Hacking Into Easy World

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What if everything were easy?

I catch myself having this thought as I drive on I-90 toward the doctor’s office. I’ve had a nagging cough. And, I know it’s bronchitis. I’ve known it’s bronchitis for 2 weeks. But, I’ve put off seeing someone because every time I hack up a phlegm-ball, I’m always hopeful that it’s my last.

I concede to my illness at 6PM on Sunday. Inconvenient timing, sure. But, this is America. — Something is open, somewhere. I know it. — So, I find an urgent care center in a strip mall not too far from the house that’s open until 9PM and I hop in the car.

Before I start the engine, I call the receptionist to make sure all their information is correct. “It is,” she assures me. I can feel her smiling. It’s genuine. Like she’s excited I’m coming in to see the doctor. And, she almost sings into the phone before hanging up, “Ok Sarah, see you in a few!” As I pull out from the driveway, my new neighbor waves at me from across the street, where he stands in his front lawn beside the wood he’s chopped. — Upstate New York, man. — It feels so easy.

I pull onto the highway and the traffic is light. The sun is just beginning to dip beneath the horizon and the clouds are a pink-purple-orange color that makes the sky look soft and edible, like a giant bowl of sherbet. The cars in front of me and behind me, keep the speed limit. No one is ploughing ahead in a rush here. — Tonight, between bouts of hacking, the world is simple and comfortable.

I keep rolling the word around in my mouth, like a cough drop — “Simplicity.”

I wonder when I started to believe — to expect — that the world was a complicated and an unforgiving place? Did growing a up a Brooklynite jade me? Was it the heartbreak and hard knocks in Oregon? Is it genetic, or a learned behavior, this feeling that everything has to be difficult before it can reach some kind of meaningful resolution?

Then I wonder — have I chosen to be complicated?

I’ve had many revelations during my Year of Happiness, but, it strikes me as I drive toward the purple sky on I-90, that maybe, amidst all this peace, I’m about to get smacked with the biggest piece of truth yet. — I’m starting to think, that, all this time, I’ve been making things hard on myself. Because, somewhere deep down, I’ve chosen to believe that everything is difficult.

Now that I find myself in a simple place, a, dare I say it, easy place — I have to ask myself — can I be Open to things being truly simple? Do I need things to feel difficult for them to have meaning? If I let go of my strain, will I still have a sense of accomplishment when I complete tasks, goals, dreams? Or, can I allow myself to live with ease, to keep life uncomplicated, without feeling unremarkable? — I find that I can’t answer the question, which, may be an answer in and of itself.

My journey in sobriety, thus far, has be a trying one. But, when I look at these past 4 years critically, it’s plain that my expectation, from the onset, was that nothing about what I had embarked on would be easy. I assumed I’d have to fight tooth and nail for what I wanted, and so, I did. Goals became challenges. Average accomplishments became feats of valor. Because, allowing things to arrive with ease comes with its own set of complications.

If the expectation is that life is difficult and that things are hard, then, it’s not a disappointment when we find those things to be true. But, if we remain Open to the possibility that life can be simple, what would happen?

I’m finding that when the expectation is ease — so, too, is the reality. It’s difficult to admit that much of my hardship has been a result of my own, negative expectations. It’s woo-woo and I know it. But, that doesn’t make it any less true.

If I am Open to ease and simplicity, ease and simplicity Open themselves up to me. When I assume things are painful — I’ll go into situations swinging. And, my blind fear of the world has caused me to miss out on something easier. — Simplicity.

As I drive home, my prescription bag from Rite-Aid flung into the passenger seat, I know that I’m on the right track. I’m making myself well again. And,  I’m not going to debate the merits of this new move with myself any longer. Because, for the first time in my life, I realize — it’s easier than that. It’s so much easier. I just have to be Open to the possibility of joy, without discomfort as a precursor.

So, I keep the speed limit. And, I drive back home, toward the sherbet sky.

PHOTO: @igercatskills via Instagram

 

 

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I am looking, looking everywhere.

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The day of the family reunion — the heatwave hits.

I walk up the hill, out of my grandparents’ driveway. The sun bakes my shoulders and I can feel the sweat beading off the nape of my neck and gliding down my spine, where it eventually meets my bra-line. My black tank top feels heavy and damp. It’s only 11AM but, already, the day feels long. I’m walking across the street, to my parent’s house, to get my bathing suit. I’m surrounded by countryside that I thought might make me feel something that, so far — it hasn’t. Here, I can only feel the passage of time. I see it move under a canopy of green trees, their leaves fanning the air in the slow, Summer breeze. I see it flanked by stones that have been sinking into the ground since my childhood. I see it in the faces of my cousins who, now, wrangle their own children — it was not so long ago it was us who needed wrangling.

Seeing everything as it is, without pretense — that’s Visibility. Young, old. Broken, fixed. Happy, sad. We can exist in this space without judgement. Here, there isn’t any way to avoid being seen — family has an uncanny ability to find you. So, I prepare myself for the viewing. For the first time in a long time, I think that being seen might be easy. — If I can just allow myself to be comfortable in my own, constant state of flux as I weave between the rusted folding chairs and lean in to receive kisses on my cheeks.

Between handfuls of fancy nut mix, a host of relatives asked me, “What are you up to these days?” A question that still stabs me like a sharp, little knife, because, the answer remains — “I have no idea.” — My unending quest for purpose used to bring me shame. But, today, it doesn’t. 32 years in, and I am still at it. — I am looking, looking everywhere.

I kept repeating to my cousin, as we lay out in the blistering sun, “I feel so old this year.” And, I wondered why that was. What had aged me so much in this past year?

Later that night, as I lay alone in my bed, under the hum of the white, ceiling fan, I realized that I’ve finally conceded. — To myself. — I will always be figuring it out. I will always be looking.

In our youth, we are so sure that, at some point, things will become concrete. But, today, I know, at least for me, that will never be the case. — I am not done. Not now. Not ever.

I began in sobriety, struggling to be seen by others. And, now, in my Year of Happiness, I take the steps to begin seeing myself. — A joyful and heartbreaking endeavor. — One that has brought me immense relief.

In reunions past, I have struggled to Wow! my relatives, spouting off my non-accomplishments. Impressing upon them that I had achieved some state of completeness. But, truth be told, my joy is in the Seeking, never the completing.

There are many of us, Seekers, wandering about. We search for truth in the Universe — in ourselves. We read self-help books. We believe in miracles. We watch for signs. We press the people in our lives to help us create meaning. And, often, we are told there is none. — But, we never believe that to be true. Not even for a second.

As I age, I find myself less apologetic. I no longer resent those who ask me for some kind of explanation. Because, in becoming visible to myself, I find that I no longer require anyone else’s approval. Visibility allows me the confidence to stand in front of those that would have me explain myself, and be able to say, outright, that — I cannot.

From my grandparents’ dock, I stare out over the lake. The water is still, except for where my cousins and their children swim. Laughter echoes in the swaying trees, just as mine once did, so many years ago. I stand there alone, beside strewn sandals and striped towels, and my cousins beckon. “Come in! Come swimming!” They shout. “I forgot my suit is across the street!” I yell back. “Then, go get it! We’ll wait for you!”

And so, I do.

Through the years, I have often sought out one kind of love only to receive another. But, I am older now. Older than I’ve ever been. Old enough to know that love is love is love.

And, when love tells you it will wait for you — make haste — jump in the fucking water.

 

Burn, Baby. Burn.

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Martyrs are crazy, man.

I remember reading about Joan of Arc for the first time when I was a kid and thinking: This chic is fucking nuts.

Yet, I turned each page, unable to tear my eyes away from her gruesome end. Her expression, stoic, as her face disappeared into a haze of smoke and flames. I couldn’t fathom a world where someone would burn for her Beliefs. But, the older I get, the more I learn — people do this everyday. And, usually, it’s not for God’s sake.

The truth is, like it or not, we’re all a little bit martyr-y. I’ve been picking this theory apart, because — it bugs me. I don’t like the idea of people killing themselves, literally or figuratively, in the name of something else — especially expecting praise.

Since my Year of Happiness began, I’ve devoted a lot of time to discovering how my Happiness has been thwarted by my own martyr-like Beliefs and actions.

I’m gonna lay some Belief smack-down on y’all: We’re all selfish, narcissistic, idealistic, and self-serving. — Some of the time. — It’s called Being Human. And, I’m here to tell you that you’re supposed to fuck up and, occasionally, be an asshole. If you’ve been conditioned by your parents, family, coworkers, significant others, children, or friends to believe otherwise, you’ve got some serious martyr-issues to deal with yourself.

People who tell you that they do everything from a selfless place — are liars. Even the most selfless people get pleasure and happiness from the good acts they perform. Martyrdom, by definition, is self-serving. That is to say, to a martyr, to serve God is to serve one’s self. And, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Serving other people is THE BEST thing we can do. But, the thing about martyrdom is — to do it right — you can’t expect anything in return. That’s the rub. And, the part where most people fuck up. Unless, of course, you’re Joan of Arc.

But, I’m not here to talk-up theologian mumbo-jumbo. I’m here to tell you that your Belief and commitment to your own Happiness, doesn’t come with a list of prerequisite actions. You’re not selfish or idealistic to a fault if your priority in life is Happiness — Your Happiness.

I think that was the crux of my problem. I always felt that I owed someone — that there was a price to pay for feeling happy. — I had to have a certain job, look a certain way, talk a certain way, act a certain way. And, because I never lived up to my own impossible standards, I unknowingly held a fundamental Belief that I didn’t deserve better. And, that Belief was all-encompassing.

This week, I tackled a lot of the Beliefs I grew up with. Some from home, some from school, some that I’d created, myself, in adulthood. None were very positive. But, more importantly — none of them were true.

As we grow into adults, our little-kid Beliefs grow too. We never revisit the flawed system into which we’ve built ourselves. And, we forget that we wrote all these Beliefs during a time in our lives when we didn’t have the capacity to comprehend the doctrine to which we pledged our faith.

We’re never taught as kids that — Belief is flexible. — It is.

So often, we find ourselves feeling inadequate, powerless, and alone. But, if we leverage our Beliefs, we’ll find that this is never the case. We are, in every moment we live — Worthy, capable, and supported, each of us, integral parts of this incredible celestial ensemble. If your life is a testament to the things you value, shouldn’t the first thing on your list be Yourself? Your Happiness?

This is your gift to the world. — You. — Your unique being and all the gifts you already posses.

Happiness, I’m discovering, grows from a very small place within us. It has an uncanny ability to permeate into all areas of our being — if we let it. But, first, we must hold a Belief, even if it is just a small one, that we are worthy of the Happiness we desire.

I was a dumpy kid. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and, the ones I did have were dumpy too. We supported each other. But, we never believed that we belonged — not at the cool table, or at the pretty-girl-clique parties, or to get picked for school sports teams. And, maybe, that was true back then. But, I think, it’s more likely that we let a little bit of chub and big crew of mean girls get us down.

We were always good enough. But, we never believed it. And, for me, finding Happiness now, is about revisiting those things I internalized long ago. Eradicating ridiculous, outdated Beliefs that were never true. Finding my Happiness, largely, has been slowly silencing the voices that have been lying to me for as long as I can remember.

My advice? If you really want to be happy, don’t be a martyr for the sake of the self-deprecating voice you created to explain the unfairness of your youth. That voice is ridiculous and has no bearing on the person you’ve become. That voice only silences the one you’ve been given by the Universe. The one that serves you and everyone around you.

Martyring yourself for accolades doesn’t make anyone happy, especially you. More importantly, it doesn’t change the past. Real change takes place when our Beliefs reflect the people we have become, today.

Belief is flexible.

And, with few tweaks, I think you’ll be surprised how fast Happiness will light you up.

No inferno necessary.

 

“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 Great, Woo-Woo Crusade

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“The Year of Happiness.”

I know. Just reading it makes me want to barf a little bit, too. But, this is how it starts? Right?

As someone who has been perpetually on the dark side of things, the mere mention of Happiness is like being dragged out from a dark cellar into the light of a blazing sun and being screamed at in Chinese. Which is to say — I have no idea what’s happening.

But, it’s happening.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a self-help junkie. Books. Movies. Workbooks. Day planners. Online lectures and seminars. You name it — I’m into it. I’m not ashamed. Not to toot my own horn here, but, seriously, I’m post-doctorate-level-well-read in this genre. From the critically acclaimed to the absolute-worst-ever dreck, my self-helping skill spans oceans and continents. And yes, sometimes, I watch Oprah.

I’ve had many people poo-poo my love of the woo-woo. I’ve been slighted, both on social media and by “real life” peeps. I don’t care. Honestly, I’ve learned heaps about myself, and others, by burying myself in this kind of material. I’ve implemented changes in my own life, and, I’ve seen results.

So, the idea to devote the year to  “Choosing Happiness” didn’t just appear out of the ether. I figured out, long ago, there’s got to be something to this deliberate Happiness thing. But, until now, I didn’t see any way to implement it. Pure, unadulterated Happiness never made it into my self-help arsenal.

If I were so motivated, I could sink my whole life into analyzing my clinical depression. I could unpack the roots and effects of my alcoholism. I could self-help my way through a few more decades with all the crap I’ve stowed on deck. But, there’s an inherent dishonesty in avoiding it. — Happiness. — I kinda know that’s where the answers I’ve been seeking live. Yet, I’ve never really committed myself to getting there. I haven’t really made an effort to sell myself on the concept. And, if Happiness really is the Holy Grail of all this self-help questing, then — I guess it’s time for a Crusade.

That’s right. When I say I’m committing to a Year Of Happiness, I fucking mean it you guys.

That said, I realize, especially for a person like me, this endeavor is going to take organization and planning. Strategery. That’s where this blog steps in. This is the place where I’m going to splay Happiness out in my very own, Dexter-style kill-room and take it apart piece by piece. I’m going to figure out how everything works, and then, by God — I’m going to make it work for me.

Each of the next 12 months will examine a theme — not unlike the 12 Steps. (Apropos, I know.) And, each week, I plan on unpacking said themes and examining how they play into the Happy Factor.

More than anything else, I plan on using this space to eradicate all my well-rehearsed excuses.

*               *               *

Before I sobered up, I was convinced Happiness and sobriety were synonymous. I figured if I could just stop using, I’d finally arrive at Happiness. But, with 3 1/2+ years of sobriety — I know that isn’t true. However, I am sure both require the same caliber of commitment.

In that vein, April’s theme is Surrender. Is it cheesy? Maybe. But, it’s one of the most difficult and complex things you can do in your life. We surrender to people, places, concepts, laws, governments, feelings, faith, and ourselves — every single day. But, surrendering with intention is extremely difficult.

Surrender means starting where you are — details be damned.

And, surrendering to Happiness? For many of us, that means forfeiting all the baggage we’ve been lugging around. That’s hard. Surrendering to sobriety meant giving up an addiction — a torrid love affair. So too is the trade off (up) for Happiness. We get the good door prizes for our sacrifice.

This week, surrender feels like a lot of effort. Quieting the gloomy voice that’s constantly speaking to me is difficult — and, at times, it’s impossible. But, that’s what The Year of Happiness is all about. Being willing. Surrendering old stories and giving voice to new ones.

It’s crusade time. You in?

 

Photo courtesy of Ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/GRAIL-CAT-spoof-funny-T-Shirt-Mens-6-sizes-8-colours-crusade-kitty-joke-/151276415654

 

 

La Revolution

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Question: What is the difference between a teacher and a guru?

Answer: A teacher points the way. The guru is the Way. In the course of your awakening you will have thousands of teachers. Throughout all of this teaching, the guru waits, beckoning from beyond.

Be Here Now, Cook Book For A Sacred Life; Ram Dass, Pg. 6

I think we’re all waiting for the payoff.

The big reveal. — The moment of release. The summation of all this pain and toil. An unveiling of some blessed reason for the world’s continued suffering, and, what is certain to be, its ultimate demise.

We seek the guru because we tell ourselves it can’t be this. This place. This time. This cast of characters. This. It just can’t be. In our denial and disbelief, we gloss over the thing we know to be absolutely true. We beg answers of the teachers before us — but to truly know — we must go within. It’s clear to me now more than ever — relief is not around us. It is inside us. — Good lives within. — We must find it there and draw it out. A spiritual revolution.

I read the work of Baba Ram Dass daily. I love him. I’d love for him to be my guru. But the truth is, in my seeking him, I become more lost. What’s even more hilarious? — He taught me that lesson. Teachers are funny like that. They shine light where you’d rather not see, so, you go to another teacher, then another, then another. Soon you’ve seen too much, but really, you haven’t seen anything at all. I like to think you know what I mean, because I like to believe that we all are seekers.

I’m still in this funk, so, I’m stuck. I sit patiently and wait for instruction. From anyone, really. A customer. A coworker. A song. Sun glinting off the choppy waves of the water in the bay. — All messages from the Guru.

Recently, a few important people have drifted, unexpectedly, from my life. Teachers. — The best teachers. — And, watching them go has reminded me that there are new lessons I’m meant to learn. It’s not by my design. But, I must remind myself that if I allow myself to be stuck here, then I will continue to be just that. — Stuck here. Any design requires movement. Patience. Love. — Revolution.

Before my eyes, big cities have become incredibly small.

I turn off the television to avoid making myself sick. I embrace and abandon my own sense of place. I wait for healing. I look for apartments in Southern Vermont. I stare at a picture of a covered bridge surrounded by falling leaves, and, in another photo, the same bridge covered in snow. Different seasons. Each lonely and quiet. Isolated and still. It looks like a place my guru might wait for me. I feel myself moving closer to something. — We are all moving closer to something.

But life isn’t about moving. It’s about being. The most sacred lesson, more than any other lesson I’ve learned from my Baba, is the lesson of being. Not thinking, or seeking, or seeing, or knowing. It’s not a tangible trip. It’s not something you can destroy or embrace or free or trap. It’s not something you can kill. No amount of violence, inside or outside of us, can unsettle it.

It’s something we know because we are. All of us. Each one of us.

And, that’s the grist for the mill, Baba would say. — Becoming ourselves is the trip.

 

This moment, is a moment for the guru. — This moment, is the guru.

Vive La France. Vive La Revolution.

 

 

The Hunker Bunker

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There is nothing worse than being stuck.

I’ve heard it said, the definition of hell is standing in one place while wishing you were standing in another.

Unfortunately for us, it would appear that the human experience itself is an ongoing parade from one plane of our stuck-ness to the next. We stop. We assess. We look for new places to stand. And, me, I know — I’ve been in this spot before. I’ve felt it. — Change is imminent. I’m on the brink, but, I still find myself looking too far down the path ahead. I get caught up in distances that are too mysterious to gauge.

And, when I become overwhelmed by my own sense of place — or lack thereof — I do it. — I hunker.

My best friend can predict my hunkering — episodes of withdrawal and isolation — with laser-like precision. It’s no secret when I am tired of fighting the good fight. I become exhausted searching for the next, best place. So, I resign myself to my bed where I binge-watch television shows on Hulu and Netflix and tell myself that nothing will ever change. Ever. Ever. Ever.

It sounds terrible. But, in truth, it’s pretty fantastic. Not only is hunkering incredibly relaxing, non-invasive, and cheap — it’s the pre-cursor to breakthrough.

I wrote recently about the advantages of identifying patterns. — How labeling my predictable routines has helped me to see where I was wrong, or where I needed to change, or where I kept putting myself in harm’s way. And, yet another advantage of this self-awareness is — you know when things are about to shift.

Hunkering is a sign. And while I’ll admit that it’s a behavior that sends up some red flags, — mainly a house-ridden, quiet, and antisocial alcoholic — it’s not all bad, I assure you. I’ve camped out in the hunker bunker many times before. I know the drill. And, I know that what follows is the sincere desire, drive, and momentum — to evacuate.

An experienced hunker-er knows that change is inevitable. There are only so many hours we can stay in the good graces of our beds. There are only so many days we can devote to celebrating our own misery. And — there are only so many episodes of The Mindy Project available on Hulu Plus.

The truth is, if we stand in one place long enough, wishing we were standing somewhere else — we will eventually move toward that other place. We move because it is unbearable if we don’t. Sometimes, we don’t even know that we’ve taken the step.

To hunker is to catalyze.

So, I tell my best friend, lovingly — I’m going. Don’t call. Don’t write. Don’t text. I’m headed into the bunker. I know the drill. I celebrate my stuck-ness. I know where I’m disappearing to, and I know what’s coming. And, soon — I’ll emerge.

Because, after standing in the same place for far too long there is nothing else to do — but move.

 

Artwork: Andrew Wyeth; Daydream, Tempera on panel.

Bitter(s).

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I sit at a bar shaped like a horseshoe and I order soda with Angostura bitters.

My 12-Step friends will hold the bitters against me — the same way they do when I lick the side of the vanilla extract bottle while I’m baking. I decide I don’t care.

I’ve been waiting for this.

I sit across from a hipster-geek in a wool, skull cap. The weather’s too warm for that, but, in Portland, no one cares. The bartender showcases a tequila bottle I don’t recognize for two drunk women at the end of the bar. They snack on fried food and chew with their mouths open and they don’t realize how old they look, bat-bat-batting their eyelashes and laugh-laugh-laughing at something the bartender says, but, everyone knows without hearing — it isn’t funny. Their husbands are outside smirking and smoking cigarettes. They turn to gawk at a group of three, tall twenty-somethings who walk by in patterned leggings that hug their perky, little asses.

I hammer my straw down into the ice, like I’m breaking something up. I stir — like there’s whiskey at the bottom of my glass. There isn’t. But, I continue eyeballing the good shit on the shelf.

I pass this bar every day. I look in its big, rectangular windows. Behind my own reflection, I see smiling lips that leave blots of red lipstick on the edges of tumblers and the tips of little, black straws. I wanted this — to sit here. To feel it. Soft leather. My purse dangling from a hook at my knees. I wanted to breathe out. — A release. A homecoming. My heels drawn up against the sides of a bar stool. — I’ve waited.

The perfect conditions. The right amount of cloud cover. The slice of evening right before the Saturday crowds filter in through the angled, double doors. A hum, a quiet energy — like something might happen. But it doesn’t.

I can’t explain it. — It’s not what I wanted.

The hipster-geek doesn’t look up from his smart phone, even when his hand searches along the bar for his drink, which, I am certain, is an old fashioned. The older women, who think they’re young, wave their hands back and forth. Pinot gris sloshing at the sides of their glasses, just barely contained. The bartender reaches for his bar rag, but, in the end — doesn’t need it.

I ask for my bill.

“All you had was soda. Right? We don’t charge for soda.” The bartender walks away from me. So, I thank his back. This is what being castrated feels like — I imagine. Suddenly, I’m worth even less than the dollar it cost for me to keep the seat warm.

Whatever it was I was hoping I’d feel — I know now — I can’t anymore.

The chewing, cackling hags. The lechers with cigarettes that dangle from their lips. The bartender’s display of insincerity and faded tattoos. The smell of spilled beer and dirty mop water. It’s hardly a return to the days I used to live for. — His hand grabbing for mine, while we poured over menus, the sun sinking into another river. Here, I’m lonely. And, the wood of this bar is scratched.

At home, I crawl into bed and I lay very still. I bury a feeling I didn’t know I still had.

I just wanted a moment in the bar. But, the moment’s gone.

Rain taps the window and the cat swats the venetian blind and I miss things I haven’t missed in a long time. Adam. And New York. And our railroad apartment. And they way the sun spilled over Nassau Avenue in the summer when I was twenty-five.

Full Dis(closure)

PrideandPrejudice (1)

I spent my weekend vomiting. Et cetera.

Portland’s infamous stomach bug claimed me as yet another one of its victims.

So, if you find any typos — Whatever. I don’t give fuck. — I’m struggling to to keep my eyes open after a long, dehydrated day at work, hustling students around a career fair.

However, I did have a poignant, little moment as I exited the building at 6:15PM, nearing collapse. One of the bratty girls, who I’ve never been too fond of, sat against the steps and whined to her comrade: “I know it’s for the best. We just weren’t working. I don’t know if he even loved me. But, I just wanted some closure. What a fucker.”

Usually, I find the vapid complaints of all the 20-something students I work with amusing. Their drama reminds me of the many reasons being an adult is so fucking amazing. Their day-to-day bullshit is proof that rising above the petty nonsense of young-womanhood is totally worth it. But, today, I sort of wanted to sit down on that step with Bratty McBratkins and commiserate.

I hear lots of women my age talk about it: Closure. Getting it. Wanting it. It’s a word that’s followed me around like a sad puppy through all my break-ups. I never get it. I always want it. Like a pouty tween, I too want to sulk with my head in my hands. But, I don’t. Big girls know better. Or do they?

I mull it over. And, I decide I’m not sure.

What I do know is — you have to say what you need to say when you have the audience. Once the show is over, it’s too late. Most of us seek closure way after the fact. It’s the band-aid we try to affix to something that we’ve already broken. Real closure is preemptive. And, it takes two.

Sometimes you don’t get closure. It’s that simple. You can’t always get what you want. Big girl stuff. You write a note. You send an email. Maybe you’re a creeper, and you show up somewhere to ambush your ex and act like it’s a coincidence. But, even then. — No dice. The end is much like it was in the beginning, before things totally sucked — it requires two consenting adults.

Tired, weak, and completely puked out, I walk down the remaining steps and out to the front of the building. I can still hear Bratty McBratkins whining. And, it dawns on me that, maybe, I’m a bigger girl than I thought I was. This time around, I don’t really care about closure. I realize — closure isn’t a goodbye. It isn’t feeling better. — It’s accepting what’s done. And you’ll only find that acceptance within.

Full disclosure: I wish there were more words to run over in my head. I wish he’d said “Goodbye.” Better still, I wish he’d said “Don’t go.” But, when you walk, you don’t get to decide what happens next. You don’t get to decide if he thinks you’re worth fighting for — you can only decide that you’ll fight for yourself. Closure is like those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. You won’t always pick the best ending. I’m too old to sit on the steps and whine about it. It’s done.

Tomorrow, Ms. McBratkins will have a cookie waiting for her in my office. Because, I get it. I may be heartsick, but I’m not heartless. And, my 20-something gal-pal may not be able to process her heartache just yet, but, God-bless-‘er with her young, lil’ metabolism — she can still processes the sugar and carbs like a champ.

 

The Suit Comes Off

draper_3

I dreamt about John Hamm last night. And, it’s not because I’m hot for Don Draper.

Well, not entirely.

I may be sober, but I’m still addicted to Netflix. Hardcore. And, no matter what program I watch, I am constantly being reminded of the things I can’t have.

But, despite being toyed with, I continue watching. I couldn’t possibly blame the media for giving me everything I want. I love it. I need it. I crave it. I watch the smoke rise off the tip of every cigarette. I wait for the camera to pan across each patterned, crystal tumbler, elegantly displaying its smooth, golden whiskey. I watch it, spellbound. And, why shouldn’t I enjoy it? — It’s all the fun that I’m not having.

It’s sexy. It’s social. It’s provocative. And, at the same time, it’s demure and totally natural. It’s masculine and feminine, simultaneously. It’s ageless. It’s casual. And, the pleasure — it’s implied. Addiction — It’s everything we want it to be and it’s everywhere. It’s part of our cultural discussion without ever having to open our mouths.

And, even when it isn’t what we want it to be, addiction is it’s own form of entertainment. There’s Mad Men‘s Don Draper, the whiskey-sipping man of mystery, and, then, there’s the real man, John Hamm — completing his first 30-day stint in a Connecticut rehab facility. TMZ harps on about it. PEOPLE Magazine picks up the story too, and not because they’re interested in addiction itself — they’re interested in marrying it to Don Draper. We want one addiction to look like all the others. It’s easier to manage that way.

The media talks about John Hamm’s substance abuse problem in the same sentence that recaps the latest Mad Men episode. I wonder: Do we really make the connection?

Media and celebrity create this culture. It’s inviting. I mean, fuck, I salivate for the duration of every Mad Men episode. I breathe the smoke. I taste the whiskey. I feel the relief and the ritual. The substance abuse is its own sexual tension.

But, as I hunker down to catch up on old episodes, I find myself asking — why am I doing this? What am I putting myself through and what is the payoff? I mull it over for a few days. And then, while curled up in blankets on the couch, watching a marathon of Intervention, it hits me: It’s not the media. It’s just me — still wanting something I can never have.

It’s what all us addicts do. We get lost in the romance. The look of it, the feel of it, the ease of it. We become so entrenched in the peripheral relief of the substance, we lose the meaning — the storyline.

I love the idea of Don Draper. But, eventually, the suit comes off. The glamor loses its appeal, and the story is just the same as it ever was — a marathon of broken people — all seeking to fill the empty spaces.

So, as my cat and I ready ourselves to binge-watch the Mad Men episodes we’ve fallen behind on, I take a moment to be grateful for the all new ways I have learned to lose myself. I remind myself that binge-watching how things aren’t — on the screen, will sometimes remind me of how things are — in my real life.

So, I turn on the TV. I make the connection.

And, for every drink Don Draper pours, I make a secret wish that John Hamm has poured his last.