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.

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“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…

Only Love Today: A Book Review

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“Today I will release a heavy burden.  I will voice what feels unspeakable to a trusted soul.  I might start with: “I need help,” “I am afraid.” “I am overwhelmed,” or “I haven’t felt like myself in a while.”  There is something about voicing the burden that makes it feel lighter, and this is why:  when we meet each other in the light of realness (a place where we can love each other even more because of our shared struggles and human imperfections), hope grows for both of us.”

There are a group of writers that I refer to as my north star writers.  They are, to a person, prodigiously talented- but that’s not why they’re important to me. I used to call them fearless truth-tellers, but I don’t know about that.  They might be afraid- who am I to say?- but then they tell the truth anyway.

These writers, the ones who always seem to help me find my way home to myself, lead with vulnerability.  All of them.  That is the one common denominator.  When you do that, when you show up (whether in writing or in life) and say, “Here I am, scars and all,” you make a space for other people to do the same.  Somehow, even when a writer’s struggles are completely different than my own, their willingness to be truly seen helps me feel seen- and then we all feel less alone.

Rachel Macy Stafford is one of my north star writers.

Some books make us hold our breath- that can be good, right?  They’re suspenseful or powerful in some way that makes us stop breathing for a minute and we’re suspended in the author’s world of words for a time.  As readers, we are on the edge of our seats.

Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Love by Rachel Macy Stafford is not that book, though it certainly stopped me in my tracks often enough.  I probably did catch my breath once or twice as I recognized some part of my own story and struggles in the author’s honest and vulnerable words, but mostly I relaxed deeper into my chair and I exhaled.

Only Love Today is an exhale book.

You see, many mornings I wake up with the dull ache of untreated regret.

This is both unpleasant and a vast improvement.

When I was still drinking, I woke up every morning drenched in shame and dread. The fact that it is at the level of discomfort and not searing pain is progress, indeed.

Back then, I knew I was failing every single person in my life.  I was failing as a mother, a friend, a partner, a sister.  I was keenly aware of everyone’s frustration.  The weight of everyone’s disappointment was crushing, but I felt powerless to do anything about it.  I’d try and overcompensate in other ways, but that never works.  People know when they’re being offered cheap replacements for real love and connection.  It was what I could do, though, given how sick I was.  It was, in fact, my best.  Not nearly good enough, but still my best.

For someone like me who has spent most of her life as an ardent perfectionist, that sense of failure was so acute it was paralyzing.  It is a testament to how sick I was that despite my despair over my failure, despite my life-long pattern of trying to be all things to all people all of the time, I could not do what was being asked of me.  I knew what people wanted, I knew what was expected- and for the first time in my life, I just. couldn’t.  I could not get better, right up until the moment I could.  I don’t know why getting sober works that way, I only know that it does.

One of the things they say in recovery is, “The good news is, you get your feelings back. The bad news is, you get your feelings back.”

When I began to comprehend the enormity of the pain I’d caused, I can honestly say it was the worst feeling of my life.  To know that I’d been an agent of harm to the people I love dearly, and to know I’d let my children down so spectacularly, was devastating.  It didn’t feel fixable.

I bet that’s one reason why so many people in early recovery relapse right away.  The fog begins to lift and you see the wreckage brought about by your addiction and the pain is overwhelming- and you FEEL it.  You’ve put down the anesthesia and are left with so much grief and guilt, and even worse, their evil twins regret and shame.

The author reminds us that the antidote for that aching regret is love.  Love for the people we let down, and love for our imperfect selves.

Sometimes the mountain of damage feels overwhelming, and I begin to believe I’ll never repair what I broke.

That’s what is so beautiful about Rachel’s message, Only Love Today.  It reminds me that love, like everything else of value in my life- sobriety, parenting, faith, creativity- is a practice.  A verb.  And every day, every moment of every day, is an opportunity to love better. In recovery there’s another saying, “you can start your day over at any time.” That’s what it feels like reading this book- even if you messed up, it’s not too late. Even if you made a mistake, it’s not too late.  The author reminds us, reminds ME, that I can just keep showing up with a wide open heart, be present for the people in front of me, and forgive myself.

Show up.  Tell the truth.  Ask for help.  Help when asked.

Lead with love.

THAT seems manageable.  THAT I can do.

“Today, I release myself from judgment.  I will not view the mistakes of yesterday as failures but instead as stepping stones to the lovingly imperfect, grace-filled life I’ve always wanted to live.  Who I am becoming matters more than who I once was.  Today matters more than yesterday.”

Rachel is someone who manages to give voice to hard truths in a gentle way.  We seem to place such a premium on being “brutally honest” in our society, but that brutality often strikes me as largely recreational, and it frequently undercuts our ability to hear the intended message.  Rachel’s writing is more like that best girlfriend who lovingly reminds you of what’s important when you’ve lost your way, who reminds you who you are meant to be and what you are capable of.

A north star friend.

It should come as no surprise that the author’s mantra and book title are “Only Love Today,” because every word she writes is rooted in love- that’s why we can HEAR it.

I read this book straight through, but I almost think it’s best used as a devotional- that’s how I’ll use it going forward.  Open it up to any point, read an essay and make a commitment to live out of that story that day.  What situation in your life has ever been made worse by leading with love?  Can’t think of any?  Me either.

This book is a treasure, plain and simple.

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ONLY LOVE TODAY is Rachel Macy Stafford’s latest book filled with soul-building words and life-changing intentions. With a unique flip-open, read-anytime/anywhere format, this beautiful book is designed to help busy individuals stay anchored in love despite everyday distractions, pressures, and discord. ONLY LOVE TODAY began as a mantra to overcome her inner bully, but it is now the practice of Rachel’s life. It can be yours too. Click here to order. Click here for a signed copy. Mail your pre-order receipt to rachelmacystafford@gmail.com to receive your collection of gorgeous hand-lettered bonus gifts! Offer good until release day 3/7/17. Join Rachel in her daily quest to choose love for herself and those around her at

The Hands Free Revolution!

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Rivers and fences

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A procession of women makes its way down to the river. It is early in the morning and there is still a distinct chill in the air. The sun bounces off the low-lying fog and catches the dew on the long grass, causing the fields around them to seem to glow in the morning light.   It looks warmer than it is.

They walk through the center of the village, the group growing larger as more women and girls join them. Some carry buckets, some washboards. Elder women alternately scold and smile at the children who in turns lollygag and run ahead.   New mothers with babies strapped to their backs keep a watchful eye on their children and the children of others. They bark orders at the younger women, enjoying their newly minted positions of power over the ones who only a year or two before were considered peers.

They arrive at the river and commence the ritual of the wash. Linens are removed from buckets of lye and wrung out before being scrubbed on the washboards. At first, the icy water stings, reddening their hands. They grow accustomed to it and begin laundering their linens as if by rote, the repetitive chore leaving their minds free to wander.

And they talk. They gossip, they ask for and give advice. They console and commiserate. They laugh and lament.

In this, as in all their shared tasks, they connect.

They are in the room when each other’s babies are born.  They witness each other’s joy.  They are in the room when they prepare a loved one’s body for burial.  They witness each other’s grief.  The forced intimacy of hardship doesn’t allow for pretense.  They know one another.

They are at the river for wash and they are at the river for baptisms.  The mundane and the sacred, up close. 

They are a community in every sense of the word.

It’s funny when you think about it. All of our modern conveniences, which free up our time by making tasks solitary and efficient, have seemingly left us even more stressed out and with less time to connect on an interpersonal level.

Daily chores we can accomplish in minutes by ourselves in modern times, took hours and more than one set of hands to complete in the past. By the time the wash was done the village women’s shoulders would ache and their faces would be sunburnt, but they would likely leave the river feeling less alone than when they arrived.

We live in miraculous times. Our lives are much less demanding physically. Modern conveniences have made it so that we can operate with very little interdependence on one another. If your child is up sick all night it doesn’t mean four hours at the river’s edge cleaning linens against the rocks, commiserating with the other mothers about fevers and sleeplessness- it’s a quick toss into your front loading washing machine and maybe a tired emoji-laden post on Facebook.

We hire people to create and manage our lives, we outsource our rituals.  It’s amazingly efficient and sanitary, but mark my words- we have lost something in doing so.

What we have gained in ease we have lost in connection. I’m not saying we should glorify the old days of grueling manual labor and forego modern conveniences.   No one is idealizing a hard-scrabble existence and if you had offered those women bent over for hours scrubbing clothes in cold water an easier more efficient way to do that same work, they’d have taken it in a heartbeat. They’d likely think this was a ridiculous conversation.

We don’t need to return to a back-breaking daily battle for continued existence. No one wants that- and this is not an attempt to romanticize days gone by. There is a reason smart and inventive people spent time and energy coming up with ways for us to not have to do those daily tasks the hard way. So many good things have come out of those advances- indoor plumbing, for example, and the Shamwow.

Somehow, though, with that decline in our physical need for one another came an idealization of independence all around. Particularly in this country, we’ve created this whole mythology around “self-made” men and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. We’ve romanticized the notion of women who can handle everything by themselves, which has, in turn, created generations of martyrs and burned out women who see it as a sign of weakness or an admission of defeat to say, “This is hard,” or, “I need help.”

The problem lies here- we have not found effective replacements for the forced intimacy of needing one another to survive. In the absence of the physical need for one another, we’ve offered up our human connection at the altar of convenience. Without that intimacy- without being all up in each other’s grills on a daily basis, we’ve learned to fake it. We’ve come to settle for smoke and mirrors over substance, and the illusion of success and happiness over real community.

Real community is not formed in happy times and celebrations when everyone is dressed up and smiling for the cameras. Real community is formed in the trenches. Real community is born of the connection that comes from vulnerability. Vulnerability isn’t a surface thing. Vulnerability requires real intimacy or real desperation.

We go home to our self-contained little lives. We put up privacy fences and pull down shades. We post our pretty pictures on Instagram so edited and tweaked by filters they bear little resemblance to what actually happened when we snapped the photo. Then we hashtag our gratitude for a life we are not actually living and tag our friends who do not actually know us.

socialmedia

And we are modeling this for our kids.  Look at any lunch table, any gathering of teens. You will find them all looking down, choosing to have the glow of their devices light up their faces over having real connection light up their eyes.  Parallel play is no longer just for toddlers, friends.  And we wonder how it is that a teenage boy can become so detached he can walk into a school lunchroom and treat it like a first-person-shooter video game. It’s not mysterious at all.  It’s the real world application of disconnection.

Go to any kids’ sporting events and observe the number of parents who are busy on social media posting about how amazing their kids are while they are MISSING HOW AMAZING THEIR KIDS ARE.

Somewhere along the line it became more important to us to seem to have a great life than to live one.  At some point we became more worried about the number of Facebook friends we had and how much they ‘like’ our posts than loving the actual people in our lives and having them like us.

We watch reality tv to get our fix of life up close- but those shows are to real relationships what pornography is to love. A fun house mirror version of life, with all the vicarious thrill of people living close up to one another with none of the real responsibility. We engage in pretend forms of connection where we can log off or change the channel before something true or deep is required of us.

That can be okay, for a while. When things are good. But life, whether we are doing the wash in the river or dropping it at the dry-cleaners, is difficult and often heartbreaking. And it is so much harder if you feel alone.

We are hardwired for connection. We are meant to live in community physically, emotionally and spiritually- and we are STARVING for it. I mean it, we are literally dying. The lack of connection, the lack of honest-to-God real community, is at the root of nearly every single thing that ails society today.

Addiction. Despair. Violence. Poverty. Mass shootings. Infidelity. Suicide. Hatred. Judgment. Even terrorism is rooted in the lie of “other.” If you scratch just below the surface of any of those tragedies, you find isolation and heartbreaking loneliness.

It took my life imploding before I was able to be vulnerable enough to build real communities for myself and my family. It took me losing nearly everything. It took the complete decimation of the pretty fences and the shiny life.  It took the humiliation of my divorce, it took me telling the truth about my abuse in childhood, and me finally getting honest about my alcohol addiction before I was able to set aside the pretty veneer and let myself be seen, scars and all. It took me nearly dying in order to really begin to live, it took me being shattered for me to finally become whole.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We shouldn’t have to fall apart to come together.  We don’t need more fences, we need more rivers.

How many more stories do we need to read where someone says, “I had no idea she was struggling,” or, “They seemed like such a happy family,” before we take a long hard look at the paper-thin lives we are leading? Before we recognize that Mother Teresa was right:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that

we belong to each other.”

 

Peaches

 

peaches

My friend Glennon says this:

“The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is

not explain herself.”

I absolutely agree.

I’m making an exception in this one case, because I think there’s an important distinction to be made, and I take my responsibilities to my communities very seriously.

I’ve been getting some pushback for the post I published last night. People are upset this blog has become what they deem to be too political. It’s interesting. I’ve published upwards of 170 essays, and of those, there are probably less than 10 that are overtly political. I had one reader comment that she was disappointed because Say It, Survivor means so much to her and she feels less comfortable here now that I am delving into politics from time to time.

I get that. I really, honestly do. I have writers whose work I read and every now and then I have to set aside their view on something because I love most of what they write about- and if I can’t do that, then I don’t read their work. We all need to make the right choices for ourselves in that regard.

In Others’ Words and Say It, Survivor are two wholly different things, though, and the distinction is important. That may be hard for some to understand because they way they found SIS is through this blog, or specifically through He Wrote It Down. In Others’ Words is my personal blog, it existed before SIS, and reflects my beliefs, experiences, and opinions. I occasionally contribute pieces I’ve written for this blog to the SIS page when they are relevant, but this blog does not exist in service to Say It, Survivor.

Any post I write that is relevant to the Say It, Survivor community will be posted on the SIS FB page, so if the rest of this blog isn’t your cup of tea and you’d prefer to only come visit when it relates to the topic of sexual abuse- I get that, and your presence is always welcome.

Do you know why I used the conceit of writing about a quote? It was so I could write about anything that is on my mind or in my heart. I didn’t want to get pigeon-holed into one genre, one topic. I didn’t want to be a mommy-blogger or a divorce blogger- I just wanted to write, and to be wholly, completely me.

When I first began IOW, I wrote a fair amount about my divorce. I’ve written about my eating disorders, my alcoholism. I’ve written about art, music, dancing, faith, sex, love, parenting, and friendship. I’ve written about refugees, rape culture, racism, and gun violence, too.

Those are all things that are important me- and none of them defines me.

For quite a long stretch I wrote almost exclusively about my abuse and my recovery from it- that’s true- but that was never the intention for this blog. That’s what was on my mind. That’s what was- and still is- in my heart, and so I will continue to write about it.

Interestingly enough, I got this same pushback the times I’ve written about my faith. “Why has the blog gotten religious? I don’t feel comfortable here now.”

Again, fair.

I am a writer. That’s how I process what happens in my life, and in the world, and how I express myself. I am a survivor of sexual abuse, as well. Not solely that, though. Not just that one thing. I am more than what happened to me, and so are you. I did not fight this long and this hard to get healthy and find my voice to not feel free to use it.

You will never see anything political on Say It, Survivor unless it specifically deals with news, policy, or legislation around sexual abuse. SIS is non-political and will remain so.- that I can guarantee.

I would, however, gently remind my readers that if I was unwilling to talk about controversial things that were on my mind, Say It, Survivor would not exist. Lest we forget, SIS came about because I wrote about a topic that so many of you were hungry to read about, but made many of my existing readers wildly uncomfortable- some of whom felt compelled to leave. That’s okay. I didn’t lose a moment’s sleep over it then, and I’ll sleep just fine tonight.

Say It, Survivor is a non-profit dedicated to helping survivors of child sexual abuse, and I work on its missions every single day. Hard. This blog, however, is about me and my life- and the state of the nation and the world is also something I am passionate about, something I work on every day. Also. And.

I am politically active and will remain so. That is part of who I am. To not speak out on things I believe are important simply to retain readers or grow the platform? THAT would be political. The only way to ensure you never offend anyone is to never take a stand on anything, and that is simply not who I am.

I will try and be mindful of not indulging in snark- I can fall prey to that, sometimes- but I will continue to be who I have always been: a person who notices what is going on in the world around her and writes about it. I may not agree with everything you believe, but I would fight like hell for your right to believe and express it. You don’t need to agree with me to be welcome here. You don’t need to agree with me in order to comment here, as long as you remain respectful.

And you don’t need to stay, if leaving is what’s right for you. That’s totally fair.

I hope this lends some clarity to those who are seeking it. I am going to keep being me and writing what I need and want to write- and if that means the numbers dwindle I am completely and utterly okay with that. I’ll show up and tell my stories to whoever is here.

Love you so.

Laura

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world,

and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

Dita Von Teese

 

Rest to resist

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This is your brain on too much Twitter.

M’kay, loves.

I hit the outrage wall doing 90 recently. It felt like every time I stepped away from the computer I would come back to some new bit of awfulness.

Even when I was trying to work I would check newsfeeds, get distracted- re-post something, make a call, check a fact, engage with someone who commented on something I posted…

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I got done getting the kids ready for bed, let the dogs out. Saw that someone had retweeted a well-known white supremacist, who expressed his delight at how well this is all going.

I started to cry.

You guys. We’re three and a half weeks in. Are you exhausted?

I am. I’m exhausted.

I’ve been making excuses to not do things because I feel a responsibility to pay attention to every headline, weigh in on every issue, check every fact, call every elected official- and I’ve been forgetting to take care of myself.

4 years. 1460 days. And we’re 28 days in.

Sweet friends, we have got to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. We cannot give away what we do not have. We cannot pour from an empty cup.

Eat. Sleep. Exercise. Laugh. Pet dogs. Dance. Flirt. Fall in love. Make art. Read books for pleasure. Get your ass to a meeting. Go outside. Drink water. Get quiet. Breathe salty air. Pray. Unplug- for the LOVE, please unplug from time to time.

We need every voice to speak out. We need every pair of feet to march. We need every heart to break.

We can’t get complacent. We can’t ignore what’s going on. We cannot un-know what we know.

BUT.

In times like these, let’s call them ‘dumpster fire days,’ it’s more important than ever to seek joy like it’s your job.

Stay woke, my loves. But also, REST.

rest

Here are ten things that are filling me up right now.  Please tell me what you’re doing for self-care in the comments!

  1.  Heading away to Austin for a long weekend with my Favorite.  No kids.  #thankyouJesus
  2. My dog.  All dogs.  Probably your dog.  What do people without dogs even DO with themselves right now?
  3. Checking in on my people.  When I start to get too stressed I text people I haven’t chatted with in a while and see how they’re doing.  Connection helps.  No being alone with the internet.  S’no good.
  4. UNPLUGGING.  Seriously.  Step. Away. From. Twitter.
  5. La La Land.  Have you seen it?  It’s not going to change anyone’s life and there are serious movies out there that deserve your attention- but this is a completely delightful slice of unabashedly romantic escapism pie.  Also, Ryan Gosling- which I never *got* before, but now. I. DO.  Late to the party, but I’m here.
  6. Boooooooks.  Just finished James Prescott’s Mosaic of Grace (see book review page) and Rachel Macy Stafford’s Only Love Today (review coming soon!)  Also, just heard Jen Hatmaker’s new book is called Of Mess and Moxie – so we’ve got that going for us.
  7. This Is Us.  I can’t even talk about it…. ohYESican.  Randall.  William.  Our Kate.  Jack.  Nope.  I was right.  I can’t.
  8. Tiny subversive acts.  They are unbelievably restorative.  I tweet to the Senate Majority Leader every morning.  He and I are going to be great friends.  I can feel it. He hasn’t responded yet- but nevertheless, I persist. seewhatididthere?
  9. Make a difference in YOUR community.  Meet a need right in front of you.  Small acts.  Great love.
  10. Listen for the voices of love.  Hate and fear are so LOUD- sometimes it’s easy to think those the only stories being told.  They’re NOT.  Here are just a few people you can reliably turn to for love stories:

Glennon Doyle Melton

Jen Hatmaker

Shauna Niequist

Matt Bays

Jacquie Lewis

Elizabeth Gilbert

Amandla Stenberg

Linda Sarsour

Rachel Macy Stafford

Humans of New York

The Work of the People

Valarie Kaur

James Prescott

John Pavlovitz

Broderick Greer

Rene August

Kid President

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Okay, my loves.  If I’m writing this book (and I am) I need your help- I need to build this platform.

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…

 

 

Mosaic of Grace – A Book Review

“Grace is disruption. When the worst has happened, grace says the worst thing isn’t the end. In positive disruption, grace challenges us to commit to ongoing transformation.”

james2

It’s serendipitous James Prescott’s book, Mosaic of Grace, came my way in this particular season of my life.

The idea of grace has been nipping at my heels of late.

For most of my life, I never thought much about grace- not in terms of God, anyway.  As I’ve shared before, I broke up with God when I was nine years old.  It took over thirty years to bring me back to the table.

I think there are many reasons we struggle with the concept of grace.  It’s kind of ephemeral, isn’t it?  Especially given the way our culture is today.  We’ve become convinced we need to prove our worth, earn our belovedness- and that makes sense, because every ad we see attempts to reinforce one message, “You are not enough. You are not enough. You are not enough.”

Grace is not contingent on our good behavior, we can’t strive for it, earn it, or lose it, because it’s extravagant, boundless, and not one of us deserves it.  It’s completely unfair. That’s what makes it so counter-intuitive- and why some people describe grace as “scandalous.”

It’s also what makes it grace.

In Prescott’s book, he explores the nature of grace, how it plays out in our lives, and what our role in it is.  I’d never heard anyone posit that we humans have a role in grace before- only that we are its recipients.  That alone piqued my interest, the notion that we have some agency in the way grace plays out in our lives.

“I didn’t comprehend grace

until I asked God to love me

to wholeness and not to pieces.”

Early in the book, the author explains the title.  He talks about the Japanese art of kintsugi, also know as kintsu kuroi.  I was all in at that point.  I mean, I have an entire other blog based around the concept of making things beautiful at the broken places.  I love the notion of God’s grace being the gold that mends the broken pieces of our lives. Grace as a binding agent.  As the author points out time and time again, though- that only happens when we acknowledge our brokenness and surrender the pieces to God.  If we refuse to admit we’re broken, or we continue to clutch the shards of our pain, our failure, and our harms, they will go unrepaired.

When I was working in Special Ed, we were required to get trained in de-escalation and handling adverse behaviors. I found it fascinating.  We learned so many different things – everything from tactics to prevent an escalation, to how to best free your hair from an enraged kid’s death-grip.

All helpful.

There were a couple of things I took away from that training that I think about frequently- I mean, aside from the hair tip.  One of them was this: There comes a certain point in any escalation when there’s no walking it back.  The person is so undone, so far gone, the only thing you can do is to let it play out.  Anything done to forestall it after the episode has gone past that point will surely lead to another escalation, and another, and another.  The only answer is to let the cycle play through to the end.  To exhaustion.

That takeaway applied to one of my favorite and most challenging students, and also eventually, profoundly, to me.

He was sweet and funny, and smart. On paper, he was considered non-verbal, but our team didn’t think so.  Most people just didn’t speak his language.  He sure did understand a lot, and he generally let us know what he wanted us to know- you just needed to pay attention, is all.   We adored him.

He would escalate many times a day, and it was hard. When he did, he would hit and throw things, sometimes he would bang his head on the wall or the ground.

Once he’d reached that tipping point, we needed to just let it play out.  Keep ourselves safe, keep other students safe,  keep him safe if we could.  When we were in that space, when he was raging and crying and striking out, I had one thing that I said to him, verbatim, over and over, every time.

“When you are ready, I will help.”

He’d scream and collapse, throw punches in the air, cry.  It was awful to watch.  I am certain it was even more awful to be in it.

Eventually, he’d wear himself out.  The cycle of escalation would run its course and he’d exhaust himself.  He’d surrender.

He’d get quiet.  I’d give it a minute to make sure he wasn’t faking me out.  He’d peek at me tentatively- as if to say, “You’re still here?  Are you mad at me?”

I’d smile and say, “Are you ready?”  And he would say one of the few phrases he could articulate…

“ALL DONE!”

Then he’d smile, pop up off the floor, and we’d carry on.  We’d do the work.

I was ALWAYS ready for him to do the work and succeed, but I needed to wait for his willingness.

I think that is EXACTLY what God’s grace is like.

“Grace confronts us with the truth of who we are. It strips us bare and challenges us to change. It tells us we are not condemned, but that we are loved unconditionally,

just as we are.

And then, most importantly, grace says we are loved way too much to stay as we are.”

I think that’s precisely how it was when I was in the worst of my alcoholism.  If we think of someone’s increased drinking as an escalation of addiction, then the playing it through to the end, the exhaustion, is rock bottom.  I was on the ground, throwing punches in the air, fighting an unwinnable battle, and God was just waiting for me to be done.  The grace was ALWAYS there, the willingness was not.

Recovery begins where our exhaustion, our surrender, our willingness meets God’s grace.

When we hear of someone falling prey to or losing a battle with something akin to one of our own struggles, one of the first things you hear people say is, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

I have to say, you’d be hard pressed to find a phrase that gets my back up more than that one.  Not because I don’t believe in God or in grace, but because I do.  Deeply.

I think there’s an underlying implication that the difference between the person lost to…you name it- addiction, suicide, drunk driving, lung cancer…whatever- is that God has granted you, in particular, some sort of “stay” of grace.  The problem with this is, it presumes that grace is a pie and not all of us gets a slice- or if we do, they’re unequal.

I just fundamentally do not believe that for one single second- in fact, I find that notion reprehensible.  If that were true, that would be a very small god, indeed.

God’s grace.  Our willingness.  Of the two, only our willingness is in question.

Grace is tricky to write about.  I think we all have a personal experience with grace, and we don’t all understand it in the same way.  What the author does so successfully is to give examples of the way God’s grace and his own willingness have converged to work change in his life.  My favorite writers are the ones who understand the power of vulnerability and “me too.”  What James Prescott does so beautifully throughout the book is offer up examples of where his own pain and failure were transformed by God with candor and, well, grace.

Do yourself a favor and check out this book. You can order it here.  James Prescott also has an amazing podcast, Poema, that you can check out here.

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Okay, my loves.  If I’m writing this book (and I am) I need your help- I need to build this platform.

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…

Try not

Do or do not.  There is no try.

Yoda

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I was having a discussion with a friend this morning about gratitude.  I explained that I used to think of gratitude as a feeling- something that just came over me.  Now, that’s great when everything is easy-peasy mac ‘n cheesy, but then gratitude is something that happens to me.  Then it’s fleeting, and determined by life circumstances, and sometimes life sucks.  I thought I had to wait for gratitude to happen, or to try to be grateful.

I now recognize that gratitude, like literally every other thing in my life- love, faith, sobriety, yoga (jk.  I only talk about doing yoga.  I just have the pants.) that I hold sacred, is a practice.  I must practice gratitude every single day- build up that muscle memory, so that when life kicks me square in the teeth my gratitude is still there.  I have to focus on gratitude, I have to set the intention, yes, but then I have to DO IT.

I remember fb messaging a friend about five years ago and saying that I was going to try and stop drinking.  Of course, I picked a friend who lives in Florida, who I wouldn’t run across in the wine section of Trader Joes- but even so, I think I actually meant it.  I think I did try.  I tried all the way up until 18 months ago when I stopped drinking.  I stopped trying the same day I stopped drinking.

Last year, I told several people I was going to try to write a book.  And I did.  I did try.  And here I sit a year later, not having written a book.

There’s a saying in recovery circles- pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.  DOING is pain, TRYING is suffering.

Listen, you can either try to stop drinking or you can stop drinking.  You can either try to write a book or you can WRITE A DAMNED BOOK.

idea

Whatever that thing is for you, you can try to do it or you can do it.  It is as simple and hard as that.

I’d expound more on this but I’m working on Chapter Two.

Love you so.

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Okay, my loves.  If I’m writing this book (and I am) I need your help- I need to build this platform.

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…