Posted in adventure, faith, family, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, women

Grace Period

A funny thing that recurs repeatedly for me is the realization of how well I think I know myself, how much I think I know about the way I show up and operate within my life…only to be smacked upside the head with reminders of just how forgetful I am. Now, here’s the thing- I can predict pretty accurately how I am going to feel and react and show up in a familiar situation. But put me in a new situation, one where I feel completely out of sorts and out of my element…and all bets are off.

Last night was the fifth night I spent in this incredibly odd condo I rented in Maine (more on that later) and, had you asked me even yesterday morning- even last night, for that matter- how I felt about all of this, I don’t know what I would have said. Probably depends on who was asking. I might have lied and said (in a rather flat and unenthusiastic voice, as I am a terrible liar) “Oh, it’s good- just getting settled, you know.” More likely still, I would have talked about how gorgeous the neighborhood is, which is absolutely the truth, and mentioned that I was kind of lonely, the condo was not exactly what I’d expected, and I was FINE.

A few of my trusted friends and family got to hear the story of my toddler-style tantrum in the bathtub the night before last when I realized the tubs plug didn’t work, after I’d dumped in my expensive bubble bath and jumped in, excited after not showering for two days. I was REALLY looking forward to that bath. My mom is the only one who got to hear the story of how, while loading the new dishwasher that is set up completely differently than my old dishwasher, I forgot that the silverware was in the front and stabbed myself in the webbing of my hand with a dirty fork. Hard enough to draw blood. These are little things, I know, but when everything is so different- and I mean everything- these little things feel so big. Insult to injury, you know?

What I have said to no one at all are the things that bother me the most. Like, why am I not happier than this? Why don’t I feel the way I expected to feel? I got what I wanted most in the world, shouldn’t I be jumping for joy? What if I made a huge mistake? Why am I so homesick already? What is wrong with me?

I have felt this unnecessary pressure to plop right into this entirely new life, three thousand miles away from everything familiar, and be ecstatic about all of it. Overjoyed that I got lost three times in one car ride to the local CVS. Thrilled to shit about the dead spot in town where my GPS glitches out, telling me “turn right in one mile” “turn right” and “proceed to route” all in ten seconds. I feel embarrassed that I’m homesick when I couldn’t wait to leave, embarrassed that I haven’t slipped into life here like an old pair of jeans. I know how lucky I am to get to do all of this- keep my job and follow my dreams and get the adventure of a lifetime- so I’m a little ashamed of how ungrateful I’ve been feeling. Not ungrateful, even. Just…freaked out. Lost. Adrift. Frustrated.

Well Jesus Christ, Courtney. I am not a Muppet on Sesame Street. This is real life, it’s my real life, and it’s pretty turned upside down and inside out right now. I spent the last month packing and cleaning, sorting and selling. I spent five days driving from California to Maine in a car with two cats, a kid, and half of my belongings. I spent four nights in different states. I arrived here on Monday and was back to work by Wednesday morning. I am trying to set my life up in the midst of a pandemic while half-heartedly quarantining, which is easier than it sounds when you take into account that I know exactly four people here and they are all one family. I am exhausted, disoriented, and on my own in a way that I am unfamiliar with. In Monterey, I was on my own, but I didn’t have to be…and I knew where everything was, you know?

So yesterday I started thinking about what I could do to restore some sense of normalcy to my life. Thursday night, I’d unpacked my candles and incense, my crystals, tarot cards, and books and arranged them on a shelf as a sort of mini-altar. Later that evening, we picked up dinner from a restaurant in town and sat down together, Cam and I, at the dining room table and had dinner. I liked that a lot. Yesterday, I meditated for the first time in a long time. Last night, I cooked dinner here for the first time, and again, we sat down together to eat. After dinner, we sat in the living room- she watched TV while I read, and it was nice to spend time together.

We don’t have a yard here and I was worried that would be a problem with a dog, but…actually, it’s been kind of a bonus. There is a beautiful beach half a block from my door, so Lucy gets walked about four times every day, which means I get to walk four times every day! I like that a lot, too. The sunrises here are the most incredible things I’ve ever seen, and a brisk walk at sunrise is a pretty great way to start a day.

And yes, the condo is quirky- it’s filled with too much furniture and SO much junk. The floors slope up and down, the blinds are broken, most of the furniture is rickety and falling apart. It’s also not very clean. BUT: the beds are clean and new, the carpets and couches are nice, the washer and dryer are very new. Most importantly, though, it feels warm, and not spooky at all- which is important in a place that’s over a hundred years old! It’s so quiet here, and very dark at night- no sirens, no neighbors outside yelling, no loud music or fireworks.

There is much to like and be appreciative of, but I forgot that it takes time. I forgot that I might need a moment to catch my breath, to figure out where the steak knives are, to feel at home. I forgot that the way I felt the first day I arrived wouldn’t be the way I always felt, or even how I felt the next day. I forgot that I needed a grace period. And today, I am feeling a lot better.

Oh, and I also found a hardware store and bought an old fashioned bathtub plug. So, I think I’m going to be okay pretty soon.

Posted in adventure, family, fun, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, People, random, women

So Many Breakdowns, So Little Time

The range of emotions I have been grappling with over the past several days has been pretty astonishing. On Saturday, I had a yard sale- maybe the third one I’ve ever had? I remembered that morning, as I was making my ten billionth trip from the back yard to the front, exactly why I had only had two others before. Because they SUCK. I don’t like sitting around, waiting for people to show up. I don’t like haggling single dollar amounts over my belongings. I don’t like feeling judged when people slow down in their cars, look at my stuff, and then drive off. And it’s boring. And it was HOT. And my back hurt. Yep, on Saturday, I was a full-on whiner.

On Sunday, I let people come over and pick through the remains for free. I put up a post on Facebook marketplace, in several groups I’m in, and said “It’s all free, don’t message me about specific items, don’t make a mess, and just let me know you are on your way over please.” Guess how many messages I got about specific items? Like thirty. And people are so RUDE. Messages that just said “Address?”- no hello, no good morning, nothing. Honestly, I would rather drive my crap to a donation station than give it to a rude person. So, I ignored those ones and only replied to the polite people. On Sunday, I was petty.

Yesterday though…yesterday was special. In the morning, I had a panicked fit because my ex, who has been my literal savior throughout this whole moving process, had the audacity to choose employment over helping me for free. I know, what a jerk, right?! Hahaha! I kept stopping mid-breakdown, as I shrieked the list of all the things I needed to do but wasn’t going to be able to accomplish without help, to announce that I wasn’t actually mad at him, I was just freaking the fuck out. But I could tell he felt guilty anyway, because, you know…I’m his assigned human in distress. Poor Devon. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know we’ve had a rocky, hard relationship. When we fight, which is not unusual, they are big fights. We put up with a lot from each other, but we help each other a lot, too. So, Monday morning, I was ridiculous.

Later Monday morning, I realized that when I’d rented the AWD car to drive cross country, I’d forgotten to specify the cross-country part. Which is why it was such a reasonable price. I had to fix that, obviously, and found myself about fifteen hundred dollars lighter as a result. Five minutes later, the guy at Uhaul told me my trailer hitch hadn’t arrived and they had no ETA on it, either. So that’s bad. Later Monday morning, I was a lunatic.

Monday afternoon, I flooded the laundry room. It has happened two other times since I’ve lived here, but never to me- a point I’d taken great pride in. I was smart enough to never leave anything in the sink the washer drains into. Well, until yesterday, that is. On the plus side, the floors underneath the washer and dryer are super clean now. On the down side, the litter box was basically poop soup. I still haven’t dealt with that. On Monday afternoon, I was defeated.

Monday evening, I realized that both of my children were ungrateful sociopaths, and that it was probably my fault because I am a terrible mother. On Monday evening, I was resentful. And hurt.

And those are just the highlights, my friends. I didn’t even mention the guilt I felt while looking at my cats who are clueless about what next week holds for them. Or the part where I was laying in bed, wondering if it would be weird to change my mind…or if I even could at this point! I mean, I signed a lease. I forked over the cash. It’s too late…right? Or even the part where I imagined my future self lonely and full of regret, comforting my sobbing child as she begs to go home to California. There’s more, I’m sure, but I’ll spare you. I think you have a pretty clear idea of my mental state by now.

You know what’s missing, though? Gratitude. Excitement. Joy, elation, the awesome sense of adventure that fueled this fire in me to begin with. I will give myself a pass at the moment, simply because…a move of this magnitude is hard. And doing it in this short of a time is really hard. But I will get it done, just like I get everything done- maybe not perfectly, but well enough.

In a little more than a week, I will set off for Maine, yowling cats and all, and this chapter will be done as another begins. I’m going to do the best I can to enjoy the journey through the country while keeping my expectations low. As long as we get there alive and in one piece, I’ll be happy. In the meantime, I’m hoping today won’t hold too many surprises…or if it does, let them be happy ones.

Posted in Dreams, family, Goals, happiness, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Telling On Myself

I wrote a post yesterday. Ever since I posted it, I’ve been annoyed about it. You want to know why? Good, ’cause I’m gonna tell you- I’m annoyed because, though there were a few grains of truth in there, it was really a fictional account of how I want to feel; it had nothing to do with how I actually felt right then.

Do you want to know how I actually feel? Good, ’cause I’m gonna tell you that, too. I am scared. Scared half to death. And also, in case you were uncertain, I want you to know that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Like, I mean, I guess I kind of know, but what I mean is…I’m not really sure I should be the one in charge of making big decisions around here. I’m not nearly as confident as I probably seem. I often feel like a very young woman in a middle-aged woman’s body, baffled by life. I frequently wonder if I deserve the good things that happen in my life, and then I feel guilty, which is weird.

I want very much to be positive, but there’s a fine line between positivity and being disingenuous. Yesterday, I was having a really hard day and in an attempt to bolster myself, I wrote a post that was utter bullshit. I’m telling you this because honesty is so important- now more than ever, in my opinion. When I tell the truth here, when I am really open about my feelings and struggles, I know that someone will read my words and feel less alone. I know, because it’s happened time after time. I put my real feelings into words, and someone says “Oh my God, I thought it was just me, thank you for saying that.”

We don’t tell the truth about human stuff, and then we suffocate on shame. As they say in recovery, we compare our insides to other peoples outsides. And that’s not a fair comparison. Social media makes it so much easier to do that, because we post the best pictures, and the funny moments, and we leave out the personal stuff that makes us real people. Well, guess what? I’m a real person. Flawed as can be.

Yesterday, I had a terrible realization. I realized that I have made the last ten years about my kids (that isn’t the terrible part, stay with me), and the past five I doubled-maybe tripled- down as a parent. But I did it wrong, I think. I gave these girls the impression that I lived only for them, to serve them and save them and give to them, even if that meant overlooking myself. And now, when I have this amazing thing happening for me, I am being met with open resentment. I am selfish, I have ALWAYS been selfish, I don’t deserve help, I don’t deserve appreciation…UNLESS I am doing what they want me to do. It occurred to me yesterday that I kinda have no one who is really in my corner. And man, that makes me sad. Like, really, really sad.

Do they love me? Oh, without a doubt. That’s not it at all. It’s the lack of boundaries with them, the path I laid out that is the problem. I gave as much as I could in some areas to make up for what I perceived as shortfalls in other areas. And now I find myself in a lonely place because I devoted myself to people who are ultimately supposed to grow up and go off to their own lives. Obviously, my nine year old is still dependent on me, but she’s spoiled, too. And that is my fault. But my eldest is PISSED, and cannot see beyond her own needs right now. Needs that are, I might add, not mine to meet. At all. She’s 23.

Yesterday, it hit me that I need to take care of myself and show up for myself, especially if I’m the only one doing it. So all this family resistance I am hitting is actually only driving home the point that I have got to do what makes me happy. Because making other people happy is great, but it isn’t getting MY needs met. My kids will be fine. I will always be there for them, but I will also be there for me. As I should have been all along.

So yesterday, I painted a pretty picture that didn’t tell the real story. Today, I am telling the truth. Because you deserve to hear it, and I need to lay it out, too. Life is hard, being a grown up is hard, parenting is hard. For everyone. Most of the time. You are not alone, and I know I’m not either. One thing I wrote yesterday is true, though. Things really do have a way of working out. I’m counting on it.

Posted in adventure, faith, family, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Life, magic, manifestation, Mental Health, Musings, People, random, travel

Where Do I Even Begin…?

You can’t see me, I know, but after I wrote the title, I sat here wide-eyed with my hands out, palms up, in the classic “WTF?” pose. For two days, I have been ignoring my desperate need to get this all out, commit it to the screen and perhaps untangle even a small corner of the mess that is spreading into every corner of my brain. Even my sleep isn’t safe anymore, my dreams just one more running commentary (albeit, a very abstract commentary) of the chaos within and around me.

But where do I start? Should I dive right in? The last time I posted was like July, I’m pretty sure, on a day where I felt peaceful and was yammering on about acceptance. Then I went quiet for a while. Stuck in the weird global pandemic time-warp where every day blends into the next and you’re just treading water, waiting for something to change. The only thing that changed was things looked like they were going to get better for a minute, so I went into the office for the first time since March a total of two times, and then…the shit hit the fan in a big way here in California, and they told us to stay home again. Thank God. Then the entire west coast caught on fire for months- pretty sure there’s a bunch of it still on fire, though I’ve honestly stopped keeping track- and the pervasive feeling of doom just crept closer.

In August, during the two minutes when things appeared to be returning to a more normal routine, I had booked a flight and Airbnb in Maine. By the time my trip rolled around, I wasn’t sure if I should go or not. And maybe it was selfish and stupid of me to follow through with it, but my mental state demanded that I feed it some type of happiness before it fell into a pit of despair, so…off I went for a Covid swab and a plane ride across the country.

There were 72 people on our flight, including the crew. Rows of empty seats following the fastest TSA check in line I’ve ever experienced- and that includes me having to go back through the detector thingy three times AND get patted down (Still no idea what the hell was setting the thing off). Everyone wore masks and gave each other as much space as they could. Mostly, I tried not to think about it.

Maine, once again, exceeded my expectations. I was in Mid-coast Maine this time, in Bristol, near Pemaquid Point. Trust me when I tell you, if you are looking for a socially distant vacation, this is the place to be. The cottage looked directly out onto the water- I could throw a rock and hit the inlet if I’d wanted to. But mostly, I just wanted to look at it, the old Atlantic ocean…it really does feel older to me than the Pacific, for some reason. Older, more serious, more magical. At night, you can see the milky way with your eyes, and more stars than you even believe can exist. There is no light pollution, no sound to interrupt the wind in the trees and the rhythmic pulse of the water on the shore. For the first time in months, I could breathe again. The worries of the world- the pandemic, politics, distance learning, tragedy and mayhem…they faded into the background, where they belong.

And while I was there, something pretty incredible happened…but I’m out of time, so dammit! You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear the rest of the story. My apologies, I really want to tell this the right way!

Posted in anxiety, escape, family, friendship, happiness, health, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, random

Interesting Times

Hi! Since the last time I showed my face around here, I have: turned 45, tried and fell very short when helping my child with distance learning, lost both my bras for weeks at a time. I’ve- stopped shaving completely, then really regretted that when I made myself start again; resumed some weird, nervous habits that I thought were related only to my drug use, but I guess not. I have wondered daily if I were completely going off the deep end, or if…you know, my feelings were warranted, based on the information I had.

I have vacillated almost comically between wanting to make the best of things, and wanting to just throw the freaking towel in completely. Sometimes several times within the same day. Things are hard. They are weird. They are scary.

It doesn’t matter that I’m one of the luckier ones whose life hasn’t even changed all that drastically, really. I still work from home. Cam would have been off school anyway, it just happened a little sooner. It’s the way it feels. I can’t just go do whatever, whenever I want to- well, I can, I guess, but not safely. Even when the restaurants here were open for a few weeks, there was no way in hell I was going out. I knew that it was too soon, and I knew exactly what would happen. It gives me no pleasure to find I was right. Now everything is shutting down again, and this virus is worse than it has ever been here.

It feels like I am in limbo, because I am. Everything is uncertain and on hold. I catch myself holding my breath. A lot. Nothing about this feels good to me, I don’t like it, and…there’s not a single thing I can do about it. Other than keep soldiering on, trying to do my best.

Some days my best looks really great! I get a lot done and go to bed at night thinking “This isn’t so bad!”. Other days, the best I can do is peel myself off the couch and away from whatever I’m binge watching on Hulu long enough to make my kid a grilled cheese sandwich.

All this to say…whatever you are going through, wherever you fall on the spectrum, you are well within your right to be there. I don’t know a single person, not one, who is not struggling in some way. This is the weirdest event most of us have ever, and hopefully will ever, live through. It won’t go on forever. I don’t know what that means right now, but I do know that things will change, because that is simply what things do. They change.

One of the reasons I took a break from all of this was because I was so overwhelmed by the clamoring voices all around me, spouting out their opinions as if they were facts. It got to be too much, and I didn’t want to contribute to that, in case I was making things confusing for other people. I didn’t want to be part of it.

But I do want to check in and tell you all…hang in there. Do your best, whatever that looks like today. One way or another, this will all be behind us eventually.

Until then, I can’t recommend highly enough watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer from start to finish on Hulu. Now that’s what I call a great escape! 🙂

Posted in family, Goals, health, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, People, random, relationships, women

When This is Over

this too shall pass

When this is over, I will say yes to everything.

I will never be too tired or grouchy or lazy again.

When this is over, I will have barbecues and parties. I will have friends for lunch and fancy dinner parties for no reason.

When this is over, I will visit when my mother asks me. I will wander through my daughters garden and take my time, listen and look as she points out every flower. I will hug her and not let go for a very long time.

I miss her. I worry, you know.

When this is over, and I can move freely through the world again, I will remember. I’ll remember what it was like to fear the grocery store.

To fear the goddamn shopping cart.

To feel my heart race every time Cam touched a handle or a box.

When this is over, I swear I will go camping with Jen instead of trying to figure out how to get out of it.

I’ll find the time. I’ll make the time.

When this is over, maybe I’ll stop crying every day.

Or maybe I’ll cry for a long, long time.

I just really hope I’m here

I hope all of us are here

When this is over.

Posted in anxiety, faith, family, health, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random

Gratitude, Fear, and Compassion

gratitude in hard times

Here is a question for you- do you think gratitude and fear can coexist? Can they live in the same mind, spirit, body at the same time? If you would have asked me that question two weeks ago, I think my answer might have been different. But today, my answer is yes.

I know this to be true because I am living it right now, right in the chair where I sit. I am grateful, so incredibly grateful, for my health. For the fact that, in a few minutes, it will be time for me to start work and I get to do it in the comfort and safety of my own home, while my daughter sleeps peacefully in the other room. You have no idea what a blessing that routine and normalcy is for me today! I am grateful for the food in my fridge. And for the first time in my life, I have a true sense of gratitude for the people who are keeping our country intact- the nurses, the grocery store employees, the truck drivers, the delivery drivers. I just never gave it much thought before. But today, I am. I am so very grateful for them.

And right beside my gratitude is fear. I am afraid for my parents- my mom, especially, because for whatever reason she just isn’t taking this seriously. I’m afraid for myself and also my daughters, especially the little one who has reactive airways- in other words, asthma when she is sick. Losing all of the things I take for granted, the little luxuries in life like…running to the store, grabbing dinner out, visiting farmer’s market…that is scary, and surreal and weird. The last time I was in the grocery store, I ran through as fast as I could, wanting nothing more than to wash my hands. Counting the days past my last interaction with the world, hoping I don’t start getting a sore throat or a fever. Because it’s just Cam and I in this house, and I need to be able to care for her. This virus is in our community- I think it has been long before we got our first positive test- and I am not ashamed to admit I’m afraid. I think, if you are not a little nervous, you really should be. A little bit of fear, in this case, is healthy.

But from this gratitude and fear, a third thing was born, not just for me but for lots of people all around the world, and this has been the most beautiful part of all. Compassion. Compassion that makes people more generous and giving at once than I have ever seen. We are collecting money for families in need, giving whatever we can wherever it is needed. My sister-in-law started sewing reusable masks yesterday, and I bought a whole bunch from her so that I can give them away. She was making them for free for her family in the medical field, but she’ll need money to buy the stuff and now she’s probably got more orders than she can handle. People are donating blood, fostering animals, checking on neighbors. Giving and giving even when our lives are so precarious.

And how can that be? How is it that two weeks ago, we didn’t have it to give, and suddenly now we do? And I’m sure you gave what you felt you could before, right? I know I did- I gave my donation to the ACLU, to the United Way. I’d throw my extra dollar to St. Jude’s or whatever when I was asked. But suddenly, we are finding ways to dig deeper and give more, right? How is that?

Well, to me it’s pretty clear…when we get a reality check like the one we are getting today, you understand well- it’s people who matter. Our communities matter dearly to us. Our neighbors, our favorite local restaurants, the grocery clerk whose name we never learned- they matter to us. And by extension, their families and lives matter to us. Our protective instinct has been awakened, and though the circumstances are awful, our response is pretty breathtaking. We are remembering how to be a tribe. We are aware that we are a global community- some of us understanding it for the first time ever. What harms our neighbors, whether across the street or across the globe, can harm us as well. We’d do well to remember this when the danger has passed.

And so, as I sit here this morning, a bundle of nerves and love, gratitude, compassion, and fear…I will say to you what I have been saying to everyone lately. I love you all. Please stay safe.

 

Posted in advice, faith, family, health, home, inner peace, kids, Life, living, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, social media

Strange Times

It’s been a while, I know…possibly the longest I’ve gone without posting in over a year! I didn’t plan on this long hiatus, it just sort of happened. I got off of Facebook, and the silence and space that created in my life felt so good that it just sort of rolled over into everything else. I suppose you could say I was practicing “social distancing” in a pretty hardcore way before it was even cool.

Seriously, though- I had planned on resuming my posts while I was on vacation this week in Maine. As you can guess, those plans fell to the wayside in the face of the current SciFi movie that is reality right now. I was very conflicted all last week about whether to stay home or go ahead and go. Looks like I made the correct decision. It would suck to be trapped in a hotel room on the other side of the country right now, and that is probably exactly what it would have ended up being. There’s nowhere we can go to escape this thing right now, unfortunately.

That being the case, what we can do, though limited, is pretty simple. We can follow the instructions being given to us by our local officials. And if you feel like your local governing body isn’t quite up to speed, you can certainly take it upon yourself to do your part- stay home, limit contact to those living in your household, limit trips outside the house to necessities. Stop complaining- we all are well aware that the stores are out of toilet paper and pretty much everything else. Suck it up. Freaking out isn’t helping anyone. Be responsible about what you post and put some thought into what you believe- in other words, don’t incite panic in others and check the facts before you assume something is true.

This is a scary time right now! There is no arguing that fact. For sure this is the strangest event I have ever witnessed unfolding in my lifetime. It sure does change things, doesn’t it? I can’t speak for you, but for me…it’s made me realize a few things. One of them is the crazy amount of things I take for granted on a daily basis. I have never not been able to easily get whatever I needed from the store. I have never been told to stay inside, or had to be afraid to run into the grocery store. I have zero experience with being anything less than absolutely free to do as I please, and I promise you, when this is over with, I will view that freedom with a lot more appreciation.

Another thing I’ve realized is…I really want to live. I don’t mean just survive this thing, either, which of course is also true. I mean…holy shit, you guys! Life is finite. Of course we all know this on a certain level, but it seems like I just assume that I have all this time to do whatever, you know? But now…now I just want to gobble up all the experiences the same way I am gobbling up all the food in this house- with rash abandon.

I think we are all getting a very good lesson in living in the moment. None of us know what tomorrow holds- this has always been true, but now the point is really being driven home. So enjoy this day. Enjoy your children’s sweet faces, enjoy your good health, enjoy the quiet world. Take care of yourself, and take nothing for granted. We’ll get through this, one way or another.

Wishing you all safety and good health. Make wise decisions, for yourself and for all of us. Hang in there.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, family, friendship, happiness, health, Holidays, Learning, Life, mental illness, Musings, People, recovery, twelve step

Thanks-Giving

Hi, guys! I started to make this a post for my other blog, but quickly realized this one belongs here, where my story has played out over so many years. I have a different voice, and a different story, and a different history here, and this one should live here. So here goes:

I woke up this morning a little put out that I’d had time to clean the whole rest of my house, but no time to clean my own room- the one place that should be my sanctuary, right? I felt bad that I had put myself at the bottom of my own list. Dumb, but that’s just my brain, trying to find something to be unhappy about. I was feeling a little better about life once I sat down here, in my neat, clean living room, sipping a hot cup of coffee fresh from the sparkling clean coffee pot (I even remembered to run the coffee pot through the dishwasher! I’m so proud of myself!).

I hopped on Facebook to see what I’d missed since bedtime, and I happened upon a post from…the brother of a friend of a friend. We don’t know each other in real life, but we’ve been social media buddies for a number of years, and…over the past couple of years, I have witnessed a slow and steady decline. Posts that are cryptic, yet somehow also overly personal, alarming and worrisome, but no real information being given. About a week ago, he posted a video detailing his woes, and I wondered what was happening. Was it a mental health crisis?

Today, I saw his post and I understood. He wrote about his recent struggles with addiction. He has lost all hope. He feels helpless, lost, alone, worn out, confused about where to turn.

An hour after that post went up, he posted a check-in at a hospital. It didn’t say for what, but I hope that someone there can guide him towards help. Of course, once I knew what was going on, I could no longer just lurk around and keep quiet. I sent him a message, told him I knew exactly how he felt and what he was going through. I encouraged him to find an NA meeting and ask for help. I told him not to believe the things his brain was telling him, but to listen to his heart and soul, because they were crying out for help. And I told him “One year from this day, your life can be completely different. You can be whole and happy and surrounded by family again.” I told him to reach out to me and I would help if I could.

Boy, did that take me back. As much as I try to separate myself from that part of my life, as much as I long to leave the past behind me, it is part of me. My life, those years and years of addiction, were not just a small part of my story. That was who I WAS, that was my identity, for the bulk of my adult life. I was other things, too. But before anything else, I fed my addiction. Before my children, before my family, before my job, before my bills were paid, before I made any other decisions, I fed my addiction. I cannot tell you the number of holidays I missed completely or ruined by showing up. I cannot tell you the number of moments I lost or stole from others. I couldn’t guess.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be where I am now. Right here, in my fuzzy pajamas, on Thanksgiving morning, in my own, clean house. My mom sleeping in Camryn’s bed on clean sheets, Camryn sleeping in my bed. And me, clean. Not worrying about how much dope I have left or how I’ll get more or when I’ll be able to sneak off to use more. Not angry for no reason, not making everyone around me walk on eggshells to keep from setting me off. Not making everyone sick with worry, but afraid to say a word.

There are not words to describe to you how grateful I am to be whole and here. I have gotten far enough away from my old life to forget, sometimes, how big of a deal that is. I have wanted to get away from it. But at times like this, when I see that pain in someone else, when I remember precisely how that felt, I am glad to remember. It makes the things I was griping inwardly about seem very small and petty, and shifts my perspective to one of gratitude, intense gratitude, and joy.

It took me a long, long time to get here. I had to work very hard at it. I suffered so many set backs and failures along the way. But I never gave up. I kept trying, and it paid off. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so eager to close the door on the past. Perhaps it is important to remember who I was, so that I can appreciate fully who I am today. Today, at least, this seems to be true. I have never been more thankful to be me than I am right now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems today and need help, you can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for guidance.

There are also NA and AA meetings in almost every town in the world. You can google “NA world service” to bring up links to anyplace you might be, and you can find hotlines manned by members who can tell you where to catch a meeting today.

Don’t suffer a minute longer than you have to. Reach out. Someone has been where you are and understands. Trust me on that. You are not alone.

Posted in family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Unconditional

unconditional

It is 4:42 a.m. and my eyes pop open. I bring my wrist to my face and squint up at the green numbers on my Fitbit, then slide awkwardly towards the foot of my bed to exit, grabbing my phone from the charger as I go. There’s a child sleeping beside me that had not been there when I went to sleep, and I don’t want to risk waking her. This is as much for my sake as her own- maybe more for my sake, honestly. These little hours of the morning are the only ones that are truly mine, and I am not willing to share them with anyone.

Camryn, though, is not the child that sleeps lightly. Aisley was the one I had to tiptoe around to keep from waking, the one who would always wake simply because the warmth of my body was missing beside her. From the moment she was born, she lived her life perched in the crook of my arm, balanced on the side of my hip. She slept pressed against my side, curled herself into my lap as we watched TV. Camryn was different- she wanted to sleep near me, but not too near. She wanted down, she wanted to explore, she wanted to do it herself. I told myself it was a good thing, her independence. It meant she felt safe, that I was doing something right. The truth is, I missed all the cuddling, and it probably had nothing to do with me. Children, in many ways, are born with personalities intact.

Last night was a rough night. Though there is nothing I love more than my daughters, and having them both home, under the same roof, brings a peace to my heart like nothing else, my girls are…polar opposites. Like two ends of a battery, they go together, but they are not the same. Positive and Negative. Cam is happy and hyper, kind and silly. At the far end of those things, she is obnoxious, relentless, impulsive and incapable of pumping the brakes. Aisley is…quiet, calm, practical and sensitive to her environment. The darker side of her is moody, agitated, intolerant and…unhappy in a way that you can feel, even when she is silent.

Her sister gets on her nerves. I can feel the tension building, and it affects me, too. Cam is bouncing off the walls. Aisley is stewing. I am in the middle, trying to warn them both “She’s only eight, be patient.” and “Camryn, you need to settle down.” “Settle down.” “Camryn, THAT IS ENOUGH!” Poor Cam, thinking she can crack just one more joke, and everyone will laugh and be happy, not realizing that every time she opens her mouth, she’s pushing both her sister and I closer to the edge. It ended with me losing my cool, Aisley jumping in, and Camryn in tears, feeling (rightly) that she’d been ganged up on. My poor little peanut.

I apologized, but was not granted permission to hug for several hours. I explained to Aisley that, though it isn’t her intention to do it, her moods are contagious for me. They always have been. I’ve always been pretty empathetic, but with her it’s next level. I’m like a little sponge, soaking up her vibe. All I really want is to be happy with my kids, to treat them kindly, to feel good about our time together. I didn’t feel that way last night. I felt terrible, actually, and ashamed at losing my cool. I went to bed early just to be done with it.

Today is a new day, though. I ran to the store at 6 to buy sugar, and the streets were deserted, the sky still dark as night. At the stop sign down the road, the twinkling lights of Monterey spread out across the bay, and the heaviness in my chest leftover from last night lifted. It’s still early. The possibilities are endless.

It is 7:17 now, and my daughters are still sleeping- the big one in the little one’s bed, and the little one in my bed. I wonder if they know, if they will ever really know…how much I love them? Exactly as they are, whoever they should become, no matter what they do. My love for them is…profound. It is the definition of unconditional. No hormonal “I hate you!” or “You’re a TERRIBLE mother!” could penetrate or even disturb the fortress wall that is my love for them. As a matter of fact, the cruel things said, the unintentional slights, the outright insults? They slide right off that wall, forgotten almost immediately. Ironically, Aisley cries to me sometimes about terrible things she said to me when she was younger that I don’t even remember. It means nothing, I tell her. I forgave you before the words left your mouth.

I am proud of them. I am proud of them, and in awe of them, and amazed by the people they are, knowing it has nothing to do with me. They are their own little souls, forging their own paths in life, separate from me, but entwined also. Most of all, I just feel so incredibly lucky to know them. To get to have a hand in any of this. To have had my life so enriched by loving them, and getting to be part of it all. I mean, I feel so privileged.

Later today, when Aisley is complaining for the fifteenth time about how much she “just HATES people, I mean, they are EVERYWHERE!”, or Camryn asks me what she can eat for the seventh time in two hours, I will forget all of this. I will roll my eyes, I will sigh heavily, I will probably snap “You can’t possibly be hungry again already! You’re just bored! Go find something to do!” If I’m lucky, I’ll go to bed tonight feeling like I handled things okay, that I did an okay job. If I’m not, I’ll go to bed beating myself up and wishing I’d done better. In short, whichever way it goes, I’ll go to bed feeling the same feelings that mothers everywhere feel- the good days could have been a little better, the bad days are the end of the world. You can’t really win.

But at the heart of it all is this vast and unchangeable love. Perfect, but heavier than the world. It fulfills me in a way that I never expected, and that nothing else ever has. Yet it is also terrifying, the depths of it, the way it matters- I could survive many things, but I cannot contemplate a life without them. Anything but that. Given the choice to live my life over, I know I would painstakingly recreate every moment, every poor choice, every failure, just to wind up with these two girls. It’s not even a question. It’s just a given.

I am many things, but none of them matters more to me than being a mother to them. Nothing else even comes close. I wonder if they know?