Ten thousand.

Last week, I reached an incredible milestone on this blog: 10,000 email subscribers. I can scarcely believe it.

When I first started Extra Dry Martini 3 ½ years ago, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I only knew that I had a lot of ideas and opinions and I wanted to carve out my own little corner of the Internet on which to share them. I named this blog after my favorite cocktail, while the tagline, Straight up, with a twist, was a nod to my often blunt (sometimes foot-in-the-mouth!) Sagittarian nature, and my rather edgy, sarcastic sense of humor. Away I went.

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I couldn’t have anticipated that only a few short months later, life as I knew it would fall apart. Or maybe I could have. Maybe I did. Maybe I intuited, in some strange, cosmic, sixth sense-ical way – the way animals can sense an impending natural disaster – that creating this platform to express myself would be the very thing to save me during the darkest nights of the soul I have ever experienced.

When it all came down, I didn’t write for a year. One whole year. To this day, I have only a vague, foggy idea of where that time went. I call that period of my life “the vortex,” a black hole of funerals and whiskey and airports and late night phone calls and never ending to-do lists and sleeping with one eye open.

But when I did come up for air, my writing was different. I wrote with a sort of raw honesty that would previously have been unthinkable to the me that started this blog. I wrote and I wrote, without a goal or a clear direction other than to simply keep going. And through the process of turning Extra Dry Martini into a sort of public journal to air my very private feelings, I changed. No, strike that. I didn’t change. Writing through pain, trying desperately to find meaning where there was none, the real me started to shine through the cracks in the old, broken me, the one I’d unwittingly hidden for years under layers of self-doubt and insecurity. It’s as Steven Pressfield says in his brilliant, essential, book The War of Art: “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves to some idea we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

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Thank you to everyone who has read this blog. The sheer volume of kind-hearted, compassionate, thoughtful comments that I receive from readers never ceases to astound me. While I don’t always have time to respond to all of them – particularly on the posts that WordPress has chosen to feature on Freshly Pressed­ – I do read every single one, and they mean the world to me. Thank you.

Speaking of thank you’s, thank you to WordPress.com, without whom and all of their generous shares of my blog posts, reaching the 10K milestone never would have been possible. In just over a year, Extra Dry Martini has been featured on Freshly Pressed a whopping SEVEN times, including just last week. If you haven’t yet had a chance to read these posts, or if you’d simply like to revisit them, I’ve linked them below at the bottom of this page.

People sometimes call me “brave” for writing about some of the things I do, and for sharing intimate details of my life on the Internet. I’m not brave. I simply write to survive. I write to remind myself of who I am. And I write for all of the people who respond to one of my posts with the comment: “I thought I was the only one.” Let me tell you, with one hundred percent certainty:  you are not the only one. If there’s a single lesson I take away from writing this blog, it’s that despite all of our differences – geographic location, family background, age, gender, ethnicity, religious faith or lack thereof – we are far more alike than we are different. We share the same hopes, the same heartbreaks, the same struggles and the same joys. We are united by the same powerful experience of being human and in this experience no one – not one of us – is alone.

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Ten thousand is an impressive number. It’s a humbling number. But I’m not resting on my laurels. As I prepare to head off for a few days of creative recharge at Write Doe Bay, I’ll be thinking about how to make this blog bigger, better, and somehow more. Among the things I’m considering: spinning off Extra Dry Martini into some other iteration like a book, a play, a film, or possibly all of the above. I have no idea how that will look, or what the next steps will be. All I know is that anything that I create will be undertaken with the same commitment to honesty, to cutting to the core of the human experience, and will always, always be served straight up, with a twist.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing my journey. And – fingers crossed – here’s to the next ten thousand.

Until next time, friends.

P.S. – If you would like to read the posts that WordPress featured in their Freshly Pressed section, here they are:

Ice Water

Time Out

Things My Mother Never Did

Putting off Tomorrow

Little Steps. Big Steps. First Steps.

Moments

Three Years

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Things my mother never did, part two.

I dreamt about my mother last night.  It was the first time I’d dreamt about her in awhile, at least that I remember.  I used to dream of her often after she died.  They were horrible, wrenching dreams.  Dreams in which she cried out to me to help her, but in which, one way or another, I was never able to.  Inevitably, I woke from these dreams sweating, sobbing, sometimes crying out.  And like my mother, unable to be helped.

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Last night’s dream was different.  My mother and I were alone in a vacant old house.  She was as rail thin as I remember her the last time I saw her, six weeks before she died.  Her eyes had the same vacant, staring look, like black holes peering into the distance.  I pleaded with her to eat something, but she just shook her head no.  And then I noticed something strange:  my mother had in her possession a large black satchel full of food.  She had refused to eat anything, no matter how much I pleaded with her, yet she was hoarding food, stockpiling it.  To what end?

I woke to a still dark apartment in the early morning hours and I sat, frozen in my bed, utterly stunned by the sharp clarity with which I remembered every detail of my dream.  A phrase popped into my head:  “There was nothing you could do.”  And then another:  “It wasn’t your fault.”  Both phrases circled through my brain over and over until I became dizzy and I wept, hoping they were true.

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I don’t know why my mother appeared to my subconscious mind in such a strange fashion after so long of an absence.  It may have something to do with the fact that as I write this, I’m sitting in the international terminal at LAX, waiting to board a flight that will take me the furthest away from home I’ve been for the longest among of time I’ve been away since my mother died, the prospect of which has me both exhilarated and terrified.  Or it may have something to do with the fact that since WordPress republished my blog post Things My Mother Never Did two weeks ago, I’ve heard from hundreds of people all over the world in countless heartfelt messages.  Messages of encouragement, of heartbreak, of hope, of loss, of dysfunction and love, all revolving around the most fundamental, yet often, the most anguishing relationship out there:  that of parent and child.  And over and over again, throughout all of the messages and the reblogs, the overwhelming theme has been this:  “Thank you for writing this.  I thought I was the only one.”

How can it be that there are so many of us, yet we still feel so desperately alone?  Well, let me be the first to tell you, friends, you are not alone.  As scary as it is for me to tell my dark family secrets, I will continue to do so.  Because the only way out is through, and for me, through is a road paved with honesty.

My mother was the love of my life.  I’m still angry with her.  I’m still racked with guilt that I couldn’t save her.  And I’m not running from either one of these truths.  But, as I embark on this journey, the first big scary adventure of my new life – the life dedicated to all the Things My Mother Never Did – I hope that for all of you out there who have so lovingly and kindly reached out to me, I hope that I can offer you some inspiration about forging a path back to acceptance and love, a path forged straight through forgiveness.  A path in which you are the architect of your own life.

Thank you to everyone who wrote me.  You have no idea how grateful I am.

Here I go!

Until next time, friends.

x

Sarah

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I’m a failure.

I have a problem.  My problem is that I’m a perfectionist.  I have tons of things I’d like to do – stories (and blog posts!) I’d like to write, creative projects I’d like to launch, people I’d like to collaborate with – but more often than not, I find myself in a holding pattern, unable to start anything for fear that I won’t get it right.

I’ve heard this called ‘paralysis analysis,’ which basically means being so wrapped up in thinking about doing something – what to do, how to do it, when to do it – that you become paralyzed to act and never take the first step to actually do something.

In my case, I think (O.K., I know), that the root of this paralysis is fear.  Fear that whatever I do, it won’t be good enough.  Fear that because whatever I do or create will somehow be seen as an extension of me, that if I can’t get it absolutely perfect, I’ll be judged a failure.  Stupid, illogical and irrational, but there it is.

Take this blog, for example.  I’ve been a writer my whole life, and for many years I’ve wanted to launch a blog.  But the irony is, the more I learned about blogging, the less inclined I became to write my own.  All of a sudden, I became trapped by all the things I needed to do before I could start writing.  I needed a custom header, I needed to become a Photoshop whiz so I could create fabulous photos, I needed a corresponding Twitter account, etc., etc.

Well, I don’t have any of those things, but one day I finally just said screw it.  I’m going to pick a WordPress theme (thank you, Matthew Buchanan, Esquire is lovely) and start writing, and I’ll just have to fix things as I go. And this blog is quickly becoming my experiment in learning how to be O.K. with being a work in progress.

It’s not easy to let go of perfectionism.  It’s a disease.  And with creative projects in particular –which are most of the things I’ve been putting off – it’s particularly tough because they’re so uniquely personal that it feels even more vulnerable to put something out in the world that doesn’t feel ready or finished.

But (deep breath time) what’s the worst that can happen?  So, I open myself up to criticism.  It’s tough to hear, but it can only make me better, right?  So, I tried to do something and it totally sucked.  Oh well.  I failed.  Suck it up and try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.

So let me be the first to shout it from the rooftops:  I’m a failure!  I’m going to try many things and they’re not going to work out.  I’m going to fail, and I’m going to fail a lot.  But I would rather be a failure most of the time, and do something great once in a while, then be mediocre always and never venture outside of my comfort zone by taking a creative risk.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  In the oft-quoted words of Goethe, ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.’ So let’s begin.

Until next time, friends.

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