Monday, August 31, 2015

Shofar's Voice

What is the voice
of the shofar?
I hear its call.
It resonates
somewhere deep
in my bones,
in my blood,
that flows through
my body,
Through my fingers
and heart and
my arms that have
Known weight
and tenderness
and empty
and weary.
And I carry its sound

In the broken notes
that stutter,
in the still air
That shatters my

For a moment,
For an endless moment,
That is the voice:
When my steps
and are caught
And I hear.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Blessing of Memory

My uncle’s English-date yahrzeit is this week. The Hebrew date anniversary was a week or so ago. But it was a year ago that we were all gathered at the hospice to offer our love, find strength in and for one another, grieve for his dying and his death. He was not conscious at the end, but that didn’t stop us from talking to him, holding his hands, holding each other.

It’s hard, saying good bye to someone you love. It is never easy, but it is certainly a more gentle good bye when everyone is there – cousins and brothers and parents and friends, most you know, some you’ve met in another life in some distant time. Many are connected to you only peripherally, the only point of intersection your uncle, who is dying.

We buried my uncle on one of those perfect late summer mornings. It was warm and the bees droned and the sounds of traffic were muffled, blunted by stately trees whose branches hung in graceful disarray. All those people who had drifted in and out of his hospice room, known and unknown, were there, or came to the shiva later that day, which was at my house. That was a first. I’m in my fifties; I have been an adult for quite some time. Having shiva, I felt the very first whispers of old.

It seemed as if he knew everyone, and they all showed up at my small house. We laughed, told stories. Ate. Reconnected with Israeli cousins and the Nashville branch of the family. There was a lot of touching those three days of shiva, as if to say “I’m here. We are here together. You are not alone in your grief, nor am I.”

Shiva ended Friday afternoon. The house was so quiet. Out-of-towners had returned to their hotels to rest for early morning flights the next day. My Israeli cousins were taking advantage of their few days in the States to reconnect with old friends and were heading into the city. I puttered around the house, which was mostly clean – some dear friends of mine had performed the “Shiva Lady” duties with loving perfection, making sure that there was a free flow of food and coffee, cleaning as they went.

And that night, as the sky grew dark and the week seemed to settle, I went to synagogue. It was, after all, Shabbat. And I prayed, and I sang, and I rose and bowed and bent in all the right places. And when it was time to say the Mourner’s Kaddish, I heard my uncle’s name said before the community for the first time, and felt the love and strength of friends who stood with me, to let me know that we do not mourn alone.

And on this Shabbat, one year after his death, I will attend services as I always do. And I will hear my beloved uncle’s name again, so that the entire community can stand with me, in strength and love, to honor with me, the memory of my uncle. This Shabbat, my community will stand with me, to let me know that we do not mourn alone.

For my Uncle Phil
Zichrono livracha

May his memory be for a blessing. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Elul Day Thirteen: Remember

There are times
I am caught by memory,
like a blanket.
warmed and wrapped
and sinking,
so that I long to stay
in its embrace.

There are times
memory catches at me,
at the sharp edges
and rusty corners.
It is not a liquid moment,
not fluid, or surging
in a noisy back and forth
and in and out
like the sea,
but ragged,
often drawing

There are times
I have no memory,
no remembrance
at all - there is
not a blank wall
upon which to draw
lines that dip and dance
and pirouette
as my fancy and
logic dictate,
but an absence,
a nothingness of
silence and cold
that swallows
and pain
and joy.

Or so I think,
I think.
So I believe,
I hope, that
perhaps the Gates
stand guard over all
that absence
that guards my pain,
my light
and joy.

Perhaps I need only
to step through.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Kaddish for an absent father

I knew you, God,
in my mother's breath,
and her sighs
that she thought I 
couldn't hear,
late at night,
and sometimes in the evening,
when she reached for 
a dish,
or a glass,
or a box 
kept on a high shelf,
and the effort
of her stretch
added to the effort 
of her days,
and Your name 
escaped her, unbidden,
hidden by the rustle
of days and time.
She thought I didn't hear.
But that is how 
I knew You first.
She taught me
effort and stretch
and the glory of Your name,
the simple in and out of
that is awe,
and fear,
and mercy,
and love. 

I knew you, God,
in my father's absence,
a hollow presence
that became
over time
and the wheeling of stars.
Stars are impossibly
beautiful and 
improbably far,
and silent,
like solitude,
or the grace
of longing.
Absence settles in,
a blanket of Almost 
and hoped-for.
And I could feel 
You there
in its folds
and tattered edges,
and the 
absence of 
my father's 

And I know you God,
in this ache
of loss 
that breathes through me,
this grief that 
began with absence 
and time,
and ends
with a single 
a last
a whisper of Your 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Elul Day Four - Understand

I have a dear friend who once said to me, "Stacey, you know a lot of words. There is no reason to use them all at the same time." It has become one of my favorite pokes at myself, gentle self-deprecation to let others know that I know that, perhaps, I have used a few too many words. Spoken or written, it doesn't matter. My personal motto continues to be "why use ten words when a hundred will do?"
You see, I am intent on helping everyone around me understand. I start with the short explanation. Stop midstream, paint the picture from a different angle. Then layer that with more commentary, circle back in some circuitous fashion to subtext A, meander along a twisty path to sub-subtext Q, offer up an alternative viewpoint that has since been laughingly disproved by all thinking peoples of the world, interrupt myself with a tangential aside, more to give depth to the explanation than to change the subject, though at this point, it really doesn't matter much, does it?

I used to laugh at my mother - lovingly, of course - when she gave directions: "You know that road we used to take, when we went to the mall?" "Yes." "Ok, go past that, and then go past the next street, the one with the Dairy Queen on the corner, remember, where you used to always get your cone dipped in that chocolate stuff, remember, like that topping we had that would harden as soon as it hit the ice cream? And then - wait - when are you going? At rush hour? Oh no - don't go that way. The traffic is horrible. Here's what you should  do..."

She wanted to give me landmarks. She wanted to make sure I didn't get lost. She was trying to be helpful. I just wanted her to tell me when to take a left; apparently, I could only take a left after I'd traveled down memory lane for a mile or two and could label every nook and cranny and crack in the sidewalk along the way.

I will grudgingly admit that my apple hasn't fallen far from her tree. While I used to wail that I wanted to be in a whole new orchard, I'm (mostly) ok laying in the soft grass of those tangled roots. And any other time of the year, I would be content, having fallen there, to rest in the drowsy air amid the lazy drone of bees. 

But this is Elul. No rest for the drowsy.

Of course I want to help you to understand. I want to help. I don't want you to get lost, literally or metaphorically. Thing is, there is a silent, invisible ending to the statement "I just want you to understand." 

Me. Understand me. 

I spend so much effort, use so many words, all in an effort to get you to understand me. I am so intent on making myself understood, I will barely hear you, as I busily plan and perfect my response to whatever it is that I think you are going to say. Listen, listen, listen, I demand. Hear me. Understand me. Do it like me.

I am Oz, the Great and Powerful. My ego - my helpful, eager-to-please, bigger than all outdoors ego - demands its just due. And like Oz, please, pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. 

And in this moment, understanding comes at last. One of the truest things I've ever heard: "It is better to understand than to be understood." 

Talk less, listen more, see with my heart. Understanding will come, even to me.


Elul Day Three - Search

I write a seder for Passover every year. It is one of my most favorite things to do. Of course, I time it all wrong. I don't pay attention, and wham! There it is, staring me in the face, again. Daring me to cook and clean and write and cook some more, all in record time. And it's not like Pesach is a surprise. It comes, every year, at the exact same time. I know, I know - it  seems to float around the calendar, but really, the date never changes. I just live on one calendar, and Pesach lives on another. Maybe that's what lulls me into a false sense of time, and having enough of it.

Maybe it's just a matter of paying attention.

I don't do that nearly as well as I'd like to. Sometimes, I fear I don't do that nearly at all. I seem to pass through my life (no pun intended), barely touching the surfaces. Any depth only comes through hindsight. Oh! That's what was going on! I say, days or weeks or months later, when something else entirely jogs my memory (tapping me on the metaphorical shoulder, or kicking me in the slightly less metaphorical gut) and transports me back. I get it now. 

And the engines of time start up again, whisking me away to traipse through my days once more.

So I write a seder every year, and I write it for my son. I write it because I am required to tell the story to the one who is too young to even know how to ask what the heck is going on (a paraphrase, I'm sure). The seder has changed year by tear. The story is the same; the way we tell it isn't. One year was sock puppets. One year was a tale of magic and suspense, told by talking birds, and I think a butterfly. There was "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" Seder, and of course, the ever popular write-your-own-adventure seder, where we broke up the story into segments and teams were encourage to act out their section as creatively as possible.

One year, I was inspired. I wrote Game Day Seder - a series of games and quizzes and challenges to tell the story from beginning to end. There were a lot of kids that year, so it was great, good fun. That year, I started with a treasure hunt for chametz. Now, you should know: I don't get rid of chametz - bread and other rising stuff, and stuff that doesn't actually rise but gives the appearance of doing so, and rising stuff you can't even see but someone will know it's there, even if it's only you and God. I don't use it or eat it during Passover, but I also don't scour my house of it. This year I didn't, next year? Maybe.

Even so, we had a treasure hunt. I hid eighteen large croutons around the house, divided the kids into two teams, and armed each team with a feather and a flashlight. I considered a candle, but then, I knew the kids and their clumsy intentions and willingness to throw themselves into the fun. Flashlights were a good choice.

On your marks. Get set. Go.

And they midfully and intentionally went about their way, searching for hidden chametz. Piece by piece, they found all that was hidden, with enthusiasm and frustration and triumph. Every piece accounted for, eventually. All that was hidden, brought to light, then offered, all together, a flaming, smoking pyre atop my grill, sending up a pleasing odor as dusk gathered in the light from the corners of the sky and the first few stars trembled in the heavens.

I love that we are required to search for all that is hidden. I love that we are given so many hints and reminders throughout the year to do so, so that even people like me, who rip and run and race and stumble and fall through the days can still be reminded to pause, long enough to search all those hidden places, to find - with triumph and trepidation and joy - all of the stuff that was hidden.

I think of Elul as another one of those blue threads that reminds us to pay attention, a gift to allow us to bend and dive and search and find all of the things we hid away, to shine a light in the dark and murky corners and sweep it all together with a feather touch, ready to offer it all up and so be made free. And so be made whole.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Act - Elul Day Two

I do not particularly like to admit that, for this past year, I have been curiously passive. I have responded and reacted far more than I have acted. I have allowed the forces of Chance and Capriciousness to make their marks upon me more often than not. More often than was good for me.

To be honest, they've left me rather bruised and somewhat battered.

I do not like to admit that, sometimes, over this past year, it was so much easier to rack up those bruises than to decide. To pick or choose or move or act. I hate to admit that, for this past year, sometimes staying in bed sang a siren call so sweetly, lulling me into just one more Pajama Day, just one more time. What could it hurt?

Well, um, actually - me. All that battering and bruising - all the doubt and panic and passivity, all the stuckness and immobility damaged me. Every time I waited, every time I watched and let life role over and through, come what may, it became easier to let it. Most times, it didn't matter - six of one, half dozen of the other. Or, at least, close enough not to matter.

It became so easy, that when it mattered, when I really needed to act, I couldn't. Didn't.

It's one thing to do this to myself. It's quite another when my inaction - as it so inevitably did - singed so many others around me. Letters didn't get mailed, forms didn't get signed. Calls weren't returned on time.  I showed up in body, my spirit stayed somewhere locked away, passively waiting for the other shoe to drop, yet always surprised when it did. I fooled myself into believing I was showing up enough for the people I love.

Mostly, I was just hollow.

I have a lot of clean up to do. How apropos, to realize all of this now, as we enter this season of separating what I would like to believe of myself from who I really am. I don't have to dive too deep in this one. When I abdicate the need or ability to act, I don't just give up control, it is not just me who gets tossed about on the rocks. It is everyone around me, and the closer they spin to my orbit, the more scraped and skinned their knees become.

The good news - I haven't passively waited for this season to change, to realize that all the bruising and battering was not the fault of cruel and capricious chance - much as I would like to lay blame at that particular altar. No, my wounds, and the wounds I placed on the people I love and hold dear were all due to me not acting, to me merely drifting through my life.

The beauty of Elul is the freedom to say "I am weary and afraid and I have no clue at all - but still, I will act. I will err and possibly flail about, but I will act, put one foot in front of the other and show up, even imperfectly." I think, perhaps, this is the only way to heal: act. Show up, again and again, imperfections and mistakes and weary, grudging doubt.

The Gates are open, but I gotta get there to walk through.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Prepare - Day One Elul

I have to say, I got the list early. At least a month ago. More than enough time to write a few essays, draft a poem or two. More than enough time to, you know, prepare.

Don't get me wrong - I've written some in my head. I would love to say, I've really thought about a few, laid out some mental framework for a bunch. I'd love to, but it's really kinda snarky to lie now, of all times, it being Elul and all. I've thought about this essay, this prompt, none of the others.

At first, all I could think of was Boy Scouts. Obviously, I've never been one. I was a Brownie for a bit of a year, until my mother backed out of being co-leader when she realized that volunteering meant more than offer and want, that showing up was a part of it. I may have no idea what the Brownie or Girl Scott (or Campfire Girls or even Indian Princesses) motto might be, but I know the one for the Boy Scouts: Be Prepared.

Interesting that it's in the passive voice. While I'm sure the message of the motto is fraught with activity, on its face, it is, nevertheless, passive, to be acted upon rather than to be a mover of worlds.

From there, I skipped easily over to Godspell. Of course I skipped there. I can't not hear those opening notes, so pure and unadorned - "Prepare ye, the way of the Lord..." Yes, yes: I know. It is, perhaps, slightly odd to reference that particular musical in this particular context, but it is, to me, perfectly in tune with Elul. Get ready, says the song, there's a God thing about to happen! There is so much quiet joy in this song, that starts with a single voice and build and grows to many. Let's all get get ready, get moving, get mindful, because the time is now, today and then the car broke. Again. And the car needed to be towed. Again. And I had to get the loaner. And then groceries and dishes and sweeping and mopping and I had a date.and the cat needed to play, every time my fingers hit the keyboard and the boy, my beloved boy, he needed dinner and attention and time. And there was something skittering around in my head, about packing and getting ready for a trip and how that was less preparation and more taking a little bit of everything I own, just in case, and there are a few people I need to get back to dammit I forgot to pick up the prescription and

Who the hell has time to prepare?

And so I'm late. As usual. All the prep time in the world, and I come in late. Unfinished, or just barely not. A thousand thoughts swirling in my head, some of them even about Elul and Prepare and this blessed need to stop and breathe and dive in, headlong, prepared or not.

And that's it, really: ready or not, prepared or just barely, this is it. Even in those rare moments when I feel totally prepared, life can so throw me for a loop and send me spinning. This is the prep work, this month, this mindful time, being in it, living and diving and bending the light just so, allowing me to examine the year I have lived, and how I showed up for it (or didn't).

Stop. Breathe. Dive.

Rosh Chodesh Elul sameach.
(grateful for a two day rosh chodesh)
(and now onto Day Two: Act)


Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Grace of Imperfection: reflections on the 24th anniversary of my sobriety

This is the story of my twenty-fourth year of sobriety, told together and in two parts. (You'll see. There would have been columns, which is infinitely more satisfying to me, but Blogger isn't set up for such binary sophistication. So - the parts go together, even though they look - to the naked eye - separate.)

Part One, told together and at the exact same time as Part Two

This has been a crappy year. In the general scheme of all my years, there have been crappier, but not by much. It was one of those years I less lived through and more merely survived, finding too many windy, twisty paths and far too many trap-door bottoms as I stumbled through the days.

There was a time, a while back, that I lost just about everything: property, people, positions. I lost them all irrevocably. Each loss felt like an amputation, and I would get those ghost twinges and pains, as if what I had lost still existed, just out of reach, just out of sight, but still it held weight and heft enough to bring me to my knees. This past year, this past crappy year, was not one of loss, but more a long string of break ups. People, possessions, things – all the standard gathering of stuff that one accumulates over time, a simple break of here, and then not.

If I woke, all too suddenly, in the lonely and dark, night shirt clinging and twisted and drenched in sweat, it was less about loss and grief and fear, and more about a constantly-changing body, a war of hormones and time raging just beneath the surface of my skin. But, having been woken by flashes of heat at temperatures just shy of internal combustion, having stumbled to the bathroom to pee yet again, all the voices of all those people and places and things from which I had separated and severed ties (or that – more likely – all those that had broken up with me) came muttering back in, racing through my head, a cacophony of what-ifs and whys that caused no small amount of psychic whiplash as I attempted to follow each whining whisper spinning manic tales that always ended with “and that’s why you’re a horrible mother and a terrible human being!” Dawn did not defeat the monsters of my dark, but rather sent them skittering into deep folds and hidden corners, where they readied themselves for their inevitable return.

I ran out of money. I robbed Peter and Paul both, The lights flickered a time or two while I cobbled together something out of nothing, a game of smoke and mirrors and odd jobs and charity. I can barely stand the kindness of strangers; the generosity of people I know and love is worse, but I gritted my teeth and learned a grudging gratitude. I collected the mail every week or two, whether I needed to or not. Bills went into the if-you-don’t-open-it-you-don’t-owe-it pile. I hadn’t resorted to that since the early days of my sobriety. Of course, back then, I really did believe it: let them all wait while I sorted out my life and my needs and my wants, while I amassed an Enough that was never quite Enough enough to pay any creditor back. These days, as the pile of unopened bills grew with exponential speed, I cringe, remembering something I heard at a meeting long ago, “Hey – people don’t want your money; they want theirs.”  I am hemorrhaging other people’s money, desperately trying to staunch the flow that shows no sign of stopping.

I was busy learning lessons of life and faith and God this year. Relearning. Reliving those painful, poignant lessons I could have sworn I’d mastered in early(ish) sobriety. There was no less intensity in the learning, no less wondering or pain than twenty-four years ago.

Again and again during this crappy year, I found myself knee-deep in the muck of powerlessness. This damnably simple truth had, long ago, seeped into my consciousness, gotten under my skin, became as true to me as “two plus two is four,” or “the sun rises in the east.” It has been bedrock upon which the foundation of my sobriety lives and breathes. I do not ever doubt my powerlessness over alcohol (and even grudgingly accept this as a managing principle over people, places and things). It is so true that it is almost-but-not-quite invisible.

I got the crash course review this past crappy year. During that first year or three of sobriety, when I finally began to notice the shambles of my life; when finally noticing the shambles I had made of my life: the gruesome remains of relationships I had pushed past the breaking point, the tiny universe of one I lived in, desperate to avoid pain and entanglement and fear (never realizing that I had tethered and tied them all to me with knots as hard as night), when powerlessness felt draining and all-encompassing and impossibly huge, but there was something I could do, some action I could take that could relieve the absoluteness of my powerlessness. The action would not fix me or the broken pieces of my life, but I could rest easier, trudging along that weary road. I could go to a meeting, make a list, talk to my sponsor, make an amends, go to another meeting, whine for a bit and work on it and pray about it and go to sixteen more meetings and find that, at some point, the moment passed and I was out the other side: still powerless, but sitting in my own skin, crisis (real or imagined) back there somewhere, and I was still sober. 

What I didn’t get then – all those early days and middle years and long ago Thens - was that soul-sucking, weak-in-the-knees shock of powerlessness that comes when all you can do, no matter how much you pray or hope or love, all you can do is watch. There is no action you can take, no power you can summon. There is nothing you can do except witness. Hope becomes tattered and gritty, an impossibly shallow breath that cannot sustain a too-weary heart. It is so much easier to quip “I’m a human being, not a human doing!” from the comfort of ease and abundance. It is nearly impossible when the doing and the being may be on you, but the reality is all about someone else. Someone you love, who is facing demons of their own, challenges and stumbling blocks and even death itself. And all you can do is love them, because you are powerless to do anything else, and how the hell can that ever be enough?

What can I do? What can I do? Nothing. Pace. Pray. Don’t drink. Get angry. Get scared. Still don’t drink. Disconnect. Head to a meeting. Write. Don’t drink, even when that fear becomes unbearable. Still don’t drink. Talk to a friend. Rail at God. Pace. Nothing. Anything. Spin like a whirling dervish of activity – all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Cry. Sleep. Wake up. Eat a cookie. Don’t fucking drink. Sing. Hope.

Ah, yes. Hope. That gritty, rusty shriveled old thing. Hope. Don’t drink. Hope. Pray. It gets better. Maybe. It might get better. But you’ll be there. You’ll be present and sober and scared and there. Ready, when it’s time. Time to pray, or mourn, or do the next thing, whatever that thing is. You’ll be ready. You’ll be sober. Don’t drink, go to meetings. Talk. Share. Listen.

I have walked, stumbling and hesitant and with a surprising bit of grace, through twenty-four years of days. I still get scared. I still box with God. I still take it a day at a time (sometimes an hour at a time, sometimes a minute or a breath). I am still powerless. I still mostly hate that.

I’ll live – powerless and present. I’ll pray a little, pace a little. Try to hope. Sleep too little, fret too much. Feel crappy. But oh – what a gift! To be present, in this moment, to celebrate and grieve and worry and doubt and love.

Part Two - told together and at the exact same time as Part One

I’m getting a little annoyed with my editor. She keeps telling me the eBook version of my book will be available soon. She’s been saying "soon" since late June.

She is German, though. Maybe “soon” means something different to her.

Maybe I’m just impatient.

This is a real conversation that I’ve been having in my head. For weeks, I have been getting peevish that the book isn’t yet an eBook, that it’s still not available on every online platform. That I haven’t been written up in the New York Times Review of Books or been handed a Pulitzer.

The fact that I can have this imaginary conversation – imaginary in that it’s unsaid and in my head, but not that the events and situations aren’t true on the face of it – is absolutely and completely mind-boggling.

I wrote a book! I mean, an actual ink-on-paper book. Six months or so ago, I woke up to an email from some woman, the Acquisitions Editor at a small Jewish press in Germany, telling me that, while they normally publish scholarly works and textbooks, they were looking to expand their markets. She had come across my blog online and thought my writing would be perfect to help them do that. Would I be interested in doing a book with them?


Really? Someone has to ask that?

When I was newly sober, still trying on random pieces of my life, those pieces I had left along the wayside as I pursued anything that would bring on an oblivion stronger than my pain – even if only for a minute or three – and desperately trying to shed the wreckage that was threatening to bury me in a field of hidden mines and sharp, rusty edges, I would sigh every so often, saying, “I want to be a writer.”

Finally, one of my friends could take it no longer. “Stacey,” he rasped in a voice laced with too much booze, too many cigarettes, too much loneliness, “a writer writes.” Oh. That. Hmmm.

I filed that tidbit away with all the other verbs that I yearned for but couldn’t quite manage, like sing, or love, or parent, or God. So many verbs escaped me in those early days that stretched into weeks and months and years. Eventually, they came to me, not in a whoosh of perfection, but in fits and starts, all jangly dissonance and wonder. Jack of all verbs, master of none. I practice at them, do them far less than perfectly – which sets my teeth on edge and makes my skin fairly crawl often enough – but I do them anyway, and sometimes even manage to do them well. It never lasts, that, but I learned to live with that, learned to live in a world that is much more silver and gray and messiness than my black-and-white sensitivities would require.

And this year, this twenty-fourth year of my sobriety, I wrote a book! I can say, almost without giggling like a small child who is trying, but cannot quite contain the very large secret she is guarding, “I am a writer,” in answer to the question “What do you do?” I wrote a book, and someone published it and oh my God – seriously?

What a glorious gift this year has been! A few months ago, I was asked to participate in a Storytelling event. What an incredible honor, and so very humbling to be in the company of such masterful wordsmiths. I felt awkward: the story I chose was so different from the others! They were crisp and funny and bright, the perfect blend of wit and wonder. My story moved along in slow waves.

It wouldn’t have mattered if my story was exactly like theirs. I would have felt awkward regardless. No matter. I showed up – because I was asked. Because I was honored beyond belief. Because this was my community, and I am connected to them by more than words or microphones.

I did a horrible job of promoting the event. I had great intentions. Some things change with meteoric speed, others with all the pondering grace of glacial movement. Some things even slower. This was one of them. I had posters to hang, networks to harangue. I managed to put a notice or two on my Facebook page – Hey! There’s this thing! Come, if you have nothing better to do!

I was not hopeful. I had tried this before, this ask-people-to-show-up thing. It mostly hadn't worked. I was pretty confident that it would mostly not work again. I mean, really: who wants to schlep out on a Thursday night to hear a bunch of people telling stories? Ok – they’d schlep to hear them, just not you. Me, They would not come to see me.  

(Always remember: the words I say out loud are but the tip of the iceberg. I have a fascinating and very vocal internal life to fuel all the voices in my head. Trust me: the 10% rule fully applies.)

I did not do the publicity thing well, but I did something. And I showed up. And they came. Lots of people came. It was amazing. But oh my! In a breathless moment of wonder and joy, there were a few people who came just for me. They came because I asked.

This still takes my breath away and leaves me teary. I had a reading. I have an editor. I wrote a book. People came because I asked.

Part Three - the hidden track on the CD 

I joke that my son has learned every lesson I have ever taught him, whether I wanted him to or not. So, for all that he has become a champion for kindness, for all that he will act swiftly (if not always wisely) if he sees injustice, for all that he will dive into words and ideas and stories and worlds beyond and worlds that should be, it can be painfully awkward to hear the sharp edge of sarcasm coming from the mouth of a four year old. And that is infinitely more palatable than to see him throw up his hands in frustration and walk away from verbal conflict, shutting down, shutting out, wrapping himself in silence because he learned the lesson of avoidance all too well.

My continued imperfection at life continues to confound me. More, it saddens me profoundly, when I see its aftermath writ so large upon my beloved boy. He is smart and kind and willful and sarcastic and snarky and sneaky and funny and gracious. The other day, I broke down. There is only so much crap I can take at any one time, and I had reached the breaking point. So I cried, and couldn’t breathe for a minute, and had no clue for a longer time than that. I was in full panic mode, Def Con 5. I did this all in front of my son. Not necessarily the right move, but I’d rather he see me be human – emotional, imperfect, sniveling and lost more often than I care to be (and probably should be) – I’d rather he see that than something false and not real.

My beloved boy, who has learned every lesson I’ve ever taught him whether I wanted him to or not, apparently has also learned the lessons I could never quite learn myself but wanted so fiercely to teach to him. “Mom,” he said to me, “it’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s not weakness to ask for help.”

The bountiful gift of grace: to be present for one another,  in that moment - any moment, every moment - to grieve and worry and celebrate and love.

Synthesis and gleanings, told with the words I see in my heart, not my head

This was my year, my twenty fourth year of sobriety. It was crappy and glorious, both at once. It was never one or the other thing. There are things that I know to be true, like two plus two is four, or I am powerless. These are immutable facts. There are so many more: life is so very rarely one thing. It is mostly a jumble of everything, and the trick is to tease out a single thread – maybe a couple or five – to see where they lead and what they feel like before moving on to the next thread or two. This takes patience. I am quite imperfect at that. I finally know that it is more important to show up, imperfections blaring and embarrassing and feeling all too large and loud, than to wait for a perfection that can never achieve. I missed so much of my life, waiting for it – and me – to be perfect.

I am so very grateful for my sobriety. I am so very grateful for today. It’s the only day I have – to make much of or to hide from or to fritter away while I busy myself with something else entirely. I have this day because I did not drink. I have this day because there are miracles still, and grace and love. I have this day, crappy, resonant, joyous, humbling, scary, lost, magnificent, because I didn’t drink. I will go to a meeting, talk some, listen more, sing a bit, have a conversation with God, hang out with my son, write and remember to be grateful for the gifts I have been given: the gift of struggle and the grace of imperfection.