Volunteer State- Part 5 “Suffrage”

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Somewhere between the meetings and the writing and the car rides, I learn something­­ that surprises me– I don’t actually want to shave my head. I want to want to do it, but I don’t actually want to. I know that if I do it, it won’t be free– it will take some sort of emotional toll. I think back to my little prayer the other night and I just don’t feel the need to take from myself more than I’m willing to give. I don’t want to have to recover from today if I can help it. If the means to the end of balance requires me to imbalance myself, I don’t trust it.

I especially don’t want to do it now, on new years, for the same reasons that I did want to before. To perform an act like this, on a day and in a way so steeped in symbolism and expectation would all but guarantee my failure.

In the miniscule space between the question and my decision, I’m already almost floored by how effectively I distracted my over-conscientious mind into obsessing about this question. What a ruse! What a joke! I spun an impulse into a thesis statement. All the reasons I told myself were true to a point, but the core of this desire was sheer and sharp, razor blade desperation. I guess I’m not desperate right now.

Three years ago I started the path that began with a divorce and has stirred my restless soul around almost a dozen different residences (you can hardly call them all homes). When I lost most of what I had, I gave up the rest. I had nothing and nothing to lose. But I’m not there anymore. I have a life, I have a lot to lose. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of work to build the shaky foundation I’m navigating from now, and I know firsthand how much easier it is to destroy something than to create it. Let me be gentle with myself right now, let me not throw away what I have, even if it is just, you know, hair. Continue reading “Volunteer State- Part 5 “Suffrage””

Volunteer State- Part 4 “Song”

IMG_5455I leave the solitude of my cabin and spend some time in Nashville for New Years Eve. I’m not quite sure how to properly honor the occasion but I do know that I want to see more of what this city has to offer.

I’m self-conscious with my haircut and half-wishing I had already shaved my head in order to practice dealing with its awkwardness in the company of strangers. I can’t tell what exactly it is that I want out of this night. To make friends? To flirt? To have some great epiphany? No way to guarantee any of them but my choices of how I spend my time will make some outcomes more likely than others.

I go to an OA meeting, I take myself out to lunch, I write and drink coffee at a downtown cafe and almost order a cookie. I know where that leads and that is one thing I definitely don’t want for myself today.

As it gets dark I walk around and into a trashy-yet-self-aware “boogey bar” with some of the best free live music I’ve ever heard. Now you’re talking. After awhile I float down the street and into a karaoke bar. To sing karaoke in Nashville was the one cultural goal of my trip and here’s my chance. The bar is pretty much empty and I get picked right away to sing “Bobbie McGee.” I love that song but its hard to sing and Janis is so weird and I as self conscious so I don’t make it through very many of the la la las. Why did I even pick that song? It’s so much longer than I remember, I wish they’d cut me off. At least I did what I came there to do. Continue reading “Volunteer State- Part 4 “Song””

Volunteer State- Part 3 “Spiral”


I drive around a lot, partly to get groceries, partly to explore Nashville, and most especially to resume my “reading” of Eat Pray Love in the car. I left the windows down when I arrived in the dark that first night and the rain that so soothed me on my marathon nap also happened to soak the interior of my car, which now smells mildewy and suspicious. No one hurt but me and me hardly hurt, no big deal.

I drive to Nashville and am surprised by my lack of curiosity. Maybe it’s the grey day, or the good book, or the pedestrian-free sterility I see all around me, but I have no desire to leave my car. I finally park but wait to withdraw my keys until the end of a chapter. And there, as I gaze out the window listening, a large metal sign loosely nailed to its post swings in the breeze to face me and invites me to read it. “Parking By Permit Only” it says. I smile. I didn’t want to get out of the car anyway.

I drive all the way back to the small town near my little cabin, and I pass a few easy at a coffee shop. A woman– apparently a regular­– enters to compliments about her hair. She announces that this was the first day she’d worn her hair “down” in 5 years. She’s had cancer. She lost it all, and now it’s back. Such talk to announce in public! My ears perk. Everything seems to be about hair. I see it everywhere. I am self-conscious of mine already­– I can only imagine how I’ll feel if I actually shave it. I am so thin-skinned. Will this make me stronger or pierce me? Continue reading “Volunteer State- Part 3 “Spiral””

Volunteer State- Part 2 “Sleep”


I sleep for 15 hours. Well, I wake up a few times along the way. But there was no phone or clock to check and my head was impossibly heavy on the pillow. Nothing to do, really. Why not let it happen? Just sleep.

Finally I get up at 3:00 pm still tired. I am sick and the sore throat that started with hearty gospels in the car yesterday has stuck around. I am proud that I have allowed myself this excess. I wonder how I would have accommodated this illness if I were back in my normal life. Would I even press snooze? Would I drink a cup of tea? Would I force myself through yoga and binge my way through the uncomfortable feelings my body was putting out? Whatever it would be, this is certainly gentler.

I walk around the woods awhile, I pick through my books, and I write. From the comfort of the Pepto-Bismol-pink soft-with-age sheets, I write out my lofty goals for my time in this distant place.

  1. I want to Get Clean: I want to get off sugar. I need a foundation of abstinence to get me through my “normal life.” A controlled environment, a peaceful environment, I believe this will help. I believe abstinence is possible here.
  2. I want to read: A pile of books sits next to me. I want to pass hours turning pages, get tired, close my eyes, and go back for more. It used to be that I never read a book without finishing it, now the exception has become the rule. Where did my persistence go? I want to indulge my love of learning and be patient with the time it takes to mosey through the countless lines of text. I want to reach the last line and smile.
  3. I want to write: Always so much to write about. I want to write by hand, in this journal. I want to finally finish my 3rd creation story. I want to write out my confessional to facilitate my recovery. I want to stain my left pinky in ink.
  4. I want silence.
  5. I want to shave my head. Well, I don’t really want to, I want to be willing to. I want to be brave enough to. I want the freedom to. The idea first occurred to me just over 3 years ago, when just about everything in my life was different but the aching desire to be free of my addiction to food. The desperation tugged at me then, it does now. A few days ago, my sister cut my hair to give me bangs (with my permission) but she did a very sloppy job (without my permission). Earlier today, feeling like the shave was inevitable, I cut my own hair with a pair of scissors in the mirror of my little rustic cabin. I didn’t like the ends, with their damaged dyed blonde scraggly ends, but now it is short and embarrassingly childish. Nothing is inevitable but I’ve certainly set myself up for a dramatic recoiffiture.

Continue reading “Volunteer State- Part 2 “Sleep””