Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, health, Life, Mental Health, Musings

Realization Dawns

anxiety

Recently, I was wrapping things up with my therapist, and just before we were done with our session she said something like- “Oh, well you have anxiety anyway, so that makes sense.”, and she said it so matter of factly, and I was a little bit offended for some reason, like, pssshh- I get a little nervous sometimes, but I wouldn’t say I have anxiety! Which is so funny, now that I think about it, because…I obviously HAVE anxiety. I must have been in a really good phase or something, because her words kind of wounded me. I just don’t think of myself that way.

That’s the tricky thing about MY particular set of mental peculiarities. I am not anxious all of the time. It comes and goes with me. There are certain situations which trigger massive anxiety, and once my thoughts start spiraling out of control, it is very hard for me to pull myself back into logic and reality. One of those is, clearly, my children. There have been times when it was worry about my health. Occasionally, I will obsess over losing my job or having to move. But all of these are pretty manageable except for the one about my kids. That is my big-ticket item, the one that I can make myself physically ill over.

So, when things are going along nicely, and our routine is well established, and nothing weird happens, I forget that I even have anxiety. Because, technically, when I have nothing to be anxious about, I kind of DON’T have anxiety. But that’s the thing- there will always be times when things don’t go as planned. I can’t control every single situation so that it works for me, and I really shouldn’t have to. Sometimes people’s phones die. Sometimes they are running late, or they lose track of time. These little tiny things, innocent, average, every day things, can make me lose my mind. When I can’t reach my little one’s dad because his phone is on the charger, or she is at the fair with a family friend who lost track of time, I don’t think “Oh, they’re fine.”, I think “Well, I better get in my car and go look for the wreck they were in”, only in a more screamy voice.

Anyway, I am in a lot of private groups on Facebook, and the other day I joined several more- groups for people with anxiety. After I had my meltdown on Tuesday, I just thought maybe an anxiety support group might help. So I joined three. Last night, a girl posted that she had been obsessing about a pretty unlikely health worry, and that she knew it was silly, but she couldn’t stop thinking about it, and she couldn’t stop pacing, and she was exhausted, and I reached out to her, and so did a lot of other people, with stories of their own, and with…well, support. Here’s the thing: Not one single person said “Oh, come on, that is so ridiculous! Of all the things to worry about, you think you have THAT?” Which, if it were any other group I am in, that would have been said. Instead, at least three other people confided that they had shared the exact same fear at one point, and others shared similarly unlikely worries. Everyone got it.

And I woke up this morning still thinking about that. That not only did I totally get where she was coming from, but everyone in the group that spoke up did, too. And that is when it hit me- I TOTALLY have anxiety. These people are my people, because they get it. When I am freaking out, even when I know I am being crazy, I just can’t stop being scared. Fear literally takes over my body, and will not listen to reason.

And here’s the deal- this is not a new thing, not at all. I started having full blown panic attacks at the age of 17, sometimes as many as five, six, or seven every single day. I didn’t know what they were, so I thought I was either going crazy or someone was poisoning me. The only problem with the poisoning theory was that I was around different people all the time. So instead of realizing that this was improbable, my poor, sick brain assumed that everyone was trying to kill me, and I just stopped eating food that anyone else had touched. Do you know how difficult this is? I lost a ton of weight, and my mom said something like “My god, you look like you are dying of cancer.” Which, of course, gave me a whole new set of worries to obsess about.  Honestly, the only reason I pulled myself out of that mess was because I got so sick of worrying all the time that I just said “Fuck it, I can’t live like this anymore- if I’m going to die, so be it, but I have got to eat.” And I just threw all caution to the wind and ate at Denny’s. From that day on, I stopped having panic attacks, and thought I was cured.

But…here I am, at 43, realizing that it never really went away. I masked it for many many years with drug abuse, and now I am discovering that it has been here all along. It was just covered up. I am so lucky that I can talk about it to the people around me- my boss knows that I get weird, sometimes, and she is super supportive. And I am sort of the quirky friend, the crazy co-worker, the funny-but-super-high-strung one. Being the oddball is kind of my thing. I’ve made it into a bit of a joke, I guess. Because it make it more tolerable, for me and for everyone else, too. Which made me forget, or not notice, that it is real. The moments when I want to cry because I’m so scared, when I can’t sit still, when I can’t breathe, when I can’t slow down my fucking insane thoughts- that’s not funny at all.

My point is, I guess, that I woke up this morning and realized that I really, really have anxiety. And that it’s been part of my life since early adulthood- this is NOT a new thing. It might look a little different, my fears might have changed a little bit, but the feelings? They are exactly the same. And now I get to figure out what happens next. But I have found some people just like me, and I am much less afraid.

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Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Learning, Life, meditation, Mental Health, Musings, People, recovery, women

Real, for Real

feel better

Over the past while, for whatever reason, I have noticed my tendency to…sort of be disingenuous a little bit in my writing. I am giving the truth, but maybe not the whole truth, and I don’t know why that is. I think part of it is that I’ve wanted so badly to feel like I am exercising some control over the way I am feeling in my life, and so I will try this thing, and that thing, in an effort to feel better. For example, changing my diet, exercising regularly, meditation, mindfulness- and all of these things are WONDERFUL things, don’t get me wrong! All of them work, too…to a certain degree. And I’ve wanted so badly for them to work, I get so excited when, for a week or two, or maybe even a month, I can do everything perfectly and things seem to be looking up- I am quick to sing the praises of all of these things as a solution, but…the sad truth is, it’s really, really hard to do all of these things consistently forever! And the even sadder truth is, I am finding that even when I am pretty damn consistent, there is still a huge gap between how I AM feeling and how I WANT to feel. I haven’t missed a day of meditation in almost three months, and yet…I am struggling terribly with my mood. I am painfully aware of it, thanks to being so goddamn mindful, but I can’t seem to work through it, accept it, or just allow it…I don’t want to allow that. Why would anyone?!

Oddly enough, it was my little experiment this past week- let’s see if I can go 24 hours without yelling, remember? That pushed me into reevaluating my situation. The fact of the matter is, I couldn’t do it. I tried really hard, but I found myself doing okay the first day, and utterly failing on the second and third day. The yelling, though- I know this is just a symptom of a bigger issue, and that issue is that I am constantly battling with low level depression, an onslaught of negative thoughts about myself, and just generally clinging to a shred of debris that keeps my head above water. The tricky thing is that I don’t feel like this every single day- some days I feel great, and when that is true it’s hard to imagine that I ever feel so badly. But I’m here, right now, telling you that I do. More and more often lately, I feel far less than good. I used to have lots of good days punctuated by spells of shitty ones. Now it seems like the opposite is true. And I am out of tricks. The vitamins, the clean eating, the exercise, the meditation, the journaling- it just isn’t enough. And I refuse to live this way. I will not subject my child or anyone else I love to my bullshit behavior anymore- I got clean because I didn’t like myself, I am sure as shit not going to be a sober person who is still an asshole.  And listen, I am not just being mean to myself. I realize that I can’t really control my behavior- there is something wrong, and that isn’t my fault. Just like the fact that I am an addict is not my fault. But, just like my addiction- it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to fix it.

Yesterday morning, I made a decision. I have an appointment with my therapist today, and I am going to talk to her about getting an appointment with a psychiatrist, because it is finally time to discuss getting on some medication. I have tried for almost three and half years to fix myself, and if I am being 100% honest, I haven’t gotten very far. Lots of things in my life have gotten better, but the way I FEEL has not. I am less frantic, maybe, and able to be more calm, but this is just the benefit of not ingesting a metric ton of methamphetamine, I’m sure. The way I feel is still suffering. And, though I am really nervous about taking a prescription drug- I’m worried that I could feel worse, or have weird side effects, or gain weight- I’m more worried about the fact that there might be a solution and I’m over here just struggling every day for no reason. So I am going to start that ball rolling today.

This morning, I made another decision, and this is a big one- I decided that, because I know it will be weeks until I can see a psychiatrist, and I want to start feeling better yesterday, I am going to try CBD. I have been doing a lot of research about it, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, so why not give it a shot? If I can find something natural, with no side effects, that will work? Hell, that sounds great to me. My hope is that it will work so well that by the time I get in to see a prescribing doctor, I won’t need a prescription anymore.

I would really love to hear about anyone else’s experience with CBD- and remember, this is the NON THC version I am talking about. Not only am I in recovery, but I HATE the way being high feels. A funny thing for an addict to say, I know, but no thank you. Not my kind of high, anyway. Have you tried CBD? Did it help? Do you know anyone who has tried it and liked it? Tell me EVERYTHING. I will be visiting the dispensary today, so hurry up. And for the love of God, have a good day, will you? The world needs all the happiness it can get.

Posted in Addiction, escape, Goals, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, recovery

Time for Change

IMG_8898

On Monday, I was feeling grouchy and restless, like a caged animal after sitting here working all day long- that’s one of the drawbacks of working at home; when I worked in the office, I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. When you work at home, all you want to do is go somewhere else when you clock out…except, if you are me, you are probably still wearing sweaty-ass yoga pants, no make up, and hair that looks like you stuck your finger in a light socket. So, I either have to summon up the energy to make myself look slightly less homeless in order to leave my house (how funny) or, give in to the beckoning call of inertia and flop on the couch to watch TV which will ultimately do nothing but make me feel even worse.

On this particular day, though, Camryn suggested we go to the library. We had books that were a week past due, and I really did need a change of pace, so I agreed. Plus, bonus- you don’t have to look nice at all to go to the library! After settling part of my outrageous overdue book fees, Cam got herself a drawing book, and grudgingly trailed after me as I wandered up and down every single aisle in the downstairs section of the Monterey library. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I hoped to find something inspiring and uplifting- something to shake me out of the funk I had been going in and out of for the past…I don’t know, 40 years or so.

I grabbed a stack of books, and we checked out and headed home after a quick stop at Trader Joe’s for some chocolate and blueberries, among other snacks. Soon as we got back to the house, I pulled out one of the books and started reading it. It was called “Martha’s Vineyard- Isle of Dreams”, and at first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get through it- it’s written in handwriting-like script, and there are hundreds of quotes and watercolor pictures throughout the book, so at first it’s a little jarring, as it doesn’t read like the books I am used to- books that have very few, if any, quotes, and generally no pictures at all. But within a few pages, I had forgotten all about the strangeness of it and was totally sucked in to the story.

Oh, and it’s not a story-story, by the way. It’s a biography of sorts, the true tale of a woman named Susan Branch who “accidentally” moved to Martha’s Vineyard and bought a house in the woods, after fleeing California when her marriage ended. She was looking for a house to rent, short term, and wound up buying a little house after being there for three days or something like that. The whole story takes place in the 80’s, which doesn’t matter other than the fact that you probably can’t buy a house there super cheap anymore, and anyway…I just fell in love, you guys. The way that she describes the changing seasons, and the beautiful simplicity of her life- her garden, and her walks in the woods, the ocean, the seasons, the quiet. Just talking about it right now makes me want to cry. It stirs such a funny longing in me. And it really makes me think, very hard, again, about the way I am living my life.

I have only been clean for a little more than three years. Which means that I am just now, at 43, learning about what kind of person I am, and trying to figure out what sort of life the person I am truly wants to live. I sort of woke up right in the middle of a life that I had stumbled into, and it is a GOOD life. I have this career, and security, good health insurance, stability…all of these things that people want, right? So when I think to myself “this doesn’t feel like the right life for me”, it is scary and I feel guilty, as if wanting something different makes me ungrateful. I am not ungrateful. I’m just…wondering. Wondering if I could survive, or thrive, or be wildly, giddily, in love with a different kind of life. And I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to be happier.

I checked out the book on Monday evening. It is now Wednesday morning, and I have finished it. It was 368 pages, and I worked all day yesterday, so when I tell you that I did a lot of reading, you have to believe that I did. Because of this book, I made a batch of blueberry muffins with Camryn, from scratch, yesterday after work. Because of this book, after my meeting last night I went by myself to the beach, and sat on the rocky sand, as evening descended, and just soaked in the salty air, watched the choppy, steel-gray waves crash on the shore, and relished the cold. It really got me thinking.

I need to slow way down. Like, way, way down. Be outside more. Be quiet more. Be on Facebook WAY less. Read more books and watch less TV. Cook more often. Talk to actual people, rather than scroll past their faces online, clicking like instead of having conversations. I don’t have to- and I shouldn’t, I know this- uproot my life on a whim and move across the country to “find myself”. But I do need to examine these feelings, and see what I can do to honor myself, and my one precious life. I have faith that I will find the answers, that they are already there, just waiting for me to discover them. I have to stop losing sight of what really matters, and every time I check out- on the internet, or by binge watching twelve seasons of some stupid TV show- I am doing just that. Losing sight of what really matters. Checking out. No wonder I feel so restless…my spirit is trying to get my attention, and I have been ignoring that.

No more. It’s time to pay attention. Time to make some changes.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, family, Life, recovery, twelve step

Things I Forgot to Remember

Death has been an unrelenting presence in my life over the past year, which is very, very unusual for me. Beginning with the loss of my beloved friend Joe in August of last year, then his dear friend Che, just a few weeks ago- Che, who spent countless hours on the phone with me after Joe’s death, listening to all of the stories I have to tell about Joe, that I suddenly needed to re-tell to someone who knew him… and sharing his own with me. Then, in the late hours of July 5th, or perhaps the very early hours of July 6th- we don’t know for sure yet, but oddly enough, every member of our family found themselves awake at 3:30 in the morning on July 6th- my darling uncle, Louis Earl Fulton, passed away. His life was not an easy one. One day, I will tell his story properly, but I want to do it right, and I want to have all of the facts straight first, though I will tell you this- due to an accident with a drunk driver when he was just starting out into adulthood, his lot in life was hard. He suffered, for the bulk of his years on earth, with a busted up body and what I would guess as being trouble from a traumatic head injury. Over the past several years, his health seriously deteriorated, and he had many falls, broken bones, and other injuries. He suffered from seizures, and I think he even had a stroke recently, but honestly, there was so much going on that I would have to ask my mom to be sure. The fact is, he wasn’t doing well. So you would think that his death would be less of a surprise, and maybe in some ways it wasn’t shocking, but…when someone just dies at home, and they haven’t been in the hospital or particularly sicker than usual, it really is a shock.

This blog is not going to be about him, because like I said, I would rather honor him by writing his story correctly, and I can’t do that without getting some help from my mom-she was alive when his accident happened, and I was not yet. I will tell you this- his given name was Louis Earl, but I haven’t heard anyone call him that since my grandmother was alive. His nickname (one of them) was Fizzle, because he was born on the 5th of July (get it? He fizzled out! My grandfather had a strange sense of humor) and, coincidentally, he died, near as we can tell, on the exact same day, many years later. There will never be anyone like him- there will never be anyone like any of the people I have lost this past year- and nothing I know brings a person into sharper focus than their death. And nothing slaps you out of your own miserable funk like the loss of a life that belonged to someone precious to you.

For the past month, or maybe even longer than that, I have been struggling like crazy with myself…upset about things like: hating my job because it is boring, hating myself (low-key) because I am not perfect, wishing I had better friendships, wondering why I am still single, wishing I could connect in a more meaningful way with my youngest daughter, and…this is the one I didn’t even want to write about or admit out loud to anyone who could talk some sense into me…wanting to quit being in recovery. I wanted to quit. I wanted to start drinking again, and I was really, really close to throwing the towel in. Closer than anyone but me knows. I felt like I was missing out on something. That my life wasn’t fun enough because I couldn’t go out and have a drink. That maybe it would be easier for me to deal with men if I could just relax a little bit, like everyone else does.

My uncle died on the day that my daughter was going out of town with her father for the first time in over a year- so I was already incredibly anxious without the addition of a death in the family. I took the rest of Friday off, and I cried and cried and cried. I cried so much that by the time I went to bed, my head was pounding. I woke up on Saturday morning with eyes that looked like they had been bitten by mosquitoes, or injected with saline. But I had made plans with a girlfriend earlier in the week to go hiking and hit a morning meeting, and she is notoriously hard to pin down, so there was no way I was cancelling. I pulled myself together, worried that I would be too somber to be any fun, but I went anyway. I needn’t have worried. We had a nice hike, and plenty to discuss, and it was just what I needed. We almost didn’t go into the meeting afterwards, but we did, and again, it was perfect. I came home afterwards, ate a massive amount of food, and fell asleep the way you can only when you are grieving and exhausted- face down on the mattress for four solid hours. When I woke up (which took a good hour of just sitting, staring into space) I knew instinctively that being still would be a bad idea, so I grabbed my dog and went for a long walk on the beach. That night, I went to another meeting.

Over the course of my 48 hour weekend, I managed to hit four meetings, hang out with two good friends (one of them twice), go to the beach two different times, and take two solid naps. I did something I had never done before in the course of my recovery- I doubled down on what was good for me, and sidestepped an almost inevitable relapse. I was reminded that both life and recovery require my active participation in order to work the way that I need them to. I can’t just sit here and cry about what isn’t working- or, I can, but it isn’t going to do me any good at all.

I’m sorry if this is sort of all over the place- I don’t feel like I am explaining myself well at all, but there is so much to what I am feeling, and it’s all jumbled up. The bottom line is, my uncle’s death helped me to remember what I had forgotten- that life is so precious, that while I am here, I need to rejoice in the gifts that I have been given, and they are many- my health, my beautiful children, my job which provides so well for me, and my recovery which is the only reason I have all of the other things. I will not dishonor myself or my wonderful life by giving up on that. I have all of the ingredients, but it is up to me to make something worthwhile out of them. Today, I will choose to do just that.

Posted in Addiction, inner peace, Life, love, Mental Health, Musings, People, relationships

A long way to go

long-way-to-go

I have this friend that I met online several years ago on a quit smoking app that I no longer use- I have several friends from this app, actually, and it’s the only one I have ever developed outside friendships from…anyway, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is, this particular friend- an Irish dude, living in Canada (I mean, as far as I can tell, that’s who he really is- for all I know, he could be some weirdo from Indiana living in his moms basement. Hahaha!), we have the best talks. About real shit, sometimes, things that I really need to talk about. Things like the state of my heart, and the hard work of changing for the better. He understands the deep work I have been doing on myself these past few years, the labor that goes beyond 12 step groups and therapy. The time you spend on your own, examining the way the thoughts you allow in your head affect your life, and the wounds you discover that you didn’t even know you’ve been carrying around.

I told him about a realization that I had, just the other day, about how much I struggle with connecting to other people. I had mistakenly believed it was only a problem I had with men, but suddenly, I realized that it is across the board- with other women, with relatives- even with my children. I don’t know how to explain it clearly, but I can tell you that I hold everyone at arms length. That I might hug, confide, and love fiercely, but…there is a hard stop that happens, and it is causing me some pain now. That’s generally the only way I know about a problem- when it starts to hurt. I don’t really think this is a new thing, either. I suspect it’s been with me for a really long time, but I was able to escape the repercussions with sex, or behind my drug abuse. When you are living in survival mode, or in extreme dysfunction, you don’t have time to worry about things like interpersonal relationships, or connecting with others in a healthy and robust manner. 🙂

Anyway, my friend and I talked about this, and about the funny way things go when you are trying to heal yourself- the thing is, it really doesn’t end. You uncover a layer of bullshit, you sort it out, you find resolution, and you sit back for a minute- you get a short break, then- BAM! A whole new layer of bullshit surfaces, and you start dealing with that. There is no end. We are never perfect. Which is why, I guess, so many people just prefer not to get into it- not to gaze into the gaping maw of their brokenness and try to change. It’s just easier not to. Had I known what I was getting into when I started- had I even known that I was starting- I don’t know if I would have wanted this, either. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” could not be more true in this instance. Self awareness is a motherfucker. Some days I am so proud of how far I’ve come, and some days I can’t believe what an ungrateful, whining, entitled asshole I am. It’s quite a ride.

So, I told my friend about this terrible distance between myself and the rest of the world, including those I love the most, and he said “Now that you know about it, change it.”

Well, yes. But how? For a solid 24 hours I pretended that I couldn’t possibly know how to do that, because I didn’t like the answer, but of course I do know. The answer is to allow myself to be vulnerable. To stop being so sassy, to stop laughing everything off, to stop being too busy, too tired, too…whatever, and be real. Admit that I’m afraid of being hurt, of losing what I love, and therefore, afraid of loving altogether. Because that is the real truth- that I have learned, over the course of my 43 years on this planet, that love hurts. That no matter who I love, it always hurts. Within families, people are volatile and selfish and downright abusive, and it fucking hurts. Or they get old and sick, and they die, and that hurts, too. Your children become teenagers, and they hate your guts, and look down their noses at you, and that just sucks, AND it hurts. And men…oh, for God’s sake, no matter what I do, I pick the same one in a different package, again and again, and it hurts like hell. And it’s also embarrassing.

Somewhere along the way, I know that I picked up the fear, and hid it from myself, that this was somehow my fault. That there must be something fundamentally wrong with me if all of my relationships were so fraught with dysfunction and unhappiness. Even now, as I write this, I am considering that there may be some truth to that- that if I were just a better person, I would be more lovable. After all this work I have done, isn’t that the saddest thing ever? I have accomplished so much, I’ve had so much success in my life, despite the obstacles in my path. I have beautiful children, a flourishing career, a spiritual practice. Every day, I try to be more kind, more patient, more loving, and yet…here I sit. With this truth. That maybe I just don’t really know how to love, and maybe that means I am missing that part, and maybe that makes me unlovable.

Or maybe…maybe it just means that I didn’t have the best examples of what love is really supposed to look like. And maybe I took that with me into the world, and that is what I looked for, and found, over and over again. And maybe it finally got too painful, so I stopped trying, and that is when this wall went up, and it protected me for a while, but it also cut me off from the good stuff, too. Except now I don’t know how to get through it, over it, around it. But I think my job now is to try. To keep chipping away at it, feeling around for the edges, for a place where I can maybe slip through, even if it might hurt. There is still so much work to do. Such a long way to go. But in the end, I still believe it’s work worth doing.

Posted in Addiction, advice, alcoholism, Goals, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, recovery

Radical Change

change

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.

Posted in Addiction, family, kids, Learning, Life, love, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships

The Best Thing I Ever Did

everything

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.