Anniversary Roulette

Once upon a time, I was married.

When I mention this in real life, people often gape at me in shock. “How old are you?” they ask, disbelieving, quickly followed by, “How young were you when you got married?” Some could say my entire marriage was a gamble, which makes this story particularly ironic. If you’ve ever had any strange, end of relationship ironies, today’s post is for you. Also, if you have any strange gambling stories; whether with money or with life.

But you’ll not find the story here. I was a little overwhelmed with awe and almost puked in overeager excitement when I was asked to guest post by none other than Aussa Lorens. I’ve kind of had a crush on Aussa since I first binge read her blog a few months ago. So I’m really stoked, and honored, that she wanted me to guest post!

Comments are closed to encourage you to read about the ironic end to my marriage, over here: Anniversary Roulette

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Let Off With a Warning

I love long drives. Something about the open road is tremendously appealing to me, so on Friday when I left for a little mountain town about 2 hours away, I was ecstatic. Freedom was in my grasp!

On the way to this town, there is a huge valley. The highway through it is long and flat for a good 5 miles and speeding is almost irresistable.

(Really, I just want to know how you DON’T speed going through this valley. I’m pretty sure it’s actually impossible.)

Up until recently, they weren’t really regulating the 65mph speed limit. I’ve driven this way countless times, complete with pushing my little Honda to at least 80. That’s a conservative estimate, because I know this trip I was edging 90 miles per hour. I might have an adrenaline problem. In any case, I have never seen a cop in this area until this winter when I went through with some friends. Hmm.

This was in the back of my mind driving up this time, but I thought “Surely it was just a one time thing.”

I went flying down that first hill. There was a car in front of me going the speed limit, which I thought was lame. I mean really? I promptly passed him and at the point where the road starts going up again (right at the edge of that shadow from the first hill) I had hit almost 90. My car, however, is old and has 223K miles on it, and I slowed down for fear of making the rattletrap thing fall apart. My bumper is already duct taped.

(pretty much, this needs to happen)

Well, needless to say, I crested the hill and slowed down to a modest 76 miles an hour. I know this, because I passed a cop.

(I am indeed one of the internet masses that can’t resist a cute cat. You’re welcome)

As soon as I passed him, I knew I was toast. He pulled a u-turn. “Oh f-ck,” I muttered. I slowed down and he caught up with me. I was shaking as I pulled over to the side of the road. Cops always make me nervous. I immediately just pulled out my license, registration and… oh damn. Shit, shit, shit. This cannot be happening.

I couldn’t find my current insurance card.

Let me also clarify that I am the super goody goody who has never gotten a speeding ticket, and hasn’t even gotten a TRAFFIC ticket in 5 years. Yeah. 5 years. And here I am with an expired insurance card.

The cop saunters up to my already-rolled down window. To my surprise I see he is young, ginger, and handsome. “Ma’am, do you know why we pulled you over today?” he drawled, with the sweet tones of a country boy.

My voice was shaking when I replied. “I was speeding?”

“Yes ma’am. Do you know how fast you were going?”

“Um… 70…(seeing the look on his face)…75?”

“76.”

“Oh.”

“Can I have your license, registration, and insurance?”

“Um, well, here’s my license and registration, I’m still looking for my insurance…” I turn away from him to paw through my glove box desperately, as well as the pile of crap I’d already pulled out of it: old resumes, my Owner’s Manual, napkins. “Um I guess this is the most recent one I have,” I finally said in resignation, handing him one from this time last year.

“Okay just sit tight ma’am, I’ll be right back.”

He walks off and I turn right back to my glovebox and continue my desperate pawing. In my head I just know I’m doomed. I am definitely getting the first speeding ticket of my life today. Expired insurance at a speeding stop is pretty much a death knell. I’ve been paying my insurance faithfully every month – where the h-e- double hockey sticks is that damn card? I finally turned back around when he came back to the window.

“Ma’am, I’m going to let you off today with just a warning.”

“Oh my God! Thank you so much!” I was absolutely floored.

“Yeah I saw how nervous you were, you were shaking when I came up to the window. So, just… be more careful, go the speed limit, okay?”

“Yes, sir, I will. I’m so sorry.”

“You have a good day now.”

I rolled up my window. Still shaking, this time in disbelief. Why the hell had he let me off? I could only surmise that it was because I was young and looked quite fetching. I absolutely did not deserve it, and I knew I didn’t deserve it!

My treacherous heart, however, lurched in rebellious glee that I’d gotten away with speeding. (I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that)

It’s funny because I think this instance parallels my current life circumstances. Truthfully? I’ve been getting warnings that I need to slow down. The irony of this is just now hitting me as I type this. I got a warning to slow down. My life has been warning me to slow down. Parallel?

And this is kind of important. When I speed up my life, I lose sight of priorities. I get close to a sobriety birthday and I cut down on meetings instead of increasing them. I drift away from community. I think I’m a bother to them, so I don’t call or stop by. But I keep going, I keep getting faster, because my own rebellious heart jumps in happiness at getting away with so much. I can start a new job, and do spoken word poetry, and work on a 4th step in one program, and do my 12th step in another program, and work on revamping my blog, and look at new career fields, and have two sponsees (that I’ve been almost too tired to give to like I should), and do my 11th step in the morning, and join a new book club.

I’ve been speeding up and trying to escape my life by outrunning it. At that place, it’s only a matter of time before the top blows, I tip back the bottle, and guzzle.

This incident also reminds me of a night just before I got sober, where I got busted drinking by the police on my college campus. I was the oldest in the room… 23 years old. The next oldest was 20. In other words, I was the only legal person there. The cop never checked my ID and let me go. I went back to my room and I knew I had lucked out for some unknown reason. The next morning, I went to my first recovery meeting. A week later, I stopped drinking for good.

So I feel like it was a good reminder of that moment almost 2 years ago. A warning of what will happen if I don’t check myself before I wreck myself. I think it’s lucky, or maybe my Higher Power, that I was on my way to a recovery retreat. I was heading to the exact place I needed to be.

It’s also interesting that all weekend I found myself questioning my alcoholism. Over, and over, and over. “Maybe I’m not really an alcoholic, I mean I didn’t drink as long as these people, and I never got a DUI, and I don’t have a lot of drunk stories, and, and, and.” Differences instead of similarities. Not remembering that I lose control when I take the first drink. I drink to escape, escape, escape. Forgetting that two separate therapists told me to consider going to a 12-step program for it. Forgetting the night I was drunk driving and almost hit someone. The insanity was strong with this one.

I was reminded over and over this weekend why I’m sober and why I belong in recovery. Why I need to slow my life down some and remember my priorities, and as they say, keep first things first.

Considering the circumstances, I’m really lucky I was only let off with a warning.

 

Okay. I overdid it.

I wrote awhile back on how full my life was. I’ve had some friends caution me in the past 2 weeks about taking care of myself. I even thought I was fine, just doing life. Well. I was wrong. (Surprise!)

I got to this weekend and I have been totally wiped out. Not a little, but a lot. To the point where I’m noticing emotionally to an extent that I haven’t in a long while. I went to a poetry slam last night, and while the content was deeply moving as usual, one poem particularly rocked me. A woman shared about the death of her mother.

During the poem, I was okay. I could hold it together. It made something deep inside me ache, but I could hold it together. The next poet came up and did a funny poem to break the mood. Except it didn’t break mine. Something had lodged in my throat and in the spaces between my vertebrae. When I laughed at his lines, suddenly that’s when the tears came. I sat laugh-crying as my stomach contracted trying to purge up the feelings. Death and sadness, of course.

It stuck with me. Another poet, just after that, did a poem I’ve heard him read before about his time in Afghanistan. It’s rough, but I was able to sit through it the first time. I couldn’t sit through it last night.

I only get like that when I’m terribly overextended. r Worse, I’m 3 weeks from a recovery anniversary and I haven’t been at enough meetings. I went to one alcohol recovery meeting last week. That was not enough.

I’m not even going to tell you what I did all week. I had it all written out and it made me sick to look at all of it.

And now when all the feels are hitting… things are crashing on my head. It’s the Columbine anniversary tomorrow. On April 29 I have another anniversary for a former Azeri student (knew him when I was teaching English in Azerbaijan) who was shot and killed. I have some other stuff coming up that’s rough that I can’t mention here just yet, but I’ve felt it coming on for about a month now. I’ve worked very hard to build a recovery community, and lately it’s felt like I still have no one, or very few, to fall back on. I know part of that is my own brain after being out of meetings the past couple weeks. But part of that is true. And I’m really tired of working so hard and getting nothing.

Hell, I’m just really tired.

I’m not going to take an official blogging break, but if you don’t see me here for a bit, that’s why. You’re welcome to read my other material especially if you’re new here. (See my About The Writer section) That in itself explains why it’s so imperative for me to make sure I’m gentle with myself.

Think of me. I’ll be back when I have more to give, which hopefully will be soon. I’m off to do some self care. 🙂

Love you all.

Laurie’s List of Dream Travel Locations – Part One

It’s been a long week at work. I’ve been training for a new position that I got promoted to, and my brain is dry of any creativity. I’ve been trying to think up posts all week and have gotten nowhere. Until…my lovely friend Aussa suggested I write about travel locations. Thank God. This is one post that I can write that will be reviving to my soul. I need to think about these things this week for inspiration! I need a mind vacation!

I realized, though, when I started this post that I want to go too many places for one post. Therefore, I’m going to start this series. And on weeks where I feel uncreative and tired, I will unveil the next installment of the series! Two benefits: inspiration for me, and earth porn for you. Win win!

So, grab your beverage of choice (mine will be sparkling limeade) and come along for our little adventure! This shall be in no particular order, since I really can’t organize which one I want to go to most. And it will be totally out of continent order too, just depending on which one I really feel most inspired by right now.

San Pancho, Mexico

My most pressing travel dream is to go to San Pancho and live there for 3-6 months. For so many reasons. It’s small, it’s a beach town, and it has the perfect hippie vibe. Everyone is laid back. Everyone surfs. All the hippies and artists are there. There’s yoga. It’s cultured, but I can learn Spanish too. I want it. It’s amazing. I’m dying to go back. And I could drive down there and take my cat with me. I would live in a tiny rooftop apartment with beads over the doorways, lounging around in linen pants all the time. My hair would be in dreads because I’d never have the care to wash it. I’d drink agua fresca all day and lounge on the beach. I’d hike to nearby beaches in the afternoons and om in yoga at night. Pretty much, it’s my entire dream life.

 

Patagonia, Chile

It’s Neruda’s fault I’m obsessed with going to Chile. The lilting Spanish is seductive to my ears. The beautiful little houses and the bright culture sounds entrancing. And I’m not sure you can look at that picture and NOT want to visit. So. Seriously. Beautiful. Take a sip of your drink and just look at that view. Ahhhh.

The Trans-Siberian Railway

I am DYING to take this 14 day train trip from Beijing to Moscow. I think it would be mind blowing. So much countryside. So much beauty. So much of the world. I want to do this so badly, it sounds like the adventure of a lifetime! Winding across the countryside, crossing rivers, watching women and men and children wander down dirt roads in their every day lives. Seeing the everyday movement of another nationality. It’s fascinating.

 

Istanbul, Turkey

I have been obsessed with Turkish culture for years (just ask Carly). Turkish is on my bucket list of languages to learn. I’ve been to Izmir (on the coast) but never Istanbul. I so want to see Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, the Bosphorus. I want to wander the streets and sip on Turkish coffee, listening to the mullahs utter the calls to prayer from atop gorgeous minarets. I want to stuff myself on doner, lahmacun, baklava. I want to drink cay for days in little teacups shaped like lovely curving women. I want to taste the language on my tongue; Turkish and Azeri are the only 2 languages I’ve ever dreamed in besides English. I want to remember how to say “nasilsin” and “san nasilsin”. Watch the flash of the women’s eyes and the dance of their long dark hair. I want to sink into Turkey and its passionate self.

And this last is for Aussa, who inspired me. I saw a picture of these tents in the Smithsonian or Town and Country (can’t remember which) when I was probably 10-13 years old, and I’ve wanted to sleep in one ever since. Maybe it’s the tie-in to my precious Lothlorien, where tree-living is their life. It’s unsure where they are located. Some say California. The more sure location, however, is in Bavaria.

And so with that, I leave you until our next “picture vacation”! I hope it was as refreshing in the midst of your week as it was for me!

Spoken Word Poetry – My Messy Beautiful

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Recently, I got involved with spoken word poetry.

Now, I’ve been a poet since I was 15. I spin words like a grandma spins yarns for knitting blankets, sweaters, and baby booties. Some of you have picked up on my poetic ways through various posts. However, spoken word is a whole new experience to me. I’m not just reading my poetry. I’m acting my poetry. That’s totally out of my comfort zone. But I am inexplicably drawn to it. I can’t get over it.

The first time I saw spoken word poetry, I was blown away. I instantly thought, “I want to do that.” I twiddled my thumbs and didn’t pick it up again until last year. I was required to do a creative project for my Psychology of Diversity class, and I decided I would do a spoken word poem. It took me a month or more to get the words just right. It was so fun to perform and so fun to see how speechless people were.

I still wasn’t all in, but people kept mentioning this spoken word poetry thing to me. A fellow classmate at my school went to the meet up on campus. I thought about going but it was my last semester. I finally went to my first slam with a dear friend in February. It was a Friday night after a long week and I debated not going, but in the end, I pushed myself out of my apartment and down the street to the nearby slam. I walked in and had the pleasure of sitting on the front row. I didn’t know what this was going to mean.

I saw the expressions, the tears, the anguish, the passion bleeding across every face that walked up to that stage. Even on the faces that felt superfluous, redundant, mortified and ashamed to be standing shredding their hearts in front of a room of half-strangers, passion was lurking. And the skilled wordsmiths who stood and burned themselves like incense to the sky made me realize why an Old Testament god might have demanded offerings. These poets hadn’t just written the words; they became funeral pyres to them.

Fire is catching, especially to a fellow wordsmith.

Their words spilled out onto me like the perfume the prostitute poured on Jesus’ feet. She washed his feet with tears, kissed them, dried them with her hair. My dirty, road-weary heart full of care was doused in a sacrifice bought by their full year’s salary. I cried because I heard, in the echoes and the timbre of their voice, the same story I told in my darkest and brightest moments. When they talked about sorrow, I saw my dying sister’s face on a white hospital bed. These poets took death, love, sex, passion, social prison, and all the feelings of inadequacy, and showcased them like jewels for the world to see.

I wanted to do that. Desperately. And something in my heart jumped then and I thought, “I can do this. I need to do this.” Because every word they were saying was every word I’ve been saying since I was 15 years old and begging for someone to listen to me. I knew these people, because we’re all connected somehow. And because the quiet words I’ve written and kept to myself are the ones they were living out loud. They were warrior freaks and unashamed, and I cracked open a little more in the presence of their brightness.

Vulnerability is catching, too.

So I read, officially, for the first time a week later. My hands were shaking and I could barely look at the audience.

I’ve been a poet for more than 10 years, but bearing my heart like lion’s teeth and having that kind of audacity – well, that’s new. It’s nothing to write these words here where I don’t actually have to speak them. But there’s something about hearing your voice echo through a room. You’re exposed. It’s like being a stripper but with your heart. Your words are dancing on a pole, sliding out of your mouth, wrapping back and forth like a snake. And all I could wonder at that moment was, “Am I good enough?”

I know my quiet written words are good enough. I know when I’ve written a kick-ass poem, or a well-crafted blog. But this was new. This feeling of being so inside my element yet so. damn. vulnerable. My respect for these poets has grown by the hour as I feel the fear whipping at me like high-speed winds on a clifftop. Standing in front of that microphone is like jumping into the abyss.

Yet, it’s taught me something new about bravery, and courage, and staying with my mess.

It‘s shown me that audacity is windmill-kicking that gripping, gnawing fear right in the face. It’s trying again even though your soul wants to stay in the “not good enough” litany it always provides. And when you still feel inadequate, and small, and like an island to yourself up on that stage with all the eyes boring into your soul, it’s telling yourself, when you leave, that bravery isn’t built by doing only the things you know how to do best. It’s built by grabbing your passion by the horns. Cuz you’ve got Old Red underneath you, and it’s the biggest, baddest bull of them all. Unbroken and untested in the arena and you’ve got to stay on for 8 seconds and you have no damn idea how. And courage is saying, “Well fuck it, if I die this will have been the best 8 seconds of my life.” So you get on, and you ride.

That’s real bravery for me, right there. Not just sticking with what I know best, but jumping out into new territory. Being a trailblazer.

The last time I read was two nights ago – Saturday night. I wasn’t going to read. But I decided to just go for it anyway, with a raw, vulnerable poem I’d written after the last slam. I’d stayed up until 2am trying to write something good enough for the audience, and finally when I was worn down and squeezed out, I gave up. I gave up and wrote about how painful it is to try to find words to encapsulate something that’s indescribable. I went down to the rawest part of my soul and plumbed it, pulling up the junk for all of them to see. That was the poem I chose to read only two nights ago.

It’s the poem I’m going to read for you, now.

—-
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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Late Have I Loved You – 100th post

(My twin sister loved this painting.)

I miss my twin.

I’ve missed her like hot, searing fire lately… right down to the bone. My skin melting off, charred ash… and the bones still ache, and the ash still smokes from the ground, sending up aching like incense to the sky. These times come without warning, and I don’t know why. I just know that everything in me hurts, especially the empty little space that nests just beneath my rib cage.

I was reading a book this morning, just starting out. One by Richard Rohr; two friends have recommended him to me. So I finally picked up one of his books. And in the first few pages of the first chapter, came a quote by St. Augustine:

“Late have I loved you,
O Beauty so ancient and so new,
late have I loved you!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.”

Stephanie loved this quote. And when I read it, I almost felt like she resurrected from it, right in front of me. Spiralling up like a genie out of the Nag Champa I was burning. Suddenly, she was present.

I hate and I love those moments, the ones where I can feel my twin sister’s presence. I love it, because then I know she is not truly gone. But I hate it, because though I feel her, I just cannot see her. I squeeze my eyes shut, tighter…tighter… just hoping. Maybe she’ll be there when I open them. Maybe I’ll smell her, maybe I’ll feel her arms and the sweat-softened, ugly red velour sweater she always wore. Maybe if I just wait long enough there with her, in the silence, she’ll step out from behind the hologram of our existence and be there. I can see her behind my eyes…  maybe, just maybe, she’ll still be there if I open them.

She never is.

And the ache grows. Tears prick my eyes. I just want her back most days. These days, where I grow like a tree split from our same root, my mother’s womb. The womb we shared. And I branched off some time ago, and we were so different back as girls. I didn’t want to be like her, because too many times she stayed in her roots and never dared to touch the sky. But sometimes, oh sometimes… leaves danced with blue like the magical feet of a flamenco dancer. It took my breath away. Her obstinate stillness, though, put me off. Her black and white ways.  So I never grew towards the parts that reached for freedom-blue-sky, because those other parts that held her back were still too present.

But now, my branches grow back towards hers, reaching for her limbs, but coming up empty always. I only find her inside the dark, secret places… like Neruda says, between the shadow and the soul.

“Late have I loved you,
Oh Beauty so ancient and so new,
late have I loved you!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.

——

This just so happens to be my 100th post on this blog… I think it’s fitting that I wrote about my twin. Love you, Stephanie.
For the story of what happened to my sisters, start here.