Pain has always been a great motivator for me- nothing pushes you into action faster or more seriously than pain does, be it emotional, mental, or, as in my current predicament, PHYSICAL. Tooth pain, to be exact. Boy, I forgot what a nightmare a painful tooth can be. It’s been a long time since I’ve suffered through it, now that I’ve had dental insurance for the past decade. Before that, it was something I went through pretty regularly, unfortunately. A combo of bad genes and drug abuse made sure of that. For the past long time, though, I’ve taken really good care of my teeth- regular cleanings, fillings replaced, I’ve done it all.
All except for one thing. I have this stupid wisdom tooth, you see. It has needed to be pulled for at least a year, but…it wasn’t bothering me, so I ignored it. I have nothing against most dental procedures. I’ve even been known to fall asleep during a root canal. But extractions? Dear sweet baby Jesus, no. You would think, with all the advances in dentistry, that they could come up with something a little less…medieval torture chamber, right? It’s just BRUTAL the way they go about it. So, knowing this, and thinking back to my last wisdom tooth extraction, where, I shit you not, I had a black eye afterwards…I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger. No pain, no point, right?
Oh my God, so wrong! Why, oh why, did I wait? Last Friday, I’m sitting here, innocently sipping my coffee, when all of the sudden, it feels like a high voltage drill is boring into the pulp of my tooth. There was no warning, no hint that anything had changed. Just sudden, shocking, electrifying pain. My hands are sweating as I write this, as I am now permanently braced for the next jolt. I am SO MAD at myself.
But you know what? It motivated the hell out of me, that’s for sure. I have an appointment to get this sucker yanked this Friday, and I’m actually looking forward to it. Funny how pain can change ones perspective, eh? From fear to excitement? You bet your ass. And guess what else? I will not even be awake for the procedure, either. They are knocking me out and when I wake up, one less tooth for this girl.
In the meantime, it’s a steady diet of Aleve and Listerine mouth wash for me, not to mention little pauses while I try to use Lamaze breathing through the pain. Luckily, it only hurts sometimes, not all the time. At least, not yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And never, ever wait to deal with your teeth. I promise you, it just isn’t worth it.
It seems crazy that it’s almost been a week since I’ve been home. The funny thing about travelling is that it takes up your mind for so long after you get back. Not to mention how strange it is to have this momentous event in your life and then, suddenly, you are right back in the middle of your normal life, trying to get back in your groove. Maybe seasoned travelers don’t go through that, I don’t know. But for me, it’s been really weird.
On the third full day of our trip, we decided to go to Boston. I am not a big fan of cities, but it did seem like something that I shouldn’t miss, seeing as how I was going to be so nearby. So when my friend Alicia said she wanted to see Boston, I agreed. Boy, am I glad I did. We parked our rental car in a giant garage and took the train into the city. Honestly, for me, this was one of the coolest things ever. I don’t take trains, ever, so I just felt very sophisticated, even if it was kind of nerve wracking trying to figure out how to buy a ticket and which train to get on. Lucky for us, there were no lines and there were signs everywhere that said exactly which train went where. We hopped on with no trouble, and took the fifteen minute ride to the government center stop.
We wanted to walk the Freedom Trail, so we struggled for a minute to figure out where, exactly, that was. I told her to ask the guy dressed in period clothing in the Starbucks where we should go, but she chickened out, so…we were on our own. Luckily for us, it was not hard to find, as it is literally painted and bricked into the ground, so, after chugging down a familiar latte (I swear to God, there are Dunkin Donuts on every corner, but the Starbucks are few and far between) we quickly found our path. But before we could go more than a block, we stumbled across yet another amazing cemetery, and of course I had to go in. This one was tiny, wedged between buildings in the middle of the city, but WOW. King’s Chapel and Burying Grounds is beautiful. We wandered through, reading all the information, and I snapped a few pictures. Then we went inside King’s Chapel, and let me tell you- they don’t make churches like that anymore. The pews were like booths with doors, and from what I understand, you had to buy them? Maybe I’m not getting that right, but there were many placards describing the men who owned them, so…You’ll have to forgive me, I was very, very tired on this final day, and it’s all kind of a blur.
After that, we found ourselves at the State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, among other things. The museum inside was well worth the ten bucks, and we really took our time checking it out. I can’t emphasize enough how mind-blowing it was to read about the very early history of the country as we know it while standing in the places where history was made. It kinda…well, it gave me a bit of an emotional moment, honestly. It was just very cool. I’ve been much more interested in American History since I’ve been home, wanting to know more about how those days and years played out.
From there, we ran through Faneuil Hall, then made our way tiredly to Paul Revere’s old house. Very crowded, but so, so neat! I didn’t take any pictures because it was forbidden, but did you know that Paul Revere had 16 children? Yeah, me neither. Another thing- you can’t walk through that place without the words “The British are coming!” playing on a loop inside your head. It’s impossible.
After Paul’s house, we walked back to the Government Center, which by the way, passes right through what has got to be Boston’s Little Italy-I can’t believe I wasn’t hungry enough to try a legit cannoli. I’m still mad at myself. Anyway, we took an Uber from there to Cheer’s- not my idea, by the way, but…once you see it, it does cause a little nostalgic thrill. For people my age who grew up watching the show, it doesn’t suck. The inside looks nothing like the bar on TV, but so what? I had my Shirley Temple at the bar, and felt like I’d done something cool. Cheer’s is right across the street from the Boston Public Garden, so we strolled around there for a few. They have some serious squirrels in Boston, let me tell you. Fatter and far more spry than any I’ve seen here in California, there were so many of them that it started to give me the creeps. If they ever decide to organize, Bostonians will be in trouble.
Our final destination on our quick jaunt through Boston was the Museum of Fine Arts, and I am SO glad we went. My one regret is getting there at 3, just two hours before they closed, because you could truly spend an entire day in there. As it was, we saw a good portion, but we had to rush, which wasn’t the best. I was so excited to see Monet’s work in real life, but you know what? That wasn’t even close to my favorite. I loved the Egyptian display- it was thrilling to see things so old and so well preserved- and the Greek sculptures. There was so much more that I wanted to linger over- stained glass and fabulous paintings by who even knows who. My brain was just overwhelmed with the quality of the things in that museum. I learned another thing about myself on this trip-I REALLY love museums! I kind of knew that already, but living in a small town with just a few little museums, it’s hard to comprehend what a large museum is able to show to you. Unbelievable!
After a slow ride back in another Uber, through terrible rush hour traffic, our driver deposited us safely back at Faneuil Hall so that we could grab a few last minute gifts before catching the train back to our car.
The thing you learn on your first trip somewhere is how to spend your next trip there, right? I know now to never visit Salem in October, and that if I ever go back, I should give myself a few more days to spend on the things I love- namely, museums and exploring the little towns along the coast. But there are so many places I still want to see, not only in my own country, but in the world- who knows if I’ll ever make it back there? Seriously, though…I have a strong feeling that I will.
Since I can’t seem to get my body back on “normal” (West Coast) time, I figure I might as well go ahead and tell you all about day 2 of my trip. Day 2 wound up being my favorite day, and I learned some important things about myself as a traveler- namely, that I am happiest without an itinerary, and much, much happier in more idyllic settings, with far fewer people.
The day started off super slow- we were both so tired from the debacle in Salem the day and night before that we were not in a big hurry to get anywhere. To be honest with you, I actually felt hungover. I had been so tired the night before, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, and then I woke up way earlier than I wanted to, so I wasn’t very rested. I felt achy and dehydrated, and just generally shitty, but…when you are on a short vacation in a new place, you find it within yourself to soldier on. Which I am so glad I did!
Anyway, after an incredibly unappetizing hotel buffet breakfast, we hopped in the trusty charger and headed…north? North-east? Anyway, we headed out of Peabody and away from the more populated areas. The thing about these little towns off the freeway is that they are literally right off the freeway. The parking lot of our hotel exited onto the actual freeway. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. They also have stop lights on the freeway and places to make U-turns. Crazy. But we made it on safely and before you know it, you are in the middle of massive beauty. The bright red and orange trees, and water, just everywhere. I still don’t know which were lakes, rivers, or inlets, but I guess it doesn’t matter…all I really know is, for me, water is the key. I love being near large bodies of water. I just feel better.
Just off the highway, we stopped for the first time at a big old candy store in the middle of nothing. Nichols candy house has been in business for 86 years, according to the sign. They make all their candy on site, and the ladies running the counter looked like they might have been there when the store opened. Seriously, they were adorable, in a no-nonsense, getting shit done kinda way. I didn’t buy anything there, which is my one regret of the whole trip. Alicia did, and I was lucky that she shared with me, because they know what they are doing. My advice to you? If you find yourself there, buy the truffles!
Anyway, after that, we programmed directions to a lighthouse into GPS. This was one of many times that Siri failed us on this trip. We asked for a particular lighthouse, she steered us to the middle of a neighborhood in Gloucester and told us we were there. After that, she stopped speaking to us. I’m assuming she was embarrassed. So, here we are, lost, trying to figure out why the ocean was so far away from a lighthouse, and we turned a corner to find…oh my God, the most beautiful graveyard in the world. It was called Oak Park Cemetery, and I demanded to be allowed to wander through it. I could tell Alicia was hesitant (she’s got weird Catholic guilt) but I was going, no matter what. I am so glad I did. The wind was super chilly, but the sky was bright blue, and the trees looked like they were bursting into flames, and the cemetery…so peaceful, and so insanely full of history. The headstones back east are incredible. I wish I had taken more pictures, up close, so that I could look into the symbolism. But at that moment, I was just so happy to be there, experiencing REAL fall weather, ambling quietly through this beautiful place, surrounded by graves that were hundreds of years old. It was one of many perfect moments I had that day.
After a while out in the cold, the warm car was a welcoming place. We got back on the road, missed another turn, and wound up in downtown Gloucester (pronounced “Glah-stah” by the locals 🙂 ). Sometimes those wrong turns are fortuitous. We easily found parking (yay!) and walked up the hill to a little coffee shop to get a warm drink and figure out what next. The place was called Drift Coffee, had a wonderful view of the water, and, much to Alicia’s delight, a full bar! I had a fancy latte, she had a glass of pinot noir, and we figured out our next move. I have to tell you, I had my next perfect moment sitting at that little coffee bar, staring at the street below and the harbor across the way. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, and so quiet…I was in heaven. THIS was the trip I had imagined, and I couldn’t have been happier to be where I was.
We wandered the down the cobbled street a bit, did some shopping and sightseeing, then headed down to the harbor to see the lost fisherman memorial. We saw our first drawbridge thingy- that’s what they’re called, right? Anyway, it was delightful. And I picked up some shells and sea glass to take home. After a while longer in the icy wind that was no longer quite as bracing and more like torture, we headed over, on the recommendation of one of the friendly shop owners, to Rockport.
Rockport, if you can believe it, was even more idyllic and quintessential New England, (or what I imagined New England to be like, anyway) than Gloucester had been. We parked near a little white church with a tall steeple, and braced ourselves for the now freeeeezing wind rolling in off the ocean. Holy smokes! It was so cold. The first thing I did was find a store that sold beanies, and happily threw down 20 bucks for a super warm cap. Once my ears had recovered some feeling, we walked around a little bit, and decided to check out the little harbor. It was incredible. I know I keep saying this, but the sky there is just SO blue. Coming from the coast myself, there were so many similarities, but differences as well. The ocean smells saltier and brinier there, somehow. The scenery was just breathtaking.
By this time, we were starving to death, so we found a little place called the Blue Lobster Grille, and grabbed a table. I had hot apple cider- it’s a whole different thing over there than any I’ve had here- and a giant plate of mussels, followed by seafood pasta that I could barely put a dent in. So, with full bellies and to-go bags, we raced to the car, waved goodbye to Rockport, and headed back to our room to get rested for our final day in Boston.
I’ve been home less than 24 hours, and I’m not (very) ashamed to tell you that I am still wearing the clothes I flew home in. In my defense, I wore stretch pants and a t-shirt, so they are kinda like pajamas anyway, PLUS…oh dear lord, I was so tired when I got home that I felt kind of drunk. We got up at 3 in the morning, which would be 12 midnight here, so that we could catch our flight on time, so the long and short of it is…I am all kinds of screwed up right now. It’s barely 4 a.m. and I’ve already been up for an hour. I have no experience with jet lag or time zone weirdness, but I’m learning fast. I got home yesterday, handed out gifts, hugged my children, ate some food, and passed out. I meant to shower and change, but I slipped into a coma instead, and that was that.
I’m going to break this down into three posts, since each segment was such a totally different experience, and I thought I’d start at day one- Friday- which was my first little taste of Salem. Little did I know it would be the most sane part of my visit to that particular town. Anyway, we flew into Logan, grabbed our rental car- I was expecting a Jetta, but apparently, a Charger is about the same thing (NOT), and either way, that’s what we got. My dear friend Alicia volunteered to drive, thank God, and we headed out of Boston to Peabody (pronounced Pee-biddy, apparently) where our lodgings were. After dumping our stuff, we hightailed it toward Salem, in search of food. Along our route into town, we saw a place called Kings, advertising the best roast beef sandwiches AND lobster (lobstah) rolls- two things I wanted to check off my list. Let Me Tell You Something!! That lobstah roll was good, no doubt, but the roast beef sandwiches on the east coast?! Holy smokes! I will be dreaming about that super thin, super rare, tender, delicious beef for years to come. Oh man. SO good! You know that feeling of disappointment when you realize you are going to be too full to finish your dinner? That happened. But the super friendly guys running the place wrapped it up for me, and I was able to have a little midnight snack later. It was still delicious the next day.
Oh, that’s another thing I don’t want to forget to mention- the people we met, and I mean almost without exception, were the friendliest, chattiest, funniest, warmest people I’ve ever run into. I was in seventh heaven, as my chatty game is on point. I felt like I’d found my people. Anyway, onto Salem…
So, on Friday night, we made it into downtown Salem just in time for the end of the night market- I think this is a thing they do only in October. There were booths selling all sorts of Halloween or dark-themed items, and we wandered around, noting stores we wanted to return to the following day. We didn’t stay too long- it was already past nine and we wanted to be well rested for the next day, so we were in and out, after some oohing and ahhing over the amazing architecture and cobbled streets.
Saturday morning, we decided to Uber into Salem since we were worried about parking. The plan was to get there, Uber back in the afternoon, and then head back over in the evening for a ghost/history tour. What ended up happening, however, is that we decided to stay, from like 11 in the morning until around 10 at night.
Everyone said it was busy in Salem in October. I am not pretending like we were not forewarned. But “busy” isn’t exactly the right word for what we experienced. “Pandemonium” would be better, or “utter fucking chaos” even. It was intense. We couldn’t get into the restaurant we wanted to eat at, we couldn’t find a place to go to the bathroom, we couldn’t get into any of the stores we wanted to shop at. I mean, we could have done all of these things, but only if we wanted to wait in line for at least 30 minutes for each thing. I am not even remotely exaggerating. Even the stores had bouncers outside, letting in small amounts of people at a time. It was crazy.
Even so, we did have a good time. We had lunch at the Howling Wolf Taqueria, and I tried deep fried avocado for the first time. I promise you, it will not be the last. The service was great, and the atmosphere was happy and fun. We got to see the graveyard where the “hanging judge” John Hathorne is buried, and the graveyards back east are not to be missed. I tried real hot apple cider and cider donuts, I drooled over the houses and the history and the greenery away from the crowds, and a few times, I managed to lose myself in the merriment of it all.
One saving grace of the day was the Peabody Essex Museum. Not only did it have the most amazing Maritime exhibit I have ever seen- and the east coast has an awe-inspiring maritime history, let me be clear about that! But-and this is important-for the price of admission, you can come in and out all day, using their clean and uncrowded bathroom as many times as you please. I loved that place.
Alas, the museum closed at 5, leaving us to wander the streets like pitiful, tired zombies until our pre-paid ghost tour at 8. So we wandered over to the Salem Commons, and I am so glad we did. We found a tree to park ourselves under and sat and watched the carnival on the periphery, and closer, families playing, and the big trees bursting with fall color. That was a happy moment. We wandered the side streets a little more, taking pictures of houses, and then made our way back into the fray, being swept along by the crowd, which showed no sign of thinning anytime soon. I saw the Bewitched statue, and managed to elbow my way into a store and buy hoodies for my kids. And finally, FINALLY, it was time for our tour. At this point, I had already clocked about double my normal amount of steps on my Fitbit, and I was tired enough to cry, but…
The walking tour was MAGICAL. Seriously, if they offer a walking tour in a town you are visiting, you should take it. You learn so much. Every time I have ever taken one, I’ve been so happy I did. This one was extra cool, though. I wish I could remember the name of the one we did- there are many to choose from in Salem- and I will definitely be doing some research to find out, as I want to give a good review on trip advisor or something. Anyway, our tour guide was a young woman and practicing witch, and she led us through town, telling us all about the history and the legends of Salem. Even as tired as I was, I could have kept going for twice as long just to hear more.
In the end, we made it back to the hotel in one piece, exhausted and definitely overwhelmed by our October Salem experience. I would definitely go back, no question about it. But not in October. No freaking way. That being said…I’m still, oddly, very happy that I had that experience. It was wonderful. I bet it would be even more wonderful in, say, June. Ha-ha!
Two nights ago, I had a stressful dream that my purse was stolen. I was with my boss, at a restaurant, and realized it was gone. I was so upset! It had EVERYTHING in it- my ID, my credit cards, my makeup, my money! I didn’t know what to do. And then I realized it had my car keys in it, too, and now the thieves could steal my car. What a nightmare. Literally. But, I woke up, chalked it up to another one of my weird stress dreams and moved on.
Last night I dreamed that my car was stolen. It was a new Nissan Pathfinder (in my dream) with leather interior and all the bells and whistles. I was extremely proud of that dream car. I went down the coast to see my sister in law, and I asked her if she wanted to see my new car, which, of course, she did. We went outside, but there were suddenly so many cars, and I couldn’t seem to find mine. So I thought, hey, I’ll just click the alarm button and listen for the sound, but…my keys were gone. Eventually, I realized my car was gone. I knew who stole it, but there was nothing I could do. I freaked out. I woke up, again, very stressed out.
A single dream like this would be par for the course for me- but two? Two in a row? I know what is happening here. As my trip grows closer, I am spending my waking hours planning and being excited, and for God’s sake, not imagining every single thing that could possibly go wrong while I am an entire continent away from my children. But deep in the dark and morbid recesses of my brain, the “what-ifs” are hatching, like terrible gremlins on a gremlin-hatching conveyor belt in the fear factory of my mind. If I refuse to give them any space in my waking-hours mind, they will come out wherever they can.
This morning, as I desperately googled “stolen car dream meaning”, seeking to reassure myself that my dreams weren’t a harbinger of crashing planes and imminent death, I realized that my anxiety had me right where it wanted me. Alone, afraid, and miserable at five in the morning. Wondering how mad my friend would be if I cancelled on her two days before our trip. Hoping I came down with strep throat so I had no choice but to stay home. My anxiety is so ridiculous that I wished illness upon myself to avoid doing something fun and wonderful. Let that sink in for a minute.
So, I took a deep breath, and made a plan. When my anxiety asks “What if something happens?” I will say, “Something will happen! I am going to have fun, and see a new part of the world, and expand my horizons a little bit.” And when my anxiety insists, “Yes, but what if something BAD happens?!” I am going to say “Something BAD could happen just as easily with me here as it could with me gone- something bad could happen at any moment of any day, but mostly, it doesn’t. So stop it.” And when my anxiety continues to pester me with thoughts and images too awful to transcribe for you, I am going to fight fire with fire, by reading and remembering all the wonderful posts about women who travel all the time and make it home safe, happy, and healthy. Other people do it every single day. I am no different.
My anxiety will tell me I should just stay home. But my therapist, who I happen to have at least a bit more faith in than my own anxious brain, told me that my anxiety is dishonest…but that I will never know that if I don’t stop listening to it all the time. The only way to combat anxiety is to do the thing it tells you not to do. I mean, unless it’s telling you not to kill someone. In that scenario, your anxiety is 100% correct, and you should definitely listen.
Because my anxiety doesn’t just want me to stay home. My anxiety wants me to stay home, keep everyone I love in the house with me, close the blinds, and board up the windows. If we leave, we leave in a group. My anxiety wants not only me as a prisoner, it wants everyone I care for imprisoned as well. My anxiety calls it “being safe”, but even I know that’s not honest. That’s not living. So I will take my trip, and I will not let anxiety win this one.
And if something happens? Well…what if something wonderful happens? You can’t stop living because you are afraid. You can, actually. You can stop living because you are afraid. But I have no intention of living that way.
I went to bed last night feeling grateful for the sleepy little bed-hog lying next to me, even if she was mad at me for cruelly coming between her and her Kindle at the obscenely early hour of eight p.m.- no one ever said being a good mama was always fun. School starts up again today after a week off, and she needs her rest, after all. But I lay there, drifting off to sleep, patting her leg, and I was happy.
I woke up this morning, poured myself a big, strong cup of coffee, and began my routine of letting various animals out and in, and then out again. My cat, in particular, is incredibly indecisive, and we do this little dance about forty times a morning. Anyway, I let Lucy, my big, sweet black lab in, and realized I didn’t so much as acknowledge her existence. Here she is, so absolutely in love with me, and I don’t even look at her when I let her in. How rude. So I sat down and called her over for some love. The goofy little look of bliss on her face as I hugged her and scratched her back was worth a million bucks.
I’ve just been noticing, lately, how sweet my life is. Been feeling grateful for the blessings of my children, my pets, my home, my job, and of course, my recovery, without which the rest wouldn’t be possible. I wish I could say that it’s just coincidental, or maybe because this new medication is kicking in, but…the truth is, it’s because I’m about to leave all of this behind and fly away on Thursday to the East coast for a vacation all on my own. I mean, I’ll be with my friend Alicia, but no kids, no pets, no job, no nothing. I will be bringing my recovery with me, of course. That goes with me everywhere. But nothing makes me more grateful for something than the idea of being without it, even if it is just temporarily.
I have 100% faith that my older daughter and her boyfriend will take excellent care of my pets and my home while I’m gone. They definitely aren’t the type to throw parties or do anything stupid, so that’s not a concern. I’m like 98% sure that Cam’s dad will take excellent care of Cam in my absence, the 2% basically being that he won’t brush her hair properly or make her go to sleep at a decent hour. But she’ll survive that. I’m about 75% sure that my plane won’t crash, either going or coming home, which is a vast improvement over my previous feelings about flying, where I was 99% sure I would die, so that’s good news. Especially for the people unfortunate enough to have to sit near me on the plane- I could drive anyone to drink with the anxiety that used to pour off of me. I’ve decided to just watch X-files and zone out until we touch down in Boston.
But one thing I know with absolute certainty is, I am damn lucky to have a life that I love enough to miss while I’m away, and that I will love coming back to. Sometimes I forget where I came from, what it was like for me not so long ago. I get so wrapped up in my head, so tortured by my thoughts, that I can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m glad to have this clarity for once, this better perspective on my life. I’m proud of the woman I have become- one who has healed so many relationships, and grown a life that is more calm and more loving, and more “normal” than I ever thought myself capable of having. And I’m super stoked that I planned and payed for (a whole year in advance, even!) a vacation to a place I have been dreaming of going for the longest time! No way I could’ve pulled this off in my addiction. No. Freaking. Way.
So cheers to that! To me, and to my life, and to my beautiful children. To safe flights and new sights, and the big world waiting to be discovered. To daydreams, and adventures, and the people we come home to. And last, but never least, to the life recovery has made possible. I am truly grateful.
I woke up at three o’clock this morning, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d had a terrible nightmare, the kind that seems so real, where you wake up breathless- like you were running straight out of the dream. Honestly, I could cry just thinking about it right now. I dreamed about a man I haven’t laid eyes on since I was 15 years old, a man I hope I never have to see again. But for a long time, he was part of my life, and part of my family. He turned what might have been a happy childhood into years of walking on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing, or make the wrong face. He was my stepfather, and he was a terrible man.
In my dream last night, somehow, he was back in our lives. We were trying to get away from him- I remember desperately thinking that I should call from a different phone, pretend to be a different woman, convince him that he should meet up with me, but…even in my dream I was too afraid he would recognize my voice, too afraid of what would happen if I were found out. I was standing in my kitchen, in this house, and I could hear the sound of that particular kind of “fight”- the kind that isn’t really a fight at all, but a man overpowering a woman. I know that sound intimately. I rushed out to find him holding my mothers arm behind her back, as she swayed on her feet, looking dazed. He had his arm pulled back, ready to punch her again. My heart was in my throat as I rushed to her side, wedging myself between them, and somehow he didn’t resist me, he let me lead her into the house. This was not how the story went in real life, of course. I was little then, and I couldn’t do anything at all to help, no matter how much I wanted to.
I don’t think my mom likes it when I talk about this. I know these are terrible memories, and she wishes they didn’t exist. But I want to point out how remarkable it is that, at the age of 43, almost 30 years since I’ve even seen this person, my mind, my heart, my consciousness, can still recall exactly the terror and the pain and the helplessness I felt as a child. I want to point out that, even if I never spoke of this again, these feelings still exist in me, whether I acknowledge them or not. I do not think of this man- almost never. I don’t waste my time hating him or being angry about what he did. I figure his biggest punishment is walking around in his skin, with his memories and his broken mind.
But do I ever feel sad for the child I was, who certainly didn’t deserve to have to live that way? Of course I do. Do I ever wonder how much that contributed to my years of drug abuse and dysfunction? You bet your ass I do. How could I not? Do I blame my mother? Nope. We’ve talked about it, many, many times. She was a very young woman, trying to provide a life for her children, and she simply got in over her head. She didn’t know how to get out. The mental manipulation that goes hand in hand with physical and verbal abuse makes it very hard to tell which end is up. There are good days in between the bad days, and remember…this abuser didn’t start off being a monster. You are always looking for the man inside the monster. Sometimes he is wonderful and charming and fun. Towards the end, as I recall it, the monster consumed the man. We left because my mother began to truly fear he would kill us all.
Though he was not my father, he left traces of himself on me. I have had to learn that people aren’t supposed to erupt in rage, or terrify littler people into submission. I have had to learn how to love others without harming them. I did not know how to fight fair. I did not know you didn’t have to fight at all, not like that. I would never tolerate a man putting his hands on me- I made that promise to myself, and I have kept it. But I became the tyrant, at least sometimes, and that has been hard to know about myself. It has been even harder to overcome.
As for my mom- she has gone on to bigger and better things, and she has been successful and happy and done so many wonderful things. But for a long time, she couldn’t talk about those years, not really. I needed to talk about them. I will never forget the night we drove out along the beach, the two of us in her car, and she finally opened up to me. She told me everything I thought was real, my memories were indeed as I remembered, and she said the most important words she’d ever said to me: “I’m so sorry. I wish I could go back and change it, but I can’t.”
Forgiveness was a lot easier after that. I don’t know how to end this, so I’m just going to say this- if you are in a situation where you are being abused, and you don’t think your kids are being affected, please believe me when I tell you that they are, and they will be for many years to come. Even if it seems impossibly hard, you can leave. There are so many organizations that can help.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
I was sitting here googling random shit this morning, as one does, and somehow “Why are some people naturally more kind than others?” morphed into “Long term effects of methamphetamine on the brain”, which, in my case, aren’t necessarily unrelated to one another. Basically, I was wondering if my inability to be as kind as I’d like to be could be linked to damage in my brain caused by years of INSANE quantities of meth in my body.
It seems like there is good news and bad news. The good news is that, by now, my brain has mostly healed from all the harm I did to it. There are certain parts of my brain that might never be okay again, but as far as my behavior, moods and that sort of thing goes, it’s all me at this point. As far as “they” know, anyway. The bad news is, this means I am just naturally a bit of an asshole, but I don’t think this is breaking news. And, unlike most of the assholes out there, at least I’m trying to change. Actually, I have no idea what the other assholes are trying or not trying to do, I’m just angling to make myself look good. Shocker. Also, thanks to my years of chemical dependency, I have a higher chance of dementia and Parkinson’s, which I’m not thrilled about, but what can I do?
One thing I did find really interesting, though, is that I now have scientific evidence supporting what I have been claiming for a long time- your brain needs ample time to heal after your cessation of meth. I mean, duh, right? But this is not something anyone was able to reassure me of after I first got clean, and I thought I was going mad. If I wasn’t using anymore, why did I still act so crazy? Why was I still so full of anger and rage? Why couldn’t I control my emotions at all? In short, why was I still exhibiting all of the behaviors I associated with my drug use, but I wasn’t even using drugs?!
Although I was seeing some progress in my life in these areas, it was incredibly frustrating how slow it went, and how terrible I felt. I didn’t understand. I thought maybe it wasn’t the drugs after all, and maybe I was just a horrible monster of a person. My doctor strongly recommended that I go on an antidepressant or something, but I was so turned off by the idea of using another drug, even one prescribed to me. I knew that something wasn’t right, but my instincts urged me to wait and see. And so I did.
It took between 18 months and two years before I saw a significant change in my behavior- enough so that I felt passably sane. At 3.5 years, I can tell you that I am probably the best I have ever been in my adult life. I used drugs for most of my entire adult life, approximately 20 years. For someone who did more growing up and less drugs, I expect the recovery time would be shorter.
The point is this: be patient with yourself. Not only do you need time to grieve the time you lost and the damage you did, not only do you have to relearn, or even learn for the first time, how to exist in the “normy” world, but your brain has to heal physically. Meth might not be considered physically addictive, but this does not mean it does no physical, quantifiable damage. It does. Look it up, see for yourself the pictures of a brain six months after cessation of drug use. Actually, never mind, I’ll just post the picture so you can see for yourself.
My advice to anyone in early recovery from methamphetamine is to be patient. The changes will come, but maybe not as soon as you would hope. Commit to stick it out, and before too long, you’ll see the person you had always hoped to be under all the bullshit. With a lot of work, love and faith, it’s never too late to become the very best version of yourself. 🙂
I don’t know if anyone ever really feels their age- I have this idea that all of us probably feel mentally younger than however old we are. Unless, of course, the person reading this is, say, 20. When I was 20 I thought I was sooo mature. (I wasn’t, but you couldn’t tell me that because I knew everything- including how it must feel to be mature, apparently). Anyway, my body just keeps on getting older, but sometimes it seems like my brain is getting less and less sure of things with the passage of time. Things I thought I knew for sure when I was younger, I question thoroughly now. Maybe this is a sign of maturity, now that I think about it- reexamining your beliefs and all that.
But, I mean…I spent like an hour howling with laughter over fart prank videos with my daughter the other day. If that gives you any idea at all about how mature I am. Also, on Friday (my daughters 21st birthday) we had a spontaneous dance party where I may have attempted to twerk. “Attempted” being the most important word in that sentence. I still can’t figure out how to do it! I really don’t know why I need to, anyway, but it would be so satisfying if I just could, even once.
I’m getting off track here, though. The whole purpose of this post is to illustrate to you that my body is aging at a much faster rate than my mind is. Since I have been in my 40’s, I have had more back pain- for NO freaking reason- than I could even catalog for you. Like, just sleeping makes my back hurt. When I sit in one position for too long without moving, when I do try to move, that hurts. Recently, I stretched and tweaked my neck. For the next week, changing lanes while I was driving became a terrifying challenge, as I couldn’t really look behind me.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty confident it was me lifting an unexpectedly heavy cooler full of ice and sodas for my boss on Friday that did it. Or maybe it was the attempted twerking. But I did something bad to my lower back on Friday. Normally, it’s the right lower side that hurts. This time it’s the left, but the right also hurts a little bit. I was kneeling on the floor Saturday morning, cleaning out the linen closet, and when it was time to stand up…I almost couldn’t do it. I literally panicked for a second, like, holy shit, is this really happening? With much groaning and wincing, as my lithe and limber young daughter stood over me, rolling her eyes and calling me dramatic, I was finally able to rise. This has happened, un-witnessed, several other times since then.
It happened this morning because I tried to get out of bed.
I mean, this is just embarrassing. Aging is bullshit. Am I going to have to actually avoid doing certain things because it might hurt?! I refuse. I’m going to lift weights or something, do yoga, whatever- anything I can do to preserve my body so that I can still change my own giant water jugs.
As soon as I can figure out how to get out of this damned chair.