calm within

from me:
on the flight home from canada, i had my usual truly-agitated moments. to be fair, flying sober is WAY better than it used to be. before i’d be sick with worry before, during and after, EVEN WHEN things were calm (anticipatory anxiety). now when i fly, i’m temporarily jiggled, ONLY to do with something that is specifically currently happening in the present, and then i reset back to zero as soon as it’s over.
but during, i have some routine things i say to myself. one is Stay Here. and then that has over time morphed into Calm Within.

the cool thing about ‘calm within’ is the double meaning. it’s ‘let’s feel calm on the inside, shall we?’ but it’s also about finding some calm within the agitation. so i count to 10 and then i force myself to be calm for a few seconds. then i jitter and wiggle for a count of 10, then i force myself to stop. of course, it can be done. the calmness isn’t my natural state but i can do it.

so while mr.B sat eating his steamed chicken and frozen vegetables, i was counting. and untensing.

the other thing about ‘calm within’ is finding the calm patches and relaxing when they happen. it’s not 24/7 tense. it’s tense, then oh look it’s smooth for a second, so then you can relax. then it starts up and then it stops again. the goal being to find the calm within the event.
this sort of reminds me of the experience of being in the palliative care ward when Mr. Cinnamon Toast was there. It was shitty. obviously. and there were moments of real sunshine, of laughter, of lobster dinner, of poop jokes.

the other mantra i have is about under-promising. but this is long so i’ll save that one for later today maybe? or tomorrow. Depends on how this hurricane thing goes. calm within. within you. within the event itself. find the tiny breaks.


some notes from my inbox:

leener (day 382): “I’m not an ‘art person.’ but i have *some* art in my house. Stuff i see that i like. usually colorful things that speak to me. i don’t know squat about skill or technique or meaning or whatever. so my (not very) snooty assessment of Mr. B’s art is this: i like it. i like to look at it. i like the colors. i like that it means something to me. i like that sometimes, the Exit is hard to find. But it’s there, you just have to keep looking. that’s some deep sober shit. but its also just a pretty thing to look at, and that’s cool too.”


amazon sister (day 82): “I had a great day yesterday, met with lovely friends, felt positive about so much. I’m back to feeling some uncertainty today and that may be due to how many life ups and downs I’ve had over the last few years, lots of uncertainty and financial insecurity, etc. and I covered the fear with almost nightly drinks. I’m getting better at feeling these things even though I don’t know what to do about them. I do hold a lot in, maybe checking in more and writing about me feelings will help. I put your duck pond photo on my bathroom mirror tonight and I have 2 of the cards in my current journal that is ready for me to write in. I so appreciate the services you offer, it is truly a special and a wonderful gift, creating better sober lives all over the planet. And what a great compliment Mr. B’s art is to the work! I also really appreciate your email updates, reading how you have everyday struggles is helpful in seeing my own. I hope you are rested and settled back in to being home!”


emsyface (day 260): “… I was at the centre, and one of the girls was talking about putting things on the walls to encourage. I imagined one of these paintings — a message to say ‘there is a way through somehow — an exit does exist’ Sometimes it’s about holding that belief for someone when they can’t themselves? Can you tell your hubby how much I like his art ?! xx”


W (day 123): “So, shitty news, cancer is growing again. I’m tired of fighting it. Wolfie says cancer is going to kill you anyways, why are you sober? I say I don’t know. Wolfie says why would you go on this epic family vacation with your aunts and uncles to Ireland and not drink with them? I say I don’t know. Wolfie says what’s the point of being alcohol-free? Especially when you know that wine will take the edge off the pain? I say I don’t know.
Sitting in my car crying. I just don’t know anymore. about anything, what’s the freaking point?
i guess when I get too busy and don’t appreciate the life I have the Lord, or the universe, or whoever or whatever’s out there slaps me down to make me appreciate what I have.
and when I tell people in my family that my cancer is growing again, I have to f****** comfort them. Because I’m the caretaker, I’m the mama, I’m the matriarch. Who comforts me? Wolfie? Wine? F*** that.
I actually feel a little better having emailed you because generally I can’t say things like that to people. Thank you for listening, or (as the case may be) reading.”


[What do you think I replied to W? Add your ideas below, and then tomorrow I’ll pick the comment that seems closest to what I said (in tone, in content) and that person will get a $20 podcast bundle.]

the artist: Mr. Belle
Acrylic & Ink on paper, unframed, mailed flat
30 x 42 cm (11.75″ x 16.75″)
if booze is an elevator that only goes down,
you can step off now. find the exit.
get off and stay off


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Just sending warm thoughts to W. I guess all any of us have is the now. Forget the past.. we never reach the future, only this minute really matters, and we might as well inhabit it with fully-feeling hearts, and a sparkling, crystal-clear mind. Why accept a half life of dulled semi-consciousness when every minute lived with delicious clarity can deliver so much more? It’s all there really is. For any of us. 💕 Flora 💕

  • I don’t know what you said to W. I’m just here to say Leener did write some deep sober shit, and I totally appreciate it! I hadn’t realized until now, but I do like those hidden Exit signs. That’s a cool way to see it. But I also like the big, obvious Exit signs because once you realize how much better being sober is than being drunk, regretful, tired, nauseated, forgetful, etc, you realize that the way out was there all along. You were just choosing to ignore it.

    I’m sorry to W for what she is going through. Being the mama is tough. I have complained to my husband that sometimes I (I!!!!) just want to be able to fall apart, but I’m not allowed to because everyone depends on me. Well guess what? They only depend on me because I let them. I’m the one not allowing myself to fall apart.

  • I suppose the question for W is, and for all of us, is would I rather spend the last day of my life sober or drunk. Finally, I feel quite sure I’d rather spend it sober, however shit it is. I want to be here, now, awake, aware, facing it, full on, good or ill.

    I have no fucking idea what you said to her. Sorry.

    Really like the picture.

    I think he should do cars next (through the windscreen, in the rear view mirror).

  • I just wanted to reach out and give W a big hug. When I read about her being the mama, the caretaker, and having to comfort everyone else, my heart just broke for her – that’s so true. I’m a mama, I get that. Mamas don’t “get” to be sick, or tired, or scared. Even though it seems like saying “f*ck it” and wine might comfort her, she KNOWS it will only make her more sick, tired, and scared – and mama ain’t got time for that! Especially now! 😉 I know sometimes wine *feels* like compassion…when what we really just need is a huge dose of ACTUAL COMPASSION. I don’t know if it helps at all, but THIS mama is sending her a HUGE HUG through the universe and just saying – hang on. If there’s one amazing thing about mamas, is that no matter how tired you are, discouraged, tapped out you are – there’s always just a little bit of gas left in their tank, even if we don’t don’t where that strength comes from, it’s there. Give yourself a big hug. What you’re going through is hard. Hang on. XO

  • W, a few things- Wolfie will utilise your dismay and turn it into an excuse to crawl back into your life, don’t let this happen!
    Those moments with your family? That vacation? Do you really want to numb yourself to those experiences? Being fully present with your life may sometimes hurt, but that’s what makes the beautiful parts all that more beautiful. Your body is doing it’s best to fight off this cancer, and there is no way a neurotoxin will help with that. It will only make you more miserable, more anxious, and more needing of comfort! Don’t start this spiral. You might be scared, but fear is living. (Just as an aside, given that people are writing in response to this I would say that we are here to comfort you! – please don’t forget that you are loved and appreciated and the world needs you in full colour, fully present, to shine the way you were meant to)
    Hugs xx

  • Dear W,
    Wolfie is a liar, and a thief, and an anus. He sees you down and starts talking crap. Your body is working its ass off to fight that bastard cancer. Your body needs your love, a soft place to rest, and kindness spoken daily. Picture an army of us who know Wolfie surrounding you, protecting you, growling right back at Wolfie. We know his lies. When shit gets rough I hear Belle in my mind saying, it’s time to aim for underwhelm, under commit, accept help, reach out more, listen to podcasts, email every 2hrs, yes every 2 hours really, watch crap TV. When it’s time for the epic vacation, put something fantastic in your glass, pomegranate juice and soda water with lime, ice, and a straw. It’s the people that make it fantastic, not what’s in your glass. Keep emailing. I’m here. Hugs.

  • W: Wolfie is cancer too! You can fight him off too! Ask your family for comfort! Send your post to them. Sounds like you GOT IT!

  • To precious “W”, this is not what Belle would say (I’m pretty sure) What a complete bummer that you are dealing with this terrible health news when you are in the middle of doing A VERY HARD THING ALREADY! I will be praying for you, not only for your physical health but that you will be comforted by the Lord of the universe. I pray that you will receive strength, courage and peace. I also pray that “Wolfie” gets squished to pieces.

  • Wow – the above is a nice one. I honestly have no idea what words of comfort I can offer but I wanted to tell you we can hear you and you are a part of this crazy group. Feel free to vent – and feel free to feel.

  • I can only think of my father-in-law when I see W’s post. He got sober and was immediately diagnosed with cancer. When my son asked him why he stayed sober after being given only months to live, he replied that he had wasted enough of his life being unconscious and he wasn’t about to miss what was left.
    He was a man worth admiring for many reasons. That answer was the main one.