give up what doesn’t serve me

this is an email about how things grow and evolve. i was looking over some messages i received in 2013, about a year after i quit drinking, to see how much i’ve ‘bloomed’ since then. here’s one example:

october 9, 2013
email from E. “Hi Belle, I just want to say I got chills reading your post about opening a store! I’m not sure why exactly, there was just something so — touching on a dream — or something. And beautiful how things change and how you accept that thought so easily (it seems).
And on that note of changing dreams, I thought it was really interesting in a recent post how you mentioned you no longer write fiction. I am struggling with that one. I feel like it was this dream I always had and it’s soooo hard to let it go, but I just don’t think I like it, or that it’s good for me (it kind of makes me crazy) and I write in so many other capacities. I’m in another fiction class right now to give it one last shot to see if I want to or not, but I hope to hear from you or see a post on whether that was difficult to give up the fiction dream or if you let it go easily and what made that possible. I think the ability to allow oneself to change (including changing dreams) is so important but boy, can it be difficult!”

me: I’m big on giving up stuff that doesn’t serve me. but really the decision to not write fiction anymore wasn’t even really a decision. I just stopped. I never ‘had time’, I was always ‘busy with other things,’ and that’s it. years went by. then more years. now I realize that I wrote fiction to make other people happy. for me, it’s too solitary. and I’m not compulsive enough (i.e. I don’t get up every day just dying to write fiction). I do get up thinking about pie though. turns out I had to get sober and be 46 years old to figure out what I’m really called to do. I’m CALLED to and dream about cinnamon buns. and pie. and today I made sour cream coffee cake and bagels and lamb pot pies…

 


 

what’s interesting, of course, is that 4ish years later i WOULD start writing fiction again, sober fiction, about Rayna.

But i couldn’t see it then. i needed the space of being sober, measured in years, which eventually allowed the writing to come back in, on its own, without being forced.

It did NOT happen right away. i didn’t even predict it would happen at all.

i also found a way to make the fiction not solitary, by posting it live every day for people to read. and i found i way to make it ‘compulsive’ but committing to posting something every single day without skipping days.

the things i thought i couldn’t change, i could. the things i thought were fixed about writing fiction (solitary/not driven enough) i could change with external accountability. i know that’s not the way most people write books. it’s not the way most people do anything. but i know me. i do better when i think someone is paying attention. number of fiction books written without accountability over a period of 23 years? none. thought about it. didn’t do it. added daily accountability? wrote a first draft in 6 months.

tried to quit drinking on my own, I could get to 9 days.

add accountability? coming up on my seventh soberversary on july 1st.

but don’t get me wrong. accountability is hard. you have to reach out. you have to say you’ll do it. you have to show up. you have to allow yourself to be accountability. it’s scary to set it up. but it can help to get the thing done.

and i know, for me, i can’t do much without something external to me. it’s just how i’m wired. i can’t even apologize for it. it’s just who i am. i can do LOTS OF THINGS with accountability. I can do very little without.

i’d still like a blue bakery (i do love that photo). I’d also like to get fiction book #1 published, and start on #2. I’d like to have a radio show (!).

and my ongoing goal, often overriding others… is to sleep in.

maybe i’ll do all of them, just not at once. maybe if we’re sober for a longer period of time, there’s room to put the goals in.

and the space to let new, unimagined ones grow.

hugs from me xo

 


Question: If you were making a pledge today, and you could pick any number of days, then how long can you pledge to be sober for, for sure, starting today?

me, I can be sure, from today, that i’m not drinking until July 1st (my soberversary). for sure. for sure. no questions. i’m going to be sober longer than that, but i’m definitely 100% not drinking between now and then.

What about you? what’s your ‘for-sure-for-sure’ number of days you can be sober starting today?

~

“I know you’re chasing problems
But you’ve been running too long
It’s time that you come home my love
And stay here in the sun my love”


www.artsober.com

thanks for the judgment [fiction]

quote from the new fiction writing project. this is fiction. this isn’t me, and it isn’t an email from a subscriber ? it’s the internal dialogue of the main character as they imagine what speaking with their boss will be like …

What, quit drinking? Are you high? Drinking is the only thing that’s holding me together right now. To suggest that it’s perhaps the cause of any of this is illogical. You don’t know me. My life is a mess, OK, that’s why I drink. You’d drink too if you knew what I have to deal with. Thanks for the judgement. (No judgement.) Really, you don’t think it’s just a tad judgey to accuse someone of being an alcoholic out of nowhere? (Didn’t say that. Asked if you’d thought to perhaps take a break from the booze to see if it improved anything.)

Like if skip my one glass of wine tonight, my job will magically improve? Yeah, right, that’s logical. And if I don’t drink next Monday, my credit card will be paid off? This whole conversation is stupid. I wanted … oh forget it. I thought you were going to give me a YouTube video about stress in the workplace or something like that. Shit. Really. What I do when I’m not at work, that’s none of your business.

~

question: did you ever have a conversation like this? with someone else or just in your head?

not everything that is helpful is useful

this is an extract from an email sent to the Everything List (which is the place where i share ‘everything’ including behind the scenes reporting on writing, pictures of my lunch, how writing is like sobriety, and samples of the new fiction project).

from me: i’ve written myself into a corner with the fiction. i’ve closed  the open loops and don’t know what happens next. (this happens.)

but that has led me to “what’s the point in writing fiction anyway,” – and i don’t mean the thing i’m writing, i mean fiction in general. what’s the point of fiction? …

i’m temporarily stuck. i feel like non-fiction is more direct. “how do i deal with a husband who drinks now that i’m sober” versus “here’s a story about a woman with a husband.” maybe the lessons are still there, but maybe the vehicle of delivery is all that changes.

but if the lessons are the same, then why fiction?

i’m sure i’ll be able to write myself back to an answer to this, but today, right here and right now, i’ve lost the plot (hahahahaha). [and if writing is like being sober, then even when you lose the plot, you keep going, because – even as i say it here – i’m sure i’ll be able to find the way if i keep going.]

Quote from this week’s fiction writing:

OK, you’re up. The room – you can’t even look at the room. The hallway – you can’t even look at the hallway, the bookshelf contents on the floor, now walked through repeatedly, how long has it been. Into the kitchen, can’t really look in here, either, something in the pan on the stove, it could have been risotto (really?). You pick up and hold the takeout container close to your face, smell it, afraid, but seems fresh enough, so it probably was dinner last night after all.

It’s weird day when I wake up and it feels like I’m on an archaeological exploration in my own home. What did I do? What did I eat?

You check your phone for sent messages. Scroll …


comments:

Mich2point0 sent me this: “That’s just wolfie’S cousin- self doubt creeping in.  She’s a c-nt… kick her ass to the curb Xxoo.”

me: haha. maybe it is!  it’s just that after doing a big live call yesterday, THAT seems more ‘useful’ than fiction…

Mich2: “Lmfao!!!!! Not everything that is helpful is useful. Sometimes. I get fucking tired of self help and all that jazz. Sometimes. I want to disappear into a good book or listen to something fun or funny. Relatable.  You don’t determine what’s useful. That’s a high powers job. You. Just do what you’ve been called to do…”


*your comments make the world go round. add in your thoughts.*


I’m just resting my eyes [fiction]

quote from yesterday’s writing session [fiction]:

The teacup of brown liquid.

You break so many glasses that you have resorted to buying cheap crap now, and this pink flowered teacup came from the Salvation Army store, where you can get 10 cups for two bucks. The liquid itself is coffee liqueur that you may have borrowed from the restaurant kitchen. Perhaps it was to make the stacked-crepe-as-cake recipe. Or perhaps it was to drink. You always bring a cup of something to bed with you, so that you can sip right up until you close your eyes. For no good reason, really. It’s not like you’re going to enjoy it, it’s not like there’s any ‘fun’ to be had in bed with the lights off, the cup to your lips, your eyes closed already (I’m just resting my eyes, you say).

~

*your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep going; don’t discount the power of community, of reaching out, supporting and being supported*

~

Question: did you drink in bed (past-tense)? did you have any idea (at the time) why you were doing it? or was it just “something you did…”

hugely irritating people [fiction]

quote from saturday’s writing session [fiction]:

The manager of the restaurant is a guy named Steve with floppy blond hair, his wallet in his front pocket, and by the looks of things he doesn’t wear underwear, some long bits down one side. He also could do with a good eyebrow wax. Linda, the daytime head waitress has slept with him, apparently. Though that’s not saying much, she had also made out with the pastry chef in the walk-in cooler. Thus far, she’s not interested in you.

Steve is watching you. He is smoking at the back door.

You have the usual exchange: you’re late, sorry my alarm didn’t go off and I had my kid this morning, you don’t have a kid, I overslept, no you didn’t, it won’t happen again, it’s happening more and more.

“If anything, you’re trending downward,” he says.

Speaking of trending downward, tuck in your dick. You think this, you don’t say it. You’re not that stupid. Though to be fair, you may still be drunk. Suddenly this strikes you as hilarious, what if you DID say it. What if you spent all of today, just for one day, saying ALL of the things that you think, about all of the fucking hugely irritating people, the prep cook who drinks vodka from a plastic water bottle all day, the pastry chef with her gayness turned up to volume eleven, the hostess with her fishnet tights (in this weather?), the guy who sits at table 104 every afternoon and orders the same fucking thing every time. Jambalaya. And he wants the same waitress every time (Jessica, of the big red lips). What if you said everything. Every fucking thing. Starting with Steve: Please, do us all a favour, buy some underwear.

~

*your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep going; don’t discount the power of community, of reaching out, supporting and being supported*

~

Question: How irritated were you when you were drinking (past-tense)… Did you have a moment (or twelve) of saying things when hungover that should have been left unsaid? Share a brief line or two. I need ideas for the story…

lurching stomach [fiction]

quote from friday’s writing session [fiction]:

It’s snowing in a kind of February hell-weather way, that mix of rain and snow and freezing rain and misery. They always make light snow look so nice on television, flakes gently wafting, deep purple sky, Christmas lights. The reality is something else entirely. The sleigh bells and the ads and the nice lighting? They’re missing out on the stained boots, the chapped hands, the aftermath. It’s always good in a glossy magazine. It’s almost never good in real life.

You walk to work – from the apartment, to the laundry, then onward to the restaurant. It’s shorter to take the bus, but the idea of being caged in with a lurching stomach isn’t appealing. You eat some of the breakfast sandwich, to see how it goes down. Not well. Some of the coffee. Walking. You need this time to walk, to be outside, to have any possible, minor, slight hope of clearing your head before you arrive at work, arrive at the place that is loud and hot and anxious.

~

*your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep going; don’t discount the power of community, of reaching out, supporting and being supported*

you are waiting for your big break [fiction]

*your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep me going*

You are waiting for your big break [fiction]

The bookcase isn’t your first messy, unfortunate event. Of course it isn’t. It’s not even the beginning of your story. But the narrator knows that a dramatic opening is required to hook people in. Readers like to start on page one and skim a few lines, then think: “well at least I never tipped a bookcase over.”

As if that matters.

– –

You sort through dirty clothes on the floor, pick up a shirt and smell it. Something grey on the front, some kind of stain, but it could be food. You work in a kitchen, so that might pass as food, right? Maybe today will be a busy day, lots of tables, hefty tips. Someone will notice how smart you are, invite you to come work for their Silicon Valley start-up. You are waiting for your big break. It’s coming. You can feel it. You will totally drink less (or none) once you’re discovered.

On your way to work, you drop off a bag of laundry at the corner place that does those things. That woman at the laundry, she’s a bright light. She knows that people live in small apartments without washing machines, that they’re tired, that they’re running behind – I mean, you’re giving her your dirty underwear after all, she knows you don’t have the brain space to do your own laundry – and because of this, she has breakfast sandwiches pre-made, in the fridge, you can help yourself, she adds them to your bill.

For this, you are grateful.

You take an egg muffin thing from the fridge. She pours you a large coffee in a biodegradable paper cup with a panda printed on the side. She hands you the receipt for your laundry. But really, she knows your name, you don’t need a receipt. Your name is something gender-neutral like Beet or Rain or Mackenzie, so that the reader cannot determine gender, and can therefore more easily think that this story is about them, if not in specifics, then in themes.

Homemade Egg Muffin Breakfast
as told to the narrator by the smart entrepreneurial Laundry store owner

toasted English muffin (homemade if you can get it)

salted butter (you don’t have to be fancy, margarine works)

chipotle mayonnaise (mix some diet Hellmans with the light blue lid with some ground chipotle spice, and add a bit of lime juice – you want the recipe for this mayo concoction too or can you just wing it?)

an oven baked egg, with Greek spices and a bit of cream (you want instructions on how to bake an egg?)

smoked cheddar – Applewood imported from England, or Cows imported from Nova Scotia (don’t let the fancy fool you, cheap Kraft singles work just fine)

~

 How do you vote? more food in this story? less? recipes or not?

new project? can’t tell yet. [fiction]


*and your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep me going*

You’re Having Some Kind of Personal Problems [fiction]

My goal for February, you write, is to drink less. Only weekends, only special occasions, only if I’m not alone, only if there is a really, really, really good reason.

There’s a bookcase. It’s tipped over. The books and the folders of slides and the scraps of paper and the dust hidden behind are all together now, a clutter soup. Calling it a ‘jumble’ would be too pretty. It’s a shitshow (the Urban Dictionary assures the narrator that this word is defined as ‘chaotic disorganization’).

I don’t know how it got like this, you say. And you mean it both literally, as in I don’t remember how the bookcase got pushed over, and you mean it as in I don’t know how I got to this place in my life. This isn’t a good place. I don’t feel good. This isn’t good.

You think, God it’s so overwhelming, the mess. Why is there so much dust behind a bookcase, behind each book, why do I have to look at it now, all at once, vomited onto the floor like this. Fuck, those slides were in order. And the books, too, alphabetical order. I can get my books in order but (clearly) not the rest of my life.

There’s a sharp buzzer. You think it might be the microwave. Or maybe it’s an alarm on your phone. You rub your face with both hands. The apartment is suddenly too hot, close, smaller than it was yesterday.

Then the bell again, oh it must be the doorbell, though it sounds completely unfamiliar. You don’t want to open the door, you know who it is, it’s the neighbour. Your apartments have a shared wall. Not a terribly well-constructed wall. Not a soundproof wall. You hear their television, and they hear your …

You open the door, she’s in your face:

“Hate to ask again — and I don’t mind saying that I’m tired of asking politely. It might be time for something a bit more direct. It’s too fucking loud over here.”

She’s a bit of a bitch, this one. Big boobs crammed into a too-tight shirt that she probably thinks is ‘sexy’ but instead it’s broadcasting ‘I got this at the expensive store, marked down, so that I can say that I shop there, even though — clearly — I’ll buy anything, including clothes that don’t fit, just so I can take a selfie and post it on Facebook and talk about what a bargain hunter I am …’

Neighbour: “… you’re having some kind of personal problems.”

Really, is she still talking? You’re not listening. You’re looking at your watch.

What time is it? you ask, perhaps not wisely giving away the fact that you can’t tell if it’s 7 p.m. and February dark dinner time, or if it’s 7 a.m. and it’s February dark morning.

~

Question: What would the neighbour say next?