Sometimes that means listening to someone else’s problems. Amy’s Five Things.


“My Amy” or “A.M.Y.”, and me, OCMD, 2015

My Amy.  Who routes me ever back to me.  Who taught me to walk Honesty, and Begin Within…

and most of all, Begin, Again.

Just so I’d have something, anything, to give away to her that made some sense.

That could soothe the crazed hairiness of both our ever chattering brains.

Amy lived underneath me on Wash Ave, when I was still in college in Chestertown.

The first time we met she wanted my number because I shared in a meet-in about how I’d gotten a card in the mail from myself that day.   That little anecdote, according to her, suggested to her that just maybe she wanted, as is said in those recovery rooms, “what I had.”

Only other young sober person back then.  The ordinary miracle? Life moved her in, crying ass baby, barking ass dog, right there into that spot I lived at on Wash Ave, just underneath me.

Her foot sounds on the stairs of that old farmhouse turned apartment building, chaos and pounding her way into my all the way at the top little attic pad.  I was 23?  24?  I’d hear her coming and pray the same quick prayer, every time:

Direct my thoughts and actions.  Help me be of service as you’d have me~ Said in my mind, said in a flash, right before she’d burst in.  Plug her baby monitor in.  Light up a smoke.  Sit down with me at the kitchen table where we’d light endless cigs.  Again and again.

Those were the days I could and did live on kale, black beans, apples.  Coffee and cigs. Brown rice and granola. $17 a month spending cash.

Amy said to me yesterday, “I just keep telling them ‘the five things.’”  We’re on the phone, I’m coming out of Cambridge, Gateway 50, heading east and ocean bound, home.  Returning from the city and Artscape, the street festival where I have memories which go back all the way back to being just knee-high.  I don’t know what five things she’s referring to, but she shares a memory of our early years, the Wash Ave days, back when her now college freshman daughter was 18 months old and her only kid, back when Amy and me were the only young, sober drunks in that whole town.

I am weepy with the fullness of this, with reflection, as my Amy explains the five things she daily tries to impart to the young girls she is mentoring.  The other reason I was over there, on the other, urban side of the Chesapeake, was to attend the bridal shower of another soul sister who used to sit around that same Wash Ave kitchen table with me all the way back then.  I will return to Chestertown in September this year to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.  Her celebration Saturday was the most meaningful, traditional celebration of a bride-to-be I have ever attended.  A circle of heart felt laughter among women, strangers who knew each other or didn’t, connecting over the ways our common living-ness connected us, or didn’t.

Amy tells me the five things arose from one of those kitchen talks, and I am nodding before she’s even done explaining them, the good kinda salty body remembering.  A brimming, chesty nostalgia connecting me to Shaman Bob, who came as clear as if he were still alive and stood between me and my soul sister at her bridal shower on Saturday as she and I connected tearfully over her own memories of her own spiritual path, of when and how it all began back in Chestertown, all those years ago.  Shaman Bob, who will always be my first real spiritual mentor, who I continue to thank and connect to when I light those candles and pray my morning prayers, because he was the first to teach me that spirituality is about just that: Connecting.  To the sense, the experience, of infinite human spirit within.  To seeking to share that connection, to embody it, to It being something you can impart.

How it all comes down for me today to connecting to that when each new day comes on.  To beginning that connection, all over again.

After she is done explaining her five things, I can’t help it.  I have to tell her.

What those girls need, honey, is steadiness.  I’m not so sure it’s about what works or what doesn’t as everyone is different, I’d say it is about picking something that works, and committing to it.  I see Amy then in the same minds eye place as I saw Shaman Bob over the weekend.  I see her and it is almost two decades ago, she is barely 21, she is a child she is a mom, she is raising herself.  She is raising me.  She comes pummeling into my kitchen, Wash Ave hip jut so sharp it could take out an eye, cigarette already lit before the last ones out, talking, talking smoke and shit and stress and laughter until the smoke and all the words are run all the way out.

I tell her, that’s all I did.  You know these girls they just need steadiness where they’ve had none.  Something they can return to, it’s what I needed, you know?

I don’t say, it’s what Life gave us, to give each other~

Instead.  Yea just pick something that works, anything that does. Begin within, I am thinking. Be honest with yourself.

Begin again~

…And keep sticking to it, taking action.  A little bit of foot work that they can rely on, that’s what they need.

I see my own self, lighting a candle in the morning when I go to my meditation chair, my sacred space.  Thanking my ancestors, thinking of Bobby Ray. Thinking of staying the course.

You get what I mean?  I ask her.  Totally she says.  And I do love your five things, those are really good ones I add, and the energy changes, and I can sense that it’s nearing time to hang up.

Til the next time, then.  Amy’s Five Things:

  1. Read your literature
  2. Call your mentor
  3. Pray
  4. Go to a meeting
  5. Be of service (sometimes that means listening to someone else’s problems)