I’m too lazy to name you, post.

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I’m baaaaaack.

(insert photo of something cool)

I don’t feel like blogging. I told myself, one blog, one episode of Walking Dead. That’s the deal. Of course, I gave myself an out. If I was too tired, or too blah, or feeling PMS-y, or ugly, or boring, or coughing or sneezing or bloated, I could give myself a break and just maybe watch Walking Dead anyway. Be kind to yourself, you know.

So. That’s what I did for like 30 consecutive days. In that time, Sadie turned 3, and my brother and his wife had a baby boy, and somehow there are two guinea pigs living in my parlor. That, and I kind of got the blues. Not depressed, not like that. What happens to me is a little bit different. It’s not like I stop washing my hair and can’t get out of bed. It’s more like, my life starts feeling less real. I start feeling less real. I start feeling like I’m looking in the window at everything and I’m not in the same space as everyone else.

And I start drifting along in a sea of laziness. I don’t feel like making decisions. I don’t feel like doing anything I don’t have to do. I nest at home even more than usual. I feel easily overwhelmed. And overriding all this, is a self-flagellating irritation that I just can’t kick it in the dick. The logical part of myself is constantly calculating my blessings, offering up pithy little sayings to the more cynical and despondent me. My inner battle isn’t between good and evil, but between wonder and despair.

Despair because I feel like we’re all fucked. Micro fucked. Macro fucked. Fucked at the cellular level. I think that’s why I’m always dreaming about apocalyptic scenarios, they’re not nightmares, they are manifestations of my desire to start over.

Wonder because I feel like we are still on the cusp of being able to change it. I feel like there is some vast untapped something out there that I just haven’t stumbled across yet. Something that is humming right behind the fabric of my existence and I’m always waiting for that curtain to be ripped away. Even though, by all appearances, I’m just an ordinary person living an unremarkable life, I have never let go of the childish fantasy that someday someone would hand me my golden sword and whisper “It is time to begin.”

(GIF of scary wizard)

So, pointlessness and malaise. And the last thing I want to do when my real life loses color and the fantasies recede, is immerse myself in a false reality where I can pretend to be something I’m not. So I’m not going to write and pretend that nothing is wrong, and I’m not going to write and put my life under a microscope for all to examine. So I went back to that old tree, and drank the elixir of the quiet. And drank deeply of that nectar of nectars, my love for my girl. I never want her to feel she comes second to a screen. And I’ve been listening to all my favorite music. Those old songs called my back to myself yet again.

There was a time not too long ago when I thought I was hot shit for half a second. I was thinking all, custom blog header, and candid photos, and videos, and collaborations. And now I’m thinking, maybe I’ll write some short stories and send them to some literary magazines. If I write a post it is because I am in the mood to share myself with you. I am feeling joyful, or playful, or angry. But please know there are parts of myself I don’t want to share with anyone.

I’m searching for something. Sometimes I look so long and so hard and come up empty-handed. Sometimes I leave my body and float away. Sometimes I come back from that dark place with a laugh bubbling up in my throat. But I always come back. It’s like I’m playing hide-and-go-seek with God. But I won’t play games with you. And I’m over thinking about branding myself or making an identity that makes sense to everyone. I need my words to be out of me, more than I need them to be understood.

Snow. Slush. Sick. Suck.

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Forgive me, readers. It has been almost two weeks since my last confession.

I would love to tell you I have spent this time in some Bacchanal. Blissed-out, decadent. Trying new designer drugs, dancing with a slight sheen of sweat on my sun-kissed skin, having sex with my husband on some far-flung, pristine beach.

Bwahaha. Ha. In reality, The Daniels family was smote (smited?) by virus. Snowed in by Mother Nature. Gnawed on by a family of bears. Forgotten by God.

I have missed writing. I have missed you, readers. I have not even logged in to my WordPress account. I haven’t read your blogs, I haven’t looked at my stats. I needed a break, dude. Starting this blog and meeting other bloggers, collecting readers….it’s been like this huge surprise party. Balloons! Cake! But I was kinda at that point where all the food is gone and the DJ is playing “Careless Whisper” and I needed to go to the ladies’ room and sneak a smoke.

And I don’t even smoke.

But I did read books. Five of them. Nearly 3000 pages of luscious printed word. Reading blogs is fun. But they’re like snacks, you know? Even the really good ones. Sure some might be, like, kale crisps and some might be moon pies, but they’re bite sized. I wanted to GORGE. So I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and its sequel Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs. They’re YA, but they’re so freaking good.  Time travel, freaks of nature, and cool vintage photographs. I devoured them in a day and a half.

I also read Wally Lamb’s We Are Water, which was heartfelt and lovely but lacked a certain believability. (Says the girl who just read two books about time travel. Anyway.) I still love his novel She’s Come Undone, though. I’ve read it three times and enjoyed it immensely. Liane Moriarty’s   The Husband’s Secret was a damn fine whodunnit with a surprising layer of pathos and depth. And I’m almost finished with the short story collection Tenth of December by George Saunders. Now this book is making me super jealous. That fucker can write. Even the “Times” spewed man-juice all over it.

When I really get lost in a book I feel the different parts of my brain lighting up. I know it’s a big gray sponge, but for some reason I picture my mind like that old “Simon Says” game by Milton Bradley. Red blue yellow green. Blink, blink. Reading is awesome. And I can get all my feelings out empathizing with the characters, which allows me to be such a cool cucumber in real life.

So I read, and I binge watched Netflix. I saw a documentary about bees, and a bunch of episodes of “The Office” and “The Cleveland Show” and some not-really-okay movies. These were excellent distractions from the blizzard raging outside, and the fact that my whole family had typhoid.

OK, we got three inches. And it wasn’t typhoid. It was bubonic plague.

But this winter has been interminable. It’s been desperately cold. I was ready to trade my cool orange bicycle with whitewall tires for two sled dogs and a wood plank. I’ll never get to ride again with the wind in my hair! Or it feels that way. I am usually more than happy to nest. I love being home when it’s cold out. But we have all been sick. Our house is getting that cloistered, sick-people smell. Sadie’s toys are strewn everywhere from constant, frantic attempts to distract her from the river of green snot coming out of her.

It’s weird how your kids can’t gross you out. I remember thinking it was strange that my mom would let me use her sleeve to blow my nose. Humph. Well. I can’t tell you how many times in the last two weeks I have held out my open palm so that Sadie could hawk a loogie into it. Creme brûlée, anyone? Being sick and taking care of a sick kid is the worst. I wanted MY fucking Mommy. Hot soup. It’s hard being always “on” you know? I felt like a bombing comedian as she wailed and screamed and my head pounded in time. Jazz hands!

But, I can write about it, right? What a fucking gift. It’s like taking shit, and making a shit sandwich. Smear the bread with mustard, add some cheese, crushed up barbecue chips…sure, it’s still shit, but at least it’s palatable. We can munch on it together.

So, too bad I missed out on some cool stuff to write about! Valentine’s Day, the Olympics! So here are two mini-posts, in requiem:

The Olympics

Wow. That looks cool. I bet I could do that.

And….a Valentine haiku!

Trite words. Thoughtful gift.

Bring me your heart on a stick.

Be my Valentine?

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Ok, ok. Last thing. It is also Black History Month, of course. I don’t really feel like I have much to add to the discussion except really? The short month? And, this photo that my best girl Amanda snapped at our local Kroger grocery:

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She posted this on Facebook and I peed a little. I mean this was their display. In the front of the store. Someone commented “I didn’t know Abe Lincoln had a Jeri curl”. What is this supposed to mean? Here, people of color. Meet your heroes. And in aisle 5, check out our array of products to tame that African hair. Maybe they could add some bags of jumbo cotton balls, or some Aunt Jemima syrup, to make it a little more racist.

I’m feeling almost back to normal. Today the temperature was in the high forties, and it felt absolutely tropical. I took Sadie to the store. It was our first voyage out through the tundra in days. We stocked up on supplies. I bought her these little remote control hamsters that zip around and bump into the furniture. Candy for me, of course. Fruit. Hot soup. We waded through the melting slush, and I thought, it’s going to be over soon. This season, this winter of my discontent. And just like under the frozen ground, there are a million little shoots just waiting to thrust up green, I can feel a stirring in me too. A wildness, old as time itself. Resurrecting in me, year after year.

I’m ready. This old girl’s got some fire in her, yet.

“I guess I’m trying to say, grab anything that goes by. It may not come around again.”

John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

Philip Seymour Hoffman, heroin, and the death of my American Dream

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It’s no secret that I used to be a drug addict. I’ve used it as a punchline on this blog a few times already. But there’s something that makes me feel a little uneasy about that. Like I’m trying to say it’s all in the past. Like all that madness happened to someone else, someone not me. Like somewhere there is a calendar with a big red X on it, marking the date, denoting the before and after.

The simple fact is once an addict, always an addict. I will be an addict for the rest of my life. My dragon may not be breathing fire right now, but he is curled up in my belly, sleeping. Waiting. Waiting for me to fuck up. I have been wanting to address this, to write about it honestly, but I didn’t know how. I have a problem with gravity, in case you haven’t noticed. But then last Sunday, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead with a needle in his arm.

Thanks, Phil, for the segue.

Hoffman was one of my favorite actors. He had the ability to reach through the screen and touch me with his humanity. He was gifted with presence, with nuance. His Scotty in “Boogie Nights” was the sad-sack lovelorn fool that I think we all are on the inside somewhere. His Capote took my breath away. How fitting, in retrospect, that his most lauded role was the one where he played a man whose genius was eclipsed only by his raging addiction.

I admired Hoffman, but I knew little about his personal life. I’ve been reading more about him in the last few days. I learned that he was a party boy in his early 20’s, and then was sober for over twenty years before relapsing last year. And what a relapse! From pills to snorting heroin to injecting heroin to dead in a year. Stuff like this scares the living shit out of me. But I need a reminder sometimes, of what’s waiting for me out there.

In AA they call a relapse “going back out”. I’ve always thought that was an apt description. Like you’ve been inside, safe and warm, and now you’re venturing out into the blackness. The last time I went back out, it almost killed me.

Opiates are the worst. Opiates are what finally brought me to my knees. There is something about being physically addicted to a drug that is just soul-crushing. Waking up in a cold sweat and knowing that you have to find something to put in your body to make you feel okay, is awful. Finding those drugs and feeling that warmth, the heaviness in your limbs, the utter lack of care, is something like heaven. Not finding those drugs and going into withdrawal is the worst kind of hell. Remember that scene in “Trainspotting” where Ewan McGregor is lying in bed, clutching the sheets, and the dead baby crawls across the ceiling? That’s exactly what it’s like.

I’ve heard it compared to a bad flu. That’s only halfway true. It’s the worst flu of your life, coupled with crippling depression. All your organs are on blast. Your nose is running like a faucet. Your heart beats so fast you think you will literally die. You sweat buckets of cold, oily sweat. Your ass is exploding diarrhea. Your skin is crawling. Your whole body is contracting, like you are inside some awful uterus getting ready to be born into some new reality. But the brain…

The brain is the fucking worst. Your brain vomits, in a technicolor spew, every horrible thing you ever did and every doubt you ever had. Every terrible possibility for your future is now a certainty. You are a waste of humanity and nothing good will ever happen to you again. It’s  like a horrible version of that old TV show “This Is Your Life”.

My last withdrawal, I actually made my husband take me to the emergency room, because I thought I was having a heart attack. They slapped a Clonodine patch on me to slow my racing heart, and urged me to go to detox. When we got home, my husband helped me pack a bag. Somehow, I was able to convince him that I could do this on my own. After he went to sleep, I biked to the store for a fifth of whiskey. I hadn’t had pills for days, I didn’t know where to score heroin, all I had was my whiskey and a bottle of Ativan.

When my husband woke up the whiskey and Ativan were almost gone. I was completely out of my head. He called the family over for an impromptu intervention. My mom says when she got there I looked like the girl from “The Exorcist”. I was throwing things and yelling. My mother in law held my face in her hands and told me I needed help. I called her the worst thing you can call a woman. I was threatening violence. The police were called. I went to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 or Nicki will use it to buy drugs. I made it to detox all right, but not until I spent a long 38 hours detoxing in the drunk tank first.

Please God, let that be the last time.

I’m smart. Street smart and book smart. But am I smart enough to outsmart my sleeping dragon? When a celebrity dies of a drug overdose, it shakes me up. These are people who supposedly have it all. And they’re just as miserable as everyone else. So for me, it’s been about managing my expectations. Somehow, I’ve figured out a way of life that works for me.

Addiction runs in my family. I’ve never understood why people say that. “Run” implies fluidity, something in motion. Addiction stagnates in my family. Addiction waits in my family. Two uncles, dead before their time. One with a needle, another with the bottle. The biological father I will never know, except for occasional checks on his arrest records. Even my husband has had his issues with excess. And then there’s me, hot mess extraordinaire.

It makes me scared for my daughter. I don’t want any of this for her. And so it’s up to me to teach her about life. Real life.

So first I’ll tell her, fuck the American Dream. I want her to have dreams, I just don’t want them sold to her, pre-packaged. We’re promised the “pursuit” of happiness, and that’s exactly what they want. They want us chasing, endlessly running after this half-remembered dream of something that never existed to begin with. Usually it starts with money, and power, and some nebulous idea of “having it all”.

Having it all means being happy with what you have. It means being content with not being extraordinary. I’m living proof of that. After everything I’ve been through, my happy little life is nothing short of a miracle. I enjoy my days. I have fun.  I can take pleasure in the smallest things. I breathe, I laugh, I work.  I write and eat and sleep. I am happy. I have lofty goals. But they do not define my happiness. My happiness is inside me, holding my dragon in a golden net.

I live in a community where heroin is epidemic. I see teenagers nodding out at stoplights and pinned pupils on the grocery store cashier. It’s easy to think it’s just here. But it’s everywhere. Everyone is looking for their American Dream. And not finding it, they are in despair.

Even Philip Seymour Hoffman. Maybe he didn’t like fame. Maybe he thought it wasn’t enough. Either way, he left a legacy. He impacted the world. His films will live on. He will be remembered. He was a gifted, important man. He lived an extraordinary life.

But I woke up today, and he didn’t.

38 Special

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Just before the carnage of last week, I turned 38.

At work, they baked me a cake. Someone got me like a million things of Pop Rocks. I celebrated with my family, there was more cake, and Sadie blew out the candles and opened my presents for me. I realized that somewhere along the way, I’ve grown up. At least a little bit.

So I’ve been pretty calm so far about aging. There are things that have been happening to my body, that I would rather not be happening to my body. But I keep telling myself when I’m 70, I’ll look back and think what a hot piece I was right now. So I’m trying to just be a dish now, celebrate the moment. But as I was stepping into the shower the other day, I saw something winking from my lady patch. Something that stopped me cold. A single strand of silver in my formerly youthful pubes.

I am getting fucking OLD. And it’s not fair. I feel like I’m just getting started. My life is a series of spectacular starts and limp finishes. Failure and I are old friends. But just lately, I’ve been feeling something I haven’t felt in a long time. Ambition.

Real-life me is as big and brash as writer me. But both are things I’ve constructed to protect me from the world. I have a ravenous vulnerability and a tendency to daydream. My personality keeps me tethered to my body like a balloon on a string.

Friday night at closing time, an old man yelled at me for not making his martini fast enough. He was being ornery in that gleeful way the elderly have, and normally I can empathize with that whole almost being dead thing, but I got so, so mad. So mad that when I left shortly afterwards, I stalked the rainy streets for blocks, my mittened hand curled around my switchblade, looking for some kind of nebulous trouble.

I realized I need to chill the fuck out.

Life felt really real this week. When you live in your head like I do, sometimes real life feels almost like set dressing. The extras are milling about. The lighting is never quite right. I feel like I’m always waiting for SOMETHING TO HAPPEN. Sometimes I need to hold my daughter in my lap, and feel the small but solid weight of her, an actual living thing, and remember.

This is real life. This is what is happening.

Over 2000 people want to hear what I have to say. For some reason I keep picturing you guys hanging out on my front lawn. I’m making huge pots of spaghetti, but I keep burning the sauce. I feel bad that I haven’t answered all the comments and read all the emails. I’m kind of a shitty friend in real life too. The one who will ignore your phone calls and then write you a ten page missive in the middle of the night.

I have a hard time connecting with people. But I’ve gotten messages from total strangers this week that were so hilarious, so perfectly worded, so amazing. You get me.

That is so fucking cool. But it’s dangerous, too. The computer has become a humming honey pot, and I crave that dirty euphoria. Just because I’m not wanking to porn doesn’t mean I’m not getting off. My dreams have turned jerky, pixelated, stop-motion.

Back in reality, I’m kind of  a mess.

I owe my dogs a walking, my Sadie a cuddling, and my husband a good no-frills fucking. I need to clean my house. I’ve always had a sort of nihilistic approach to housework. It always gets messy again. But I find, when I give myself over to it, there is a satisfaction in the struggle. A simple task completed makes me feel good.

Today, I dedicated myself to pleasure. I painted Sadie’s toes blue. I ate dinner in my mom and dad’s kitchen, and I told them some stories, and we laughed. I drank a beer. I ate a cupcake. I remembered how much I love marijuana, and “It’s Always Sunny”. And since the weather broke, I took the dogs for that walk, out in the night.

I like remembering my night-self.

And now it’s time to write. I’ve been worrying too much about the direction this whole thing is taking. I don’t want to be a one trick pony. I look around at the things around me and I notice things. I have a voice, and I’m not sure what I want to say, and there are things inside me that scare me. But overriding that fear, there is the cold delicious pleasure of writing words that someone is actually reading.

So I’m writing you tonight purely for pleasure. Because if I’m not enjoying this, I’m just jerking us both off. And I want this to be a slow jam.  I don’t need to figure it all out right now. I think we can figure it out together. I’m sitting here, 38 years old, with my gray pube, my mouth filled with fizzing Pop Rocks, my brain filled with fizzing thoughts, my spirit bubbling over, and I want you to know me.

I want to know me.

I’m not ready to give up just yet. I’m just getting started.