether I’m seeing Paris again or napping on my sofa. 

Handle With Care

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It’s a recipe. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’m sure that has something to do with the fact that I’m ravenously hungry every single time I sit down to write but it’s the only metaphor I have in my writerly rolodex right now. The ‘it’ I’m talking about is self-care, in case you were wondering. Those two words were a head scratcher back when I was on my tequila soaked kamikaze mission. The closest I ever got to self-care back then was going 24 hours without lying or avoiding a blackout for an entire week. So now that I’m this sober adult and shit, I still regularly tinker with this recipe on doing actions that help this love cruise of mental wellness stay afloat.

Last Thursday, I figured I better scramble to get some sort of self-care recipe in action. For starters, I logged off Facebook and Twitter and I avoided news headlines. Listen, everybody everywhere was talking about this world event happening, one that I find horribly depressing, and I honestly didn’t want to engage. Besides, what could I possibly add to a conversation with so many voices? I detest redundancy and more than that I hate being beat to the punch when making jokes about current events therefore I passed on reading and commenting. Intuitively something told me that hanging onto my serenity was more important than obsessively reading and wringing my hands over this train wreck in slow motion. It turned out to be a good move but it wasn’t easy and had a lot of steps like making a paella and macarons at the same time. Mmm macarons.

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In addition to not reading the headlines or being on social media, I had to take it one step further, I turned off my phone on Friday. FOR THE ENTIRE DAY! This deserves all-caps and an exclamation point because I’m undoubtedly my smartphone’s bitch and I know this. Hi. I am an addict so of course I cradle and obsess over the damn thing like I’m Gollum with a piece of shiny jewelry. I always laugh when people in recovery come to meetings only to spend the whole time playing on their phone. Boo, you are in the right place, you freaking iPhone junkie. So that was difficult but not impossible. I knew if I didn’t want to know anything, I’d have to cut off my pocket-sized link to the outside world. Next, I brought a book to work. Sounds simple but replacing the fondling of my phone with something more tangible was key in order to keep my mind off of that stuff that was happening. Books have always been my touchstone to my higher self so reading turned out to be a godsend.

The day was chill and clipped along at a normal pace. I engaged with a few visitors who were there just to see something beautiful and get their mind off of things. One in particular was so kind and clearly upset that our conversation made me teary. Like run to the bathroom just in case I totally lost it teary. Moments of tenderness aside, I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of there and go home. But before I went home, I stopped at the bookstore. As I’ve mentioned before, libraries and bookstores have always been sacred places to me where I can manage to center myself. After about 20 minutes of perusing the fiction section and picking out a few titles, I wasn’t okay. I got sweaty and hot and felt like I couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t  panic attack but I needed to go ASAP. I realized in that moment of feeling like crap in the bookstore that despite all of my wrapping myself in bubble wrap, something was still broken. I was fucking depressed and devastated.

I walked home with my books (along with some burritos for dinner) like a zombie. No sacred place, no amount of precaution could disguise the fact that I currently felt like I didn’t belong in the country where I was born. The country, that I believed when they told us in Catholic school we should be proud to live in, now wanted totally different things than I did and that really fucked with me. Which is fine. I’m one of those prone to butt-kicking depression types so to think that I wouldn’t occasionally get my ass handed to me by emotions would be like thinking that McDonald’s will just one day decide to stop making Big Macs. Ain’t gonna happen. For what it’s worth, I don’t think “getting over it” is the answer. I think that sort of “don’t deal with it” thinking is the reason we’re all hooked on drugs and drinking our faces off. I no longer shoot to get over things. I shoot to move through things, regardless of how long it takes or how much it hurts.

Nevertheless, I got home, had dinner with my husband, watched an episode of Top Chef and was actually in bed by 8:30pm. I’d had it. The final step in the recipe was, “if all else fails, go to bed” so that’s what I did. By Saturday, I’d glanced at a few headlines and was shown a picture of White House staffer in a nutcracker uniform but otherwise I was still off the grid. We saw a play, had dinner with friends and generally moved to a more light-hearted place. There was a lot of laughing going on which helps me immensely. Undoubtedly, the winner of the weekend was prayer and meditation. I’ve been gently directed to do more of those things lately and have been sort of practicing a half-assed spirituality for months. I only turn to these things when I’m in bad shape so suffice to say, I was praying and meditating like it was going out of style. On Sunday, I started peaking my head out again. Tweeting, processing events with coworkers, texting program friends, more laughing. I read a little more news and spent more time on Facebook, two terrible ideas. I quickly moved back into self-care and had a great dinner with my husband followed by another early bedtime.

I share all of these boring-ass details of my weekend because that’s what the recipe looked like. Handling myself with care took a lot of steps and to my surprise I still felt shitty. As I started to get down myself yesterday for still being a raw, emotional wreck, a little light came on. I didn’t drink all weekend nor did I use drugs and I also didn’t hurt myself or others. So in my mind the recipe was a success. Sure, I would like to feel magically fabulous with all of my hurt gone but staying sober and relatively sane was good enough. Hell it was a miracle. I recently talked to a sober homie of mine and we both agreed that drinking right now and being “out there” right now would be a nightmare.

As far as me and this country goes, it’s one day at time like everything else. It’s acceptance, like everything else. It’s love and tolerance, like everything else. And it’s also plane tickets. Late Friday night, my husband purchased our flights for a long-brewing trip to Europe. Because when the going gets tough, the tough make a recipe for self-care and the tough also get going to Paris.