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.
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.
I am now home early with my leg propped up on three pillows because of The Curious Incident of The Toe at the Coffee Shop. I shall explain.
First off, I am a firm believer that every coffee shop needs a kooky punk girl to add character–and I am that girl. I have taken the purple ombre hair and run with it. Full-on black liquid liner and wild red lips are my thing, today with tight buns on each side of the top of my head. It goes with the black uniform, it’s a good look for me, and whenever high school acquaintances come through the line, it totally camouflages the fact that I am a 35 year old nearly-phd’d writer serving coffee in her hometown.
I wore makeup I bought in Brooklyn, New York, and shoes I took with me to the Amazon jungle. I carry my travels—my life in the world—with me always.
Today, carrying recycling boxes, I managed to split my toenail open kicking the shop door. It bled everywhere; my sandal looked like a prop from a zombie film. The first aid-kit, however, was well stocked, and I fixed it. My boss worried over my injury, like I was an actual human. I assured her I was fine.
Somehow, I feel like a kid again. Maybe it’s the purple hair, or the fact that I’ve always wanted to work in a coffee shop, or the fact that I am earning money from a community hub, doing work that makes people happy, instead of slaving away for indentured servant wages in the academic gulag. But I am free.
I played a video game tonight, with money earned from tips. It was silly, frivolous. But it made me HAPPY. The endorphins were pumping. The colors and dazzling stars and movement did their job—way to go, programmers! And as I sit here with my toe split in half, healing after being propped up all day, in my high school bedroom, with my pink lava lamp on, I realize. This is actually pretty good.
The best part? I didn’t have to go corporate: I get to be a writer.
I have always wanted to work in a coffee shop—not a Starbucks, but a weird little place with its own drinks and a community. Today felt like a scene from Mystic Pizza. Three girls, in a little shop with an owner who cares about her product and her people, filing orders. Granted, one was in high school, one was in her twenties, and I’m the 35-year-old, purple-haired writer. But there was a camaraderie untainted by competition. Working beside each other, earning our keep, laughing and sharing makeup tips (and tip money), I realize: there is a whole world out there where your coworkers aren’t at each other’s throats. Small businesses are fun. Not only are they a brave last stand against corporate America, but they’re the heart of communities—from the Brooklyn neighborhood restaurant to the coffee shop in a tiny town, population 2,192 (or so I last I heard from the mayor, via Daddy).
The academic gulag isn’t like that. You compete with your best friends for the same national fellowships—and the same company-store-wage, resume-line, in-house indentures. Why? All to earn another resume bullet, so you can win more fellowships, get your credentials stamped, and continue competing with the same winners for the same jobs. Academia is a tiny world.
But the real world is huge.
And there is better coffee.
Take heart, have faith, and create the life you want. Namaste, darlings!
I finally did a proper wheel pose. After starting out in chronic pain, traveling hundreds of miles on a spiritual hunch, finding my guru with the help of my beloved Mayanist archaeology prof, and practicing for twelve years: I did it.
I’m healthy. I’m grateful. And I feel blessed beyond measure.
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.
“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…
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.
I sat in my back yard looking and actually took the time to STOP and LOOK. What had just been a green space to step outside and take a breather from work became so much more when I let go and let myself become fully present in my garden moment.
I reflected on the changes from the cold winter, when I sat under the February Stars and watched the cold, naked tree limbs extent toward the inky blue sky. The world–my world–had transformed.
Now there are green leaves everywhere, wildflowers, grasses, soft moss. A squirrel was working in my favorite tree. A butterfly flitted by me, and a hummingbird hovered. A red robin looked for worms. Even the insects had come alive! But the winter didn’t show it.
One of my favorite songs is Catie Curtis’ “Everything Waiting to Grow,” about the beauty underneath the surface. In season, over time, after we work on it, our lives will sprout new growth.
It has been waiting, under the surface, for the spring to come.
Whatever season you are in, keep working, keep waiting. You will bloom in time.
My computer, the one that works because of tech support and mindful breathing, has just reminded me that I need to do a yoga video. Funny thing about that: I was just going to blog about how I need to do more yoga. Okay, universe. I get it. I’ll do it after my coffee break with my friend, who is a hooman nurse.
Mentioning excellent medical care, my dog’s veterinarian, Dr. Zen-Fabulous (literally nothing fazes this woman) is awesome. I love her, her staff, and the world map of doggies in Mister Winnie’s favorite examining room. This is the only place in the whole world where my little fur-diva will allow his toenails to be clipped. She’s just the best vet ever.
So when Mister Winnie developed anxiety, he got a fancy new pheromone collar that makes him feel happy. But she also prescribed yoga. Not yoga for him, but more yoga for ME.
Now, I should mention that my dog’s vet is also my friend, and I consider her to be quite wise, (even though she consistently refuses to vote for MY favorite candidates for office…the NERVE…haha! ;). Dr. Zen-Fabulous knows I do yoga, and that it helps my anxiety.
And my dog, in all his fluffy empathetic adorableness, will apparently benefit from my doing more yoga too.
Meds AND mindfulness: a winning combo.
And fellow hoomans, our fur babies have super-powers of emotional empathy—so take advantage of good advice from the vet.