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The Unicorn: A Motel, A Metaphor + Meth

The Unicorn: A Motel, A Metaphor + Meth

The other day, I was driving down one of Portland’s busy thoroughfares that divides the town between the part full of excellent graphic design, helicopter parents and artisanal ice cream (bone marrow, lavender and lychee fruit, anyone?), and, you know, the part of the city that doesn’t make the travel brochures.

This particular street is dappled with ominous parlors, and cheap hotels, with half open windows and dirty curtains blowing around. They have “cable” and “weekly rates.”

So as I’m driving past, I see this couple walking into one of these hotels called The Unicorn. Swear to god that is the name of this place. It’s right down the street from that Chinese restaurant, Hung Far Low.


Obviously, I didn’t test their urine or anything, so I’m making A GIGANTIC AND WHOLLY UNFOUNDED ASSUMPTION, based solely on the way they looked — ready for a mug-shot close up!  What might have once been shiny, and full of potential had turned to tooth-liberated living at The Unicorn — that they were meth heads. Sue me. I only had three seconds before I had to get my eyes back on the road. Or maybe I started texting or something. Anyway, the story only makes sense if they were meth heads.

By the way, you guys, does “tooth-liberated” sounds as politically correct and redeeming as it does in my head? Yeah. Don’t answer that.

Anyway, the first thought that comes to my mind isn’t gratitude for my shiny little life (you know, by the grace of god go I etcetera), my first thought was…

wait for it…


Didn’t see that coming did you?

From the driver’s seat of my darling new car, I thought, Wow. That looks really good right now.

Not the meth. Or the rotten teeth, or the jail hair.

I was jealous because what I saw, were people that know exactly what comes next.

Obviously it is all way more complicated, but I had this totally legit moment where the idea of living at The Unicorn, with a burner phone, a couple tubes of Wet and Wild lipstick, and having exactly one singular responsibility – the next hit — seemed dreamy.

It seemed like certainty. Freedom. Control. The opposite of ambiguity. 

I am a single mother, I run a business, I commit to things, I pay rent, am going back to school, I generally try to learn from stuff and be a better person. I exercise and help other people be healthy and fulfilled. I do all of this, to the best of my ability, so I can stay free of illness, abuse, and getting incarcerated. Um, again.

Basically, I work really hard to be free. You probably do too.

Also, I work really hard to feel like I can control the outcome somehow. You too?

Yeah. That last thing adds a ton of work. Like an infinite amount SINCE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTROL ANYTHING. So, damn. That’s when tossing in the proverbial towel and adopting a hard drug habit starts to look appealing.

Trying to meet unrealistic expectations is going to knock you the fuck out.

Let’s be realistic, you guys There isn’t enough money or yoga or green juice in the entire world to alleviate all of the pain, the inevitability of loss or death.

Life is as sad and stressful as it is achingly beautiful. It is complicated, interesting, rich and full.

And there is no bypassing the fact that we have to spend a lot of time in uncertainty and ambiguity. We have to make important choices and leaps of faith, sometimes when the lives and livelihoods of other people are involved. As a parent, or a business owner, or even a pet or plant owner, these choices are inseparable from uncertainty, and often, guilt. The more you achieve, the more you own, literally or metaphorically, the higher the stakes. It is stressful. But it is also amazing.

Freedom isn’t being a drug addict at The Unicorn with no commitments.

Freedom isn’t having enough money to travel the world, or work from anywhere. (though this is way closer to freedom than the previous drug addict thing.)

Freedom isn’t being childless or being a parent. It isn’t having a car, or a jet or a yacht.

Real freedom is knowing in your bones that emotions are temporary. You won’t stay angry, sad, or even satisfied forever, but you will be all of these things at different times.

Real freedom is the recognition and acceptance that ambiguity, uncertainty and unpredictability exist and learning to weather them like a champ. 

Get good at that and you are in like Flynn. Getting good at that is, maybe, the best we can do and that’s a lot. Because it’s an inability to withstand that excruciating uncertainty that keeps us in unhealthy patterns. Improve that and you change everything. 

Random fact: The phrase In like Flynn refers to Errol Flynn and his rep as a dating baller. So basically, I’m pretty sure I said something kind of dirty just then.

Anyhow, the good news is, you can kind of control how good you are at weathering the uncertainty and wayward feelings. Or at least, there are things you can do that have relatively predictable outcomes, that make you stronger, more flexible, way more up to the task.

Here are a few:

You can take care of yourself, you can do the exercise, the yoga, eat your vegetables, participate in community and global health with your choices. You can love each other fairly and honestly. You can take deep breaths and stay hydrated (please do this often or you will literally drop dead on your lap top), and not only will it keep you strong, you will have better ideas and be more interesting at parties if you consume more art than news, if you read.

There is no map for life, no formulas or finite solutions. But there is the next right thing. And there is love. You can do that.


As a special present for you, because I’m feeling generous and I’m working from a schmancy café in sunny Los Angeles today, feeling all free and happy and cared for, and because I am not living at The Unicorn — here are a few of the best articles from this week’s internet that are kind of related to this whole withstanding ambiguity stuff.

Dear Students Of “We Are Not Interested In Your Advice” High by Sean Beadoin

If You Tilt Your Head and Squint, My Yelling Will Look Like “Gratefullness” by Janelle Hanchett

Does Our Culture Confuse “Healthy” People With “Good” People? By Emily Rapp

You should read them and tell me what you think. In fact, tell me what you think about anything at all. Tell me what you had for breakfast or what you are doing later on, or what you did when you were pissed off the other day. Just say hi. Write a comment. Send an email. I absolutely love hearing from you.

*For the record, I don’t really text while I drive. I am a responsible driver and only text at stoplights.


Photo credit: me

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41 Responses to The Unicorn: A Motel, A Metaphor + Meth

  1. Meg — you never cease to surprise me with your posts. I love the way they almost always feel unexpected (like feeling jealous about being a meth addict), yet by the end completely what I needed to hear. Great life lessons and reminders for us all, wrapped up in the straight dope and utter pathos of everyday life. You got it and I love it!

    • mworden says:

      Thank you so much, Vanessa. I really appreciate you. Also “straight dope and utter pathos of everyday life”. uh huh. that.

  2. Maggie says:

    This is crazy. I just ended a relationship with a charming artsy partner who is terribly self-destructive. I was telling a friend, in tears, about how he has given up, lives in a flophouse, just does drugs with 21 year olds, busks for change, bums smokes from people, hitchhikes. She asked me if I was crying because I felt bad for him, and I said “No, I’m jealous!” It felt like he had freedom and certainty in a way I didn’t: exactly what you describe.

    She didn’t understand, so thank you so so much for writing this.

    • mworden says:

      Oh how kizmet. Yes. It is a weird feeling, isn’t it? It feels so unfair sometimes that we can’t check out from all the heaviness and responsibility. But, in the end, of course we are so much lighter for staying in the fight/dance. Im really glad you are here, Maggie. I hope to hear more from you. And I’m so sorry about your broken heart. xo

  3. I was born with this sense of loneliness inside of me. I say born, because I don’t have memories that come before the loneliness.

    I tried for years to fix it. To find a way out of it. To have babies to fill it.

    One day I realized that this was me. That there was a part of me that would wrangle loneliness, I would go in and out, I would look for quick fixes, I would create stories of drama and I would sometimes feel so filled up and deeply loved. Repeat.

    It is in this repeat cycle that I am finding freedom. Freedom to stop trying to fix something that perhaps was never broken, that just is. That this is what gives me my depth of emotional brilliance, of understanding on the most raw level, the reason I can write my soul’s stories.

    Thank you for these words Meg, they join my heart. xoxoxo

    P.S. Can’t wait to see your face.

    • mworden says:

      I know this loneliness too, Hannah. And it is so painful. But also the crack letting in the light. Yes about faces. Absolutely. Keep me posted where you will be.

  4. Sean Beadoin says:

    Great piece, Meg!

    • mworden says:

      Thank you, Sean. I fucking loved what you wrote today. I’m a huge Beadoin fan. Even though I think I misspelled your name. Fixing. Good grief. And I should know better, being a Thibodeaux for so many years.

  5. Melissa says:

    ‘Consume more art than news,’ I love that. I think I will, thank you.

    • mworden says:

      Yes. Art saves lives. Literally. Stay in touch, Melissa.

    • هلا أخى ستجد أن هناك حواف عليك أن تتسلقها مع الأعمدة حتى تخرج من هذه المتاهة ولكن راح أحاول ابحثلك عن فيديو يعرض لك المكان

    • asc aad iyo aad baan uga xumahay waxay samaynayaan dhalinyarada somaliyed waxaan ilaahay ugabaryaa inuu soo hanuuniyo falkaan xuna faraha kala baxaan in shaa,alaaah dowlada danmark waxaan ugu baaqayaa inay iska bixiyaan madax furashada loo haysto dadkaas waayo lacagta dadka kaqaalisan wabilaahi towfiiqU codee: 3  0

    •   SodaloHar ikke peiling. Helge HafsÃ¥s holder nesten samme fart pÃ¥ maraton som jeg har pÃ¥ mila, og jeg vet jammen ikke om jeg har sett han uten megaleppe…. Men jeg hÃ¥per jo jeg kan fÃ¥ et bittelite løft pÃ¥ løpingen nÃ¥ som jeg foreløpig føler bare ubehag med Ã¥ slutte!

    • SPM, stoppato al max 28,09. Vediamo se fa riciclo al rialzo.Eni, annullato reverse a 14,64Enel stop 3,5740P.S. Scusate ma stavo aspettando le 11.40 e SPM ha fatto massimi proprio in quell’ora.

  6. Annie Sisk says:

    I just found you, and I feel like I was on the beach with one of those hideous over-priced metal detectors they sell on late night infomercials and after hours and hours of bottle caps and rusted-out sand-crusted penknives, I dug YOU up. I’ll be back.

    • mworden says:

      Squeal! I’m like pirate treasure! So glad you were looking. And so glad you are here, Annie.

    • Isabelle says:

      Deadly accurate answer. You’ve hit the buleslye!

    • http://www./ says:

      Good essay, though I've seen the DDT issue mentioned elsewhere, and based on what I've read, it's not true that the science conclusively proved that it was safe to use.Another example is that of CFCs – DuPont resisted efforts of scientists, whose research showed that it could react with ozone layer and deplete it.So, I don't quite buy the argument that liberals are anti-science whereas conservatives are pro-science, and that too, based on one data point of DDT. Whatever your objections are to climate change science, the same objections can be raised against science proving the safety of DDT.

    • http://www./ says:

      This insight’s just the way to kick life into this debate.

    • It’s spooky how clever some ppl are. Thanks!

  7. Holly says:

    You amaze me! So happy I know you. Now get that book out so I can read it! Then make a one-woman show out of it. I know exactly who will play you.

  8. I’m very happy to find this website. I want to to thank you for your time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely loved every bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to look at new things on your website.

  9. Katy B. says:

    “…if you read,” and that! Reading what you write is always a sock in the arm, Meg. I love it!

  10. Shelly says:

    What fresh writing! Can’t wait to explore your blog some more. Great encouragement to sit with uncertainty, that’s where the potential for improvement just might be.

  11. Adrienne says:

    Just read this post (Mary B was raving about you on FB) … & I never post on blogs. Your invitation to respond enticed me & so now I thank you for what you wrote. I’m hurrying, hurting, anxiety-ing way more than I care to admit whilst attempting to hang on w/ my shellacked finger nails to any feeling of “control” or aching to know what’s next or just “get through”… I know it will pass & appreciate the reminder that I’m not alone.

    Thanks again. 🙂

    On the go…pardon the typos. XO

    • mworden says:

      So glad you found me through Mary, Adrienne. She is amazing. I hope to hear more from you. And definitely, you are not alone.

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