Breakthrough

Last night I decided to give my new tarot deck one more round of “let’s see what it comes up with” before bed. For those of you who don’t follow my Twitter, I’ve been obsessed with tarot card reading lately. And by lately I mostly mean the last 3 days since I bought this deck of cards.


(Can be purchased at Osho.com)

A friend of mine had used these cards before, so I was familiar with them. This particular tarot is very heavily Zen Buddhist based, one reason I like it. I also love tarot because I’ve always been a highly intuitional person, and it really resonates with that part of me. Hence, the obsession I’ve had with them the past few days…but really maybe always without knowing it. When I had the cards in my hands, I truly felt as if they’d been waiting for me.

So, back to last night. I poured my energy into the cards, shuffling away one last time before bed. I decided to use a paradox setup – 3 cards, one representing past, one representing present, one representing the insight into the paradox. As I shuffled, a card danced its way right out of my hands and fell upright on the floor.

I stared.

I had read earlier yesterday that when a card falls out of the deck like that when shuffling, it’s probably significant. Well, no doubt. Even the picture on the front screamed its obvious significance.

I also knew right away that this was the “present” card of the set of 3. I laid it down, still staring. I continued to shuffle then drew the other 2 cards.

Past:

Insight:

The present card was obviously the highlight of this reading. But the other 2 cards were also loaded. I’ve been flowering – obviously. That’s the past image. True of the past long while, especially of the last 2 years. Insight – I’ve still felt like an outsider. On the edges of life. Unable to fully connect with people. You can’t tell in this picture, but the lock on that gate is ACTUALLY unlocked, the child (inner child?) just doesn’t realize it.

And present is breakthrough.

Today, I got it.

I woke up this morning and immediately felt cautious. My first thought on waking was wondering, “Will today be as good as yesterday? What if it’s not?” Fear came on me instantly. I’ve been struggling hard with fear for the last few months in general, and this one in particular struck right at my fear of loss. What if I lose what good I have?

All morning I tried to combat this feeling. I tried to make the fear go away. My mind whirred and turned over itself trying to analyze it away, to stave it off. Really, I was obsessing. Trying to create a barrier between the fear and myself. Trying to analyze its roots, trying to MAKE IT GO AWAY.

(This is how I always treat uncomfortable feelings. Analyze obsessively to find the root so I can MAKE IT GO AWAY. I can remember starting this as a teenager and I haven’t stopped since. Find the root to make it disappear. Self-awareness is a curse sometimes when your perfectionist nature uses it in such a cruel way. In making pain disappear, I’ve had to make myself disappear too.)

I was a mental wreck and I hated my poor overwraught mind as I watched it torture itself. I tried to have compassion, but I was really frankly rather disgusted. Thankfully, I had grabbed The Untethered Soul and left it in my car so I could read it on break. I’ve been reading this book for the past month or so (because of Sarah Somewhere – thank you beyond words!) and it has been immensely comforting.

I read voraciously on break, trying to find some way out of this awful fear prison I was tangled up in… terrified that the fear was real and I’d lose everything. That the Universe doesn’t give a crap about me and nothing good is headed my way.

But while I was reading, something finally clicked.

I was afraid because I didn’t want to lose. I didn’t want to lose because that would hurt. BAD. And I know how bad, oh, I know. I’ve experienced quite enough to know. To keep myself away from that pain, my brain could whir on and on forever, creating layers of self-protection.

This morning, I read through a chapter in this book and some words at the end rocked me, and I got it:

You must be willing to accept pain in order to pass through to the other side. Just accept that it is there and that you are going to feel it. Accept that if you relax, it will have its moments before your awareness, then it will pass. It always does.”

My entire perspective changed in that moment and I relaxed. I let the pain in. Instead of contracting around it like usual, I relaxed. Expanded. For a few moments, I shook and tears came to my eyes. Then it settled down to a soft burn, and it’s been there burning all day. Slowly burning all that I’ve been so afraid of.

I feel different. Like anything could happen and I would be okay because… it’s just pain. I can handle the pain. I will feel it, and it will pass, like it always does.

It felt exactly like the picture on that card.

Constellations

“It seems we struggle for a lifetime to become whole. Few of us ever do … Most of us end up going out the same way we came in — kicking and screaming. Most of us don’t have the strength — or the conviction. Most of us don’t want to face our fears.”
― Darren Aronofsky; Kent WilliamsThe Fountain

Sometimes, something shows up in your life with the force of divinity behind it. It’s as if the very cosmos aligned with your gravity to pull something to your life. It’s a huge dot to dot and constellations are connected and created by the lines.

The picture becomes clearer and clearer and as it does, it’s like looking at the night sky.

It’s so much bigger than you and the immensity of it matches the immensity of your soul. And of theirs, too.

Yes, theirs.

Because sometimes a constellation is drawn between two people. Two lone dots are interlaced and connected to other dots sprinkled between them, and suddenly, it becomes clear. A nebula explodes and a constellation is born.

“The design in the stars is the design in our hearts.” – Derrick Brown

This is not necessarily what I was expecting to happen after I wrote my last post. The one about loving without fear. I’ve been petitioning the universe for awhile for a chance at that, at dating, at relationships, but I don’t think I expected such an instantaneous response to that post.

And yet, it was just after that when I started finally waking up and noticing something. Lines were being drawn between my soul and someone else’s. It had been coming for awhile, but my fear had run away from it. In fact, what strikes me is that this person had actually started the process for me. It was interacting with him that had changed the way I approached relationships in general, because I saw how I was limiting myself when with him. I was not being my true soul.

Kevin and I met in March. First really spoke in April. At the end of April I ran, because I was terrified. I was still too afraid to let someone that close. But that experience launched me into a new phase of self discovery. Why was I terrified to let someone that close? Why was I so afraid, in general? Those interactions with him sparked in me an upheaval in how I lived my life, an entire change of perspective.

When we started talking again in mid-June, I was different. I was not building walls out of fear. I was open.

And then Tuesday, June 24 happened. My sister’s best friend was in a horrible car accident. I went to the hospital to be with my sister – it was the very same hospital my sister Rachel died in. My sister’s friend was in the same ICU. It was hard. Seeing my little sister cry was gut-wrenching to me; seeing that in the same place my sister Rachel had died was torturous. I knew that after I left I needed support. And I knew that when I texted Kevin, he would drop everything and be there.

There was no doubt in my mind.

I deliberated. I knew what I was doing by asking for his company. I knew that it would bring us closer. I mustered up my courage and asked anyway. We went to get tea (my favorite calming beverage) while I tried to quiet myself from the difficult evening. We didn’t even talk much about it. And one question he asked stopped me in my tracks.

“What’s the best thing that happened to you today?”

My mind was full of negativity and that was what I needed to redirect. I needed to remember the gorgeous run I’d taken with a friend, just that morning, in Garden of the Gods. I needed to remember that good things existed.

The next day, I got to return the favor. A difficult situation came up for Kevin, and I was able to be there in return. As a result, conversations arose – about life and death and cycles. Both of us had experienced the death of loved ones and understood the strangeness that life somehow continues in the wake of their passing. That energy is not destroyed, but changed. He sent me a spoken word poem about it. Life after death. Their death, giving back life. Over, and over, and over. It was the theme of our week and a conversation we returned to.

On Saturday, June 28th, we watched The Fountain.

We hadn’t planned it at all, but it quickly became obvious: The theme of this movie is what we had talked about all week. Life, death. Cycles. Over and over. Stars explode, create life. Drinking from the Tree of Life creates death, creates life grown from the body of man.

“It seems we struggle for a lifetime to-3

She said it, a second time, and it resounded and echoed through the space-caverns of my heart. Because that phrase, used in more than just one movie, had been echoing in my head already since at least my last post. Trinity, in the Matrix, had been the one I was thinking of. But then Izzi said it in this movie – The Fountain – that tied together life and death and cycles and stars – all metaphors that I have carried inside me throughout my life. And I knew.

This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t random. This was a constellation being born through an exploding nebula. This was life come from death come from life. The funny thing was, we both knew. We both experienced that strange shared moment of realization that the Universe/A Higher Power/Something Greater was definitely arranging this.

As I have walked this path the past 2 weeks, I have realized constantly the reason that something Bigger moved it all forward with this particular movie. Why, too, I had written that Love Without Fear post just before the beginning of this journey. Staying openhearted, for me who has oft been so closed, is a daunting task. But there is one spark of knowledge that reminds me of how to stay, not run. How to face my fears:

I am held by something larger than myself.

If I can remember this, living and loving without fear ceases to occupy my mind so much. Overanalyzing is laid down. Anxiety dissipates. Scrutinizing for problems in order to protect myself is no longer necessary. Self-preservation ceases to be an issue. Because death or life, it’s still part of the same cycle. Death happens so that life can be reborn again. It’s not an ending – it’s a changing of energy. I don’t have to protect myself – I’m already held by something much more vast than just little ol’ me. So when fear rears its ugly head (and believe me, it HAS), I return to this truth every time.

The last 2 weeks have changed my life. This journey has just been so obviously put together by something much bigger than myself. And that’s something that Kevin and I, both, fully recognize. It’s immense. It’s infinite. It’s a constellation of stars with the same design as the constellations of atoms in our hearts, a design so much bigger than us, but one that chose to draw us together. To connect us with constellation lines and draw us, together. And it continues to grow larger as we continue to walk this path. So we move forward, openheartedly.

“I’m not afraid anymore. When I fell, I was held.” – Izzi, The Fountain

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?

 

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.

The Patron Saint of Lost Causes (The Day My Sisters Died, Part 3)

If you are just joining in, I invite you to read Part 1 and Part 2, here and here.

——-

st. jude
(St. Jude – The Patron Saint of Desperate Cases and Lost Causes)

“If this is salvation, I can show you the trembling.
You’ll just have to trust me. I’m scared.
I am the patron saint of lost causes…

…We’re not questioning God.
Just those he chose to carry on His cross.”

-Anberlin, *Fin

I was a lost cause walking into the Emergency Room that day. The whole world was swirling around me, like a tornado. I sat in a plastic chair in a daze. The news was droning our story above me, but I was in so much shock I couldn’t process it. I heard my mom, as if from a distance, asking the ER nurse where Stephanie was. The nurse was repeating details of where Rachel was, but not Stephanie. Even knowing the truth, I didn’t want to admit it. I felt sick to my stomach.

After a few minutes, a detective from the police department came and found us. He led us through the hospital in what seemed to me like a maze. I could barely focus. Suddenly we were in a quiet conference room. My friend G– had followed, but wasn’t allowed into the conference room with my mom and I. I am not sure where Grace, my youngest sister, was. I can’t remember if she was there or not.

The only questions I remember from the detective were where we thought the shots had been coming from, and whether we knew anything about why the shooter had attacked us. I explained where I thought the shots had come from, later on finding out they had come from the exact opposite direction. That’s just how confusing it was. I also told the policeman that I knew the shooter had come from the YWAM base in Arvada down to where we were. Honestly, I had no logical reason for that. I just absolutely knew (and was correct). I thought at the time that maybe it was because I’d also been involved with YWAM.

After the questioning, we were taken upstairs to a huge waiting room. I walked in and saw one of my boyfriend’s friends there. I went right over to him and he hugged me, tears sparkling in his eyes. I sat down with him and my other friends who’d arrived. My mom and sister went into a smaller room off of the waiting room.

Another detective arrived and they called me into the room. I knew what this was going to be. I saw the look on the detective’s face, the agony in his eyes. “I’m so sorry. I have to tell you that your daughter Stephanie is dead.” My sister Grace let out a loud cry. My mom had tears streaming down her face. I remember feeling numb, not crying. My friend G– looked at me and grabbed my hands. “I need to tell you something important,” he said. “You need to remember this.” Yet today for the life of me I can’t remember what he said just then. I just remember his desperation. “We’ll pray for resurrection,” he said a moment later. “All is not lost.” I knew it was.

We waited.

My dad was in surgery. They were trying to take Rachel into surgery, but were having a hard time because she kept losing blood. My boyfriend arrived in the middle of this. I took him to a side room and that was where I told him that I loved him for the first time. He tried to stop me, but I wouldn’t be stopped. “No, you need to know. I love you.” I was desperate.

His mom was there, trying to find out what we needed. Scores of other people showed up. My friend Sarah, who had tried to get to the church but couldn’t get through the police barricade, kept trying to get me to eat. I wasn’t hungry; how could I be? She and my boyfriend insisted I should eat. When I told them the only thing I felt like eating was dark chocolate and Mountain Dew, they went to the gift store and bought me a bar of Cadbury’s dark chocolate. Someone handed me a bottle of Mountain Dew.

It’s so odd the little details you remember. Friends. Chocolate. Mountain Dew.

My dad came out of surgery and was in the recovery room. They asked if we wanted to go see him, and of course we did. We were escorted through two sets of double doors. My mom, Grace, and I huddled together as we walked through the doorway. My dad looked only semi-conscious, laying there on a white hospital bed with tubes everywhere. My stomach was dropping lower by the minute. We gathered around the bed.

“Where’s Stephanie?” my dad asked.

We looked at each other – my mom, Grace, and me. No one was speaking! Why wasn’t anyone saying anything? A resigned sort of feeling came over me and inside, I bucked myself up a little.

“She’s… she’s gone,” I said.

I have never said any words in my life that were worse than those three. Out of all of the horrible moments in this horrible day, this one was among the most awful. I watched as my dad’s face contorted in pain, and my heart seized.

After a couple of minutes we went back out to the waiting room. I felt like I’d been tackled by a 200-lb linebacker, and I was laying in the middle of the field with a concussion. Friends came and went. I sat with them, trying to distract myself. My mom came and got me when the doctors said we could go see Rachel. They couldn’t get her body warmed up enough to go into surgery, and she was losing blood fast.

So my mom and I, my friend G–, and two of the pastors went in to her room to pray. My boyfriend sat outside the door.

I think I lost my mind when I walked into that room. This was my baby sister. I’d always, always looked after her. When she was in the hospital a year before due to an ovarian cyst, I was the one that stayed with her longest and didn’t want to leave. When we were little and under the care of some sadly misled babysitters, I was the one who snuck into a dark bathroom to check on her as she was in time out for 25 minutes. She was MY baby sister. I may not have always been the best oldest sister, but Rachel was so special to me. Only 2 months before, I’d become weirdly overcome by sudden emotion and told her, “I just don’t know what I’d do without you. I just want you to know that, I don’t know what I would do without you.”

All this must have rushed through me when I saw her laying there, eyes closed, tubes everywhere, ribs bruised. I prayed. I don’t even know if prayer is a good technical term for it. What I did was to say everything in my power, to beg with all the words I had that she would stay with me. I used my words like swords to fight off evil; Eowyn in the Lord of the Rings, facing the Witch King.

I quoted all of her favorite movies; she loved movies. Harry Potter. Lord of the Rings. I told her that she was my Marianne, and I was Elinor, and please, please don’t leave me here alone. I called desperately on God to save her life. I asked her to please come back from the darkness. And I sang.

“Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up.

Because you are loved.”
Josh Groban – Don’t Give Up (Because You are Loved)

Finally, I’d said everything. I’d prayed everything. I’d sang everything. I knew it was time to give her to God. My friend G– disagreed with me. I stayed in the room to go along with him, but it was clear. It was time for me to let God do whatever He decided. Soon after, we all left and went back to the waiting room.

Grace and I sat building a puzzle in one corner with a friend of hers. It was late; 10 or 11 o’clock at night. I tried to distract myself by just looking for pieces to the puzzle in front of me. Some minutes later, one of the pastors appeared. The look on his face told me everything. I sucked in a deep breath.

“I’m sorry. Rachel has gone to be with Jesus.”

I started crying then. It hurt, oh it hurt more anything I could imagine. Grace started crying too. I was afraid I’d make her cry even harder, so I stifled my tears, to be strong, for her. We sat huddled together, Grace, my mom, and I. Trying to hold ourselves together somehow. The pastors prayed, as a sort of benediction.

The nurses came and asked if we wanted to see Rachel one last time. My mom, Grace, and I walked in to the quiet dark room that only minutes before had been bustling with light and activity. Rachel lay on the bed as if she were asleep. Her eyes were closed. She looked peaceful. I could feel her, still in the room with us. The nurses had mentioned that she could, as an organ donor, donate her eyes. As we stood there with her, we softly discussed. “No, we can’t,” we decided. She was the only one in the family besides my dad who had gorgeous blue eyes, and they were one of her trademark features. We couldn’t do it, it was still too close, the pain too sharp.

There were many other defining moments over the next few days. Planning a funeral. Visiting my dad in the hospital. Finding pictures of my sisters for the press and for the funeral pamphlet. Meeting Rachel’s best friend, Aimee, for the first time. The viewing. The service. Hearing stories… one of the most amazing being from the paramedic who took Rachel to the hospital.

He said she’d died in the ambulance. And suddenly she came back, and light filled the ambulance and even her skin color changed. I can only imagine; her blue-gray skin is tattooed on the walls of my mind. How breathtaking that must have been. Even in the darkness – light.

Just as it was in life after.

——

Life After

“This is the correlation
of salvation and love
Don’t drop your arms
I’ll guard your heart
With quiet words I’ll lead you in.”
Anberlin – The Unwinding Cable Car

In obvious ways, this event radically altered my life.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was the beauty it would bring me. In fact, a part of me still recoils to think of calling something so ugly a place of beauty. And yet. Darkness births light.

I learned resiliency.

I am so grateful and blessed today to have a life that is actually beautiful. But lest you think this is one of those stories with a pat ending; it’s not. I didn’t snap my fingers and recover. It’s taken a lot of hard work. Grueling days. Countless tears, screaming and raging as I drive down the highway. Falling apart in my therapist’s office.

Now, I often feel that my sisters repeat the refrain back to me that I sang to Rachel in the hospital: “Don’t give up, because you are loved.” It’s tattooed on my rib cage, in memory. There’s some days I need those words every five minutes.

Even now, the sting of loss doesn’t fully fade. I’m 25 years old and every day, I become more like my twin, who I thought was so unlike me. Beautiful, but so bittersweet. And oh so many days I wonder what they would think of me now. Who we would be together. We never got the chance to become adult sisters. I lost the ones who shared my childhood; Grace is 8 years younger than me and has grown up differently. I lost partners in crime. It hurts, every day.

Rachel, though, wrote something beautiful in her journal a few months before she died. She talked about how you can let sadness overcome you and live in that sadness, or find the courage to carry it with you, but to no longer let it define all of your life.

I’ve learned how to survive dark days. What it means to be supported unconditionally, even from beyond. The sacred beauty of God as I now understand It – not the God of fantasaical youth, or the God of limiting cages, but the God who favored freedom, grace and wild love.

Maybe most of all… I learned how to feel. Not to drop my arms to life, but to hold them up to where salvation and love come in. Light comes in.

Feeling all the pain, all the horror and sadness and maelstrom. That’s the important thing. See, I kept my arms crossed in front of my chest for years, through a marriage, divorce, and addiction. Trying to hold it all back. Caging myself in. When I finally peeled my arms down and asked for help, that was the correlation of salvation and love, rushing in. If only I could just keep showing up, every day, and have the courage to not drop my arms.

That’s what it’s about today; that’s what I want to share with you. That’s what it took to make it through and finally learn resilience. To just show up, every day, and not drop my arms across my chest but to spread them wide to the world. It’s grueling work, and sometimes it takes all I’ve got. My Higher Power, my sisters… they’ve all supported me through to this point, just whispering, “Don’t give up. You’re loved.” And I’ve learned though that it’s really amazing what happens when you give yourself to the work: It gives itself to you. The light shines in the darkness.

And the darkness does not overcome it.

—-

I wanted to graciously thank all of my readers for accompanying me on this journey of telling my story. Your presence, as I have said to you over and over again, has meant the world to me. Sometimes, healing comes to a greater degree through being witnessed. Thank you for witnessing me. I am grateful to all of you. Especially to those of you from The Rebels Project – an amazing community of survivors that I am so privileged to be a part of. You guys are in many ways like family to me; thank you for existing. You’ve been a light in my darkness. If anyone reading has been affected by senseless tragedy, I encourage you to get involved with The Rebels Project, a place where you can find understanding community and support.

I am also very grateful to the band Anberlin, whose songs I quoted because their CD, “Cities”, was the only thing I specifically requested after December 9. The Unwinding Cable Car was on repeat in my CD player for months. That CD got me through the darkest days of my life and I’m forever thankful it existed. Thank you, Anberlin – thank you for the impact you’ve made. I’m looking forward to seeing you on your last tour this year.

STOP – In the naaaaaame of looooove…

So, last week was pretty much hellfire and brimstone aimed at my dwelling. Wish I could say I did the celebrity walkout with explosions in the background…

explode
(Source)

But I didn’t. Got nicely caught in the crossfire happening in my own brain. I’m still dealing with aftermath and all the beautiful particles and things. I got seriously spun out. Thankfully, I was able to do some energy work yesterday and that was regrounding.

Thing is, I really care about what people think of me. It makes up my value system. Merit badges galore, based on opinion or numbers. Numbers like GPA, or the accuracy percentage I achieve at work for dictating calls. Or opinions deeming me a worthwhile person, a “sweet” person (oh how often I hear those words), a “nice” person, etc, etc, etc. These measure my value and worth.

It was also the standards that in many ways, drove me to alcohol. “If that’s what you all think of me, well I’LL SHOW YOU HOW I REALLY AM!” (imperfect, bitchy, unbridled, that is)

I still haven’t resolved this inner maelstrom, unfortunately. With 21 months of sobriety, it still pops up and I still assign my value to what others think of me, to outside standards. So when someone on the outside confirms my inner insecurity – that I’m not actually measuring up to the standard of “quiet, peaceful nun who makes no waves”, well…cue the explosion pictured above. I crumble because my entire value is dependent on what others think of me.

Most of the time, too, I spend my days rushing around trying to meet standards. My own, or the standards of others. When I was in school, it was professors and GPA. Now that I’m not in school, it’s all about work performance and what my friends think of me. I graduated with my B.A. in December, and when I tell people I graduated Magna Cum Laude, they usually react as if that’s a huge accomplishment. Well it is. But here’s the deal. It doesn’t mean necessarily that I’m just “a good student.” That Magna Cum Laude, for me, is a sign of how obsessive I become about maintaining standards.

I did it in my sobriety for a long time. I still struggle with it. I really care about what other people think of how I’m doing my sobriety. Back a couple of months ago, I realized I needed to change up my sponsor situation. I had been working with my love addiction sponsor primarily and had never worked a full set of steps in AA. There was a variety of reasons I chose to do that (and it was a conscious choice) but they’re not really important and if I explained them, it would be further evidence that I was trying to get your approval. In any case, it was working for me; until it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. So I got a new AA sponsor, who just “happened” to be available right when I needed her. But I had a tremendous amount of shame around the whole thing, so much so that this is the first I’ve mentioned it on here. WHAT would others think of me if they knew? Especially people who I had told that I had a sponsor? Were they all secretly judging my program? What if I wasn’t good enough after all? Since I was basing all my values on things outside of myself, this was a massive concern.

This has all been sending me on a collision course since November, and now I just can’t avoid it. My outside circumstances are almost forcing me to go in. At the very least they’re putting up HUGE signs.

thisissign
(Source)

So my head and heart have been in a nasty firefight for almost a week. It completely knocked me off my feet and my thoughts have been drifting through the ozone ever since, dragging my hapless feelings behind them. One outside situation, and boom. It was like a rocket to the moon.

Here is the thing. I can’t measure up to a standard of “quiet peaceful nun.” I don’t really want a 3.83 grade point average. Nor do I really want to maintain 98% accuracy on my calls at work at all times, pushing myself to get there. I can try to push myself into that cage all I want. I can let what others say, think, or do push me into that cage. I can let numbers push me into that cage. But unless I releash the cracken (MWAHAHA!) I will always go back to the things that satisfy the pain of being in a cage… things like alcohol, or men, or more recently, work standards.

kraken
(It’s not really a cracken, by the way. Source)

It’s not anyone else’s fault that I got into this firefight. Honestly it’s just a reflection of my inner state and what I am doing. To myself.

But here’s what the bigger, wiser part of me is saying:

stopinthenameoflove
(Source)

Stop trying to live up to standards. Stop trying to be someone I’m not. Stop trying to conform. Stop trying to push myself in a box. Stop being invisible. Stop hiding. Stop running from yourself. Stop the go, go, go that pushes you even further away from the truth. Stop, in the name of love. Before you break my heart.

Do I know how to STOP?

Nope. I am stumbling forward pretty ungracefully. I have help from a really wonderful Higher Power though.

I think some of it means grounding myself on my truth. Some of it means that being an emotional and sometimes erratic person isn’t a bad thing. I am not bad because I am emotional. Some of it means accepting the loudness of my soul. A lot of it means letting myself off the hook and out of the cage. Dropping keys for my beautiful, brilliant, rowdy prisoner (and letting her know that it’s okay that she’s rowdy, it’s really really okay).

It’s reminding myself of this poem I wrote right after I got sober:

You are not incarcerated by fear.
The key is in the space
between you
and the door.
Breathe.
Open.
There is no distance between you and freedom.

Stop, Laurie. Find the space. In it lies the key.

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.