real love endures

So, I was texting, late at night. I got condolences from my third-favorite ex boyfriend,  who had seen my tweet about a family elder’s passing on. By mutual agreement, third-favorite ex-boyfriend and I have friendzoned each other. He is a part of my tribe; some people just are. They become a part of our story, our heart, and whatever wacky things happen just don’t matter as much as the good stuff. Like a condolence text that turned into a conversation about some idiot that I am literally never talking to again, and perked me up greatly.

“And you still hang out with ME,” third-favorite ex-boyfriend observed, cannily, of the idiot in question. “What in the HELL did he do?!”

Third-favorite ex-boyfriend has a way with words. He is dreadfully, brilliantly funny in the very worst and best ways. I adore him for it. He has a way of snapping me out of my funks and making me laugh and live in the present moment. And he was the first man to cheer me after I pretty much got dumped right before the actual altar.

This week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the past, about the ghosts in my head. 

“You love that dead man more than me,” my altar-dumping ex-fiancé informed me at the beginning of the end of our relationship, when I fell into a deep depression upon the death of another of my tribe, whom I loved dearly, with all my heart. How could anyone not love a man who was one with nature, who knew every rock and tree and spider and violet in the woods, who trekked through raging snowstorms to save egomaniac tourist hikers from themselves whenever he got a call from the forest service. He was a man who always showed up, loved, and cared. He died too young when cancer ate him up. I did love that dead man more than my ex-fiancé, and another dead man, too—one he didn’t know about, my very first crush, whom I knew all my life, and dated, and who died in college. 

Only the good die young. I suppose this means my ex-fiancé and Keith Richards will inherit the earth some day, along with the cockroaches, long after the zombie apocalypse. I’m sure they’ll have a great time singing together and blathering on about all the fun times they had when the world was still lit by electric lights and humanity. But I’m being a bitch now, and I digress.

This is the third anniversary of the week I would have been married. But the ex-fiancé called off the wedding and said that he couldn’t say for certain he would ever marry me. So I took my toys and left, so to speak, and expressed upon facebook my wish that he would get hit by a bus. (That was not appropriate. I see that now; it was the wounded pride and the copious French wine talking…)

But I never acknowledged the pain he said he felt upon what (for him, anyway) appeared to be my surprise exit. I see that now. And I acknowledge and release it, the last link to that relationship, that relationship in which I did enjoy many moments, in which I did grow.

So I’m sober now. And it’s also, more importantly, the first anniversary of my godbrother’s death. The timing contorted my feelings. Enmeshed in the strangeness, the emotional discomfort of both anniversaries, I was confusing the grief over my godbrother’s dying too young with the memory of the loss of the marriage and the life I once thought I wanted.

I haven’t wanted that life with the ex-fiancé since I got sober. Many merlot-soaked moons ago, all I wanted was to be rescued from the academic gulag, and the ex-fiancé seemed like the perfect fairy-tale pumpkin coach out, across the ocean, into my old home, the music business. But he wasn’t a fairy-tale hero; he was just a guy with strengths and flaws, like anyone else. 

It turned out, I had to save myself—or really, let God do it, which is sort of the same thing, but better.

So, now I can’t remember the exact date of the cancelled wedding. I do remember that my fabulous former girlfriend purposefully helped me turn that dark anniversary into a new experience: a river-tubing trip through the North Carolina mountains. So that date was reborn, and she helped me heal. 

But I am going to put flowers on my godbrother’s grave this week. And I will carry my godbrother with me, the memory in my heart, always. He wouldn’t want me to weep for him, but to celebrate his life, the glorious moments, the lakeside laughs. His effervescent smile.

And so I remember: all love that is true endures—whether it is for family, or friends, or a favorite tree, or even my third-favorite ex-boyfriend. We carry the real love of our tribe in our hearts forever, no matter how long or short the duration, never mind whether it was familial, platonic, or amorous. 

“I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart.” – E. E. Cummings

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

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

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

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

hope, change, trucks

Hope.

It matters.

And we must not lose faith in people’s ability to change. We can make good decisions or bad ones. Today at the grocery, I saw a truck. A big, macho, green, shiny, expensive, deer-decal-ed bubba truck. The bubba in question swaggered out with his facial hair and muscles and marched into the store. I looked closer.

Amongst the hunting decals, there was a space where something that had been ripped off. Something about the size of a Trump bumper sticker. Lately, I haven’t seen those around, even here, in red-state redneckland.

Bubba’s truck gave me hope today. People change.

Growth is a big part of recovery.

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…

HV4.gif

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

Bipartisanship as Anxiety Cure, or, My Thoughts on SCOTUS

Anxiety is on the rise, in people with and without a diagnosis. Our political climate affects us all—especially those of us in recovery, so that’s why I’m talking about it here. In the spirit of full disclosure, my first alliance is always to human rights, and I’m pretty much a good liberal. But it’s not important to me whether my friends are liberal or conservative—the world needs both.

A lot of folks on both sides of the aisle are in a tizzy over the Supreme Court pick. I’d rather have Kennedy still in his seat, and Kavanaugh isn’t making my best staunch conservative lawyer friend very happy, either. But this is not, as many pundits assert, the end of the world as we know it.”

No, really! Please hear me out. Bear with me.

A fine American tradition is our two-party system with bipartisanship at the center. That’s still actually working in the judicial branch. The late Antonin Scalia, representing all evil to good liberals, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg (RBG to fangirls like me) representing all evil to conservatives, were actually—wait for it—friends.

Ginsberg, who sees the U.S. Constitution as a living document,  with amendments improving it as society evolves (eg. the Reconstruction Amendments ensuring equal protection and due process—and freedom itself for African Americans!) was friends with the most Conservative guy on the bench.

The late Scalia was the brains behind the “Originalist” interpretation of the U.S. Constitution (which basically says it should be interpreted in the light of what my con-law prof called “the 1776 bunch” would have wanted—as IF they could have magically anticipated a world with nuclear weapons and internet pundits!!!). He was friends with Ginsberg. There’s also the important idea that we need to consider the abolitionist authors of the Reconstruction Amendments as founders, too. But there’s a middle ground, where both interpretations meet.

Donald Trump is not a proper conservative like Scalia. Trump’s a reality TV star who flaunts the constitution, and I think Scalia would be pissed if he were alive. Trump is a racist casino owner. He calls immigrants parasites and cockroaches. He mocked a disabled person on tv. He’s vile.

But that’s not what the SCOTUS nomination is about. Trump didn’t prepare the list; a group of conservative jurists called The Federalist Society did. They’re qualified attorneys with degrees, experience, and proper scholarship. I don’t agree with them in general; I’m team Ginsberg, and they’re team Scalia. But both teams share a commitment to the fairness of the judiciary branch. 

There is hope for all of us. And in these troubled times, when anxiety grips us like an anaconda’s death embrace, I’m saying this is one less thing we need to freak out about. It’s going to be okay.

But there are other things out there—like the ongoing refugee crisis—that we need to fix. Vote. Organize. Pray. Work. But also, talk to people on the other side of the aisle. Be like Ginsberg and Scalia. We can all work together for the good of our country. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, can work together. We can be bipartisan. 

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, I believe Roberts will be a swing vote, and not much will change in the Supreme Court.

Ginsberg and Scalia didn’t vote together, but they respected each other, and were able to work together, and even play together. Here is a picture of the two of them riding elephants together:

https://goo.gl/images/OadLKN  

In other words, the Zombie Apocalypse may come yet, but Kavanaugh isn’t it.