New Year Old Me (kind of)

 

I still drink too much coffee and eat too much dessert. I still spend a lot of time wondering if I am good enough to write a second book/chatarunga with my knees up/put gas in my car. Self-doubt abounds and I’m usually chalk full of caffeine and semi-sweet chocolate and sometimes nicotine. These are the vestiges of old me that have stayed intact. But the biggest way that I am different is that wine is no longer my best friend, arch nemesis, fairy god mother, etc. Also I take Prozac (yay big pharma) which is not a magic pill, but does help keep my anxiety in check. The combination of ditching booze and starting an anti-depressant in the latter half of 2017 has made my life about a hundred times more manageable. My body is a place I am learning to live in and since I can’t easily trade shells, this is a good thing indeed. I still love doing yoga. I still run a couple miles on occasion and never more than three. I still write every day, both in my journal and on my computer, either fiction or poetry or nonsensical madness that I look at fondly. I still fool myself into thinking I can do things like a Whole 30, as if yogurt and oatmeal aren’t the best things south of Mars, only to disappoint myself immensely. I still haven’t started a meditation practice. I still haven’t finished the book I started reading two weeks ago. I still love my mother a whole lot and think the Christmas gift I gave her was pretty dope (a handmade journal with 52 prompts for her to complete each week this year). I still get stomach aches and weird acne even though I’m 24-almost-25. I still wake up early and feel a thrill in my body when I read particular lines of poetry. I still love dogs more than humans and could up my social media game and generally be a better driver, but this year I didn’t make thirteen New Year’s Resolutions. In 2018 I have an intention and that is staying power: to be present, to be here, in this body, in this mind, in this life. Which is vague, I know. And they say your goals should be specific and measurable (or whatever SMART stands for), but this year I’m taking a gentler approach, which is also pretty new me.

90 things i learned from not drinking for 90 days

  1. it is entirely possible to stay too long at the fair
  2. no one can unconvince you of your name if you are not drunk
  3. anxiety is harder to come by without a hangover
  4. there are lots of beautiful wonderful things in the world that have nothing to do with wine
  5. it is entirely possible to have fun with someone when neither of you are inebriated
  6. it is better to be alone than to be with someone you are not compatible with once you take booze and napping out of the equation
  7. some of the beautiful wonderful things in the world that have nothing to do with wine include art museums, though not everything in them will be your taste
  8. other beautiful wonderful things include dogs
  9. books
  10. stars
  11. baths
  12. and other one-syllable delights, like a long uninterrupted fart in your bed
  13. feeling like a kid is not always a juvenile thing
  14. youth does not have to be wasted on the young
  15. when you want to drink you usually want something else that alcohol can’t provide. desire is a sneaky snake with legs and a good falsetto.
  16. it is worthwhile to explore feelings of lack, preferably while wearing pink velvet boots and a nude lip
  17. there are things in life that rob us of our true nature, but trick us into thinking we are better off robbed. these are dangerous things and it is best to mourn them, if necessary, while dumping them down the sink
  18. milk is a perfectly acceptable drink to order at a bar
  19. milk at a bar is probably not organic and you will probably be consuming chemical laden cow puss
  20. even chemical laden cow puss is less harmful than gin or vodka or sauvignon blanc
  21. it is harder to start things than it is to continue things
  22. your life doesn’t have to reach full catastrophe mode to make a change
  23. not drinking forces you to do other things you like to do
  24. like find places to play ping pong because it is Friday night and you are twelve and have been twelve all along
  25. it is okay to be smug when people talk about the hangover they have that you don’t have, but only for the first ninety days.
  26. afterwards, you should be less smug.
  27. strip the illusions from your life and first you will face a blank sheet of paper.
  28. with time words will appear like “hello”
  29. and “i like when you read me alex dimitrov”
  30. winters are not actually made better with hot toddys.
  31. winters are made better with fires.
  32. ice skating is not an activity that requires booze
  33. neither is writing
  34. neither is falling in love
  35. marshmallows are a good breakfast if roasted over a fire
  36. there is no such thing as too sober for this
  37. there are simply parties you should not be attending
  38. and friendships you should not be keeping
  39. it is easy to see the beginnings of things and hard to have split ends
  40. not drinking probably makes you lose weight unless you replace wine with ice cream. oh well.
  41. friends who love you the right way won’t care that you’re not drinking.
  42. what’s that saying? those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.
  43. 8:30 is not too early to go to bed.
  44. it is very romantic to be a writer who drinks too much until you are miserable in your own delusions and wish you were fourteen again
  45. beyond wasted and getting wasted there’s a pool of clear water. i’ll meet you there.
  46. meanwhile it gets easier
  47. then sometimes it gets hard again
  48. but you’ve never woken up and wished you had a hangover
  49. it’s okay that not drinking includes moments of wanting to drink
  50. most colors are a mix of many colors
  51. you know your true colors
  52. yoga is a good way to feel good without hating yourself later
  53. self-destruction is not inevitable
  54. you are funnier, actually, when you are not drunk
  55. more loveable
  56. more kind
  57. an old woman will say something you need to hear around day seventy nine: that she wishes the drinking age was not so high, as if drinking was something you must grow into instead of something you must grow out of
  58. lots of people do lots of things without drinking
  59. it is not a vinocentric universe after all
  60. though drinking has gotten you into dangerous situations, it does not have to get you into anymore
  61. it is very hard not drinking at 24, like, very fucking hard
  62. but it is not harder than the alternative
  63. learning what is true for you is not always a hallelujah moment with confetti angels and sparkling virgins
  64. there will be tears
  65. and tantrums and ill attended-pity parties
  66. create a good playlist
  67. allow yourself to move and be moved
  68. wait for the moments in the day that are pure and unconflicted and treasurous. they always come eventually.
  69. it is easier to love the people who love you when you also love yourself which is easier when you are not loving the thing that makes you hate yourself
  70. if you have to ask, you probably know the answer
  71. holidays and vacations are 75% less stressful without a hangover
  72. a life spent chasing smoke and mirrors will leave you with lung cancer and a poor reflection of yourself
  73. your feelings will not destroy you the way tequila will
  74. how relieved are you? scale of one to i have my life back
  75. it is better to be yourself than your drunk self
  76. the world is still funny
  77. happy hour can be happier
  78. you feel you deserve more things when you are sober
  79. you are right
  80. but go easy with the shopping. you’re amazing, not 27$ underwear amazing.
  81. relief is not a permanent emotion.
  82. neither is wanting.
  83. we live in a boozy culture
  84. get good at saying no.
  85. you are perfect as you are and you could use a little improvement
  86. say the things to yourself that you want to hear from someone else
  87. i love you, thank you, can i buy you a kombucha?
  88. it feels good to keep a promise with yourself
  89. like you are the richest woman in the world
  90. and you are

Things I’ve Been Up To Lately

  1.  Writing a second book. Weeeeeeeeee
  2.  Venti americanos
  3. Catching sunrises in Portland, which made me realize that like a snowflake and other cliches, a sunrise is never the same twice. Even if it were the same twice, I wouldn’t remember it, which is the same thing as if it were different.
  4. Steak. I’m on a red meat kick.
  5.  Facing my fear of being alone because my boyfriend and I broke up because I am 24 years old and don’t really know how to be myself and since I’m going to be myself my whole life I should probably figure that out
  6. Swimming in the ocean even though it was cold as a witch’s tit, then taking selfies to prove it
  7. My nana passed away, which isn’t something I’ve been up to per se, but it’s weird. I feel funky about it: sad and grateful and confused about this corn maze made of pregnant ladies called life.
  8. Have you read “Dogfish” by Mary Oliver? You should.

kitchen sink heart

 

my heart is so full of love and gratitude and sweet potato casserole. for stars and dogs and candles in the bathtub. mornings in this body, whatever size it might be. mothers and coffee and the weapon you don’t need a license to carry. i’m grateful for love and dogs and npr. for iphones and seltzer and walks in the sun. my agent, my editor, my book, my art…

i don’t know if this is a poem but hallelujah virginia woolf, it was a good thanksgiving. i learned that dina washington had to tell my dad, “get off the stage mr. bandstand” because he was “that guy” at fifteen. then a red headed woodpecker gave me new eyes. and i ate a lot and didn’t drink at all and we were a happy, dysfunctional family.

you know we will be dead for an eternity.

life right now is our fifteen minutes of fame.

 

 

Dear Poopinella, Help.

I do not know what is wrong with me. I do not know why I never want to be where I am. I do not know why the urge to escape is so great, all I know is that it is great. Great grand giddy oh. I want to go. I want to drink a bottle of wine, eat a case of brownies, smoke six cigarettes, then lace the last one with weed. (I hate weed). I want to float someplace else, someplace better where mountains are paper scraps and coffee doesn’t do bad things to my heart and there is milk, so much milk, for the lactose intolerant. I want this and a thousand other things in sad November when even the trees are taking Prozac and even the wings have lost their lift. Where can I go? What can I be? Will I always want to escape in this way? Do I need to change my life or just get a little fucked up sometimes?

Signed,

Go Go Girl

{I started the response below five minutes after writing the above. nineteen hours later + sleep + italian food, this is what I came up with}

Dear Go Go Girl,

I do not know why it is so hard to be a person in the world but certainly it is because there are at least two books on my shelf that have something like “how to be a person” in their titles. Life is hard because of the biggies like racism and sexism and wonky old capitalism and life is hard because life is boring. There are traffic lights and depression and weak lattes. There are stretches of hours and even days that are just so devoid of sparkle you wonder why you can’t kill yourself and be reincarnated as a Harry Potter character. When you are deep in the throws of tedium, I invite you (like the self-righteous ass hole that I am) to breathe in your suffering. Breathe in your suffering then breathe in the suffering of others like you who are a little bored and a little antsy and a little tired of their usual reality. (This practice of Tonglen can be Googled extensively, but eventually you have to get off Google and actually goddamn breathe).

Once you’ve inhaled, exhaled, etc., remind yourself that life is not always this monotone of blah, tempting though that is to believe. You do experience thrilling storms, you do dance in their lovely precipitation. You know the joy of a sentence, a rich line of poetry, how the birds fly together above you in the cold light of an early November morning. You know when the dog runs in the woods and you walk behind her mostly oblivious to her sensual experience but occupying a tiny corner of it, that there is beauty, there is light. You know the stretchy open peaceful bliss of a yoga class, the rare but mighty occasion when you wake up late and awareness washes over you like a beautiful disease. You are susceptible to joy like water is to ice—you eventually recognize it as yourself, just in a cooler form. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, Go Go Girl, soon.

Sometimes life is tedious, just really plucking-the-hairs-from-your-knees tedious. I don’t know if there is merit in the tedium or if there even has to be merit in everything we do (we are so steeped in the language of capitalism it is a wonder poetry exists at all). I’m not saying it isn’t hard, I’m saying it’s so goddamn freaky-it’ll-send-your-wig-to-Jupiter hard. Can you embrace that? What about just for the next thirty seconds?

Maybe getting fucked up is a worthwhile experience. Maybe you should try it. The only problem is that you kind of know that getting fucked up doesn’t work. You could drink a lot and eat a lot and throw up and take some medication to make you sleep and wake up ready to hit the reset button all while full of anxiety and self-loathing. You could do that. It’s just much less appealing doing that knowing what you know now: that this is a bad bandaid, a delightful distraction that does nothing more than distress the damsel further. (The beauty of being twenty-four and not, say, twenty-two or even twenty-three is you’re sort of onto yourself by now). So maybe instead of finding a “solution” you could watch and be aware and keep a log of all your thoughts and wants and experiences, how it feels to be you. If I were to guess, I would say that getting fucked up isn’t going to help as much as observing the inclination is. What is it like to want to leave? What is the color, the texture, the stink of that wanting? Can you stay anyway?

Maybe you say, “But that’s so hard!!!” and I agree, but you already know how to do hard things: the hangovers you’ve suffered, the comebacks you’ve made from stewy darkness. You know how to navigate the Terrible when it comes to the day after drinking. Now apply that skill to sobriety. Flex your muscle that does hard things and do the damn thing, the hardened-honey-that’s-still-sticky-business of staying.

It might also help to remind yourself that what you really want is not a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, but for life to be easy, for feeling good to be as simple and accessible as a glass poured in front of you. Oh honey, don’t we all. The truth is that life isn’t exactly what we want when we want it. Life is a checkerboard of dark and light, “good” and “bad”, agreeable and disagreeable situations. Right now you are in the disagreeable. Eventually you will be in the agreeable, but getting fucked up has never brought you there because life is not a game of checkers, as misleading as my previous metaphor may have been. You can’t jump over the obstacles. You have to get to know your square.

In case you want me to go fuck myself, here are other things you want: to swim naked in the ocean at sunrise, fall in love with someone on the radio like you did this morning with Ta-Nehisi, write an amazing second book, see the red woods and the northern lights. You want to become good friends with your suffering so you can write about it and maybe – this is a big maybe – connect better with your fellow fart breathers (i.e, humans). You want to laugh until you pee a little with your best friend who’s also been known to laugh until she pees a little. You want all of these things much more than you want to get a little fucked up, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

As someone wiser than I once said, “Why would you give up everything for one thing, when you could give up one thing for everything?” Don’t give up Go Go girl. Everything depends on it.

Yours,

Poopinella