“You have to learn how to quit,” he said.  “You have to get really good at it.”

He spoke this reality check about his addiction to cigarettes and a twenty-years-clean celebration.  I am not a smoker, never have been – I didn’t need his advice for that.  I needed it for this…

DON’T QUIT.  This cheap mantra hangs big on the walls of our earth.  It’s not even a choice anymore – we are expected to push ourselves to the limit and never look back.  We hop on the bandwagons of mindfulness and meditation to make the case for pause and it does us no good.  We are addicted to a deadly & western pursuit of happiness, never caring to wake up to the ambiguity of the state itself.

Our nation is confused and we are drowning in unhealthy habits to feel better, I think – we are exhausted by desperate efforts to locate joy, fairness and peace.  On our worst days, we numb ourselves with drags of pleasure.  On good days, we trick ourselves with motivational memes.  On all days, there are hints of finger pointing for the struggle.

The world is fake news and everyone is dying to find truth.  We are lost and turning over every rock to find our way home.  Hint: turn over your own.

We need to kick some bad habits…

Quit mindlessness.

Quit comfort.

Kick television.

Quit ignorance.

Quit self-doubt.

Quit instant gratification.

Kick CNN & FOX & BS.

Quit blame.

Quit possessions.

Quit fear.

Quit shortcuts.

And quit attributing happiness (or un-) to a person, an object or a reason.

Quitting is a lonely job – you’re the only one there and the nicotine of life won’t go down without a fight.  It will beg you back around as soon as it sees you shake.  Hint: If you start to lose your balance, focus on something that isn’t moving.

Take my uncle’s advice and learn how to quit.  Get really good at it.  Be alive enough to anticipate the twists and turns.  Ground yourself to the earth. Then, wake up and let your heart be known.

Hint: Quitting takes persistence.  Get over the irony of life and back to your best habit…you.

 

 

Death sucks; it gets us stuck in the horrendous depths of life.

I was raised Catholic, and not just a little Catholic; an every-Sunday-service, go-to-church-camp, mom-taught-God-every-Wednesday-night kind of Catholic.  Later in life I turned my cheek to the hours I logged as a devout Catholic to bow towards my own exploration of spirituality.  Every ounce of that choice and journey has lifted me up and for all the right reasons. 

The counter-narrative showed up this week…

I found myself back in the Catholic church to celebrate a life gone too soon.  My strong and centered self began crying the moment I knelt down and leaned my back against the welcomingly hard pew.  Tears immediately streaked down the sides of my face and dropped deep into my chest for reasons we would all agree obvious; I was bearing witness to stunning struggle, breathtaking loss and the realness of hearts-held-hostage to pain.

I was blindsided by my other tear-filled reasons; invisible reasons that could only be understood by the bravery of my own soul.

The entire experience was an overwhelming flood of my being. The first note of Amazing Grace hit my memory with the kind of joy that stops you in your egotistical tracks.  I could hear my mom & dad’s voices singing along with everyone in the congregation.  I was suddenly 7 years old again, sitting-in-shenanigans alongside my two brothers (of whom I can selfishly still hug next week at Thanksgiving).  I remembered the strength of my parents and their unwavering guidance to make us sit our butts in those cold, hard benches every Sunday.

More voices emerged;  One Bread, One Body and On Eagles Wings. I found myself struggling to lift my head up and acknowledge the awfulness of the situation; a dear friend battling sadness and despair.   My weakness turned to embarrassment when I realized that my twenty years of faithful neglect had left me out of new refrains and I eagerly awaited the moment when we would be invited to extend peace to those around us through harmonious handshakes.  Once held in the palm of another’s hands, I was incredibly proud to accept Communion and to touch the experience of this glorious world to my tongue.

I may not be attending church every Sunday, but I accept my Catholic upbringing and respect the incredible influence it has on who I am today.  Ritual, discipline and forgiveness are all things I believe in and they cannot be understood from my perspective only.  Setting foot inside the glass-stained archways of this world is necessary because I am destined to get stuck; days when the sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine.  In these heart-wrenching moments, I will need to let go; my own beliefs and experiences will have to kneel in understanding to the beliefs and experiences of others.  There will be no full or resounding answer because truth exists in both individuality and totality.

Amazing Grace is a lyrical legacy that breathes life back into people, and balance can be found within vicissitude.  When we choose to show up in the crossing of life & death, we are invited to be hugged in grace.  We are offered closure and rebirth.

The beautiful and full life that was lost this week is meant to be cherished for every moment it intersected with another.  I have no idea how to deal with death, but I can choose to live a fuller, deeper and more honest life in honor of those who have already given the same.

We are here for such a short time. 

One of my final projects in graduate school was to capture the evolution of my identity throughout the program.   I chose to create an album – 11 songs that could map out a life that intersected my research papers & chapters-to-be-read.  Though deeply inspired by my year in 2006, it’s not a bad playlist if you need car-ride company.

On the inside cover of the album, I wrote the following…

I recently dusted off this lyrical map in search of a spot marked “YOU ARE HERE”.  This time, my mixed tape clarity showed up in one freeing form…

I am funny 
and the one liners I dropped last week 
are literally
suffocating me
in boomerang giggles right now.

I am smart
and I should already believe this
by the sheer number of times
Jon Locker tells me
alongside his ‘you are beautifuls’.

I ugly cry
as much as I smile
and I have accepted that life

is never going to gift it to me
any other way.

I am confused by commas,
exclamation points steal my joy

and I am currently
considering
punctuated discernment. 

I have a heart that shines
when I read the headline
“World’s Kindest Person Gets Pissed Off”  

and I ride open-eyed and screaming
because “Subtle & Quiet Doesn’t Mean Unexcited”.

I runway jumpsuits, stocking hats and heels
and trust the spirited stylist
who once told me
I look good despite
all my coffee-spilled fumbles.

I shut down alilocker.com to create space for allynlocker.com.  Folding the map back up, I have realized that I don’t have to be Ali or Allyn.  I get to be both and everything in between.  Ponytail, curls or straightened.  They are all me because my names are the bookends of my soul.

I found the X – I AM HERE.