What happens when you fully commit yourself to love? Endless good, insists Scott Stabile, who found that out by overcoming plenty of bad. His parents were murdered when he was fourteen. Nine years later, his brother died of a heroin overdose. Soon after that, Scott joined a cult that dominated his life for thirteen years before he summoned the courage to walk away. In Big Love, his insightful and refreshingly honest collection of personal essays, Scott relates these profound experiences as well as everyday struggles and triumphs in ways that are universally applicable, uplifting, and laugh-out-loud funny. Whether silencing shame, rebounding after failure, or moving forward despite fears, Scott shares hard-won insights that consistently return readers to love, both of themselves and others.
You can order a signed and personalized copy of Big Love for yourself, or as a gift for someone else, by clicking here.
Praise for Big Love…
Here’s a chapter from Big Love called Tea Time…
I just made myself a perfect cup of green tea. Steeped for one minute and forty-five seconds. In hot, but not boiling, water. A floral scent, with a hint of hazelnut, exactly as I like it. I just took a sip, in fact, and it’s delicious, like liquid, tasty grass or hot vegetable water — but good. My friend Melanie says green tea tastes like worms wrapped in fish. I don’t know where she’s been eating, but I think green tea tastes like the earth, just not as dirty.
I used to drink green tea nearly every day. I still love it, and I drink it occasionally, but I traded in the subtle antioxidant lift of the bagged tea leaves for the more body-quaking buzz of the arabica bean. That’s a dramatic way of saying I drink coffee now. Usually a cup in the afternoon, with — are you ready for this — a coconut-almond-chia-milk blend or, on occasion, a touch of Baileys. Yum. Baileys, you may not know, also makes for a delicious addition to oatmeal. I learned this at a B&B in Ireland that served their oatmeal (I mean, porridge) with Baileys instead of milk. Not surprisingly, it was the best oatmeal/porridge I’d ever had and the only time a bowl of oats had me buzzing.
I eat a lot of oatmeal and could write about it for pages, but that would almost certainly prevent you from finishing this story. So let’s get back to my green tea, because nothing says page-turner like tea.
Green tea shouldn’t steep for too long. One to three minutes, max. After much experimentation, I’ve found one minute and forty-five seconds to be my ideal flavor zone. Anything more than three minutes enters “what the hell is this?” territory. The longer it steeps, the more bitter it tastes. At five minutes, you’re basically drinking overcooked, overripe broccoli water. At six minutes, a dirty ashtray. After that, scorched earth. You may as well just burn a piece of toast beyond recognition and then lick it over and over again.
For years, when I would make myself a cup of green tea, I’d pour the hot water over my tea bag, look at the clock (on my phone, typically), and then, with intention, say to myself, “Remember the tea. Remember the tea. Remember the tea.” Always three times, for whatever reason. Ritual is ritual. We remember things when we repeat them to ourselves, right? Wrong. Probably 80 percent of the time, I’d forget about the tea. I’d rush back into the kitchen many minutes later, hopeful I hadn’t ruined another cup but certain I had. I’d take a hesitant sip, only to be assaulted by the taste of cat urine. Yes, after ten minutes of steeping, it goes all-out cat piss. This is just a guess, of course, as I’ve never tasted cat pee. I have, however, had several of my possessions pissed on by one of my sister’s cats, who had emotional problems. Really, the cat saw a psychologist, which may have boosted the cat’s overall happiness, but it didn’t stop her from peeing in my shoes.
Let’s get back to green tea.
So, my oversteeped tea often ended up tasting like what I imagine cat piss to taste like. (Not an issue when you’re drinking chamomile tea, by the way — that flower can steep forever.) I’m not sure what to blame — my deep commitment to laziness or not wanting to waste what had been a perfectly good tea bag — but I’d drink the terrible tea. Every time. I’d grimace through sip after sip, like taking shots of 100 proof moonshine.
Bottom line: I’ve sucked down more shitty cups of green tea than good ones.
It didn’t have to be that way. An obvious solution existed for my green tea woes: use a timer. Duh. That would have required not just picking up my cell phone to check the time but also taking fifteen extra seconds to set the timer. Who’s got fifteen seconds to spare when you’re doing absolutely nothing? I decided, after years of imbibing mostly bad tea, that I did indeed have fifteen seconds to spare, and that I would trade in my stunning laziness for basic self-care.
Sound the trumpets...I started timing my green tea.
I poured the hot (never boiling) water over the bag, set the timer for 1:45, and checked Facebook or washed dishes or did who knows what for 105 seconds until the quacking duck alarm on my phone told me my tea was ready. Day after day, the ducks quacked, and day after day, I enjoyed a perfect cup of green tea, which, as you might suspect, tastes much better than a dirty ashtray or hot cat urine, except perhaps to my friend Melanie, who may prefer those to worms rolled in fish. I don’t know, you’d have to ask her.
At this point in the story, or perhaps even before this point, you may be wondering why the hell you’re reading this book and what a man who chose to drink nasty-ass tea for years instead of simply setting a timer could possibly have to teach you. I understand your concern. We’ll get there, but let’s talk about my underwear first.
One day, as I sat writing at my desk (a.k.a. the kitchen table), enjoying a positively perfect cup of green tea (much like right now), I noticed myself squirming around in the chair, repeatedly dislodging my underwear from my butt crack. I sat there for a couple of hours — writing, squirming, dislodging, writing, squirming, dislodging — giving as much thought to my underwear as I was to my writing.
I hate these underwear.
These underwear suck.
Why are they so uncomfortable?
Then it occurred to me — sound the trumpets again: I didn’t have to wear those underwear. Duh. I could in fact remove them from my body and rid myself of the discomfort that I’d been experiencing all morning. Double-duh. That’s what I did. I had never liked that pair of underwear. They were a literal pain in my ass. You know the type. Always shifting and riding, never comfortable, no matter what you do. We all have underwear we hate. Even crazier, we all keep wearing underwear we hate. I didn’t just take them off, either. I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut them to pieces, a firm declaration of my freedom from their britches. (I did wash the scissors afterward, in case you were wondering. I open my oatmeal packs with those.)
From there, I marched into my bedroom and over to the dresser. I pulled out my underwear drawer with the focus of a surgeon and extracted two other malignant pairs I’ve never liked — the gray Calvin Kleins that have always crushed my package (I don’t like the word package, either, but what would you call genitalia in a book like this?) and the white 2(X)ISTs that have stretched out like bloomers and are far better suited for the eighty-year-old version of myself — the one who splashes Baileys in his oatmeal every single morning. Plus, let’s be honest, white is not a good color choice for under- wear. I think anyone who’s ever done laundry would agree. I’d rather be blissfully unaware of the track marks hidden in my black undies, and extra blissfully unaware of the track marks left in my partner’s. White briefs invite unfortunate surprises.
Now we’ve done it. We’ve devolved from cat piss to track marks. I had no idea this would happen, I swear. But here we are. Let’s make the most of it.
I didn’t get all dramatic and cut up the other two pairs of underwear. They hadn’t been tormenting me all morning and didn’t deserve such harsh punishment. I just threw them out, on top of the sliced-up remnants of the other pair, and I felt good, as someone feels when he’s taking care of himself.
And that’s the point (at last, thank God; I bet you never thought it would happen): self-care matters.
Self-care is having its moment. Not a day goes by that I don’t see articles, blog posts and, of course, memes about self-care, of smiling people in bathtubs, on walks in nature, or, coincidentally, sipping mugs of what I assume to be some healthy tea but, based on the crazy, blissed-out look in their eyes, may in fact be quadruple espressos. People everywhere are trying to take better care of themselves. This is great. Important. Necessary. No one will be able to take care of you better than you’re able to take care of you, if you choose to do it. Also, no one stands to benefit more from your self-care than you.
Self-care tends to lead to greater happiness, or at least more frequent bouts of it. Unlike happiness, however, which is a feeling and not a choice, self-care mandates choosing, again and again, to be good to ourselves. We hold the power to improve our lives by making choices that serve our well-being.
Yes, self-care is selfish. Don’t let that stop you. Selfish isn’t always a bad thing. Most things are selfish, anyway. We tend to make choices in order to feel better in some way or to keep from feeling worse. Most selflessness comes with some selfishness wrapped into it. We almost always consider ourselves in the choices we make, even when we think we’re only considering others. It feels pretty great to selflessly consider others, doesn’t it? The beauty of selfish self-care is that by taking care of ourselves, we’re serving not only ourselves but also everyone who comes in contact with us. I’m much more pleasant to be around after a shower, or a long nap, or holding a warm cup of perfectly steeped green tea whilst wearing well-fitted underwear. (That will likely be the only time you see the word whilst in this book, so I hope you enjoyed it.)
Once I began to time my tea, I quickly gave up my timer-less ways. Perfect cup of tea after perfect cup of tea changes a man. Now I don’t even think to make a cup of green tea without setting the timer on my phone. It’s become a part of the process, built into the ritual. Self-care as habit. I also don’t wear uncomfortable underwear anymore, except for a pair of black Jockeys that still ride up my crack occasionally but look too good to part with. We all make our compromises. When we take an honest look at our lives, however, we’re likely to find we don’t have to compromise our self-care as much as we’ve been doing.
We can do things differently.
Every time I chose to make and drink a cup of cat-piss tea, I disrespected myself as unworthy of my time and care. Every hour I spent in crack-attack underwear equaled sixty minutes of self-abuse. That’s not hyperbole. If we’re not making choices that reflect self-care, we’re likely making choices that don’t. We’re saying, energetically, that we don’t matter enough to take care of ourselves. We don’t love ourselves enough. Maybe that’s true for you. I know it’s been true for me. Still is, sometimes. We can find our way to self-love, however, through relentless self-care. That’s just one of many paths, so drench yourself in scented baths. (That will likely be the only intentional rhyme in this book, but no promises.)
The more we take care of ourselves, the more natural it becomes. Like nose-picking or binge-watching TV shows, we find ourselves doing it without even thinking about it. Timed green tea leads to scissored underwear leads to ten quiet minutes on the balcony to start each day. These choices matter. We also become more aware of those moments when we’re not caring for ourselves, moments that before may have felt natural but now feel unhealthy or unwelcome. Really, how long are you going to use that ratty old toothbrush that scratches your gums? (That’s a question for me, FYI.)
Little tweaks go a long way.
Though inexplicably it took me years to do it, timing my tea counts as an easy fix. So does tossing out my uncomfortable underwear. Where are your easy fixes? Isn’t it time to make some of them? Think of all the ways you could make simple tweaks to take better care of yourself. Are you still wearing those shoes that give you blisters or those jeans that barely button and leave a gnarly imprint around your waist when you take them off? Are you drinking enough water? Getting enough sleep? And what about that underwear drawer? Is it time to grab the scissors? We don’t have to be resigned to dis- comfort, not when more comfortable options await us.
Self-care means setting boundaries with others as well. As we grow more adept at taking care of ourselves, we become clearer about our needs and about the things that feel, and don’t feel, okay with us. Speak them. If it’s not okay for strangers to rub your bald head like it’s a magic eight ball, say it. (Sorry, that example may be a touch specific to me.) If your friend’s teasing feels more hurtful than funny, tell her. If you need more alone time in your relationship, let your partner know. Sure, some people may judge your clarity as difficult or unfriendly, but the majority will appreciate knowing what works for you. Most of us don’t take joy in overstepping each other’s boundaries; we often don’t even know we’re doing it. We foster healthier, more honest relationships with others, and in turn take better care of ourselves, when we’re willing to communicate our boundaries clearly. With clear boundaries, we can bypass the resentment that comes with feeling taken for granted and get down to the important business of loving.
Love is our most important business, and any love we give ourselves is love that serves us all. Selfishness, supported by love, acts as a healer, too.
In the spirit of taking care of myself, I just took a short break to watch one of my favorite videos — sixteen seconds of a puppy sitting upright at a table, lapping up a green smoothie. I watched it six or seven times in a row, laughing wildly, marveling at the puppy’s poise, and also at the size of his green- stained tongue, which would look more appropriate on a baby giraffe than that furry little lapdog. I’m sitting here in comfortable underwear, having just taken the last sip of my perfect cup of green tea and, now, because I’ve finished this chapter and want some fresh air, I’m gonna go for a walk.
Peace comes in bits and pieces, in intentional habits, in the choices we make that support the belief that we’re worthy, and in the moments we decide, no matter what, to take care of ourselves. And then we do.