I know, I know- what a weird blog title. But YOU GUYS! I have to share with you the most fun thing I did this weekend, and guess what?! It was totally weed-eating my yard. I have never been one to find much joy at all in manual labor, lazy thing that I am, and I tend to shy away from any sort of powered-tool type thing, due to my inherent clumsiness and fear of losing fingers (seriously, I almost stabbed myself in the chest yesterday while cutting an apple- I know that doesn’t even sound possible, but trust me on this one.), BUT…
I have this massive yard. Great for my dog, awesome in theory- everyone wants a big yard, right? Yet taking care of said yard is a whole different matter. When I moved in, over three years ago, my landlady had covered the entire thing with nice, new wood chips. The thing about wood chips, though, is that they suck. The hurt to walk on in bare feet, they don’t look that great, and they basically rendered the yard useless. Also, they stuck to my dog and were constantly being dragged into the house. The upside of it was that the yard didn’t need me to do anything to it, it required zero care, aside from picking up the poop.
Fast forward about a year, after plenty of rain, and…the weeds started popping through. We had a seriously rainy year, and the weeds just took over. When they were green and flowery, they were so pretty, and the yard looked lush and beautiful. Then they all died, and the yard looked terrible and trashy, and it is soooo big. My front yard is massive, too, and though most of it is cement, the weeds popped up in every crack and every planter, and I just lost control of the whole mess.
I hired someone to deal with the front, and last year I enlisted the help of friends to get the back under control, but this year…this year I got smart. A few months ago, I went to Home Depot, all by myself, and I bought a weed eater. It sat in the box for another month, and finally, yesterday, I was brave enough to take it for a spin.
Oh. My. God.
I have never had more fun doing a chore in my life. I was the butcher of weeds, the annihilator of unwanted plant life, the destroyer of dandelions. I was also the destroyer of my brand new Badminton net (oops!) which really sucks, and slowed me down quite a bit when the string wrapped around the spinny-thing on my weed eater, but nothing was going to stop me…except the fact that I really needed a longer extension cord, but I am definitely going to be purchasing one ASAP.
Oh, and it was also a really good workout, judging by how sore my arms are today! I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I finally called it quits for the evening and wandered back into the house, picking fox tails out of my tennis shoes, and sneezing away all of the dust in my nose.
I’ve honestly never felt more grown up in my life. I can’t wait to do it again!
I’ve been extra quiet, here lately. I have been working hard on my novel, and it’s nearing the end, which is incredibly exciting for me- I had planned to be done with it months ago, but that just wasn’t how it panned out. I find it a little harder to blog on days when I am also working on my book, and I have been working on my book every day, but also…I just haven’t had a lot to say. Everything comes and goes in cycles, and in this cycle, the blogging aspect has been less active. And I am not overly concerned about any of it.
I am not overly concerned about anything, to be honest with you, and that…that is not like me at all. But MAN, do I appreciate it. I am just sort of rolling with whatever, happy to float along. It’s funny, though- one of the sharpest tools in the box of every addict is control. It’s very important when you are in your addiction, to be able to control every conceivable aspect of your life so that you can manipulate the outcome in your favor. It’s a necessity, almost. Or at least, it feels that way. The idea of letting go of the end result is totally foreign, and completely unacceptable. I don’t know, maybe normal people experience this as well? I have never been one of those, so I don’t know.
What I do know is that lately, I have made a conscious decision to stop fighting everything all the time, to let things go the way they are going to go, and see what happens. More than just a conscious decision, because decisions are one thing, but action is where it’s at! I’ve made a conscious effort to redirect myself often so that I stay on that path. What I mean is, my habit is still to control things and so, when I feel myself getting bunched up and frustrated because things are not going the way I expected, I take a deep breath, and get back with the program. I let go. I step back. I redirect.
Here’s the thing- I didn’t get clean so that I could just get by. In my heart of hearts, I have always believed I could have this big, beautiful, amazing life. I won’t settle for a life of struggle and mediocre happiness. That’s not what I am after. And I didn’t get clean so that I could find a whole new set of reasons to be unhappy and dissatisfied with myself. I want to love myself and love my life, and love all the people in it properly. But in all those years that I was using, I created a carefully crafted persona- someone sarcastic, tough, invulnerable and sharp, and that is my default now. I am having to learn how to disassemble this person I spent years and years putting together. It won’t happen overnight, but I know that is not who I want to be.
So every morning, I make up my mind that there is a lot to be excited about today. I think about how grateful I am for the life I have, and I imagine myself just being happy. I imagine it so well that I start to feel excited and happy and as if it is going to be a really good day. This may sound incredibly dumb, but it works! And throughout the day, when I feel my attitude slipping, I try to pull it right back to where I want it to be. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it works a whole lot better than when I don’t try at all.
A long, long time ago, when I was still very messed up, I remember driving down a street in Fresno when the thought popped into my head “Attitude is everything”. I remember it because it was such a weird thing for me to be thinking at that particular time, as I was in quite a state. I don’t remember what the thought was even in response to, I think it literally just randomly appeared in my head. But I believe that to be true with all of my heart- Attitude really is everything. I happen to know two different people that have recently gone through the exact same loss of a limb. Their attitudes about that loss could not be more different. One of them is thriving and full of gratitude about being alive, and the other has basically given up. It’s the exact same thing, two different attitudes. Our perspective on our own lives has everything to do with how our lives function. Everything.
So today, I have a plan of action for my own attitude. Love my life. Love the people in my life. Be grateful for everything. Love myself, everything about me. Do not think ugly thoughts, do not say ugly things. Find the blessing in every situation. Take a nap or eat a snack if any of the above gets too hard. Take a deep breath. Start over. Hug someone. Smile at everyone. Pet my cat, hug my dog, do the dishes, take a walk…whatever I need to do to keep the good energy flowing, that is my goal. And beyond that, be okay with whatever else happens. If I can’t be okay with it, let that thing go. I think there is always a way to have peace in our lives, if we have peace in our hearts, right?
And THAT is my recipe for radical change…a whole bunch of little things that add up to me being exactly who I want to be. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Two thoughts have made their way into my head lately, and they are having a kind of profound effect on me. I don’t even remember where they came from, whether I read them somewhere or they just occurred to me on their own, but I can’t seem to shake them. The first one, I’m pretty sure I read it in a blog somewhere, and essentially it is “How will people feel about you long after you are gone?” Like, what is your emotional legacy, the emotional “fingerprint” you leave on the people you love and care for? The second one, which goes hand in hand with that is really random, but…it popped into my head yesterday, and I keep going back to it, and here it is- no one really knows whether they have more of their life ahead of them than behind. Well, I guess some people do- for instance, if you are 93, you can can be pretty sure you have more of your life behind you than ahead. But for average, healthy people, the point is, you don’t really ever truly know when it’s your time, or how much more time you have.
I am not particularly afraid of dying, and that’s not really what this is about, but for me, dying is not something I get too worked up about. I am not religious, but I have a lot of faith, and some pretty comforting beliefs. What I do worry about is dying before I am ready, before my children are grown enough, and before I’ve had time to become the person I want to be remembered as. And that’s where things get troubling for me, that last part- being the person I want to be remembered as- because…well, what in the world is stopping me from being that right now? If I really don’t know (and hardly anybody does) when this whole life of mine is going to end, then why am I not just being the person I want to be right now? Because it doesn’t cost money, and there doesn’t need to be a different set of circumstances for that to happen. It’s not about any of that at all.
What it is about, and what I’m learning that everything is really about, is my own behavior, my own attitude, and my own willingness to engage in my own life and the life of the people I care about, on a deeper level. How hard is it, really, to respond more lovingly? To have a bit more patience, to answer with a nicer tone, to treat someone a little more kindly? Well, when your deeply ingrained habit is to be terse, irritated, impatient and sarcastic, it can be pretty challenging, I can vouch for that. But challenging is not the same as impossible. Do I want my children, friends, and family to look back on all their memories of me and laugh about how difficult I was? Well, I mean, that ship has kind of sailed if I die tomorrow, but…it’s not too late to temper that with better things. It’s never too late to get better. I should know! I’ve been slowly improving all the time in these past few years.
But there is always more that you can do. If you are lucky enough to live to be 100, there will always be another thing to work on, another thing you can improve. It never ends. I have been actively trying to spend more time with the people who matter to me, in ways that THEY enjoy, and as a bonus, I try not to whine about it the entire time. What I am finding out is that I can enjoy myself quite a bit when I stop listing all the reasons why everything is stupid and sucks, even if I’m only doing it internally- so if you do that, just stop it. Just relax, just go with the flow, just see what happens. Because guess what? No one ever died from doing something they find mildly unpleasant, and when you keep an open mind, you might even (gasp!) start enjoying yourself.
Recently, I cleaned off the catch-all surface of my kitchen table, and started insisting that Cam and I sit down at it at least a few nights a week to eat a meal together. At first, she was confused and upset by this-“But WHY?! And why does the TV have to be off, I’ll be BORED!”- but now that we have done it a few times, I think she kind of likes it. It’s just the two of us, sitting face to face, eating dinner and having no choice but to talk to each other about…whatever. Sadly, at first, it was a little awkward- I mean, the first five minutes, but still, it seemed longer to me. All I could think to ask was “So, how was school today?” A question that all kids in every part of the world just relish being asked, you know. But really quickly, we forgot that this was different for us, and we just started being our normal selves, and now we both really enjoy it. It was important to me to do this thing with her, this normal, family thing, and now we are doing it, and it is nice. Little changes, big rewards. This is something that she will remember.
Every morning, before she wakes up, and every day before I pick her up from school, I have a little talk with myself. I remind myself to be patient, kind, and loving, and to treat her in a way that will make her feel happy and loved. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but for me, someone who’s natural state is a little more snappy and self-absorbed, this is important, and it helps. Last night, I was craving a dark chocolate pecan turtle, and I asked her if she wanted to go down to Fisherman’s Wharf and visit the candy store and maybe take a walk around after dinner. Of course, she was into it, so after we sat together and had dinner, we did just that. It was a chilly, overcast day, but we got our candy, and we wandered around in the shops, and then we took a little walk down the bike path and watched the otters play and the seals zip around in the harbor. We took lots of rests, because she is not much of a walker, but it was okay, we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. And on the long walk back to the car, she held my hand and gave me a million hugs, and told me what a fun time she was having. It wasn’t a big night I had planned- it was just a dumb thing I thought of last minute, a tiny outing. But it was a happy moment, and we were happy in it together. These are the things I want more of in my life. This is the way I want to be remembered.
I woke up stupidly early this morning, as usual, and did what I do every morning- grabbed a cup of coffee, checked my Facebook, screwed around until the fog lifted from my brain. And then I did the thing I LOVE to do, which is this- I opened up Word, and I started to re-read the last few paragraphs of the novel I have been working on for probably a year now… I know, I know, that seems like a really long time to be working on a novel, but…you have to remember, I also work full time, I’m a single mom, and I have many, many other things that I am always trying to make time for. That leaves me about 30 minutes on a good morning to work on the thing that I love best, which is my writing. Subtract from that the many mornings when the well has run dry and the words just won’t come, and the mornings when I forgot to dry the laundry that has all of the school clothes in it, or any number of other small catastrophes, and it starts to make more sense why it is taking so long.
The important thing is that I always do come back to it. And when this one is done, whatever happens with it- whether it sits here in my computer forever, or whether I am catapulted to some insane stardom for my clever and captivating writing- I will always return to whatever I am writing next. Writing is the one constant in my life, and has been since the moment I realized that I could write. I don’t mean the moment I discovered I could write well, either- I’m still not 100% sure of that. I just mean the moment I grasped that it was within my power to pick up a pen or a pencil, or sit down in front of a typewriter (Yep, I had several of those once upon a time) and make up a story.
I love it. I love everything about it. I love making up characters, and watching as they take on a life of their own. I love trying to guide the story and finding myself rushing after it instead, trying to keep up. I love the feeling of my fingers flying over the keyboard, trying hard to transcribe the scene that is playing out in my head. I love that the story becomes a living thing, and veers off into places I didn’t think my head was capable of imagining. I love reading back over a chapter and feeling my heart pound when something is really wild, and so, so good, and wanting so badly to share it with someone else. I love the magic in words…the way the possibilities are infinite, the scope is limitless. Quite simply, it is thrilling.
There are few things in life that I love the way I love writing. My children, of course, they are always first. But my love of words, writing them, learning them, reading them…that has been around long before I ever dreamed about being a mother. And I have known for as long as I can remember that words were “my thing”. I’ve known it all my life. I think it may have been born already inside of me, to be honest. I’m one of the lucky ones who never had to search for the thing that I loved. It has always been writing.
I just wanted to talk about that for once. I always talk about my kids, my struggles with addiction, my life in recovery. I talk about mental health and working out and all my other myriad goals in life. But for some reason, I don’t talk much about my longest, strongest, most precious love affair…writing. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the reason behind that is some deep, terrible fear of not being good enough to claim that I am a WRITER. But this isn’t even about whether I am ever published, or financially successful because of my writing, or even (gasp! dare I even say it?) famous through it one day…all of those things would be wonderful, of course. But writing feeds me in a way that nothing else does. And because of that, it is already perfect. Even if nothing else ever comes from it, it is still the greatest thing, the best part of me that I know.
Still…just in case…remember my name. You never know. 🙂
In my head, there is an alternate reality, an entire life that contains all (most) of the same people that my actual life holds, with some pointed differences. In the life unfolding in my head, we do a lot more travelling. We do things that I am afraid of ( i.e., pretend to hate) such as camping- I can see myself and my daughter smiling around a campfire, looking up at the stars. In this alternate life, there are other differences, too. We are much better at togetherness, and I don’t mean laying in bed together while one of us watches season two of The Office (me), and the other one watches other people play video games on their tablet (her). I mean actual togetherness, laughing and eating waffle cones full of fresh churned ice cream at some food festival in Maine kind of togetherness.
In my imagined life, I am more organized, I am not such a freaking hoarder, the rooms in my home are neat and sensible, and I have tracked down the source of the moldy smell in the big bathroom and eradicated it. We get homework done without crying (that could be either of us on a bad day) and Cam reads to me without stubbornly insisting that she doesn’t know how, even though we both know she can read just fine when SHE feels like it. Or better yet, instead of pretending like she hates Harry Potter, she begs me to keep reading. In my other life, I always have extra blankets, nice ones, clean and folded neatly, in the linen closet. And I have a linen closet.
There is nothing wrong with the life I already have- as a matter of fact, it’s pretty great. But could it use some fine tuning? Um, yes. For the first time in memory, however, I already have all the main ingredients needed to make the leap from the actual-life-I-am-living to the-life-in-my-head. All I need to do is figure out the right measurements. Reduce the generous helping of pure laziness to maybe a pinch or two, and double the amount of effort and elbow grease. Buy some garbage bags, make a few trips to Goodwill to drop off the 17 pairs of “goal jeans” that, let’s be honest, if they ever do fit again, they aren’t even going to be in style anymore. I have an entire drawer filled with shirts that I dig through every day, and refuse to wear any of them. Why? What am I keeping them for, then?
For some reason, a truly clean house- like, every nook and cranny clean- plays a central role in my fantasy life. I have no idea what that has to do with food festivals in Maine or camping, but I guess it would make packing easier. It would definitely make coming home from a trip away more pleasant. In true ADHD fashion, though, cleaning properly is never a straightforward event for me. It involves a lot of half finished projects that stall out when I get distracted by something else that needs to be done, over and over, until I drop from exhaustion, leaving the house looking ten times worse than it did when I started. This is not an exaggeration, this has actually happened to me before.
But here is the thing- I KNOW there is a way to make this other life happen. I KNOW it. I can feel it in my bones, that I can have the life I want. I just need to keep taking steps towards it, every day, no matter what. There have been plenty of times when I got off work and wanted to veg on the couch and binge watch whatever thing I am currently into, but instead chose to push myself a little harder to get a few more things done…and it felt great! I need to choose to do that more often, instead of occasionally. It’s amazing, the amount of energy I find myself to have, compared to what I think I do.
My 20’s and 30’s were a blur…most of it, I wasted on self loathing and addiction, and the times when I actually had my act together, I was desperately trying to catch up, or to keep my family from going under. But there was always the sense that I had ample time to figure it out. I am 43 now, and although that is not old, there is definitely a feeling of “It’s time”. Time to pull it all the way together, or as much as I can. Time to take all of the trips and clean all of the closets, and generally figure shit out. Before my knees start protesting, and my back starts being really difficult, and my hormones jump ship, or whatever hormones do when they get old.
There is absolutely nothing standing in my way for once, except for me. And I refuse to be the reason my life falters anymore. I’ve done that for as long as I can remember, and it has never served me, not once. So I am going to challenge myself to try harder, dig deeper, and really start living the juiciest, most exciting, most awesome life ever. In a super clean house, naturally. Now excuse me, I need to go order some camping gear.
Just a super quick check-in post to let my wordpress friends that I am doing okay, despite my silence these past few days.
Mother’s Day, my last post, was an emotional one for me. I spent a good chunk of the morning crying over years that I lost, and trauma I still carry in my heart. Most of the time, I don’t carry those things so close to the surface, but sometimes they emerge, and I deal with them as best I can.
This has not been the best week ever. I am dealing with some things that make me feel uncomfortable, angry, and scared. But I know that I am growing, because I grow the most when I feel the worst. I have every reason to believe that I will come through these current trials stronger than ever, but for now, I have to be okay with sitting with my discomfort. It’s just part of life. You can’t just stick your head in the sand forever, and ignore your problems- that’s the way they grow bigger! I am still learning, and even though this is a lesson I have learned before, I guess I didn’t learn it well enough because here it came again.
Thankfully, my mom is still in town, and I got to spend a really nice evening with her last night. This has been a rough few years for us- me working through a lot of stuff that happened a long time ago, and her trying to be patient with me, and trying to understand. There was a time, not too long ago, that I worried our relationship would never be okay again. But I realized this morning that my fears were unfounded- I felt exactly the way I want to feel with my mom last night: Safe, loved, understood. We laughed and visited and just hung out, and it was so nice. Now she is getting ready to head home, and I find myself wishing she could stay here forever, so that I could see her all the time. I really love my mom.
To sum it all up, I’m just tired this morning. The kind of tired that comes from being bombarded with too many feelings, too fast. It drains you, doesn’t it? But I know it is only temporary, as everything always is, and that I am truly doing everything that is within my power to fix what is broken. No matter what the end result is, I will know I did my very best. That’s really all you can ever do, isn’t it?
I have been a mother now for almost half of my life. I have forgotten so many things- my daughter will say “Do you remember that time…” Or “Remember when we…” and I feel terrible about it, but nine times out of ten, I have no idea what she is talking about. Sometimes I secretly think she is just making stuff up to torture me. But for all the things I have forgotten, I will never, ever forget the day that I became a mother. I remember being in labor all night, by myself, timing my contractions, and sleeping between them, and writing them down on a little paper bag that had held a greeting card (I still have that bag, taped inside my daughters baby book). I remember the ride to the hospital, and the giant men’s flannel shirt that I had taken to wearing because it was pretty much all that would fit me at that point.
But more than anything, I remember the moment that my daughter arrived in this world. I remember the doctor holding her up, and the way that time stood still as my eyes beheld her for the first time, the way that something inside of me shifted, and the way my heart changed, in an instant, to something so much bigger than I had ever known it was possible to be. For the first time in my life, I loved someone else more than I loved myself. It pains me to admit how selfish I was until that moment, which is not to say that I immediately was redeemed as a human being, but from then on, I learned a lot about guilt, lets put it that way. But that moment, the moment I met her, was so pure. I remember thinking “Please don’t ever let me forget this.” And I never have.
It’s impossible for me to remember that day without thinking about all the ways it went wrong after that. I wanted so badly to do it right, to be the best mom, but I didn’t stand a chance. My addiction and my immaturity saw to that. I know there were happy times, but it’s so much easier for me to remember everything I didn’t do, and all the things I did wrong. It honestly breaks my heart. Knowing the kind of life my daughter deserved to have, and understanding what I took from her. Knowing that is one thing I can never, ever fix. You can’t give someone back the time you stole. And I know that for her, that’s just what she had, so she doesn’t look at it the way I do- she doesn’t know any different. But for me…how can I not see all that could have been, how can I ever possibly be at peace with these things? How can I ever truly forgive myself?
I still don’t have an answer for those questions. But I can tell you this: From the moment she came into my life, I never stopped wanting and trying to be better. I failed, over and over and over again, but goddammit, I wanted it so bad. And it wasn’t for me, which might have been my first mistake- no, at a certain point, I really began to despise myself for my weakness- it was always, forever, and only for her. And because I kept trying, I managed, somehow, to keep us together (although I’ve often wondered if she would have been better off with someone else), and I managed, somehow, to keep our heads above water, just barely. Sometimes things were really, really bad. I have memories that I would love to banish from my head, and yet I cling to them like a penance. How dare I try to forget?
But sometimes things were good and sweet- her tiny feet in footy pajamas. The way we would sleep curled together, two peas in a pod. Riding in the car together on a beautiful summer day, all the windows rolled down, singing along to “Cowboy Take Me Away”. The fierce love she inspired in me, the deep connection I had never felt before for another human being. She was, and is, my world. I just didn’t know how to do it right. I just couldn’t get there in time. She was all grown up by the time I finally figured out how to do this job. Talk about heartache…you have no idea.
Now she is almost 21, and she has a little sister who reaps all of the rewards of my experience. I do homework and read stories, and worry about shit like too much screen time, and processed food, and nitrates in hot dogs. I pack her lunches, and make sure her hair is brushed, and I would never send her to school with a backpack that reeks of cigarette smoke. I try hard not to say things I will regret later, and I try even harder to say things that let her know she is loved. But most of all, my youngest daughter has had the luxury of a safe life. Things are never up in the air, and we always have a home of our own, and everything is consistent and routine. She will never know what it is like to have the ground beneath her feet shifting constantly. I am so glad that this is true. But I wish I could have given this to both of my children, not just one of them.
The wonder of it all is that, despite everything, my daughter- the 20 year old- loves me more than you can even imagine. You know what she tells me? That I am the only one who was ALWAYS there for her, that she looks back at her life, and the only one that she sees in every memory is ME. She remembers the closeness. She remembers the good things. She is the one who reminds me that is wasn’t all bad, that there were plenty of happy times- Like sliding down the snowy Reno streets in our fake Ugg boots, and laughing so hard our sides ached. And sitting in our car, sharing terrible lemon chicken and chow mein on payday, even though we couldn’t afford it. To her, I am just her mom, and she just loves me.
So today, even though she will probably never even see this, I dedicate this post to my daughter, Aisley. The best thing I ever did, and the person who made me a mother. I love you so much, and I’m grateful every single day that God saw fit to give me you.