burritos & broken hearts

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The burrito in question

It wasn’t the end of the world. Because if it was the end of the world they’re wouldn’t have been burritos. See, Mexican food is at the very epicenter of my emotional core thus if it should suddenly somehow not exist, I will know that we as a society are really screwed. A disturbance in the force looks a lot like a lack of tortillas and hot sauce. So it wasn’t the end of the world yesterday because I gobbled down a burrito at lunch. It was just a broken heart.

Go ahead and mock the humble burrito but if you’re some white person who thinks that just random crap in a tortilla constitutes a great burrito then keep that shit to yourself. Seriously. There’s an actual art form when it comes to burritos. A great burrito is all about ratios (not too much rice, not too little salsa) and amazing condiments (homemade guac and hot sauce only). It’s a delicate balance that begins and ends with a good tortilla and well-made ingredients. Don’t get too fussy and in the same note, don’t half ass it, either. Trust me. I’m not some pinche gringo who pretends to know everything about Mexican food. My affinity for the cuisine started at childhood and carried on through adulthood as I waited tables ta not one but three Mexican restaurants. Also, being an Angeleno for 15 years meant that Mexican food became my religion and people were judged on what taco trucks they were loyal to. I had a mental map of that town based on what Mexican places were where. I even dragged my husband to the Mission district in San Francisco to try what was dubbed the country’s best burrito (totally worth it, by the way). So when it comes to a great burrito, I know what the hell I’m talking about. And yesterday’s offering, while a decent Portland college try at a Mission style burrito with its charred chicken and toasted tortilla, couldn’t erase what was happening inside of me.

Getting sober sometimes means letting things go in order to get better. For me in 2009 that meant letting go of my dog Jake and cat Phoebe. I could barely feed myself and was just trying to get through the day without being loaded. It was a heart wrenching decision but I had no other choice. Jake passed a few years ago loved and taken care of by my ex while Phoebe has lived for the past 8 years with my friend Regina. I got a Facebook message yesterday from her and she told me that Phoebe was being put down. At 17 years old, the girl had a good run and I am eternally grateful that she wound up being cared for.

Nevertheless, the news for some reason knocked the wind out of me. Feelings of loss and sadness bubbled up inside me. My body temperature raised and I felt like I was going to burst into tears. As usual, I’m unable to deal with any genuine emotion unless I turn it into a social media event so I tweeted about it. Yeah, there isn’t anything more 2017 tragic than tweeting and crying. “Tweetin’ and Cryin'”, my new country single. Still, it sort of helped and forced me to go for a walk. I went and had a cappuccino and some chocolate biscotti. But much to my dismay they weren’t prepared by a wizard and therefore couldn’t make all of my sadness go away. As I sat in the cute faux Euro cafe flipping through some shitty free newspaper, I started crying again. “Tears in My Cappuccino”, the b-side. My heart was really hurting and I knew exactly why: even though I’ve been sober for 8 years and even though my life has changed for the better in every way possible, sometimes the past just fucking hurts. And sometimes my heart hurts too. Not just for those two poor sweet animals, either. I was also devastated for me. Poor Sean, who was so mangled by addiction and alcoholism, who had to make that kind of choice. I texted my husband and cried more until I realized I better get out of this cafe before some concerned Portlander asked if I was okay.

After more walking, I wound up back at home. I didn’t feel better but at least I was tired. As if he knew how shitty I felt, Larry came and laid down on my chest. Larry, for the uninitiated, is my rascally black cat and, despite his name, not our building maintenance guy. The miracle of this moment wasn’t lost on me but the pain didn’t vanish either. As I tried to turn the heartbreak off with some Netflix therapy, I finished off the rest of my burrito. A few hours in the fridge did it some good and made it saucier. However, it was still only a 7.5 on the Mahoney burrtio scale at best. To fair, however, the kind of relief I wanted didn’t exist inside of a tortilla or cappuccino cup.  I sat in my bed and watched whatever the hell I was watching until my eyes got heavy. I went to bed knowing that I’d feel better today and I was right.

All of this is to say, it wasn’t the end of the world. There’s more burritos and more heartaches to come. But there’s more miracles to come too. In the end, I’m lucky to experience all of it even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. So for now, pass the hot sauce.

 

my therapists poop in a box

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18 days in and it’s come to this: a post about cats. Between yesterday’s post about my ass and today’s about my cats, I’m clearly on a downward blogging spiral. Buckle up!

However, these little creatures are on my mind today because with my husband out-of-town for six weeks, let’s just say that me and the cats have spent a lot of time together. So much so that my older cat Maeby can often be seen sitting by the front door as if she’s planning her escape or at least waiting for another damn human to walk thru the door. You can almost hear moan, “Really? Are we sure the other guy isn’t coming back?” To be fair, Maeby has a special affection for Michael. When he was home over the weekend, she slept by his side and followed him from room to room. I don’t begrudge her that at all. Trust me, I’m sick of me too. Still, I’m grateful for their little furry behinds because believe it or not they’ve helped me a lot.

Maeby, whom we inherited from Michael’s old roommate and who is named after Maeby Funke from Arrested Development, is the shy but sweet and thoughtful type. Happy to say hello but happier still to give you some space. Larry, on the other hand, whom we inherited from a suburban Denver alley, is more in your face. Unlike his older and more reserved sister, Larry will come darting from whatever part of the house he’s napping in just to say hi and hang out the minute you come home. He’s a little more type A and outgoing so it’s no mystery which cat truly gets me. These two are both survivors in their own right, Larry being an orphan and Maeby getting shifted from multiple owners. They know something about adapting to new surroundings and getting settled.

Carefree, crazy Larry and relaxed af Maeby don’t really give a crap about my existential non-crisis of being new in town. After all, they’ve somehow managed to make themselves right at home despite being basically snatched from their old lives against their will, shoved on an airplane for the first time and dropped off somewhere totally foreign.  I think I can handle not knowing where the dairy aisle is at a new grocery store.  When we were first planning this move, Michael and I were a tad worried about how Maeby would react. The last time we moved it took her 3 months to stop hiding and resenting us. Like the good cat of an alcoholic, she can hold a grudge. We were not, however, concerned about Larry. After all, this is the goofball life of the party who actually likes the vet’s office and sleeps in his carrier. Turns out, we were wrong on both counts.

In a feline plot twist, our older lady took to apartment living like someone’s recently divorced mother-in-law while Larry had a total meltdown. Within our first 30 minutes here. We lost our damn cats. We went to the grocery store and when we came back, they were gone. Like vanished, which is nearly impossible as it’s a large loft-like space with almost zero places to hide. As Michael panicked and ran down the massive hallways, I heard a little meow. The little rascals had wedged themselves behind the refrigerator and snuggled up together. Flash forward to a few hours later upon returning home from IKEA, we were greeted with howling coming from a unknown source. One of our critters was obviously in distress but they weren’t back in the refrigerator hiding spot. With a visual on Maeby, we knew it was Larry. After another panicked search, we discovered that somehow the lunatic had fallen in between our two upper kitchen cabinets. The physics of all of this is still perplexing one month later but all I know is after I hopped up on the counter, I spied his skinny long black legs pointed toward the ceiling. I tried to grab him but my arms are too short and I was afraid I’d hurt him. After mulling over the idea of making the world’s most embarrassing 911 call, Michael was able to somehow pull Larry’s lanky, disheveled body from the depths of our fancy modern cabinets. And this was all in the first 4 hours.

I wish I could report it’s been smooth sailing ever since that ridiculously traumatic day but I cannot. Larry still cries at night as if he’s wondering where the hell he is and where all of his old stuff went.  He’s found other places to hide but is thankfully keeping himself out of peril. But they spend their afternoons together watching birds from our huge windows and nap with me during the day. They chase each other and sleep for 14 hours. While none of this may sound very therapeutic or relaxing for me, I swear it has been.

As an alcoholic and drug addict who’d usually forget to feed himself, it still blows my mind that I can care for and keep other living things alive. Therefore, having Maeby and Larry to look after has been a relief. “Turning our thoughts towards others” is a tool of recovery and nowhere does it state those others have to be at all human. Feeding them and cleaning their litter box gets me outside of myself which is always a relief. In fact, cats are often referred to as the “Unsung Heroes of Mental Health”. Animals for people like me who also struggle with depression, are great for the soul, self-confidence and reducing stress. The simple act of them being here when I return from a day out running around my new city, makes me feel more at home. Just by being present for these two, I’ve reaped the benefits of their magical powers and I’m a better person for it.

Maeby is back to snuggling up to me during morning meditation and Larry is, well, still the Larryest. As I was turning off lights last night getting ready for bed, I couldn’t find him.”Oh terrfic. I lost Larry again. ” I searched all the usual hiding places and some new ones to,just in case. Nowhere to be found but I was tired enough that I headed by to my bedroom. After one last-ditch glance around the room, I found him. He was snuggled up inside a basket by my side of the bed. Turns out, we’re both a little more comfortable than we were just a month ago.

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emergency, in bloom

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I woke up yesterday with a really strong feeling that I had to get going. I needed to leave. I wanted to get out. While I’m not currently punching a time clock and not really expected to show up anywhere (other than by the food dish to fill the bellies of my feline monsters), yesterday I just needed to go. A couple of weeks ago, I spied some cherry blossom trees in bloom down by the waterfront and for some reason, I really wanted to check them out. You know you’re reaching a certain age when a seasonal floral event is a “rouse you out of bed” sort of thing. Whether it was my age or an itch to see something springtime-ish, I just knew I had to GTFO. So drizzle be damned, I hightailed it over to the waterfront park.

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Yet when I got there it looked as if the poor trees had been crying pink tears. The path beneath them was dotted with petals. These lush blush-colored beauties were now mostly spring green and didn’t exactly offer up an apology for not living up to my geriatric, floral fantasy. Might as well walk the “floating bike path” was my thought. Okay. I didn’t know that it was even called a floating bike path until the bearded guy with a ponytail  told his bike tour group that’s what it was called. He also said it was the largest floating bike path in North America. So there you go. Armed with that little nugget of trivia, I marched forward. After coming from the driest winter in Colorado in quite some time, I’m still in love with the romance of walking in the rain. It’s still lovely and cinematic. Check in with me next year and I’ll let you know I how I feel but for now I’m happy to slosh around town in my boots.

While the natural beauty was sleepier than I had expected, I wasn’t bored visually. Portland has this rad mix of super industrial steel and old bridges mixed with flowering trees and leaves so green they look like Kermit decorated the joint. It’s man-made meets nature and they oddly seem to get along and even look fantastic together. Like the section of the path that runs parallel with the train tracks. As I walked it yesterday, a train was rumbling by while the water on the other side of me stayed calm and unimpressed. Standing there snapping photos, my body rocked back and forth. Soon, whatever I was thinking about was drowned out by the sound of train. It was exhilarating and meditative at the same time, if that makes any sense. Either way, I ‘m pretty sure some old cherry blossoms couldn’t pull that off.

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Splashes of street art were guideposts as I continued walking. Locks placed on the fences, Sharpie written declarations of love and perfectly placed illustrations all blended in as if they were meant to live there too.

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Walking, as I’ve mentioned before, is sort of my magic potion. I haven’t been feeling depressed lately but maybe a little lonely since the hubby’s not around for me to annoy. Also, the sluggishness of relocating has certainly taken its toll too. So moments like this one, doing something I love and doing it alone, that need to be hung on and slipped into my pocket. A very satisfied looking goose just hanging out on a log by himself, whom I bumped into a little further down the path, seemed to confirm this.

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An hour into my journey, I’d forgotten what had brought me there in the first place. I was calm and happily exhausted/hungry. I decided to call it and head back home. On my way past a firehouse nearby the waterfront, there it was: the reason, the emergency that made me leave my warm, toasty house.

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Fragrant and a candy color of pink I want my whole life to look like, there was a row of flowering trees with no one around. This private natural art show was on view in an unexpected place and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  I sniffed them and took a ridiculous amount of photos as the nonplussed firemen on their way into the station gave me a smirk and a “What Up, bro” head nod.  This little blooming surprise was the emergency I woke up for.  I just didn’t know it at the time.

Several hours later, the news of the US bombing Syria hit. While not unexpected, it certainly falls under the holy fuck category of things. Violent, depressing and sure to open a can of worms, this was a real emergency. The thought of the civilians taken out by such an action churns my stomach. It’s the kind of news that made me head to bed early and watch stupid Food Network Shows until I passed out.

In a post-news, pre-coffee haze, the thought hit me this morning, maybe things like enjoying nature, hanging out with friends, reading, laughing and walking are vital in times like ours. My time here on this little rock is limited and I want to squeeze in as much amazing as possible. Sure, to look the other way and pretend everything is just fabulous isn’t a cool way to live your life. Acting oblivious to the world around me has never, ever done me any favors. But I also refuse to spend my days huddled in fear and feel victimized by every piece of terrible news. My only option? To take all of it seriously, to help people when I can, to laugh when I can and to get out and enjoy beauty. Especially when it feels like an emergency.

what’s new?

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What’s new? What’s new with me, you ask? Well, naturally, I’m thrilled that you did because there is a whole lotta new going one in SeanLand. New furniture to sit my pampered behind on! New sparkly town to live in! New places to go to meetings at! New fancy folks to hang out with! New yummy places to eat! New thrilling things to do. New, new, new! But the bad news is that I’m the same old me wherever I go which is exhausting regardless of my current zip code.

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I noticed the other day as I got unexpectedly snippy about an inane topic like where to put the little thingy that holds our spare change that my mental health wasn’t exactly award-winning. In fact, I was a level of cranky which quickly made me feel like I was crawling out of my skin. And this was AFTER I had been to a meeting. So it wasn’t just feeling “dry” but more of that “spiritual malady” business that the recovery kids talk about. Meaning maybe all was not so well on the mental health ranch.  Granted, I understand that being snippy after moving is par for the course. Given the amount of ridiculous crap me and the hubs have had to endure over the last 10 days, a little tantrum now and then isn’t the end of the world. Still, I don’t love being an asshole about ridiculous stuff like where to put the little thingy that holds our spare change. Because the reality is at the core of my being I don’t actually give a shit where that little thingy goes. No really, I don’t. I’m NTKOH (not that kind of homo). Michael’s department in this relationship is Home Decor & Organization and I happily turn all of it over to him. And I know I’m in good hands as he actually does this kind of thing for a living. If I’m being testy about stuff I honestly do not care about, I’m clearly not taking care of myself.

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The short(ish) answer to that question, “What’s new?” is “same old, same old.” Feel free to say that response in a Texan accent or like a bored waitress at a roadside diner, by the way. Whatever you like. I trust you. Anyway, the predictability of my own bullshit is tiresome yet comedic. Like a Lucy rerun or a Looney Tunes gag, you can see the joke setup and it’s punchline from 40 miles away. As I finally meditated this morning after days of running around like a person gathering stuff for an impending apocalypse, I had to laugh. It was hilarious that as usual the things that make me feel less crazy still do and are fairly easy to accomplish. Duh.com.  As I’ve lamented recently in these pages,  meditation has really rocked my clock in 2017. Breathing and taking a few moments that aren’t all about me is a fucking relief  so when I don’t do that I tend to feel pretty gosh darn horrible. It’s a part of the combo that makes me pull off this 24-7 mental health magic trick and when it’s missing, the shit is not cute. But if we’re really gonna sip some coffee and tell the truth, me not taking care of myself mentally is actually a tad uglier than all of this.

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The other night after a long day of something tedious and moving related, the husband and I went to dinner. He doesn’t have the specialness of alcoholism that I do so he sometimes orders a beer or a cocktail at dinner. It isn’t a big deal. I certainly don’t obsess about drinking or freak out when he has a drink so it’s not a thing between us. Yet when he ordered whatever alcoholic beverage it was at dinner, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think to myself, “Oh! I should order one of those too!” Luckily, that thought was immediately followed up with another thought of “Yeah because that’d work out real well.” But nevertheless it happened. Oh and it happened a few days prior to that as I watched him and coworker drink wine at a farewell thing we attended. Look, these thoughts aren’t pretty and having them immediately disqualifies me as some sobriety guru I’m sure. Darn it. You would assume that after 8 years I would never, ever think about drinking. But in my case you’d be wrong. The truth? I drank and used drugs for a long ass time so I’m just going to have occasional fantasies about it. The important thing is that they pass and not turn into plans I want to materialize. Also, now I tell on myself and have a little list of things I can do to make myself feel more human and less like a snippy weirdo who wants to start a fight about the thingy that holds the change.  The flip side is when I don’t do these things, there’s a possibility that the passing thought actually becomes a reality and that’s just something I don’t want to risk.

So what’s actually new? Nearly everything externally  is new which I have to say is exciting. I feel like a kid again and I’m ready to explore and be inspired in a different town.  But absolutely nothing internally and that’s really okay because I love me, snippiness, random thoughts of drinking and weirdness included.

 

all I need to know

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*Insert a profound quote about knowledge here.

I turned 44 years-old last week which is not remarkable in and of itself. In fact, it’s only remarkable because I no longer make my birthday an over the top 3 day long mandatory hostage situation from hell. Thankfully, this year it quietly passed like a well-dressed stranger who walks by me in a hall and whispers, “You’re old.” But I was thinking about all of the wisdom I’ve gained in my 44 years and all of the amazing tidbits I could pass on to younger folks. After all, I’m a chatty muthafucker. Certainly, I can come up with a couple thousand words of priceless advice gained in my four decades on this planet? Uh. Yeah. Turns out, I couldn’t really come up with anything.

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The more I’m around (which is a weird saying like the earth is a coffee shop that I’ve just been hanging out at for forty plus years– wait. Maybe it is?!?) the more I realize I don’t know anything. Not like anything “anything” like my brain has been wiped clean of all vital information. I still know the important stuff: my name, my address, my mother’s maiden name, all the original Charlie’s Angels chronological by appearance. But treasure troves of amassed wisdom collected through the years and just waiting to be doled out? Like I said I got nothing. Maybe I’m not wired in the “have life experiences and turn them into priceless chestnuts of knowledge” kind of way. Admittedly, the whole Life’s Little Instruction book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Advice from Kindly Old White People isn’t really my style. I’m more of the “OMG. Something horrible happened that I probably caused but now it’s fucking hysterical and here’s why” kind of person. Besides, I actually think being in a place of “I Don’t Know” is a kind of a great thing.

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Like take this very moment in my life, for example. As I’ve mentioned, things have happened in my husband’s career that have us moving to Portland, Oregon. It’s a move I’m excited about and one with crazy timing right after my grandmother dying and a host of other weird cosmic shit that I could never come up with on my own (more from the I Don’t Know file) We were going to move in the spring. Then the location was fast tracked and we were told we were moving in January. I did all the stuff–told the day job, started collecting boxes, slowly saying goodbye to my beloved recovery family. A relocation of our lives right after the holidays while working a ton was going to be hard but I rolled up my sparkly sleeves and got busy. This was all moving along swimmingly until Thursday. Thursday afternoon we got news the move was now postponed again until March. Ugh. Intellectually, I know all of this is actually fine and I know the timing isn’t up to me and etcetera etcetera. But the I’m currently in a place of I have no clue what I’m doing or what’s going on. And this is okay.

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Not knowing the future. Not knowing when I’m moving. Not knowing the exact moves of my career and how everything will shake down until the day I die sounds a lot like faith or trusting the universe or whatever you need to call it so your spiritual panties don’t get all twisted up. Sure, if I want stuff and have goals I need to do the work. I have to show up and do a series of things (go to meetings, make phone calls, send emails I don’t want to send and ask over and over again for what I want) to help me get there. But things like how or what or when? Honeychild, that shit is not up to me.

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Getting into this glorious place of I Have No Damn Idea is actually pretty freeing. Without having my stomach twisted in knots about controlling things I can’t change (gee, I wonder where I came up with that idea?), I’m now free to focus on what I do know. What I do know is that it’s the holidays and I might as well enjoy them. I’m gonna bake and go to a holiday party and even host one of my own. I know that I’m getting paid to write a lot lately so I’ll do more that for sure. I know that I love the guy I married five years ago so I’ll hang out with him and our insane feline children as much as possible. I know there’s a ton of fantastic movies out right now so I’ll watch as many of those as I can. I know that moving and my career and even the insanely depressing political climate will all work out. Perhaps maybe not in the way I want it to or when I want it to but it’ll all come together.

Until then, I also know that there isn’t anything that a duet with Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville in a denim vest can’t fix.

The Waiting Game

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If you have an aversion to waiting for things, please avoid in living in large cities like Los Angeles. In my 15 years in that town, I’d guess that approximately 1/3 of that time was spent waiting for something. Waiting in line at the grocery stores. Waiting in traffic. Waiting tables. Waiting for opportunities.Waiting to get into clubs. Waiting to get into movies. Waiting for drinks. Waiting for drugs. Waiting for pain to end. Waiting to get my shit together. Therefore, the longer I lived there and the more my shit did come together, the better I got at waiting for stuff. Most of it was out of my control anyway so short of figuring out how to bend the time and space continuum, I had to become better at waiting. Sobriety has helped with that too. At 11 months of sobriety, I remember crying at a meeting and wondering why I didn’t feel better. To which a friend of mine replied,”That’s why they call it slow-briety, honey. Takes forever to not feel terrible.” I thought,”Well, now you tell me.” For an instant gratification junkie like myself, the idea of having to wait to feel better was fucking torture. Yet what choice did I have? So I waited for bad feelings to pass and they eventually did. Much to my disappointment, the good feelings passed too. However, I realized that waiting, as long as I was living my life and trying to grow, wasn’t so horrible. It’s a good thing my outlook on waiting is so darn healthy too because the last several months of my life have been filled with a whole lotta waiting.

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To illustrate the length and breadth of the waiting in question, let’s go back to the spring, shall we? A magical time before the surface of the Earth turned into a truck stop griddle and when afternoon rainstorms were an actual reality and not something people were desperately dancing for. It was during this season of rebirth that we, my husband and I, got news of a potential relocation to Portland, Oregon. The hubs works for one of those glamorous furniture companies with the drool worthy catalogues and said company was opening a new location. We were curious. Listen, we’ve got a good thing going here in Denver. An adorable house, walking distance to both of our workplaces, my grandmother up the street and my favorite meetings around the corner. Life is good. But we are also in a fortunate place that with no kids, no crazy mortgages or car payments we can sort of do whatever we want. And we are always down to mix things up. So with that spirit in mind, we visited in April. We, of course, loved Portland and decided to go for it. Now, if impatient drug addict me had his way, this is where the story would end and we would have gotten what we wanted and moved months ago. The universe, as it has been known to do, had other plans.

20th July 1946: Queues forming outside a bakery in Streatham High Street, London, on the last day before bread rationing is introduced. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

See, what I didn’t take into account was slow-moving construction, permits, HR manuevers and endless starts and stops. Honestly?I was fine. Like I said, my little is pretty great so if it stays the same, fantastic. If not, that’s cool too. Plus, I wasn’t moving to fix things or to run away from stuff like I had in the past. It sounded like a fun adventure and that was enough. Seeing as I can write and stay sober anywhere on the planet, I’m lucky to be flexible. It’s been harder on my husband. He’s been in professional limbo and had to endure a series of mini interviews and endless hours of workplace chatter. He’s vacillated back and forth from really excited to “Fuck this. I’m over it.” The holding pattern has taken its toll. It’s hard to retain excitement for something when months have dragged on. But, eventually, we both surrendered to the all-powerful force that is waiting.

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Suffice to say, spring ended, summer burned on and now with fall around the corner, the move is back on the table and– there’s more waiting. But just a few weeks. By early October, we will know either way. The amazing thing that has transpired during this long waiting period (which will turn out to be close to a year when all is said and done) is life. Life doesn’t wait. Halfway through our waiting, we looked at each other and decided that we might as well enjoy everything, regardless of the outcome down the road. This has turned out to be a good strategy. In this time, my beloved 18 year-old niece has graduated high school and is now attending college in Manhattan. We’ve had several trips and will also go to Mexico and LA before the year is out. We’ve also seen plays, films, friends and much more of that on the books too. I’ve done lots of writing and collaborated on cool projects with even more on the horizon. I’ve also dove back into some difficult but rewarding personal work in recovery which has pretty much adjusted my entire attitude while stripping down my old ways of thinking.

So I guess the end of this story is not very satisfying, given the fact that I am still waiting. But maybe it’s not the end that’s important. Maybe what matters is what happens while I’m waiting.