Coblestones and Moonlight: History and Growth

Tonight I snuck out for a cigarette after the city was quiet. I love cities at night, being a former New Yorker, where we never sleep.  Edinburgh sleeps, softly. And in my view, cobblestones reflected moonlight and lamps, silvered and shimmered. The soft play of light and shadow on the stone of buildings, of marble and rock, entranced me.

I could see the line where the road construction crew had carefully hewn out the stones with a micro-bulldozer (built on a trail gator frame, I think; it alone was something to see). The crew carefully removed the old cobblestones and stacked them in order along the trench where they installed new fiber optic cable in bright purple pipe. And after the new had come, the internet speed for the neighborhood increased, the workers replaced the stones. They are in just the same order as before, with new mortar in between.

These cobblestones stand out in the moonlight, a bright line across the street because the new mortar hasn’t yet accumulated its patina of city grit. I want to be like those cobblestones, blending the new and keeping the best of the old as I grow.

Sobriety feels like that sometimes. A struggle, with bulldozers digging up layers of Self, uncovering ages old mess and restructuring it, making it better. I’m still me—just like the beautiful moonlit street—but better.

The story is written on my heart and in the soft lines on my face. I endured. I had help. I got better.

Hope. Hope and moonlight dance on the medieval stones, still set in the road. With shiny new fiber optic cable beneath.

Namaste, darlings!

-Maggie

Recovery two years out, spinach, and wisdom from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Build tomorrow whilst living today!

In early recovery, there’s a ton of focus on staying in the moment. This is absolutely correct—because sometimes we really do have to keep it in the day. In the beginning, the battle is staying sober. One day, one hour, even one breath at a time. Whatever it takes, to put the very first thing first: sobriety.

Like the unbreakable Kimmy, sometimes we just have to make through it ten seconds at a time!

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And it works. The neurons calm. We get our ninety day chips and clutch them to our hearts like they’re the Hope Diamond, keep them on us like an amulet, and feel like we’ve won a Nobel Prize. Because that ninety day chip, that six month chip, that one month chip—they’re really that precious. We earned them with our blood, sweat, and tears.

Then there comes a time, when the neurons fire properly, finally the cravings go away, the miracle comes—even after the Pink Cloud has faded. And we are really getting WELL!!!

I’m there. I’m really, truly recovering. The first three years are still a part of early recovery, because we’re straightening out the wrinkles (or tearing down the concrete walls) in our lives and hearts.

And I’ve started thinking, coming up on my two year sobriety date, the next right thing is planning more for the future. Taking the skills and dreams I have and putting them together, working hard, and GETTING THE THINGS DONE.

Even something as simple as enjoying making a smoothie, feeling the textures of soft green baby spinach and cool ice, berry juice on my fingers, can be magical. I know I’m putting things into my body that heal, that give me energy to do the work, the writing, the moving on.

So I’m still keeping it in the day. But in the day, I’m looking forward, and working to get where I want to be.

With gratitude and love,

Namaste, darlings!

-Maggie

Furiously Happy: An Excerpt With Hope

I’m still reading Furiously Happy. It rocks. You gotta read it–or at least this excerpt. Elegant words reminding us that our issues, disorders, our STUFF–be it alcohol recovery, anxiety, depression, or whatever you’re dealing with–can be a source of hope.

There is light in the dark, and those of us who experience intense pain can also feel immeasurable joy.

Namaste, darlings.

-Maggie

Accepting what we cannot change

Sometimes we don’t have flowers. Sometimes we have weeds. But there is beauty even in that, in the work of weeding, hands in the earth, knowing that hard times are the fallow fields preparing us for tomorrow’s beautiful growth.

So we accept what we cannot change. This ALLOWS us the mental space and the time to work on what we actually can. The serenity prayer is simple, freeing, and actually pretty deep. When we make space in our heads by giving to God what we can’t change–accepting, surrendering to our Higher Power’s higher will–we have a lot more time and emotional energy to change the variables under our control. God’s got this–but we are her hands.

Namaste, darlings!

-Maggie

we fight

Sometimes we float soft on the pink cloud of the joy of recovery. Other times, it’s a battle. We fight. We win–one moment, one breath, one day at a time.

Music is one of my favorite forms of self-care. Listen, soothe, heal, repeat. So, here’s a little musical inspiration for your journey–the latest from one of my old favorites, Dashboard Confessional.

We Fight

feet on the earth

The sea. The mountains. The grass in the park. There is something primal about having our feet on the earth, barefoot.

In yoga, we focus a lot on grounding. Grounding into ourselves, the earth, the ultimate source. Our higher power.

Whenever I’m stressed, I have to stop. Take a breather. Take care of myself. And ground. Let go of what is hurting, binding, release it down. Dig my toes in–never mind the imperfection of the messy pedicure and flip-flop toe stub from the subway–and pull deep from the source. Feel the life in the ground beneath us, the promise in the earth itself.

Wherever you are today, I hope there’s a nice patch of land you can sink your toes in.

I wish you: Peace. Serenity. Joy.

Namaste, darlings!

-Maggie

we can only change ourselves

“In spite of our desires, changing others will never be an option, whereas changing ourselves takes only a decision and is a choice always available.” ― Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women Hazelden) 

We can only change ourselves! This is good news, though, because it frees us from the overwhelming burden of having to fix ALL THE THINGS for EVERYONE–as if we actually could…

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I love my 90s kid cultural references (and if you haven’t seen Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, you should, because it’s my favorite adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, like, ever).

But on a serious note, part of recovery is recognizing that the only part of our mental health equation we can control is ourselves. Our reactions, our choices, our outlook. We got this. God’s got this. And daily meditations like the one from THIS FABULOUS BOOK (quoted at the top of the post) help immensely.

May you find joy, and grace, and life today.

Namaste, Darlings!

-Maggie

Recovery in Troubled Times

So many folks in my recovery community are having a hard time with current political events. How do we stay sober while the world seems to be falling apart? The answer is simple, and complicated. The simple part is to keep doing the things that keep you sober in good times: keeping it in the day, giving the worry to your Higher Power, and making copious gratitude lists.

Harder right now, perhaps for those of us in recovery, the  more complicated part is not giving in to the societal disease of power and indifference that we see around us.

It helps me, as a scholar of people, war, and human rights (and, weirdly, alcohol), to remember that countless people went through terrible times before in human history. The AA Big Book talks about World War II soldiers who went through the war in recovery; their stories can be inspirational. But on a more macro level, human history has always been full of troubled times: wars, famines, plagues—and we’ve made it through.

Celebrate small victories; I can’t do much about foreign policy right now other than educate those in my circle on how it relates to the USA’s history, and write. So at times like these, its important to celebrate small victories. I managed, after weeks of working at it, to take our household garbage down to just one can (bin for my Brits!); a lot of work on compost, traditional recycling, and my recycled paper art made that happen. Calling wiser friends who may be able to offer perspective, staying tight with your sober people, and being grateful for the things we can do, even if it’s just raise awareness, stay sober, or donate a few dollars (or pounds) to a cause we love. Hold the hand (or paw!) of someone you love. These things matter.

In fact, the simple act of being grateful for what we do have, saying a prayer, making a gratitude list, calling an old friend, or spending some time in nature, is itself a form of resistance. It is looking the darkness in the eye and saying, as Arya Stark said to Death: NOT TODAY!

I was listening to the Tom Waits song “Hold On” just now, and sometimes, just holding on is enough.

We’ll get through this together. One day at a time.

May you be peaceful, may you love, and may you find grace today.

Namaste, Darlings.

—Maggie