• Ashley

Sucker punched.

I was invited to write a piece for a women’s blog, since I have “such unique expertise”. It was suggested “maybe an article about how to create a soothing at-home environment in quarantine? Or a post related to natural remedies?” So let’s get right to it, folks.

Here is my soothing at-home environment in quarantine.


Smitty sits at one laptop and does what Smitty does. He clicks away and talks to himself about curves and triangles and he scribbles down sketches and occasionally runs to the garage to get another measurement. This aspect of the race car hobby. is slightly more pleasant (to me, anyway) than the part where I innocently enter the garage to be blinded by his welding torch and suffocated by the molten metal stench.

I sit at the other laptop and have accounting tantrums. A few nights ago, I was hysterically cry-laughing over my self-inflicted task: in 7 years, I have never reconciled Milagro’s savings account. So after a solid week-and-a-half back and forth with my favorite banker (Hi, Tara!) to round up hella old statements, I sat down to begin. And discovered that, for many, many months, the account balance was $100. Which means monthly interest deposits of $0.01. Which means I spent the evening making a shit ton of one penny entries in QuickBooks.


And as far as natural remedies go, this is the one I've been turning to.


I’m still unclear what constitutes “natural” (seriously, the concept makes no actual sense to me, on a biological level), but this is boxed Pillsbury yellow cake goodness topped with Betty Crocker whipped milk chocolate frosting. I’m unsure why this cake is my current comfort, though it may have something to do with memories of 7th grade sleepovers, where the girls and I would pound a Minsky’s pizza, make Grease 2 music videos (with a ginormous 30lb camera), and eat this cake straight from the pan. (Hand to God, the night I took this photo, Smitty’s dinner was a bowl of Cinnamon Life and a can of PBR. Mine was two Oscar Meyer Cheese Dogs and an obscene amount of off-brand wavy potato chips.) During all of my best-life-living, you may wonder why you haven’t heard from me. I’ve mostly been keeping my mouth covered. Not with a mask for my own safety but with duct tape for yours. See, I’m self aware enough to know that my way of handling life can feel dismissive and unserious. My tendency to make light and find perspective can seem glib and uncaring. This is never my intention. Please do not confuse my bent towards faith as dressed-up denial. The reality is, I made the decision ten years ago, when my mortality (unfortunately and thankfully) became unignorable, that Love is the bass note of my life and is the bass note of the universe and of existence itself.


And there is no room for fear in Love. Living my actual days as if this is true is my practice; my only desired “expertise”.


And the primary level of this practice, that cannot be skipped (as it provides the sturdy foundation for all other tenets) is handling this: 1. I am going to die

2. You are going to die

3. All the people I love are going to die

4. All the people you love are going to die

5. One more time for the cheap seats in the back: we are all going to die This truth is a constant. It does not change. While it may FEEL more true today, it is actually no more true than it was two months ago, two years ago, or two decades ago. And while our American privilege often insulates us from this reality, and our packed calendars or streamed shows help us forget it, please, please remember this: it will be no less true in two month, in two years, in two decades, or in however many more 24-hour sun cycles we get to ride. Not a very instagram-y message for my lifestyle blog. Maybe if I had it penned in some fancy hand lettering. It’s one thing to think the thought; to say the simple sentences. But what does it look like in lived life? This isn’t about daredevil bucket lists, excessive credit card charging, and reckless responsibility shirking. This isn’t about cowering, backed against the wall, helmeted and ready for the chaos that will come. This is about my desire to soften the sucker punches - those inevitable reminders we’re more fragile than we’d like.

Because I can only be suckered if I’m unprepared. If I know it’s coming, the punch is less packed. If you’re a heart beating human, you’ve likely already weathered some (relatively gentler) sucker punches. But now, the entire precious, meaning-making contents of our tiny, temporary snow globe have been vigorously shaken loose. And suddenly, the air is flooded and thick with bits of fluttering chaos. We can’t see a thing. We panic and begin frantically grasping and grabbing, to return everything to its previous familiar place. Then miraculously, the once frenzied pieces begin to slow and settle. And we catch ourselves frozen. Dazed and shell shocked, but overcome by unexpected beauty found in the slow motion scene. Eventually, quiet returns - the unmistakable din of “normal”. But nothing is the same. The ground underfoot no longer feels solid, reliable, unshakable. The terrain is unrecognizable and our maps no longer apply. The truth is, they never really did. They failed to mention the all-important fine print:

“WARNING - Objects less certain than they appear. Map is subject to change without notice” Well, hell. And therein lies the practice: If I know punches are coming, my heart can feel the miracle in every moment they don’t. If I know what could be (and eventually will be), I’m altogether astounded by the gift of what is. Every spectacular, mundane piece of it.


And whether it’s magic or madness, I understand quantities are limited.


Sucker punches are forced gut checks. Truth looks me deep in the heart, and with more grace than I knew possible asks, "what are you really about, dear Ashley? All of those lovely thoughts you believe in the light? What do they mean for you here in the dark?"


And though my voice is shaky, I'm able to answer. I've been practicing.




© 2019 by Ashley Smith & Milagro Midwestern Spa Collective