Category Archives: advice

It’s ALL in Your Head

its all in your head

 

I’m just going to go ahead and warn you right now- if you are not in the right place to hear what I am about to say, it’s going to irritate the piss out of you. It has been my experience that, when I am being negative as fuck, the last thing I want to hear is someone telling me that maybe I should change my attitude. Also, if you are suffering from legit mental illness (and really, aren’t we all, to some extent), I mean, severe depression, etc., then you are excluded. But for the rest of us, the whiners, complainers, procrastinators, and the “I feel fucked over” population, this is for you. For US, actually, since I am right there with you most of the time.

I don’t know exactly when it started for me, but I suspect it was somewhere in my mid-30’s, when I began to feel this sort of pervasive dissatisfaction with my life. Weirdly enough, if I had to point out a distinct portion of my life as the beginning, it would be around the time that everything settled down for me and stopped being so completely chaotic. You would think, wouldn’t you, that once things stopped being so messy they started feeling better, right? Not in my case. Perhaps I was so used to the chaos and upheaval that, once the dust settled, it didn’t feel very exciting anymore. I think I have written about this in the past, the way I love a good challenge, and overcoming obstacles is so gratifying for me. I have dubbed it “The Phoenix Syndrome” because I get off on rising from the ashes.

But you can only burn your life to the ground so many times before it becomes exhausting. I am 42 years old now, and the thought of starting over, picking up the pieces after wrecking everything myself- it holds a lot less appeal to me. I have evolved into this strange creature who pays her bills on time, and watches carefully her processed food intake. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that I used drugs made partially from Drano, for Pete’s sake, and now I worry about the saturated fat content in a burger. Sigh. I am laughing about this now, but only because it’s true, and super weird.

So, my life settled down, and my mind began to change, and somewhere along the way, instead of just enjoying all the blessings of this incredible life I was living- clean, employed, blessed with a beautiful family, a nice house, enough of everything I needed- a little voice in my head started bitching, complaining, and feeling put out about everything, and it’s tenacity is astonishing.

This little voice never wants to do anything, and I mean anything- except of course, the opposite of whatever it is I happen to be doing at the time. If I am sitting on the couch, blissfully indulging in a Netflix marathon of Ghost Whisperer, the little voice is haranguing me because I really ought to be doing: The dishes, the laundry, or some type of meaningful interaction with my kid. Okay, so maybe the little voice is right. However, should I give in to the little voice, here is what inevitably happens: As I do the dishes, or the laundry,  the little voice will then say something like this: “You spend your whole life doing things you don’t want to do- when is it time for YOU, Courtney?” Or, in case I am playing Go Fish with the spawn, it says “You should really move this along. You could be doing something productive right now.”

In short, the little voice’s mission seems to be to make me as miserable as possible, no matter what I am doing. And, check it out, I am not talking about a psychotic break here. These are not disembodied voices that are barking directions at me. No, this voice sounds an awful lot like me, and I am nothing if not convincing. Much of the time, I buy into that shit, 100%.

And that is too bad, you know? Because the truth is, I deserve to enjoy my life. Every one of us do, to be honest. It is our God given right to be happy in this lifetime, however that looks to you. But every single time we listen to that shitty voice in our heads, we are bound to feel the opposite of happy.

So, what are you supposed to do about it? Well, this is the tricky part where I start trying to give advice about something that I haven’t mastered expertly just yet. I do well for a while, and then I backslide a little, start listening again. But I do know a little bit. Like, for instance, start noticing it. Start really paying attention to the thoughts in your head, hearing the critical voice when it starts talking. Because when you are aware of it, you can have a conversation with it. Your mind may say “You are so lazy. Everyone else keeps their dishes done, what is wrong with you?” And you can say, “I work my ass off all week long, I am the furthest thing from lazy, I am dealing with the loss of Jim right now (Ghost Whisperer reference, sorry), go away. I will deal with the dishes later.” You are allowed to defend yourself, even to yourself. My only advice to you here is that you have this conversation internally, unless you are home alone. People do tend to become concerned when you are having frustrated, one-sided conversations with yourself out loud.

Another thing you can do to combat this is to notice the tone of your thoughts, and, when they are negative and critical, redirect them. This happened to me yesterday, actually, when I was faced with the task of working in my enormous, weed filled yard. It was hot, and there was so much work to do, and I am not a big fan of manual labor of any sort. I started thinking about how much I wanted to be inside, doing nothing, and how shitty it was that I had to work all week and then spend my time off doing something I hated. And THEN, I looked around me. I was spending a sunny afternoon in my own yard, and people who loved me gave up time out of their busy lives to come help me, for free, clean up my yard. There was music playing, and kids laughing, and we got so much done! Suddenly, as I stood there, bent over at the waist, shoes and gloves full of fox tails, I broke through the spell that negativity had cast on me, and I could see the truth.

I was actually having a perfect day. I just had to be able to see it. Changing the conversation we have with ourselves, in our heads, is not easy, it is not quick, and it is not permanent. Like everything else worth achieving in life, it takes a lot of effort. But there are days now when I can nip it in the bud the minute it starts, and I always, always end up having a better time. I would guess that 90% of our experience of life is in the way we view it. If you let that little voice have too much power, you will not be able to enjoy anything. You could win an all expense paid, ten day trip to Disney World, and spend the whole time upset by how long the lines are for the rides, or worrying about your dogs back home.

So, basically- Pay attention to your thoughts. Listen to the way you are speaking to yourself. If your thoughts are lame, change them- you are not only allowed to do this, you are the only one who can. If the way you are speaking to yourself is shit, correct it. Don’t let your head talk to you in a way that you would never tolerate another person to. Remember, you are in charge of which thoughts you believe- it may not seem like it, but it’s true. The more you redirect yourself, the easier it becomes.

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. Have a wonderful day!

 

Letting Go of Old Resentments in Favor of Love:

God, it’s been so long since I have sat here and tried to write anything, that I almost don’t know where to start. I got stuck on the “Title” space for such a long time that I decided to just write first, and see if something came to me. In case you are curious, I will tell you that over the past two months, while I haven’t been writing, I have been doing a lot of work on myself. Trust me, there was plenty of stuff to work on, and plenty left to do…I’m not one to just leave myself be. Oh, if only I could. But that will never be me. Anyway, I thought about writing a lot, but I just didn’t have anything I wanted to say, here…then, the past few days, the urge started coming over me again. If you write, you know what I mean- little ideas start tickling the back of your mind. Nothing too pressing. Then, this morning came, and I knew it was time.

resentment

This morning, a friend of mine lost her father. He was in hospice, and so it wasn’t unexpected, but…she fell asleep beside him, holding his hand, and when she woke up, he was gone. She is devastated. Last week, a friend that I work with lost her mother. Like my other friend, she was there with her, right to the very end. We talked for a long time about it, and I told her that when I found out her mom had passed, I tried to imagine what it would be like to wake up in a world where my mother no longer resided- I really did this, at home, alone, trying to put myself in my friends place. Because, you know, I have never done that. No matter what kind of relationship I have with my mom- and it goes through phases- I have always had the assurance that she was there. I have taken that for granted every single day of my entire life. Imagine what it would feel like for that not to be true. Of course, if you have already lost one, or both, of your parents, you already know…but for the rest of us, it bears thinking about.

Now, think for a second about the resentments, big or small, that you carry around. Are they worth the price they will cost you if they are holding you back from fully loving someone that gave you life? This is a question I asked myself, and it may be worth asking yourself, as well. I am not saying that just because someone is your parent, anything they have done should be forgiven- I know there are horror stories of abandonment and abuse, and I am not talking about that. I am talking about things…well, I guess I am talking about the things that I have carried around, that hold ME back. I suppose what I am saying is that I have chosen not to love as fully as I could, maybe not consciously, because of my own resentments…things that belong in the past, to people who don’t really even exist anymore.

We grow up- children are not the only ones who grow up, who change. I certainly have, and I know my parents have, too. I want to love them with my WHOLE heart, and that is what I hope to do. Because they are still here, and I am a lucky daughter, indeed. I look at how strained my relationship is with my mom and dad at certain times (whether they know it or not) and I hope more than anything that my kids don’t ever have that kind of resentment or any of those kinds of feelings about me. But, boy, I have sure given them plenty of good material to use.

Here’s the thing- my parents are human beings, and human beings mess up. I know they had the best of intentions, like every one of us do, and they did stuff they regret anyway. I know this to be true, not just because I lived through it but because they’ve told me. With their own mouths, they have said to me:  “I wish I would have done things differently”. My mom has beat herself up for years over things she cannot change, decisions she made, that, at the time were the VERY BEST she could make from the options she had. And you know what? We are okay, anyway. My brother and I love her, we go to her with all of our stuff…but in my heart, I know I have held myself back. She can’t go back in time and change anything, anymore than I can go back and give my daughter a happy childhood with a mother who was not on drugs, not abrasive and full of rage. I can never, ever do that. But I hope she forgives me. I need forgiveness, too.

Today, I am letting go of that shit- those old resentments I have carried for far too long. I am going to love my parents fully, both of them, because they deserve it. They have loved and forgiven me for a lot of stuff- it’s time, for all of our sakes, that I leave the past in the past. I am so glad my mom and dad are still here, that I can pick up the phone and call them just to say “I love you.” And maybe this blog didn’t make a lot of sense to you, but my heart sure needed to puzzle this out. Thanks for reading- hope to see you again here, soon.

 

 

Chasing Waterfalls

waterfalls

 

My Beautiful Daughter-

Ever since we talked, yesterday, I have been walking around with this terrible ache in my heart. When you told me, weeks ago, that you were planning on moving hundreds of miles away from me…well, honestly? I dismissed it as a flighty, temporary, whim of yours. I didn’t worry, because I didn’t think it was real. But yesterday, when you told me it was happening, that you were leaving in a month, it really started to sink in.

I’m sorry if I seemed angry. I know I pointed out all the reasons it was a terrible idea, when all you wanted was my blessing. My support. I guess the truth is, I was never really angry…the truth is, I am sad. You are so much more than just my kid. You are also one of my favorite people on the planet, and, besides your sister, the only family I have here. The truth is, I will just miss you terribly.

That isn’t all of it, though. The bigger truth here is that it is selfish of me to withhold encouragement, to squelch your excitement, when you are doing exactly what a girl your age should do, in my opinion. You are spreading your wings, finally, being the brave girl I have always known you to be. I am so proud of you for that.

Here’s another thing- you don’t need my approval. You are an adult now, and you are free to do whatever it is that you want to do. I might not always like it, but I will always, always, always love you. So don’t worry about how I feel about things. Just know that I will come around, if I can, and even if I don’t, I am still your mom. I will love you fiercely.

I’m sorry for telling you that you were making a huge mistake. The fact of the matter is, I have no idea if that is true or not. That was just my own fear talking, and I hope you never avoid doing what you love out of fear. That is no way to live. You know what? A huge part of what makes life great is taking risks (you know, reasonable risks) (Okay, that was just scared mom again) and seeing what happens. Making mistakes is also a big part of living a wonderful life…it means you are trying things. I don’t want you to live a boring little cookie cutter life. I want you to do exactly what you are doing. I really do.

I was listening to the old TLC song “Don’t go Chasing Watefalls” on my way home this morning, and I realized something. I DO want you to chase waterfalls. You absolutely should NOT stick to the rivers and lakes you are used to. What fun would that be? Just, you know, wear good shoes, and maybe a life vest. That’s all I’m asking. See the world. Have fun. Dream big. LIVE big. You deserve the big WOW that life can be.

The most important thing of all for you to know is this: No matter what happens, I am here. And I love you. And you can always, always, always come home. That offer will never expire.  I will always pick up the phone when you call. I will be here when you need me. I will leave the light on for you.So go out into the world and do great things. I will be here, cheering you on.

Love, Mom

What I’ve Learned, Lately

lessons

I don’t care how old you are, life is nothing if not a constant set of lessons. I am going to share with you some of the things I have learned, lately:

1.) I am better off if I don’t react to my first impulse, no matter what the situation. Unless, you know, something is on fire or something.

I am a very emotional person. I almost always have feelings about things before I have many thoughts about them. What I have learned is, the best possible outcome is usually achieved when I allow myself some time to think things through before discussing anything. When I am very heated about a situation, attacking it on the spot is generally just that- an attack- and it tends not to end well. This isn’t exactly rocket science, but it’s truly a new thing for me…I am the queen of the knee jerk reaction, always blowing up before I have any business opening my mouth.

2.) When you overreact to something, it winds up being about your behavior, rather than the thing you are objecting to.

Say your boyfriend cheats on you. That is a really terrible, painful thing. So, when he comes home at two a.m., and you rush outside as he is getting out of his car, and he jumps back in his car and locks himself in, just in time to avoid getting a concussion with the bat you are swinging at his head, and you proceed to beat his car until it can’t rightfully be called a car anymore…when the police come, and all of your neighbors are outside watching you get handcuffed, guess who this about now?

Okay, this was a terrible (but super fun) analogy, but you get what I’m saying- when you go over the top in your response, and behave badly, it almost inevitably turns into a situation where you are left feeling bad about how you handled yourself, and whatever it was you were objecting to gets lost in the mess.  Try to keep some dignity, whatever the cost. If that isn’t possible, seethe in silence until you calm down a little- and you will calm down. Which leads me to:

3.) Feelings Change.

This is closely linked to number one, but not the same. In the first instance, I recommend waiting to react, at least outwardly, and thinking. But here, what I have learned is that, not only should I wait, and think, but I have discovered that when I do this, a lot of times what I thought I felt wasn’t true at all. Give yourself a minute. You will be surprised at how different your feelings are after a good nights sleep or a weekend off. Shit changes, and fast.

4.) Having said all of that, I have also found that dealing with things directly, no matter how awkward it might be, is exactly the right thing to do.

A few months back, I decided to get a roommate, who is also a friend of mine. I was smart enough to know that I have a hard time living with people, and so I told her that we should aim for six months, and if that went well, then, no longer than a year. Within two months, I started to feel overwhelmed and less excited about the whole thing- but it was a really hard subject to broach. I didn’t want her to think I didn’t like her, or that she had done anything wrong, because that wasn’t it. I simply don’t like having roommates. But I didn’t say anything, because I thought maybe I was just adjusting and I would get over it. So, I went to Hawaii, and while I was there, I thought a lot about it. I still wasn’t really sure, though, until I was turning the corner to my house on my way back home, and suddenly, I was just bummed out that I had to face people in my home when I returned. I KNEW in that moment that I had to talk to her.

I waited until the moment seemed right, and I sat down, and we talked about it. I was nervous as heck. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but I knew that, in this situation, I needed to be true to myself. I told her we should plan on sticking to six months, and I told her that the reason I was letting her know so soon was because I didn’t want her to miss out if she found something else in the meantime. I also let her know that I hoped she stayed the whole six months, but I would not be mad if she didn’t. And that if she had a tough time finding something by the end of the six months, it was okay to take a little longer.

I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled. But you know what? I knew that I had done the right thing, in the right way, and I had been direct, and kind, and as thoughtful as I could be…and because of that, I never had to feel bad about any of it. And I had said what I needed to say, which meant there was that much less weight on my shoulders.

5.) Pick your battles.

Okay, so this isn’t an original thought. Not by a long shot. But, for someone like me, who is always ready to cop a resentment about nearly any fucking thing, this is a huge breakthrough for me. You mean I don’t need to correct every little thing I view as wrong? You mean I won’t die of keeping my mouth shut? You mean I can have feelings about things that have nothing to do with me and I don’t have to share them? WOW.

So, I have learned, lately, that not only will I not die of letting things go, but I can achieve quite a bit of happiness and peace this way. Simply by not saying every single thing that I think. Simply by letting people be their irritating selves, they become less irritating. Who could have known this? I mean, besides most people?

So, this is my list of interesting life lessons for now. I hope you enjoyed them. And if you didn’t, I hope you are smart enough to Pick Your Battles.

Have an awesome day!

 

Directions for a Better Day

better day
photo credit: thethingswesay.com

Wake up before anyone else. This will give you the time you need to center yourself, to set the tone for the kind of day you want to have. Do whatever it is you need to do to get the ball rolling- rub your eyes, start your coffee, let your dogs outside to pee.

Feed yourself, spiritually. Read your Daily Word, your Just for Today, your 365 days of whatever…say your prayers. Ask God to hold your hand, today, if that is what you need. Ask him to keep a special eye on your kids, and remember the people you promised to pray for. Always pray for the ones you said you would. Really bad manners not to do that. When you pray, why not do it right? I get on my knees, I get SERIOUS. I want God to know I am not messing around, that I mean it. “I need your help today, God. I am impatient, and snappy, and capable of terrible meanness- can you help me with this? Let me be kind, and sweet, and soft, and loving. I am all of these things, too, but I need your help to keep that stuff in the front. Thank you. Thank you for ALL of this. I know I am so blessed, God, but there is always work to do. Amen” Give yourself ten or fifteen minutes more to sit in silence, to just be. Get calm. Get centered.

Wake your children up sweetly. Let the first thing they see be your smiling face, the first thing they feel, your love. Be ready to help them- If they are little, it is your job, also, to know where their shoes are, to know where their jacket is. Get them ready with as much patience and love as you can. You are setting the tone for their day, too.

Give yourself enough time to get to school, and to get to work, without getting angry. And if you don’t give yourself that time, remember- it is not the rest of the worlds fault that you are running late. They don’t even KNOW you are running late. Don’t let your anger get the best of you. Keep your best self at the wheel of your life. Be AWARE of yourself, and be responsible for your actions. Don’t honk your horn, take a deep breath. Don’t tailgate, just slow down. When you want to flip someone off, you shrug and smile instead. We all make mistakes. Treat others the way you want them to treat you. The Golden rule applies at all times.

When you get to work, be grateful for this job. It puts food on your table, and it keeps you out of trouble for the next eight hours. Do the best you can while you are there. Try to remember that it makes you feel good about you to do your best, even if no one else knows or cares. Be a decent human being. It pays off in the end.

Be aware of your thoughts. Are they useful, productive, kind thoughts? The more you are aware of what is going on in your head, the better off you are going to be. Are you judging others? Stop it. You don’t know anything about their life or their situation. Your only job is to be kind, whether it be a smile, or simply sending good vibes. Your judgement serves no one, unless you are being paid to do just that. Try to love the humanness in every person you come across. We all need that so badly. Are you thinking unkind things about yourself? Stop it. You must talk to yourself the way your best friend, your grandmother, the person who loves you most in the world, talks to you. Talk to yourself with the devotion and love and belief you have in your own children. Be your own champion. Be gentler with yourself. Forgive yourself. You are doing the best you can. And, as my sponsor says to me “You are so much better than you can see, but I see it.” Be tender with your beautiful self. You are working so hard.

Be aware of what you put in your mouth. You are going to feel so much better if you eat good stuff. It’s okay to pig out sometimes, but lets make today a better day…eat food that will nourish you. Drink water. Be aware of what your body is telling you. If you are on your feet all day, sit down for a little bit. If you are on your butt all day, take a walk. Get some air. Get some sunlight on your face. Stretch.

When you are done with work for the day, before you see your kids again, ready yourself. If you need to do something for yourself before you can do anything for them, do it. Go to a meeting, if you can. If you can’t do that, or you don’t do that, take a quick walk. Meditate for five minutes in the car outside of the daycare. Go get a pedicure. Park by the beach, or something scenic, and sort your thoughts. When you pick up your kids, they are going to be so excited to see you. You want to be excited to see them, too. Be present. Listen. Interact with them.

When you are home, set aside time for your family and time for your chores. Ask for help. Make time for other things that enrich your life- friends, hobbies, fun. But whatever you are doing, do that. Put your phone away. Look people in the eye. Listen. Be interested. Be interesting. Model the kind of life for your children that you want for them- don’t expect them to know any other way, because they won’t . If you want them to be kind, be kind to them. If you want them to have manners, you must have manners, too. If you want them to be loving, be loving to them. Develop good habits. Have a routine, but don’t fall apart when things happen…because things ALWAYS happen.

Spend at least five minutes every night lavishing love on your babies, while they will let you. Be grateful for them, and tell them how grateful for them that you are. Hold them in your arms, and kiss their faces, nuzzle their little necks. And every night, before you go to sleep, pray again. Thank God for this beautiful day, and for all of his help. Forgive yourself for the parts that didn’t go so well. Let yourself be okay with it. Go to sleep.

Repeat in the morning.

(This was really for me, but maybe you can get some use out of it, too.)

Reservations (I’m not talking about dinner).

reservations

Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted- I mean, everyone I know pretty much did, but I hear there are people out there in the world who can use drugs “recreationally”, which means, I guess, in a fun way. Weekends, holidays, or something like that. These would be people that do NOT trade their family’s good silver and sexual favors for a twenty bag, I am guessing. I mean, not that I ever did anything like that, of course. My family never even had any good silver (that I am aware of. Good job, mom.) And I wasn’t smart enough to think of the sexual favor thing until I had already given it up, anyway. I never was very good at the whole hustle aspect of drug use. I basically just worked at a job so that I could buy myself whatever I needed, or I wheedled it out of people. I was a wheedler, not a hustler. Anyway, I have learned, even more thoroughly from being in a drug treatment center that caters to a…I want to say, more heavily insured group of people…that the “hitting rock bottom” thing that is talked about in the world of recovery looks very different for people who have a higher expectation of what their life should look like.

I mean, don’t get me wrong- there are people there that were living on the streets when they first came into the program, but it was more a matter of choice, meaning they had other options, than solely a consequence of their lifestyle. Like, help was available to them should they want it. Then, there are those who took their drugs as prescribed, but they felt their doctor was overindulging them and they felt terribly bad about this. My point is, only YOU know what the bottom looks like for YOU. I wasn’t really that messed up this time, by my standards. Not even close. But I can tell you this- I was tired as hell of living a double life. The burden of being that person was just no longer bearable. I sought help this time because I was too weary to keep going on anymore. It was not dramatic, there was no intervention- a lot of people didn’t even know what was going on with me. A LOT of people. You reach out for help when it is bad enough for YOU. And that is where it starts.

No one winds up in a treatment center feeling great and stable and mentally sound. There is no way that is happening. We wind up there after LOTS of suffering, many attempts to fix ourselves on our own, long stretches of battling ourselves, terrible battles, that go in internally. So the relief of finally getting help, of finally finding a safe reprieve from OURSELVES, is indescribable. You get into treatment willing, at last, to do anything to sustain that feeling of relief, of safety. It feels so good to wave that white flag, to surrender.

But, FUCK, we addicts are forgetful human beings. Given a little bit of time, a little distance, and we quickly forget the truth about who we are- who we JUST were. We feel so much better, and we already can’t believe it was that bad. We glamorize our old lifestyles, we joke about it, we don’t want to accept that this is our fate- a whole life without putting any substances, of any kind, in our bodies. Now, right here, for me, what I just wrote- that is how I know I am an addict. If you told most people- “hey, sorry, but you can’t ever drink, or smoke weed, and you should probably be highly cautious about even taking narcotic pain medication, even if you have had REAL pain.” They might balk a little, but, you know, if their doctor was telling them this- they would probably, eventually, shrug their shoulders and go. “Shit. That sucks. Alright, then.” For an addict, for ME, anyway, that is just grim. I get it, but I still have a lot of trouble believing it’s that big of a deal. Despite ALL of the evidence to the contrary, and there is plenty, my friends- I still have trouble accepting this.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I KNOW I can’t do my drug of choice. That isn’t what trips me up. My bigger struggle, the thing I have a hard time giving up, is alcohol. Or, it was hard, anyway. Until I got all sassy last weekend on a date, and drank half of a margarita. First of all, let me explain to you that since the day prior to this date, I was already ruminating, at great length, over whether or not I was going to drink. I don’t think this is something that normal people obsess over, is it? I finally decided I was definitely NOT going to drink. So imagine my surprise when I heard myself order a margarita! I seriously considered tackling the waiter as he walked away, begging him not to bring it. This is also not normal. Then, when it came, I wasn’t NOT going to drink it- it was a twelve dollar margarita, for Christ’s sake! How could I do that to my date, this perfect stranger whose opinion of me mattered far more than my recovery! I mean, that makes total sense, right? Oh, wait, no…it makes no fucking sense at all!

Long story short, I drank half, it was fine, I ordered a cranberry and soda, drank that instead, finished the date, went home, felt yucky, went to bed. Then, I woke up at midnight, chugged ten gallons of water, and lay in bed feeling really sick- almost as if I had ingested some type of poison, some type of tequila, maybe- and wondered what the fuck was wrong with me. But the good news is, that reservation I had, the battle in my head over whether or not drinking would be okay for me, was put to rest. I didn’t get out of control, but my thoughts certainly were a little crazy. Most people don’t get that nutty over a drink. Most people don’t put two days of thought into half a margarita. But more importantly, I didn’t like the way I felt. I am tired of not liking the way I feel. I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime.

There are lots more reasons why it isn’t a good idea for me to drink, but right now, I only need that one- because I don’t like how it made me feel. They talk a lot about reservations in twelve step programs, and why they are dangerous. You have to do what you have to do to resolve them in your own way. I am grateful today that mine didn’t have to be uglier than it was. That is was simple to resolve. Today, I am going to allow myself to remember the truth about who I am, and how I wound up where I am. Because people who forget their own history are doomed to repeat it, right? And that is not something I really want to do. Not at all.

Have a great Thursday! 🙂

Cleaning House. I mean, Literally.

febreeze

I spent a good portion of my day, yesterday, in my pajamas, on the couch, snoozing. Before that, I spent a good chunk of time back in bed, snoozing some more (and watching TV). Before that, a good friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in years came by, and we drank coffee and chain smoked on the front step, which is also really bad- the chain smoking, not the coffee. (Don’t you dare judge me, quitting smoking is the hardest, most unpleasant thing I have ever tried quitting. And trust me, I have quit a lot of stuff. Baby steps, man.)

At around two o’clock yesterday afternoon, I was so disgusted with my pajama clad body, horizontally sprawled on various cushioned surfaces, blearily staring at the tv, or the insides of my eyelids. I was so filled with self loathing at my sweaty self just left moldering in the nastiness of my filthy, garbage filled home…I just didn’t know what to do. I mean, I knew what I SHOULD do, but what I didn’t know was how to get myself upright, and actually DO it. I had no energy. I felt angry, disgusted, and frustrated with myself.

Well, I figured out the “BIG SECRET”. It’s pretty simple, actually, though harder than it sounds. Are you ready for me to lay it on you?  Okay, here goes: You simply get the fuck up, and do what you need to do. That is it. Like the Nike slogan from years gone by- JUST DO IT. Just get up off your lazy ass, and start handling your business. Isn’t there some law of physics that says “A body at rest tends to stay at rest unless someone forces it to move it’s slovenly self?” Well, here’s the bad news- it has to be you, the operator of this big machine of skin and bone, that does the forcing. I mean, unless you are independently wealthy, in which case, you can just call Molly Maids, or whatever, and have them come do it for you. If that is the case, I don’t know why you are up so early, reading my blog. I would suggest you go back to bed until it’s time for your pedicure and massage, princess.

Seriously. though, it took me four hours- it could have taken me a lot less time, had I cut corners like I normally do. Doing a half ass job takes half as much time, of course, but the end result sure isn’t as satisfying. I let no dishes “soak” this time, I washed them, dried them, and put (most) of them away. I removed all my “neatly stacked” piles of mail that I am still so resistant to opening- ( hey, I am a work in progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day). I actually did a very good job.

It made me grouchy, for a little while- the first hour was hard, and I did it grudgingly, even with the awesome music blaring from my stereo. The second and third hour, I was just in numbed out cleaning mode. The final hour, I was pretty tired, but I could see the results of my hard work, and it kept me pushing through. I will confess to you right now that the bathroom did not get finished, but the truth is, I wasn’t going to do it at all until I saw how filthy the tub I was about to put my kid in was. So I went ahead and washed out the tub and the sink, while I was at it. And also, the top of my dresser in my bedroom did get overlooked. I will try to get to that today.

However, even with those two little things, I woke up this morning and was treated to the sight and feel of walking through a clean, clear, organized home. I go back to work today after a pretty long stretch of time off, and it feels good to have given myself this gift- a clean home to wake up in and start my day, and a clean home to come back to tonight. As much as I didn’t want to start on it yesterday, I was so glad I made myself do it last night, and I am even more grateful this morning.

So, there you have it- the secret to cleaning your home when you are a lazy, lazy woman. Go spread the word, lazy brethren and sistren (is there no female equivalent for brethren?!) . Go share it with the masses. I mean, if you can get up off the couch, that it. Hahaha!

Have a reasonable Monday (it should help that Monday is happening on a Tuesday this week. There is always that. 🙂 )

Glimpsing The Truth

window

I have been sort of coming up empty handed when it comes to stuff I feel like writing about lately. I have been working on some other, non-bloggy, stuff. And there have been at least two blogs I WANTED to write, and that you all really would have enjoyed, but nevertheless, these blogs would have caused me deep shame later, so I opted out. I am trying not to be an asshole, no matter how satisfying being that person is at times.

Today though, as I was driving, and, as so often happens when you are driving, I was nowhere near my laptop, I was struck by inspiration. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time unconsciously making plans for my imaginary life. What I mean by this is…well, my thoughts go something like this “When I am my perfect self with a perfect life that is perfectly organized and totally “normal”, and my house is always clean and I have awesome, perfect, friends whom I invite to perfect dinner parties, then I will…” Fill in the blank with whatever thing my imaginary self will then do in my imaginary life. Now, of course, I don’t actually compose this entire mess of run-on sentence in my head. It’s more of just an implied personal nirvana life, you understand.

Anyway, you ever have moments when the veil of your perception lifts, slightly, just for a moment? You ever get just a tiny little glimpse of the truth, and it leaves you completely thunderstruck? Well, this happened to me today. It suddenly occurred to me that- hold onto your pants, now- that perfect life, that perfect me? It doesn’t exist. Now, I am not saying that I could not be a better me. I fully believe, and expect, that I will continue to see all kinds of versions and levels of a better me, as time goes on and I continue on this path. But the perfect me? No. Not only can that not exist for me, but it doesn’t really exist for ANYONE.

And that, I think, is the real issue here. I forget that what I see, the surface part of peoples lives, the  things they show to us, are not their reality. I am basing my ideals for myself on the selected portions of life that other people decide to share with the world, the part they are comfortable with showing. Jesus, to be quite frank with you, were you to scroll through my Facebook timeline, you might think I was a pretty together chick. I don’t even LOOK like ninety percent of the pictures I post of myself. Hahahahaha!

I am not always thoughtful, or funny, or cheeky and positive. I am not any of those things most of the time. I am just a normal, middle aged (and goddammit, I AM middle aged, I am 40!) single mom. I have kid problems and man problems and a mole on my chin that three hairs grow out of (two black, one grievously gray) more rapidly with each plucking. I can’t seem to keep track of my socks, I am generally behind on laundry, and I hate washing pots, pans, and my dogs. And if your life IS perfect? I don’t even want to be friends with you. Who needs that kind of pressure?

But I will tell you what I do have, right now, today: I have a little house with a big yard, and an outstanding view. Inside this house are two beautiful daughters who love me more than anything- one who tells me everything I never wanted to know because she trusts me, and one who still thinks I can do anything, because she is four. I have two dogs, and one cat, and more love than these walls could ever contain. We have food in the fridge and the lights are still on, somehow. We are doing alright.

Maybe the truth is, this is my perfect life. Maybe it doesn’t get any better than this.

On Despair

despair

Well, this certainly isn’t the topic that has been rattling around in my head for the past week or so. It is, however, a subject with which I have become rather unfortunately familiar. Still learning about, but definitely familiar.

When I was younger, I used to get so angry with people when they would say “Life is hard!” as a way of explaining the choices (mostly poor) that people make sometimes. “It isn’t hard!” I would argue, “Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be! It’s the stupid things you do, the choices you make, the people you surround yourself with, that make life hard. Goddammit, people just need to be smarter, and don’t allow things to get them down!” (For some reason, ironically, I recall saying something very similar to these very words, while sobbing on the phone to my mother. Hmm…) Anyway, I would proclaim this, and things such as this, with the absolute conviction that all twenty somethings, with very little actual life experience, possess. I mean, it FELT like I was right, totally.

Fast forward a bit, to my early thirties. By that time, I had definitely had some harrowing experiences in life, I was early in my recovery (Well, when have I NOT been early in recovery?) from drugs, and, as had usually been the case for me, life was going pretty darn well. I was clean, I had a great boyfriend, a bank account, a job, great friends. I still wore single digit jeans. Life was looking up in a major way. I remember that a woman I knew only casually- VERY casually- had relapsed, and couldn’t seem to get clean again, after having been in a twelve step program for many, many years. It had just gotten out that she had killed herself, and I believe that one of her young daughters had found her body, and I was very angry about this. I recall telling my then-boyfriend how selfish I thought this person was, to have ruined so many lives by ending her own- I said “You know, once you have kids, suicide is not really an option anymore. It’s off the table, man.” And again, I said this with the conviction of one who really believes their words to be the obvious truth, having never experienced true, gut wrenching, despair, even then.

I will never forget the words he said in response to my outrage. “Courtney- try to imagine how much pain she was in, to think that was the very best option.” Oh. Oh, wow. I don’t remember if I argued with him, or what I said after that, but I have never forgotten what he said. Imagine the amount of pain someone must be experiencing, to believe that death, uncertain and unknowable as it is, is a better option than this. Better than breathing this air, and kissing your babies, better than watching the sunrise, and laughing with friends, and reminiscing with your brother at Thanksgiving about your childhood. That must be some kind of pain, man.

Lets move forward through my life a little farther, now, to my mid-thirties. On the outside, I have everything a person could want. I have two beautiful daughters, a person to love, an amazing career, a home in one of the most beautiful places in the world. What the world sees of me is what I want them to- a bubbly, pretty, outgoing woman. I laugh a lot, and make other people laugh a lot. I am always (in the public eye, anyway) friendly and engaging. There is NO WAY you could have guessed, unless you knew me very well, the kind of agony I was in. My life was a nightmare, from where I sat. I could barely fumble through work without breaking down. I was totally strung out, again, and in fear of being found out every single day, and of losing it all. I was broke, and miserable, disgusted with myself. My relationship was in shambles, my bills were out of control, and nothing seemed bearable anymore. My older daughter was out of control, in trouble all the time, and my little daughter preferred her traitorous father (not hard to see why, looking back) over me. I cried so much every day that no one even noticed anymore. It got to the point where I rarely left my bedroom, let alone my house. I felt like my life was completely out of control (it was) and the worst part was that I knew the only one who could save me was me. This terrified me. Because I wasn’t sure I could do it, nor that I wanted to.

For the first time in my whole life, I looked around me, and I thought-“You know, it would probably be for the best if I just wasn’t here anymore. I am terrible for everyone I encounter. My family would be so much happier if they didn’t have to deal with me.” And I BELIEVED this to be true.

That is what despair is, my friend. True despair is the voice in your head telling you to give up, already. That you are so much trouble, and you are so damaged, that the people who love you desperately would be far better off without you around. It makes you believe that things will never be any better than they are right at this moment, and it makes you believe that all the happiness you remember was a lie. It shrouds the light so that it cannot get to you, and it shrouds the truth, that you are so loved, and so necessary, to the people in your life. So loved that almost any of them, from your lover to the neighbor across the street who’s last name you don’t know, would talk you down from the ledge you are standing on, if only they knew. But sometimes they just don’t know how close you are to the edge. I am so glad I made it down okay.

i found out last night that a friend of mine from high school didn’t make it down okay.This beautiful girl, who I will always remember as seventeen, with the biggest blue eyes-bigger than mine, even- and I thought she was so pretty, And she was. She was still very, very pretty. She was having a hard time of it, over the past few years- though I had no idea how hard, We chatted on Facebook occasionally, but it’s been a while. Yesterday, at the urging of a friend we have in common, I sent her a message- “Hey, you. I was thinking about you, wondering how you are. Hope all is well.” I noticed that her last post was Friday, and it said something about her intentions being good, and her heart pure. It was one of those posts we put up when we want to say something to someone without saying it to them directly. I don’t know who she meant it for. I do know, however, that she died that day. That for her, the pain was too great. My heart goes out to her, and to her children, and family, all the ones who loved her. Who would have gladly done anything to keep this from happening.

I have learned along the way that life IS hard, and it gets harder the older you get, because you grow tired of the struggle, tired of being hurt. Tired of carrying around the damn burden of who you are, and all the things you have done, the ways you have been. But I have also learned that it all comes back around, over and over and over, enough times for me to be sure- the light does get in, eventually. The joy returns, again and again, and the pain recedes. That is how it goes.

Don’t ever give up. Find one shred of hope, however small, and hang on to it, because it will get better. I promise you, it will. If the voice in your head is telling you that the world would be better off without you and all your misery, you tell someone, and you let them tell you that it is a lie. Because it is a lie. Please wait it out. Please.

That’s all I have for today. Rest in peace, my beautiful friend.

The Life You Choose.

This may be the best quote ever.
This may be the best quote ever.

Do you ever have moments of clarity, where the truth about things is so clear to you that it is startling? Or, maybe, the thing that is revealed to you, simple as it is, is not at all the truth you were hoping for? I think it is pretty human, and therefore, normal, to want a certain thing, or things, to be true, to hope for certain outcomes…and it may even be normal to grapple a while with reality before the pain of that struggle becomes hampering, and we can relax enough, usually out of exhaustion, for the true nature of things to be revealed to us.

I don’t know. Every once in a while, I have these reality checks that come floating down from…somewhere, and they invariably tell me some glaring truth that I missed, while I was busy complicating things with my own over-thinking. The latest one was probably the worst so far. “You know,” my head whispered to me, “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one is going to make you, no one is going to fix you, and no one else can save you. If you don’t do it, no one is going to do it for you.” I mean, yeah, obviously, but I don’t think I was thinking that way. I think I was still trying to ride the wave of “Well, I don’t do drugs anymore.” Which I don’t want to downplay- not poisoning myself on a daily basis is, and always will be, a big deal. But it isn’t everything. There are other things that must be tended to.

The fact that I haven’t been tending to those things becomes evident when I start to slip into despair and depression, like I have written about recently. I don’t want to get dressed, I don’t want to get cleaned up, I don’t want to clean my house (well, I never want to do that) or open my mail, or go outside. I know that doing all of these things will make me feel better, but I don’t want to do them. I want to drop out of life. Not die, I am not suicidal, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to participate in the parade anymore. Because I am burrowed down into my little “safe” spot, miserable as it is, and it seems like an awful lot of effort to get going, to get up there on the level with you other humans, and stretch my legs, start to feel better again.

So, the other day, I was standing in my kitchen, and that is when I thought that thought- that “Yeah, go ahead and stay in your little hole, but life is going on all around you, and you are missing it. Stay here, but no one is going to drag you out into the light. You have to do it. You have to be responsible for you, and your happiness, and the fact that you are missing out.” It was like my subconscious was giving me a stern talking to. I was not very receptive. I went and lay on my bed in protest, in my pajamas, at four in the afternoon, and drooled into my pillow while watching some horrible reality show on MTV.

But the conversation (that took place only in my head) wouldn’t stop playing over in my head. I knew it was the truth, and at the bottom of that truth was that I was hurting no one more than myself, by refusing to get on the ride. I was missing out. That is what life IS- the motion, the action, the discomfort, sometimes. It brings with it laughter, and joy, and happiness. You can’t just pick and choose which experiences you will have and which you will skip over- that is not really living. By leaving my sweats on for days, and refusing to get outside or do anything, I was refusing ALL of it. Not just the hard, boring, uncomfortable, scary stuff, but the great part, the best parts, too. And it was up to me.

So, I went on a few rather grudging walks. The light started to inch it’s way closer. I took a bubble bath and put on clean clothes. A little closer. I took out the garbage and answered the phone when it rang. I felt better. Then, the day before yesterday, I really WANTED to take my dogs for a walk after work. I couldn’t wait. The minute I was off work, I was out the door, and we walked and walked, and halfway into our walk along the beach, I realized I was doing it- I was taking care of myself, and I felt better.

Yesterday, the need for a nap was, like, gone. I just didn’t need one. Just like I didn’t need a pill, or a therapist (although I do have one, don’t get me wrong) or a cheer squad to get me through it. I had the answer, right in my own head, or heart, or soul- wherever the truth about ourselves comes from- it was in me, all the time. I just needed to be willing to listen. I wish I didn’t need to be in such a sorry state before I can hear my own inner voice, and I guess that is something I will work on. Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you. Now, back to writing the novel. Have a wonderful Friday!