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cracks and stripes

Sitting in the plush couch across from Asian decorations staring at large red plates and sticks of bamboo creating geometrical patterns and shadows creating the backdrop as I relate the geometrical patterns of my life. I blandly tell my counselor how life is a dream, a projection, a fuzzy version of reality. A veil has dropped. Maybe it dropped a long time ago. I watch the plot, the characters, the scene, the story line with only mild interest. Mostly apathetic.

A familiar story for the thinkers, the depressed, the analyzers. Life a dream. Waves of light, color, emotion, people. A familiar story for those in trauma. Unable to fully open up to life undulating between numbness and extreme pain. I’ve told my story a hundred times and it’s really nothing special as folks die and individuals reinvent themselves over and over again, purifying in the fire. In each reinvention, the dreams, the disassociation becomes greater and greater and I go to matching lengths to ground down, to find the soil of my existence once again.

April 25th, 2014 a friend hung herself and I once again sank down, went deep, and struggled to decide on the appropriate response, the appropriate way to be with myself, to be with the world. And so I ran. I went into the physical body and the breath for stability, balance, to let the power of my thoughts dull in the burning light of my physical being. On Pole Mountain every day, moving slowly over rolling hills stopping to smell, take pictures, dance, stare at the sky, stare at the ground, and sit in the mud. I would bring friends, we would bring drink, I would bring drink alone. Playing with that point when the substance can enhance physical awareness and open up the senses to deep experiences while dulling the mind just enough to justify the tall bullets of barely pop.

I let go of expectations for myself. I walked away from the holistic practice of yoga doing only what felt good—run, lift, stretch, drink, sleep. I would push myself at times but found in the letting go of the practice of yoga I was able to truly practice yoga through direct experience, an opening up to the trails of life, the trails of my own veins. I felt like a crucible with ashes in my belly, appearing like clay but red hot on the inside. And so I buried myself in the cool ground to recalibrate what this all might mean and how to find my meaning.

On the trails, during the runs in forward motion and in the tiny catches of slowing down, I begin to see the patterns of nature. The times, ways, and slopes where the wildflowers grow. The ripple of the snow from the way the wind blows, the creak of the trees, the sound of thunder near and far. I begin to feel the sunrise and sunset and anticipate in some familiar way what to expect in this place and on these runs. The weather becomes a part of my system the breeze my own breath.

It becomes harder and harder to come back and to see the patterns in others’ behavior, the same patterns of nature. Only to know the patterns will not be seen. They are obstructed, fuzzy, blended with lies on the part of the person who has not yet accepted his or her own behaviors. They do not see what I see, and this is just perception, this is just human nature. They are not who they think they are. I am not who I think I am.

On the hikes of the human mind, I feel the wind of thoughts, the dark clouds of brooding, and the creak of the heart. Anticipating the seasons of the soul from unspoken words and intense observation I feel the sunset coming knowing that it may go unnoticed, go unfelt. It does not matter. All experience, good or bad is grist for the mill. Fuzzy, painful, manufactured, in nature, all a path to spiritual growth, a way to God.

“Sometimes I reason my life is a hideous illusion, and I dream of disappearing into the wilderness, leaving behind my past, my present, and all plans for my future, the hustle and bustle for a materialism I care little for, propaganda, politics, phonies, and all the patterns I’ve encountered from their words unspoken, that alert and alienate me to believe that this surely wasn’t meant to be my playground.”

-Unknown

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day two (late)-20 facts about me

  • I used to hate sloppy joes. I guess they are okay now
  • I was 6 feet and a half inch at the age of 12
  • I used to study the bible 2-3 hours a day
  • I want to get my PhD in higher ed leadership even though I swore off school after my masters program
  • I love pizza so hard
  • I’m extremely insecure about my body and have spent years trying to help myself with this
  • My family has a long history of mental illness—but hey we are fun!
  • I used to be extremely shy as a child, not so much anymore
  • I would love to build a cabin in Canada or Alaska and learn mountaineering skills and live a more simple life and write, write, write
  • I’ve had disordered eating patterns in some form since I was 16
  • I wanted to go to the University of Montana so hard. Still kinda do.
  • I was supposed to play division 1 basketball, and I got injured
  • My mentor and creative writing guru said I was one of the best writers she had encountered—that friggin meant the world to me to hear
  • I love writing. Non-fiction. My life is rich with details and experiences
  • I was in county jail for 3 months. 1 month by myself. Shudder.
  • I love sticking q-tips in my ears.
  • I wear size 13 in womens shoes. Yeah junior high was bullshit.
  • I do things 100% and immerse myself in anything I’m interested in.
  • I love and hate Crossfit. I love running. I love and hate yoga. I love and hate the people who do these sports.
  • I have a younger sister and older brother. Janessa and Jesse. They mean the world to me.
  • I am extremely hard on myself and sometimes think I’m the most hideous person ever. But then I realize we are all crappy. We are all good.  We are human.
  • If you counted that was 21. I do what I want!
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I am in recovery, and I drink

An article about me recently came out detailing how I was able to recover from addiction to meth using yoga as a tool of recovery.  I used the drug almost exclusively intravenously everyday my senior year of high school and on into my twenties.  Mix in some blow, some pills, a bit of heroin.  All of this is true.  Another truth is that I’ve not used meth, pills, coke, or heroin in more than 7 years and I’ve not touched needles in as long.

But, I do drink.

In fact, I got pretty shitcanned on Christmas and spent yesterday hating myself watching as others posted this article about me detailing my three DUI’s and how I use yoga to help others.  I felt like a fraud and the folks from AA might have a thing or two to say about my version of recovery. But, I also knew where the desire to get schnockered was coming from.  My family became very fragmented in 2008 and I’ve spent almost every Christmas since alone. This is my work–to find peace in this space and create my own family.

So, to create forgiveness I googled the term “recovery is not abstinence” because this is what I have come to believe, this is one truth I have come to know.  This is true for me, and might not be for you.  That’s the thing your realize–truth can be relative.  And I think this is what has propelled me into living the most meaningful and vibrant life I’ve ever known.  Yeah, life has been crappy at times, and I own that I created it that way.

I found an article called “Reason” by Stanton Peele subtitled “Sobriety isn’t an abstinence fixation, it’s about having purpose.”  When you have purpose, stuff just falls into place.  I’ve never before had so much purpose in my life, I’ve never thought so much about the big picture, and I’ve never been so comfortable living in the gray. Through yoga, meditation, running, and writing I have found a way to express myself inwardly and outwardly.

What got me in trouble in the first place was living in extremes, maintaining all or nothing thinking and I became extremely uncomfortable in AA thinking I was one cocktail away from jail or death.  When in fact, I had maintained some moderate form of drinking for years until the death of my father which resulted in overuse of that same coping skill I had cultivated for a long time.  Looking back, it seems I was more suicidal than anything.  My Daddy had been ripped from me.  I did what I knew, I did what I could to feel better.  I drank, I smoked, I shot up.

I do often wonder if I am justifying, but I know in my heart that so many more folks with addictions might be able to find recovery were it not the constant pursuit of something that seems unattainable.  Even AA knows, we are only as sick as our secrets.  Those of us who have overused substances are far from saints.  But, we are not social pariahs.  We are not diseased.  We like to feel good.  And that’s the human condition.  We all have disassociated in one way or another to get away from uncomfortable feelings.  This is how humans work.

On April 25th, 2014 I broke my sobriety streak and had a beer after a close friend had hung herself.  Perhaps not the best coping skill but a completely human way to cope.  I let myself begin to drink into summer particularly after long runs and I would refuel with a Coors and a burger.  It was actually very relaxing and rewarding.  The running had become like meditation for me and to chill and have a beer after the run gave me space to see what moderate drinking felt like, what it looked like, and how it can be a very normal process.

I had been told in AA how NOT normal I was.  Oh well Jen, you drink, so clearly you are immoral.  You have no control.  You are an addict.  You can’t handle life.  I don’t really think of myself as an addict at all.  It’s no longer a part of my identity and not how I like to refer to myself.  I am a yogi, a teacher, an aunt, a sister.  But I’m no longer an addict.  Or alcoholic. This is one of the many reasons that I don’t find much solace in AA.  There are other reasons of course, but I am an empowered woman.  I am no victim of alcohol, drugs, or my circumstances.

Alcoholics Anonymous, while one of the most successful recovery programs in our recent history, has appropriated the term sobriety.  The program dominates our thinking about addiction and the only way sobriety is achieved is through complete abstinence.  To me, this seems like a complete set up.  For most, it’s an unattainable standard that may be reminiscent of why many of us started using in the first place.  To try and be something we were not, to try to maintain a facade.  It aggravates all or nothing thinking.  And it causes huge fall outs and huge relapses rather than just a shitcanned Christmas.

To me, recovery means that I love my body enough to realize that I cannot drink all the time.  It’s listening to my belly when it says that hard liquor is no good for me.  It’s having water with beer because I’m using the liquid carbs to recover.  It’s having purpose at my job I value enough to not show up hungover.  Its service work to others in my community who are in the grips of addiction.  It’s my values, my plans, my life goals.  I’ve come too far to fall victim to the fuzzy life I lived previously.

There is more than ample evidence that shows addiction is a solvable coping problem rather than a chronic recurring disease.  Being positively engaged with life encourages better coping skills and natural recovery. A number of long-term studies support this idea. Some positive engagement in my life includes a few beers at the local pub.  Sometimes wine with a fancy dinner.  I don’t have to wear a scarlet letter.  I can choose moderation.  I’ve often felt the only space where anyone is shamed for drinking is the rooms of AA.  It’s AA that plans the seeds of distrust and doubt.  Your own mind becomes the enemy when it is the exact tool that can heal you.

And so, I tell folks I’m in recovery.  I attend counseling to manage my anxiety and depression that have led to substance abuse in the past.  I perform service work at least once weekly to help impart tools that keep me healthy and engaged in life.  I create space for others as they work through relapses and we all begin to cultivate forgiveness of ourselves and others.  And, to me, recovery is simply self-love.  It’s the highest form of grace.  It’s accepting ourselves exactly where we are.  And then we can begin to change.

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song of survival

Exploring spirituality is such an intimate act and I find myself frustrated lately as I reflect on my childhood spent in Christianity.  I feel defensive because folks see it as a complete left turn when I wish I had lived with faith long enough that they thought the behaviors of the last ten years were a left turn.  But I get both sides.

Jen, you are a nerd.  Jen, you are a hustler. What are you doing exploring religion?  That’s not a thing in your life, is it?  Perhaps I have worn my cards too close to my heart and don’t want to risk being judged.  If I talk of God I become one of those crazy people at those awful meetings.  This is a safety mechanism and I act tough to be tough to survive.  Folks don’t cry in cowboy country.  Nothing is wrong.  Avoidance coping has its benefits. 

It’s hard to try to be nice all the time, to try to live by morals and codes that might not resonate with the larger universe.  Do we always speak the truth even with the knowledge the truth will seriously hurt someone?  I choose to do no harm.  I enjoy being the interpreter of moral code but see the danger in this as my compass lost its true north in the past, sometimes in the present.  We all disconnect sometimes. 

I have stories upon stories of the stuff I’ve done in the past, things that surprise even me and some of these things I speak of with a flat affect, no emotion, too much to engage.  But that’s it.  They are just stories.  Stories that have been told for ages.  Parables of life.  Sermons of the heart.  Songs of sorrow.  We all share the same underlying passions and fears. 

Each human heart a music box of life that plays a special tune.  Listen to the notes, hear them altogether and don’t get stuck on the b flat and don’t think your c sharp is somehow wrong. Sing your song, sing your life, live in a way that you stop worrying about what other folks think.  This is your song. Maybe only God can judge you, and maybe there is nothing to judge.

 

Do you know who I am?

I say “namaste” because I like what it means, not because I am Hindu.

A lot of people here think I am Christian because they think I talk about Christian values, but the truth is I am really talking about human values. 

I’ve been asked if I am a Buddhist, just because I have discovered inner peace. 

A lot of my friends are Pagans, and they think I am one, too, because I say that being in Nature is my idea of going to church.

Do you want to know what I really am?

I am awake.

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the most selfish person i know (a biography)

Every day is filled with tiny baby setbacks and tiny baby victories and I’ve been putting off blogging about it because I realize how much I exist in my own head.  My head is not in the bell curve, it’s not appealing to many folks, it would be cancelled after one season.  I am so very selfish and spend so much time alone.  My world is all I have.  My thoughts are my friends, my thoughts are my enemies. As I work to share my world I create experiences to validate that which I already believe—I don’t understand intimate relationships.  I don’t understand friendship.  And I certainly don’t understand the intimate/friendship combo of a long term relationship.

I set the stage for my lonely, tragic, existential play at a young age, ready to be analyzed over and over like an awful Shakespearean play that I have to pretend to like because it seems to be what I ought do.  What ought I do?  It was Valentine’s Day and I was sixteen.  We skipped school and filled a brown, sticky, stained bong with snow and took rips of the dirtiest ditch weed a kid could get their hands on.  We skipped from house to house where parents would have us or where parents were gone and we could drink stolen brandy or Bud Light and listen to Tom Petty.  We would often drive around the dirt roads that connected coal mine to oil rig to ranch to old schoolhouse.  As we passed the same plastic bong around I thought—this is it.  This is all I need.

We arrived home and my parents had tried to show me love.  They sent me flowers only to find I had skipped school and had come home smelling of booze and weed.  My parents had never sent me flowers, all of us had trouble understanding these human relationships.  My face felt hot and I bit the pieces of skin around my fingernails that smelled like Marlboro Reds.  Harsh words, questions, and raised voices.  I swung my hair over the tie dye shirt I was wearing and told my parents:  I wanted to spend the day with someone I love.  That one is drugs.

Drugs won’t purposely miss your call.  Drugs don’t give you an STD.  Drugs don’t say that you text too much.  Drugs don’t call you insecure.  Drugs don’t avoid eye contact with you but stare at your overdeveloped thighs and hips.  Drugs don’t tell you that you remind them too much of an ex and would-you-just-quit that.  Drugs don’t stalk you for seven years.  Drugs don’t punch you so hard during sex you lose your hearing for three days.  Drugs won’t fuck you only past 10 pm because you are the other woman.  Drugs won’t take money you left on the counter.  Drugs won’t ask you to suck their dick for blow.  And yet, drugs take you all these places emotionally.  Maybe I ought treat them like an ex.

My uncle once told me that my brilliant grandfather experienced setbacks in his career because of the fire.  The crazy.  That which runs in our family which I have seen firsthand and experienced even more deeply firsthand.  I knew I was round the bend when I seventeen and I shot up a half gram of meth that had been cooked up hours before.  I lost my vision.  I lost my hearing.  I barely made it up the stairs.  When I had finished lying on the bed staring at souls circling above me, I walked to the bathroom and looked in the mirror.  I had switched, something had turned.  There goes the screw.  Like Alice, I had gone to the other side.  Manic.  Depressed.  Crazy.  Gifted. Touched by fire. Out there.  Ridiculous.  Ludicrous, preposterous, risible, farcical.

Will I ruin my career?  Will my soul mate be crystal meth?  I don’t believe in either of these things, because maybe I’m crazy enough to understand that while my attributes aren’t valued by all, or many, or a lover, I am not unworthy.  There is no manual of human contact and we create just miniature projections of ourselves.  Some cells want to be with others.  Some organs stand alone.  But no part of the human body is wrong, and no part of me is wrong.  I am selfish.  I am crazy.  I am the most beautiful person you will ever meet.  I say the ugliest things you will ever hear.  Will you still love me?  Because I sure do.

“I do a lot of crummy things, and I do a lot of beautiful things, and I’m neither good nor evil, I just am. There is good, and there is evil, and here I am.”

-Ram Dass 

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the art of life

Sometimes I distrust the morning if for nothing other than the light. Harsh blue light creeping from the east casting a shadow behind. Feeling cornered in a smoky room I found through swinging western doors after a journey I wasn’t sure I should travel. Hyper vigilant and jumpy staring through silvered almond eyes that become smaller and less sure, less open in the early dawn. Light drifting upon gravel roads, sparkling from the periphery atop tall grass and yarrow arching, flicking plant hair of dew and little black bugs.

I see a man walking in the afternoons wearing a long sleeve, button up plaid shirt. Faded and worn from the James Cash Penney department store in some small town in Wyoming, maybe Kemmerer, or so I imagine. A gentlemen walking now in the warm afternoon but lost in hot time when clothes were wrapped in brown paper and string. A man displaced finding himself not at a tent revival he thought he’d finally found but on the scoliosis spine of Laramie sidewalks. Maybe its own tent revival, rural, a button up shirt is Sunday’s best, Laramie’s finest. He is looking fine as frog hair. Hymns falling off mouths now pearl buttons, flannel thread a new verse to the same old song, prayers like solid brown slacks. Slight hunch in his back and a bible in his left hand. Head down, hair long past his chin and a long gait staring forward and down, down.

Evening the time of theatre-in-the-round. Tonight the playwright, the designer, the director, the sky. Wearing a gown of deep purple, glowing orange, soft pink swaying in brown-shoe-roads with stockings made of green. Symphony directed by the wind–cottonwoods and aspens flutter, creak and sway, deep bass sounds of thunder and soprano of neighborhood children screaming create the score for the epic of the unwinding evening. Breeze gentle, smells gentle, touch gentle, as the play turns toward the bedroom where spoken lines becomes sighs and the music fades with the gentle breath of sleep.  What dreams may come, said another playwright, and what dreams may be.  Dreams of morning, noon, night, now.

“The art of life is to live in the present moment, and to make that moment as perfect as we can by the realization that we are the instruments and expression of God Himself.”

Emmet Fox

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the uncut hair of graves

I keep the phone squished between my shoulder and ear driving to Corona Village to pick up fajitas I had ordered before my dear friend called.  She is dead now.  She hung herself.  I wish I could say I don’t picture her body there hanging, owl tattoo on her right shoulder.  Hair blonde, maybe more brown, jutty cut she had surely given herself to frame her beautiful thinned out almond crystal eyes.  We talk about so many things on the phone.  She hears my voice for who I really am. She sees me for me.

We talk about how she will move to South Carolina soon and I watch the brightly colored tiles that decorate the walls of the restaurant nd wish she were back in Wyoming.  Phone sill squished, I drive home to eat my meal.  To talk to my friend.  To heal my soul.  I dip a chip into guacamole and taste the tiny individual pieces of salt visible on the triangles and she tells me when she admired me for talking about performing oral sex in our English capstone class.  Tells me I used the phrase “sucking dick” and that had liberated her.  I remember that self that wouldn’t wear a belt or a bra and talk frankly of sex in class because I wanted so bad to accept my body and to accept sex and to be a part of something that carries so much power.

My mind flashes back to a care package she had left at my house and I watch as a drop of runny salsa hits the floor and puddles out while I remember what was in the box.  Corsets, bras, whips, and other kinky shit she felt safe enough to give me.  I look at the spot of salsa and smile about how she thought I was something more than I think I am.  In her eyes, to her short choppy hair, I was a sex vixen.  I crouch down and wipe up the blood like salsa with a napkin and shove it back in the takeout bag.

Pushing carrots, celery, and mushrooms around in the foam container soaked in grease and dark red sauce made of chilies and cumin she tells me about how she had to cancel her Facebook account for slugging too much wine in the evenings and writing provocative shit.  That wasn’t her or mine assessments but her graduate program that had broken her down like I had been broken down in my own program.  I drop a tiny spoonful of sour cream onto beans and put them into my mouth while tears start to fall down.  She gets me.  She sees my spark and I see hers and we want to drink wine and perform oral sex on whomever or wherever we feel like.

I’ve wrapped my tortillas in foil and slopped the food from foam into plastic containers.  Organize. Compartmentalize. Anything to give myself the illusion of control.  We get ready to end the phone call and I tell her to keep pushing forward, to give her writing to the world, and I tell her I’ve saved all of her writing.  Even her e-mails.  Nothing can happen more beautiful than death for the awareness of life it gives to all who suffer its consequences.

Hey jenn,
Im getting that piece to you sunday night hell or high water.  I found this article about throwing around words to look learned n after our talky talky bout the mfa boys club n tim like people i thought u might like it too:
http://rhetoric.byu.edu/figures/groupings/Vices.htm
Im usin my phone so pardon all the grammar bad ju ju
Jodi

J. P. Corley