Speed Bumps

Photo Jul 29, 7 24 00 PM

Go fast enough and something or someone will slow you down.

The past few months, I’ve found that detaching from my chaos comes with it’s own discomfort. Without mayhem to cling to, I find that I’m helplessly lost. I’m unaccustomed to ease. And, letting go of heartache is, in itself, a melancholy practice. My mind goes static. I forget why I’m here. I long for whiskey. So, seeking solace, I return to my war stories — reminders that ease is a gift, not a punishment.

A year before I got sober, I sat across from Kevin, a friend and fellow drunk. We passed a 1.5 liter bottle of shitty chardonnay back and forth. It was a wet, cold night. The wine was warm. I remember the black and yellow label, peeling up from the bottle at its edges. Kevin’s apartment felt eerie — haunted. The air was musty and stale. Every table, counter, and bookshelf was littered with wine bottles, beer cans, and children’s toys.

We sat there, without pretense, miserable in our cups. I mourned my failed relationship, and he, the collapse of his family. The sorrow was palpable.  There was nothing to say to each other. So, we drank.

When the wine was gone, we sulked out into the rain. We walked to a local bar that had Friday night karaoke and found a table with some fair-weather friends. We drank whiskey until we couldn’t see. I remember belting out Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” at the top of my lungs, doubling over after the the final note, unsure if I was going to cry or be sick.

When the bartender announced last call, Kevin and I shared a familiar glance — the well was dry. We shuffled with sunken shoulders to the door, too drunk to walk. I tripped over my own soggy boots. Kevin stumbled beside me, in an attempt to keep me upright. The rain fell hard on us both and I remember my jacket felt heavier with each clumsy step.

Half way home, I tripped and fell over a raised speed bump in the middle of a quiet street. My hands hit the asphalt hard. I rolled onto my back and let my spine arch over the raised curve in the road. The rain fell down in fat drops, each one drawing a straight line from the sky to my face. Kevin, now feet ahead, doubled back to help me.

“Just leave me here. I want to die.” — I remember how the words felt inside my mouth before they escaped my lips like black vapor. I had been too drunk to be dramatic — I meant it.

“Come on Sarah, get up.” Kevin’s voice echoed in my head as if we were inside a tunnel. He pulled at my arms. No use — I was dead weight. The world slowed, and then, it went dark.

The next morning I woke, strewn across my bed. My hands were bloody and scraped. My jeans clung to my legs, filthy and wet. In the mirror, my arms were freckled with red and purple bruises. Kevin had dragged me home. I walked into my living room, every bone and muscle — pulled and sore. Kevin slept, with a peaceful expression, on the couch under my blue afghan. His face was soft and still and, for a moment I likened him to an angel — then, I walked into my bathroom to find he had vomited in my sink, on my floor, and in my bathtub.

When I first got sober, I thought about Kevin a lot. Before I went to rehab, we’d grown apart. Our messes were too big to coexist together. I worried for him. I often entertained the idea of leaving a 12-Step pamphlet in his mailbox. But, I never did.

A few months back, while flicking through photos on Instagram, I was greeted by Kevin’s face. Bright eyes replaced his sunken ones. His skin shone bright and pink, not the sickly, sallow yellow I remembered. He smiled, an honest smile, unlike any we’d exchanged between chugs of wine. He held his beautiful, blonde son close to his chest. Content. Happy. In the next photo — his “6 Month” 12-Step sobriety chip was proudly displayed.

Sometimes, I see Kevin in the supermarket with his son. We don’t say hello — we just smile. There were no words back then, and so it remains. It is unspoken. We both know something now that we hadn’t back then — Ease.

There will always be speed bumps. Sometimes you will trip, sometimes you will get up on your own, and sometimes you will be dragged home by the arms. But, there is a lesson in the delay. A chance to lay there with your back on the asphalt and your eyes to the sky.

It is on our darkest road that we are called to order. Listen for it. On the hard days, I can still hear him  — “Come on Sarah. Get up.”

Stay saucy,

Sarah

 

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The Play’s The Thing

Photo Jul 20, 8 48 56 PM

I was an awkward kid.

Chubby, unpopular, and supremely geeky – I was a lone wolf – with terrible glasses. And, while I was painfully aware of this reality, I was also accepting of the fact that there wasn’t much I could do to change it. My prep school was a popularity contest I would never win. So, I lived for the weekends. I’d sit at home, alone, watching Molly Ringwald movies, aspiring to her unsurpassed level of chic-geekdom — one I would never achieve.

In the 7th grade, I thought I’d made my big break. I got one of the lead singing roles in the school play. When I saw my name posted at the top of the cast list, it set off firecrackers in my soul. Behind me, the popular girls were huddled up, whispering and laughing. But, for the first time, I didn’t care that they were making fun of me. I was going to be a star.

We rehearsed for weeks on end. I sang and sang and sang. Kids who’d never given me the time of day before were coming up to me and telling me I had a great set of pipes. My fat-kid heart didn’t know what to do with all the attention. So, I just kept singing. It was enough. It had to be. It was my only ace in the hole.

The night of the big show, I walked out on stage. A blue-tinted follow spot guided my chubby ass to center stage. I saw my classmates in the audience, 100 blinking hyena-eyes in the dark. I felt my heart, near explosion, clattering against my ribs. The music played. I sang. Everyone clapped. And, in that moment — the applause, the hot lights, the rustle of paper in the orchestra pit — I was enough.

After the show my parents gave me hugs and flowers in the lobby. Then, like nothing had happened, we drove home, my bouquet laid neatly across my lap. The popular girls went out to a diner together for ice cream sundaes. I was home alone again with Molly Ringwald. The play was over. My star, extinguished.

My search for enough started long ago. No matter where or who I’ve been, I’ve never felt fully sufficient. I’ve always looked to improve in some way. Do more. Give more. Be more. And yes, eventually, drink more. I did all this with the idea it would make me better in some way. Every relationship, job, or activity I get involved with — I always wonder if, this time, I will be enough.

I dream I will find this perfect place of enough-ness where I can do no wrong. It hasn’t happened yet, and I’ll tell you why — I am already enough.

No one told me on the night of the play, but, I would learn later: Ice cream sundaes with mean girls who made me feel like a worthless bug every day of my life– was not the prize. The prize was that I stood up on that stage and sang. I gave away my goods. Fearlessly. I opened my big-geek-mouth and I sang for those snickering bitches. No one paid me. No one offered me friendship. At best, I got a compliment or two from a few moms in the lobby. I sang because it made me feel like I existed. That spotlight, it lit me up. Chubby. Little. Me.

In times of frustration, when I throw up my hands and say “I’ve had enough!”, I return to my own, true self. In my surrender, I become enough. Suffering is the conduit that brings me to my authenticity. On that stage, I stood judged, but, I stood tall — chub and all — authentically me.

Enough doesn’t look one way. Enough is its own entity. We can be geek priestesses and pop stars simultaneously. One does not diminish the other, and, both are sufficient. Enough is not a quantitative word — nor is it qualitative. Enough accepts what is.

So, walk to center stage and sing, Goddammit. Sing your existence. Sing your enough-ness.

The audience — doesn’t matter. The play’s the thing.

Stay saucy,

Sarah

 

 

A Drive To The Moon

Photo Jul 15, 8 31 00 PM

If someone offers you a ride to the moon — get in.

Saturday, before my adventures as an astronaut, I’d resigned myself to a night alone. Book in hand, cat sprawled on the floor by my side — it had all the makings of a quiet and humble evening. But, as I lay there, turning pages, a rowdy-Saturday-night-crowd walked past my window. All on their way to the pub around the corner, I’m sure. Their voices were pitched high, you could hear their shared excitement. They held back their laughter, only to have it explode on the corner and echo back off the walls of my living room. It made my heart ache.

I miss that. That camaraderie. That feeling of not-knowing where the night is going to go — but, knowing it’s going to be good. I so seldom feel that anymore. It makes me feel old — expired.  Sometimes I find myself thinking that sobriety has stolen my flare for living. Muted my spirit. I miss those wild days where I didn’t care about what could happen next, and drunk or not — I felt like I lived in every moment.

As the pub-goer’s voices disappeared around the corner, my phone rang. A friend of mine was headed to the Columbia River Gorge to gaze at the super moon through his fancy telescope. He asked me if I wanted to join his group. My first thought was, of course, to say “No.” I looked down at my legs listlessly — I sported my hot-pink, cat-print pajamas. I asked myself: Is this it? Am I really in for the night?

And, though I could have fallen asleep in the next half hour and told myself on Sunday morning that I hadn’t missed a thing — I heard my old, wild voice say:

Sarah — Get up. Walk out that door. GO TO THE MOON. (And, for fuck’s sake — lose the cat pajamas.)

And so, I went, sans pajamas. My friends and I drove into a rare, hot, Portland night. The car’s AC gave me goosebumps. We didn’t have to worry about a thing — not even each other. Easy. It felt like breathing a sigh I’d been holding onto for years. It felt like — letting go. My insides shook with unexpected happiness I’d forgotten I could feel. My laughter bounced off the glass windows as we flew down Highway 84 — All for the sake of staring out into the dark.

We arrived at the Vista House, which peers into the mouth of the great Columbia River Gorge. As we parked, tourists howled at the moon. In the dark, the red, blinking lights of the Bonneville dam sent me cryptic messages. I felt like Gatsby, untethered. For just a moment, I was free. My bangs — blown loose from their bobby pin.

I lay on the steps of the lookout point, my grey hoodie pressed to the cement. The giant moon peered into the depths of me with his golden eye. And, there, I found myself entirely present. I was a cluster of molecules in a small gust of cool, river air. I was a beat in the rhythm of the dam’s pulsing-red-lights. I was another vibration in the hum of voices behind me — struggling to adjust the telescope.

I’m here.

Under this royal blue blanket of Oregon sky, dotted with stars, I am reminded what it is to be alive. Unplanned and wild. I am as lit up as the moon himself. I am. Here, it is both dark and bright. Empty and full. Like Baba Ram Dass says — to be present is to feel everything and nothing at once — it’s all happening.

This is my trip. Man.

The moon moves across the telescope’s lens. I see him. He sees me.

And, the next moment — He’s gone.

 

Stay saucy,

Sarah

Fortunes and Freedom

fireworks

July 4th, 1776 — A few, super-rad, old dudes signed off on our freedom. And so it is — ‘Merica.

This year, I watched fireworks explode as little children waved their sparklers high. My neighbors sat in lawn chairs on the curb. American flags waved off the sides of their craftsman homes as a warm breeze swelled and dusk fell over Portland. Believe it or not, I actually spent this 4th of July thinking about independence. My country’s and my own. It was only a few, short years ago, that this day was nothing more than a good reason to drink.

Today, sobriety is my freedom. I’m not afforded it because of my birth place or my passport. It isn’t a matter of country. However, it is about allegiance — to one’s self. It has everything to do with this ground I stand on. Solid. Sure. Terra firma with integrity. It feels like something worth protecting — worth fighting for. That ground is mine. Not my country’s. Not my parent’s. Not my lover’s. Mine. But, still, I often give it away without thinking.

I once thought freedom was something given. Something we have or don’t have — an object. It isn’t. Freedom is a feeling.

I don’t feel free. Fears punctuate my life. Each day is a short. little. sentence. I am meant to be a run-on, of that, I am certain. The kicker is: Fear isn’t real. It’s something we choose to believe. It’s our own, internal government. We choose this dictator because it makes our choices easy. Life becomes black and white. And, in that simplicity, we mistake inaction for liberation.

I’m guarded. Blocked. My armies wait at the ready to fight, or retreat — I’m still not sure. I’ve had this desperate yearning to move: To move on, to move out, to move my physical body. But, instead, I sit still. Feeling powerless and defeated, I did what any woo-woo, Oregonian, half-blooded-hippie would do: I had my tarot cards read.

I met with my card reader for the first time in a booth at an Indian buffet and we didn’t say much. I told her my birthday. That’s it. She read my cards after I gently touched my palm to each of her two decks. I listened eagerly. I was waiting to be told what to do. Guide me. Show me. Tell me. That’s what I wanted. I traded one dictator for another.

Then — The Eight of Swords. My advice card. My reader pointed to the card and said: “The swords are just fear. The Woman doesn’t see it now– not yet — but, eventually, she will realize she can just walk between them and be free.”

8ofSLarge

Maybe it was the universe’s cosmic pull. Maybe it was the magical woman who hugged me goodbye, warmly, after knowing me only an hour. Maybe it was the cards. Truthfully, I don’t know what it was, but, when I left that restaurant, my clothing spiced with the perfume of India — I didn’t give a fuck about fear.

There is nothing real that stands between us and our freedom. The freedom that exists is the freedom we create. Assign your own limits accordingly.

So, this 4th of July, I declared my own independence. And, as the teenage boys across the street launched their sky rocket above our street, its red plume descending over us like fallen stars, I gripped my flip-flops to the asphalt — my terra firma — and I made a wish.

May we always feel our freedom — and have the courage to dance between our swords.

Stay saucy,

Sarah

 

Do The Right Thing

Photo Jul 01, 6 48 13 PM

Good people do the right thing.

I’d tell you that I’m a good person, but, on any given day, my head and my heart disagree on the subject.

What’s good anyway? How does one – be good?

I keep getting into these situations where I allow myself to be carried away. I let outcomes that aren’t mine take me over. I completely lose myself. Meanwhile, I’m telling myself — I can do this. I’m capable. I’m helpful. I’m here, showing up — being present. The thing is though, I’m not present. At all.

Back in reality, I blatantly ignore the things I’ve learned. All these lessons I’ve been scribbling down — discounted and rejected. I ignore my inner compass because I am trying to be a compass for someone else. And then, I head over here to dole out the advice, waxing poetic on so-called self discovery and feeling like a fraud. Yup, I’m still a mess. A Big. Fucking. Mess. But, you wanted the truth, right?

Well, the truth is: I don’t always make good decisions — but — that doesn’t make me a bad person. Yet another lesson for the paltry stack I’ve assembled. My little blog of parables, collecting dust. What would happen if I actually used these lessons that I keep gabbing about? Rubber to the road muthafuckas! What if I actually did myself a service and learned one of these lessons? Because, shit man, this time, I know better. What’s the worst that could happen if I just listened to my gut?

Sometimes, doing the right thing for yourselfsucks. It’s murky. Feelings get hurt. Things will be broken or, worse, lost forever. You’ll wish you could do right by everyone. Oh, but that sinking feeling of failure is all too familiar. Doing right by yourself seems so selfish and doing right by someone else feels so noble. So, duh – we go with the noble option. It’s very romantic. But, let me remind you here — Ignoring your own needs, dismissing your gut, forfeiting your own sanity for the sake of someone else’s feelings is its own form of insanity.

Do the right thing. Be kind to yourself first. Listen to that intuitive voice that tells you when to stay and when to go. Remember the lessons you already learned. Being good — it’s not always easy. And — it’s not always possible. Find your path. Stay there. It’s when you start walking down someone else’s road that you lose your bearings. And, you can’t always find your way back when you’re not the one with the map.

I’ve been here before. I’ve hit my head against this very same wall. So what? Yeah, I ignored my heart a few times — that was yesterday. Today, I’m listening. I’m tuned in. I can step back onto my own path — even though I’m walking it alone.

Don’t talk over yourself for nobility’s sake. Good, bad, or in-between, do good by your heart.

And, dear readers, while I may choke on my words as quickly as I write them, I’m no fraud — You can take my word for it.

After all, I am a good person.

 

Stay saucy,

Sarah