my terms & conditions have changed

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On behalf of alcoholics and drug addicts everywhere, I’d like to confirm that we are worse at change than you are. Sure, you might be complaining endlessly about the new Twitter update but some of us are ready to start rioting in the streets over it. Just so you know, we will always win at The Who Sucks At Change More Olympics because we are, after all, a curious creature who can sit in his or her own filth and get high as their world collapses around them and hotly refuse to make a change. We don’t need that meme of the little dog in the hat surrounded by flames– we live that meme, dawg. So it’s even more hilarious that when we get sober, after we have literally changed every thing about us in order to survive, that we still resist and recoil to change.

This morning, my sober friends and I all acted like Twitter was our husband who’d suddenly gotten a facelift and revealed that he’d been sleeping with Sharon Stone. It was a betrayal and one perpetrated by an inanimate object. Insane but that’s how we roll. I panicked then I remembered I hate when anything changes. I mean, I’m still not over Paula Abdul leaving American Idol. I figured I’d eventually be able to get move past it as my Twitter addiction might possibly be stronger than my resistance to change. And after my twentieth morning tweet, my little tech-soaked, oatmeal brain was already used to the new Twitter and we were all upset about something else. It did get me thinking, though. Maybe I have gotten better at change and maybe there are times that I even like it. After all, I’ve certainly changed and not all of those changes gel with the world at large.

At the grand age of 44 (and it is a grand age, lemme tell ya. The new wrinkles, the unexpected gas, the tiredness– all grand!) what I like, tolerate and put up with have all changed. For example, I am going out tomorrow evening after 10pm(!!!) and I am already planning when we’ll leave. Not that I don’t want to have a good time and not that I’m not excited but like I said I’m in my forties and I know having an escape plan is the way to go. This change seems minor but considering I used to not leave my house until 11pm, it’s kind of a big deal. Other superficial changes include rationing out the time I spend annually around big crowds of people and/or waiting in huge lines, not chasing down people to spend time with me and no longer feigning interest in things that quiet frankly aren’t at all interesting. Likewise, I no longer hang out with dramatic people (other than myself), abusive people or untreated crazy people. I am already tired all of the time and these people make me even more so. On a deeper level, some changes have already happened and they all start with my own thinking.

As some of you guys know, I’ve been working freelance as a copywriter and content creator for the last 7 years. It’s a lot of hustle but it is creative and allows me to do what I love. Plus, it’s been good exercise for me as a writer and lets me set my own schedule. However, lately, this part of my writing as a business isn’t thrilling to me and not only that it’s been hard to drum up new work. Don’t think the correlation of these two things is lost on me. I had like 3 rejections in a row in the past week, to places I didn’t even want to write for, that shifted my thinking. It was a lightening bolt: maybe I wasn’t booking these gigs because I didn’t actually want them. More than that maybe I needed to be spending my writing time on something else: my book!

My book, my book, my book. Oh my book. I’ve had this idea for years that many of the essays here and from urtheinspiration need to become a book. Yet it wasn’t a book I wanted to write at three years sober nor one I even wanted to write last year. Intuitively, I felt like I needed my experiences and time to direct it to its best self. Well, I can now say I’m ready. And getting here was a huge relief. I plan on working my side gigs, blogging and working my butt off on my book all summer and letting the universe handle the rest. This seemingly minor change in thought blew my head open. Like the decision some eight-plus years ago to get sober, just making it changed my outlook and perspective. What’s funny is that once I made this decision, gigs from people I love to collaborate with suddenly showed up. There are no mistakes, chickens.

All of my changes, unlike a social media site that is firmly in the category of the “things I cannot change” are part of something bigger, something scary, something called growth. Growth. Talk about the biggest change of all. As I grow up in sobriety, what I want and who I am grows up too. I mean hopefully. That is the actual goal of recovery, as far as I can tell. Keep changing or rot and stay the same. Some of this growth is painful and a lot of it I resist. Still. But at least now I know that I’ll fight it, then embrace it and even grow to love it, only to be met with even more change down the road. I also know that until I’m actually ready to change, I won’t and in the meantime there’s always Twitter to bitch about.

 

God probably sounds a lot like Mavis Staples

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Whatever you believe in that happens to be bigger yourself, that happens to be something you can’t explain, that thing that I just call God, because even though I am about as non-secular as you can get, I am also lazy and God is easy. That that thing, God, shows up in the most unlikeliest of places. Like a Rolling Stone article about a recently released live track from 2014 where the Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples cover a Talking Heads song. The song, which may be proof of a higher power in and of itself, opened a whole can of worms for me. Mainly, the undeniable miracle that is Mavis Staples.

The same article linked to the above disco gospel ballad by Arcade Fire and Staples released in January as a protest song which benefited the ACLU. As I listened to the lo-fi electro beat and the lyrics, which talk clearly about giving power and then taking it away I thought, “Of course, Mavis Staples would be here for us now.”After all, here’s a woman, who alongside her family, provided the soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement.Angry, teary eyed and yet somehow relieved, the song knocked me out.  Not one to slow down, Mama Mavis was also just featured on a brand new Gorillaz track. The song is another one with a powerful message made even more so when delivered by that incredible voice.

I have to be honest. Hearing these two songs back-to-back was incredibly emotional. Not only was I reminded of the fucked up times we live in but I was comforted by knowing that if there’s any hope Mavis will be around to help carry us through all of it. Raw, powerful and honest both songs pack a punch and one I didn’t expect just hanging out drinking coffee at my kitchen table. Speaking of things divine, the timing of my musical Mavis binge was certainly other worldly. I was planning on watching the documentary on her life Mavis! directed by Jessica Edwards, currently airing on HBONow, later that afternoon.

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The documentary, which was filmed in 2014 and made the rounds at festivals the following year before winding up on HBO, couldn’t be any more timely. While I am definitely not that annoying person who tells people they will or won’t feel a certain emotion when watching a film, I will say it wouldn’t be the worst idea ever to have a box of tissues nearby when viewing Mavis! Nearly 20 days of personal blogging has left me a emotional mess so my weepiness at the film could be considered suspicious however you’d have to be a Nazi Cyborg to not be moved by Mavis Staples and her incredible message.

For starters, the film profiles Mavis and Staples Singers incredible rise to fame as gospel singers who wound up singing songs of hope and message for the Civil Rights movement. The band’s personal connection with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is incredibly powerful. Pops Staples was inspired by King’s message and wanted to make music that did the same thing. Coming from Chicago, Mavis and her clan were shocked while touring the South to see the hideous racism and injustice happening to black people. And as Mavis herself notes, the struggle is sadly alive and well today and she’s vowed to keep singing about until, “Dr. King’s dream comes true.”

Staples’ list of collaborators and famous fans reads like a who’s who of rock and roll history. Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Mayfield and recent collaborator Jeff Tweedy are all mentioned or interviewed in the film but the dishiest celebrity dirt comes from Bob Dylan. Dylan, a huge fan of the group, apparently at one point asked Staples to marry him! She reaches ninja-levels of cuteness when talking about their flirtation which “may have included some kissing.”

Yet the tissues came in handy when the film showed footage of Staples working with Prince. The two made a record together that never saw the light of day, sadly, due to his all out war with Warner Brothers Records. As Staples describes Princes genius, we are treated to shots of the pair working in the studio together. While sobbing, I was reminded that nearly a year later, I’m still fucked up about that one.

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Near the end of the film, Staples and Tweedy listen to a newly restored recording of a song by her father from an album he never got to complete before he died. By this time, I was just a full-fledged tear waterfall and embraced my crying fest. It’s a beautiful moment and one Staples herself is touched by too. And of course she is because like all shining divine beings, she’s also incredibly truthful and human.

And that’s the thing about her voice. Far from the smooth voice of  an angel, Mavis gets a little rough and raspy. At times, she looks as if she’s exorcising some demons in the clips of live performances featured in the film. Mentioned more than once in the film, is her desire to keep telling the truth and to keep spreading a message and I’m convinced that’s what gives her voice that edge.

That’s why I’m pretty sure whatever my non-secular unicorn glitter god is it probably sounds like Mavis Staples. Raw, real, not always pretty but comforting to the depths of your soul. Yeah If God sounds like that than hallelujah. Plus with a career pushing past the six decade point, Staples certainly seems eternal. At the end of the film, the artist herself even hints at her own angelic future. “If you don’t see me singing here, look for me in heaven,” she says. “I’ll be walking those streets of gold and singing around God’s throne.”

newcomerish

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It was an epic showdown between two individuals and I saw it all go down.

These two sets of eyes, one to my right, the other directly in front on me, casually met at first. Then something switched, like they realized what the other one was made of. Before you knew it, both opponents were giving each other the stare down. Each of them transfixed by the other and me and the people next to me were soon invested in this showdown too. This eye-lock for the ages last a few moments until the staring ninja in front of me let out a loud giggle. Or was it a coo? Whatever you’d call it, it was one of those sounds so brain explodingly cute that it could only come from a baby. His opponent, an 11-year-old female corgi, apparently loved it too and wagged her tail wildly. In response, myself and the man seated next to me both made our own unique noise that was something between a laugh and an “awww” sound. This Olympics of Adorableness happened yesterday. At an AA meeting.

If you wait long enough, everything comes around again. Or at least this is what I have been told by countless sentimental movies, thoughtful commercials and wise folks. While I would like to think that every experience I have is unique and one of a kind, it’s hard to not feel like a lot of my current existence isn’t mirroring the past. For example, when the husband and I started dating seven years ago, we lived in different cities. We are currently doing that once again for the next six weeks. Likewise, we lived in a near empty apartment while we waited for furniture some four years ago and  here we are once again doing the same thing yet this time in Portland. But the biggest redo from the past is starting over again with my recovery.

While I didn’t relapse, moving to a new town in recovery means basically starting from scratch. Having gotten sober in Los Angeles and then moving to Denver at 2 years sober, I’m familiar with what it takes to submerge oneself. And it’s a whole lot of work. I sigh just typing those words because I am inherently entitled, self-obsessed and lazy. Therefore, “doing the work” of recovery isn’t always my favorite. Like it’s fine and I know it’s necessary but really can’t I have someone do it for me? Isn’t there a temp agency I can call, a hologram I can use or a pill I can take that will have the same effect? Since the answers to those questions are an emphatic no, no and hell no, I realize that I have to just throw myself in. I have to go to many as meetings as possible. I have to talk to other people who have what I have. I have to show up. In my early days of recovery back in 2009, there were some meetings where I’d just listen and I need to do that now, in a new town. And that’s how I wound up witnessing Baby Versus Corgi staring contest yesterday.

I went just to get out of my head, a crazy place I’ve hung out in entirely too much lately. I don’t seek from meetings anymore. I don’t go to judge or to get anything. I go because I need a reminder of what I have and need to see miraculous transformations in person. Watching people turning into butterflies is the most amazing thing about 12 step meetings. Hang around long enough and you’ll see people on death’s door suddenly become someone beautiful, happy and productive. What can say? I love Cinderella and I’m a sucker for makeovers. I am lucky to have seen it several times in others and even in myself. Sure, sure, sure there’s a lot of a stuff to bitch about with meetings. While the internet has about 600 billion posts doing as much, I’m not really in that game anymore. Bitching and whining instead of actually evolving is so 2008. I currently go to meetings save my own life and watch others do the same and that’s about it. So every so often you get treated to something extra at a meeting and yesterday it was this corgi/baby lovefest.

Watching those two was like a living, breathing meditation. So sweet, funny, real and genuine, the interaction universally confirmed that the world is amazing and I have a lot to be thankful for. Their Disney movie interaction was a stunning contrast to what the poor adult humans in the room were sharing. On a seemingly average Wednesday, so many open hearts shared about relapsing over the weekend, about wanting to drink, about not wanting to live. Each person who shared needed to open their mouths and by doing so helped everybody else in the room, myself included. By choosing to shut up (for once) instead of sharing about my cats, I opened my heart too. I felt connected to a room of people in a new town but who were now anything but strangers.

under attack

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As I perused a website that makes my corneas burn but I can’t make myself quit (I’ll give you one guess. It rhymes with SchmaceSchmook.) I rolled my eyes when I read  “___________* Attacks GOP For Healthcare Failure.” My first thought was “Girl, please.” Like is everything now an attack now? I mean a white tiger leaving Roy(of Siegfried and, natch) partially paralyzed is a muthafucking attack. Somebody blowing up a hotel? Also an attack. Gay bashings, robberies, sexual assaults? All incredibly awful and all attacks.

But some maybe-billionaire with hair that looks like cigarette-flavored cotton candy whining about not getting his way? Not an attack. Not even close. Yet it appears it’s not just Herr Hairball who claims that he’s being attacked. Somewhere along the way, we wound up in an era of easy victims who are now attacked by everyone and everything.

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I know I’ve certainly fell victim to, well, feeling like a victim. The “poor me, poor me, pour me a drink” cliché of alcoholics is a fucking cliche for a reason. Despite usually being the biggest assholes in the room we alcoholics have a sorceress like ability when it comes to still feeling like the victims sometimes even make others believe that too. As I was watching the latest episode of Girls and witnessing sad, sad, skinny, little Marnie get her ass handed to her yet again by the universe, a light came on. That character, that one the makes you want to throw your remote at the screen is so frustrating to me because I’ve been her. Like repeatedly and for years. Now, I’m not saying “We’re all Marnie.” Bitch, I don’t know your life. But I certainly identify. Every time something goes awry for Marnie, it’s somebody else’s fault. Kind sounds eerily like how I lived my life forever. If it was a “tough” childhood or “bad” relationships or “mean” bosses or “competitive” people who were always ruining Sean’s life than Sean would never, ever have to say, “Sorry. I suck.” It was a foolproof plan, well until it wasn’t. But it did work for a while. For example, I once drunkenly unleashed a hateful text storm on a friend and was somehow able to spin it that I was justified for doing so because this person deserved it and because I felt attacked. The crazier part was I was able to get people to side with me and co-sign my terrible behavior! Like I said, magic. Luckily for me, this charade only had a two decade shelf life and if I wanted to get and stay sober, I had to drop the perpetually attacked routine.

faf74108c8c1ede332001ae0e2c02b3eAlas, shedding the victim act wasn’t an overnight thing. I mean after you’ve played Edith Crawley in your brain’s production of Downton Abbey for several years, it takes a some time to slide into another role. Even recently (this week) I was feeling very run over, very attacked by circumstance. There was a temporary landslide of boring ass life things that werent going my way. It was all shit I had zero control over and none of it was life or death. But to my victim mind none of that mattered. My default is, “Everything sucks and world is out to get me.” I call this Jill Abbotting. Jill Abbott, for the uninitiated, is a the longtime resident bitch-in-chief on The Young & the Restless. Since the 80’s, Jill has perpetually found a way to be pretty awful and do terrible things like sleep with her stepson and have her nemesis kidnapped yet still act like a victim of circumstance. It’s always the world’s fault. Unlike Marnie, however Jill knows she’s being an asshole and DGAF. Jill–>Lady Edith–>Marnie. Maybe the interpretation of this character gets watered down or less self-aware over time. I know. Girls, Downtown Abbey and a daytime diva. This post is pretty damn gay and we haven’t even gotten to the ABBA yet. But I digress. The point is I was slipping into that mindset and it started to feel shitty.AttackFromSpace_Poster

Which brings us back to that guy from the beginning of the post. I guess I should be grateful to him. I mean he’s like a four-year long writing prompt but to be honest I’d rather write about baked goods or Marc Chagall paintings. Nevertheless, his ridiculousness served as a gateway for me pulling my headed out of my ass. Remind me to send him a fruit basket to thank him. Or not. But that’s the gift of this whole living a life of accountability thing: I get to laugh at my self-imposed victimhood. More than that, maybe I can even have compassion for others who are actually struggling.

As I write this in my cozy apartment with my sleepy cats, someone in my life is dying as a result of alcoholism. This beautiful being never deserved to go out like this. This spitfire and life of the party shouldn’t be dying right now. And really shouldn’t be dying as a victim of something she could have overcome if only she had an inkling that she deserved better. However, now at this late in the game, the writing is on the wall and her time on this planet is limited. Talk about a real tragedy. Yet as much of a heartbreaking story as hers is it’s also a call for me to drop the victim bullshit. It’s a call to not feel attacked(especially by consequences of my own actions), to be grateful for the life I have in this moment and to laugh and sing along to ABBA, even if my inner drama queen wants to tell me otherwise.

*The blank space is used where his name should appear as I’ve taken a vow not to type his name on the sacred sparkly space of these pages. xo-S.

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.

 

A New Gratitude

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You are really concerned about Thanksgiving. I’ve seen your dozens of posts about its racism, pilgrims and gluttony. These are all really important discussions. Likewise, I find all of the seasonal slideshows about stuffing, pie and potatoes to be equally important. Your thoughts on this holiday are valid but without sounding like a dick: if these are your only thoughts on Thanksgiving, you are doing it wrong. The delicious filling on the inside of this turkey-football-inception-puzzle-holiday is gratitude. Sorry ’bout it Hokey Pokey, but gratitude is what it’s actually all about. By all means, groan at this very word and whilst you do so, listen to Ms. Patti LaBelle. Please enjoy the hats and earrings.

See, I told you. Everything goes down better with shoulder pads and drum machines. Even concepts like gratitude. Look, I get it: the idea feels beaten to death. Rightfully so, as our culture currently offers a warped and syrupy expression of gratitude. There’s 6,001 inspirational gratitude memes (none of which I will post because I love you). There’s an underdeveloped but widely spread idea that if you’re just grateful for what you have a magical gift basket of your heart’s desires will show up on your doorstep. And how could we forget the tweets using #grateful for the most annoying superficial things? Yet if we clear away all of the lame ass Pinterest sentiment, gratitude is actually some badass shit. Turns out, science agrees with me too.

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The Greater Good Center at Berkeley is filled with neuroscientists, sociologists and psychologists who’ve “launched a $3 million research initiative to expand the scientific understanding of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of health and well-being, developmental science, and social contexts.” Clearly, this group of smarties thinks gratitude is something worth investing in. So far, the research is already paying off. According to the website:

They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
Higher levels of positive emotions;
More joy, optimism, and happiness;
Acting with more generosity and compassion;
Feeling less lonely and isolated.

Tal Ben-Sharar, who taught Harvard’s most popular course on happiness agrees too. One of his six keys to happiness is to, “Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.” In fact, it was his book Happier which I stumbled on back in 2010 while housesitting, that blew my brain open and catapulted me into my own gratitude practice.

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When I was drinking, I remember watching a mid-2000’s episode of Oprah (which were the best in the craziest way possible. I could write 2,500 words on the Hermes episode alone) where she said she always wrote down 5 things she was grateful for before bed. It sounded like a brilliant idea and I probably even told people I started doing it too. But the reality was Oprah was a billionaire with lots of things to be grateful for and I was a drunken coke whore who was waiting tables. Coming up with 5 things back then was certainly a challenge. Still, it stuck in my brain so when Happier fell into my lap, I started making a daily list.

Keep in mind, I’m an addict so even my  early gratitude lists were excessive. 25 things every day along with 30 minutes of meditation. Apparently, I was trying to win some Best In Spirituality ribbon. However, binging on gratitude and meditation wasn’t exactly sustainable. Luckily, the practice morphed. First, a sponsee and I started texting our gratitude lists. Soon, my sponsor and I started sharing our gratitude lists in a private thread on Facebook. It was whittled down to five things. They were written with intention and I did it every single day for years even after I moved away from my sobriety family in Los Angeles to Denver. The list and ritual with it soon moved onto the people I’ve sponsored. And lo and behold, it’s been a daily part of my life for nearly 7 years. It’s the closest thing I have to a religion, if I’m totally honest.

Listen, I really don’t know how or why gratitude works. It’s magic and that’s kind of what my whole God spiritual life thing is based on. I don’t have any specific religious God defined. I just think the magic of the universe and all things I can’t explain fall under the God umbrella and it works for me. I do know that whatever bullshit I’m grappling with seems pretty incidental when I’m able to write down a few things that made my day easier or put a smile on my face. Sometimes, just horrible days being over is something to be grateful for. Gratitude has even managed to carry me through hard times. When I’ve struggled, muscling through and finding something, anything to be grateful my outlook transforms. Anger, sadness, depression all have been loosened when I focus on what’s amazing in my life and let go. Ditto with poor health. I’m no Berkeley grad but based on my last doctor’s visit, I can tell you my blood pressure is low and I feel pretty fantastic so I gotta believe gratitude (along with some decent choices) has certainly helped. Therefore, I guess it’s only natural like as gratitude has changed me, my idea of gratitude has recently changed too.

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As I was getting ready to write this, I was listening to Alanis, as one does in sorts of research situations. My current idea of gratitude was right there as sung by a 90’s Canadian songstress:

Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

That was it! When I started this practice it was all about just the sunny, wonderful things that made my life better. Yet as I listened to this song I realized, it ain’t really just about that anymore. Today, I am also grateful for the fucked up stuff too. I’m grateful for loss, for moments of darkness and yes even for situations that feel horrible and utterly hopeless. Like homegirl said, terror, frailty, disillusionment– all of it. Crazy but it’s the honest to god’s truth because I know that the healing and wisdom gained from hard times is immeasurable and something to be thankful for. Sure, I’d like that daily list to always be filled with rainbows and life-changing pieces of chocolate cake but being grateful for heartache and sadness is even more powerful.

Thus tomorrow, on Thanksgiving day, I’ll write my gratitude list as always. It’s not lost on me that I’m lucky to even be alive and celebrating Thanksgiving so that will certainly cross my mind. As will the people I’m grateful to have known who aren’t here this year. Not being drunk on holidays always makes the list. Then the list will move onto lovely things like hugs, my cats and mashed potatoes. But by taking 3 minutes to realize that everything doesn’t suck, the holiday becomes something incredibly special to me.

And then if I’m really lucky, I get to wake up on Friday and write a new list all over again.

hit bottom & be alright

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Today you will eat breakfast and go to work. You will come home and eat dinner. Tomorrow you will most likely do the same. And, spoiler alert, on Wednesday you will do it all yet again. Despite the promise of having to dodge fireballs or climb out of wrecked buildings which spontaneously collapsed due to the results of the election, you will be okay and your life will continue. Which I suppose is somewhat disappointing. It’s like if the asteroid in that Bruce Willis movie had gotten bored, decided that hitting Earth was stupid and took a nap instead. We’ve all been sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the worst to come for so long that it’ll feel like a bummer if it doesn’t happen. But the fact of the matter is that despite our,what the genius Sandra Bernhard once called, “post-apocalyptic fantasies”, we are emotional cockroaches and capable of surviving. Besides, it’s just an election, girl. Chill the fuck out.

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“I’m just really nervous,” is what I’ve heard about half a dozen coworkers say about this election. And I get it. There’s a lot at stake and blah blah blah. But,for me,it helps to have some perspective. When I hit rock bottom eight years ago in this exact month, it was during another highly charged election. That election, which coincided with the financial world also hitting rock bottom, felt like the end of the world. I was in California at the time so not only was there a presidential election at stake but a hateful proposition banning gay marriage.Compounded by watching the chattering parrot from hell that was Sarah Palin on television and tuning into CNN daily to see how terrible everything was, I too was really nervous. I soothed those nerves with tequila, cocaine and beer and whatever else I could find. The world felt incredibly bleak. Sure, dousing my life in booze wasn’t exactly helping matters but I was on edge to say the least. Well, other than Obama winning the worst case scenario did actually happen in that state. Prop 8. passed. Nearly two months later I got evicted from my apartment. Soon after that, I ended a longterm relationship and got sober. The start of 2009 was a turdfest of terrible events all set in motion by that November. It was a dark period, honey child. Like Sylvia Plath fucking dark. Like turn on some depressing music dark. Like Dickens orphan dark. Oh and it kinda stayed that way too. I didn’t stop drinking and change my whole life to suddenly wake up in a musical number. The contrary. Things got even harder. But I survived and I was alright.

My story is not uncommon among sober people. For those of us who’ve battled drugs and alcohol surviving is kind of what we do. Coming out on the other side of near life destroying events is our thing, dawg. It would be our talent in the Miss America pageant. During this non-stop WTF-fest of an election, sober pals and I have laughed a lot. The idea that maybe this country just needs to hit bottom, admit it has a problem and then get help has been tossed around more than once. It’s a funny analogy and certainly one we’re familiar with. But it isn’t the craziest thought ever. After all, everything being really, really jaw-droppingly bad and having to start from scratch worked for us so why couldn’t it work for a whole country? Hungary, Greece, Egypt all have hit bottom. England seems like it hit bottom but could have a few relapses in them before they get better. France’s rock bottom looks like it’s around the corner. The point is, everything crashing and all of the shit hitting the fan at once is a good thing. If that’s our collective path then I say okay. Bring it on. After all, acting like unhealthy, toxic and unsustainable ways of living are just fine and dandy sure sounds a lot like how I used to live as an addict. Might as well embrace the shittiness and work hard to get better.

Yet there’s another option. Maybe you’ll wake up on Wednesday morning and everything will be okay. Because if you’re able to eat, if you have people in your life who love you and have a roof over your head everything is pretty okay right now so why wouldn’t this fabulous okayness continue? There’s no reason. This existence that you’ve carved out where things are pretty damn great, thank you very much, won’t be shook by a person with a job in a house that happens to be white. This is the truth. I said this to my 20-something co-worker, who enjoys being right almost as much as he enjoys his Vape pen, and he responded, “Yeah but what if…” followed by a chain of world events that could happen but won’t exactly happen right now or on Wednesday morning or even by the end of the year. Basically, we are okay and will be okay even if the world isn’t.

With a little emotional intelligence, gratitude and unexplained magical protection from the universe, I’m gonna be okay. I know this because my doom and gloom mind which regularly says, “This time you’re really fucked!” is proved wrong on a daily basis. My cats, my husband, my family are all gonna be alright too. We’ll all get up on Wedensday and eat breakfast and go about our days and come home and eat dinner. It’ll all keep going, in the beautifully boring, free of fireball way that it always has. I’m going to be alright and you are too. In fact, we already are.

 

 

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.