Do You Dwell in Your Mind or in Your Body?

The theme of the week for me seems to be touch.

Do you "live in your head?" Are you one of those who are rarely present in the moment, but instead drifting off on a swiftly flowing current of thought? I am. While I love the robust riches of my mind, the years have shown me that I miss much when I can not anchor myself in the physical world, in even my physical self.

Inspired by a post on Brain Pickings, I recently purchased and read Eve Ensler's new memoir, In the Body of the World. The book begins with this beautiful passage.

“A mother's body against a child's body makes a place. It says you are here. Without this body against your body there is no place. I envy people who miss their mother. Or miss a place or know something called home. The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life. ... The absence of a body against my body made attachment abstract. Made my own body dislocated and unable to rest or settle. A body pressed against your body is the beginning of nest. I grew up not in a home but in a kind of free fall of anger and violence that led to a life of constant movement, of leaving and falling. It is why at one point I couldn't stop drinking and fucking. Why I needed people to touch me all the time. It had less to do with sex than location. When you press against me, or put yourself inside me. When you hold me down or lift me up, when you lie on top of me and I can feel your weight, I exist. I am here.”[white_space]
― Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World: A Memoir

Eve well-illustrates a familiar ache. Human touch asserts a certainty. Proof. Evidence. Connection. For those of us that dwell chiefly in our minds, the hunger for this confirmation of our existence in the physical world may grow until we binge in corporeal experiences. I penned such episodes in my novel, which focuses not just on the separation of body and mind, but also the division of self.

We sit on the bed in my minuscule room, glasses of sickly sweet plum wine in our hands. He looks at me with a sadness so deep that I worry it might take me down with him. He sets his glass on my nightstand and places his hand on my thigh. A breathe I’ve been holding releases from me, long and slow.[white_space]

First touch brings great release. The frenzied anticipation fades, smooth relief flows through my limbs. Even from a stranger, a gentle touch feels like love. It is the realization that you can reach someone, can make a connection, even if you barely share a common language. He touches to feel my stockings and the curve of my thigh, but also to feel the heat and calm that comes when you are close to another person.[white_space]

- Kelsye Nelson, The Secret Life of Sensei Shi

Eve's book talks largely of trauma, of physical violence, of illness. These horrible actions came with a gift of mindfulness, of clarity, of immediacy. How lucky we are that our experiences needn't swing to such extremes in order for us to achieve presence of being. Here are the things that I do to root my mind to moment:

  • Run
  • Get outside for a little bit every day
  • Sleep well
  • Indulge in a steady, constant stream of light physical affection
  • Walk by any large body of water
  • Pet my dogs
  • Work outside doing something that requires the labor of my entire body
  • Breathe deep
  • Travel or put myself in uncomfortable environments
  • Walk in the woods
  • Swim

I love my brain, and the ethereal journeys it takes me on. Some of my favorite activities, such as writing or reading or dreaming regularly lift me from the concrete world. The trick, per usual, is balance. I have a natural inclination towards happiness. If for some reason I decide I must hold on to anger or resentment, I must actively work on it. (Which, like a fool, I sometimes do.) It's the same in this situation. My natural inclination is towards the mind. While a trauma or violence may rip me out of thought and into the present, in normal days I must make vigilant efforts to wake from my dreams. It's work. Thankfully, pleasure accompanies the process.

And you? Where do you stand? Do you live mostly in mind or in body? What do you do to anchor yourself to passing moments?

Also, go read Eve's book. It's incredible.


My June Promise

june_promiseYou will see one new post from me everyday for the month of June.

For the last two years, founding and running a tech startup consumed my life. With tremendous expectation and no boundary between work and personal life, I lost evenings and weekends. My friendships faded from lack of attention. My slender body became something of a memory as a softer form took its place, better suited for greater base stability to support endless hours at a keyboard. I gave up a high-paying career path and trained myself not to hyperventilate every time boot season came around and I had to abstain from adding to my coveted collection. My company gobbled up all my best hours, save for the few scraps of time and focus I managed to salvage for my daughter, my love life, and small bits actual paying work.

The joy of running my own company, getting funding, and helping other writers publish and promote their books made all these hardships more than bearable. The challenge sparked a great adventure.

However, one sacrifice hit my soul like the business end of long-haul semi. My writing.

My friday morning writing group often functioned as the only time I would have to write within a week. When I had to skip a month's worth of sessions in a row, I knew my life was seriously out of balance.

As both the bible and John Lennon will tell, there is a season to everything. These last two years were my season for push, for stretch, for sprint, for learn. Now a new season approaches. A season of reflection, of words, of quiet and space.

Why make a promise?

External expectations trump personal desires. If I am the only one waiting for my writing, I am the only one that knows when I let something else step ahead. If you are expecting my words, than how much easier it is for me to say no to other greedy time chompers and give my writing the priority my peace of mind requires.

I'm not a masochist. Nor do I plan to set myself up for failure. You may see a post here or there that I typed in days past, published in some other place. Those little life saver cheats will aid in the preservation of my sanity while meeting a daily post requirement. I'll keep them to a minimum.

Let's see how this goes. Any writers out there want to play along on your own blog?


When Things Go Wrong in the Best Possible Way: Motherhood

My plan was simple. I was going to become a photographer for National Geographic, travel the world, have great affairs. Finally, at 40-years-old, I would have a daughter with my most clever lover.

That didn't happen.

Instead, I married my high school sweetheart and had my daughter when I just 22. We moved back to a suburb outside of Olympia, Washington where I took a job as a secretary and grew increasingly depressed with my unremarkable trajectory with each inch of expanded belly.

Then my daughter was born. Instant alchemy.

Just a single week of holding her in my arms and the understanding that I am the most powerful force in her life sunk into my consciousness. All kinds of glorious revelations flowed forth.

What kind of life do I want for my daughter? I want her to live her dreams, to bravely pursue her passions and interests freely.

If I am the most powerful force in her life, and the best example she has of a life a woman can lead, I must live to my fullest capacity.

I started doing the things that I would want my daughter to do. I admitted my greatest dream. (To, gulp, be a writer!) I re-enrolled in a four-year college and majored in writing, career opportunities be damned. The very month I graduated, I moved my little family overseas to live in Japan. If travel was what I wanted, then no excuse should keep me from packing my bags and boarding the plane.

I don't expect her to do exactly as I have done. I expect her to do exactly as she wants to do.

When I was pregnant, pitifully employed and ghosting the same strip malls of my youth, despair oozed my from very being. How lucky that her arrival gave my life the driving meaning I required to kick-start my own adventure-filled life.

She's twelve now, and the most amazing person I've ever met. We're in Mexico where I spend my mornings completing the revisions of my novel, and our afternoons exploring together. When I think back to that simple plan I constructed when I was 16, I laugh. How little it was. How much bigger and better this life has become.


The Great Writing Retreat Debacle


I have come to Mexico on retreat, with the sincere intention of finalizing the edits on my novel. I am failing miserably.

An author friend of mine, Judith Gille, has allowed me use of her house in San Miguel de Allende for two weeks. I have brought my 12-year-old daughter with me, thinking I could combine our yearly trip together with a personal writing retreat. I take my daughter somewhere each year, just the two of us. This trip forms a cornerstone of our relationship. In my usual life, I lead a tech startup, consult on marketing projects for authors, run Kickstarter campaigns and organize multiple writing groups and organizations. I'm very busy. I spend days and evening on my computer and often rush off to meetings or events. It's hard to get my attention. I sequester myself with my daughter for an extended amount of time each year so that she knows that her sole company and the adventures we create together are of utmost importance to me.

So why did I think I could bring a novel - the greatest attention hog of all - along for our trip?

The extraordinary doings my daughter and I embark on are but one obstacle in my writing progress. In Mexico, they say you must “live in your body.” I read about this in books before I came, but didn't know what it meant until I had spent a few days in country.

The afternoon heat, the close proximity of private lives to public spaces, the altitude, the hill we must walk to get home, the constant cacophony of dogs and roosters and bells and singing and kids and cars, smells alternating savory and putrid -- all these things draw my consciousness into my flesh. My shoulders and chest throb with sunburn. My thighs ache from holding tight to my mustang on the steep canyon trail. My ankles complain at the fast disregard I have for foot placement on cobblestone streets. My eyes burn from sand and sun block and sweat.

Evening entertainment in San Miguel de Allende.When we retire to our cool house in the evening (the very same featured in this book), a deep fatigue washes over me. Think? Turn thoughts into words into sentences into plot lines? How is this possible? The grand event of our evening is drinking water on our rooftop veranda, watching the sun slice the city into vertical bands of pink and gold.

I read a collection of Mexican literature I found on Judith's bookshelf. All the stories presented tightly-drawn characters and memorable narratives, but not a single one conformed to classic story structure. Sure, things happened. They all had beginnings, some had middles, and few even offered endings. But these were mere illustrations of moments, events, characters. That all-important character change never occurred. Not in one. The authors would write right up to the moment of transition or change, and there the story would end. It’s as though all the authors collectively agreed, eh, that’s good enough. You get the idea. And then wandered off from their pages for a siesta, or to perhaps discover the source of the noise in the square.

My novel has been drafted. It's been through a deep edit. All that is left for me is to implement the structural improvements my wise editor Tammy suggested. Maybe I should have retreated somewhere cold, somewhere my body pulls in close and tight. A temperate zone where my thoughts must rally, must act act as commander to spur my timid flesh into action. In San Miguel, my body propels me. My thoughts follow two-steps behind.

My writing office for two weeks.There's still time.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will command my conscience. I will wake up in cool hours, plant myself on our rooftop veranda, and fix one more chapter. But then… I hear there is a must-see religion procession tomorrow morning featuring donkeys and twelve apostles just one block away from our house. And one of the gauchos from our trail ride gave us a tip on lovely hot spring a mere eleven dollar taxi ride away....

I need a character change of a personal sort if I am to make any progress.

Take a Retreat to Betty McDonald's Cabin

A once in a lifetime opportunity!

Become a backer of my Book Lush campaign at the Betty McDonald level and you will receive a five-day stay at Betty's cabin. This is the cabin featured in Betty's book Onions in the Stew. Although, you may know Betty best for her book The Egg and I, or her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series.

bettyGorgeous. There is no way I could express in this blog post the beautiful and magic of this place. You enter the cabin on the east end, through a wooden door in a stone wall that remind me of Snow White's cabin. Once in, you open door after door to discover new wings and rooms. Mornings are best spent on the wide porch perched above Puget Sound, where you can sip you coffee and watch the otters swim by.

Inspirational. If you happen to read Onions in the Stew during your stay, you'll appreciate Betty's dreaming of one-day being able to improve her house with income earned by her books, and how she would put a fireplace in every room. How empowering to be sitting before those very fireplaces she wrote about.

Flexible. You may choose to come for a solo stay to work on your writing or general meditations on life. You can bring along a lover to share those nights in front of the fireplace. You can even choose to bring a group - perhaps even your kids!

Nitty Gritty Details:

  • The cabin is located on beautiful Vashon Island, just a ferry ride away from Seattle, WA.
  • Waterfront! There is about 300 ft of beach right in front of the cabin.
  • "Cabin" is an overly-quaint descriptor for this house. The house features 4 bed rooms, 4 bathrooms, a large dining room with a table that seats 12, a lovely grand room with a giant stone fireplace, plus another side house that sleeps 4.
  • Bring your own wifi. The cabin is modern and features quality appliances, heat and electricity.
  • This must be redeemed in 2014. Scheduling will be worked out with the cabin's owner, author Abigail Carter.
  • The house has a fully equipped kitchen. All you need to bring is food.
  • Dogs are welcome!

Cost: $1500 backing pledge on my Book Lush kickstarter campaign. Become a backer here!

Become a backer now!

734420_10151225332905666_1424916321_n 1010932_10151444228830666_1529878717_n  1011354_10151445568215666_570187206_n 



Solo Writing Retreats to Feed Your Soul

Do you dream of a getaway where you can focus solely on your writing? Perhaps finish that novel that's been neglected over the competing time grabbers of work, family and day-to-day life? I feel you. Let's go. For real! Start planning your personal writing retreat today. Thoughtfully, I've started your research for you. I present three places to consider for your vocational vacation.

“Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become
quiet, and still, and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice;
it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Franz Kafka

cabin-in-autumn#1 The Whidbey Island Writer's Refuge

In the Pacific Northwest, tucked into between towering evergreens and in a dense green forest, you'll find The Whidbey Island Writer's Refuge. This island just a little northwest of the emerald city boasts a plethora of writerly opportunities. Also home to Hedgebrook, NILA and the Whidbey Writer's Conference, you'll find yourself warmly welcomed as a fellow writer. At the refuge, you can hole away in a little cabin perfectly suited to writing. As they say on their site, there is no escaping yourself in a space this size, so you might as well sit down and write!

Website: writersrefuge.com  Facebook: /WritersRefuge

New-Orleans-Bed-and-Breakfast-Lanaux-Mansion#2 The Lanaux Mansion.com

For those of you that require a little more stimulus to get your creative juices flowing, New Orleans offers just about all the stimulus you can handle. Stay at the Lanaux Mansion bed and breakfast at the edge of the French Quarter. If you need a little more inspiration, the Johnson Suite comes equipped with a literary library for your prose perusing. Although I strongly recommend getting out of the mansion and spending a few hours writing at a cafe table nestled on the cobblestones outside Pirate's Alley Cafe and Absinthe House.

Website: www.lanauxmansion.com

lamy#3 Lamy Cottage

If what you seek not stimulation, but quiet and calm and a place of peace. Then I give you Lamy Cottage in New Mexico. This private guest cottage offers an incredibly beautiful, ordered space. Desert rocks artfully decorate the grounds, while an interior of warm wood, parallel beams and neatly ordered books calm a frazzled soul. Turn on the overhead fan, power up your mac book and type away, free of distraction.

website: www.vrbo.com/228759

Now perhaps you're written three glorious chapters on your much deserved writer's retreat, and now it's time for a break. What do you do, read of course! And perhaps have a little sip of something. You'll need to bring along a copy of Book Lush to discover an author new to you, as well as a cocktail pairing suggestion. Of course, Book Lush will not exist if we don't fund hte project on Kickstarter. So please, hop over now and become a backer.

All my love to you, writers. If you know of another great writing retreat, please do leave the link in the comments. You'll help me plan my next trip!


This is How You Love Him

share-square_howyoulovehimProse by Kelsye Nelson

After dusk, when he finally pauses his day's race, scratch your nails up and down his back so that his shoulders rise and his mouth rounds into Ooo.

When he takes off his shirt, rub your fists hard into the knots above his shoulder blades. Notice the broad width of his back. Resist the urge to lay kisses across the back of his neck. He doesn't like that the way you do.

Say yes when he proposes any adventure or wild idea. Simply listen when he talks about his family. Remember the names of the people he works with and ask him about his projects.

Disappear from him sometimes so he can miss you and you can miss him. Return to him happy and grateful.

Kiss him often. Hold his hand when he offers it. Breathe deeply when he moves close so you can catch every musky, delirium inducing scent.

Tell him ridiculous jokes. Assume he is doing right. Sometimes, occasionally, do the chores you hate just because you know it brings him peace.

Share with him your dreams. Help him name his. Draw together. Make plans. Take trips. Save Tuesday nights just for only you two.

Dine with him. Walk with him. Sweat together and tell him good job. Bring him water at night to take his medicine. Make room for his dog in your bed. Tell him your troubles and ask him what he thinks.

Notice how he ages, how grey creeps into his beard, how his body loosens and bows like an evergreen burdened by snow. Trace your finger along the crisp edge of his shave. Marvel at his lips. Don't stare too long at his brown eyes, no matter how they beckon you.

Remember that you are his ship in stormy seas. When the moon wanes and tides shift without warning, when yesterday was yes and this morning is no, keep your steady course. Give him space to rage to all points, travel the world, to the moon, to Jupiter, and do not catch coattails or snap the leash.

When his tempest mood passes pinnacle, reach out with soft touch and calming words. Be gentle as he lands again on the solid decks of your far-reaching love. Welcome him. Kiss him. Scratch your nails up and down his back until his shoulders rise and his mouth says Ooo.

How long should you love him? Love him longer than days and hours. Love him longer than stories and lines. Love him longer than sundown, yours, his, this very world's.

That's how you love him.


Lately - a Short Story


LatelyA short story from Hooked of The Breakup Girl Series

Lately, I’ve taken to sitting on the floor in my home office, in the dark. The faux leather chair in front of my computer repels me with its authority and purpose. If I sat in that chair, then I’d push the green button to power up the computer, bullied into typing. Words, words. Lines, lines. Periods, periods.

No, thank you.

Instead, I settle in the corner, next to my drafting table. I sit, and I stare at the wall. I stare at my bare toes. I stare at the bookcase packed full of the books I’ve deemed worthy for public viewing: Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, The New Yorker Anthology. My favorite novels, my Jimmy Buffett and Anne Rice, stay hidden in the closet, dog-eared and water-damaged from countless bubbly baths.

Sometimes, when I sit in the dark, I pray for my husband to take notice of my absence and come up the long stairs to talk to me. Sometimes he does. He sits on the floor, not touching me, but almost. We talk for hours about life, college, and the funny, messed-up way our daughter says please: “Pee!” He doesn’t ask to turn on the light. He allows long periods of silence. Eventually, midnight will pass us by, and his hand will search for my hand in the dark, his lips for my cheek. He’ll lead me to bed and allow me to wrap myself tight around him. Arms, arms. Back, belly. Knees, knees. Ankle, ankle.

Sometimes, when I pray he will talk to me, he does not. It doesn’t matter how long I sit there or how much I project my sighs towards the stairwell. I imagine him hiding away in the garage, carefully turning little models of cars we can’t afford around and around in his palm, contemplating whether or not he should sand the convertible down and paint it. Possibly forest green. No, lipstick red, like the one he saw on I-5. I tiptoe downstairs for a glass of water, or, more likely, a glass of wine.

“Don’t you have a paper to write?” he asks, his voice drifting from the half-open door to the garage.

“Yes,” I say, freezing mid-step.

He doesn’t respond. My feet shuffle across the linoleum. I reach up into the highest cupboard, stretching my calves, my back. My fingers wrap around the base of the bottle.

“Did you turn in the application for our health insurance?”

“No.” Tip and pour. “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Sometimes I wish he would stay away from me all night—and he does. I simply sit and cry. All night. Simmering sobs that swell and diminish and swell again. Tidal.

I realize that this is not normal behavior. I doubt that the other women I know cry at night after their children go to sleep. Not my mother, not my schoolmates, not the perky anchorwomen on the morning show.

To cover my habit with something a little more sane and acceptable, I tried once to pretend as though I was meditating. I had seen an article on mediation featured on the cover of Newsweek. That makes it an acceptable activity. I gave meditation a sincere try, but my mind refused to clear. Lists of all the things I needed to do when I emerged from my mental retreat scrolled through my mind, chores flashing like neon. My back slumped and I uncrossed my legs, pulling my knees up to rest my head.

“This is much more peaceful,” I whispered to Newsweek, as my eyelashes flickered across the skin of my kneecaps.


I am seeing a counselor. I thought it would be for the best. My husband thought it would be for the best. My counselor is Tibetan. Really, from the actual country of Tibet. That means he must be wise and enlightened. His office bookcase holds golden scrolls and miniature Zen gardens, as well as such books as Phobias and Paranoia, The Modern Feminist, and Adult Children of Alcoholics and Co-Dependent Behavior. What books does he consult after I leave the office? Which interesting case study do I compare to? The titles replay over and over in my mind while he talks to me. His diagnosis is vague. He is too gentle. I’m waiting for him to tell me I’m nuts. He doesn’t say it. Instead, he tells me I need to “live in the moment.” I nod my head. My eyes are wide.

At first, it sounds like a brilliant idea, but then I wonder what happens after “the moment” has passed. The lists in my head still exist. Interest gains on my student loan debt. My daughter remains eight pounds lighter than all the other two-year-olds on the doctor’s “healthy babies” chart. I continue to drink red wine in the good goblets, even when no one else is home. If only he could just tell me that I’m crazy, we could get it out in the open and deal with it. Crazy.

“Do you think the anxiety you’re feeling is due to your past sexual assault?” he asks.

“Nope, old news.”

His face clouds.

Oh, he must have thought he had the answer. “I only wrote it down on the intake form because it specifically asked.”

“What do you think about the nightmares you mentioned?”

“I dunno. In a way, I kind of enjoy them. They’re fun.” My counselor looks alarmed. I stammer, “When I am terrified in my dreams, I suddenly remember it’s a dream and that it’s all in my head. Then I have the power to control what happens. That’s the fun part.”

“I see.” My counselor’s eyebrows push together. He consults the intake form once more. “Does your mother’s drinking bother you?”

“Um, yeah. But that’s not ever going to stop.” I look out the window and memorize the placement of the birds’ nests in the dying alder. I read all the building numbers I can see. I hear the cars in the street below and count the rumbles that grow and fade. Forty-two since I first sat down. My counselor is watching me. He doesn’t know what to say. He is waiting for me to reveal something. I don’t know what to offer, so I tell him about my attempts at meditation. He laughs out loud. I’m just not ready for sitting meditation, he says. I should try to meditate while I’m doing something, like walking. He says my mind isn’t capable of quietness right now.


“People your age often go through times of stress and ambition. It’s completely normal.”

“OK,” I say, nod my head and try to look convinced. I don’t want him to feel disappointed. This is why I fake orgasms. I hate to let people down.

We fill out the questionnaires together. The brochures pile up on the table between us. Are you Paranoid? Does Anxiety Disorder Disrupt Your Life? Do You Have ADD? Are You an Alcoholic? Do You Have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? Is Depression a Problem for You? My counselor asks me leading questions to determine if I have whichever dysfunctions the surveys diagnose. Nothing is conclusive. I score borderline on every test, except paranoia. I am clearly not paranoid. I am relieved, then my mind clicks. If I were paranoid, then it would mean I could ignore my anxieties. They wouldn’t be real. But, I’m not paranoid, according to the ten questions on the survey.

“You seem to have symptoms from many disorders, but they are really only a problem if they affect how you function in life. You’d know if they were big problems.” I bite my lip and squint my eyes. My counselor twists this hands together, then asks, “Do these symptoms affect how you function in your day-to-day life?”

I sit back and look at the ceiling. Hmmm. I’m the most responsible student I know, even with my overloaded schedule and outside commitments. My projects at work earn me high praise and opportunities to advance. My mind flashes to my daughter, always clean, happy, and well-dressed. In my home, I maintain order and cheer. I keep my husband’s clothes clean and hanging neatly in our closet. I always have dinner ready at 5:30, even when I have to pick up our daughter. Even the most stable people I know couldn’t handle the day-to-day I sustain.

“I guess I function just fine.” Everything points to it. It must be so.

I stare out the window again. The birds are building up their nests. The dying alder is having a hard time holding itself up under their weight. My counselor watches me. He pulls a box of tissues off his shelf and places them on the wobbly end table beside me. I blink at them, at him. Does he expect me to cry?


I sit in the dark again. This time, on the cold linoleum of the kitchen floor. My husband is gone. He took our daughter to visit his parents. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want any lessons from my ever-helpful mother-in-law on how to cook spaghetti or the correct way to sweep the floor. No, thank you. My husband didn’t press the issue. He simply grasped our daughter under one arm, kissed my cheek, and sped away in his sputtering Honda.

My floor is filthy. I didn’t notice until I eased myself down and my bare thighs scraped across old coffee grounds. At this point, a good sweeping would simply brush the dirt off all the coffee and wine stains. I’ll never win Housekeeper of the Year. Oh, well. I wrap my arms around my legs, and sweep my eyelashes across my knees.

Hooked >> Get the entire collection on Amazon.

Fans of Raymond Carver and Lydia Davis will love these short stories of modern love affairs crafted with thoughtful, lyrical prose. 

The four short stories in HOOKED show a darker, more contemplative side of The Breakup Girl. We meet characters well entrenched in their first marriages, yet struggling still with challenges such as depression, ambition and lust.

Familiar and well-drawn, Nelson’s characters welcome us into the most intimate moments of their lives, where we witness first-hand their private triumphs and failures in a universe of different loves.

Buy now or view Kelsye's other books

The Three Rules of an Alcoholic Family

50472798_d8aab0d504An Essay

An alcoholic family lives by three rules, don’t talk, don’t feel and don’t trust. We were breaking each and every one of them and my mother was not pleased. My sister sobbed, gripping tight on my arm. My step father placed his head in his hands, quiet. I looked at my mom, turned up my palms and asked with voice soft as downy, “Why won’t you go?”

“I won’t be bullied,” she said. She crossed her arms over her chest, but her lower lip trembled like a toddler’s on the verge of melt-down.

My sister choked back her sobs and looked at me. It was over. Our month-long planning for this intervention failed us. All those hours with the drug and alcohol counselor. All that research. All those phone calls with the health insurance representative getting prior approvals. Wasted. That bag with ten-days worth of rehab distractions we carefully packed was going to remain by the door until one of us unzipped it and put everything back from where we’d gotten it. No long car drive for our family today.


Later, unable to sit still all evening with my own household of sweet souls completely innocent of the struggles of a family diseased as the one I come from, I got into my car and drove to the closest al-anon meeting.

When I walked into the room at the Friday night meeting on Capital Hill, alarm bells sounded in my head.

“Welcome!” said a man with too-tight, lavender pants and a shiny bouffant.

“Hel-lo,” I said, drawing out the word while surveying the room packed entirely with men. Very stylish men. Very fit men.

I sat in the seat closest to the door. I simply found the al-anon meeting closest to me that started within the next hour. I hadn’t bothered to check if it was a meeting for a defined group. I’d seen groups just for women. Had I stumbled into a meeting just for gay men?

The man with the lavender pants took the seat on my right and winked, trespass forgiven.


The men took turns sharing their stories, all earnest, all familiar. The writer in me reveled in the narratives; the gay man accidentally shacked-up with his dying father’s female caregiver because he felt responsible for taking care of her, the firefighter who keeps falling for meth-heads, stuck in a rescue pattern that leaves him burned. The man whose partner is out right now, in bars, doing God knows what with God knows who.

I told the story of my mother. I cried. All those eyes locked on me, watered.

“She wouldn’t get in the car. No matter what we said, no matter what we did.”

When we get to the part where we join hands and say the serenity prayer, I already know the words. They come to me without effort. God grant me… From the ages of about seven to ten, I was a fixture in my father’s AA meetings. The people were nice and friendly. One regular took on the moniker “The Butterscotch Man” for the hard candies he brought expressly for me. I loved AA. I love al-anon. It feels like writing group.

At my writing group, we greet each other with warm words, sit in click-clacking solidarity, tell stories to our screens and notepads. Often, writing group is the only intersection of our busy lives, the rest of our days unseen and unknown to each other. Anonymous. No matter. All those little hours of support through proximity over the years add up to a sort of family culture that satisfies me deeply. If I ever fall to the disease of my parents, or some new one of my own discovery, and disappear from the world, I know one of these people will eventually come knock at my door and ask where I’ve been. I stretch that safety net across the back of my mind.


Tomorrow is my birthday. My mom has sent me flowers a check much more generous than prior years. Guilt stabs at me when I rush to the back to deposit it into my depleted account. Payoff money.

“Hi, Mom. Thanks for the flowers and generous check,” I say in our first phone call since that Friday when she crossed her arms and told us no.

“Happy birthday, I love you sweetie.”

“I love you too, Mom. I really do.”

I usually fill our conversations with updates about my daughter, or showcasing some new accomplishment I’d like her to admire and approve. Now, I let the silence seep in. She stays quiet as the seconds tick by. Now that we’ve broken through the old rules, going back to the way things were before strikes me as entirely unbearable. I talk.

“Tell me again,” I say. “Why.”

Mom huffs a deep breath into the phone. I know she is scowling and pursing her lips, even though I can’t see it.

“You have the power, Mom. You have complete control.”

No response.

“Okay. I love you, Mom. I’ll call you next week.”

“Love you too.” Her voice seems smaller, father away.


The subject of my sister’s email has just one word, outpatient. I open it on my phone, unwilling to wait until I get home to read it.  She admitted herself today, her message reads. It’s not in-patient, but it’s three hours a day for ten days. She went completely on her own. I smile.


God grant me…


Author's note: How strange it is to share this piece while at the same time promoting a book that glamorizes drinking.



Copyright 2023 Kelsye ©  All Rights Reserved

I might earn a commission if you purchase a service or item linked from this page. Thank you for your support! ❤️