365 Booze-Free Days.

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Yesterday marked 1 full year without alcohol for me.

A couple of days before, I dreamt that I drank some wine. I couldn’t believe I drank so close to one year. But really, what does one year mean? It’s not like I’m thinking, well that was an interesting experiment, where’s my Pinot Grigio or Moscow Mule or nice cold beer? (My favorite summer drinks.)

Actually, to be honest, part of me is thinking that.

What’s interesting is that is seems to be getting harder the longer I go without drinking. Especially lately. And who can blame me? I mean, alcohol sales have increased over 50% since Covid-19 and lockdowns. It’s an easy way to chill. To relax. To numb the perpetual anxiety I feel about being unemployed, my husband being furloughed, our health insurance being doled out on a month to month basis, cases spiking all around us. 

It’s a lot.

Not only have I not been drinking my way through all this, but many of my other easy buttons have been unavailable. I can’t just go shopping because most stores have been closed and we are now living on half of our income. Which means I’m also not shopping online. I can’t hunker down at the bookstore cafe to write because it’s closed. Movie theaters are closed.

So, without those usual routes of escape I’ve had to, ya know, actually feel things. Feel uncomfortable. Anxious. Angry. Sad. Despair. But there have also been moments of joy. Laughter. Gratitude. Ease. I am filling about a notebook a month as I process everything. My yoga practice has also been a crucial part of my toolkit as I navigate these challenging times.

In the beginning, it was easier not drinking because I was excited to make this change. People around me were supportive. Now, the excitement has waned. This is just how life is now. I don’t drink.

And I miss it at times. 

I miss sitting on the deck with a drink in the evening. Or going to restaurant patios in the summer.

I don’t miss the hangovers.

I don’t miss how it wrecked my sleep.

Or exacerbated my anxiety or depressive tendencies.

In the last couple of weeks there have been two times when I really considered drinking again. I thought, who would really care? Both times I was greeted with something online that reminded me why I was doing this. Or, not doing this. 

One was the news that the American Cancer Society now recommends not drinking at all to reduce risk of cancer. The other was a post on Instagram reminding us that booze is literally ethanol, the same stuff used in hand sanitizer and fuel. 

I could drink again. Nobody would care. Nobody would judge me. It’s similar to my writing. I write every single day. I could skip a day. Nobody would care. I could stop writing all together and very few people would care. But I write for me, not other people. I write because I need to. Because it nourishes me in some deep, essential way.

Not drinking does the same thing. I am not drinking for me. When I stopped last year, it wasn’t out of the throes of some massive hangover. It was because it wasn’t serving me anymore. Not drinking is deeply nourishing to my body, mind and spirit.

So, I haven’t had a drink in 365 days and that is something to celebrate for sure. But it is just one year of many more to come…hopefully.

Letting my Writing Lead Me.

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Yesterday marked the end of the 1000 Words of Summer challenge hosted by Jamie Attenberg. For 14 days I wrote at least 1000 words every day.

Now,  I had some high expectations when I started this, cuz, have you met me? I thought for sure that I would finish the draft of my novel and that I would then move on to one of my other projects. Either my YA trilogy or memoir about yoga and writing. 

Well.

I didn’t finish my novel.

But over 14,000 words written is better than 14,000 words not written. 

What I did do was write in my notebook.  A lot. About 8-10 pages a day.

At first I was disappointed in myself. Because of course I was.

Most of the writing that fills this particular notebook came from prompts from Desiree Adaway for a program called Sister Summer. It’s a month of writing and reflection where we “do the hard complex work needed to get free together.”

All writing, no matter what it is, helps me become the writer, woman and human being I want to be.

It’s been a rough couple of months, hasn’t it? But amidst the protests and the pandemic and being unemployed I managed to write 1000 motherfucking words every single day. That is something. That is huge. 

I’m going to own it because even though the challenge didn’t take me where I intended, it still took me somewhere fantastic and unexpected.

I want to keep this momentum going. The momentum of writing 1000 words a day and the momentum of educating myself to be actively anti-racist and an ally. 

I need to remember that both are marathons, not sprints. 

Both are practices for a lifetime not merely a moment and especially not for an Instagram moment.

Both require me to dig deep and be honest about what I see, about what I find.

Both require me to be strong. To use my voice—especially when it is uncomfortable.

I don’t think it was an accident that this challenge coincided with this moment in history. One did not distract from the other. They nourished each other. They acted as mirrors, reflecting back to me where I was stuck, where I’ve been racist, where I clung to my white privilege, where I have failed and where I can do and be better.

I can’t think of a better result for writing those 14,000 words.

Writing as Prayer.

(This is inspired by the Mindful Writing Challenge with Nadia Colburn. The prompt comes from a poem by Mary Oliver. It also came out of a prompt from Poses, Pens + Inner Peace.)

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Image found via Pinterest.

Writing is prayer. It is my prayer.

My way of paying attention. Paying attention to the stack of books and notebooks teetering next to me in the living while the dog sleeps on the couch, her lip caught in her tiny teeth. Paying attention to the the empty mason jar with just a residue of sweet creamy chai lingering at the bottom. To the sliding glass door that is open to the deck, in letting fresh air, the song of birds and the whine of highway traffic drift in through the mesh screen.

Paying attention is a kind of prayer. I’ve became acutely aware of what I am paying attention to during this time. Some days I only pay attention to the losses: lives, health, jobs, health insurance, events, security.

I pay attention to the grief. To the despair. And that’s okay. They need tending, too.

To pay attention is to tend with my energy. To tend is to pray.

Writing is my prayer. It is sacred. It connects my body, mind and heart. It connects me to wisdom. To something that is greater than myself.

Writing is how I pay attention and prayer is paying attention.

To this moment.

This breath.

To this feeling.

This thought.

Writing is my prayer. My path inward and my path out. Out of confusion, out of my own tiny life and into the larger life that surrounds me.

Writing is a way in. To the center. To the stillness. To the white hot chaos of being human, especially during this time of such upheaval and uncertainty.

Writing is my prayer. Not a child’s prayer of asking for things like a Christmas list, but a way of honoring my life. My body. My time. The people in my life. Life itself. Honoring the fact of my existence.

Each word is a statement of here I am .

I am here.

I exist.

I am.

I.

Am.

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What a Prayer Can Be.

(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner, which is inspired by this poem from Brad Modlin.)

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Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. The slices of brown or rose or yellow skin shaved into a bowl nestled in the sink, revealing a white bulb of flesh that fits into the palm of a hand.

Washing dishes can be a form of prayer. Bowls clanking, scraping remnants into the trash, putting forks tines down in the basket, setting the cups in a neat row up top, lining the plates up on the bottom as if standing at attention.

If I sewed, I imagine it would be a form of prayer. Stitching together what has been torn, creating garments to clothe this body of flesh.

Walking can be a form of prayer. I remember when my back went out and it hurt to walk down the stairs in our home. I remember when my best friend had open heart surgery a year ago and how she could barely walk to our neighbor’s mailbox when she came to our home to recover. Walking is such a simple act that moves us from place to place, activity to activity.  I remember walking the streets of Lisbon, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, and Amsterdam with my daughters last year. Walking was one of our main modes of transportation. It was our way of exploring, seeing and connecting with the world which is a form of prayer.

Writing is a form of prayer, for me anyway. I come to the page everyday with the intention of connecting, of diving deeper in to my life, into the moment. it is one of my practices along with yoga and meditation. Anything I practice regularly with intention is a form of prayer. These words spilling onto the page in purple ink, not knowing what comes next but trusting the process is a form of prayer.

Trust is a form of prayer. I am learning that now more than ever. Trust without knowing. Trust without certainty. Trust without guarantees.

Soaking in our hot tub can be a form of prayer. I never bring my phone with me. If I’m alone I just sink into the water, sink into my body, arms floating, letting the water cradle me, being acutely aware of the silky warmth enveloping me, the jets pulsing against my low back or kidneys or that tender spot on the side of the left foot. If I am with family or friends, I am present. We sit it silence or we talk and it feels like communion.

For a girl who wasn’t raised in any religion, I find prayer everywhere. Prayer isn’t asking for things like I believed as a child. Imagining God as Santa only living in Heaven instead of the North Pole.

Prayer is listening.

Prayer is paying exquisite attention to every detail of life from peeling potatoes to resting in a hot tub to writing these words.

Anything can be a form of prayer.

Everything can be.

If only we let it.

The Dance of Allowing.

(This is inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner. )

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Things to do in the belly of social-distancing: Clean. Dust. Mop. Organize. Wash. Dry. Fold. Create space. Create order.

Create lists.

Lists of what to buy at the grocery store. Of things to do once the order is lifted. People you want to see. Places you want to go. Events you want to attend.

Create a list of what you miss: people, events, routines, jobs, money.

Mourn the losses even the ones that seem small or insignificant in the scheme of things.

Things to do in the belly of monotony: write.

Write everyday because it is what you do. You’ve been doing it for over 4 years, though you’ve been writing for decades. Writing everyday is the way you show up to yourself and you need that structure now, more than ever.

Things to do in the belly of uncertainty: breathe.

Breathe when the anxiety begins to tighten your throat. When it feels it may choke you. When it gets too large to be contained. Breathe.

Move. Move your body. Get on your mat. Get outside. Move your breath. Move your energy. Get out of your head where anxiety lives and thrives.

Things to do in the belly of these dark times: hope.

Cultivate hope. Notice signs of spring, of change. The pink blossoms spilling from the bush outside the window by your desk as you write these words. The emerald green of grass. The dandelions peppering the lawn. The musicality of birds returning home.

Things to do in the belly of these challenging times: return home.

To your home. Your body. Your heart.

Return to this moment. Let this moment be home. If your to-do list and planner are currently empty, revel in the white space and let yourself just be instead of always doing.

Come home to yourself. What are you curious about? What can you explore? Play with? Dream about”

Things to do in the belly of loneliness: reach out.

Text. Email. Call. Zoom. FaceTime. Connect.

Breathe. Come back to your breath. Always.

Connect with the loneliness. Ask it questions. Be curious about it.

Does it feel familiar? What does it need? Why did it show up?

Write a letter to loneliness. Write a letter from loneliness to you.

Things to do in the belly of disruption: allow.

Acknowledge and allow all that has been disrupted: careers, jobs, retirements, bank accounts. Routines. Celebrations. Milestones. Health. Life. Death. Mourning.

In the face of disruption what do you choose to do?

I choose to feel angry, sad, disappointed, relieved, grateful, anxious. Whatever comes up, I give it space.

That is what I am learning to do in the midst of all of this: allow.

Lots and lots of allowing.

Allowing rest and activity.

Allowing making plans and making no plans.

Having goals and no goals.

Sleeping in and waking early.

Going to bed early and going to bed late.

Eating fruits and veggies and eating chocolate cake for breakfast.

Allowing space to do, to be, to dream.

Allowing myself to meet myself where I am at any given moment, over and over again, as often as needed for as long as needed.

Surrendering to the beautiful and awkward dance of allowing.

Prompt inspired by this poem

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What this Poem Can Be.

(This is inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner.)

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Image found via Pinterest.

This poem can not take us back to normal.

As if normal ever truly existed.

As if normal was a better place .

As if normal was a destination.

Instead, this poem lands us smack in the middle of a new normal. Of standing on x’s of tape in line at the grocery store.

Of wearing masks out in public as if everyday was now Halloween.

Halloween has always been my least favorite holiday. I wish I enjoyed it more. It seems like the cool kids and people really know how to celebrate it. I always played it safe, as a kid and an adult in my choice of costumes. Never gruesome or ugly and definitely not foolish: Queen of Hearts, a cat, The Flying Nun, an angel, a doll, an old lady.

Now, we venture out, half our face covered. It’s an odd sensation as if we are all hiding some essential piece of ourselves as we navigate this new world.

This poem can not determine an end date. As if there is an end date already out there, waiting for us to reach it, like a lighthouse. As if everything and everyone hasn’t already been changed in private yet crucial ways.

This poem can not ease the constant fear that ripples just beneath the surface of skin. Fears of sickness and death, of other smaller losses: jobs, community, routines, celebrations.

This poem is instead taking aim directly into the new normal, into the fear, into this new space of more being and much less doing.

This poem can not even really be considered a poem. It is a connecting with what is. With this moment: the fine line of sweat at the hairline, the slight throbbing in the thighs, the calming of my heartbeat. All this after a late-afternoon bike ride with my husband. The joy of feeling like I am flying. The joy of being a kid again. No worries. No cares. Definitely not concerned with a global pandemic and a global economic  meltdown.

And for a moment I am care free. Free of cares.

And that moment was everything.

And it was nothing.

And everything in between.

So, maybe these words are a poem. And this particular poem is just a journey, swirling from the past into the future, finally landing me here.

In the moment.

And that’s what all writing is: poem, stories, essays, songs. Moments just passing through us as we try to catch them on the page.

This poem can be that for me. It can be a way of just being in this moment, Capturing the thoughts, fears, hopes, sensations in my body. Then letting them go.

This poem can be a reminder to breathe. To feel the gentle rise and fall of my chest and belly. A reminder to soften my jaw. To create some space between my teeth.

It is a reminder of restless dreams populated with kidnapping and house fires and planes falling from the sky.

This poem can be exactly what I need it to be.

It can be exactly what it is.

It can be what is.

It can be.

 

We Forgot that it’s All Temporary.

(Inspired from prompt by Amber Rae.)

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From my inner wisdom:

This time is painful yet temporary. Just like all moments. Moments of joy are joyful yet temporary. Moments of loss are sad yet temporary.

It feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you. From under the world. All the systems you have relied on are being tested from government to healthcare to eduction to capitalism. It’s all a mess, I know.  But a temporary mess.

This is the powerful part of transformation. The uncertainty. The chaos. The not knowing. Your yoga, meditation and writing practices have all been helping to prepare you for this. Use them. Use them daily. Deepen them and allow them to deepen you.

Even on days when you don’t feel like it (especially on those days) show up anyway. Just briefly. One child’s pose. One minute of meditation. One sentence in your journal. It makes all the difference.

Use this time to reflect on what’s been working and what has not. Leave behind what has not. Why continue to carry what you don’t need?

Ask yourself: What truly matters? Then use the answer as a guiding light. Move toward that.

Stay vigilant, yet soft.

Be cautious, but not obsessed.

Have a structure for your days but allow for some freedom within it.

Take time to connect with others and give yourself time alone.

Feel gratitude and grief.

You can hold both at once.

It’s easy to slide into the blame and anger game. Use that anger for action. Don’t let it simmer inside of you. Allow it to motivate you.

The world is changing.

You are changing. Life as you knew has changed.

It’s an amazing opportunity.

It would be so easy to cling to old ways, old values. To cling to what is familiar.

Be bold. Let go of the familiar and allow yourself to float into the unknown. Create new ways of being in the world, new ways of showing up in the world.

Be bold in your desires. In claiming them.

Because seriously: If not now, then when?

Do it now.

Feel it now.

Say it now.

Take action now.

Write now.

Breathe now.

Dream now.

Act now.

Speak now.

The biggest lesson is that now is all we have. It’s all we’ve ever had.

We just allowed ourselves to forget that essential truth. Now, we are all being called to remember.

Things I Want to Tell You.

(This is from a prompt on the 27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner)

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I want to tell you about the time the world paused. How many of us stayed inside, tethered to our homes, to our neighborhoods while others who were essential to our survival ventured out to care for us, to heal us, to feed us, to protect us.

I want to tell you about the last yoga class I taught in person. It was a Sunday night. Only two students. Yoga Bliss. A space for deep rest, relaxation and nourishment through yin, yoga nidra and reiki. How we kept our distance which felt odd. How I offered reiki without touching them. How we still felt so connected. How I didn’t know it would be the last class I taught there for who knows how long but how I also wasn’t surprised when it was.

I want to tell you about time. How time became everything and nothing. Days blurred into weeks into months.

I want to tell you about the grief for the unfathomable loss of lives but I have no words for that grief.

I want to tell you about the grief for all the mundane losses within our daily lives: buying groceries without fear, grocery stores stocked with food, hugging friends, going to the movies, going to see “Wicked” with tickets I bought at Christmas for my BFF and me,

I want to tell you how it all matters. All the losses. And we are allowed to feel sad for all of them.

I want to tell you how everything we had planned for and based our future on was suddenly gone. Jobs. Paychecks. Security. Things we thought we could count on.

I want to tell you how we had to change so much, so fast. We had to learn to be home. Learn to be alone. To create a routine. To cook with what we have. To shop from emptied grocery shelves. To live on less. With less. And how that all will eventually be good for us.

I want to tell you how I was numb at first. How it didn’t feel real. How I cleaned everyday because it gave me a purpose and a sense of control. How I couldn’t focus enough to write more than a little in my journal. How my brain couldn’t focus enough to read. How empty I felt to not be able to turn to books for solace, for nourishment.

I want to tell you how I am learning to hold empty. To not fill myself up with words and TV and social media. How I sit in meditation even when it is excruciating and I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin but I sit there anyway, finding some small measure of stillness within the chaos.

I want to tell you about the fear that lies just beneath my skin, always. Fear of getting sick. Of my family getting sick. Friends. Of death. Of losing our jobs permanently. Of needing to buy our own health insurance.

I want to tell you about the planes that fall from the sky in my dreams. How I see the metal underbellies above me. How they crash to the ground. It’s a recurring dream I have whenever I feel stress. How I wake up and my jaw aches from clenching it all night long.

I want to tell you about beginning to find some small comfort in this new normal. Learning to be here instead of there all the time. Turning to my writing to process and explore and reflect and unearth all that I am thinking and feeling about this time we are living in.

I want to tell you to be patient. With others. With yourself. To be tender. We are all still learning how to be, how to live, how to exist, how to persist, how to eventually thrive in these new times.

I want to tell you I see you.

I want to tell you I am here.

Why Write Now?

(This is from a prompt on the 27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner which is from a beautiful new poem by Jane Hirshfield.)

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Today when I could do nothing what do I do? I reach for my pen and journal. I breathe deep, put pen to paper, heart to hand and I write. Not for something or someone. It’s not a record of what it’s like for me to live in this time. At least, that is not why I do it. It may be that, but it is not my intention.

So, when I could do nothing, why do I still write?

Why write when a pandemic is sweeping across the globe, gathering bodies and souls in its wake?

Why write when our financial future and security have been pulled out from under us?

Why write when I can’t see my students in person and can only connect occasionally through screens and technology?

When I can’t hug my friends but only see a grid of their beautiful faces on my computer?

When I send my husband out for groceries in gloves and a mask, praying that he doesn’t bring that invisible bug into our home.

When I could do anything or nothing, I still choose to write because it it is who I am. It is how I know who I am. How I discover who I am, who I was and who I want to be. And in times like this, it is essential that we have clarity around that vision of ourselves.

I write through this crisis and into it because I know of no other way to understand or connect with myself and that which is beyond myself. Moving deeply into my Self and far beyond my Self feels essential right now.

So I write.

I write in my journal.

I write from prompts and fragments of poems.

I write scenes for my YA fantasy that drops me into another world.

I write about and into the boredom.

The monotony.

The confusion.

The clarity.

The anxiety.

The calm.

The losses.

The gifts.

The grief.

The gratitude.

I write about and into all of it.

Today when I could do nothing, when I could do anything, one of the things I choose to do is write. You see, writing is essential to me. It is what nourishes me and during this time of great challenge it’s essential that we nourish ourselves.

Today when I could do nothing I make a cup of hot chai, drape myself in a cozy blanket and curl up in front of the fire with my journal open. All that white space waiting for me. No expectations. No judgments. Just space for me to be exactly who I am in this moment.

And this is why I choose to write today when I could do nothing, when I could do anything.

 

Am I Really Meant to Publish my Novels?

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I am constantly in awe at the synchronicity of the Universe.

I had this fleeting thought earlier today that maybe I wasn’t meant to publish my novels because of all the rejections I am piling up and because I find it so much easier to write here or on Instagram than to hunker down and work on my novel.

Then I opened up The Journal Compendium and saw this quote from Julia Cameron:

What you really want to do, is what you are really meant to do.

Whoa!!

I felt immediate relief reading those words. This sense of spaciousness. Of potential. Of permission to pursue what I really want even though I haven’t followed the common path, even though I am 54…so many more “even thoughs” are silenced, or at least soothed by these words.

Then I began to Mother myself:

Of course it’s easier to write for your blog or on Instagram. It’s just a moment moving through you. It’s who you are right now. You write it. You release it. You move on.

Writing a novel lives in whole other galaxy. It’s its own entity that requires constant care, attention and nourishment for a very long time. And chances are you will change during that timeframe, so who you were when you began writing it is not who you are at the end.

So, yes, it’s more difficult. It doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to publish your novels. There are readers out there who will deeply resonate with your stories.. You have already heard from them over the years. Your words touch people’s heart. 

There is an agent out there who is the perfect fit for you, who is your ideal reader and will champion you and your books as you both make your way out into the wider world.

Just keep sending your work out. Don’t take the rejections personally.

Just keep writing.

Just keep doing what you are doing.

Believe in yourself like I do, like your friends do, like anyone who has read and resonated with your stories does.

The answer to the title of this blog?

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Image found via Pinterest.

Now, I’m off to work on my novel.