Food Stamps and American Poverty

I’ve had a poem in my head around this subject for a good week-ish now. It all happened after I stopped into Local First Grocer, a local food co-op that only sources local food. I asked if they take EBT, which I have been on up until the end of this month. They said, “not yet.” I knew the cashier and I mentioned something about going off of food stamps soon, and that it was kind of embarrassing.

“No, it isn’t.”

Say what?

You see I’ve bought into the American philosophy, namely this: If I am on food stamps, I am abusing the system, I should have done better, and I should work harder to get myself out of the mess I put myself in.

Nevermind that I am a poor college student who just graduated with $40,000 in student loans. Nope. Nevermind that.

I was still just a broke ass trying to usurp our precious tax dollars. But my friend’s statement brought me up short.

Why in God’s name is this an embarrassment?

So here’s my poem war cry about the whole shitty thing.

 

I’m scraping the bottom of the penny jar
to find cash for a quick meal
swiping what they seem to think is a
“magic card”
at the grocery store so I can get lunch at work.
I feel guilty as I walk into Whole Foods.
I buy a bottle of sparkling water
because damn it, I don’t drink alcohol
and I need something to tickle my tongue.
But this is a “luxury”
and someone with this card
should never buy “that bottle.”
Yet instead I’m relegated into a group of drunks
with a far more dangerous and expensive bottle
just by virtue of the fact
that my wallet carries this card that
in Colorado, is labeled differently
to hide the fact we are poor.
Let’s not display it now.
Let’s not publicly tout the fact that
I can barely afford my monthly utilities
and this card is the only way I can buy groceries.
Nope. Let’s pretend
that this poverty doesn’t exist
that hard work is an eraser
if I just had more “initiative”
“ambition”
“drive”
well then, I can stop being accused
of stealing your tax dollars
even though you don’t¬†even know my face.
the one that stared at death stark in front of me
looks cold sadness in the face every day
willing myself to survive
to burst forth in imaginative color
against the black stage backdrop of my
surprising little life.

So many other faces
just like mine
stared at death just like mine
have “sadness” and “despair”
as angels and devils on each shoulder
portways to enlightenment
dark hallways to oblivion.
How do you not think of this
the white-hot pain of uncovering death
staring at faces hanging in nooses
trying to cope when your own children are starving.
And yet they say
work harder
it’s your fault that
the system is against you.
What happens when the system buckles
under the backbreaking
muscle tearing load?
“Buck up,” they say.
“chin up,” they say
despite the broken necks
they keep standing on
to claw their way to the top.

I’ve got to stop buying in
to this mentality that food stamps
are an embarrassment
I am an embarrassment
I should be invisible.
I refuse. This load is too much.
I will not be relegated to your ashamed oblivion.
Look at me, America.
See your masses.
See your suffering.
And dare to lift another finger
in the face of our certain death.

What I’ve Been Reading Recently…

So, it turns out that being out of school is much more conducive to picking up a volume of the written word and perusing it for pleasure.

In the past month I think I’ve read… 5 books? I’m losing count now. I figured that this prodigious amount of reading merited some reviews of these books. I’ve been excessively excited about most of them and dying to recommend them to people, so… thanks for being my guinea pigs! ūüėČ

Without further ado…

1. Immortal Diamond – Richard Rohr
My friend loaned me this book about a month and a half ago (maybe more? sorry, H, I’ll get it back to you soon) when I said I needed more spiritual reading for my mornings. What a powerhouse of a book. Reading it kind of made me think about being a Christian again. In the most non-traditional sense possible. At heart, I think I’m just a mystic no matter what religion it’s tied to. This book is all about transcending the ego (or transmuting/transforming it, depending on what language you’d like to use) and finding the immortal diamond within us all. That’s a really, really pithy way to describe the entire book. Honestly I just suggest getting it yourself if you are interested in any type of mysticism. It’s a great read. I honestly need to go through it again; there is SO MUCH there.

2. The Desire Map – Danielle Laporte
I mentioned this book in my last post. Danielle Laporte is a life coach and has produced an insane amount of material. This book came along right when my quarter life crisis first hit and I jumped at it. A blogger friend of mine was offering the opportunity to do an online book group for it and I thought it was the perfect opportunity. So I’ve been working through it now for about 2 months. Namely, I’ve discovered I’m truly motivated by the 6¬†core feelings (she calls them CDFs or Core Desired Feelings) that¬†I mentioned in my last post – Sacred, Grounded, Belonging, Flow, Electric, and¬†Liberated. I’ve had these words for about a month now and I have definitely noticed them in all facets of my life. Furthermore, it helps me to live much more intentionally. Danielle recommends steering your entire life towards these feelings – her message? To feel good, of course! That’s pretty much the point of the book: figure out what feelings are core for you, and live in a way directed to them. AKA following your bliss. I highly recommend this book if you need a new way of looking at goals or if goal setting wears you out! I promise this version of it won’t!

3. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
This is the only fiction book I’ve read in the past couple of months, so far. And to be honest? I was not and am not impressed. Everyone was all ga-ga over this book and gushing about how SAD it was and how PROFOUND it was. Maybe it was supposed to be ironic? Maybe that was the point? I really don’t care. It was awful. It was another cliched cancer book, and I read a ton of those as a teenager so I am really over this trend. Plus, the entire plot was so predictable. I personally like creative, interesting, different books that radically shift one’s mindset on something. Like Perks of Being a Wallflower when it came out. Now that was a book. This one… well… nope. (Yes, it pretty much is NOT a book but a piece of cancer fan fic)

4. If The Buddha Dated – Charlotte Kasl
So, my therapist recommended this book to me months ago when I complained about feeling totally inept at dating and relationships with men. Of course I promptly ignored his book suggestion until¬†I felt really desperate. Then I picked up this book. OMG you guys. I’m telling you. If you read ANY book on dating, read this one. And it’s not just good for people actively dating. It’s a spiritual approach to the whole thing (mostly Buddhist, but Charlotte is Sufi, Buddhist, and Quaker, so¬†it’s¬†not all Buddhist). It talks about centering yourself first and living out of a spontaneous authentic center as the basis for all you do. A-MAAHHH-ZING. Thanks, therapist… you were right, again.

5. The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell
I’m just finishing this book up and wow. I got it as an e-book from the library, and I have historically started out slow in reading e-books. Well, this book started as a slow read for me, and then I have absolutely devoured it. The mythic ideas throughout have been fascinating. I find myself realizing what he talks about – we live in a society that has no main myth. I can feel the ache while I read other myths, the longing for a core myth of my own and the relation in my soul to the myths he mentioned. They’ve become informative and transformative for me just in reading through this. This book has been hitting me in the gut and has provided several eye-opening realizations. Recommend, recommend! If you haven’t read it yet – DO!

Next up on my reading list, I have Island by Aldous Huxley, finishing off The Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Many Roads, One Journey by Charlotte Kasl. That last one might be considered a bit blasphemous by some of my friends. But I like living outside the lines. I want a full perspective on recovery, not just a program one. And I’m curious to hear her perspective. I’ll let you know what I think after I read the book.

What have you been reading? What are some recommendations you have? What do you want to read next?

[Ps. I am NOT being compensated for any of these reviews – they are purely based on my own opinion]

Attachment Theory and Following My Bliss

For the past month or so, I’ve been in a book club with a group of girls working through The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte. The book is massively inspiring.¬†It’s turned me much more towards inner goals than outer ones, even though I still struggle with that as a goal oriented person.

I went through the book and narrowed down my Core Desired Feelings to these:

Sacred
Grounded
Belonging
Flow
Electric
Liberated

As I look at these, I see 3 things.

1. A sense of rootedness to something secure and steadfast.
2. An easygoing flow and movement that connects me to
3. An electric and liberating experience, high energy vibration.

To me, it’s like an electric flow. It has to be grounded in order for energy to be transmitted, but when it is grounded, energy flows through the wire and turns on the light.

I went to see my therapist today for the first time in about 3 months. I was desperately overdue for an appointment. I still feel so ridiculously relieved to have sat across from him today, someone I regard as the safest person in my life. I probably am more honest with him than I am with anyone.

As we talked, I was really surprised to hear myself returning to my desired feelings. They came out of my mouth more often than not. I have a deep heartache that wants belonging. But I don’t know how to get there. I need a home base (to be grounded) that I know will not shift. Yet I do not want to be stuck in the confines of groundedness. Buried underneath the obligations of rules and ways to live. Life is spontaneous. It needs flow. It needs expansion. It needs liberation.

I heard all of these things today as I talked. And I suddenly realized what I am doing.

If you are familiar with psychology or therapy at all, you know about attachment theory and what that is. (Bowlby)

It’s the stage where the child knows the parent is present, but is ready to explore. This is the time when the child walks away but looks back to see if Mom or Dad is still there.

It’s no mystery at all to me that my attachment is fucked up. My mom will readily admit that she was a detached parent (and has apologized for her parenting). My dad was inconsistent. Either he was overly present and usually punishing when he was, OR, he was completely distant and not to be seen – usually off with a book or the computer. I would make an offhand guess that my attachment style is either avoidant or disorganized.

My core feelings? The ones I want to feel?

They are ALL about recreating a safe attachment. A place to be grounded and have a home base, but where I am free and allowed (flow) to explore (liberated, electric). Following my bliss, for me, is all about recreating the missing elements in my childhood.

This book has helped me in realizing what those elements are, and that I am empowered to give them to myself, instead of having to recreate them over and over with someone I perceive as an attachment figure. That, to me, is beautiful and miraculous. Hard, and sometimes excruciatingly so… especially on days where I don’t even want to get up. But it’s doing something for me, too. It’s teaching me that people are not responsible for my bliss.

I am! I have all I need – including the resources to ask others for needs, too.

I thought this was a pretty cool line of thought and wanted to share it with you all.

I’m curious, what does following your bliss look like to you? What do you most want to feel? Do you think those feelings relate to what you missed out on in childhood? Or something else? Tell me in the comments!

Stay Here With Me

There is a spoken word poem by Andrea Gibson that is my love poem to myself. It’s called The Madness Vase/The Nutrionist. I heard it in person last week when she was here for a sold-out show in Colorado Springs. (By the way, talk about an awesome experience – attending a SOLD OUT Spoken Word show. All the feels, errywhere)

 

 

It just so happened that the day I saw her live was the 10th anniversary of my Gramps’ death. He died the year I was 15, which was one of the most difficult and painful years of my life. Spoken word has always pulled me back to that year, as evidenced by the poem I shared on here a couple weeks ago. So it seemed so extremely fitting that I, by no fault of my own, ended up at a spoken word show on the 10th anniversary of his death.

In any case, I had watched The Madness Vase about a week before the show, and cried. Spoken word always makes me cry. This one in particular so spoke to me in my current and past selves.

But hearing it in person, on the anniversary of my Gramps’ death, was an incredibly healing experience. I could feel her in me, the 15 year old. The depressed one. The one that didn’t want to live anymore, that strained¬†with the effort of¬†staying in her skin for one more day, that drew bloodlines on her calves trying to let her trapped self out. The Madness Vase grabbed her and didn’t let her go. I grabbed her, hearing these words, and didn’t let her go, and I whispered to her, backwards in time, Live. Live. Live.”

Because I think my current self can still somehow reach back to my past self and speak those words to 15 year old Laurie. I think it kept her alive from then until now.

And well, the poem’s been rattling around in my heart like socks in a clothes dryer ever since. I found Andrea and Kelsey’s¬†Tumblr¬†yesterday and I’ve been using it to speak healing to myself, over, and over, and over. I encourage you to go have a read if even for a moment you don’t want to be here. Not even just necessarily if you want to commit suicide. Maybe you’re just so tired of life and don’t want to be here anymore, and you’d never pull the trigger or swallow the pills, but some days you just wish a Mach truck would plow you and end it all.

This site will give you a few reasons you might want to stay. Stay here. Stay present. Stay aching.

Lately it’s been so hard for me to stay here. To feel that generous ache that takes over the black hole of my heart and to want to stay here in the face of all the wounds that still need healing. There is no bruise like the bruise loneliness kicks into your spine.” It’s hard to stay here with the bruises.

This poem makes me want to never stop crying. And maybe that’s a good thing, because lately I’ve been coming out of my skin and trying to put my own self back in. Doing my addict thing and avoiding the raw fierceness of my inner girl who is crying for healing. So maybe I just need to keep “listening for the moment when the grief becomes a window.” Maybe I just keep repeating to myself fiercely, these words: “you stay here with me, okay? you stay here with me.

Live. Live. Live.”

 

You too, out there. You stay here with me, okay?

 

Professional Death Defier

I have had my share of craziness in this lifetime, and as my therapist loves to remind me, just because a lot has already happened doesn’t mean I will be exempt. This theory has proven out quite regularly.

For instance, I had a neighbor last September who had a shoot out with the police. A neighbor who literally shared a wall with my apartment. Thankfully, I heard gunshots and got the hell outta dodge to stay with some friends. I came back the next morning and my street was blocked off, with a big black truck sitting on the street next to my apartment house. I dealt with the whole ordeal fairly well; after hearing the first gunshots I hid for about 5 minutes and then decided calling the police was a good move. I stayed with friends for a week and a half. I didn’t unravel.

But I still had a moment when I saw that blocked off street where I couldn’t stop the cursing that flowed proficiently from my mouth, and the trembling that spread through my fingers, and the hysteria grasping at my mind.

I felt like a big black X marking the spot where missiles go to die.

But you know that the badass thing is that I defied death for the SECOND time in my life. (You could say more if you count my stupidity in drunk driving, but since I’m counting things out of my control, we’ll skip that for now) I walked around singing Titanium for the next week and wearing my Bulletproof perfume (made by Tokyomilk, if you were wondering).

“I AM TITAANNIIIIIUMMMMM!!!!” I belted, with great aplomb. Basically I was saying, “COME AT ME, BITCHES! You can’t take me down!”

 

Last night I again proved that I am in the business of defying death. I kinda feel like Batman.

 

(I say Batman because he’s my favorite and he’s cool and superhero-y but also normal. We’re pretty much twins. Also, coming back from the dead, anyone?)

For the second time in a year, drama went down at my apartment. It began with strange banging noises that I at first paid no mind to. My cat started freaking out and I started paying attention. I thought I heard something at my back door, which also happens to be in my bedroom. I crept in there and flipped on the light. Then I flipped it off and peered out the window. Nothing. So I flipped on the light again and pulled the curtains over my blinds.

The banging continued, along with some glass crashing and the neighbor dog barking. I was very aware of all the noise and a little wigged out but figured it was some drama upstairs. The sound moved downstairs, into the uninhabited cellar basement below my apartment. Then I stood up and felt a very distinct, very heavy shake underneath my feet. Instantly I knew that someone was in the basement who was not supposed to be.

This basement is reached by cellar doors, DIRECTLY outside my back door. The handle for the cellar door is maybe 6 inches from my back steps.

I freaked¬†out. I grabbed my cell phone and purse and left, cautiously, through the front door. The hallway was dark. I tried to flip the lights and they weren’t working. So I made a beeline straight for me car, almost peeled away from the curb, drove around the block and called the police.

Honestly at this point, I almost feel like the dispatcher is my homegirl. “Yooo heyyy girl wassup it’s Laurie again. Yeah another emergency I’m defying, not much else up tonight, you?” We’re tight.

I gave her all the information and hoped she would tell me when I could go home, but, unfortunately she could not. Since she couldn’t, I drove around the block to see what was happening.

Only to see an extraordinarily familiar sight – my street blocked off and my apartment surrounded by cop cars.

This gave me an extreme head rush and again, cued excessive cursing. I tried to figure out what to do, who to contact, who to call. That’s almost impossible when you have adrenaline doing a mad dance through your bloodstream. After searching my very rattled brain for ideas, I sent a text to people I randomly picked from my address book. Looking back at them this morning, it was a little nonsensical, kind of like drunk texting. Then I drove back towards my apartment so I could talk to a cop and see what the hell was happening and when I could come back.

I met up with housemates across the street from my apartment as police continued to surround it and go for the guy in the basement. They had apparently told my housemates to go across the street. My poor housemates, I hysterically babbled to them while I tried to figure out how to find a cop to talk to without getting myself in major trouble or freaking all the cops out. I also bummed a cigarette off of them; they were both smoking and my hysterical mouth beyond my control spit out, “Can I have a cigarette?”

I get really, really weird when I’m hysterical.

What I found out from housemates was that the guy was apparently running from the police, had asked my neighbor upstairs to let him in and when she wouldn’t, went down to the basement and tried to hide. From other reports there may or may not have been gunfire involved; I gratefully did not hear this. What I heard in itself was PLENTY.

I finally talked to a policeman, got his card, and headed to a friend’s house for the night. My adrenaline was still pumping. I’m sure the cigarette didn’t help. My thoughts were totally spacy and went from thing to thing without a consistent logic. (My friend also said this morning that my eyes looked a little crazed last night.)

I walked into my friend’s house and immediately sat down on the floor and did not want to move. She wrapped a robe around my shoulders and gave me a cup of chamomile tea, and regaled me with stories of her life which thoroughly distracted me until I calmed down enough to sleep.

Today, I’m back to my defiance. My life is so ironic that I can’t help but be amused. All I have to say is…

Cuz bitch, I am a PRO-FESS-IONAL DEATH DEFIER.

 

What about you? Any death defying stories? Any crazy neighbors? You know you’re dying to tell me about it! <–see what I did there? Ha, ha…

One can learn a lot in 2 years.

Today I am officially 2 years sober from alcohol!!!

I am laying in bed at 10 o clock in the evening, nursing an ear infection, with a dinner that for some reason upset my stomach and had me in the bathroom for 30 minutes (TMI, I know. Deal with it), and yet, I am smiling. Gratitude. Despite not feeling great I went to a meeting tonight and celebrated with my community. It was a new meeting but it’s amazing how even there where I know no one but one other person, my Higher Power meets me. It’s magical.

My whole sobriety is fucking magical.

Despite the last couple of weeks where my sick and twisted brain has tried to convince me that I’m not an alcoholic (denial never leaves, y’all), I see tonight that it’s crazy I’m sitting here. I told a run-down of the last two years tonight and as I spoke I marveled. Because when I decided 2 years ago to go into recovery, I have no idea why I did. I just for some reason thought, “I can’t stop this. I need help.” I have no idea why. It was not a huge moment. It was just a decision.

And yet it has been the best thing in my life. I’ve learned some major things, like:

  • For me to drink is to die. It still takes a bit for this to get through to my brain, but it rocks me when it does. I realize that my drinking will actually lead me to a. kill myself or b. kill someone else. Actually, B is probably more likely. I drank and drive quite a bit and almost wrecked into someone once. The fear of killing someone honestly does keep me sober some days.
  • I can’t do sobriety by myself. I tried for quite some time, to do things my own way. And honestly it DID work, until it didn’t. And when it didn’t, it really didn’t. I had to get a new sponsor back in November because I almost drank. I had been working steps only with someone in my other program. Same steps, but working with an addict who gets it is so much different. And I didn’t think it was… until I was faced with it. Which brings me to…
  • Taking suggestions. They always say this in my recovery program and I always thought I was good at it until I started doing it. Then I was like, “oh. Haha. I can’t take suggestions. Haha! Yikes on bikes.” Which THEN also brings me to…
  • Humility. For reals. You guys I thought I was the bomb.com when I started recovery, because I HAD DONE THE STEPS in another program so I KNEW. I didn’t know. It took me a long time to figure out that I didn’t know. Probably at least 3-4 months. Maybe more. And some days I still have to be humble and admit I don’t know. And damn some days that sucks. But when I get it, I learn so much more than I ever thought I could.

I think maybe one of the things I’m most grateful for is that today, I know what I love. Back when I first got sober, I had no idea what I liked to do. I liked to drink and that was about it. Or sometimes play guitar. Today?

I love hiking. I love spoken word poetry. I love writing this blog. I really deeply love my spiritual practice and having one that I try to commit to. I’m passionate about buddhism (which is a huge part of my practice) and what that has opened up for me. I’m passionate about true spirituality in general and people who are committed to that practice. I love being with my community. Hanging out with friends. Having an artistic community. Steering people towards a life they REALLY love. LAUGHING. Private jokes. The outdoors. Plants. The ocean and beaches where I’m alone. TRAVEL – and NOT just to run away from life by doing it.

2 years ago, I couldn’t have named any of that. Even a year ago I couldn’t have.

Honestly, only my Higher Power and doing the work I’ve done could have got me to where I am today, and I could not be more grateful. I have a life that I love and I am present within it. That is a wonderful gift. It strikes me that, after having a brush with death in more ways than one, I am privileged to have a life today where I am fully present to it.

I could not ask for more.

I’m toasting you all with my cuppa tea over here… here’s to you all, sober community – thank you for being a part of my sobriety. And to the rest of you who read, here is to you for being witness to this beautiful life, it truly brings healing to me to have you read.

Thank you.

My Life, in 6 Songs

Today, Running on Sober is running my list of the 6 songs I’d choose to sum up my life. I have ALWAYS adored music so I was really excited for this project. The opportunity to pick 6 defining songs was one I couldn’t miss, especially not with Christy and Michelle manning the whole thing. Sweetest ladies in the world. So go check it out here!

Comments are closed to encourage you to go read there.

And if you’re a first time blog reader here, from the song challenge, and want to read some of my longer pieces, check¬†my About The Writer page!