The Voice Inside That Never Shuts Up

Every day, after returning home from middle school, I sat at our kitchen table. Hours before my parents would arrive back home from work. I’d eat my afternoon snack and I’d wonder what it would feel like to be an adult. Long hours I spent there, in that square, wood, and wicker chair — wishing I was someone else.

Most days, I still feel like that little girl. Unsure of where I belong or how I’ll get there. I still wonder if all the things I waited on, after all these years, will really, truly, bring me the Happiness I dreamed they would. Yet, as ever, I look forward. There are things I know I will always have: An unfaltering curiosity. A deep, unprecedented faith in love. And, a strange belief that — somehow, despite the odds — everything will be OK.

As I write this, it is my thirty-third birthday. And, I’m not sure how to explain this past year. Everything changed. — My heart, the people who surround it, the dreams it dreams, and the place it resides have all spun forward into new realms of Happiness — places that, I am quite sure, I will never understand. And, I think, these gifts, and many more, are the real fruit of seeking out my own joy. — The little girl at the kitchen table could never have foreseen this.

After more than three years of weekly Wednesday posts, never having missed a-one, this will be my final blog post here at Saucy Sobriety. These past few weeks, I’ve thought long and hard about how to leave things with you. What to impart that could possibly communicate or encapsulate everything I’ve come to understand from taking part in this process. — The thing that will comfort those of you who still sit, waiting and wishing, at the kitchen table. — But, to no end. Because, blog posts or none, there will be no end to this endeavor. Happiness and the discovery of self are pursuits I could never abandon, even if I tried. And, I remain steadfast in my advice, that — you, too, should continue to seek these things in life.

If this past year, heck, these past three years, have taught me one thing it’s this: Happiness is not something you’ll stumble upon. It is something you build. — Do not sit in wait. — No one is coming for you.

Brick by brick. Story by story. Friend by friend. Mistake by mistake. Place by place. Lesson by lesson. — We find our own Happiness. We find our own sobriety. We find our own love. — Within.

Inside each of you, is an incredible light. Something magical and intangible, that I cannot explain. I cannot explain my own light, either. But, as our time together comes to a close, I know that this blog has been one step of many in my unending journey to do just that — to find the hidden magic and bright light that reside inside each of us. My quest, is one that will forever seek out joy and understanding in this life that, otherwise, can be pitiless and cruel.

The day-to-day can be ruthless. Heartless. Thankless. Yet, I strive on. And, maybe, like the little girl in the kitchen, you too will recognize the small voice inside. — The one that tells you the next moment may carry with it everything that you’ve been seeking. And, sometimes, to your surprise, it does. And, it’s in those moments that we find reward, despite all the heaviness.

Happiness and sobriety are the same thing. They are gratitude — for everything — as it is. The present moment is the only tangible thing we’ll ever have. We can hold on to the past, so much so, it halts us, hurts us, and makes us ill. We can hang our hats in the future, but, to be certain, the future we’ve envisioned is NEVER the one where we’ll actually arrive. So, in the here and now, we must take what we’ve been given and find some way to treasure it.

In this moment, my phone bings and chimes. Friends and family send me birthday wishes. I open cards from my parents, my bosses, my grandparents, and in the background, I listen to music that makes me feel joyful. And, though I feel as old and out to sea as I ever have — I know I am a little boat who has learned to break the big waves. — I am surrounded on all sides. With love.

Today, more than anything else, I want to thank you.

If you were a regular reader, or just one of the few who click through these posts every now and then, it means so much to me that you’ve taken any time at all to take part in my story. To know someone has listened to me and heard me, is perhaps the greatest gift I could ever ask to be given. Your time, attention, compassion, support, and empathy have been the glue that’s held me (and this blog) together over the years.

Thank you. Thank you so very much.

Thank you for contributing. Thank you for being witness. Thank you for passing through.

I’ve said it before — I’m crap at goodbyes. So, I’ll leave you here:

Happiness is the reward for seeking. In its pursuit, you will discover who you are and where you’re meant to go.

Listen to the voice inside that never shuts up. — She is telling you something worthwhile.

Hear her. Write her. Sing her. Dance her. Read her. Cook her. Sell her. Sew her. Walk her. Run her. Drive her. Bathe her. Climb her. Swim her. Fuck her. Comfort her. Cradle her. Raise her. Plant her. Judge her. Dress her. Dream her. Hide her. Hate her. Find her. Feed her. Open her. Punish her. Shut her. Forget her. Forgive her. Starve her. Break her. Save her. Reward her. Release her. Kiss her.  Kill her. Cut her. Mend her. Bend her. Resurrect her. Love her. — But, never, never leave her.

Whoever she is, whatever she is, wherever she is — day in, day out — stick with her.

When you are bereft, she is your Happiness. When you are lost, she is your Home.

 

 

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“Slow the Fuck Down.”: And Other Advice from Dad

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My birthday gift to myself? — I took an impromptu road trip. I headed down south with pure wanderlust pumping through my veins. My radio was turned up, my windows were rolled down —  and no one was going to stop me.*

*Until I got pulled over for speeding.

Not only did I get pulled over, I received a summons. Not your regular-old speeding ticket. Apparently, I was driving “recklessly.” Well, that’s what they call it in Virginia. In New York, it’s called driving. But, in any case, I have to send a lawyer to represent me at a Virginia courthouse in June. I’m told that I’ll just have to pay a fine. Which, I guess I had coming. This is America after all. Penalties — I expected.

What I wasn’t expecting, was having a revelatory moment. After the initial panic of being pulled over subsided I, of course, Googled my charges. And then, promptly, I texted my father — an attorney — freaking out. Positive that I was going to have to serve a year in prison, just one day after turning 32, I was wigging out. How was I going to spin this, my “Year of Happiness,” into my “Year of Incarceration”? This was definitely among the worst news I could have received. But, in proper Dad-like-fashion, he escorted me off my ledge in crazy-town, and convinced me everything would be just fine. He told me to enjoy my trip. And, I sat in my hot car, staring at my iPhone, wondering — How?

After splashing some cold water on my face and sucking down an iced soy latte at a rest-stop Starbucks in Virginia Beach, I realized that I had to let myself surrender to the experience. If I was going to enjoy my trip — which had only begun 4 hours earlier — I had to let my panic and frustration go.

It’s easy to say “I surrender.” I think we all imagine that surrendering, once we decide to do so, is an easy action. We pull over to the side of the road, we say “Yes, officer. No, officer.” We get the ticket. And we accept what’s going on, because — we have to. But that’s just part of the surrender. It’s in the aftermath of surrender where we really have to do the dirty work.

Surrender isn’t in the action of giving in. Surrender is living with yourself after you’ve taken action. You give in. You give yourself up. But — then what? What’s the action that follows your surrender? Because, until you figure that out, there’s no way to know where your work lies.

It’s obvious — to me anyway — that we all want to be Happy. If being Happy were as easy as just wanting it, we’d all be living Happily every after. The thing is, Happiness isn’t just a vague concept. It’s actually quite specific. We are all unique and different beings. What makes me Happy, probably wouldn’t do much for you and vice versa. So, identifying what it is you want, being specific about the things that will bring you joy, is the first and most vital step to actually getting on the road to finding Happiness.

And, as someone who’s all over the map about what she wants, it’s no wonder I’ve been grasping at straws for so long. In the past, I’ve latched on to the wants and desires of the people I’ve loved. I thought, maybe, since they loved those things — I would too. But, that method has only led me down dead end roads.

This week, surrender means slowing down. Literally and figuratively. If I can’t put my finger on what I want — that’s OK. But, it means, at the very least, I have to surrender what I don’t want.

I don’t want another ticket. — So, I stick to the speed limit.

Surrender is identifying where the plan isn’t working, and implementing something that does work. That sounds rudimentary. I know. But, it’s a simple step that we all avoid and, as a result, we continually get stuck circling the situations and feelings we don’t want. We never let ourselves move on.

Truthfully, driving at 55 mph may not change my life, but, it’s doing something differently. It’s better than harping on about the thing that wasn’t working.

We want surrender to be fast. — Like, driving 79 mph in a 55 mph zone. — But, it’s not. It’s slow. Like, School Zone slow. And, it’s deliberate. It takes time.

So, this week — Month 1, Week 2 in my Year of Happiness, this is it: Surrender, at age 32, is taking your Dad’s advice to “Slow the fuck down.” I chose to abandon my panic and, instead, reveled in the fact that dear-old-Dad finally chose to speak in my superior vernacular of profanity. And, I found myself appreciating that, even though it may take time, we all can learn a new language.

Eventually, we can find ourselves speaking the very same language as the things to which we are desperate to connect. — Mainly Happiness. — Which, you should know, I did find on my road trip down south.

A journey that I decided to make — in spite of the speed limit.

 

The Party’s Over

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It feels like I’ve been tripping on some terrific hallucinogens y’all.

Honestly. I have no idea what’s changed — why I’m reeling, but, I’ve jumped off and hit the deep end of my depression. And, let me tell you, someone strange has bounced back.

Birthdays have been known to do funky things to me. And, with my birthday arriving at the end of the week, I wonder if maybe that’s it. A sort of 30-something reckoning. But, whatever tipped the scales, I’m feeling it. And, it’s tugging at me like a million invisible strings, all pulling me toward something big.

Happiness. — I used to believe that it was a place and that we’d magically find ourselves.

It’s been an elusive destination. And, for a time, I was sure, feeling good was something we arrived at by chance. Our lives, like some fantastic cocktail party, when in struts Happiness making a grand entrance. She’s everything you’d want her to be, waving a tumbler of aged whiskey high above her head, rocking her skin-tight black dress, sporting ungodly-high-heels, flipping you off with her fire-engine-red nail polish. She was the perfect party girl — who lived only to disappear into the crowd, lost again, to the dance floor.

The truth is — that was me at my 25th birthday party. And, the party’s over.

Joy and happiness have never been the result of some effort on my part. It always found me. Unplanned and unreliable. Like a dog, three states away, finding it’s owner by some untold mystery of the universe. But, kids, I’m getting older. And, every time that dog gets away, it takes him longer and longer to find his way back to me again.

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it isn’t. But, something’s flipped like a railroad switch. And, this time, I’m not leaving my happiness in the hands of chance.

    *           *           *

This blog has served me in a host of ways. It’s forced me to sit down and take stock of myself — every week. To write — regardless of who or where I am. It’s been an outlet for whatever I’ve bottled up to explode. It’s been a conduit for consistency over days, weeks, and years. And, it’s provided a vehicle for me to reach others in ways I never could have predicted.

I’ve connected with close friends, strangers, and mere acquaintances. I’ve heard countless stories and received unending love and support. I get emails that touch my soul, bring me to tears, and help me to hope and dream in a way I didn’t know I could. For these past 2 years, this window where I type 350-1000 words every week, without fail, has allowed me to reconnect with myself. And, this whole time, I think I was secretly waiting for the day when I would be moved to write this very post.

This blog is about to change, big-time, to reflect a new me. — Going forward, we’re letting a lot go.

I used to think if I let go of all the things, places, people, incidents, pain, and progress that I’ve lived through and with, in and before sobriety, I’d lose everything. — I’d be blank. But, in truth, no matter what place I write from, I’ll never have everything that I started with. I’m called to create something new, and in this place, I find myself with a different kind of power.

A proprietor of my own happiness, I have decided to put creation before chance. My goal in the coming year is to go beyond hoping. I have decided to facilitate the life that surrounds me. To change how I feel, because we, as humans, have that power. I aim to build a life where growth is no longer the side effect, but instead, the intention.

This year will be a year of happiness. And, for the next 365 days, that will be my only focus. This blog will, of course, continue to document my time. As readers, you can expect a change in tone. And, while I may lose a few of you, I know that in order for Saucy Sobriety to move forward, it must move with me — even if that means experimenting with something new. We’re moving away from the things that kept us stuck.

Signing off this week feels bittersweet. I’m leaving this comfortable space I’ve created, knowing that when I return next week, things will be different. But I am moved to change. I hope that you’ll change with me. — Sign on for it. Be a part of this — A year of happiness. 365 days. 52 weeks. Be inspired to ignite something new and different within yourself, too.

But, in whatever capacity, wherever I may find myself headed in hot pursuit of joy — I hope you will join me.

 

 

Photo: My 25th Birthday, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Three Years On The See-Saw

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We wake up. Really slowly.

Maybe it takes a year or two to move one, rotten inch. And, it’s sneaky, the business of waking up. Fucking subtle. So, don’t expect it to hit you hard or for it to happen all at once. It’s not some invincible force that saves and redeems you. But, it happens. There is an awakening.

Today marks three years sober. And, like every year, for the past three years, I’ve spent the week, leading up to today, trying to figure out where, exactly, I fit into all of this. Sobriety. — A word I throw around somewhat haphazardly. — I often forget the weight of things. Honestly, I’d being lying if I told you I felt one way or the other about it. In truth, it feels like I’m standing right in the middle of an enormous see-saw.

I wasn’t always up for the balancing act. Three years ago today, I wouldn’t have been able to stand in the middle of anything. Everything was an extreme. — Loss or gain. In or out. Good or evil. God or none. — One side or the other.

Today, I’m not so sure. I find that I’m often open to things that I’m not privy to. Miracles. Fate. Divine intervention. Maybe even some chaos and anarchy. — But, I’m open. That’s for sure.

The night before I got sober, I got cut off at my favorite pub. The owner told me, “Happy Birthday,” as I walked out of his bar, shitfaced. He knew all about sober anniversaries. He was a good guy who was happy to see me go. I, on the other hand, wasn’t so happy. I knew my drinking was bad news, but, I wasn’t so sure that the alternative was better. I think about her — Good ol’ shitfaced me. The girl who was so uncertain about the possibility of something genuinely good coming her way. And, three years later, I look back on that time, wide awake. I didn’t know how to comfort myself back then, because — I wasn’t there. But, now, I’m here every day. And all my voices speak.

The voice that reminds me to cry. The voice that tells me to step up. The voice that ushers me, with care, away from the people and places that no longer serve me. And, the voice that honors all that I’ve lost in these three years. — Together, we kneel at the graves of the many versions of myself that I’ve buried because they didn’t learn the right lessons.

I stand in the middle now, with confidence. Because I know, sooner or later, like it or not — this see-saw’s gonna flip and I’ll see what each end has to offer. I’ll stand high and I’ll sink low. Tides turn. And, I’m not afraid of the change anymore.

It’s nothing I can mark on paper. It’s not even a feeling. Three years is nothing but a notch I use to keep my place in the mess of cogs — a system in flux. Something that, next year, will be even more expansive. Awake and limitless, without warnings or boundaries. I count the years even though I know now — they mean nothing.

Just more room. Room for losses and gains. Ins and outs. Gods and none.

And me. There’s finally room for me.

And, I’m standing, three years deep — in the middle of it all.

 

 

Artwork: Life’s See-saw By: Brad Stroman; http://convergencegallery.com/stroman/stroman.html

 

Strange Communion

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A year ago, I wrote a birthday essay in a vain attempt to convince you that I hadn’t completely failed myself at age 30.

I year later, I find myself wondering: What does it mean to fail yourself? And, what brings us back from the edge? — I’ll admit, I’ve been heady.

Recently, I was asked: What do you believe? And, as I made numerous attempts to pen a witty, annual retrospective, jovially escaping all my unstructured thoughts and feelings, I kept returning to that question — What do I believe?

I stare at the wall. I avoid your eyes. I want to tell you. I just can’t articulate the concept. And, it frustrates me when I can’t make my language speak to you. It should be easy. Hearing each other. Understanding. We are comprised of beliefs. Beliefs make us up. They are the dark matter that hold our cosmos together.

Beliefs. An army of them. — An onslaught. — Learned beliefs. Inherited beliefs. Lost beliefs. Stolen beliefs. Hurtful beliefs. Freeing beliefs. Soulful beliefs. Selfish beliefs. Intoxicating beliefs. Lucky beliefs. Fateful beliefs. Loving beliefs.

Too many beliefs to explain or unlearn. All patched together in a ratty quilt of celestial protection. — One square informs the other. But, get this — they’re not all believable. How can that be? I hear you wondering. Unbelievable beliefs? To you, it sounds absurd. But, is it? Does it make me a fraud? A fool? The wolf in sheep’s clothing? Am I a liar? A tyrant? A moron? Maybe.

But, whatever I am, I own it — this odd menagerie of soulful things — they make up my spiritual life. And, I won’t risk ridicule. I won’t offer up the only thing that’s allowed me survive. I have reverence for my strange communion.

Prior to getting clean, I’d stopped believing altogether. I was angry. I lived in my own, sad ceremonies. And, even those small, broken beliefs helped me to save myself.

I’m sober when I should be drunk. — It isn’t believable. But, it’s true. Certain faith makes it possible for me to be OK without having to be wasted. But, even as I walk on this solid, stable ground, I end up taking a few steps backward. I revisit the old, angry places. Some beliefs are hard to abandon, even with time and wisdom under my belt. Even with all my heroes and my heart.

We cannot always be everything we believe in.

That would be enlightenment. And, I will be the first to tell you that I am still a student of myself — of you. And, after another year of introspection, I’ve come to understand that the same belief that you once thought would sink you, will be the one that saves you.

So, what do I believe?

I believe in whatever spirit guide, constellation-riding, woo-woo-hippie-fuck-savior got me this far. It was enough to save me. Though, I never did see it, face to face.

But, it was never seeing that made me the believer.

 

*Artwork from Be Here Now, By Ram Dass*

52 Weeks

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Today, Saucy Sobriety celebrates its first birthday.

In some ways, it doesn’t seem like a very big deal. Because, well — it isn’t. About 30 of you come back week after week. And, on the days I find this fact discouraging, I remind myself that — it doesn’t matter.

Truthfully. That’s my thesis. The thing that ties everything else together. The bigger thread of my story: It doesn’t matter. — Do it anyway.

I’ve been shuffling back and forth between the “old me” and the “new me” recently. I’m annoyed with my own blurred lines. What’s left of me? What’s gone? What overlaps? What’s completely new?

I’m trying to sort it all out, but, I don’t know what’s worth keeping and what I should discard. I am a yard sale of emotions and feelings. — Pieces of me, just laying around without price tags. I want to get rid of the excess, but, I cling to the sentimental bits.

I peruse my 52 essays for evidence.

What is it about the one-year-mark? We always make these ludicrous assessments of ourselves. I mean, really, how should I fucking know where I stand? Truth be told, even on a good day, I’m still a disaster. I read through my old shit. My drama. All of it,  simultaneously spectacular and completely mundane.

There’s too much to reflect on. A crap-load of raw data that I refuse to analyze. Unfinished paragraphs and half-baked sentences. Still, I slow myself down enough to think about it in the same way I thought about getting sober: Set out to do something. Then, do it.

It doesn’t matter. — Until it does.

Saucy Sobriety is something I’ve felt sure about. Readers or none — it deserved my attention. This place mimics my sobriety. Because, it is my sobriety. — A mess. A carefully edited mess.

We must choose the things that feel important. We must find the places where we are able to do what we set out to do. Especially when it doesn’t matter.

Expectations. — Don’t have them. — Any of them.

Take the world as it comes. Word by word. Pain, misery, joy, love, elation, excitement. Just take it. It’s another essay.

Know — You will lose things. Important things. People. Love. You will lose everything. So, don’t expect wonderful. Expect ordinary. In the end, I truly believe that sincere humility is the greatest of all gifts.

Saucy Sobriety isn’t about the essays. It isn’t about what happened. It’s just the evidence. — I got to be here for it. I got to be present for all the little things that don’t matter at all. And, in being there, I made them matter. I sounded it out. I found my words.

Even this, my 52nd essay, will end. Tonight, the sun will set on my 928th day sober. And, today, I did not expect too much.

Somewhere, at the bottom of some glass, I found the heart of the thing. — When nothing else matters — You change. You make it matter. You assign yourself a new, impossible task. You let yourself be afraid. It doesn’t matter until we make it matter. Our movements, large and small, make no impact until we provide ourselves with the meaning behind them.

So, before I celebrate my actual birthday, I celebrate the birth of something else. Something that’s big and small. Something that’s mine — yours too. And, one year later, I’m still not entirely sure what I intended to say.

But, the what — doesn’t matter. That I was here for it — does.

Accepting Thirty.

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THIS IS THIRTY: The moment where your Grandmother tells you that she prays, every night, that you’ll find a man. And, instead of laughing, you’re crying, thanking her profusely for her prayers.

I wish I could be an adult about this, because honestly, twenty days into my third decade, I should definitely qualify as one.

But, there’s that piece of me that just won’t comply. I’m still just a little girl standing in the middle of the living room, stomping her feet because she didn’t get her way. Thirty?! No! NO! NO!!!!

Why doesn’t the Universe know?! By now, I’m supposed to have a great job, one so overwhelmingly fabulous that I just spring out of bed every morning, dance into the bathroom, singing into my toothbrush like Joan Jet, serenading the day that awaits me. Just down the stairs, my hunk of a husband, is seated at the granite-topped island in our fabulous kitchen, reading John Updike, waiting, with a cup of French-press coffee, just for me.

STOP. WAIT. WAKE UP.

Welcome to my real life:

I’m single. Broke.  My cat has to scratch me out of bed in the morning because half the time I ignore the alarm. No one’s waiting with my coffee. I’m the one brewing a 12-cup pot of Costco Columbian Select when I arrive at my lack-luster desk job. Frankly, my Sonicare toothbrush is the most energetic part of my morning.

For the past few months, leading up to this: thirty, I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to thinking about all the things I haven’t done. All the goals I haven’t accomplished. All the women I’ve wanted  to be, but, have successfully eluded becoming. I’ve thought about my contemporaries, assembling the dreaded comparative checklist. Sure, there are the “successes,” the lawyer/business mogul-superstar daughters of my mother’s coworker, and there are my cousins who are happy, married, and breeding. (Grandma’s prayers worked for them!) But, after some investigation, I found that most people in my age bracket have no idea what the fuck they’re doing. And, it’s OK! They’re surviving! We’re going to be alright!

When I actually slow down, assess the situation realistically, I realize that, maybe, just maybe, I’m right where I need to be.

And, for now, Right-Where-I-Need-To-Be happens to look like a crazy train wreck. Wham-O: I’m in the midst of a depressing break-up (again), at a dead-end job, and I’m a renter, a fucking renter! So fucking what?!

Thirty is really the same as twenty, except now, I’m a hot warm mess. I’ve learned truly valuable lessons about love, losing it, and what NOT to do. And bonus prize: I’m still YOUNG.

Holy shit people! I looked in the mirror on my thirtieth birthday and I had to admit, it’s the best I’ve looked in years!

I haven’t peaked! I’m not peaking!! This is PRIME TIME!!!

I’m sober. I get to live my life now, not just watch as it passes by my blurry eyes. And, while I’d be a big fat liar if I told you I had all my shit together, I’m not totally without purpose. There is a destination, I think, even if it’s a mystery. For the first time in my life, I feel worthy of something good. Now, maybe it hasn’t arrived just yet, but, I’m old enough to know it’s on the way.

Thirty is my lesson in acceptance.

Accept a new decade, and, realize that it’s the same deal.

Sure, it’d be nice to feel a bit more secure. It’d be nice to have a partner to pick me up when I crash and burn. It’d be nice to own a home. It’d be nice to know that if I die in my apartment, that someone will get to me before my cat eats my face. But, in all honesty, things are on the up’n’up. I’m no longer the wimpy twenty-something, chain smoking outside of bars, throwing back tequila shots, and falling off ledges–breaking, then losing, my $500 Prada glasses (yes, I did that).

I’m an adult, but, I’m still cooking. So, you can wait a few more years before you stick that fork in me, please.

Thirty Fucking Schmirty.

I’m on the way up my lil’ saucies.  On the way up.

Stay saucy,

Sarah

P.S. Tell me all about your birthday revelations in the comments! I want to hear your acceptance stories, pronto!!!