The Elevator*

Imagine you’re 14 years old. You are with the kids from the neighborhood, maybe where you went to school. You have known each other a long time but you still feel awkward and different. You’re fat or have glasses or a speech impediment or weird clothes or a weird family or you’re really, really smart. Maybe you have secrets you are never supposed to tell. Maybe all of those things. All you know is that you do not fit in.

Now you all find yourself at the top of the highest building you can imagine. The view of the sky, the horizon, the landscape, are amazing, beautiful, full of promise. Your friends are happy, taking in the sights, talking excitedly about the day. You are fidgety, impatient, bored. You want to get on to the next adventure.

You try to get everyone the elevator on this top floor. “This will be awesome”, you tell them as you hand out beers as they get on. Some decide not to get on, content where they are, with what they have.

You notice there are no buttons in the elevator, no emergency stop: just a huge red down arrow and more beer, wine and alcohol than you can imagine. Every time empty one another one appears. The anticipation of where this elevator will take you is building.

The arrow turns green and it begins to descend. Your stomach does a little “flip” with the drop of a few floors. You are excited by the sudden but unfamiliar sensation. Your friends gasp, the look of fear evident. Several people throw up. The elevator stops and some get out: they’re not up for this unpredictable ride to nowhere.

You keep drinking. The door closes to continue the down. This time the drop is faster and longer. It feels like a rocket ship to center Earth. You grip the handrails to keep the momentum from hurtling you towards the ceiling. Your adrenaline surges: you are laughing with the thrill of it.

There are only a handful of you left. Another tremendous drop and a jolting stop throws someone to the floor, another person falls into a group in the corner, someone is unconscious on the floor. They are out as soon as the doors open. Now it’s only you and your best drinking buddy. Just before the doors close, she wobbles through them unsteadily, first walking then crawling. As she turns around, you see her expression turn from fear to relief.

The doors close again. You are in an endless plummet. The green arrow is blinking faster and faster with the speed of descent. You close your eyes. Your feeling of excitement has become abject fear. When you open your eyes, the elevator car has shrunken and become dark and cold.

Your heart is beating out of your chest, your head is pounding, you squirm to find a position to relieve your anxiety and pain, you are asking yourself why you are still on this DAMN ELEVATOR! Now you are screaming into the abyss: “STOP! STOP! STOP! LET ME OUT! I AM DONE!”

A soft light comes on in the elevator. It comes to a slow, soft stop. The doors open to a set of ascending stairs. You begin to climb, unsteadily at first. You can hear voices upstairs: they sound happy, they’re laughing. You stumble and suddenly someone comes to help you. You shake them off and stumble again. They reach out a hand and smile. This time you accept the help and begin to climb out of the darkness. You know you can’t do this alone.

* The title, The Elevator, is inspired by my friend Paul Churchill and his Recovery Elevator podcast, which I have been binge-listening for the past several weeks. Paul is committed not only to his own recovery, but to being of service to others and helping them with theirs. The RE podcast quickly became one of my tools to maintain my sobriety and the people around the country who I have met, personally and virtually, through Paul, inspire and motivate everyday to continue living a life of sobriety. Thank you Paul.

 

Friends and Family Per Mile 2018

0A07C87D-3249-47DF-B173-B328450AF965Every summer I embark on what I refer to as a “friends and family per mile tour”. It is always by car and on the East Coast because, well, I can drive there. The usual destinations are Connecticut to visit one of my sisters, New Jersey, “the homeland”, to connect with long-time friends, or Rhode Island to my mother’s childhood summer home.

Some people would refer to this as a “road trip” but I associate “road trips” with buddy movies, adventures, misadventures and lots of drinking. Been there, done that – not anymore. I pack up my vehicle with books on Audible, podcasts, music and at least one four-legged friend in a very cushy dog-seat: and clothes, I do bring clothes. I’m also armed with my cell phone contact list, Facebook and a memory easily jogged by songs, smells, sights, and (road) signs. No, I cannot/will not cease alliterating! It was a gift from my mother so I’m keeping it. 🙂

The friends and family per mile tours started several years ago. The title is derived from the “friends and family plan” from the Verizon folks and “per mile” added because it just seems to fit. It is more accurately miles per friends/family but that just doesn’t sound right. Friends and family come first right?

This year I traveled dogless leaving “the boys” with an energetic early-rising friend. I logged 900 miles and 25 friends and family, some planned, some impromptu. That’s 36 miles/ff for those keeping track. Bonus new friends not included in original mileage.

But the data only tells a small part of the story. In more or less chronological order, those miles include “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” with the best little sister ever, 50 cent donut day, the beach, skipping rocks on the ocean, teaching a child how to skip rocks on the ocean, McDonald’s Play Place, finding a new binge-worthy Netflix show (Bloodline), breakfast with a beloved friend and mentor, iced tea with a longtime theatre pal, pop-up visits with some of my favorite people along Main St. in Keene, picking blueberries, feeding ducks, apple cider donuts (yes, more donuts), the arrival of another sister in Connecticut, making dinner for my sisters and family, driving to NYC, checking out pocket parks and little bookstores (Book Book and the Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Book store), dinner with sisters and nephews, cupcakes at Mollie’s Cupcakes (all on Bleecker St.), seeing hometown friend and performer par excellence Michael James Leslie in Sweeney Todd, a restful morning and a safe and uneventful return to Philadelphia and my faithful companions, Dobbie and JohnnyB.

My gas tank is empty but my heart is full.