stage 2 sobriety

The Mists of Avalon

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I have been waiting for this day for a long, long time — this day right here when we’re in the White House with this amazing cast.  We host a lot of special events here.  We do a lot of really cool things.  But this for me personally is the coolest.  We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.  And when I say long time, I do mean long time — (laughter) — seven years — seven years — back when the President and I first got to the White House.

And here’s what we thought we wanted to do — we wanted to change things up here in the White House a little bit.  We wanted to open the doors really wide to a bunch of different folks who usually don’t get access to this place.

We also wanted to highlight all different kinds of American art — on all the art forms:  Paintings, music, culture — especially art forms that had never been seen in these walls.  So what did we start with?  We started with spoken word, because no one had ever held a poetry slam in the White House, that’s for sure.  (Laughter.)  So we scoured the country looking for the hottest spoken-word talent out there, and we found this young guy named Lin-Manuel Miranda from New York City.  (Applause.)  And a lot of folks were raving about this guy.  I mean, Barack and I — okay, all right, cool, cool.  We can do this, we can do this.  (Laughter.)

So Lin will remember, right before the event, we do a photoline with all the artists in the Blue Room.  So Lin walks up, and Barack and I go, oh, it’s great to meet you, and what are you going to do tonight?  And he’s like, I’m going to do a piece about Alexander Hamilton.

Now, Barack and I, we’re open-minded.  (Laughter.)  We consider ourselves creative people.  But we both kind of looked at each other like, oh, okay, this should be interesting.  (Laughter.)  And then Lin-Manuel got onstage in the East Room, where we’ll be later on today, and he got onstage in between the big portraits of George and Martha Washington, and he proceeded to perform the song “Alexander Hamilton,” which, as you all know, is the opening number of this amazing musical.

And of course, we were blown away.  We were sitting there — there are probably shots of us sitting there with our mouths open going, “Who is this dude?  What is he up to?”  (Laughter.)  And back then, he told us that he was going to do an entire musical about Alexander Hamilton.  And we knew that this had the potential of being really, really good based on his performance, but what we didn’t know — could never have imagined that it would be a work of genius — true genius.

I saw the off-Broadway version of Hamilton, got to meet the whole cast then.  Was I excited enough?  (Laughter.)  Was I excited enough to see you all?  And it was simply, as I tell everybody, the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.  And I became a fan, a devotee.  The cast, man, made up of such diverse, talented — oh, gosh — people that I’d ever seen.

The show is creative.  It is hilarious.  It is memorable.  And I loved it so much that I saw it again when you guys went to Broadway.  I don’t think I came backstage, I snuck out.  (Laughter.)  And then I made my husband and my children go see it — you guys got to see them.  And of course, my children, because I loved it so much, they were like, “It couldn’t be that good.”  (Laughter.)  You know how you all are with — if your mom likes it, it can’t be cool.  I raved about it so much, so they went in very skeptical.  But they came out true believers, like everyone does when they see the show.

As we all know, Hamilton has become not just a Broadway hit, but a global sensation.  Shows are sold out until January, February, or whatever.  It is the hardest ticket to get on the planet.  It brought the house down at the Grammys, we all saw that.  That was really cool.  And it’s one of the best-selling cast albums in half a century, is what my notes are telling me here.  (Laughter.)

And that is not surprising, because Hamilton is an amazing story that is beautifully told.  Through Hamilton, Lin-Manuel reveals all the drama and the glory, the heartbreak that run through our nation’s history.  And he shows us that the icons in our history books were real people with real brilliance, but also with real flaws.

So really, Hamilton teaches us history the way it really should be taught.  I mean, to my mind, this is what school should be.  (Laughter.)  We’d have a lot of great historians if we could only figure out how to do this more — for more subjects.  I remember I was telling Lin-Manuel that he’s got to do this for, like, the Middle East, and all the other issues.  You’ve got to talk about slavery.  You’ve got to cover it all.  (Laughter.)  … Michelle Obama

Recovery Songs

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In Early Recovery, I came across music and lyrics that helped carry me through some of the rough times. Kirsten Virgard’s version of “A Boat on the Sea” from the film “Grace of my Heart” was one of those. Even now as I listen I am reminded of the temporary aspect of life and finding peace with letting go.
There’s a lamp that won’t light
In my poetry room
And children out playing
And a big full moon
My man’s barricaded there in his womb
He’ll be coming out soon
I remember when I met him
He blew in like the wind
No one was more beautiful
Or dangerous than him
He blew through my soul
Like a tangerine wind
He’ll be coming out soon
 
I never knew I
Was built so strong
My heart
My heart is a boat on the sea
I never thought I
Was built for hurricanes
My heart
My heart is a boat on the sea
 
Luxury looms on a fog bound day
I’m not alone now and I’m not afraid
I’m clean and I’m free. It’s all stripped away
My debts are paid
I wonder if he ever looks down on the sea
And thinks about the time
He spent with me
I know everything’s exactly how it has to be
All’s right with this world
 
I never knew I
Was built so strong
My heart
My heart is a boat on the sea
I never thought I
Was built for hurricanes
My heart
My heart is a boat on the sea
 
In the cold and the dark
You’re the grace of my heart
In the cold and the dark
You’re the grace of my heart
In the cold and the dark
You’re the grace of my heart

the spaces inbetween

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resentments

“Older Chests”

Older chests reveal themselves
Like a crack in a wall
Starting small, and grow in time
And we always seem to need the help
Of someone else
To mend that shelf
Too many books
Read me your favourite linePapa went to other lands
And he found someone who understands
The ticking, and the western man’s need to cry
He came back the other day, you know
Some things in life may change
And some things
They stay the same

Like time, there’s always time
On my mind
So pass me by, I’ll be fine
Just give me time

Older gents sit on the fence
With their cap in hand
Looking grand
They watch their city change
Children scream, or so it seems,
Louder than before
Out of doors, and into stores with bigger names
Mama tried to wash their faces
But these kids they lost their graces
And daddy lost at the races too many times

She broke down the other day, yeah you know
Some things in life may change
But some things they stay the same

Like time, there’s always time
On my mind
So pass me by, I’ll be fine
Just give me time
Time, there’s always time
On my mind
Pass me by, I’ll be fine
Just give me time

I began my 60th year in august and am nearing the beginning of my 61st. There is no guidebook or pathway to follow and believe me,  I honestly never imagined that my journey would last this long. It would be a relief if there were an actual reason for my work in this life, but it is more apparent that my work is simply my work.

Relationships have been a source of strength and of struggle for me. I grew up in an environment that was tumultuous, fiery, and skittish. Marriages followed by divorces were in the background of my youth and I learned later that disharmony feels like love to me. I also learned that trying to learn about love while love feels like that is too frightening for me to pursue.

I’ve certainly been loved. Loved by more than is fair I believe. I have loved too, although I became quite gun-shy after my 1st live-in relationship of 2 years in 1978. My self-control, my fear, and my rage flowed like flood water submerging all my safe harbor. Since that time, I have kept a lock system controlling my heart ( The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is the chamber itself (usually then called a caisson) that rises and falls).

I have remained mostly safe from further heartache matching the level I felt finding my partner having sex in a car in front of our apartment. I have not yet met the level of rage that I felt when I felt the imprint of my childhood framing my own adult life. This was an early lesson in letting go for me. I decided very young to forego the baring of my soul in that way again.

I find myself in a very strange position. I have moved to a new city and spend many quiet nights. I am working for myself and have extra hours on my own. I am liking myself more and liking many others less.

I now know I dashed and sprinted through life sure that it would burn out quickly. Then I found myself here and understood I miscalculated.  I’m here, I’m working on things I found I feel called to do. And I see more clearly that the notes on the musical staff don’t make music on their own. The spaces in between are vital and give the melody and the mood its meaning and impact.

 

Nature’s Way

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trans flagIt was out of the blue that an old friend called me to attend a talk by Janet Mock at Mile High Church in Lakewood the other night. I had little awareness or expectation of her or her celebrity which is often a good approach to an event. I was not familiar with Janet or her advocacy, but I became an instant fan. She spoke of growing up in the “middle way” of gender identification and how she was able at an early age to find the courage to claim for herself how she would identify.

janet mock

image- janet mock

It highlighted to me how often our expectations of each to accommodate our own uneasiness with the unknown of other’s self-discovery. We want to pigeon-hole so we don’t have too much room for questions. Maybe having questions leaves too much room for mistakes on our part. Janet actually spoke at length and eloquently about making room that provides safety for those among us (most of us really) as we find our identities.

I remember running as fast as I could from the madness that was my home. My mom was busy trying to secure her own stability and was struggling with that. I hated seeing her pain and felt responsible for it. I couldn’t bear that responsibility. I had already learned that running was a way to escape and be safe and I used that experience.

I was 16 and landed in Chicago. It was rough seas but I got seas legs quickly. I depended on the kindness of a drag queen named Danee who took me in and helped me turn 17 without losing too much of my innocence. I saw the “gay scene” of 1970’s Chicago from the show queen and street hustler perspective. Those were about the only doors that were open to a runaway teen during those days.

I have written about this before, but the evening with Janet Mock took me back to 70’s Chicago. Glitter Rock, Retro Art Deco, high-waist double-pleated baggies with 2 skinny disco belts, Man’s Country, Sally Rand, Wanda Lust, Felicia’s Baton Lounge, Chili Pepper, Jodi Lee, Carol’s Speakeasy. these were the chapters of my late teens.

And the chapters were rife with people living somewhere in the middle of gender identification. Black, white, Hispanic, male , female; many colors and flavors. It made sense that the rainbow flag became a representative symbol.

But what I did learn was respect. For my money, the wilder looking folks with the gender bending features were much kinder to a waif like me. The calmer more respectable business folks in our circles were the ones more likely to try to take advantage of me. And l became respectful of differences and grateful for authentic kindness. I survived those early years living on my own only through the kindness of strangers. I had no idea I would need the skills they taught me later on in my journey.

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image credits- http://www.brumm.com

“Nature’s Way”

Is nature’s way of telling you somethings wrong
It’s nature’s way of telling you in a song
It’s nature’s way of receiving you
It’s nature’s way of retrieving you
It’s nature’s way of telling you somethings wrong
It’s nature’s way of telling you on the breeze
It’s nature’s way of telling you – dying trees
It’s nature’s way of telling you to slow down
It’s nature’s way of telling you – look around
It’s nature’s way of finding you
It’s nature’s way of reminding you
It’s nature’s way of telling you somethings wrong

Anthem

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I’m ready for a sing-along.. How about you???

“This Is Me”
I’m not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

Won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

…This is me

And I know that I deserve your love
There’s nothing I’m not worthy of
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is bruised
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

I’m gonna send a flood
Gonna drown them out
(…this is me)

 

Another gem from the film “The Greatest Showman”

turn your broken heart into art

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blood vessels in the human heart

photo credit Rob Jones

Meryl speaks her truth at the 2017 Globes

As i watched the storyline unfold about the Pentagon Papers reposted in the Press under the Nixon regime (yes i said that), I was transfixed by the echoes of a request she made to the Hollywood Press and her film industry colleagues about supporting the press and helping them stay able to print the truth. It seems that Dame Streep did make good on that promise to support the press in the telling of the truth with the making of “The Post”. And it seems this particular subject was an incredible storyline to choose.

meryl and viola at globes

It dawned on me that I can’t be the only human coming to this conclusion or making this connection. So I googled. And I came up with this glorious Washington Post article which confirmed my own intuition and ability to connect the dots. The review of the film is stellar and the synopsis would pale mine. Take a few minutes to read before you definitely go see “The Post”. It is an interesting reflection of our time.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/meryl-streep-gave-a-rousing-golden-globes-speech-and-the-post-became-a-reality-quickly/2017/12/13/cd716c2e-ddaf-11e7-8679-a9728984779c_story.html?utm_term=.6fa971868348

So my grand idea balloon is deflated by someone beating me to the punch. I remain validated that indeed i did not imagine this ongoing story. She declared and then she delivered. She took her broken heart and made art.

 

 

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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the house began to twitch

It really was no miracle. What happened was just this.
The wind began to switch – the house to pitch and suddenly the hinges started to unhitch. Just then the Witch – to satisfy an itch went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch.
I am in the last few days of my house of 11 years. There are boxes everywhere, a storage unit is secured, a post office box as well, an apartment in the house of a friend is on standby, the moving van reserved, and some physical labor assistance promised.
I have been avoiding too many feelings around all this as I hold my breath that no shoes drop. Keeping myself busy and trying not to stop. This way I won’t be able to grieve as much without being busy. The goal is to keep busy and continue to move forward.
Tomorrow the closing of the sale of my home is scheduled for the morning. The afternoon I am scheduling lunch with a friend and getting ready for the move scheduled Thursday.
Overall, 2017 has been a very crunchy year. Beginning with a surgery that knocked me for a loop until now, I find myself systematically reviewing what I think I know, letting go of some of that as illusion, and trying to redefine what I believe my strengths are in order to start to lean on those.
Whatever happens, it promises to be a wonderland adventure. I am ready for some technicolor around me.  Wish me luck. I’m following the yellow brick road.  I wonder who I’ll run into along the way.