Magic.

I’m starting to hear it from people. I’m starting to hear it from my friends. ‘Sarah, I love your blog, but . . . it’s depressing.’ ‘Every time I read it, I cry.’ ‘You’re a great writer, but you’re bumming me out.’ ‘Can’t you write about something happy?’

I get it. Trust me. I am the one living with the thoughts that I am putting on the page. The thoughts that I am actively trying to purge, to expunge, to get rid of, through the emotional catharsis of writing.

This blog is autobiographical. It’s a reflection of me. And I’ve never been good at pretending to be something I’m not, at faking it till I make it. For better or for worse, I wear my heart directly on my sleeve. And that heart has been battered and bruised pretty badly.

Though I’ve been writing about a lot of terribly sad, depressing things, this blog is not an attempt to wallow in grief or sorrow. Rather, it is my attempt to write through the things that have been holding me back, to unpack the boxes in my heart that were filled for so long with dark secrets, and to hope that by telling the painful truth – all of it – I’ll finally set myself free.

It has not been an easy road. Let’s be honest: ignorance is bliss. And the topics I’ve been writing about are incredibly tough to digest. Most people don’t want to be reminded of the fragility or the unpredictability of their lives. They don’t want to think about the fact that their loved ones could die, that their relationship could end, that the foundation upon which they built their life could crumble, that one day, in one instant, everything could be different.

I used to be firmly in that camp. I didn’t want to think about those things, didn’t want to talk about those things, didn’t want to go there. Really bad things were just things that happened to other people. Until they happened to me. I never could have guessed in a million years that the onslaught of trauma that was coming for me would arrive at my doorstep. Until it did.

It hasn’t been all bad. Though I’ve been fighting – kicking and screaming, really – to get through this dark phase, occasionally, I give it a rest, take a breath and look back. And when I survey the events of the last two years – with different eyes, with a sharply different perspective – thinking about where I’ve been, where I am now, I feel proud. Proud of myself for making hard choices. Proud of myself for doing what was best for me, even though it hurt. Proud of myself for learning when I needed to be strong, and when it was OK not to be. Proud of myself for being honest about where I’m at, for never folding or giving up, for continuing to put one foot in front of the other. And I’m proud of myself because in my own small, flawed way, sharing my story has been my attempt to not only help myself, but to try to help other people as well.

Sharing my story has opened up doors for me in surprising ways. I’ve made new friends; met new people who share striking commonalities. I’ve been invited into an inner circle of impressive and gifted writers. I’ve gained a readership of new subscribers from all over the globe thanks to WordPress republishing one of my darkest and most painful blogs. And most importantly, writing honestly about the sad stuff has taught me how much I’ve been hiding, how many painful memories I’ve swept under the rug, how much I have been editing myself to make other people comfortable. Being starkly honest has taught me how dishonest I’ve been.

But I hear the feedback. I’ve been living it. And the truth is, I am ready to stop being such a bummer. I’m ready to shift the tone and the conversation a bit, even if it’s a struggle, even though I still feel sad a lot of the time. Lately, I’ve been meditating on Buddhist teachings, reminding myself that our thoughts make our world. That perception is reality. That if I want to be happy, I have to choose it. Easier said than done, of course. But true nevertheless.

I have been seeking inspiration – maybe even divine intervention – to heal my life. But I can see now that simply won’t cut it. If I want to be inspired, I’ve got to make it my job to inspire other people. If I want to be wonderfully, blissfully, ecstatically happy, then I’ve got to embrace happiness in every way that I can, starting with the small stuff: the beauty of a flower, the random kindness of a stranger, the rock star parking spot, the Sunday morning spent lingering over coffee with nowhere else to be. If I want to experience magic, I’ve got to create it myself.

So. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to use this blog as a way to hold myself accountable for my re-entry process into a happier, better life. I don’t how it’s going to go. I know it won’t be easy. I know there will be bad days, growing pains, self-doubt. But I’ve reached a point where I’m ready to try. I’m ready to fall flat on my face, pick myself up, and try again. To my faithful readers: thank you. I can’t promise that this blog won’t make you cry – occasionally, or often – but I can promise that it will be more hopeful. And I can promise that I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other, and in doing so, I will – hopefully – encourage you to do the same.

Here’s to better days ahead. Here’s to believing that you, I, we, deserve them. Here’s to believing that when they do arrive, we’ll be able to recognize them, embrace them, appreciate them. Here’s to hope. Here’s to faith. Here’s to love. And here’s to magic.

Until next time, friends.

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Truth.

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How honest is too honest?  For me, that has been the trickiest part about blogging.  Over the last several months I’ve laid a lot of things bare.  I’ve exposed personal things about my life, my family, and the inner workings of my heart that, at times, have made me uncomfortable because they were so honest.  I’ve been worried about hurting other people, and I’ve been worried about hurting myself.  But I’ve also realized that if I’m not honest, I might as well not write.  If it doesn’t matter to me, if it’s not meaningful, then what the hell is the point?  So I find myself back at square one, telling the truth.  The complete, unabashed and sometimes, ugly, truth.

I’m not a nice person.  That’s the truth.  If you talk to anyone who knows me intimately, they’ll tell you two things:  I have a heart the size of Texas and I’m fiercely and loyally devoted to those I love, and I’m also a complete and total bitch.  It’s true.  Casual acquaintances know me as the ‘nice’ girl.  But those who know me better know that I have another side.  A side that’s unforgiving.  A side that’s not afraid to be vicious if you’re standing in the way of something that matters to me.   A side that’s primal, fiercely protective, and about claws-out survival.

I used to shy away from this part of myself.  I used to deny it.  After all, we’re taught to play nice.  We’re taught to obey the rules.  Especially us girls.  What will people think of me if I let my dark and twisted side out to roam free in the civilized world?

My Mom was nice.  She was the nicest person I ever knew.  She literally did not have a mean bone in her body.  And I adored her.  She was my best friend, and my favorite person on this earth.

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But she was also the unhappiest person I ever knew.  She loved (no, worshipped) my Dad, but he was a difficult man.  A brilliant, often wonderful man, but difficult as hell man to live with.  She probably should have left him.  At times, she wanted to.  She cried to me about it when I was a little girl, making plans about where we’d go, where we’d start our new life.  But she didn’t leave.  She stayed – even though she was unhappy – because she loved him.  My Mom was like that.  Always doing the right thing, no matter what the personal cost.  Maybe it was the Catholic thing.  Maybe she was afraid of rocking the boat.  Maybe she wasn’t brave.  Maybe all of those things.

My Mom died.  And when I say died, what I mean is she imploded in a spectacular fashion.  She did it all, was everything to everyone, until she couldn’t be anymore.  She couldn’t be anything to anyone, least of all herself, and she self-medicated and retreated into a bottle for relief and it killed her.  It was shocking, it was heartbreaking, and it should have been obvious all along that this could have been the only end to her sad story.  My sweet, kind, miserably unhappy mother, too sensitive for this world and who tried to do too much for too many, in the end, had nothing left for herself.

It’s a strange thing to idolize someone, to love them desperately and completely, to be willing to do anything for them, and yet be absolutely determined not to be like them, come hell or high-water.  From a very young age, I knew I didn’t want to be my Mom.  Her choices terrified me.  They felt like a self-imposed prison that flew in the face of everything I dreamed of:  an unconventional life that was adventurous and free and fun, that embraced art and beauty, a life that took risks, that was creative, spontaneous and inspired.

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In the last year and a half, I’ve lost a lot of people that I love.  People who have been been literal giants in my life and crucial to my development as a human being.  Both of my parents.  My only remaining Grandmother.  And a dear friend.  For a long time, all of this death and dying, sadness and loss, left me underwater.  It left me numb.  I didn’t know what to do with myself or where to go.  I felt defeated.  I felt angry.  I felt sad.  And for a long time, I abandoned the one thing I really should have been doing throughout all this, which is to write it all down.  Truthfully.

No more.  I don’t care who doesn’t like it.  I don’t care who doesn’t like me.  I am done, to quote Lanford Wilson, “Telling lies to protect the guilty.”  Telling the truth about my family – with all of their imperfections and frailties – doesn’t mean I don’t love them or miss them or wish that they were still here.  It just means that I want to survive their mistakes.  I want to learn from them.  So that I can be better and stronger and smarter.  And doing that means no more apologizing.  It means embracing the side of myself that’s not so nice.  The side that wants to kick ass.  The side that doesn’t give a damn what you think.  And the side that’s all about telling the truth, no matter how ugly or uncomfortable it can sometimes be.

Until next time, friends.

P.S. – Special thanks to Lemon Melon Photography for the kick-ass photos, and to the incomparable Becca Weber for the hair and makeup magic.

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