This past year has been almond butter, popcorn, La Croix. Minestrone soup, coffee with cream. Not much. A lot of air.

23 was Amsterdam: pasta carbonara, aged gouda cheese. Yogurt on granola. Translating Dutch in the grocery store, balancing bags on my bicycle handles. Learning to cook perfect hamburgers for a family of four. Belgian beers.

22 was senior year: roasted brussels sprouts, vegetable omelets with hot sauce, bottles of red wine while writing literary critiques.

21 was France: chunks of brie on fresh baguettes, ratatouille crêpes from the underground shop. Too much Nutella, never enough Nutella. French wine: red, white, rosé, depending on the weather and time of day. Street food in the 12 countries I traveled.

20, 19: Cheese quesadillas. Whatever booze someone would buy me.

18: Perfecting the water-to-grain ratio of brown sugar instant oatmeal, prepared in my dorm room microwave. Dining hall salads, or whatever else was vegetarian. Red cups of bright fruit juice mixed with cheap vodka, poured by frat bros. I lost 8 pounds that year.

15, 16, 17: Jager bombs, beer bongs, various fruit-flavored rum. Buffalo chicken bites and cups of ranch from the Irish-themed burger joint I worked at, where older men told me I should smile more, before making their way to the bar.

14, the year of my diagnosis: turkey and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayonnaise, cups of vanilla pudding, boxes of apple juice. The year I first drank alcohol: airplane bottles of Smirnoff, warm Natty Lights we got from someone’s older brother, taking a sip, passing it around.

My childhood, from 5 to 13, was artichokes with lemon-butter. Sometimes cups of raspberries, and other things, depending upon which of my parents I was with that night. Mondays and Tuesdays with Mom. Every other Wednesday with Dad, and every Thursday. Every other Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Mom. Back and forth like that, with my pink duffle bag. The way I know how to live: adaptively, in motion, a baby bird taking flight.

They would call me as I re-packed my bag at the other’s house, and ask me what I wanted for dinner that night.

I never quite knew. I said artichokes, my answer consistent, familiar. Whatever I hungered for, it was always the same.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-9-44-35-pm

11/9/16–bright lights: notebook from K, note from V.

In the days since the election, writing has never felt more vital to me. It is what I’ve clung to–mostly other people’s, mostly poetry. But also my own. Also long, winding prose.

It feels primal to me, to run to books. Art helps, I’ve said to many people this week, sending them a link to one of my favorite poems, while wondering if they think I’m minimizing the situation, if I’m delusional, if I think a poem is going to save us from our racist, misogynist, xenophobic, outrageously unfit president-elect.

But art does more than help, and it does more than heal. Art is a political act. It holds unparalleled power, real movement, revolution.

I’ve had a loop in my grief-stricken brain humming, How, how, how can I contribute? Action, of course. Showing up. Organizing. Communicating. Advocating. Volunteering. But what can I *create* here? Where do I begin?

Last night, I started reading a book written by one of my very favorite writers, Rebecca Solnit. I checked it out at the library the weekend before the election. Had I read these words of Solnit’s before the election, I would have loved them. They would’ve etched into my skin. But they wouldn’t have hit bone quite the way they have now.

The mysterious alchemy of words, of stories, is how often we hear them or read them at what feels like exactly the right time. Kismet.

The book is The Faraway Nearby. This is the beginning of the first chapter:

***

What’s your story? It’s all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.

Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of traveling from here to there. What is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the rollercoaster, the person you’ve only read about, or the one next to you in bed?

We tell ourselves stories in order to live, or to justify taking lives, even our own, by violence or by numbness and the failure to live; tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are the quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown, stories of justification, of accursedness, of luck and star-crossed love, or versions clad in the cynicism that is at times a very elegant garment. Sometimes the story collapses, and it demands that we recognize we’ve been lost, or terrible, or ridiculous, or just stuck; sometimes change arrives like an ambulance or a supply drop. Not a few stories are sinking ships, and many of us go down with these ships even when the lifeboats are bobbing all around us.

In The Thousand and One Nights, known in English as The Arabian Nights, Scheherazade tells stories in order to keep the sultan in suspense from night to night so he will not kill her. The backstory is that the sultan caught his queen in the embrace of a slave and decided to sleep with a virgin every night and slay her every morning so that he could not be cuckolded again. Scheherazade volunteered to try to end the massacre and did so by telling him stories that carried over from one night to the next for nights that stretched into years.

She spun stories around him that kept him in a cocoon of anticipation from which he eventually emerged a less murderous man. In the course of all this telling she bore three sons, and delivered a labyrinth of stories within stories, stories of desire and deception and magic, of transformation and testing, stories in which the action in one freezes as another storyteller opens his mouth, pregnant stories, stories to stop death.

We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller.

***

This left me breathless. It grounded me in a time that feels groundless.

Now. To hear, to question, to pause, to name, to see. To tell.

We have much to do, my friends. My suggestion: begin in the listening.

Truly, this work has never mattered more.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-10-58-45-am

Hi beautiful people,

This is just a quick note to say: I have not abandoned Coffee & Insulin (the beloved items themselves or the blog I’ve dedicated in their glorious existence.)

I’ve just stepped away as I sort some personal things out.

I go through seasons when I need to read, absorb, fill myself up. Intake seasons.

And then I have seasons when I need to release, and pour onto the page.

Sometimes, I have both at the same time, which is always lovely.

But right now… I’m mostly reading. I’m still writing–journaling in the mornings and beginning another writing class and opening up 5 new blank documents in Word every week for the beginnings of stories, but I’m not really writing them through right now. I’m in a season of intake–of listening, learning, observing, and rearranging things in my brain.

img_5020

It’s not just in my writing world, but also in general right now. I’m laying low, taking things in, not making an abundance of plans, and stringing the days together this way–taking the time and space to take care of myself in ways that are at once terrifying and necessary and important.

Instant things, like getting my wisdom teeth removed yesterday (more on that later / *swallows another painkiller*) and going to see a new endocrinologist last month (more on that later, too, because yay!) And then there are other things–habits, routines, entire ways of living–that unfold slowly and ask of me many deep breaths and walks in the woods and nights with no plans and late, lazy mornings.

I just wanted you to know where I was, and that I will most certainly be back. Maybe as soon as next week, if some unwritten thing begins to burn a hole in my hand, or maybe a little later.

I hope you are all well.

I love the emails you send me, and thank you so much for reading this little space I’ve carved into the weirdo land of infinite possibility we call The Internet.

Talk to you soon. Take care out there.

xoxox, Sarah

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 12.44.25 PM

This week, my life turns 25 and my life with diabetes turns 11 years old.

24 (and 10) was a strange and difficult and winding year… but here I am. Loved and alive. The only thing I have room for is gratitude.

My 10th year with diabetes was the most challenging yet. It was the year I started to actually feel like a person with a chronic illness, it was the year I couldn’t just shoulder my way through highs and lows; I had to learn how to slow down. I had to learn to pay attention. I had to (I’m still definitely having to) learn how to take care of myself. Sometimes (often) what I want and what my body needs are very very very very very very different. The past year has been a battleground of body and mind–a self, divided. Now I have to do the slow and intricate and scary work of trying to be a whole person.

My body turns 25 this week and all I’ve been able to think for days is:

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

I’m sorry

I love you

I’m trying

Thank you

It’s natural to be sad and angry and scared. Chronic illness is exhausting and annoying. It can feel depressing. It can feel isolating. It can feel debilitating and overwhelming in its endlessness.

But hello, goddamn, I’m alive.

During my 24th/10th year, I climbed a lot of mountains. Sometimes by myself. I wandered through forests, swam in waterfalls and creeks and rivers and the ocean. I camped in the middle of nowhere with my friends. I saw a dozen stars shoot across the night sky in Big Sur and drove down the jagged California coast with friends from Australia and New York and England. We learned from one of our favorite writers, we wrote, we watched the Pacific Ocean churn. One evening, my friend Kelsey and I raced though the city of Richmond to make it to the best lookout spot to watch the sunset, laughing the whole time. We made it. I sat on a lot of porches with a lot of friends, got a new job, ate a lot of almond butter and Tex Mex. I took writing classes, wrote down the hardest, truest things I know and read them out loud to people who were really listening. I quit drinking and unquit drinking and semi-quit drinking again. I watched a meteor shower with my friends on pitch-black Hatteras Island. I went to a psychic who changed the way I perceive everything. I taught myself how to embroider, booked a trip to New York for the fall, and paid my rent on time every month. I read books that altered the way I see the world, then in Portland, unexpectedly got the chance to meet two of the authors and tell them how much their writing meant to me. I met people who, within weeks of knowing me, reached out their hands to help me. I said Thank You and I Love You every single day.

25 years is a long time. 11 years is a long time, 1 year is a long time.

All I want to say, over and over and over again, forever, is this:

Dearest Life,

Thank you and I love you. I am so fucking grateful for it all.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 8.18.12 PM

I haven’t disappeared.

Well, a little bit I have. This whole year, really, my whole 24th year, has been an ebb and flow of disappearance. Half-hearted disappearance. Temporary disappearance–a fog rolls in and you can’t see the trees, then it dissipates and they’re made visible once again. They were there all along, as I’ve been.

All fall and winter, I daydreamed of a small wooden cabin in some woods in the Blue Ridge Mountains where I would escape to for a month or two, alone, to write and breathe and Figure Stuff Out. And when I emerged (in my daydream) I would understand where I have been, and I would know where to go next, how to find my footing to get there.

But I didn’t get to escape to a little cabin in the woods, because I lost my health insurance and had rent to actively pay and credit card debt to actively pay off and once you’re back on the grinding Merry-Go-Round of a certain lifestyle (9-5’s, utility bills, car inspections, a 12-month signed lease) it is complicated to walk away. I can’t tell you how many times this year I’ve had the thought, I just want to disappear. Not forever–just for a little while. To the mountains. To the sea. To the forest. I’ve never sought the wilderness so fervently in my life. It is all I think about these days. It seems to be the only thing that makes sense to me.

I’m not sure exactly when this shift happened. I’ve always loved nature, but I haven’t always felt such a visceral need for it. It wasn’t until recently, maybe in the past year or so, that I began to realize how disconnected I am from the natural world around me, and how marrow deep that fractures–through the world and into the self.

I walk down the sidewalk and admire the handful of florae I can name and the armfuls and armfuls that I can’t. I go to the river when I can, if the weather is okay on my once-weekly day off of work. Several months ago, I happened to have a whole weekend off, so I drove hours to the ocean two consecutive days in a row, by myself. I floated in the sea and stayed until the sun set and watched the peopled beach grow golden and quiet. Watched the moon rise, and the tide creep closer. Both days, I left feeling so full. So calm and grateful and mesmerized. Then California: jagged cliffs and voltaic night skies and endless ocean, collapsing, colossal beauty. And Oregon: deep green and bewitching.

I’m particularly drawn to the mountains. There should be a word in the English language for the feeling of craving the mountains. A certain mountain hunger. I go as often as time allows, to Humpback Rock usually, because at 1.5 hours, it is the closest. But it is not enough. I want to be so much closer, surrounded. Immersed. I find myself more and more often standing and sitting and staring at things that do not matter to me. A lot of screens. A lot of parking lot chaos. Things which–I DO GET IT–are somewhat unavoidable. But I challenge that they must be so all-consuming. Call me crazy. I want to spend days and nights and weekends learning from the landscape. Learning by touch. Learning how to heal others and myself with the world around us, within us, beyond us. This matters to me.

A year or so ago, a friend and I were walking through an open field in Amsterdam and I opened my palms to strum them along the tall wisps of grass that surrounded us. I said to my friend, I want to know the plants. I want to be able to identify them, call them by their names, and understand what they need and what they give.

She responded, Some people dedicate their whole lives to learning that.

I think about that conversation so often.

Some unwonted, taught pride diverts us from our original intent, which is to explore the neighborhood, view the landscape, to discover at least where it is that we have been so startingly set down, if we can’t learn why. -Annie Dillard, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek

I guess I’m not really saying anything concrete with all of this.
Just giving you a glimpse of spider silk while I construct my own intricate web.