Sentient Savannah

Everyone told me I would love Savannah. Each time I mentioned my work was taking me there, I got the same enthusiastic response. I heard time and time again how romantic this city can be. I was a little nervous going there alone just at the time in my life when I am really feeling a desire for someone to love.
I arrived late on Thursday night and felt fortunate to have such a friendly driver to take me to my hotel in the heart of downtown. Once getting to the hotel I was welcomed by Southern charm in both the front desk attendant and the appearance of one of the city’s oldest hotels. My room was inviting and the bath called my name. After soaking my tired body, I climbed into a soft bed ignorant to the fact that upon waking my life would change forever.
After a quick trip to an empty hotel gym, I dressed and put foot to pavement to check out this so called romantic city. It did not take long for me to understand why so many people had said that. I have never been anywhere so enchanting. If I couldn’t feel the centuries old spirits in the old brick buildings, I would have believed this was a fabricated world meant to make you feel you were somewhere old and special. As I walked through the shaded streets, smiling faces met mine and passed warmth to me both by phrase and unspoken connection. I found hidden doorways, homes touched by loving detail, women who talked of years of friendship enjoying the warm January day. After trekking my way from one side of the historic district to the other, I felt a break was in order. With nowhere in particular to be, I hand picked some chocolates from a specialty shop and chose to enjoy them in one of Savannah’s many lovely squares. I lied down on a bench; the sun danced with the leaves of the giant live oaks above me. From across the square a deep, rich voice bellowed through the Spanish moss. The large trees block our view of one another, but I could picture him in my head. I remained still as I listened to him sing of memories I had no way of sharing. For a moment in time he competed with the nearby church bells, but overall filled the square with his sweet, haunting tunes. In time I felt drawn to him. I crossed the square and took up the bench next to him. “I knew you’d be back” he said to me. “I saw you walk by earlier this morning, and I wondered when you would find your way here.” After about a minute of my sitting there he interrupted his own sentence to say, “You’re a Virgo.” It wasn’t a question. And he was right. It turned out he was right about a lot of things. We sat together, and he shared with me tales of the places he had been, stories of the strong women who had raised him and the father he hardly knew. He talked about the things he had seen sitting on that same bench for almost a decade. All those who regularly passed that bench on their way to work or home greeted him with care and authenticity. He desired nothing from anyone and truly wanted to connect and pass along the love inside of him. During my time with him he offered glimpses of a life I’d never known in between lyrics of songs I’d never heard. Somehow I could clearly see both play out before me. Time seemed to stop in that square, and I knew I was in the presence of something special. A light radiated around him and touched anyone who was nearby. His enlightened state was apparent from all of his stories, but this was my favorite. He told of a woman who approached him angrily upon hearing his lyrics singing of The Lord. “I don’t believe there is a God” she huffed at him. “Those are your beliefs. No one can take them away from you. The food you eat does not fill me. The water you drink does not sooth my throat.” he replied in the same calm, deep tone he used to relay the story to me. The most beautiful notion for the many different beliefs we all have in this world. I’ve never met anyone who wanted nothing from people but wanted everything for them in the way James did. I was sad when I had to leave him and hoped our paths would cross again.
I encountered many other wonderful people who showed me courtesy and hospitality and never asked for anything in return. Smiles were big and genuine. The city had a quiet magic about it that seemed to wrap every street lamp, sit on each porch and hang from all of the tree branches. Little flowers bloomed among great big leaves hard to see if you didn’t take the extra second to look. It felt as though minutes passed more slowly and each moment seemed to hold more weight. Flavors were bolder and the breezes softer. So much life gently pulsed around me. There was a subtle specialness about the city that would be easily missed if not given the chance to present itself.

I thought I would be sad to be there after everyone told me how romantic this city is, and I don't claim that they’re wrong, but I am actually really happy to have been there alone. I would be sad to miss the little things I experienced during my stay, which could not have been done had I not been in my own quiet presence. In all actuality, I have never been happier than I was on this trip.
My time in Savannah taught me that though there is a level of happiness that is introduced when you can share things with a partner, there is also a unique pleasure that comes from being content in one’s aloneness. This world is full of magical places, warm encounters and beauty that doesn’t require another set of eyes to see.

Friends Forever

I am surprised by the way I feel after I leave my hometown and head back from the holidays. My time there was different than it ever has been. I’m different than I ever have been. I met my family in a way I never could before. I interacted with old friends I had been too ashamed to see until now. I could go to people with no self loathing or excuses. I am proud of the person I am becoming and forgiving of the person I once was. Those who knew me a lifetime ago struggled with the stories they heard about the life I’d led in their absence. It was encouraging that they weren’t quick to place me in those roles. They met me with nothing but love. They acted truly happy for the journey I’ve set out on and treated me with respect. It is still something I have a hard time accepting. The smiles on their faces as we rehashed our stories brought so much inspiration for the person they believe me to be. There is still much they don’t know, but they are convinced the core person inside of me is lovely and kind and beautiful. It may take awhile, but I am beginning to agree with them. They were so happy for me. It warmed every part of me and sparked a deeper acceptance of the goodness of humanity.

It was fascinating to be reemerged in the “old neighborhood”. It made my current life seem lightyears away. How could both worlds exist simultaneously? How could I fit into both of them? Maybe I never did. Maybe I never will. Everyone from the good ole days has gone in wildly different directions. We’ve ended up all over the country and wander in and out of town like ships in the night. This is the first time I have encountered my past in this way. I’m glad the opportunity did not present itself earlier. I would have been so embarrassed for them to see me the way I was not long ago. Even after my sexual acting out ended, I was very confused. Lost. Arrogant. I had not yet learned to just shut up (a lesson I am still absorbing)! 

I wish we had more time to delve into the paths they had traveled to get to today’s destination. It may take another 15 years to fully get caught up. From what I did hear, everyone has had battles they struggled through alone. Trials they faced unprepared. Lessons that came harshly and without warning. None of us could have predicted our introduction into the adult world or how we would navigate our way in it. Some of us spent our time falling short. Some awoke to dreams they never expected. Some gave up too quickly. Those of us who fought through are still here, still standing, still reaching out for the love we once understood innately. Now reunited, we can see that the love was always there, tucked away in a old photo album we had all but forgotten. It is a love that goes beyond reason, commonality and distance. It was one born of wonderful naiveté and unknown necessity of those wide-eyed kids acting tough in the halls as a fog of vulnerability billowed beneath the surface. I come back to them now not actually all that different from the past. I am still a little lost, a little insecure, a little out of place, a little afraid of my uncertain future, and a little in need of their acceptance. The change comes in that I now understand their love does not end because of those things.
It lasts because it is pure.
It is strong.
It is universal.
It is real.
It is a pillar that strengthens who I am and something that will live in my heart forever.

We may be separated by miles and time and choices, but the promise we made almost 20 years ago still binds us. We were and always will be friends forever. 

Snowflakes in Summer

We haven’t seen each other in years. I am quite convinced the person I have in my head is one I’ve created over the years of our absence. I wait nervously as the heat of an extended summer swarms around me. My palms are sweaty. I’m not sure if it is the sun beating down on me or the excitement building up inside of me. His car turns the corner. He looks so much different than before, but his smile is still the same. A smile that has beamed in my mind for almost 10 years. He reaches the curb, and we hug awkwardly. I want to drop all of my luggage and bury myself in his embrace. I don’t. 

With my overstuffed bags squeezed into the trunk, we’re off. We only have 2 hours together when 2 weeks would hardly be enough. With a departing flight weighing down on me, our adventure begins. We spring into a restaurant both more concerned with learning of the other’s life than deciphering the menu. We have the waiter choose for us and assure him anything he brings will be welcomed and enjoyed. He is clearly caught off guard but content with leaving us to our catching up. Just like old times we begin a rapid fire succession of topics ranging from photography to family ailments, dreams to regrets, whether we feel we are living life or arriving too late. There is no small talk, no moment to breathe, no beat skipped from our last encounter 4 years past. We talk and eat, excusing ourselves from common dining room courtesies. I eagerly consume his stories and curse the clock for counting down so quickly. 

I find myself taken aback and slightly shaken to discover the man I’ve held on a pedestal for so long doesn’t exist and likely never did. The person sitting before me is lost. Lonely. Fractured. 

He is real and beautiful and perfect. 

The world I remembered being created between us years ago that was the culprit of so many stolen hours was not a fabrication, however. It is past and present and timeless. I take that back. It is not a world we created but a world that travels with him through this realm the rest of us know. To be near him is to escape gravity and the laws our universe relies on. In his presence everyone instantly becomes the best version of themselves for in his smile is endless, unconditional love. It peers at you from a place far beyond his eyes and assures you there is magic in our midst. Within each instant I want to both never leave that moment and never waste another one not pursuing my truest bliss. He is both familiar and wondrous, and I delight in the uncertainty and comfort I feel sitting across the table from him.

Alas, our time is running out and our adventure has just begun. “There is something I want to share with you” he says, and for a second I forget anyone else exists. We settle our bill, thank our waiter and rush out the door. He asks me a simple question, but I remind him that I know no short answer. I do my best to speak as quickly as possible to get him up to speed on the major changes in my life, of which there are many. He listens intently and comments at all the right places. Confident his surprise will be worth the risk of missing my flight, he wades through the traffic like sneakers through the mud.

At last we arrive and are burdened with finding a parking spot in an over crowded lot. I’m excited but quite stressed out about the time. We turn the corner and he tells me, “I make only one request: get the snow.” A most mysterious request indeed. He opens the door to a small shop with only room for 3 tables and hardly the people to occupy them. It is filled with items and offerings I don’t recognize. I follow his request and order snow in a flavor I can hardly pronounce. Within minutes I am presented with a large bowl containing a fluffy mass in the color purple, my favorite. Back on our feet with rush to the car. Opening the container on the way, I’m frightened to see my spoon has taken on a new shade. From white to blue, it signals I am in for a surprise. I dip it into the snowflakes and am greeted with a heavenly flurry of flavor. It is soft and lovely. It can most closely be compared to something you would indulge in during a childhood dream where your mind can conjure up an assortment of mythical treats. It doesn’t take long for me to start feeling angry with him for introducing me to such a delight just as I’m leaving town! 

 

With no time to spare we arrive at the terminal. He takes extra care to get me to the counter quickly and with minimal effort on my part. I am not accustom to having someone working to make my life easier, and I am conflicted. Part of me wants so badly to be taken care of while the other part assures me I’m not worth it. For the sake of time, I offer no resistance. 

I get to the counter too late to check my bags, but the woman is sweet and understanding and promises to do her best to get me on the plane. We move swiftly to security and have no option but to exchange a rushed goodbye. I am grateful and sad and motivated and anxious all at once. We hug, and though it is less awkward than our original, it is surrounded by me saying the wrong things and losing my presence in the moment. It is insufficient and over all too quickly. I hop in line for the check point. He makes his way to the exit. I watch him as he nears the doors. All of a sudden with a subtle theatricality, he turns around and throws his hand in the air victoriously. I laugh and wave back and wish with all of my being that I didn’t have to get on that plane. He moves through the sliding doors. I am happy for our time together but disheartened that I don’t know when I will see him again. Our relationship has never been consistent or understood. My love for him cannot be molded into a category. It is one I have never experienced before and one I have never heard mention of in song or prose or poetry. It is not romantic or sexual or lustful. It is not that of friends or family. It began the moment I met him and has only grown as I’ve watched him do the same. It is a love that has always existed even when we were not here to share it. A bond that was sculpted from respect and wonderment and freeness. A connection perhaps cultivated in another lifetime. It need not be defined or explained or monitored. It will always move and change as we do. I am not sure why I have been given the opportunity to know him, but I will forever cherish any part of his life I get to be a part of. 

There is no time to dwell on these feelings as my flight is beginning to board, and I am nowhere near the gate! I do my best to hurriedly remove my shoes and sweater, the contents of my pockets, both of my laptops and everything in between. Before putting my phone in the basket I see a text that reads, “Did you make it through yet?” I assume he is simply checking up on me and mentally affirm that I will alert him when I make it to the other side. I put my phone back in the bin and turn around once more to emotionally part with the city that holds a permanent zip code within me. My eyes widen and my heart jumps as I see him standing at the edge of the divide searching for me past the security gate. I shout to him, “The answer to your question is ‘no’. I haven’t passed through yet.” Already smiling, he turns my way. With an array of bags and bins on the belt awaiting my crossover, I rush to him forgetting my place in society momentarily. He hands me a book that he is convinced I will love. That is one of my favorite parts of our relationship. Every one of my most beloved books came from his hands. He has both excellent taste and a keen insight into what will make people happy. I abandon all thought and throw myself into his arms. He grabs me tightly, and it feels as though he would be perfectly content in never letting go. I know I’m holding up the line of grumpy passengers that lurch behind me. I don’t care. For this one minute in life I’m not concerned what others think of me or how I am potentially inconveniencing them with my existence. I would have missed my flight a hundred times to stay in his sanctuary. In that hug I realize he has met me without judgement, without expectation and without shame. 

It is real and beautiful and perfect. 

And fleeting. Just as snowflakes in a gust of winter wind our paths blow in different directions.  

 

I don’t miss my flight, but I will always miss my friend.

Unite to Face Addiction

Good morning my friends.

As you wake up and begin your regular Sunday routines, take a moment to breathe, close you're eyes and hold the moment. If you pay attention, you'll notice strange differences in this Sunday. You're coffee will taste a little better. People on the street will be a little friendlier. Today is no ordinary end to the weekend. A great change is coming for our country. It will affect you for the rest of your life. Remember where you are on this day and prepare yourself.

Today the silence ends and is replaced by a joyous uproar. Thousands of people representing millions more join together today, and it's about to get loud!

Never again will we be silenced or shamed.

We are strong. We are determined. We are mighty. We are recovering addicts.

Together we conquer addiction. Together we heal wounds. Together we change the world.

And today we UNITE!

Dinner with the Family

Some of my favorite memories take place around the family dining room table. It is important to note that I come from a home that had all girls. We were three rambunctious young ladies raised by one amazing little woman. I don’t mean that in a degrading way. My mom is actually little; she’s 5’3. Each person who has ever joined us at this dinner table could tell you the same thing: it gets loud. That’s the thing about raising three strong, opinionated daughters, they have strong opinions each as urgent as the next and all spoken at deafening volumes. There is only one way to survive an environment like that and it is through humor. My mom was never short on her ability to bring a little laughter to the table. We would spend the evening eating and yelling and laughing and giving each other a hard time and if the meal was right, eating again. I love thinking back on these nights when it was just the four of us and the rest of the world seemed to be quieted by our joyous noise. I’ve been thinking about these dinners a lot lately now that I am away and spend so many nights eating dinner alone while huddled around a computer screen, either for work or for company. My house is so quiet now, which I love on most days, but a silent dining room is not something I’ve ever been able to get used to. 

Over the last few weeks I have been feeling a great deal of loneliness. Not because I don’t have people around me. I do. Really wonderful people. I am lonely for that connection, that comfort, that cooking. Being apart from that has made me very sad. What weighs on my heart more is the understanding that that dinner table I remember is no longer there. The three strong little girls have grown up to be three strong women with full lives that pull at them in the form of children tugging at your sleeve, a string of emails that can’t be ignored, an apology that has yet to be made. The room is now filled with polite conversation spoken quietly so that the surface doesn’t ripple. These meals are shared a few times a year and often rushed through. 

Tonight I got to sit down and have dinner with my family, only I didn’t recognize them right away. I sat at the head of the table and heard the laughter, watched the smiles and felt the love passed around like the bread in a basket. I watched my shy aunt offer kindness to my frazzled sister who was given more than she thought she could handle, even though we all knew she was capable. I giggled inside seeing my tough looking uncle eat his strictly vegetarian meal. I kept an eye on my older sister to see if I was accepted by her yet. I felt the warmth as we all congratulated a family member for her big achievement. I listened intently to my brother as he shared his experience going through the same problem I was facing. The room was dancing with noise, and it was beautiful. 

This is not the family I was born into but the one I have gained through my recovery from addiction. We do not share the same background. We didn’t play together as kids. Hell, we don’t even know each others last names. But we know each others secrets. Our hopes. Our sorrows. Our potential for goodness. We know the pain we’ve suffered through and the pain we’ve caused. We see the darkest side of each other and offer our love and acceptance in return. If that isn’t family, I’m afraid the definition is lost on me. 

I still miss my old dining room, but as I sit and watch these people tonight I realize I am loved. Accepted. Home. 

Terminally Unique

Airports are very special places. My new path has taken me to many terminals, and they all have one thing in common. Among the Chili's Express and the souvenir shops sits something I've never noticed.  A powerful energy exists within these hubs that is unmatched anywhere in the world. I've spent so much time rushing through these spaces that I never caught it before. Now with much of my week measured in layovers, I feel overwhelmed by it.
Perhaps you're like me and in a hurry to get to where you're going. Or maybe you are a people watcher and devote your time to guessing what destination lies in store for each traveler. It’s possible you maintain the same view everywhere you go. To sit in an airport with your headphones on and your forehead permanently tilted toward a screen is a great disservice to yourself.  You are missing out on a genuine human experience.

Take the headphones off. Slow down. Stop guessing. Just sit. Feel. Listen.

In what other place can you find so much joy lingering with such deep sadness? A young man saying goodbye to his first love. A woman rejuvenated by thoughts of meeting her new grandchild. Newlyweds rushing to their tropical honeymoon. Brothers supporting each other through their father’s funeral. A business woman relocating to take a new job. Friends reuniting after years apart. Dreams being chased. Memories being made. Lives being left behind. 

The airport really puts things in perspective for me. I smile as I pass through the security gate knowing I am going somewhere with my life. It all seems very big, very important, very relevant. And just like that I am replaced in an instant. Another traveler passes through the metal detector behind me whose life seems very big, very important and very relevant. A line of people going somewhere. A line of people quickly forgotten. I can't think of anywhere else that defines life and eternity so precisely. I spend so much time planning and anticipating my trip. I miss spending time with friends getting ready for it. I become detached from the things happening in the moment with daydreams of what is to come next. I wake up early on the day of my departure hardly having slept the night before. I make sure I have packed anything I might need to ensure comfort for a successful trip. With so much thought and effort put into it, surely it must be wildly significant. I rush to the airport and am almost surprised to find it full of other people who are the heroes of their own adventures. They don't notice me or acknowledge my big day. No one shares in my excitement for they are consumed by the plot of the story for which they are the protagonist. I seem to disappear.
The ground below me begins to shake and alters my position, my perception. I am one pebble on a towering slope. Only I cannot see the mountain because all I've looked at, all I've thought about, all I've known is how great I am at being a pebble. As I sit at the airport tonight surrounded by my fellow travelers, I do not feel sad to be one of many. I do not feel small. I do not feel insignificant. When I woke up this morning I was a pebble. By sundown I am a mountain. Sturdy. Powerful. Magnificent. 

The airport is a very magical place. 

Day and Night

Two versions of me saw two versions of my dad tonight. The first came in the evening. I sat alone in my room and read letters he had written over 20 years ago. I felt close to him as I held the yellow notepaper he used to write his thoughts. I held it close to my chest wishing I had the man instead of the words. He wrote to my sisters and I about not being able to be near us because of something called alcoholism. My younger self could not understand what he meant and certainly couldn’t foresee the path of addiction she would be led down herself. My father has been dead for more than half of my life. I only got to know him for a few short years while I was a kid. I have since put him on a pedestal, choosing to only remember the good things about him and the sweet memories we formed together, though they were few and far between. Because they were in low supply, these little moments were greatly valued. As I read his letter a new man began to emerge from the page. Drawn with invisible ink, this figure could only be revealed by someone who carried the same pen. My adult, addict self was introduced to a man she had never met before. A man who was alone, in shame and suffering. He was a dad who loved his children and longed to be good enough for them. So what happened to him? Why didn’t this man on the page show up to take care of his kids? Where was he? Gone. A new man had taken over, and he had no children to love. And the children went unloved. 

I have never seen this first man. I only have glimpses of him in sweet memories. 

The hours drew on and my father appeared to me once more. Adult me walked into the living room to ask what seemed to me to be an innocent question. There are no innocent questions among angry men. Confused by the response, I pushed for explanation. In doing so, I disrupted very fragile ground. The earth began to shake beneath my feet.  I asked the man why the floor shook. Another not so innocent question. The man pounded his boot into the quivering foundation. Cracks began to form. I told the man the ground was splitting apart. I begged him to stop stomping his boot. I told him that I felt unsafe standing there. I asked the man to scoop me up to save me from the crumbling world that threatened to swallow me up. The man’s rage shook inside him like the gravel below my body. From a question to an earthquake. The man became the angry caverns and began greedily pulling in everything he could reach. He strangled the mountains and clouded the sky. Adult me disappeared into the rubble and a frightened child was left as refuge. She lie alone in the eye of the storm. Unprotected. Unsafe. Unwanted. The earthquake only lasted a few seconds but left a damaged home in its wake. The walls were torn apart and rain had flooded onto the ground. The man collapsed on the floor and wept for the destruction he caused and the child he left alone to suffer the storm. The quake’s aftershock vibrated through the child as she stood hallow. She saw the man crying and went to him. She covered the weeping man with her small body and squeezed his form to ensure it was a man and not a quake. They lay like this in the aftermath for much longer than the storm actually lasted, the ruins of a warm home lie around them. He peels himself from the cold ground and her embrace. He dusts the dirt from his clothes and hair. Without a word the caverns close and the earth takes back its form. He leaves the girl alone in the wreckage. She begins to mop the rain that soaks the floor.