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

#MeToo Solidarity, gratitude for the love and support, and the truth that sets us free

About a day and a half ago I came out with what happened to me in academia with this tweet:

I am overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support.  My heart hurts for everyone who has said “me too, my advisor and department did the same thing to me.”

I have been applauded for my bravery, but I need everyone to know that I am not Wonderwoman. I am not a lone superhero. I am the opposite: a gratefully recovering alcoholic battling an anxiety disorder every day, with the help of a tightly knit community.

Some days this year, I have been too anxious to get out of bed. Too terrified to write a word on a piece that is under contract, and almost finished. There are days I have had to work to brush my teeth and put on yoga pants and breathe.

It is only the unflagging support and unconditional love of my family and friends that gets me through. My tribe is my strength. The genetic luck of the draw landed me with parents who love and support me unconditionally; I am incredibly grateful, but I know that I am the beneficiary of random, unearned privilege. 

My friends are great listeners, good people, and they have been by my side for years. In just one little example, when my father had a heart attack earlier this year, my babyhood best friend was there. This man, with whom I once flopped on blankets in his mother’s garden in the eighties, who took me to my prom when a high school boyfriend flaked out, who married the girl of his dreams (and I knew she was perfect because she was the first human to talk him into eating both asparagus and sushi), drove to the regional trauma center in the middle of the night to be there when the chopper arrived with Daddy, so he wouldn’t be alone. Mom and I and friends arrived an hour later, by car.

This network, these people, are my strength. My god is my strength. I am just an extremely lucky woman who gets to be “brave” because I am surrounded by so much love and help.

To all of the women who said “me too,” I hear you. I see you. I am grateful for you. And you are not alone. The system needs fixing and we will all fight for you. For me. For us. For love that crosses boundaries, and makes all things new.

Namaste, darlings.

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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

#EndTheStigma: Or, Anxiety, Mental Health, and my Vintage Ukelele

Did you ever realize something you’ve been looking for was literally under your nose? It’s a universal experience, but sometimes what we need is right there—but only when we have the eyes to see it. Sometimes anxiety blocks us from being aware of the opportunities for growth that are right in front of us. Here’s me and my baritone ukelele.

It’s been in the back of my closet for years…but I finally learned to play it with the help of  The Mindful M.D. Mom. Friends and a new perspective can be keys in the lock of whateveris holding us back. What mental health challenges are you working through right now? Let’s jam and brainstorm and end the stigma together!

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

Anatomy of my Panic Attack and Dog-Answered Prayer

Depression lies. Anxiety lies. PTSD lies. I experience academic-writing ptsd-like anxiety attacks because of that man, but I am strong and I will beat them.

The fear, doubt like that of a valkyrie’s projection, the hyper-neurotic-fast breathing, blinding terror narrowing perception to a small space around my head—I have to get out of it, into my body, do things I know will cheer me. I look at my manicure: green sparkles. I get out of my robe and into my clothes. They match. I am vivid color—green—growth. Life.

A shift in perception. The blinders now off, but pulse still racing. I must get control of my breath . . . take my power back. Throw the panther of panic off my shoulders, un-dig its treacherous claws. Name the fear: my old advisor. Face the fear: I can write. He tried to destroy my confidence, but he was never my mentor.

My mentor was a Holocaust historian from Brooklyn, who marched with Dr. King and led student protests at Columbia. My mentor was a high school English teacher who didn’t let me get away with any shit, ever. My mentor was a college professor who was a poet who taught me that words are weapons, beauties, gifts. My mentor was my father, the writer.

I lift my hair of the back of my neck. It is hot, my neck, and my hand is cool. I focus on the sensation of touch; I come back into awareness of my body. More of the fear-fog dissipates, like a dementor being beaten back by the sheer power of the will to love.

Inhale. Deep, slow. Feel the air expand in my lungs, catch myself clinging to the top of the inhale. I am holding my breath. Let it out, I command myself, in my head. I dwell in the bottom exhale for a moment. A glimpse of nothingness—death, even—as the yogi sages say.

Spirit. Serenity prayer. I close my eyes and choke on the first word. Again. Listen to my voice. Corporeal reality into sound.

Vibration. The hum of the universe. Om.

I can manage an Om.

Om gum ganapatayei namaha.

A knock at the door.

My puppy runs in, hiding from his bath. He touches his forehead to mine when I bend down to get him. He hides under the bed. I giggle.

“You cannot hide from your fears, my love. They will always find you later.”

I hear my own advice.

Prayer answered: I write.

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

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