Yes. This is us.

“Justice will not be served

until those who are unaffected

are as outraged as those who are.”

Benjamin Franklin

Last weekend, social media was awash in the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs.  I heard politician after politician say, “America is better than this,” and, “This is not who we are.”

That needs to stop.  Seriously.

Listen, I get it.  I get the urge, when confronted with such ugliness, such hatred, ignorance, and violence, to disavow the behavior as something aberrant, alien.  OTHER. Who wants to be associated with what is the very worst of human nature?  I have a visceral reaction to what I saw take place in Charlottesville.  It sickens me.

The thing is though, what we saw happen in Charlottesville is us.  It is.  It is exactly us, at this moment in time.  Those photos of faces twisted in fury, lit by torches?  Those are family photos.  They are the same faces that were once covered by hoods, and before that worn by overseers and slave traders.  They were present at the bus riots in Boston, the lunch counters in Alabama, and this president’s rallies during the election.  Those faces have always been a part of the American family.  They have never not been us.

The United States of America was the first country born of an idea.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That idea, that IDEAL, has never been realized in this country.  It was lofty and bold and beautiful and penned by a man who owned other human beings.  Even the guy who WROTE it didn’t believe in it enough to fully live it.  That is a wildly uncomfortable FACT.

In Dr. Martin Luther King’s most famous speech he said:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…

 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.”

That remains an unfulfilled dream.

I have heard in years past that race as an issue is a generational thing- that kids today are ‘post-racial.’

I think we saw a black man elected to the highest office in the land and it allowed us to think we’d done work we have not done.

Take a look at those photos of the people surrounding that statue in the square in Charlottesville, the torches they carry illuminate their YOUNG faces contorted in rage as they shout, “Blood and Soil,” a phrase derived from the German, “Blut und Boden,” popularized during the Nazi’s ascension to power.

The comparison to Nazis is not just apt, it’s direct.  It’s a same/same comparison. These are not remnants from a generation past, these are young people, primarily male, who have LEARNED from generations past.  These young men didn’t descend on the square and commit their first act of hatred.  There is exactly zero percent chance that’s the case. They came from their families and communities and schools and jobs where they learned, spread, and lived out of this hate.

I’ve heard people say President Obama brought this out in people, which is patently ridiculous.  I have news for you, if your reaction to policies you don’t agree with is to hate black people, you already hated black people.

And it’s nonsense to blame this entirely on the current President.  If those seeds, if that underlying racism wasn’t already there, there is nothing that man could have said to foment such ugliness so quickly.  Did he embolden them?  ABSOLUTELY.  His rhetoric and blatant inciting of violence at his rallies and his hiring of Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon resulted in turning hooded racists into bare-faced racists.  He pulled the covers off it, he wrote them a permission slip- but these people were already here, in line at the bank, next to us in class and in church pews and across the Thanksgiving table.

They didn’t march on Charlottesville because the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee was an attempt to “bury history,”  either.  Hear me when I say this:

Exactly no one is suggesting we bury history. What is being asked is that we no longer display signs and symbols and statues glorifying the horror of slavery. Would a statue of Hitler be okay in Munich? Ok to fly Nazi flags in the towns where Jewish Germans were packed onto train cars and sent to their deaths? We should have comprehensive museums that accurately reflect the monstrous national sin that was slavery- not statues of its architects and defenders that were placed in town squares to terrorize and intimidate.

And I am guessing these young men knew that.

These young men were intent on preserving a statue which was a state sanctioned act of terror because they are terrorists.  Full stop.

There was a book I read many years back called Hitler’s Willing Executioners.  It wasn’t about Nazis, it was about regular Germans.

Ordinary people, who said nothing and did nothing to halt the tide of insane nationalism combined with systemic anti-Semitism that resulted in the Holocaust.  People who held latent bias, perhaps, and just didn’t want to get involved in all that ugliness.  Who didn’t want to rock the boat or make trouble.  Maybe they didn’t want the Jews exterminated but they didn’t want to stick their necks out for them either.  So they stayed quiet.  They went along.  They behaved.

And so, some frustrated, angry, self-important, power hungry little man came along who gave them someone to blame for every unrealized dream, every personal failure, every national problem.  Any of this ringing a bell?

These terrorists in Charlottesville are not other.  They’re not.  When we say, “This is not US,” we are saying what we want to be true rather than what is. The fact that that’s unsettling and unpleasant does not make it untrue. Those angry men might not be ME, and they might not be YOU- but they ARE us.  US is a collective noun.  It means me, and it means you, AND IT MEANS THEM.  They didn’t come from nowhere.  They didn’t come up with those ideas on their own.

If the terrorist that drove the car that killed that killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens more had more melanin in his skin, if his family worshipped at a mosque and not a church, we’d be hearing a hell of a lot more, “Where was he radicalized?”  You can bet your bottom dollar this White House would have used the word terrorist inside of an hour.

White America needs to get real.  We need a long, hard, unflinching look in the national mirror.

One of the most life changing things I have learned in recovery is to examine my part in things, whether it be conflict, relationships, resentments- anything that’s making me uneasy, unhappy, or unhealthy.

This is not a delightful process.

Before I got sober I was much more inclined to feel like life and hardship and harm were just happening to me, that I was a victim of circumstance.  The trouble with that is this: If you are not part of the problem, if you have no ownership of any of it, it’s nigh impossible to be part of the solution because you have no agency in how you got there.

If these radicalized white nationalists are just happening to us, we’re screwed.  If they’re just spontaneously erupting like a whack-a-mole from hell, well then, there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it.

Spoiler alert- they’re not.  Every racist joke unchallenged at the dinner table, every stereotype reinforced by the media and news outlets not called out, and every polite biting of the tongue when someone crosses a line of decency is a seed sown.  When your kid saw you not raise hell when an elected official called the First Lady of the United States an “ape in heels,” when a Mayor sends out a meme with the White House front lawn depicted as a watermelon patch, when President Obama was lynched in effigy on a regular basis, and you said NOTHING?  You became complicit.

And when you deny your own privilege, when you, “yeah, but…” when you reflexively get defensive rather than simply listening and acknowledging someone else’s pain and the harm that has been done to them by our country, you are actively part of the problem.

These white nationalists are not apart from us, they are a PART OF US.  Denying that is just doubling down on our guilt.

There’s a part of Dr. King’s speech that doesn’t get quoted as often.

“In a sense, we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”

I think we avoid that passage because it makes us uncomfortable, and it makes us uncomfortable because we know it is STILL TRUE.  That check remains uncashed, our promises remain unhonored.

We remain a racist nation.  We do.  And it is not enough to wring our hands and lament when violence erupts.  It’s not productive to go on defense when people are honest about it.  It is not enough to engage in pointing fingers at others to blame when we’ve not searched our own souls and done our own work.

We need to listen.  We need to learn (which does not mean making it someone else’s job to educate us.) We need to repent.

Until we do those things, this is the U.S., and this is us.

Of Mess and Moxie – A Book Review

“Also, if your husband or family or kid or marriage or history or best friend or parent or personality or passion or orientation or career places you, ‘outside the camp,’

I want to whisper something awesome to you:

there is no camp. 

There is only Jesus and His band of scalawags and ragamuffins.

Find your people.  They exist.

Raise your voice, tell your story, take your place.”

Jen Hatmaker

Soo…full disclosure.  I love Jen Hatmaker.  For realz.  She was one of the bloggers who re-posted He Wrote it Down and caused it to go viral, which set into motion several really important life things for me, including sobriety and Say It, Survivor.  So basically, my baseline with Jen is adoration.

Last October, Jen gave an interview in which she discussed her feelings on gay marriage and the way the LGBTQ community has been treated by the church.  It was open and tender and affirming and I wept when I read it.

I am the mama of two incredible human beings, both of whom are funny, kind, weird, smart people, and both of whom are members of the LGBTQ community.  I have spent the past few years hearing voice after voice from faith leaders talk of Jesus out of one corner of their mouths while spewing hatred toward my kids out of the other.  And if anyone is entertaining the thought of telling me it’s not personal, I’d suggest you don’t- because THE HELL IT’S NOT.

Needless to say, my gratitude to anyone in the Christian community who use their voices and their platforms to support, include, and love my kids- and all the other kids- is endless.  For Jen to have done it knowing that she had a book coming out this summer, knowing that her critics would have a field day, and she would likely lose followers is brave and kind and rooted in serious integrity.

Jen’s my girl.

When I like a book I tend to annoy everyone in a half mile radius reading and/or texting quotes to them, telling them about the book.  When I LOVE a book, I don’t.  I want it to unfold for them the way it did for me.  I did both of these things with Jen Hatmaker’s brilliant and funny new book, Of Mess and Moxie, Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life.

Some parts are just too funny not to share- it would have been selfish to keep the passage on sex talks with your kids to myself and I am nothing if not a giver.  In my defense, generally, when you are cackling like a maniac in a room by yourself people ask what’s up. If I had Jen’s cell number I’d have texted her quotes from her own book.  It’s a thing I tend to do with my writer-y friends.  There’s an outside chance they find it annoying, but I’ve no way of knowing. I’m just going to assume it’s precious.

This book covers a lot- from faith to mothering to relationships to cooking to parent fails to sex to the creative process. That might sound like too wide a swathe of topics for one book, but it’s not and here’s why: Jen writes the way your best, smartest, most honest, hilarious girlfriend talks.  The whole book reads like a girls’ night in- the kind where the conversation meanders from the sublime to the ridiculous, veering from the sacred to the wildly inappropriate.  The best kind of night, we can all agree.  Reading it, I found myself thinking of Truvy’s line from Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

The chapter Sanctuary is one that I know I will return to again and again.

“The thing is, we all want to belong, we all crave sanctuary, we are all invited guests.  Women, I commission us to fix this…. It is sacred work to open our eyes wide and look around:  Who is unseen?  Who is left out?  Who is marginalized?  Whose voice is silenced?  Whose story is outside the lines?  Who would feel isolated by the primary language here??”

There are also three “How to” chapters with handy step by step instructions for navigating life.  For instance, the, “How to ruin your teenager’s life” section begins,

  1. Breathe.

It actually could end there and be complete, but there’s more.

This entire book is a love letter to girlfriends.  There are chapters that specifically speak to the power of friendship between women, and the chapters that don’t are exactly the sort of conversations women have with each other.  We talk about heartbreak and how weird our kids are and aging parents and how hard marriage can be and bras and how having kids in school is more work than ACTUAL SCHOOL.  We sit alongside each other in grief, we help pick up the pieces after marriages shatter, we remind each other when our kids fall down that they are more than their worst decision.

For the love.

When it comes to women friends, I have an embarrassment of riches.  My tribe is wide and deep and solid.  It’s, like, my favorite part of being an alcoholic.  I’m am not even kidding.  The upside of being a drunk in recovery is that you end up cultivating a tribe of shameless, honest, brave, badass women who run the gamut between women in their 80’s to 18-year-old fresh faced girls.  I see them every single day.  We show up for each other relentlessly.  The love in this group is muscular.  It’s gorgeous.

My BEST friend, however,  is Angela. She is NOT an alcoholic, but she’s so awesome that doesn’t even matter to me.  I could cry even trying to write about her. I’m so sorry for every single one of you that doesn’t have her as a best friend. Truly. I wish a version of her for you, but you cannot have her. She is very busy with me, thanksforasking.

She is smart and tough and gentle and funny and wise. She is a practical Canadian who is the single most spiritual person I have ever met. When I was stuck in mere belief she showed me what actual faith looked like. When I attend church with her I crack wide open in a way that is a struggle for me when she’s not around. She has the faith of a child, in the very best conceivable way. She’d also help me bury a body if I needed her to. I know this for a fact. She’s offered.

When I was going through my divorce I was completely undone. Shattered, really. That was a hard time for both of us. She was so worried about me. I was drinking too much and starving myself. She was literally watching her best friend disappear. She didn’t know what to do, how to help. I’m so sorry to have done that to her.  At one point, she kidnapped me and dragged my skinny ass back to church where she sat next to me and looked on helplessly while I sobbed.

Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is ride shotgun alongside you in grief. That was a painful season in our friendship, but we came out of it knowing how to love one another better.

We have a whole big wide country between us now and that is hard. With jobs and kids and time zone differences, it can make connection challenging. She’s still my person, though. My love for her is deep and wide and constant and fierce, as is hers for me.

Every time I am with her I am inspired to be a better mother/friend/partner/human. The fact that her beautiful kid and my beautiful kid had the same kindergarten bus stop is proof enough to me that God loves me and wants the best for me.

There’s a chapter in the book called Fangirl.  In it, Jen posits that the people we should be agog over are not celebrities, they are our friends.  That we should lift up and celebrate them the way this culture does famous people (except for the delighting in their failures thing- because that’s gross.)

I couldn’t agree more.  I try not to have an unarticulated loving thought about my friends. My friends are amazing and I try really hard to constantly remind them of that.

SO.

I was fortunate enough to have our pal Jen (she’s what my kid snarkily refers to as one of my interweb friends. Can you hear the air quotes?  They’re deafening.  Seriously, guys.  “Teach them to TALK,” they said.  “It’ll be FUN,” they said.  They are lying liars who lie.) send me two copies of the book, just because she is awesome and generous.  I’d already pre-ordered my own copy, so I seem to be in possession of some extras.  That is a fabulous situation for me, as I am a compulsive book-giver.

Here’s what I’m thinking:  Go to the blog’s Facebook page.  If you haven’t already done so, like the page and then comment on the book review (this post) which will be the pinned post at the top.  In your comment, fangirl your best friend and tag her in the comment.  Tell us why she’s your ride or die friend.  Shine a bright light on how totally amazeballs she is and tell us why life would, quite simply, not be the same without her.  Next Friday, August 18th, I will randomly select one of the names of the commenters and then whoever is chosen -AND HER FRIEND- will receive a copy Of Mess and Moxie.

If, perchance, you DON’T win, or are just looking for the best beach read or a gift for a friend or something to pin down a very bad, small dog, go ahead and order your own copy.  You won’t be sorry.

Deal?  Deal.

Love you so.

*****************************************************************************

Hey beloveds!

I am writing a book and in order to get said book published, it is awfully helpful to make the most of your platform.  At least, that is what The People Who Know The Things tell me.

SO.

Please consider doing the following:

Come hang out with me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Come see what my dog is doing on Instagram!

If you’re following me on Pinterest… don’t.   And I’m sorry.  I don’t even know how I ended up there…

 

On Harry Potter, Oprah, and flying

“In order to succeed

we must first believe that we can.”

Nikos Kazantzakis

I have an app on my phone that tracks my sobriety time.  Every morning it gives me my month count and a little inspirational quote.  I got the one above a little while back.

I was speaking the other night and I mentioned that while I was still drinking I never, ever really thought about getting sober. Not once.  Not really.  Not even when everything was hitting the fan and everyone was furious with me.  Not when the weight of people’s disappointment was crushing, not when I knew every relationship was in jeopardy.  Not even when I dragged my hungover ass to my first meeting.

I also did not spend much time contemplating learning to fly- which seemed about as likely.  I KNEW I could not stop drinking.  Knew it down to my bones.  I was sure of it. How could I possibly survive life without drinking?  Alcohol was my SOLUTION to pain. It worked right up until it didn’t.  But I honestly didn’t see how I could move through the world without it.  I had no reference for doing that.

I get lots of emails from readers asking about healing from abuse- I get tons of great questions.

The other day I was asked by someone why it is that I choose to go back to the pain of my abuse over and over again, to delve back into that story.  It’s great that I’m in a good place with it, but having done that work why would I choose to still talk about it now?  Why not put it behind me and enjoy my life rather than revisit that pain over and over again?  Isn’t it giving my abuser power over my life, still?  And isn’t it bad for me?

See?  They’re great questions.  And I suppose questions that could also be asked about my writing about divorce and addiction.

First of all, if doing this work was bad for me I wouldn’t do it.  Full stop.

That’s a miracle and I want everyone to take a minute to witness that.  BEHOLD- A HEALTHY BOUNDARY.  I’m thinking of having it bronzed.

This is the first time in my life when I could truthfully say that.  No matter how much it might help other people, no matter how much people might want me to, no matter how much it might seem like the right thing to do, or the empowered thing to do, if revisiting my trauma on a regular basis was bad for me, I am at a place in my life where I simply would not do that.

I heard Glennon Doyle speak a while back and she said that what sobriety has come to mean to her is a decision never to betray herself again.  That resonated so deeply within me.

I choose me.

I choose me and in doing so, it becomes possible for me to be of service.  It’s that whole putting on your own oxygen mask thing.  Turns out there’s something to that.

As far as giving my abuser continued control over my life- well, I just couldn’t disagree more.

When I wasn’t telling my story, my abuser had complete control over my life.  I may not have been telling my story, but because our stories are nothing if not insistent, it was being told anyway- in addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, fearful parenting, toxic relationships, perfectionism, low self-esteem, insomnia… those things were ALL my story being told, because as William Shakespeare warned us, “The truth will out.”

I don’t know why I can revisit my trauma over and over again and not be harmed or triggered by it- and I’m not sure I care much.  I can.  Maybe I’ve simply told my story so many times at this point that it’s old hat.  I have integrated it as A fact of my life, so it is no longer THE fact of my life.

In recovery, we talk about building up a new history as a sober person.  It sort of means something like this: I know I can get through this next Christmas sober because I have already done it.  I’ve gotten through two Christmases sober. I now have that history, so, therefore, getting through Christmas without drinking is possible.  That’s what most people in recovery call a sober reference.

I am a massive dork, though- so, instead, I always refer to the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Obviously.

Remember the scene when Harry, having used the Time Turner, knows he can summon the Patronus because he has seen himself do it?  (Oh, should I have said, SPOILER ALERT?  Sorry.  Actually- NO, I’M NOT.  Read the books.  See the movies.  We can’t all keep secrets forever so nothing is ruined for you, precious.  I’m trying to live my life here, dammit.)

Anyway, back to the Boy who Lived.  Fear couldn’t lie to him and tell him it was impossible because he had proof to the contrary.

He knew he could, so he did.

Anyhoo.  I also believe in using other people as sober/Harry Potter references.  I know I can stay sober during terrible times because I have seen other people do so, etc.  In my sober tribe I have seen people lose marriages, jobs, their health, even children, and remain sober through it- so I know it can be done.

When I was at Wild Goose I had the great good fortune to hear Reverend Otis Moss III speak.  That was almost a month ago now, and I’m pretty sure the trees in the mountains of North Carolina are still shaking.  He spoke of our responsibility to the next person, next generation- that our sole purpose here is to open a door, create a path- make possible some opportunity for whoever is coming up behind us.  Sometimes that means blazing a trail, and sometimes it just means being an example.  A reference of what’s possible.

After he spoke (and after I cleaned the mascara off my face) I went to his book signing.  I told him what his speech had called to mind for me, in my life.

When I was a freshman in college, I was in the dorm room next to mine watching Oprah with my girlfriends because it was 1989 and that was the law. Oprah was talking about her abuse and she was seemingly doing it without shame.  It made an enormous, life-changing impression on me.

Now, it’s not like I had some magical moment and my shame just fell away- I had to do the WORK.  And it’s not like I had the thought, “Ohmigosh- Oprah and I are so exactly alike- therefore, I can be shameless, too!”  I mean, she’s OPRAH.  But up until that moment, perched on the corner of that dorm bed, it had quite simply not occurred to me that was even an option to live without shame.

Oprah’s shamelessness became a reference for me- it allowed for the possibility of that freedom.

Those sober, Harry Potter/Oprah references are at least as important as the cautionary tales everyone always wants you to heed- the ones that tell you why it won’t work, why you can’t, what could happen.  I even hear survivors utter these words of warning or fear about the process of healing- as though leaning into that pain is too daunting.  That they can’t revisit their trauma- it’s too much.  Too painful.  Too treacherous.

I want to say,

“HONEY.

You survived the THING.

You sure as HELL can survive

TALKING about the thing.”

That’s a big part of why I do what I do- because we need models of life after trauma.  We need to know that shamelessness, health, healing, and joy are possible.  We need to SEE it- because it seems impossible.  When you are stuck in it, you might as well obsess about learning to fly.

This I can promise you, sweet friends- the work will not be worse than the wound.

If you are here reading this and think you cannot survive doing the work around whatever is keeping to tethered to the past or to an unhealthy present, I’d gently remind you that if you weren’t a surviving badass you WOULD NOT BE HERE. I post it as a reminder on Say It, Survivor all the time-


It can all get so much better.  It can.  It’s hard work, but not harder than where you’ve been.  If today is a super hard day, think back to what you believed about your last super hard day.  It didn’t feel like you could get through it, right?  But here you are.  Having gotten through it.  That’s some serious badassery.

Allow for the possibility that if you do the work, if you sit still for the pain, that you will come out the other side with a new story.  And, quite possibly, the ability to fly.

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

Erin Hanson

**********************************************************************************

Hey beloveds!

I am writing a book and in order to get said book published, it is awfully helpful to make the most of your platform.  At least, that is what The People Who Know The Things tell me.

SO.

Please consider doing the following:

Come hang out with me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Come see what my dog is doing on Instagram!

If you’re following me on Pinterest… don’t.   And I’m sorry.  I don’t even know how I ended up there…

What it’s not.

“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded;

not with the fanfare of epiphany,

but with pain gathering its things,

packing up,

and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”

Khaled Hosseini

Recently, I’ve found myself part of many conversations around the topic of forgiveness. Forgiveness is something I think many people fundamentally misunderstand- I know I did for a very, very long time.

I spoke at Wild Goose last week and got a question from a survivor wondering if she owed her abuser forgiveness.  I had another question about the timeline for forgiveness. Another about whether it’s truly ever possible.  Another from a woman who copped to not wanting to forgive.  Just flat out not wanting to.

Oh, do I so totally get that.

Let’s start here.  Let’s parse out the three things people are talking about, generally, when they discuss forgiveness.

There’s, y’know, forgiveness.

Then there’s reconciliation.

Then there’s absolution.

I think all of those things get wrapped up under the umbrella of forgiveness and that makes for some confusion and angst.

Let’s simplify.  We can take one off the table right away.  Absolution is way the hell above our pay grade and not even close to our job, so we can let that one go.

I think a lot of the time when someone asks for forgiveness they MEAN absolution.  The thing about forgiveness, though, is that it does not always impact the person being forgiven.  There are people I’ve forgiven who are blithely unaware of that fact.  That’s because forgiveness is not necessarily about the person who caused the harm.

Forgiveness does NOT mean saying that what happened is okay and that the other person doesn’t need to have remorse or make amends or restitution or pay consequences. I remember feeling like I almost didn’t want to be okay because if I was, then it meant what happened wasn’t that big a deal.  Like it was a get out of jail card for the person who harmed me.  That I should be over it.

Forgiveness does not mitigate or minimize or negate your pain or trauma.

Forgiveness does not necessarily entail reconciliation.  You can forgive someone and decide you cannot have them in your life for one reason or another.  No one is entitled to that access and frankly, I do not believe there can be real reconciliation in the absence of justice.  Now, justice can look like more than one thing.  We get stuck in a punitive, penal system idea of justice, but the truth is that rarely happens and often doesn’t bring the peace and serenity we think it will.

Yes, forgiveness can be offered to someone who has harmed you.  That is an act of mercy, a gift- and gifts are ALWAYS OPTIONAL.  If it’s mandatory, it’s not a gift.  That’s not how gifts work.

I have forgiven some people for their roles in my abuse and the aftermath, but they are not welcome in my life.

Forgiveness is a choice.  And usually not a one-off.  Sometimes forgiveness is a daily decision.  I do so love things to be efficient, but I have found that most things in my life worth anything are a practice.  The fact that this is almost always true does not keep it from being unspeakably annoying.

And forgiveness is not something that can be forced or even ASKED of someone, really.

The other day I got a text from a friend.  She’s received a package in the mail from a relative who is distressed at the rift in their family and wants her to FIX IT.  This relative really wants things to be nice again.

Please God, deliver us from the nice people.

That niceness, though, would involve my friend pretending that she’d not suffered long term, violent sexual abuse in her family- and we can all agree that’s slightly problematic.

The package contained the following… gifts:

Have mercy.

I suggested she continue this super fun book-exchange with the following gift in kind:

Anything can be unforgivable and anything can be forgivable because forgiveness is always a CHOICE.  It is a decision.  It is not some emotion what washes over us as we smile beatifically.  It cannot be earned or demanded.

When we forgive it is a conscious decision to lay down anger and resentment, and sometimes our anger and resentment is comfortable or it serves us in some way.  I’ve had stretches in my life when my anger kept me going because my only other option at the time was despair.  My anger was fuel, but the kind that burns really hot and really fast. It’s not sustainable- at least not for me.  But in that space, forgiveness does not seem possible- and maybe it’s not.  I find myself more able to forgive when the acute pain has lessened its grip on me.  It eases a bit, and then I am able to lay the rest down.

The truth is, my friend could forgive her abuser and his enablers and things still wouldn’t be nice because all forgiveness means is that someone has decided not to give valuable real estate in their mind or heart to anger and resentment.  That’s it.  And maybe sometimes in order to achieve that state some serious distance is necessary.  The rift might actually be a necessary component of her forgiveness.  She is the ONLY one who gets to decide that.

The only person who deserves the act of forgiveness is the person who has been harmed. YOU. You deserve to forgive because carrying the weight of all that pain and hurt and anger is too much.  It’s just too much, and it keeps you a prisoner of whatever harm was done to you forever- and you don’t deserve that.

But it’s okay if you’re not there.  You don’t have to be there. Yet.

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Hey beloveds!

I am writing a book and in order to get said book published, it is awfully helpful to make the most of your platform.  At least, that is what The People Who Know The Things tell me.

SO.

Please consider doing the following:

Come hang out with me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Come see what my dog is doing on Instagram!

If you’re following me on Pinterest… don’t.   And I’m sorry.  I don’t even know how I ended up there…

 

All Belong Here – An album review

When you’re not sure

who you really are

When all you feel is

the shape of your scars

And you have more wounds

than you can count

Open your eyes, look all around

You aren’t alone, this is your home

The Many

All Belong Here- Communion Song by Lenora Rand / Hannah Rand

You may remember that around this time last year (and by that, I mean a year ago TODAY EXACTLY) I published a post entitled Hinges.  It’s actually one of my favorite essays.  It was about an experience I had at Wild Goose Festival last year and it involved a band called The Many.

I’ve been listening to their latest album, All Belong Here, and trying to write a review of it.  I mean, sort of.  I don’t actually know how to DO that, but then I don’t know how to write book reviews either and that seldom stops me.

So, let me come at this another way.  I’ll tell you a story.  I know how to do that.

For most of my life, I was one of those un-churched people you hear about.  I believed in God, but I’d broken up with him when I was nine.  I never really stopped believing in him, but I lost my faith.  I was angry and disappointed.  I didn’t trust him, and I certainly didn’t trust church.  Between the way the church handled my parents’ divorce, to coming of age as a survivor in a Boston suburb during the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, I saw the church as mean, hypocritical and, quite frankly, sinister.

I flirted with church in college.  I sang in the choir (such as it was) and attended services for a bit.  Then the pastor who led it let me down.  It didn’t take much.  I ran away again.

When I was going through the worst of my divorce, when I was starving and drinking myself to death, my best friend kidnapped me and dragged me back to church.  That’s not even an exaggeration.  She threw my skinny butt in her mini-van and hauled me to the office of the pastor at a church we’d been attending sporadically.  That church became my church for a time.  It healed me in many ways.  They had an incredible worship leader- he had a beautiful voice and he sang primarily contemporary Christian music.

There was one song he sang on Father’s Day, a day when my heart wasn’t just tender, it was a gaping, wide open wound, that sent me fleeing to the bathroom in tears.  I grew to love that song.  I listened to it all the time.

I heard it on the radio the other day and I cringed, which took me aback.  I began to reflect on the fact that I don’t listen to much of that music anymore and why that might be.  I think it’s the certainty.  I think it’s the gloss.  I think it’s the hustle.

The funny thing is, in that season of my life I think it was the certainty that appealed to me.  My whole life had blown up, the very ground under my feet seemed to be shifting (granted, that could have been the wine…) and I needed a clear cut faith.  I needed it to have hospital corners and dead bolts.  I was afraid of EVERYTHING, and so the music and faith life I gravitated toward needed to have all of the answers.

I know.

Today I am healthy and sober.  God and I got back together.  Turns out it was a huge misunderstanding.  We’re crazy about each other.  And because the ground under my feet is solid, there is room in my faith for more questions than answers. There’s room for mystery and brokenness.  A longer table.  No doors.

When my Favorite and I stumbled upon The Many last year- and I do mean stumbled, we were half asleep and in pj bottoms- it wasn’t because we were being sold some perfectly packaged thing, it was because as we lay there in our tent in the woods almost asleep, we felt invited.  The Many’s songs all sound like an invitation in the same way a dear friend being vulnerable with you creates a safe and sacred space and invites you to do the same. The music drifted through the dark woods and called us to the table.

More and more, especially as I grow older, I come to believe that church is where you find it.  I’ve struggled to find a church that feels like home to me.  I seem to find more certainty, more gloss, more hustle.  I don’t need a latte bar in the lobby.  I need my heart to be broken.  I want my heart to be broken for the things that break God’s heart.  I need my church to be a place where it is safe to tell the truth.  More often than not, I feel my connection to God more fully in church basements in a circle of creaky folding chairs than I do in the rows of polished pews upstairs.  Perhaps I need a jacked up church, a church with more than a few dents in it, for me to settle in.

The Many’s music feels like church to me.

My friend Glennon is fond of reminding us that the two most frequent phrases in the Bible are “Fear not,” and “Remember.”  She also points out that the word remember means RE- member.  The opposite of dismember.  As in, put back together.  My favorite church experiences are the ones that have called me to remember who I am, who we are, who we are called to be, together.  That it’s okay to admit you’re broken because we are ALL broken in some way at some time- and broken is not irreparable.  Maybe we are all broken pieces that fit together, somehow.  Together, we are whole.  When we are remembered.

Come and remember who you are here

Do this to remember who I am

Come and remember you belong here

All belong here

It’s an album that speaks to a faith I recognize.  A faith that is challenged by the pain and suffering I witness.  It’s music that allows for frustration with God, that doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t pretend to.  One of my favorite analogies for the kind art that speaks to me is to compare it to kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with precious metals.  They RE-member the broken pieces with something lovely.  The philosophy behind it is that we honor the history, the REALITY of the object not by hiding its broken places, but by acknowledging them and making them beautiful.

I think that is The Many’s special gift.

Here we are.  We are broken.  We need You.  We need each other.

At this table come as you are

Broken and bleeding’s ok

At this table eat and be filled

Come and drink in this grace.

Kyrie Eleison.

The Rand family can WRITE.  My goodness.  I would be happy just to read their lyrics, but I don’t have to- because OH MY WORD are Hannah Rand, Darren Calhoun, Leslie Michelle and Kerry Anne Pritchard a group of gorgeous singers.  They’re incredible individually but to get to partake of what the four of them create together?  Well, it’s a bit of a feast- which makes me all the more grateful to have been invited to their beautiful, busted up table.

I am headed to Goose again.  Like, right now.  I’m so excited to listen and learn, to tell my story, to dance, to laugh and to hear The Many, come back to the table and have my heart broken in the church under the canopy of trees and stars.

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Follow The Many on Facebook!

Please, please, PLEASE buy their album, All Belong Here.  Like, BUY IT.  Artists need to eat, y’all.

If you live in the area and are considering attending Wild Goose– DO. IT.  You won’t be sorry.

On a clear morning

Can you imagine the hopelessness of trying to live a spiritual life when you’re secretly looking up at the skies not for illumination or direction, but to gauge, miserably, the odds of rain?
Anne Lamott

I lived in Seattle for more than a decade.  When you live in the Pacific Northwest you develop a nuanced relationship with the weather. Most people seem to have the impression that it pours there all the time.  Not so, PNW rookies.  Not so.  It rains a little bit almost every single day for nine months out of the year.  Lots of gloom. Meteorologists in the Northwest are prone to saying things like, “It’ll be a brighter grey today.”

I always loved that.

As usual, this morning I woke up long before the alarm at what Favorite is prone to calling, “stupid o’clock.”  I stretched.  I waited for my eyes to focus and adjust to the light. The room didn’t spin, my head didn’t hurt, my stomach felt just fine.  I wasn’t filled with dread or fear or remorse or shame.  My hands weren’t shaking.  I wasn’t afraid to check my phone.  I remembered the details of last night.  I breathed in the sea air coming in our bedroom window.  I looked at the early morning sky with clear eyes.

Then I had the same first thought I have had most mornings for the past twenty-four months:

ThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyou

Today is two years.  Two years ago today, I stopped drinking. I didn’t make the decision that day.  It wasn’t that cut and dry- and honestly, it didn’t feel possible.  I absolutely did not believe I could stop.  I didn’t yet have the clarity or the bravery to commit to sobriety that day, but I didn’t drink and I dragged my shaky, exhausted ass to my first meeting.

So today is day 730.

There’s an old story in my family about one of my sisters getting glasses- you know how families have those dog-eared tales?  Well, this is one of ours.  I guess she was about four? She’d gone and had her eyes checked, she’d gotten her fabulous seventies spectacles and was in the car riding home with my mom.  It began pouring out and she exclaimed aloud to my mother,

“Oh, Mommy!  I can see the rain!”

And just like that, it was a whole new world- a brighter, clearer grey.

There was nothing bright or clear about this time two years ago.  I mean, it looked fine on the outside.  I’ve always been great at outside stuff.  I can smile and jazz-hands my way through the unspeakable like. a. boss.  But regardless of my shiny veneer, the road to rock bottom was one of despair.  I recently heard Rob Bell define despair as the belief that tomorrow will be exactly like today.  Brilliant.  That is precisely what it felt like for me near the end of my drinking.  This will never change.  I held that thought simultaneously with this one: I cannot do this anymore.

What rock bottom can look like.

When I first got sober, I started to come out of that fog of despair- I stepped into the brighter grey. Things began to level out and I began to feel hope again.  That was a scary time for me. New-found hope is the only thing scarier than hopelessness.  All of a sudden there was just so much to lose.  I began to get some measure of clarity, both literally and figuratively- as in, things and people STOPPED BEING SO BLURRY ALL THE DAMNED TIME.  Also, I had more awareness, perspective, insight.

That might sound positive, but that initial period?  It seriously sucked.

I started to look around at all the wreckage I’d caused, all of the collateral damage.  The people I hurt, the situations I made worse by avoiding them.  It was awful. I imagine it’s why so many people relapse early in sobriety.  I became keenly aware of all this pain, my own and, even worse, that of the people I love.  This happened at the same time I’d voluntarily given up my anesthesia and my blinders.  I made the conscious decision to feel and examine all of the things.

I would say I don’t recommend it, except I do- but only, like, every freaking day.

After that initial stage, which is wretched but finite, things started to get better and everything seemed fantastic- better than ever.  That stage had an expiration date, too- because even sober, life will kick your ass.

Still, I am grateful every day.  Not just the good days, when gratitude is a feeling that washes over me, unbidden- but the hard days, the awful days, the tragic days when gratitude- much like sobriety, and literally every other important thing in my life- is a practice.  A decision.  I set the intention of gratitude and then I live it.

My first sober year was very much about NOT DRINKING.  That was overwhelming and excruciating at times, and so I gave myself a pass on other life stuff.  That year was about finding a new normal. It entailed developing a new pattern to my days and nights. Like with all practices, sobriety has a fair amount of rhythm and ritual. It took some time to find what works for me.

My second year of sobriety has been so much harder in some ways. The focus shifted.  The not drinking has mostly gotten easier.  I don’t white knuckle my way through a day wrestling with the urge to drink.  Here’s the thing, though: Sobriety is challenging.  It is as simple and hard as active addiction is easy and complicated.

The past few months have been among the most difficult since I got sober for a variety of reasons.  At one point I found myself out for breakfast with another friend in recovery and I told him about something incredibly painful I’m going through, and that I’d recently had my worst day yet in sobriety.  His answer?  “Fuck no. You had your BEST day yet in sobriety.  You didn’t drink over it.”

Thank GOD for my tribe.  When I am lost, when things are unclear and I need some perspective, they hand me my glasses and I can see the rain again.

I am learning how to do life, and I am surrounded by amazing, brave, generous teachers every day.

I had another glorious friend say recently that she thought sobriety would get her to the mountaintop, but instead, it just got her out of the hole. Just to sea-level. So freaking true.  We think it’ll get us to Mount Olympus, but it only gets us out of Mordor.

Bless our hearts.

I stopped drinking only to realize that sobriety isn’t the finish line, it’s the starting gate.

Now the work- the REAL work, begins.

Year two was about the digging in, the come to Jesus-ing. The reckoning, with myself and with others, and about learning to sit still for and lean into pain and uncertainty.

And now I have 730 sober references.  730 days I survived without numbing myself with alcohol.  Some days shitty, some days spectacular.  All of them, sober- so now I know that’s possible.  Sure, I sometimes substituted other things (Hello, carbs, cleaning products, and terrible television. Love you. Mean it.) but I am, as ever, a work in progress.

I’ve been reflecting on that story about my sister a lot, lately. About how none of the adults knew how bad her vision had been because she didn’t know.  She likely didn’t know clearer vision was an option. Before my sister could see the rain it was just something that came out of nowhere and happened to her.  That’s what life used to feel like to me, something that just happened to me.  In sobriety, I know that’s not true. It’s just happening. Before I got sober, I didn’t know I could weather pain and loss and love and failure and uncertainty and success and life without resorting to escape.  How could I have known?  I hadn’t tried and this world of our is so damned quick to teach us how to escape.

I couldn’t have known that any more than my sister could have known rain drops were something you could see – know why?

Because we don’t know what we don’t know.

Sometimes you can’t know how bad something is until you know how good it can be.  It’s like when I lived in the Northwest.  You have those long months of darkness, but then the summer is so spectacularly beautiful it defies description.  And you don’t get that without the gloom and the rain.  So it’s not that you forget the nine months ever happened, you just know they served a purpose and you turn your face toward the sun and say, Thank you.  Thank you for every dark day.  ThankyouThankyouThankyou.

There is not a single part of my life that isn’t better today- and that includes the parts that are hard and parts that are painful.  It’s all better because I am.  I am better, today.  I am better sober.  Far from perfect, but so much better.  And when life is hard or scary or painful, I can look at it through the clear lens of sobriety and use the tools I now have to navigate it without drinking.

It occurred to me recently that if there were some cure that enabled me to drink like a normal person but the cost of it was to give up this way of life, this truth-telling community I’ve found?

This beautiful, clear, bright grey morning, I would not take that deal.

I have a tribe of people who SEE me, who show up for me, and for whom I show up.  They’ve taught me to move through the world more gently and with some small measure of grace, and for that my gratitude is endless.

Today I live differently, and as long as I don’t pick up a drink the world opens up to me.  Is there a magic formula?  Hell if I know.  For me, it seems to be God’s grace + my willingness.  The former has always been there, the latter is two years old today.

As a brilliant young woman I know always says, I can choose love or fear.  Rain or shine, that’s my choice every day:  love or fear.  I can only live in one, though- and today, on day 730, I choose love.

Show up.

Tell the truth.

Ask for help.

Help when asked.

Lather, rinse, repeat – forever and ever, amen.

Love you so,

Laura

Rain is good for me.

I feel like I achieve clarity, actually, when it rains.

The longer I have to sit and wait,

the clearer my game becomes to me.

Venus Williams

Sitting with Saturday

“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”

Douglas Adams 

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“And it was good not to get used to many things when life was unsettled. Again and again one had to abandon them or they were taken away. One should be ready to leave every day.”

Erich Maria Remarche

Today is Holy Saturday. A day of waiting. It’s not Friday, the pain of the crucifixion, the fear, and the disbelief. The shocking sorrow. It’s not Sunday, the Resurrection, the promise fulfilled, the joy and the validation.

No one talks about Saturday much.   I was listening to James Prescott’s podcast with Glennon Doyle Melton and it was the first time I heard anyone delve into Saturday. If you read or listen to Glennon much (and if you don’t- what do I actually have to do? Get with the program.) you’ve heard her say time and time again, “First the pain, then the Rising.”

In the podcast, they touched on the fact that really, it’s first the pain, then the horrible waiting, and THEN the Rising.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

I imagine there was chaos and fear among the disciples that Saturday. Jesus Christ is dead. Murdered. Their brother Judas, the instrument of his betrayal. Could Jesus really return? I imagine there was grief and anger, and below everything else, uneasiness, confusion. Saturday is a liminal space- a time of transition. No one knew for sure what was happening, the memory of the trauma was still fresh but there was no real hope of redemption yet.

Pontius Pilate dispatches a guard to the tomb. In 1 Peter 3:19 there is a mention of Jesus preaching to the “imprisoned spirits” and the Apostles’ Creed references his descent into hell- but truthfully the bible is a little light on details.

I get that. Uncertainty is hard to write about. It’s also hard to live in.

I hate uncertainty.  I think when something terrible happens to you early in life, something that causes your world to tilt off its axis, not knowing what to expect takes on an added layer of fear.

This is one of the ways in which trauma shapes the brain. Once you know what harm people are capable of, that becomes an option. Possibility is generally spoken of in terms of exciting, positive potential outcomes- yes- but our concept of it still skews toward the way our personal experiences have framed the world for us. Possibility is hopeful, sure- ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN- but it can also be frightening because ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

People you love can hurt you or leave or stray.  Loved ones can get sick and die.  Dreams can go unfulfilled.

All of those are possibilities.

When I first got sober I thought that I drank to stave off pain. It’s certainly why I began drinking. Why I LOVED my first drink at the ripe old age of eleven. Having done some work, having made a searching and fearless moral inventory, what I’ve come to understand is this: I am much more inclined to drink in times of ambiguity and doubt, times when I am plagued by indecision or when there is, quite simply, no decision to be made.

That is also the time when I am most vulnerable to building stories that have the potential to harm me. Historically I’ve much preferred to rush headlong into a wrong and even bad decision, than to sit with indecision. I want to know what happened and, even more importantly, what is going to happen and WHY. If I don’t know the WHY I am happy to make one up. I’m creative, you know. I have lots of ideas.

In those instances, they are seldom good ones.

I’m actually GREAT on Friday. When things are actively blowing up or something horrific has happened? That’s my jam. I am a great woman in a storm. Come the zombie apocalypse, I’m your girl. My cell phone will be charged, I’ll have water and ibuprofen, and I can do the hard things in hard times. Make the awful calls, compartmentalize like a boss.

It’s a gift born of trauma, I suppose.

Sunday is, frankly, a little new for me. Relaxing into joy without waiting for the other shoe to drop is something I am working on.  I’m starting to believe that some things can be simply good and that I can be reasonably happy in that.  I have examples of redemption under my nose every single day.  More often than not they’re revealed in a circle of jacked up folding chairs in the church basement rather than in one of the polished pews upstairs- but as I get older, I realize more and more that church is where you find it, and that love truly is a cold and broken Hallelujah.  I have learned, at long last, to believe in Sunday.

But Saturday? Saturday is so freaking uncomfortable. Like all times of uncertainty and transition, it is deeply unsettling A huge part of my sobriety has been learning to sit with Saturday. To make peace with the not-knowing of it. To understand that sometimes the why is not necessary to understand- it’s enough to know THAT. To accept the fact that I will not always be given the whys, and that I almost always do damage when I try to force an understanding.

In a recent article, Father James Martin makes the distinction between the kind of waiting infused with hope or despair and the wait of passivity. He refers to it as the “wait of Whatever.”  It’s hard for me in times of uncertainty, in that restless tension, not to either throw my hands up or white-knuckle-grip the wheel and wrest it in the direction *I* decide.  It’s why the serenity prayer is so damned helpful.  Acceptance, courage, and wisdom.  I’m getting better at identifying situations where I have no agency.  I am learning to sit still with that.

It’s Saturday for me.  I mean, it’s ACTUALLY Saturday- but it’s also a time of unrest and tension and not-knowing.

And I’m sitting with it.  I’m sitting here with my coffee and my writing… and with possibility.

Love you so.

Happy Easter

 

 

 

 

When the axe falls

When the axe came into the forest, the trees said,
‘The handle is one of us.’
Ancient Proverb

The above quote is usually associated with a fable. There’s a Turkish version and a Macedonian version. Aesop penned one.  Sometimes it’s called the Woodsman and the Trees, sometimes it’s called The Trees and the Axe.

The basic premise is that when we sacrifice any of our human community at the altar of comfort or false security or pride or fear, when we deem ANY of our sisters or brothers to be less than or different, when we decide someone is other, we are complicit in our own destruction.  We hand our enemies the very tools they will use to harm us.

These are frightening times to be different.  These are frightening times to live at the margins.  Frankly, these are frightening times to be anything other than a straight, white, cis-gendered, Christian, well-to-do, American male.

It calls to mind that famous poem by Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists,

and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,

and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—

and there was no one left to speak for me.

You can’t find a way to make yourself okay with the water crisis in Flint and not be harmed.  You cannot turn a blind eye to racism and not be harmed.  You can’t justify immigrant families being turned away and torn apart and not be harmed.  You can’t degrade women and not be harmed.  You can’t justify laws that villainize trans people and not be harmed.

When you are an agent of harm, you are harmed.  There is a cost.  When you willingly other someone else, offer them up to be the handle, you enable the axe.  Once you’ve made your peace with the axe, you make it more likely that the axe will come for you.  Because you’ve already said that’s okay.  That some people don’t count.  That some kids matter less.  That some lives inherently count more.  None of that happens in a vacuum.

I heard a line once- maybe tv, maybe a movie.  Maybe Oprah.  It was said to a mistress about the man who left his wife for her.  It was a cautionary tale sort of a thing. “If he did it with you, he’ll do it TO you.”

I believe that.

And even if you never get cast as other, even if you ride the wave of privilege to the bitter end, it. will. cost. you.

This uneasiness, this fear?  This lack of peace we feel?  Well, Mama T was right.  It is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  You need only turn on the evening news to know that’s true.

We did this.  ALL OF US, to some degree.  ALL OF US. Whether by prejudice or by privilege, by apathy or by animus, by fear or by frustration- we all own a piece of it.  We are all connected.  We forget that, though.

With every bully unchallenged, we offered up a sapling.  With every voice of misogyny not shouted down, we sharpened the knife.  With every racist joke we ignored, we made the first cut.  With every dismissive comment about the poor, with every “Prayers for Paris” but not “Prayers for Pakistan,” with every bathroom law, every wedding cake denied, every rape survivor blamed, every gay child cast out, every “build that wall,” every time we made someone’s faith a litmus test of their worthiness, of their very humanity – with every act of othering, every single one, we whittled the handle of the axe now being used to hack away at what actually makes America great.  We polished the grip of that which would destroy what is the very best in us.

And when you deny people fleeing for their lives safe harbor, when you decide that some lives, some families, some children are simply not worth saving, you become the blade. And the blade does not get to go on tv and cry fake tears about the violence it has wrought.  The blade doesn’t get to say, “No, you cannot bring your babies here to safety,” and then bemoan and retaliate because those babies suffocated in the street.

NO.

We can pretend we’re solitary trees, but the truth is we are not.  I wrote this a while back for another piece:

“I am just a tree in the great, wide, breathtaking forest.

Just one tree.

The story of the forest is more interesting, more beautiful, more amazing than the story of any one tree contained within it. The stories of every oak, every maple, every willow, make up the forest’s tale. Our branches brush up against one another, our roots become intertwined- and so do our stories.

The story of the forest is our story.

There is no OUR story without yours and without mine.”

See, that’s where we get confused.  We buy into this lie that we are a bunch of trees.  We’re not.  We’re a forest.  And forests, like all ecosystems, are complex and interdependent.  You can’t pollute the stream without making the wildlife sick. You can’t eliminate a species without harming the food chain.  You can’t disrupt the natural order of things and think there won’t be pervasive negative consequences.

“Because in the end, we aren’t punished for our sins

as much as we are punished by our sins.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber

Amen, amen, and amen.

 **********************************************************

“A man came into a forest and asked the Trees to provide him a handle for his axe. The Trees consented to his request and gave him a young ash-tree.  No sooner had the man fitted a new handle to his axe from it, than he began to use it and quickly felled with his strokes the noblest giants of the forest.  An old oak, lamenting when too late the destruction of his companions, said to a neighboring cedar, “The first step has lost us all. If we had not given up the rights of the ash, we might yet have retained our own privileges and have stood for ages.”

Fables of Aesop

You Need to Read – a conversation with Caroline McGraw

 

I was incredibly fortunate to be asked to participate in a video podcast series hosted by writer Caroline Garnet McGraw of A Wish Come Clear.  We both first became aware of each other through Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog, Momastery.  A few years back, Caroline guest-posted an essay about losing her best friend to addiction that absolutely gutted me. I just re-read it and wept again. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Caroline first heard of me through He Wrote It Down, a post of mine that Glennon shared in 2015.

Also, Caroline did an amazing TEDx talk about not owing anyone an interaction.  It’s really good stuff- especially if you are a writer on the interwebs.

Anyway, here is our conversation – one episode in her fabulous series, “You Need to Read.”  We talked about writing, telling your story publicly, shame, abuse, and publishing from a scar versus a wound.  It was like sitting down with a great girlfriend for a long, cozy chat.  I could have talked for twelve more hours with her, but apparently, she has a life…

Whatev.

If you click on the link to the podcast on Caroline’s blog, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of Glennon’s book, Love Warrior– which makes all kinds of serendipitous sense given that G is how Caroline and I found each other!!

Thanks again for having me, Caroline!!

xo

Laura

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Hey beloveds!

I am writing a book and in order to get said book published it is awfully helpful to make the most of your platform.  At least, that is what The People Who Know The Things tell me.

SO.

Please consider doing the following:

Come hang out with me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Come see what my dog is doing on Instagram!

If you’re following me on Pinterest… don’t.   And I’m sorry.  I don’t even know how I ended up there…

 

 

 

The most expensive drink in the world

“The cost of a thing is the amount of

what I will call life

which is required to be exchanged for it,

immediately or in the long run.”

Henry David Thoreau

I saw something on tv recently about the most expensive drink in the world.  It cost something like $14,000 for one cocktail.  I immediately went to a place of judgment.  How could ANYONE justify spending that much on one drink?

Hm.

When I first got sober all I could think about was the fact that I would never get to drink again.  I mean, how was that even possible?  How do you do Christmas without champagne?  How do you get through summer without beer?  How do you celebrate? How do you commiserate?  How do you get that instant stress de-escalation that comes when the alcohol hits your bloodstream?

I remember the first time I felt that.  I was eleven.  I remember thinking, “This is it.  This is the feeling I have been waiting for my whole life.”  Now, that might seem silly given that I was only eleven, but I was not a young eleven.  Anyway, it was the just the thing.  It softened all the edges, and if it didn’t make my life any better (and it didn’t) it sure did make me care a little less about it.  It was in that moment that I determined alcohol’s value in my life.  I placed a premium on it, and it was high.

I blacked out that night, woke up the next morning sick as a dog and thought, “When can I do that again?”

I can’t say that I never drank just for pleasure- I did.  I had years when my drinking was mostly normal.  Not ever completely- but mostly.  But it was mostly in search of that feeling.  It was such an exhale feeling for me- and once I felt it, I would become consumed with maintaining it.  I was thirteen years old the first time I drank with peers.  I remember being very aware that we were not having the same experience.  They were having fun. We were in a car passing around some unholy concoction that involved peppermint schnapps.  Everyone was giggling with that particular mania that accompanies doing something illicit.  I probably did laugh along, but mostly I was keeping track.

How much is left?

Will it come around again?

How can I stay where I’m at?  How do I keep feeling this way?

I think it takes getting sober to realize how much our adult society revolves around drinking.  It’s typically the center of every adult social occasion, and more than a few kids’ ones as well.  I got sober in June of 2015 and I have to say, that first summer was awful.  I thought I was either going to need to stay home alone for the rest of my life or white knuckle my way through social gatherings that were just not fun anymore.  Something happens at most of those events.  There comes a point in the evening when the energy changes. Everything gets louder, people start talking over one another.  It’s not noticeable when you’re partaking, but when you’re sober?  It’s generally the tipping point when it stops being fun.

I spent much of that summer wondering how I was going to be able to say no to 852,000 more drinks.  I worried about every party, every barbecue, every wedding.  No, no, no.  It felt relentless and impossible.

Part of why I have been open about my recovery is that if you aren’t, people generally do not accept that you don’t want a drink.  No might be a complete sentence, but it’s not an answer that the general public accepts when it comes to drinking.  And I didn’t want to lie.  I didn’t want any more secrets.  Secrets are about shame, and shame is why I drank in the first place.  I was deeply ashamed of my drinking and I am incredibly proud of my recovery.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, getting sober.

My entire life is different today.  The truth is, I go to very few social gatherings of the kind I used to.  They’re just not fun for me.  And while I socialize less in that way, I have more connection and community than I ever have before.  I do more things, I spend more time with friends.  I laugh more.  Most of my circle of friends is sober.  I’m less lonely than I’ve ever been in my life.

There are still moments that are hard.  I went on a trip to Austin recently.  I was so excited to go listen to live music- one of my very favorite things- and it just wasn’t really an option.  The relentless drinking was too much for me, and I had some moments of real sorrow about it.  Grief, really.   And I felt left out, which is a dangerous place for me to be. When I am in that space I go back to an attitude of, “I don’t GET to drink anymore,” when the reality is, I don’t HAVE to drink anymore.  I go to a place where I’m framing sobriety as a punishment rather than the gift it is.  I cannot afford that.  I can’t afford to put myself in that position.

The truth is, I can drink again.  Anytime I want, I can take a drink- I just have to hand back every single gift sobriety has given me.  My health, my happiness, my self-respect.  My career, my calling, my relationships, my connection to God.  It’s an exchange, you see.  It’s a trade off. But it is a sure thing that I will lose every gift.  Done deal. So the day I decide a glass of wine is worth more than all of those things, I can drink again.  That’s a pretty high price to pay, though.  That is a hell of a costly drink.

In the mean time, I just think of it this way: I only need to say no to ONE drink.  Just the first one.  If I can say no to the first one, that’s the end of it.  If I say yes, then I need to worry about all the other drinks.  If I say yes, I need to worry about the harm and the wreckage.  The loneliness and the sorrow.

Can I say no to one drink?  Can I say no to that drink in order to say yes to my WHOLE life?  I can.  I can do that, at least for today.  And for that, I am grateful.

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Hey beloveds!

I am writing a book and in order to get said book published it is awfully helpful to make the most of your platform.  At least, that is what The People Who Know The Things tell me.

SO.

Please consider doing the following:

Come hang out with me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter 

Come see what my dog is doing on Instagram!

If you’re following me on Pinterest… don’t.   And I’m sorry.  I don’t even know how I ended up there…