The Curious Incident of the Toe in the Coffee Shop

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!

-Maggie

the mesmerizing magic of self-care

I took the Sunday. To actually rest. I lazed about in my pajamas and binge watched and wrote and recharged my batteries. I yoga’d some kinks out of my shoulders and I ate chocolate chips and kettle-cooked potato chips together with coffee.

Supreme laziness? Maybe that’s what it looks like. But it’s more like the hummingbird image in this puddle of rain and oil and tricks of the light: junk food and yoga and rest and cuddling my dog and deep breaths and Netflix were more than the sum of their parts, and I feel ready to take on the week and soar, for the first time in a long time, I’m EXCITED about Monday.

The best part is: I DO NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR CHILLING. There were a million things I could have been doing (I’m pointedly not saying “should have” here). But I needed to recharge my batteries so I can begin the week fresh, ready to take on all the challenges and adventures that come.

The more we value our time, resources, energy–ourselves–the better we can complete the tasks set before us and accomplish our goals. But it’s true.

And I’ll start my week with excitement.

Namaste, darlings!

-Maggie

morning meditations: almost better than coffee

I’m re-reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s You are here. Page 39 popped out at me this morning; he’s talking about the beauty of being still and fully present for the moment. And how freeing that is.

I like to make a practice of reading something positive in the morning to set my day off on the right tone. It helps to get me in a place of, hopefully, presence and stillness. The more I practice, the more it works. Like playing the piano, or doing yoga. Mentioning yoga, I’d better get on my yoga flow before work.

But after the coffee. Always, after the coffee and the books.

The Great John Lennon once said: whatever gets you through the day. So go forth and you do you this morning. Even if it means making your silver fingernails look artier in the pic (but hey–I was in the moment 😉

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

Recovery and Zombies

“The zombie apocalypse is a lot like rehab, kid. You just take it one day at a time and do the next indicated thing.” -Doc, Z Nation, S1:E2

I love zombies. Or rather, I love the ethical questions in The Walking Dead, the silly camp in Evil Dead, the ridiculously delightful mashup of horror genre cliches in Z Nation… but there’s more to it.

We can look at the Zombie Apocalypse as metaphor: surrender to the reality of the situation and then fight like hell to change what you can. And let The god of your understanding take care of the rest.

And if you’re interested in a great read on zombies from one truly badass scholar, check out Kelly Baker’s Zombie book! It rocks. I endorse.

And as always, keep it in the day, and let tomorrow handle itself.

Namaste, darlings!

Maggie

i am the jewel in the lotus, or, the alchemy pain to joy

Pain, transmuted–eventually–to joy.

Sometimes it’s internal emotional combustion. Today, it’s tangible.

I’m making art out of old get well cards.

The reminders of pain, love, struggle, become something like this:

Then, after a lot of work, the magic happens.

This is one of my paper pieces, hand-inscribed with a Sanskrit mantra in brush and ink. Om mani padme hum: I am the jewel in the lotus.

The lotus grows from the mud, just like we do in recovery. And the jewel is your heart, full of love, after time, after letting go, opening up, and revealing the beauty of god inside you.

Namaste, darlings!

Maggie

Year One: Life and Death in Early Recovery

The first year of recovery is supposed to be simple: no major changes, keep it in the day, focus on your sobriety. That’s great in theory, but life happens.

After I was sober, I spent three days in jail, because of a DUI. I moved to Brooklyn shortly thereafter. I finished my dissertation. I started a new job. Had two new relationships, one of which was great–with a sweet furniture maker who was cool as hell, and one of which was giant ass.

One of the hardest things I experienced in early recovery was that my godbrother died, too young, in his thirties; I was devastated. I found out on facebook, because my phone had been off all day. I’d been a filmmaker friend’s plus one at a film convention, and she and I had had the most glorious day. I was wearing a fairy crown and my favorite black dress when I sat down on my stoop on Flatbush to smoke a cigarette going in. I mindlessly flipped open the facebook app, and saw his death posted–which is quite possibly the very worst way to find out that a family member has passed. I was so distraught that my eleven-year-old neighbor had to unlock the building door for me–my hands were shaking too much. He is a darling, kind, wonderful child.

After trying to reassure him that I was okay, probably unsuccessfully, I went up to my apartment, where I sat on the fire escape crying to my sponsor and my mother and one of my dearest friends, who talked to me until four am, when I finally crawled into my bed and took off the fairy crown.

But I did not drink.

This past weekend, my dear, wonderful great-uncle passed away. I’m 21 and a half months sober, but that doesn’t mean his death didn’t hit me hard. Life happens; and death is a part of life, like it or not. But in sobriety, I can feel my feelings.

That’s the good part. I don’t have to escape the trauma at the bottom of a wine bottle. And the longer I’m sober, the stronger I am. The stronger we all are. But things still hurt. And that’s okay.

You’ll have good days and bad days, major life events and stress.

But if you don’t drink, you’ll be able to process, and more of the good days will come.

Namaste, darlings.

-Maggie

Chronic Pain, Yoga, Healing, and Celebration

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.

Namaste, darlings!

-Maggie