The Sacred Season

My heart feels really sore and fragile today. I’m entering the sacred season of the year for me – I am now within 2 weeks of the anniversary of my sisters’ deaths. December 9, 2007… almost 6 years ago. This year, I am 24 years old, the same age that the shooter was on the day that he murdered my sisters. That’s weird and has been resonating in me all year. I think more so now because I understand what it means to be sick in your soul.

I had the privilege and honor of being invited to speak at a meeting this morning that was held at the hospital where one of my sisters died (my twin died at the scene). So many emotions were involved for me. Grateful, because I feel like my sisters are still so involved in my recovery. In some cosmic way they are a part of my Higher Power. I don’t get how it works, but I know it does. The chair where I sat and spoke this morning was placed such that I could look up at the window of the room where Rachel, my beautiful 16 year old sister, died. Talk about strange. And beautiful at the same time. So much of my life happened at that hospital. I was working there when I got sober. I was invited to speak this morning by a friend who first met me when I was the hospital barista, before I got into recovery and just after. And there I sat, with 2 weeks to go before the sixth anniversary, on a snowy morning that feels so familiar.

I still feel raw. I cried on the way there. I cried when I came home. I am still feeling raw now. I am grateful. I am so honored to share my story in such a sacred room. And I am grieving.

Some days, it feels like torture that I have to live out my life without my sisters at my side. My youngest sister Grace, who is still living and a huge part of my life, is 8 years younger. Though I cherish her deeply and try to spend as much time as I can with her (in fact we saw Catching Fire just this past Thursday, also hard to watch this time of year), I grew up with Stephanie and Rachel. They experienced the same seasons I did in our tiny little life in a 3 bedroom apartment in Denver. I want you to see it – so here are some pictures from Thanksgiving, 2007.

My twin, Stephanie. She looks abnormally somber here. 🙂

Rachel (on the left) and Grace

The meal – as you can see our back door is right there.
That’s what I mean by tiny.

Our neighborhood

This is what I remember. I can’t say fondly. I don’t think that Rachel, especially, would say she fondly remembers it either, if she were here. And that’s what I mean by having my experience validated. My girls saw what I saw. I know they saw it differently, but Rachel and I, especially, were fairly similar in thought. And I miss that. I miss the hugs my twin used to give us to say goodnight. Hugs that I used to hate.

It hurts a lot too that I don’t get to see what they would become. Our lives were miniscule. Crammed into a coffin-like apartment. They had so little chance to blossom because my dad and his delusion about “THE MONEY” was stifling us all. I remember so vividly the only time I ever saw Stephanie in her true self, and I cherish it with all my heart. We danced together, crazy and free, at a huge dance party just outside Beijing, China. We stared at each other and smiled, huge grins, finally just okay with who we were. I never had seen her like that, and I never saw it again. But wow. It was beautiful.

Rachel on the other hand was always just who she wanted to be. My dad had tried and failed to tame her. She didn’t care. She just went underground and did what she wanted anyway. She inspired me more than anyone. I shared a room with her. She was my best friend, and the only person in my family I could actually tell the truth about how I felt. It kills me that I lost her.

It kills me that I lost them both.

Yet I am so grateful at the same time that somehow, my life cycled around again and I found myself in a hospital conference room, in the hospital where Rachel died, talking about how they affected my life, how they affected my sobriety. It was like a gift to me, and a gift that I could give away. I felt them all just standing there with me – not just Rachel and Steph but my great-uncle Chan too, who was the first person in my family in recovery. I felt so right. So sad. So honored. And sitting next to a precious woman who was gracious and kind enough to invite me to share my story, who weirdly, I had also met at that hospital. (Sometimes I have to wonder what it is about that place – after having such evil and such good occur there… it’s really quite tremendous I think)

So if I am scrambling for words here more than usual, if my writing stumbles or doesn’t make sense, this is why. I am in the sacred season. And words don’t come easily in this season. But I want to share it with you. I want you to see a  little window into how I live these moments out – ungracious, messy, grieving, and grateful. I want you to see it all. Because it’s sacred, and I want to share it… I want to give it away, and hope somehow it makes  a difference to you, too.


Dear Self

Dear Laurie,

Last night, I was not very nice to you. Your soul ached and groaned and begged for relief. I am uncertain sometimes still. I really feel inadequate to give you what you need. I had no idea what you needed last night. You were on the edge of the abyss and I just wanted silence.

Beautiful, embracing silence. No more chatter. No more anxiety trying to explode. Just someone holding you and saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay. Nothing is required of you.”

Spending $7 on a pack of cancer sticks was not a nice thing to do to you. Smoking one too quickly was even more inconsiderate. I was trying to make you disappear. You’ve experienced that far too often in your life and here I was, doing it again. I didn’t listen to you. I am sorry. I didn’t know how.

But making you sick by too much, too soon was not the right way to help.

Next time, when you crave silence, I will give you silence. I will not drown you out through substance. I will not stave you off through form. I will hold you until you know it’s okay, until you know I am not demanding anything from you. Going down the road to perfectionism will lead us straight to hell. I know that. Next time, I’ll let you fall over the edge… fall straight into the arms of God.

I’m sorry I desecrated you by putting a disease-causing, mind-altering substance in. My amends to you is the green juice I bought this morning. It’s the quiet agreement I’m going to have with you that I will treat you nicely. Like you are my best friend.

I’m sorry. I love you. I’m going to keep showing you.

[disclaimer: I’m pretty close to not beating myself up on this (haha – but really). The reason I wrote this is because I actually did get nauseous last night after smoking too quickly and I ended up feeling like I did when I was hung over. It was not a nice feeling. I wanted to apologize to myself for what I did and this was how I chose to do so.]

The Promised Land…

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.”

I am about halfway through my amends at this very moment. And I’m starting to get it.

There’s this tinge of something beautiful stirring whenever I send one of those little notes out. It’s terrifying. Terrifying to admit to things, to admit that I was wrong, and in some cases, hypocritical. I don’t know what they will think. But in some ways… it’s like a butterfly’s wings stirring just after emerging from a cocoon.

I know it’s a different part of the Big Book that talks about “looking the world in the eye” but I feel like that’s somehow more applicable for me here. Admitting my part, my wrongs, somehow wipes out shame. I’m not carrying all of that junk around anymore. I can lift my head and feel as though my past is reconciled with my present. “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”

The actual action of looking at someone in the eyes somehow feels easier and lighter now.

And this is only halfway.

A friend has been telling me for months to keep working, and once I got through the 9th step I would start seeing the promises. Honestly, I thought “Yeah, okay. Sure. Whatever.” Now I’m doing it. Now I get it. And I, once again, was wrong. The promises are coming true for me. In my non-writing life, I would say “I’m STOKED!!!” 🙂

my hands are small

It’s not metaphorical. It’s true. I have tiny hands. Size 4.5 ring finger. And they can’t dot things neatly, like that title up there that sits, balancing, without a period to stave off the anxiety of no ending.

My hands can’t stop uncertainty.

“My world keeps spinning around.”

like the lyrics of this song that played just as I wrote that sentence, the world moves. Sometimes, it flashes like a brilliant sun on a white winter day, searing your eyes with brightness that is unavoidable. Sometimes, it’s like a ghost in the wind on All Hallows Eve, dancing through the falling, tender leaves; sneaking by, indistinguishable from the breeze on your cheeks.

I hate endings. I hate not-endings. I can’t decide.

I hate the in-between the most. Teetering on the edge of whether this little thing will survive. My fingers just aren’t big enough. Even if I reach out to hang on, I barely brush your shirt-tails when you move past.

It’s for the best because, no one can ever know the inside. The thoughts that drift by me like raindrops over the windshield. No one knows the dialogue.

No one sees that behind my eyes, I just saw God. It walked up to me with a quiet, knowing smile. It looked into my soul. Unzipped my skin to touch the underneath… then stepped inside and zipped it back up. It was trapped like a butterfly under a glass, inside the cells of my skin. And no one knows, but me, It, us… how it feels.

And maybe no one else was meant to.

maybe my small, small hands should drift to a sputtering stop, because I don’t have to reach. endings or not-endings or in-betweens are not definitions, anyway.

What I crave is here, and It’s dancing on the slow in-out current of my breath.