On Friday afternoon I returned an indigo blue Dodge Ram 1500 Classic to Alamo Rent A Car, just south of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. I wrote about this hydration tank last week, you can find it here, and the fact that it doesn’t have a link to an archive of my writing is a design decision I shouldn’t have made during my early days of sobriety. It will be remedied as soon as I get down from driving a car that could tow my entire house from here to St. Louis in case all the flights are full the next time I need to make the trip.
That idea is among a few dozen decisions I made during that time that ranged in severity from idiotic to completely disastrous. For example, if you suddenly find yourself in the position of kicking the habit of consuming 750 ml of vodka a day, consider ditching all power tools. Resist the urge to even pick up a stick. Or a rock.
I also made a decision to believe people who told me that my brain would settle down in a few weeks, maybe a few months, definitely by the end of the year. This is just sobriety, people told me. This is just the brain drying out! I chose to believe them when they said it was only a matter of time. This is not something you can rush, they kept reassuring me. And yet, with each passing day, each passing week, each passing month, the constant howl of emotion, shame and feeling, all the crashing noises and throat thumps of my senses, all the endless symphonies of derision, all of them accumulated fury as they crossed the oceans. It turns out that time was his most important weapon.
It never got better with time. In fact, she got much worse.
I spent last week in Springfield, Illinois with my best friend Kelly Hust. He lost his son, Morgan Riley Wickham, on the afternoon of March 2. He was the youngest of his four children, his baby. Morgan Riley, a beautiful name for a beautiful man whose name you must know, speak and honor.
Today would have been his 27th birthday.
I have not lost a child. I have never lost a close family member or a close friend. I bet many of us have not suffered this kind of loss. But we are all human. We are all water, we are all sun. We are the Carrara of David’s eyes. We are the curve of his wrist, the strategy, the fear, the intrepid gaze towards Goliath. We are the art as it is revealed to the artist. We are the eyes of the universe looking back, inward and upward, towards itself, its arms reaching infinitely farther from its origin, its ability to speak, sing and dance.
Stop saying you can’t imagine. Because you can. It’s just you won’t. And today, you must.
I have created a GoFundMe to help Kelly and her family navigate the next hours, days, and months of their lives. No mother should have to prepare for the financial impact of a sudden and unexpected event like this that explodes with horror only to continue to unravel and spread out in barbaric waves every time she opens her eyes.
I no longer have an About Me page, but another design decision by Early Sober Frog Brain. The reason I bring it up is not just for some context on Kelly, but also for those of you who may have never seen this site before. I’ll probably write one this week, and for the sake of how this all came about, I’ll mention that I was one of the original writers who helped create the industry, economy, and mommy blogging community. . In fact, I was in charge and got all kinds of nonsense accolades and press that I had to bring up whenever I had to do business with people who refused to believe that women and mothers had any kind of experience or talent. .
They called me Queen of the Mommybloggers, but I wasn’t a leader. I did a really terrible job building community and failed the mothers and fathers who had enthusiastically joined our movement in unspeakable ways. This once-pioneering website turned 21 on February 27, the same year I decided to quit drinking. The irony that I drank the career I built with this site is a brand of Shakespeare we all love to chew on, isn’t it?
I lost my race. I lost all my influence and every penny in my bank account. I lost all the stories I had been told about who I was as a mother, the stories I wanted to believe about myself as a daughter, as a writer, as a person. I lost almost all my friends.
And then, in the deepest, most vile way a human can experience loss, I lost the will to live.
My brain finally calmed down, but it wasn’t a matter of time. Those orchestra halls of thundering cymbals and violins tuned to a chord a key higher than an entire floor of woodwinds played by starving five-year-olds, all fell silent. But it wasn’t time that marked the end of his song.
It wasn’t a drug. It was not a drug. It certainly wasn’t a 12-step program. I tried diet and exercise. Those didn’t work. The doctors and therapists exacerbated everything and created more problems. The week I spent in a closed unit at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute made it a million times worse.
But the beginning of its end can be traced to my bathroom floor where on September 12, the day after I did what I call a jailbreak from that hospital, I was getting a manicure at home: using power tools in early sobriety had caused an infection in my right index finger that lasted over two months and required three rounds of antibiotics to heal. No professional manicurist would come within a hundred meters of my hand.
I was listening to a playlist I had made for the month of June and went back to the first song on that playlist before applying a base coat of polish.
How many times had he heard those 90 seconds of sound? How many times had I whispered her words to myself when the will to hold on to the next moment of my life made no sense and had no discernible rhythm in the cacophony of percussion in my brain:
“I am going to speak to you tonight on the subject of the spectrum of love. We know that from time to time there arise among human beings people who seem to emanate love as naturally as the sun gives warmth. We would like to be like that and, in general, the religions of men are attempts to cultivate that same power in ordinary people.
I paused the song that morning and looked up the words on my phone. I knew it was a sample from a small fraction of a conference, but I had never heard of Alan Watts. That morning I found him, or I think I should say he found me. I soon read everything I had ever written, books and lectures that led to more authors and more books, all growing on each other in winding branches. I had no idea that everything was preparing me for The Thing, yes it is a thing, that would not only calm my brain but also open up the whole world.
I started that playlist with this song specifically in tribute to Kelly Hurst. The first time I heard her I could smell her hair on the morning of May 2, 2015 when she startled me awake in a hotel room in Scottsdale, Arizona. And no, she shuts your dirty mind, kid. This is not that kind of blog post. Although one could absolutely assume that it would be that type of blog post given the author and the history of her leanings.
He was on his way home from a conference we had attended and needed to catch an early shuttle to the airport. Before she left, she lifted me up to look at her face, to look into her eyes so I would know that she was looking back and in and up, her arms reaching infinitely further from her source. to hug me
“You’re going to need this,” he said as he placed a leather strap in the palm of my hand. The two ends of that strap were joined in the middle by an oval metal tab. In capital letters it said MERCY.
The literary framework for this is that Kelly came calling me on that song when I added it to my music library in June 2021. I see the perfect turn of the spiral of events that occurred the moment I stopped that song during that time. . -manicure at home. She had been asking me every time she heard it, “What did she mean? What is mercy? What does mercy mean to me?”
The Thing is what I used to piece together the answers to those questions. I was hoping it would calm my brain, and it did almost overnight. The results had been so effective and so quick that I wrote in my journal, “I have a suspicion that we have been misdiagnosing and misprescribing depression.” Less than a week after that, I wrote, “Well, fuck me.”
That spiral led me to her last week. She guided me through small, Grand Canyon-sized moments of mercy, most of them directed at myself. Because she had to figure out how to forgive myself in order to get better. What did she mean? Period, no question mark. What she had always been teaching. Period, no question mark. Who in this world distills love as naturally as the sun gives heat. Period, no question mark.
The literary framework for this is that Kelly taught me how to forgive myself so that I could present myself to her.
Kelly has always been the leader of our community. She has always been the warrior, the moderator, the mentor, the Queen.
She is our compass, our voice of reason. She has raised all of our fists in outrage, even when we were too scared to raise them ourselves. She has even served as our Hydration Tank. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, I can hear you laughing and you’re absolutely right in assuming that I wrote about that truck to give it a new nickname. The dressing table has already been ordered.
More than anything, she has shown us all mercy and guided us through love, by love, with love, and for love. She has forgiven us when we failed to forgive ourselves. In general, all religion is an attempt to cultivate Kelly Hurst in ordinary people.