Light Me Up

Fire!

Once upon a time, I was a pyromaniac.

Like most small children, my cousins and I loved us some camp fires. And, it’s true, our “camp site” may have been mere feet from my house — but, under the canopy of trees, amidst all the night-time noises, wielding our sticks topped with blackened marshmallows like weapons, eyes ablaze with the reds and oranges of the camp fire — it didn’t matter. We were rebels, living off the land. (Even if we did walk back to the house in pairs to pee in the middle of the night.)

Before dusk fell over “camp,” the adults would send the kids off to collect kindling for the fire. We’d all return to the pit with fat branches and heavy logs, eager to light up our inferno. My dad would explain that kindling is the small stuff: Twigs. Dry leaves. Little, crackly branches. The small stuff. That’s what gets the fire going.

I imagine it’s difficult to explain to a child that the little things make the big things happen. I mean, fuck, it’s a hard sell for most adults. Even today, when I throw my giant, proverbial logs onto the fire with fervor, the flames burn low.

As I gear up for a trip to my childhood summer home, I find myself thinking about all the lessons I learned as a kid. How do we get back there? How do we relearn what we completely missed while we were too busy having fun? My skin still itches for that childlike freedom to run, escape, rule, revel, save, and sleep…for days.

I want my life to be this big-ass, rip-roaring fire. Yet, here I am, stumbling with the big logs, when it’s become apparent — I need kindling — and lots of it.

While today’s twigs and leaves are a far cry from the ones I found pawing around in the dirt, it is still life’s simple, even childish, pleasures I covet. Sleeping in til’ 10AM. Hugging my cat after a good cry. Banana ice cream — for breakfast. Aimless walks. Reading library books in the bath tub. Two-hour phone conversations with my cousin (and fellow-former-pyro). Gardening on the stoop in my ugly jeans. This. My writing.

It’s uncomplicated. It’s almost too easy. I think that’s how we miss it. Kindling may be the the simple stuff, but, it’s scattered. It hides on the forest floor, so, you gotta get on your knees. You have to forage. You have to make sure it’s good ‘n’ combustible. Because, once you’ve laid the foundation, twig-by-twig, all you need is the match. That crack-then-hiss of sulfur and sand paper — BOOM — Fire.

I can still feel her, that little-girl-Sarah, ploughing through the woods. No fear. No hesitation. Her knees in the dirt. Her hands in the earth, gathering it all up. Every. last. dry. crackly. bit. Her uninhibited, childlike desperation was a gift I would not understand until it was long gone.

It occurs to me that I know her heart far better now than I ever did back then. I know things beyond her capacity. I’ve seen too much. Yet, I still understand her unapologetic, wild heart because — we share it.

We, the girl and the woman, are still in hot pursuit — Kindling. Matches. FIRE.

Light that shit up.

 

Stay saucy,

Sarah

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Meaning & Memory

Friday the 13th: I lost my sobriety ring.

FLASHBACK: The night I left my restaurant management job, before going to rehab, my co-workers threw me a party. And, it was one of the best parties ever. I got sloppy drunk, of course, but everyone knew — it was my last-hurrah. I felt so loved that night and I was genuinely hopeful. Amidst all my drinks and all my fun, I was secretly relieved to be so close to freedom.

onering<<<—— Sauced at my goodbye party!

The sous chef pulled me aside and handed me a gift. She was relatively new in the kitchen and I didn’t know her very well, so I was surprised by the gesture. I opened my little package at the bar, whilst sipping my cocktails. It was a thin, wiry, sterling silver ring. Simple. Small. Understated. There was a little note inside too — to the effect of: When you wear this ring, remember why you quit. It seemed so appropriate as I sat there, throwing back drinks, hugging my staff goodbye, letting go of my life as I knew it. Remember why you quit.

I wore the shit out of that ring. My first day sober, I put that thing on my thumb and there it stayed. I turned it around-and-around on my finger nervously in my first days of rehab and at 12-Step meetings. I popped it on and off during awkward moments that you only experience as a newly sober person. And, every time I looked at it, I remembered. I remembered sitting at my restaurant bar, wasted, wanting to be DONE.

When I realized my ring was missing Friday, I figured I’d forgotten to put it back on after my shower. But, it wasn’t in my little, glass, ring dish. Or on the floor. Or on my nightstand. Or by the kitchen sink. Gone.

I had this moment of panic. If my “sobriety” ring is gone…. Am I going to drink now?

A ring — something so inconsequential, however symbolic, had made me question my own ability to stay sober. That’s alcoholism. And, I have enough sobriety, at the moment anyway, to know that the thoughts, where I make it OK, reasonable even, to drink — are just a symptom. A symptom that dresses up the elephant in the room.

My Elephant: I lost something else this week too, not just the ring. It was big. Something I won’t find in-between the couch cushions next time I vacuum. And, sometimes, when I lose big things, I start assigning meaning to smaller things in an attempt to lighten my load. I let my little stuff take over my big stuff. I compartmentalize. I attempt to organize all the meaning. Then, overwhelmed by meaning — I give meaning to meaningless things.

image

Losing my ring was just a reminder: Honor your losses. Know, that some things have so much meaning, we’ll never actually make sense of them being gone. There is nothing that can replace this, so, don’t try. Let go, step into the void, stop looking. Just remember. Remember.

Today, I thumb the spot where my ring used to be. I remember what I had, and what it felt like when I had it. I acknowledge that, today, it’s gone.

Life can change as easily as a ring slips off a finger. It doesn’t mean anything. But, looking back, retracing my steps, remembering where I once stood —it means everything.

Stay saucy,

Sarah

New Sails

boats

I would like to note how absolutely crazy it is that just one, short week ago I was here, sitting pretty, writing about relief. My little pen, jauntily noting each grateful sigh. Breathe, I told you. Breathe!

Today, exactly one week later, I couldn’t be further from relieved. I take jagged little breaths that I hold, desperately, and tap my nails on my desk. And what’s worse, I’m a writer who’s unable to find the language for this. Even the right words won’t sufficiently express the twisted inside — the turning of my guts.

I’ll spare you the details of an already dramatic start to the Summer season, but I can’t won’t spare you the nuggets of wisdom that are about to get handed to me. Yes, the lessons are still flowing like fucking milk and honey over here.

I’ve noticed that I always come to some epic turning point when I try facing someone else’s adversity. I think– I’m going to fix this person, and, most of the time they end up fixing me. I go in with gusto. I try to help. I’m a helper! The thing is, while I’m helping, I will get in their way. I’ll get in my own way too. Thus, helping nothing and no one. But, I assure you, my intentions were good. It’s just the follow through. The follow through gets muddy.

Yeah, yeah, I know– ultimately, what’s good for you will be good for me. Yes, yes, All-Is-One, OM SHAKTI OM, and Namaste!  But seriously, here, in reality, where each emotion is its own Hiroshima, that’s a hard path to stay on. All this you and I. We and US…all this combining of stuff is too universal and complicated. It can’t be about US because then, well, what about meeeeeeee…

Why is it so difficult to step outside our comfort zones, our own realities, our STUFF? No matter how enlightened, spiritual, or positive you may be, no matter how many chakras you’ve got lit up, no matter how much happiness is coursing through your smiley-little-veins, no matter how nicely you’ve got your shit held together — it will all come undone. So, don’t be one of those people that allows yourself to think life’s a gravy train indefinitely. It’s more like a gravy boat and, eventually, you’ll have to dock, gas up, and clear out the poop deck.

This week my gravy boat has come a-crashin’ back to shore. Time to clear all the decks. Start again. Same boat, new sails. And despite ominous weather predictions, there is a strange beauty here, at the precipice of a new adventure, I’m able to stand with surety. Afraid. Alone. Undone. But, sure.

I’m not going down with the ship, because the ship isn’t going down.

That’s sobriety. Stepping into something and knowing the outcome, without really knowing the outcome. Some people will call it faith. Others will call it risky business. Some people call it trust. Some, stupidity. I call it bravery. And, I’m told, there is no better time to be brave than when you feel you are the world’s biggest coward.

So, I hoist the sails. I’m going to ride the tides until they throw me.

And, even then, I’m ready to swim.

 

Stay Saucy,

Sarah

 

 

Relief.

image

Relief is one of those charged words.

You have to know how to feel relief before you can say it. Its meaning is implicitly assigned.

Relief.

It’s letting go. It’s breathing. It’s getting home after a shitty day. It’s the TEXACO station in the middle of bumble-fuck Texas when your gas light’s been on for 35 miles. It’s a check in the mail. It’s hearing someone you care about is OK. It’s discovering you’re going to be OK. It’s a sigh. It’s pain — subsiding.

The thing about relief: It requires waiting.

We would never be rewarded with that moment where we let the air escape from our lungs, feel our muscles relax, and allow ourselves to breathe into the deepest part of our stomach if we didn’t have to suffer, even minimally, just waiting for it.

I have decided that relief is biology’s coerced version of gratitude. When we can’t be grateful mentally, our bodies tell us what we’re thankful for and we can literally feel it. The first time I realized that I was physically designed to feel gratitude I was, in fact, grateful for the ability to experience this phenomena. Sobriety enabled and allowed me this tool, I’m sure. Because, in my “blue period,” AKA stark-raving-wasted,  gratitude did not exist for anything or anyone other than the someone-next-to-me at the bar who offered to buy my next round.

For a long time, my relief was served in a rocks glass. The air that I allowed myself to breathe was filtered through my liver, not my lungs. Everything ended up drunk. Everything.

When we don’t listen to our body’s language, its warnings, its instructions…it stops talking. Consult over. It just starts wreaking havoc. And, in that case, much like a case of the insane, we start talking to ourselves. In tongues mostly. We then enlist a whole team of bottles to sort out what’s trapped in our skulls. My most hired translator: Jim Beam. Though, there were nights I preferred the roll of José Cuervo’s “R”s. — “RRRrrrrelief!”

These days, relief comes and goes. But, I feel it. My body knows itself again. A translator is no longer necessary to fully appreciate my own suffering and joy. I’ve come to realize that, in addition to signaling my own condition, relief notes my compassion. I feel, I breathe, I sigh for other people too; something for which Jim Beam has no words.

Like relief, sobriety has too many meanings. All thrown into another charged word that means so much more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s more than just being off the sauce. More than being right-minded. More than calm in the company of calamity. It’s hearing the alarms that you, yourself, have tripped. It’s seeing pain outside yourself that needs tending to, and then, attending to it. It’s the relief of administering aide for the first time, not because you have to, but because you are capable. The pure exhilaration, the inhale-exhale, the integrity that allows someone else’s relief to become your own. The connected, universal pain– subsiding.

Heed your body’s call –Breathe again. Sigh. Feel it all.

 

“RRRrrrrrelief!”  — No José required.

 

Stay saucy,

Sarah