A slight bump in the road occurs, occasionally, when I go off the deep end and slide into sugar and wine oblivion. Sometimes it is just a slight curve and I put my hands on the wheel and do a quick course correction. Then there are the times when I head straight down the bank and end up in a ditch hoping someone will find me before it is too late.
This sounds dire. I sound like there is a cause for an intervention. It is not that bad. Really. Because the one thing I know about me better than anyone is my own slippery slope. I used to blame it on PMS, but I can’t do that anymore since there is no more of that. There is definitely a time limit on using the C word too, coming up on two and half years already, I think I have used that excuse for going off the deep end enough. “Enough already,” I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head say.
So what is it? Why do I have this constant yo-yo where I can feel so incredible and unstoppable, not drinking any wine or eating any sugar that it causes me to almost self-sabotage, like there is some force greater than me saying, “Oh yeah? You feel this good? We’ll fix that.” I know every time I break my flow with “just one glass of wine” or “just one brownie,” I am off and running. Before I know it, I have eaten like an entire cake and drank way too many bottles of wine on the front porch.
Why does this happen? A normal person (if there is such a thing) would say, “Well, Alayne, if you know this is your pattern, then why must you incessantly rewind, repeat?” Sounds so simple. I am a smart successful and generous entrepreneur. I “live life to the fullest” following my brother’s instructions from his death bed like there is no tomorrow. I know better. But yet, I slide.
I have worked incessantly on myself for years trying to understand this pattern of mine.
The funny thing about twists and turns is that I only realize the ‘why’ part after the deep dive. During the dive, when it would be most advantageous to catch myself, is too late. I am ALL in. Whipping up blueberry cake, chocolate babka and cheese-ladened Mexican lasagna filled with dairy that surely would make my breast cancer doctor wince with estrogenic pain.
What I have realized with this last wild ride is that this happens when I am stressed. It is not some self sabotage at all. In fact, I like myself, I am happy with my world, why the hell would I need to sabotage this life I have made with my own two hands? But yet here I am. The weekend after too much wine and too much babka.
High stress=High Cortisol levels.
High cortisol levels=constant fight or flight mode. But there is no fight and there is no flight except to the refrigerator and thus the fatigue subsides as soon as the first sip of wine or the first bite of cake.
It is immediate. And it is satisfying- this temporary fix that no amount of self talk can persuade otherwise. Cortisol is pure power. It is what has made humanity sustain itself. But humanity, these days, is not the same as it was when survival was literal. Survival these days is dealing with the stressors that our bodies and minds could never be prepared for. On top of this, there is the constant brain workings of my mind with thousands of ideas and trying to execute many at the same time.
My mind holds the ideas, but what I lack is the reality of how much time each idea is really going to take. This is where my stressors are. So much work, SO little time. I am convinced that as much as we talk about nutrition as being a precursor to cancer, my gut tells me it is cortisol’s constant production in my system. This is why I exercise and meditate- to attempt to create tools to wind down this overactive brain of mine. And it really helps.
But sometimes I just need to eat cake and drink wine. This really helps too. Except that after a few days of it, my heart starts to race and my head starts to think negative thoughts that were definitely not there before I did my deep dive. The effects of meditation and exercise and healthy eating are cumulative. The effects of wine and cake are immediate and sometimes I just need immediate.
Now off to right my wrongs with a bike ride, and a protein shake. Day one. Monday. Again.
(If you want a good article on cortisol, I enjoyed this one.)
After a ridiculously fun night out on the town with live music, lots of dancing and three gigantic scoops of ice cream to top it off, the morning followed. And it wasn’t as fun as the night before because the night before also included wine. Needless to say, “Not Drinking Today,” is taking a brief hiatus. Only for a few weeks, though, as the town I call home is July fourth festive almost 24/7 and wine is once again part of my nightly party.
Part of the morning after of the night before, is the morning bathroom. Without getting too detailed, (even I have my standards), I headed in for a much needed bodily function. On the way, I passed by my phone that I had made a conscious effort to leave face down since I woke up, and unconsciously grabbed it to take in with me. I’m guessing here- for the purpose of multi tasking. I can’t even believe I am saying this aloud. Multi tasking in the bathroom? Have I lost my fucking mind? Part of the routine of a night before is to load up on fat and carbs with a fervor. I hopped on my bike to get to the bagel shop at the speed of light and as I was waiting for my order found myself standing next to a woman also waiting for her order. She had her phone on the counter and was scrolling through messages missing the order taker’s repeat question of “What size did you want your coffee?” I finally answered for her, “Medium,” I stated because my waitressing skills from thirty years ago never seem to disappear.
My answering, “Medium,” caused the distracted woman to actually look up and quickly apologize confirming her request for a medium sized coffee. The young girl getting the coffee for this lady barely looked concerned as I am sure this is a regular occurrence at the counter in the morning with all of the sleepy customers ordering bagels coffee with barely a glance up from their phones for eye contact. Have we all lost our minds?
I recently heard a statistic that people are spending more time on their smartphones than television and this number is supposed to keep rising. Besides phones being phones, phones are now our cameras, video recorders, computers, radios, education, movies and television all wrapped in one small little, carry with us all the time even to the bathroom, package of convenience.
People are looking down at a rate that frightens me. From a physical perspective, our heads are perpetually down without moving our heads up and back for the counter balance of our poor necks, and from an emotional perspective, the lack of eye contact and smiling at one another. We are capturing every waking moment of every waking thing as part of our daily routines that is unprecedented in any human experience we have seen in our lifetimes.
What I notice about my own use is how sidetracked I can become in a nanosecond. I am a typically sidetracked person anyway, so clicking and moving around a screen is probably not helpful to my very sensitive brain. I wonder how much all of this bluescreen is negatively affecting my body. When I pay attention to the way I feel, it is usually a bit fragmented and staticky after a run with the screen for too long. Physically, mentally, spiritually, these elements of who I am, are hyper challenged when I am on the screen too much, not to mention the disconnect I feel in this false sense of connection.
I was at the beach yesterday and watched, between the parade of non stop thong wearing booty, hundreds of young people from middle school to college, looking down at their phones as they walked together. It used to be that we just walked the beach with a Dels Lemonade in one hand and the other hand free. Now every single hand has a phone, mostly iPhones, easily each one a minimum of a thousand dollars.
As I left the beach, I walked by adults on this packed hot pre July 4th weekday also on their phones, reading, texting, scrolling, trolling and some outright personal phone conversations like their beach spot was their own private phone booth. It is not. Everyone can hear the one sided conversations. Everyone can hear the bings, the swirls, the dings, tings, pings and every other distracting and inconsiderate noise polluting sound these tiny three by six inch lifelines make. Without so much of a deeply considered thought, we seem to have adopted these machines as an additional member of our families. Phones have taken the place of our time away to be with our thoughts alone.
Daydreaming used to be this pause in our busy lives. Now I find that when I do give myself over to daydreaming, as a thought enters my mind, instead of allowing it to move around the way day dreaming does so magically, I often interrupt its flow with the need to Google an idea.
Here is an example. I was sitting looking at my garden and watching the birds and bunnies forage for food, peaceful and quiet as I nursed my subtle hangover waiting for the bagel carbs to kick in. A question popped into my head. “If I could make a radical change in my life, what would it be?” The desire to sell everything and have a minimal life is always nagging at me. I like the extremity of this thinking. As I begin to consider the small rv I would need to get, I think about my friend’s little van she just reconstructed with a bed and some shelves and how handy she is. This thought leads me to thinking about if I could possibly figure out how to set up my own little space in a van and that lead me to thinking about where I might find someone who could do this for me. My brain immediately thinks, “Google it, Alayne.” And I have to fight the temptation. But like a pint of ice cream in my freezer, the call to Google beckons and I have to work at resisting. This would have never happened ten years ago. I would have just thought about the idea and let it flow the way ideas are supposed to. Then later, when I made my way to my office, maybe if I remembered, I would look up the how’s on the computer somewhere.
Phones have changed our human condition. Humanity has changed and simple day dreaming has become melded with technology where every click, snap, and search feeds the illustrious algorithms of big tech information about us so they can make our lives “easier.”
“Easier” seems to be the go to tagline to get humans to perform like circus animals. I remember when I was a little girl and TV dinners came out right along the time where kids were getting mini black and white televisions for their rooms and their own phones. Getting my gourmet cooking mother to buy a TV dinner for my brother and me took a lot of convincing. She had her standards, thank goodness, in retrospect. I also remember begging my parents for my own phone. It was a big deal when I got one and my father limited the amount of time I could spend talking on it because back then there was no call waiting in the seventies. If my father tried to call, there would be a busy signal and he would not be able to get through. This would not make my father very happy causing the threat of complete disconnection from my new phone. Leverage was what he had and most times I obliged the rules.
As I watch more and more people, especially our young people, with their heads down in their phones rather than a book, as I think about the future of actual television sets and going to the movies as a possible relic in the future, I feel worried about humanity. Will people actually stop trying to capture every moment when they realize they are actually missing every moment?
Humanity and technology is an awkward dance. Like the invention of the washing machine and dryer to make the washing of clothes much easier, we cannot imagine living without them. We have become dependent on their convenience and the thought of going back to using a washboard and a tub to clean our clothing seems ludicrous to our modern American way of life. This is the same with technology now; there seems to be no going back. Our entire lives are on our phones and I am afraid because of this, we must figure out how to co exist and still have human connection beyond a text.
Human connection feeds my sense of well being. I love a good deep hug, a serious sensual kiss, dinner in the garden, a dance on the front porch, spontaneity. I enjoy a beautiful book from the library trying to give my busy mind over to it on a breezy afternoon without looking at my phone for at least an hour. I am finding more and more that this break from technology must be a new habit I have to work on.
I know I do not need a phone by my side at every waking minute. I have to sometimes force myself to remember this as Apple would not want us to ever be away from our phones. I need to remember to look up, put my head all the way back in the opposite direction that it has has evolved into, downward like the pictures of the evolution of humans over time- head bent forward looking for food.
This time though, instead of feeding us for survival, we are looking for the human connection, but what we seem to have forgotten is that it is right in front of us if we would just remember to look up at the person standing right next to us.
woke up at four am this past Monday morning and lounged in bed for what
seemed like two hours only to discover that just thirty minutes had
passed. Every day this week four am has been an unintended alarm so I
indulge its inner ring and get up. Why not, may as well enjoy the quiet
sound of the morning.
I put the coffee on and grabbed my pillow lowering myself to the floor for another round of While the Coffee Perks Meditation acknowledging
myself with a brief mental clap for sticking with this practice. I
started this over four months ago and have barely missed a day. The
rewards from this are countless and though hard to define them with
words, I am a much calmer and focused soul because of this. It makes me
feel good and I want to feel good so I march forth.
I sat cross legged on the floor and began breathing, the sounds of the
rain storm and wind surrounded me. I haven’t heard a good thunderstorm
in a while so when the electrifying bolts of lightning came along with
the thunderous booms I breathed them in. How often does one get to be
meditating and at the first breath in have thunder and lightning join
you in the party? Wake up! They yelled. And I welcomed the reminder to pay attention. I am. More now than ever.
it is a conscious daily choice I make to pay attention. In the luscious
moment that is right now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but right now
because really this is all any of us have. The older I get the more I
realize that RIGHT NOW is all we ever have. We take time and tomorrow
and next week and next month for granted. Or at least I have, all
ingredients for fretting and worrying and anxious thinking that doesn’t
serve me and my creative self well -ever. I am confident that many
reading this today would agree, it seems like this is just one of our
traits of being human. When I reflect back on anything in my past that I
excessively worried about- like actually lost sleep over- it is
virtually insignificant today. As I review these temporary struggles of
yester year I realize the value in their lessons in the countless hours I
my deep contemplative breathing that is now part of my morning routine,
I got myself set up on the couch for my other morning ritual, writing.
Trying not to be persuaded by the calls of checking Facebook and email, I
dive into my happy place that always keeps me locked into the NOW. I
start thinking about the moments this past week that I lived in the
actual moment. I am fully aware of the irony of this as living in the
actual moment means not headed backwards, but for the purpose of drawing
the examples to illustrate when IN THE MOMENT works for me, I must head
This past #noplanthursday,
I am attempting to add to my list of IN THE MOMENT moments, has been an
interesting experiment. Three Thursdays later, I have learned that I
struggle with not making plans on purpose. I had to return books that I
took out at my new favorite spot I discovered on my first attempt three
Thursdays ago. The Redwood Library in Newport, RI founded in 1747 with
this as part of its mission statement. Nothing in View but the Good of Mankind.
Has an old fashioned ring to it, doesn’t it? This library isn’t just
any old library, it is a subscription library and the oldest community
library still occupying its original building in the United States. You
need to have a separate library card for it and must sign up as a member
which I promptly did. The Redwood Library is a magical space to sit and
do nothing except read or write or sit and stare in silence. There are
lectures and music events as well as special exhibits and I was lucky
enough to catch one on Claggett Clocks. This may sound like a big yawner
to some, but honestly, imagine walking into a dimly lit room with over
forty grandfather style clocks made from as early as 1716, many working
and ticking and gonging just as the noon hour hit. This is the thing
about not planning anything and finding something without looking. Juicy
have this list in my head of the places I have said I am going to get
to. Like so many women I know who say, I’ve been meaning to get there,
the museums, the walking trails, the kayak trips, the flower shows and
the exhibits. Those endless lists of interesting things to do, but
somehow the endless lists in our head prevail and the days go on as do
the exhibits. What better days than getting to these then on these no
walked there from my partner’s house to return the books after having
lots of mindpseak trying to convince myself I didn’t need to leave the
comfortable couch with my laptop. What is it about that mind speak
saying NO instead of YES? Thankfully, though, the books I took out had
to be returned on this very day so I had to get up and go. Books in
hand, I made my way outside to a glorious day of sunshine and cool
breeze, the ocean at my back and the sounds of nature as my private
symphony. It was amazing how quickly I moved from the lists to the
moment as soon as the first bird chirped at me.
smooth and vibrant siren sound of the cardinal rewarded me on my walk.
As they always do, causing me to look up and look for him. And her.
Vibrant sharp shrills calling me, walking with me, following me the
entire way to and from. Making me stop in my tracks with my two books in
my arms and look up in search for their beauty. And there they were.
Again and again. I was reminded of how happy I am to recognize their
sounds so easily and to look up searching for them, eyes trying to
follow their calls until they land on that familiar bright red spot in
the bare oaks and maples with barely a bud on their branches in this
early April. Rewarded by my simple walk to The Redwood Library on a
beautiful afternoon just because I “forced” myself to follow my plan of
lives have come to the need to actually schedule a day of not planning
and in this itself is actually a plan, but be that as it may, this no
plan plan is important for this busy active chick. Cardinals, nature,
books, writing and maybe topped off with a dish of Peppermint Stick ice
cream reminding me again that the moment, this moment is the very best
We drinking chicks love our wine and our cocktails. We love our rituals of choosing the perfect bottle of Proseco knowing that the front porch on a warm summer eve calls us at 5pm for that first sip of sparking delight. What is it about that first sip, the tiny sparkly bubbles headed from your tongue to your throat that automatically cause a big happy sigh? Or a robust red on a cold winter night after a long day sitting by fire recapping the events from work or life with your partner?
For so many women I know, drinking and its box of rituals
have been the norm. We talk about it, we plan around it , we gather together to
imbibe with it. Cocktails take the edge off. Off of what? I don’t know because in
my circle of acquaintances for the most part, the edge we speak of is life coming
at us. Besides the inevitable twists and turns that make up what life is, our
edges our pretty mild.
We, of course, have our struggles, but no one said life was
supposed to be anything less. Struggles are what make us rebound, strengthen and
stand taller. No one wants them, but for a majority of the pain give or take
extreme situations, we usually can look back and say the struggle was worth it.
With the exception of losing a child, or a person in your
life who is far too young to die there aren’t extremes in the world I get to
live that causes a pain so deep one can’t climb the mountain. But this is me.
And most of my friends. We were raised resilient and we power on.
I have had my share of struggles and have had my share of wine. I have quit drinking on more than one occasion and one time I quit for a full seven years. This was one of my proudest accomplishments because it wiped all of the cobwebs from my foggy brain that I didn’t know what foggy and allowed me to think clearly about my future. Drinking puts a (pun intended) cork in the ability for me to flourish and make serious decisions. Drinking alcohol allows me to put off those decisions, keeping them at bay and removing the emotions that sometimes have to come with those decisions. But none of this is even in my radar at the time. I only have this wisdom when I cease and desist.
I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore. – Winnie the Pooh
You know when you have a plugged drain? But before it gets
to the point when you have to call the plumber, you see that the water is taking
more time to leave the sink and go down the drain? You let that happen for a
few weeks hoping that it will miraculously just go down with a few plunges or
some Draino. But we all know that this is highly unlikely. At some point the problem
of the clogged drain will need to be solved or else you simply will not be able
to use the sink. The residues of toothpaste and face cleanser will leave a
circle of film in your sink and the need to clean it will become an almost
daily grind because you didn’t take care of the clog when you first noticed it.
This is what drinking is like for me. I come from a family
of alcoholics as so many of us do because drinking is just so much damn fun. It
is so much easier to pour a glass of gorgeous Brunello instead of sitting on a
mat and meditating. Life is short, right? Enjoy the wine. Fuck all these self
imposed rules and regulations, right? Just eat the cookie and drink the frickin
wine, right? Well not so fast, though I have a lot of friends who can just have
one glass of wine and sip it slowly, this is not my gig. I wish it were. My
grandfather has two glasses of red every single night at five pm. Without fail.
And he is 101. Some people can just have the wine and call it a day. For me, I have
the wine and I want more wine. Then the next day I want it again. And the ritual
turns into a self talk garble and each day I get foggier and less clear about
my purpose. The cobwebs re-enter at a slow barely noticeable pace until one day
a few weeks in, I just don’t feel good. I feel imbalanced and emotionally
unsteady. I find myself questioning my core. I never do this when I am not
drinking alcohol. So I decided the day after my son’s 21st birthday,
that I would apply the one day at a time mantra to giving up drinking today. My friends say, “are you drinking
or not drinking?” Instead of the black and white yes or no, locking me into the
corner, I say instead, “I am not
Because this is true. Today is all I know. And what I know
is that when I don’t drink alcohol I feel a sense of inner power and direction
that allows me to get the creative juice ideas headed in the right direction at
the speed of light. With no detours and dead ends. I feel good, great, better
when I don’t drink. So I am not drinking today. And as life comes at me and the
universe tells its story to me the way it is supposed to I come across the article
yesterday about this “movement,” this new “thing” called elective sobriety because
God forbid everything doesn’t have a branding possibility. Women are
consciously not drinking alcohol and cutesy names are popping up all over the
place. Mocktails. Soberinstagram. Sobercurious hashtags and websites and pop up
gatherings are apparently now a trend. Because in our world we live in, everything
seems to need to be something. But in this case, I wholeheartedly agree. Why do
we feel the need to escape from our luscious brilliant selves? As Glinda the
Good Witch said, “You’ve always had the power, my dear.”
The more we connect with our own true selves and learn who those
selves really are, we march forth rather than stay stuck. Sometimes staying is
stuck is necessary as it is part of the discovery process, but drinking for me
keeps me there. Keeps my foot in the quicksand and the other foot trying to run
So for today anyway, I make my own mocktails, drink my hot
tea by the fire and figure out ways to enjoy the festivities of holidays and
gatherings without feeling the need to mute the edge. Because when my edge is
sharp, it makes cutting a tomato way easier than trying to use a dull blade. I
like the sharpness the gift of not drinking gives me. This alone is what makes
the day be the next one and the one after that. So for today, I try again because
I have always had the power.
This is the article I read that prompted this writing today. Great post. Thank you @Virginia Sole-Smith
“Weeeee Belong Together!”
Ricki Lee Jones belted out from the fancy stereo in my silly yet
stunning car I recently leased. I was headed to Connecticut on a very
early morning this past week -so early that it was still dark out. The
light mist caused me to use the windshield wipers and the defroster
because April hasn’t gotten the memo yet that it is in fact Spring, not
“This was no game of chicken, you were aiming at your best friend,” she sang slowly to get to that luscious build up to the chorus of “Weeeee Belong Together!”
She seemed to be in the seat next to me singing her brilliant prose. I
feel like we grew up together as she was always one of my favorite
female vocalists all of these years later.
just like that I was seventeen. Driving in my beloved 63 VW bug, my
first car purchase. Eighteen hundred dollars and I bought it without
even test driving it. No parent along with me to help me with my
purchase or to even guide me in whether it was a good idea to drive to
the house of the owners with a pocket full of cash. My two dear friends,
John and Andy were my chaperones. I was afraid to drive the car by
myself for its first run so I made Andy drive it back for me. And now
that I think of it, I don’t even think I asked my father who I was
living with, kind of, if I could purchase it. This seems so unbelievable
to me now that I reflect back, but that car was an introduction to life
for me. So maybe it wasn’t a bad thing that my father who really didn’t
have a clue on how to parent anyway wasn’t micromanaging this very
helpful life experience.
just like that, I was propelled back to 1982. My Christian Dior pale
pink vintage gloved hands were on the steering wheel in the lightly
drizzling nighttime. This time though Ricki Lee Jones was belting out “We Belong Together” from her new album, Pirates, on the cassette player I had installed as any respectable seventeen year old teenager with her first car would have. Pirates was the album after her first one with her famous song, Chuck E.’s in Love.
fogging because for anyone who has a history with any Volkwagon bugs,
Halfbacks, Hatchbacks or Vanagaons would know, the heat never worked and
if it did it was full throttle on or off, no in between. A defroster
would be the little fans you would have to buy at stores like Benny’s to
attach to the dashboard hoping this would help you see out of the tiny
windshield. I can still hear the puttering bubbling sounds of my beloved
63 Volkswagon driven on a very quiet North Rd in Jamestown, RI headed
to my boyfriend’s house in the evening.
it was one of those moments. One of those magical moments when
everything worked. The car, the music, the weather, the smells, the
sounds. And my life.
seventeen for a brief moment in time, there was nothing better than
that particular moment and I remember it like it was this moment. A
perfect time travel back to that time as I made my way almost forty
years later to Connecticut on a rainy Monday morning. I could almost
smell it. I don’t know what made that moment so special for me, but the
distinct memory of it has always stayed with me comforting me like the
soft blanket you had when you were a little girl that you had to have to
fall asleep easily.
can do this, sensory awareness, sounds, smells, tastes all can make it
easy to time travel. As I reflect back on to that evening, I think it
was my first experience of completely living in the present moment.
Though I didn’t realize this at the time, I am sure that this was what
made that particular evening so special to me all of these years later.
that often unattainable PRESENT MOMENT we know we are all supposed to
be striving for. Right? Oprah says it. Every guest she has on her Super
Sunday says it. Deepak Chopra says this, Wayne Dyer used to say it
before he left us. Eckhart Tolle says it. Podcasts, blogs everywhere I
turn screaming the importance of LIVING IN THE PRESENT! Another task we
are supposed to be striving for and improving on and checking off our
I know for myself to be true is that when I do manage to carve out just
a few moments in the day to make an attempt to take on this call, I
feel better. Way less anxious, worried, concerned and stressed.
Consciously striving for this is no easy task in our busy lives
especially as caregivers, business owners, parents and just humans.
Living in the present is a practice– not a one and done check it off my list and move on to the next life goal on my quest for perpetual zen status.
Living in the Present is not compartmentalized into some neat little box ‘over there.’
is about living in the moment while the moment is occurring. Using
driving as a metaphor for this since this piece today features my 63 VW
Bug, there are those moments in time when I am driving from point a to
point b and when I get to my destination I have almost no memory of how I
got there. Some call it absent minded driving, I like to call it driving while thinking too much.
I was married to Dave, he wasn’t much of a talker and I was. I liked
talking about feelings and working on improving but this wasn’t his way
of marriage. Often times when I wanted to talk about something, he would
go quiet and say, “I’m thinking!” And I would sigh with frustration and think “What is there to think about?” If I would bring the conversation up again at a later time, he would say, “Alayne, you think too much.”
drove me bat shit crazy, but often in hindsight there was some wisdom
in this. I do think too much at times though it serves me well many of
these times, there are many times it does not. Being present is being here. Being nowhere and NOW HERE. All I know is that as I get older my goal is to feel good. When I am in the moment,
I feel good. When I am fretting and worrying about the past and the
future both of which I have no control over, I do not feel good and this
is not good. For my health, for my mental and physical state. And for
my ability to lead my team and be a great mom and a better human, I must
choose to feel good as often as possible.
this recent trip down memory lane with Ricki Lee in the passenger seat
was a reminder of this. Goodness knows that I must be constantly
reminded that I have choices in how I think and what I think. We all do.
Our minds are powerful allies when we choose to use them for the good
is my second #noplanthursday so I am off to remember that WE BELONG
TOGETHER is a great phrase for me and my present self. Together again.
this isn’t my exact car, but it looked almost like this one except mine was way more perfect.
started a second career this past month. Well rather an extension of a
long glorious career in the business of beauty I get to lovingly call my
career. This second endeavor is as a certified business coach for a
company called Strategies. I have written a little about this new
experience and like anything new, it has my attention. This is no small
feat because for the many friends in my inner circle, they could likely
attest to my short attention span. I am filled with one hit wonder ideas
on a daily basis, lucky if one percent of them come to fruition.
I have a small barn in the back of my house, some people call it a she-shed. My ideas usually find their way into the barn as the centerpiece. Learning to make chocolate babka, I now want every person I know to experience the delight of this on their tongues, my co-conspirator in all barn ideas, Morgan, kindly and patiently rolls her eyes — and says, “Are we opening the Babka Barn?” Macaroni and cheese? Yes. The mac and cheese barn.
there is the Breathing Barn because now I am meditating every day so of
course everyone needs to have this experience. Let’s move this to the
barn! I haven’t even mentioned the typewriters, but of course that would
be a perfect fit in the barn along with the writing barn and the art
barn and the visionboard barn. See where I am going? Ideas flow at the
speed of light in this entrepreneurial brain of mine. God forbid I have
an idea and just keep it to myself, taking my own bath in its essence.
Why I need to share every single experience with the world is beyond me,
but I accept it as one of my personal core drivers. And as my
grandfather says often, “Be that as it may.” And so it is. Never ends.
One can see why I need to actively attempt a no plan Thursday. And my
struggle with this idea too is that I want to make it a thing.
I exhaust myself and likely people around me. Who cares though, I seize
time like there isn’t any and it will likely be this way till the day I
am taking this new career path as seriously as most people would when
they start a new job. Reading the company manual from cover to cover,
studying the material I need to inform myself with so I can pass my
knowledge to someone needing to improve their business model and systems
and going on the private Facebook accounts and making my comments to
other like minded business owners. I may be a bit of an out of the box
bohemian when it comes to life, but in working for another company, I
respect their rules and regs and try to follow their suggestions for
full throttle participation. Overachiever? Maybe. But more now that I am
a grown up and much less inclined to do it to impress anyone other than
my own work ethic and joy I get from this new experience of ‘employee.’
It is a major and joyous paradigm shift and frankly one I have the
luxury of really wanting rather than really needing, A nice position to
be in for sure.
learning brings me back, though to the struggle with the overflowing
social media and technology I have had for some time so much so that
I — pre-Strategies- was on my merry way back to real paper address books
and appointment calendars. This went out the window as soon as I had my
first training week since everything is technology. Appointment making,
scheduling, calendars, webinars, training, group texts, group emails-
all technology. So I jumped back in and figured it would be a great
addition to my knowledge base and here I am. If you can’t beat them,
join them, I suppose. Kind of, but with caution and trepidation this
time around. Back on Facebook daily posting questions about business to
the thousands of people who are friends in this private group.
is now a morning habit along with my while the coffee perks meditation
and writing habit and I have surprisingly enjoyed this experience. Maybe
because it has a beginning and an end. I only allow myself about twenty
minutes to post the question and make my comments to others, then I am
off Facebook. I didn’t put it back on my phone and this helps me not
become addicted to checking the replies, likes, stars, hearts and
whatever other symbols Facebook has created to turn humanity into
when I was making my post for the day, I noticed that I had a star next
to my name. I scrolled through the other names and didn’t see any stars
next to anyone else’s names. So I clicked on my name to learn that
Facebook in all of its wisdom declared me “A RISING STAR.” Some
algorithm has decided that my posts and the comments that follow make me
worthy of this new symbol. I wasn’t asked if I wanted this next to my
name, I guess Facebook just assumes that every user wants outward star
recognition. They didn’t seem to think that before their label, I may
have already thought I was a star, they also didn’t think that maybe a
star next to my name would make me think of other stars next to people
that don’t have such a positive vibe, like those yellow stars Jewish
people were forced to wear to identify them. Maybe this is a stretch,
but I have just read Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris after reading The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and yellow stars and labeling are fresh in my mind.
With anti-Semitism on the rise as close as eight miles away in Fall River, Mass the defiling of gravestones with appalling anti-Semitic phrases and symbols, I am thinking that less labeling is probably a better business strategy. Especially for a provocative and bold lovely bad ass Jewish chick like myself. Some people may be rolling their eyes at this assessment of this star next to my name on Facebook, and maybe it is an overreach, but the labeling of people without their consent or choice gives me the willies. Maybe I have watched too much Handmaid’s Tale, or have read too many books to keep what happened to so many Jews, Romas, gay men and women, disabled and anyone else who didn’t look or fit the part declared by a madman. This was less than eighty years ago and there are still people from this time in history who lived through it to talk about it. Less and less which is why I voraciously read and recommend books that take me back there. As sad and painful as it may be from the comfort of my heated house, packed refrigerator, Mercedes in my driveway and safe and comfortable life I lead, I refuse to take this life I lead for granted.
I am struck by the ease of which we have become used to accepting these little types of recognition as normal. And I don’t want to believe that any of these seemingly innocent Facebook recognitions could be laying the groundwork for some sinister plan, but the Holocaust didn’t happen in a blast. It was a slow and steady stream of propaganda and commentary. It was humankind never thinking that a mind could think the way the crazy man with a mustache and hatred in his heart who I refuse to name in my piece today could imagine. Little dribbles of hatred and labeling of anyone who was the OTHER.
Facebook, Apple, Google, and all of the other big techs out there we
have slowly let infiltrate our life, please think about your power and
stop trying to tell me who I am and who I should be by labeling me with a
star. I already know who I am and I have already risen.
Don’t look at the clock, I thought to myself. How long had I been sleeping? It seemed like if I did look at the clock it would be early. Not early like four am, but early like bad early. But I was awake. So I did what I normally do when this happens, I review my previous day. Food intake, movement, etc and could only come up with that I gave myself a full day off and sat on the couch by the warmth of the fire doing what I love. Writing, reading and more writing. I didn’t even really get up to move and my food intake was perfectly fine, no sugar or drink so I couldn’t really blame this. But then I realized that the early morning wakeup was my call to action and it had nothing to do with yesterday.
I finally looked at the clock. Worse than I thought. 2:14. Holy early. This is even early for me, but there is a surge happening in my body that is commanding creativity in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. The feeling that is leading me down the path of flow and connection with what I am supposed to be doing. When this happens, the three am wakeup call becomes my friend. I need to get up and get writing and realize that this is the power time for my creatvity, when thoughts and ideas come at the speed of light. If I don’t get up and get writing, I will lie there thinking about the ideas, thinking that I will remember them. This has happened to me in the past and when I do finally fall asleep, I wake up with barely a thread of memory from those luscious thoughts just a few hours earlier.
Creative purpose. When I am on point, there is no stopping the flow. All of the support comes at me like a meteor. I meet the right people at the right time, I find classes or hear podcasts that support whatever ideas I am working on. The list goes on and when I am in tune, all of the people places and things show up like I asked for it. Universal flow. Say for example you decide you want to learn to play an instrument, like the piano, maybe this is something you have always wanted to do, but never had the time. So you think the thought, then like magic, you are at a party and start talking to someone. You ask him, “What do you do?” He responds, “I teach piano.” Or you are perusing the newspaper and happen to land on an ad that says “PIANO LESSONS AVAILABLE, TAKING NEW AND BEGINNER STUDENTS.” You may ignore this thinking this is just a freak coincidence, so you take that seemingly small voice nagging at you and store it away in that old dusty suitcase in the attic where it sits- for awhile anyway. But then you hear a beautiful concerto on a Sunday morning or you see a sign at a coffee shop that says, “FREE PIANO, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS PICK IT UP, GREAT CONDITION,” Reminding you to go pull that suitcase down from the attic and make the time to full- fillyou. The laundry will wait, the bills can be paid tomorrow. When was the last time you allowed a creative force into your heart, that could take you away from the blither of your mindchatter and allow getting lost in something else for awhile?
This is what I am talking about. As always when I listen to my soul’s desires, the right books, articles and podcasts land in my radar. So last week on another three am wakeup call that I didn’t heed, I instead scrolled through some podcast episodes and landed on one that changed my mindset. It was about reisistance and how resistance is the unique messaging power that communicates the force to be reckoned with in something creative you are supposed to be doing. I am attaching it to this writing today because it really helped remind me to listen to that voice that seems to whisper but really is shouting your direction if you would only open yourself up to the YES instead of the BUT.
Podcasts by far are one of the easiest ways to educate your mind on almost any possible thought out there and this is just one of many that have inspired me. Whether right before I go to bed, or a drive in the car, when I am working out or just a random listen, there is so much out there to source if you want to change your thinking and attract more goodness into your life.
Wherever I am at in my life, what I know is that each step, the ones in the deepest darkest parts of the forest and the ones where the sun is so bright it hurts my eyes, I am always divinely taken care of and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I also know that I can’t rush things, but I can give them a little nudge. And if I am still not paying attention, the three am wakeup calls surely get my attention.
In therapy there is a term used to describe the healthy separation between people, especially a parent and a child. Differentiation is the word that says you did a good job, you have a healthy separation from each other and basically the nest can be disassembled and rebuilt differently. Like that hilarious commercial when the son goes off to college and the parents tearfully bid goodbye then run into the house to turn the kid’s bedroom into a Jacuzzi bathroom. Differentiation allows the natural separation to be normal, tearful yes, but a healthy one.
There are lots of little steps leading up to the true and finite land of differentiation and all of them lay the groundwork, (hands in prayer position here) for the final move out to their own apartment or house at some later time. But differentiation is more than a physical change of scenery, it is psychological and human too. It is the proverbial disconnect of needing to parent, to mother and allow your child to parent himself. Leaving him for the first time at day care, putting him on the school bus to kindergarten, teaching him to swim and letting him go into the ocean for his first time while you watch from the shoreline, the first day of middle school and high school, hugging them after their first broken heart, being there at their first strike out at a playoff game. The list goes on and on and they all build off of each other each time gaining momentum and strength for later. Later. When the emotional bond between you shifts and though you love each other immensely, you don’t need each other for survival, physical or emotional. You can still have the most open and connected heart, but you are ok with yourself enough to separate and fly, free and healthy. Free from issues of abandonment or over parenting that may find you in therapy later on struggling with your own relationships. Differentiation says I love you, you love me but we are not so intertwined in each other’s lives that we either can’t separate or we can’t wait to separate. It is the more neutral in the middle of it, the sweet spot of the hard worked results of parenting well, or as well as you thought at the time.
I understood this concept only recently as both a daughter and a partner. It has taken me all of these years to truly comprehend the true definition of its power and once I recognized the true sense of differentiation, I welcomed it into the life of my son and me wholeheartedly. He has actually taught me differentiation by his own sense of self. Another unexpected gift of being a mother and a parent for the last twenty one years. Differentiation is also the ability to be able to disagree without that volcanic surge causing a behavior that in retrospect certainly serves no one. I would also call this choosing not to take the bait. The bait being when a family member says something to get a response out of you, usually one that causes that previous mentioned surge. My son and I haven’t had that experience and I don’t anticipate it; I would say we have a pretty healthy mother son relationship, but I won’t really know this until he navigates his own relationship in the future. Relationships are the unique viewfinders we get to look through to see what our parent child relationships were really made of.
In anticipation of my son’s trip to Israel last week, he had to get to NYC the day before as he was going to meet a friend. He is a mature twenty-one and this was as simple as getting on a train and heading south where his friend agreed to meet him and escort him back to his house in Queens. As I write this from the position of After, it is a no brainer. For some reason though, I was filled with anxiety, stress, worry and no matter how much meditation and self talk I did, my heart would not stop racing and the anxious thoughts would not settle. Where was this coming from? I finally realized that I had two very definitive travel experiences involving NYC and when I traced back to the exact moments of those, I was able to at least give some credence to my angst. This had nothing to do with his own experience, it was my stuff from my past that was informing this present moment. Wild.
When I was twenty three I went to Paris by myself for a month, flying over with someone I worked with where we would stay together for three days and then part ways. I had a blast and learned so much about myself in this experience. This was before credit cards for twenty year olds, before cell phones, before Google maps. Just me and Rick Steves’ book on Paris for 10.00 a day or something like that. When I came home I had a hundred dollars in my pocket and the flight was late. I took a bus from JFK to Penn station and realized there were no trains that late and I had no way to get back to Rhode Island. Penn Station in 1989 was frightening and there was no way I should have been near the place at 11:30 pm looking like a vulnerable young woman. Some man came up to me and offered to help me with my bags and in my stupor, I agreed as I made my way to the taxi stand to fortunately go to a friend’s house who when I called on the payphone answered and told me to come there immediately. When the taxi driver saw this man with my bag, he began yelling at him that he was ruining tourism and that he was trying to take advantage of me which promptly forced me back into a quick wake up. What an idiot I was. But at the same time, I felt like there was some higher force looking out for me. I safely got to my friend’s apartment and all was well.
The second experience was much later. I was headed to NYC on the train from Providence to attend a training seminar and I was to arrive for a 10:00 am class on a Tuesday on Park Avenue. Excited to be in New York I vowed to myself that I would visit more often as it was such a short train ride. I remember the day and date well. It was September 4, 2001 exactly one week before September 11th at exactly the same time I arrived at Penn Station. I was struck by the random dates and times we land someplace or don’t. I hadn’t been to New York for at least five years and there I was exactly one week by pure chance earlier then the worst terrorist event of my lifetime. All of this showed up to the table unannounced, long tucked away with cobwebs in the attic as I helped my son get ready for his trip. This is amazing to me as it proves to me that traumatic events never leave us and make their reappearances like a well planned surprise party.
My son and I made it to the train station with him not rolling his eyes even. I kept telling him that my nervousness had nothing to do with my trust in his ability to navigate and he reminded me that he has lots of outside US travel experience. The irony was that I was not even the least anxious about him going to Israel. An area the size of New Jersey surrounded by countries that hate them, it was that New York thing. This is why I knew my worry was not about Michael. It was my stuff and I had to go deep in the vault to be able to say a normal goodbye to him as I brought him to the train station last Sunday. I hugged him and kissed him more than he would have liked but he allowed it. No I didn’t go into the train station with him and wait, this was as much about him leaving as it was about me letting him leave, more differentiation steps for the likely final one of him really leaving at some point in time. All normal. All healthy. All the way it is supposed to be between a parent and a child when you get it right. I got in my car after saying my final goodbye and sobbed my eyes out like I had just put him on the kindergarten bus for the first time. I know now that the tears were the final release of the grief I must have felt in those unique experiences. He made it safely to his friend’s and is in Israel now having what I suspect is the time of his life. Just how it should be. AMEN.
Milestones, traumatic events, celebrations, births, deaths and everything in between. This is what the closing of one year and the opening of the next gives to me, the unique opportunity to reflect back and look ahead. I like the neatness of the New Year. The cleaning of the house so to speak. Cleaning cabinets, closets, drawers as the outside clean and cleaning out my body as the inside one. Anyone who has read any of my writings has likely been able to surmise that the indulgence of sugar, wine and shopping are my perpetual nemesis.
“Are you drinking, or not drinking these days?” I can hear my friend and workout partner, Morgan, ask me as regularly as if she were asking me what I did last weekend. She knows that if I say yes, this means on. Again. On the wine, on the sugar, on the bread like an ant on a freshly dropped piece of coffee cake. With a sense of wild abandonment that keeps all my friends guessing at what could possibly be wrong or right with this complex organ in my head called alayne’s brain, I move back and forth, zig zagging from complete mental clarity to a Zenith console of static depending where I fall on the spectrum.
I so wish I was the person who could just do everything in moderation, like my grandmother Isabelle belted out on more than one occasion as she watched my on again off again with nutrition. If I did drugs, I would be an addict, definitely. I like the escapism of the first bite of a homemade chocolate chip cookie, soft warm morsels sliding into my stomach. I love the automatic and immediate ease that my blood feels when I have the first sip of a beautiful glass of red on a cold night by the fire. There is a vein calming that takes me away on a vacation without leaving the couch when I am eating sugar, drinking wine or shopping. Buying 28 typewriters like the world was coming to an end this past year would be an indication that I am trying to distract myself from dealing with myself on some level. The question at the moment though that I finally ask is what am I trying to distract myself from? And why on earth would sugar, shopping and wine be the distraction?
I finally came to the realization through my practice of while the coffee perks meditation that I have been one hundred percent focused on for the past month. Every single day no matter what, while the coffee is perking, to the mat, sitting down cross-legged, palms upwards resting on my legs and settling this busy head of mine. Connecting with my heart, my breath, my blood, organs and whatever else is in perpetual high gear unless I am sleeping. Leaving judgment, criticism, and the barking brain at the door along with my shoes. While the coffee perks meditation, without asking, has provided many answers to my non-questions. This is the thing about meditation and mindfulness, just breathing in the moment and using the moment to bring me back when my mind wanders has been enough. This simple quieting has been an asset and I didn’t realize its full power; I had expected something magic to happen, but it has been more just learning to be still. I have found through this that now is the uniqueness and the now part of the experiment is getting more intense each day I get better at this exercise.
While I am busy trying to quiet my mind, the snap crackle and pops of my mind start going off like fireworks, the what ifs, the what was’, the thoughts and ideas. This is definitely why people don’t meditate. That simmering pot of a brain is not used to taking a big chill. It has to be trained to do so. It is painful and uncomfortable when you sit down uncomfortably on a mat to the expectation that this is going to be some happy time. But it passes, the breath kicks in, the heart slows, the mind eventually calms and I am getting better at remembering to find my breath more often when my mind starts crackling. It turns out the crackling thoughts are the gifts of all of this quiet. It is these very thoughts that offer glimpses into the whys of my life.
Why do I feel the need to escape and numb on occasion? Is it possible to just lean into them and not beat myself up like an abusive relationship judging, scolding and feeling bad? It is not just a piece of cake or one glass of wine or one or two typewriters. I wish it were that simple. What I do know from this morning mindful ritual is that this trifecta is deeply connected to the way my mother and I interacted. When things get rough, let’s go shopping, lets have a glass of wine, lets eat some delicious chocolate cookies. This was her way of showing love, like so many other families, food especially is deeply connected to that bond between hearts. For the first time in my life, I am not blaming her, I am understanding her and this feels healing. I like healing feelings; they certainly serve my health more than the opposite, anger, resentment, and frustration.
It should come as no surprise that the more these three facets of this love triangle I was raised with allow me to numb out and distract from whatever feelings, complex or simple, those very feelings lay dormant, in a waiting position. They do not go away. They stay right where I left them, simmering at a low, barely noticeable heat until I make the concerted effort to cease the easy way out. Then those very feelings that have been lying in wait unbeknownst to this unsuspecting chick start boiling up and over. This is the interesting challenge with feelings. One must go through them, like grief, there is no avoiding the pain, there is no stepping around the center hoping to avoid the crack, the crack in fact is where the juice is and where the lessons are.
When I decide to actively walk through instead of stepping aside, I am always rewarded. The reward is not always fun like winning the lottery or getting the first place prize in a contest, at least not during the walk through. This is when it is easier to just avoid the pain and head back to the fridge or to ebay for another happy purchase of a shiny bright red typewriter. My morning ritual is teaching me to be okay with the pain because the pain is not permanent or life threatening. It is just pain. Each time I consciously choose to cultivate my inner quiet with mindfulness, it has become easier for me to settle down into the now of knowing that this too shall pass.
As I embark on my New Year’s resolutions that I don’t need to bore anyone with, I want to learn the roots of my behaviors and try to change them. When I am not drinking or eating sugar, I feel powerful and centered beyond measure. It is like what Wayne Dyer once said in a lecture he gave about his choice of being sober. That his work with his divine connection is inhibited by outside distractions, and to be able to wholly do his work that he was called to do, the connection could not be a rusty one. That always stuck with me as I know this to be true for my personality. It is so much easier to step off the path on to the sugar train because it is immediate gratification. But sugar makes my brain wacked, I have practiced my own human experiment for over twenty years with what happens to me when I am eating sugar. Fun at first, but a few days later, I sink to a low that is not healthy causing me to have thoughts of doom and gloom that is not normally how I roll.
I have had a lot of trauma, but because of my resilience I put on a brave face and march forth often at an emotional price. As I move into my fifty fourth year on this planet headed towards a two year anniversary of hopefully being cancer free, I know that the best way for me to celebrate is to try again, to get back on the horse and lean in to my pains and former crisis.’ There is a rawness and vulnerability to exposing my core to the storms, naked, free. This new year I hope to see what consistency feels like for a change. We only get one chance at this life and all of the good and bad lessons can only be overcome when I tackle them literally head on, learn from them, and feel the power I know each and every one is there to teach.
So Happy New Year To Me and To You. I am happy I get another chance to make it right. Let’s see if I can make it the first week and I hope this inspires you to try out the while the coffee perk meditation. See you on the mat and at the gym. (You know who you are).
Ps. I have decided to add posts on WordPress as I begin to start writing my book. Please follow me here if you are interested. www.alaynewhite.wordpress.com
The cabinet, the dark almost black filigreed mahogany one shaped like a quadrangle, is that what those symbols were called in geometry class? You know part octogan, part square, where the front was more narrow than the back but it was kind of rectangularish? The cabinet with the maroon velvet inside that smelled like smoke and scotch and had an unlocked key hole with the key resting inside it because no one would have thought any fifteen year old girl would be headed there to exchange the clear liquid in the vodka bottles with water hoping no one would notice. No one did notice actually and this kind of disappointed her since as she reflected back, it was only attention and parenting she actually longed for. Though, at the time, no one could tell her this. But that story is for another story. Later.
This liquor cabinet began its life at my great grandfather Joe’s house and the memory of it goes back to when I was as young as four and I lived with him along with my young parents. The cabinet held its strong position in the corner of the living room along with all of the old china that my great grandmother had amassed before she died. This liquor cabinet was small, not holding more than about eight or nine bottles and probably had a decanter and a tray on top of it, The decanters, and I am making this up here, seemed like they would have had those gold plates anchored by chains like necklaces that said in cursivy, lets get down to business words, — scotch, brandy, whiskey. When my great grandfather died, my father became the keeper of the cabinet and it traveled with us to the house on Woodlawn St, in Fall River, MA, then the house on Emerson Rd. in Jamestown, then off to the house on Narragansett Ave. also in Jamestown. It went along with my father when he decided that marriage to Ann, my mother, his wife was not a long term plan. The old cabinet finally landed back in my own familiar territory when being a child of Ann was also not a long term plan for a fifteen year old girl dealing with her own sadness. On Pemberton Ave. Also in Jamestown. The house that Dave rented while he figured out what he was supposed to do with a troubled but highly creative young daughter who absolutely could not live with her emotionally unstable mother dealing with her own sadness. There was a lot of moving in short spaces, always on to the next possible place and space that would create a feeling of grounded security.
That cabinet stayed with my father for another four moves finally leaving me when I decided that I would be better living with my boyfriend at 17 then living with my father. David, my father, allowed this and as I write this it sounds ludicrous especially when I consider that the liquor cabinet’s residence took precedence over David’s 17 year old daughter. Me. The irony does not go unnoticed as the theme of liquor does in fact make for the main character in this story in an invisible sort of way, hidden in the cabinet, traveling in and out of my life and my parent’s lives throughout my entire childhood well into my adulthood, my marriage, my divorce, countless alanon meetings, 7 years of sobriety in between and here I am. Standing, comfortable for the most part with my own relationship with Pinot. Sort of.
I always wanted that liquor cabinet though. I am a collector of all things grandparents and my father always said I could have it. I didn’t so much want it for its status as a liquor cabinet, or any monetary value, but more as a treasure that found its way through three generations of Jewish men, I wanted to be the torch bearer to pass it on to my son so I could say that this has been in the family for four generations and now it is yours, the fifth generation. So after my father died, I asked my stepmother for it and I found out that it had not made its way to my father’s last stop, his condo in Fall River, but had landed somewhere at the factory, my grandfather’s former textile mill where all things no longer wanted in your home lay to rest. The factory had the potential of being a warehouse for all things our family no longer found useful in their homes, but couldn’t bare to get rid of. It was here that the bar had been sitting all of this time and my father never let me in on the secret, never gave me the chance to take the bar from its potential demise.
“Oh, the bar? Your father put that somewhere in the factory.” My stepmother said with such a blasé tone. “What?! What the fuck! I wanted to scream. Was there nothing of sentimental value my father could actually pass on to his only surviving child? Was it too much to ask to just get one fucking thing from the old man? The bar would be nowhere to be found because the factory was sold to his previous partner and they didn’t end well. I tried anyway, but no luck, no bar. I resigned myself to the notion that like my father, like my marriage, like the alcoholism that was an integral and interesting part of my childhood, it was gone. And it was ok. There was nothing to cry about because this was just a thing. I had my memories of this piece of furniture enough that its own departure was in itself a symbolic end to a life well lived. I actually had a happy childhood despite my constant reflections on the theme of alcohol that ran through it like the way the first sip of vodka at the end of a long day feels as it travels into your veins.
What is a happy ending anyway? Is it when I am lying on my death bed ready to take my last breath and just when my family says, “This is it, she’s is leaving us,” I pop my eyes open and shout out, “Yes! It was a great life!” And then just like that, I make my dramatic exit. Death comes and takes me away and my family sighs with a mix of joy and relief.
Rewind. No. Definitely not. That is not a happy ending. A happy ending is not a book end to the beginning. A happy ending is using the liquor cabinet as a metaphor for loss and life and fractured families as a reminder for how far I have self propelled because I have consciously chosen happiness. To be happy, not to end happy. To rejoice and to be sad and to see where the winding and wild travails take me.
You are probably hoping that this brief story ends with the liquor cabinet finding its way to my home; maybe I was at the yard sale in my old neighborhood and like a shiny beam of light, there it sat, dusty and worn, scuffed bellowing out to me, I have waited for you and you have arrived! But this is not how this story ends. This story doesn’t end because I am not over. The cabinet and its contents are gone because for me I have chosen to stop bringing the suitcase filled with the past to my table. I have emptied its contents so that conversations can start anew, with no baggage, a fresh start. And after almost three years of my mother not speaking to me and me allowing this, she finally called me to say hello. And it was kind of normal and nice, we dipped our toes into the cool water and took a brief drink. It had been a long strange trip. But in the end it was happy and I would say that it was a beginning. And this doesn’t need a liquor cabinet.