Category Archives: Learning

Balance or Burn Out

low battery
Literally how I feel right now

13 days into the New Year, and already, I find myself having to give myself a stern little talking to this morning, after seeing how events have unfolded, particularly over the past week. I never really did go into what all of my goals for the year were, at least, not publicly, but loosely, they probably looked a lot like many others goals- eat thoughtfully. Get consistent exercise. You know, take care of myself in all the ways that matter to ME. I tried to be pretty specific, and even wrote out recurring appointments for myself in my planner.

My planner, which I haven’t so much as cracked open in at least the past seven days. You see, my BIG GOAL this year was to focus on writing- ALL things writing, which you have, if you pay any attention to my blog at all (and thanks, by the way, for doing that) probably noticed I have been doing quite a bit of. Anyway, writing was my big goal, and, as I do, I went whole hog into it. Not just blogging- that is more of a secondary interest for me, a way to connect with other writers- but my novel, which is coming along freaking brilliantly. I am not kidding, I am in LOVE with that project right now. I started the month by cutting three finished chapters (which, by the way, was basically like murdering family) that were really not working, and starting over. Best thing I ever did. I got the story rolling again, in a direction that fit much better, and I have really gotten into my writing groove.

Like, really really really gotten into it. To the point of exhaustion. Brutal, terrible, this-isn’t-good-at-all exhaustion. Combine that with my other big goal this year- to be CONNECTED with others (meaning, spend the time I am not writing basically socializing) and already, I found myself hitting a wall. Tuesday night, I ran my women’s meeting, got home, got to bed late. Wednesday, worked all day, got off work, went to an event (which I will tell you all about tomorrow) with a friend in Santa Cruz, got home late, went to bed even later. Thursday, I worked all day, got off work, went to work my other job for a little while, got home, met up with a friend that I am going on a trip with next fall so that we could start planning. Got to bed late again. Friday, I was sitting at my desk at work, and…I kind of lost it. I thought I was getting sick, but I KNEW I needed to lay down. I took the rest of the day off, went home, and didn’t get off the couch again for the rest of the night. Except for when I went to Taco Bell and bought one of everything on the menu. I left the couch for my bed at 7, and slept like the dead. I didn’t even wash my makeup off last night- I barely remembered to remove my bra. I just checked, and yes, I actually slept in my clothes.

I didn’t make it to the gym last week, not once. I ate terribly, at least one really bad meal every day. Oh, and I decided that waking up at five wasn’t early enough, by the way, so I have been getting up around 4:15. Look, you’d have to be blind not to see that a schedule like this is going to lead to burn out. Now, as I sit here in yesterday’s clothes, with yesterday’s mascara clinging to my eyelashes, I am having my come-to-Jesus moment. I can’t do this…not like this. I have to pull back a little bit.

Look- the concept of “balance” is kinda played out, I realize this. The idea of having a perfectly balanced life is utter bullshit. We are messy, fucked up little human beings, and we can’t even find our keys, we have kids who never have any idea where the hell their shoes are, and even when we can find our keys and their shoes, we get halfway to work and realize our coffee, their back pack, etc., is sitting on the kitchen table. Balance isn’t ever truly going to be achieved. It’s a myth. Once in a while, you are going to have a perfect day- enjoy it. That is not how life really is.

BUT: You (and I mean “I”, obviously, as well) do have to try to take care of yourself in the basic ways, the ways that fuel and tend to your body. And I have not been doing that, not by a long shot. I haven’t slept enough. I haven’t eaten right. I literally drank maybe two glasses of water all week. Now, I am paying for it. After all that sleep I just got, I could still crawl back into bed and sleep the day away.

So, what is the solution? Well, I am NOT going to allow myself to sleep all day, because that won’t help at all. What I will do, however, is drink some water today. Hit the gym. Pick up some groceries and make sure I have healthy options available this week. And I will get to bed at a decent hour tonight, knowing I will be right back at it at 4:15 tomorrow. It’s great to have goals, and drive, and I love the passion I have for my writing, but…what’s that saying about the marathon and the sprint? Yeah, it’s the longer one of those. Yawn.

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Learning how to Love

anger chinese proverb

Of all the things I have struggled with since I have been clean, practicing loving kindness is highest on the list. I know, I know- I don’t think I come off as someone who has a rough time with something like this. For sure, I know the appropriate way to act, and how to say the right thing, the thing people need to hear, most of the time. But there is a difference between how we intentionally show up in the world and the way we act, react, and even the way we think, when it’s only us alone with the chosen few who live their lives closely entwined with ours.

In other words, sometimes- too much of the time- I am an impatient asshole to my ex, who lives in close quarters with me ( supposedly a win-win for all parties, but in practice, not always the best), to my friends, and worst of all, to my kids. I struggle to be nice. I have a hard time keeping my temper in check. I yell too much. I say things I regret- if not immediately, then eventually. I hurt the people I care the most about, and it’s crazy because, you might recall from some of my earlier posts- this was one of the main reasons I wanted to get clean in the first place. I wanted to stop hurting people, especially the people I loved.

Well, here’s a news flash: You Don’t Get Better Over Night. Look, I am nowhere near as bad as I used to be, but I am also not the same person I used to be. The person I am now has a different tolerance for pain- because believe me, if I am hurting people with my behavior, I am suffering too. As a matter of fact, it has come to my attention that it’s possible I might beat myself up much harder than I do anyone else. But my truth remains the same- these are people I love, I want to treat them that way. Period. Without fail. And I could do better…in my head, I can almost always see where I went wrong, when I should have walked away, where I could have taken a breath, how I could have chosen to say nothing. Why? I ask myself all the time, Why couldn’t you have done better?

I think I know at least part of the answer- Anger has been a huge defensive tool for me for so much of my life. Anger kept me safe, kept people at arms length, kept questions from being asked that I didn’t know how to answer. When you are a volatile person, people tread lightly around you. Walk on eggshells, even. When being vulnerable is the thing you most fear, anger is a heady drug.

And there is the whole matter of habit- all those pathways burned into my brain, all the things that I let make me angry for all those hundreds or thousands of days in a row. Any switch I had lead to anger, because it was safer. Safer than being unsure, safer than being hurt, safer than being afraid. Anger is big, powerful, and much easier for me to deal with than the “softer” options, such as crying or, I don’t know, admitting that I messed up, that I am in deep trouble, that I need help.

But that was me BEFORE. And this is me NOW. And the woman I am today cannot tolerate the way it feels to behave this way. This morning, when I prayed my daily prayer, I asked sincerely for help- “Look God, I am serious, I NEED YOU to help me with this. Please, please, pretty please. I can’t do this on my own.” And then I said the rest of the stuff I said, and moved on to the meditation practice part of my morning. I had to smile when the theme of the day was “loving kindness”. My God does not mess around.

I have been deliberate with my words and actions all day today, trying to be gentle with myself, because I am growing, and because I am still starting out on the path to who I want to be, and because I just deserve it. And I have been gentle with others, because it has been easy to- it’s when things get rough, or I am tired, or overwhelmed, when it gets hard.

But I believe that when we truly want to change, we begin to change. And that when we sincerely ask God for help (again, feel free to exchange the word God for whatever word you feel comfortable with), help comes. We must do the footwork. We can’t just say “help me!” and then keep going on like we always have. You show up, and the benevolent forces of the Universe show up with you.

I am trying so hard to be someone who knows how to love other people in a way that is beautiful, rather than damaging, and I know it won’t happen over night. But I also know that it has to start somewhere. Why not here?

Facebook Fast, Day 7

facebook

 

You might have noticed that I have been posting a LOT this week. I think I published three blogs more than I intended to, but…well…you see…the truth is, I think I may be suffering a little bit from Facebook withdrawals. I don’t think I mentioned here that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to do a detox from the social media site so many of us love to hate. So, starting December 31st, I have been FB free.

The first few days didn’t bother me a bit- to my surprise, I hardly even thought about it. If anything, I just felt relief, and maybe a sense of freedom. By day five, the relief felt more like emptiness- I had the nagging sense that I was supposed to be doing something, but I couldn’t remember what it was. “What IS it?” I kept thinking to myself, wandering around the house, looking for the…the thing, whatever it was that was missing.

Yesterday was rough. It was Saturday, and I had a lot of free time- more than usual, actually, since I am kind of on a self imposed quarantine. Not because I am sick, but because pretty much everyone else here on the peninsula seems to be. I didn’t go to my Saturday morning meeting, I didn’t go to the gym…come to think of it, I didn’t even leave the house once yesterday. Whoa. Anyway, I was home, alone aside from a seven year old who just wanted to be left alone with her Roblox game (I think that’s what it’s called), with a lot of time on my hands. This would be the time when I would normally jump onto Facebook and start scrolling away.

Okay, wait, I just lied. The truth is, there was never a time when I wasn’t jumping onto Facebook, scrolling away. That was part of the problem. The thing is, and you may not agree, but remember, I am talking about ME right now- the thing is, my addictive behavior can manifest itself in a myriad of ways. It goes WAY beyond drugs, into all sorts of compulsive BS. Listen, not only was I blessed with the gift of addiction, but I am also a genuine, medically diagnosed ADHD “sufferer” (I say this only because I think the people around me suffer from my ADHD way worse than I do!), with the added bonus of not being able to take medication for it because…well, because the medication they give you for ADHD is a LOT like the “medication” I had a big problem with. To put it mildly.

So Facebook lights up all the synapses for me- I can satisfy compulsions, it’s fast and sort of gratifying, I can go back to it again and again and again, I can post funny little snippets of my life and get the reward of “Likes” and comments, kudos and agreement. Yuck! Definitely an element of narcissism in there too, isn’t there? Yeah, it just started to be bad for me. No, it was bad for a long time, actually. Not only was it bad for me in that way, but it really fired up all my character defects, too. I judged the fuck out of everyone on there- for their level of interesting (“Oh God, you are so boring, no one cares!”), for their number of selfies (I literally have NO BUSINESS saying shit about this one- didn’t stop me from thinking it, though), for their “If you agree, type AMEN” posts (Um, no.), and for their spelling. I mean…how do you mess up so badly when spell check exists? Look, we all make mistakes at times, but I have seen posts that were indecipherable, and I don’t get it. Facebook started to make me feel bad every time I went on, and I went on about a million times a day.

So, I stopped, and yesterday was the first time I missed it, but then I realized something. I didn’t miss Facebook at all, not really. What I missed was the false sense of connection, of involvement in people’s lives, that it gave me. Yes, this year, one of the things I am striving for is connection, but not like that. Not pretend connection, and me sitting at home, judging the spelling and choices of others. I want real connection, with people in real life…and I think I may have forgotten how to foster that. I was actually a little bit lonely yesterday- that’s what was going on.

Today, I am going to practice reaching out- I have been doing that a little bit lately. I left an incredibly awkward voicemail message for my friend recently, and I can’t help but laugh just thinking about it. He still hasn’t called me back, either, the jerk, but he’s an old friend, so I’m not worried. It’s kind of weird even picking up the phone and calling someone these days, in this world of texting as the main form of communication. But this year, I want to hear voices, and see faces. I want to get together IRL, you know?

Oh, and the Facebook Fast is only supposed to last through January, but who knows? Maybe I’ll keep it up even longer. Then again, maybe I won’t last the month.

No, I totally will. Thanks for putting up with all my chatter this week! I’ve found a lot of new blogs to follow, and have connected with a few new bloggers, which is great. I’m really curious what your experience and habits with Facebook are like, so please feel free to fill me in in the comments!

Talk to you soon! (You can pretty much bet on that)

Time to Jump

time to jump

 

According to some stats I found on my blog yesterday, this should be about my 210th blog on After the Party. So, there is a good chance that I will embarrass myself by repeating one story or another, or talk about a new goal I have that isn’t new at all. I am not about to go review over 200 blogs just for the sake of originality, no way. So if I am saying something that sounds awfully familiar, please cut me some slack. Chances are, an entirely different version of me wrote whatever you read, and for this version of me, my ideas are fresh and exciting. I mean, to me at least, they are.

So today is the very first day of 2018, and I don’t know about you, but I am EXCITED about the fresh start of a brand new year! It’s kind of a new thing for me to be starting from an already really good spot, and not having any massive hurdles (i.e.: drugs, cigarettes, horrible relationships, etc.) to get over before I can get to the good stuff. I am already ass deep in the good stuff, and just ready to take it to the next level. This is all new territory for me, and boy do I feel good about it. I am so grateful.

I woke up at five this morning, like always, and I sat down and wrote out, by hand, my goals for the coming year. I broke them down into different areas of my life, and then made little lists under each area. Then I busted out my brand spanking new planner (This year it was recommended to me by a dear friend to purchase the Desire Map Planner from Danielle Laporte, so I did.) and wrote in what I knew I would be doing this coming month. Let me tell you, this is not something I have done before, and it feels great. You know what else feels pretty great? I believe I can actually pull all of it off. I feel it in my bones.

On the cover of this planner it says “What I will do to feel the way I want to feel” and, through this planner, as well as a coaching session with my friend Stacey Sarenity , I got to learn about what my “Core Desired Feelings” or CDF’s, are. I don’t know too much about all of it, other than it’s a great way to suss out what it is you are truly after by understanding what it is you want to feel like and what your life would look like based on those feelings.  Stacey knows all about it, so check out her website if you want to learn more. I, on the other hand, really like the way this planner is set up just based on how much I was able to pull from myself out onto the page this morning. I feel equipped to master the coming year in a way I have not before. I don’t have any of that weird fear I generally associate with change or going after something I want, maybe because I am not afraid of failing. I can’t FAIL- my goals aren’t like that this year, and I am not like I have been any other year. There are good things ahead.

For those of you who don’t know, I am, and have always been, since the moment I knew how to spell my name, a writer. This may seem like a forgone conclusion, given that you are reading a blog I have written right this very moment, but…not all bloggers want to be writers, right? They are writing for various reasons, and don’t have aspirations beyond that. I do. I know I am not in the minority, here, but I just want to announce myself and state my intentions- this year is going to be ALL about writing for me. I am in the middle of a novel I have been working on for months and months- honestly, way too long- and I have given myself a firm time frame for finishing both the writing and the editing. I have short story goals and contest goals and lots and lots of writing goals this year, and you know what? I am going after my dream with gusto this year. I was thinking seriously about going back to school for something totally unrelated to writing- another thing I would probably be really good at, but- and it suddenly hit me; Why in the world would I pursue something OTHER than my dream? How does that even make sense? I LOVE to write, I have since I was seven years old…so why would I consider pushing that aside, yet again, to do something else?

The answer was pretty clear. It was because I didn’t believe in myself enough, I didn’t believe I could make it as far as I wanted to, I didn’t think I was good enough. If I went ahead and went after something else, the odds of me finding the time to devote to any writing at all were pretty slim. I’m not okay with ANY of that. Listen, I AM a writer, and whether or not it becomes what I dream that it will be, I have to honor the thing I love, the thing that brings me joy and elation. It would be stupid to continue to turn my back on this thing, right? So I am jumping in, both feet. I am not afraid at all, because I know it is what I am supposed to do right now.

Holy cow, this blog just got long. Well, I have a few other things- I am going to be writing here more consistently, and I will have a rotating format of things I write about. Expect to see more from me on Thursday and Sunday (maybe Saturday, I’m going to see how it feels) and expect to see blogs about recovery, of course, writing, health and/or lifestyle, and probably some personal stuff. I can’t wait to follow more blogs and connect with more of you, and hopefully grow a little in the blogging world.

Sorry this was so long, God! Too much coffee, I guess! Have a wonderful New Year’s day!

Surfacing

surfacing by chuck aves
art credit: Chuck Aves

I decided I better write this out before I do my usual blog reading session this morning, because I know there will be a million stories from my fellow writers about the year behind and the year ahead. I want my words to at least feel original on their way out! So here we go:

2017

This year has been one of the best years of my entire life, and I am not exaggerating. It has been a year of incredible self examination and change on a deep level. I am not the person I was 365 days ago, and I like this version of myself so much more. I put another year between me and the worst of my past, and so much of the fear and doubt and self loathing that I didn’t even know I was lugging around with me for so long, it has diminished. I am ending this year so much lighter than I started out- both lighter, as in carrying so much less, and lighter, less covered in darkness.  This year has been HARD, but it was work I needed to do, and I’m glad that I did. There is a calm place inside of me that I can almost always reach now, and there is a brake to slow me down where there never was before. I don’t have to escalate. I can hear myself. I am learning to mind my responses, that I don’t always have to react.

I lost someone that I love this year. It has been four months and four days since he died, and I think about him every single day. I thought about him every single day when he was alive, too. I don’t know what else I can say about this that I haven’t already written about here or here . A little bit of my heart, the only one who shared a lot of my favorite memories, and a really valued friend left the physical world, and I miss him. But I survived it, I stayed clean, and I learned how to grieve deeply, and that you can grow that way, too.

I feel like in 2017, I dived into the depths, and did some much needed exploration and learning. I brought light to places that had been dark for so, so long. I found places that had been forgotten, and brought them back into order. I have seen parts of myself I didn’t know existed, and know myself so much better now. I can look at myself from a different and kinder perspective, and it’s such a relief. But you can only stay under for so long.

2018

Surfacing. Open. Curiosity. Interest. Joy. Inspiration. yes.

These words are the theme I have chosen for the year ahead. Of course, these words are MY choice, which means, if I get a vote, this is what mine will be. We don’t always get to choose.

If I do get to choose, however, I will have a year that is mostly lighthearted, and filled with love. I will have a year filled with appreciation of all that I have already, and all of the new things that will come into my world. There will be road trips, and plane flights, friendship and laughter. I am open to the possibility of love (you guys don’t even know how embarrassing that was for me to write. Definitely need to do some work in that area!) if it is easy and it fits- and if it is not easy, then it has to be worthy of working for.

My choice will be a year of connection, and togetherness, and bonding. I feel like I did so much solitary work this past year- it was good, and it SO needed to happen. But I am ready to venture out into the light of the great big beautiful world, and learn how to play with others. I want to go hiking, and to the flea market, and on day trips and weekend trips, play board games, get dressed up for dinner, and sit around in living rooms that aren’t my own, maybe, laughing until my sides ache. That is the kind of year I see for myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I have all of the usual resolutions, and maybe I will write more about them tomorrow. But today, I needed to state my intentions for the year to the Universe.

Last year was amazing. This year will be the best one yet. Happy New Year’s Eve, everybody.

Not a Magic Sprinkle Unicorn Kinda Day

angry unicorn

Lest you start to believe that I am some sort of woman on a beautiful island oasis of recovery, meditating peacefully, surrounded by a sea of serenity and singing mermaids, let me clear that shit right up for you; Example one? I give you this day:

-As usual, dragged my ass all morning, screwing around, reading YOUR blogs, judging everyone on Facebook, reading a silly little novel I picked up while Christmas shopping at Target. Then, naturally, go into full on panic mode when the coffee finally kicks in, and I realize I actually have to leave the house in 45 minutes. Which would be fine, if I knew where my pants were, or had, you know, showered. Fuck.

-Pull it all together in decent time, only to find that every single pair of shoes I wear to work are mysteriously missing. I still don’t know where the hell they are. I looked under the couch, under the bed, in the laundry pile, and yes, even in my hell pit of a closet. They are GONE. I finally unearthed some ridiculous spike heeled booties that make my ankles wobble and my feet ache, but at that point I was just grateful to have something to cover my feet.

-Show up for work four minutes late, not because I wasn’t there, but because those stupid shoes are so high, and so spiky, it took me nine minutes to walk through the parking lot and into the hospital. NINE MINUTES. Sitting at my desk, I realize that there is a very real possibility that one of my cats peed on my shoes. Something isn’t smelling right.

-Additionally, on top of all of the shoe drama, I have slammed my knee into a drawer, my face into a door, my fingers into both walls AND my desk, and snapped myself in the face with my scarf ( this hurts worse than you might think). I wore my glasses all day not realizing there was caramel (don’t even ask, because I don’t know) or some sort of candy filling, globbed onto the arm-therefore, it is now in my hair.

-I ate too much cheese over the past few days, and it has now become a whole different tummy issue. If you don’t know, you don’t want to know.

-I didn’t have time to meditate.

-I’m feeling a little grouchy, a lot tired, and I don’t even have anyone to blame it all on, other than myself and just a plain old shitty day.

On days like this, I have a hard time accessing my gratitude. Yeah, I’m not hiding out in my house with the blinds drawn, strung out and paranoid, but it’s really hard to live in constant awe of your beautiful life when you are right in the midst of normalcy. But you know what? That’s okay. I’m as normal as I’m ever going to get, and people have days when everything goes wrong.

Am I going to use over it? Hellllll no. That thought never, ever crossed my mind. It sure would have, once upon a time. Any excuse to throw the towel in, and I was all over it. But that is not who I am today. I can have a bad day- a day WAY worse than this one- and I can survive it. Today, I know I can. And I have enough days in a row behind me that I can say, with confidence, that tomorrow I’m going to make it too. Even if it’s worse than this stupid day.

Although I REALLY hope it isn’t. Now excuse me, I need to go change my shoes.

This Christmas…

 

Christmas

I am sitting here, at 5:24 a.m. on Christmas Eve, full of excitement and nerves. In just a little while, my oldest daughter and her boyfriend, who may as well be my third child, are going to be here to spend the night and wake up on Christmas morning with our little family (EXCITED!). Tomorrow, my mom, stepdad, and uncle are coming here, to MY house, to spend the day and have Christmas dinner…HERE. With ME! (NERVOUS!)

I am going to have a house full of the most important people in my life, and I could just cry over how happy it makes me. Every single year before this, I either had to drive three hours to spend a hurried Christmas at my late Grandparent’s home, or I opted out, and stayed home, missing everyone. I know that not every year will be this way- sometimes I am going to have to go to them. But this year, I made my mind up to stay home, and I wasn’t going to budge. And I am so happy that everyone is coming here. My uncle never goes ANYWHERE, so this is a really big deal!

I want to make it as special and warm and happy as I can for everyone, and lets be real- I am not exactly the hostess of the year. I’ve been known to run and hide in the bathroom when someone unexpectedly shows up at my door. Or stay very, very still until they go away. So I keep finding myself getting bunched up with anxiety, worried about the state of my home (i’ll be cleaning like crazy for most of today) or how small my house is, or how shoddy and fur covered my couch is, or…but you know what?

None of that stuff matters. If it matters to certain other people (cough-my mom-cough) then I need to remember that that is her shit, not mine. My job is to do the best I can, but more than that, to enjoy my family. So that is what I am going to do. I have managed, for the first time in my life, to make it through this hectic season with love in my heart and a smile on my face. I have been as generous and thoughtful and kind as I know how to be- even when no one was around to witness it. I have kept my program of recovery in mind, and tried to behave accordingly because I want to be a good example- this one fell flat many times, but the point is, I am trying. REALLY trying. Because I want so much to have a happy life, not just a happy Christmas.

But really, what it comes down to is this: I have decided I WILL have a wonderful Christmas, so that is what I have set about creating. I can’t absolutely control the outcome- first of all, no one ever can do that, and secondly, control is the very thing I am working on relinquishing- but I have done all the things I can, both inside of me and out, to invite the best outcome. And I have made up my mind to enjoy whatever comes.

One thing I know for sure is that my family has given me the best gift of all just by agreeing to show up. I feel pretty freaking loved.  Which makes it SO much easier to get into the Christmas Spirit, you know? It stopped being about what was under the tree for me a LONG time ago. Sometimes, it wasn’t about anything, and I couldn’t feel much besides stress and irritation, relief when it was all over. But this year- this year is very different. I think for the first time ever, my head is clear enough, my heart healed enough, that I can access the things that matter most of all during the holidays- Love, Family, Peace, Hope.  It’s been such a long road for me, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s so nice to be right where I am.

I hope all of you get to have something like this feeling I have today. If not today, then very soon. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

Reinvention

reinvention

 

I have had the best week ! I got all of my laundry done- not just washed and dried, but folded and put away, too- do you know what a big deal that is? Maybe you don’t, because you are one of those freaks who does this regularly (not that I am judging you, I’m trying hard not to) so allow me to tell you- it’s monumental. I actually asked several people for socks for Christmas, believing that mine had all mysteriously disappeared…well, SURPRISE! I was wrong. My sock drawer is now so full of matched (you heard me, MATCHED and FOLDED NEATLY) socks that I can barely close it. I’m going to have to throw some of the old ones out after Christmas if my wishes all come true.

Okay, enough about laundry, though. I also had a super productive week at work, I have almost every bit of my Christmas business tied up, I managed to pray and meditate every day this week, and I have eaten like a reasonable person, rather than say…Jabba the Hut. I also made time to exercise every single day. Even hit a few meetings so far. What, what?! ‘Who is this person?’ you may find yourself wondering. I know I may have wondered myself a little bit.

I didn’t just come here to write about what a great week I have had. I wanted to share a couple of things with you about why I am here now, and I wish I could say “Oh, you know, I sat down one evening with a pen and paper, and took an honest inventory of some things that needed fine tuning in my life. I made a list of pros and cons…” NO. That would not be what happened, nor what has EVER happened for me. The way my life works, I change things when I am truly miserable, and usually not before. Being the addict that I am, and will always be, I can be pretty devoted to my discomfort- until it gets too bad, and then I say “Okay, enough is enough.” I did it with drugs, I did it with cigarettes (not quite as cleanly, but still), I have done it with relationships, and I do it again and again with things in my life that are not working. The pain of staying the same becomes greater than my fear of change, and I jump.

And again, being the addict that I am, it is generally all or nothing. If I am doing well in one area, I tend to excel in all the other areas as well. If I am doing poorly in one way, the other ways are sure to follow. This can be a double edged sword. I am still a work in progress, trying to figure out how to have big meal, miss a day of exercise, and not let my entire life go to shit over it. I am getting better. All the time, I see proof that I am.

Last weekend, I had had enough. I was eating SO badly- ever since Thanksgiving, really, and I had gained a few pounds, had been “too busy” to get to the gym or make any meetings, was crawling into bed earlier and earlier every night. None of these bode well for me. So, last Saturday, I made a decision- I was going to do better. I was going to make a real effort to correct my behavior this week. And you know what? I did.

That is the most crucial step- putting your intentions into action. Thinking about change, making up your mind to change…none of that means anything without action. So I really put my back into it this week, and I have had one of the most productive, amazing, self-confidence building weeks I’ve had in a long, long time. Will it last? I guess that kind of depends on me. It is always up to us, isn’t it? When you are really on your way, outside issues (and there will always be things that crop up, trying to fuck with your serenity and peace) won’t knock you completely off course. It’s really up to you. Try not to let this frighten you. Instead, when you get rolling, let the momentum of your happiness, your feeling of pride over what you are accomplishing, pull you forward. Let your excitement snowball. It’s a good way to be.

Here’s the thing, and I am speaking to my fellow addicts in recovery here- or even those who may not have found their way there yet; When you get clean, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself. You can be WHOEVER, WHATEVER, and live HOWEVER you choose to. There are no limits aside from those you place upon yourself. If you are capable of slipping out of the noose of active addiction, you are MORE than capable of having a life far more fantastic than anything your brain can even come up with right now. That’s okay- go as far as you can, the re-evaluate. Two and a half years ago, when I first started this leg of my journey, all I wanted was to stop hating myself, and stop hurting the people I loved.  I just wanted to stop flipping out all the time, and learn how to be “normal”. I know, of course, that normal doesn’t exist, but I’ve gotten so much more, so much farther than I ever dreamed. And I’m still just starting out.

So here’s the assignment: Grasp the idea that you are free to be whomever you wish, and think about who that might be. Start doing the things that will get you there. If it doesn’t feel good, do something else. Never be afraid to change, especially if it is hurting you to stay who you are. I wish you all the happiest of holidays!

 

 

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!

 

Starting Today

women

 

It has been 87 million years since I have written a blog, mostly because I have been busy living my life, and Facebook has satisfied my need for attention and approval in a more immediate way. Ha! Also, ever since my brain has kind of healed from all the drugs I damaged it with, I find that I don’t feel as compelled to use my blog as therapy the way I once did. I have an actual therapist for that. But, this past few weeks, I’ve been itching to write a blog, and this morning, I almost had no choice.

Something has happened-you may or may not have noticed- but there is this guy from Celebrity Apprentice taking the place of Obama in the White House. I don’t know about you, but I find this very upsetting. Like, VERY upsetting. Not to mention scary as fuck. But I don’t want to go into all of the reasons it’s upsetting, scary, enraging, fucking backwards, and plain out wrong. If you live near a television, have the internet, can read, and have a whit of sense, you have already figured all that out. If you aren’t scared, upset, and enraged, then there’s no explaining it to you, anyway. Trust me, I have TRIED. And you are probably reading the WRONG fucking blog.

I have thinned out my friends on Facebook, deleting a bunch, unfollowing some that I couldn’t bear to delete. It took me a long time to do this. For a while, I thought I could convince people with facts, appeals to their common sense, or, failing that, their common decency. That didn’t work. So lets not go into how upsetting it is to realize that some people, people I thought were smart and good, kind of shattered that illusion by supporting Trump. Because, I’m sorry…if you support someone who has no respect for women,who is racist, who lies every time their mouth opens, who mocks the disabled, who believes sexual assault is okay, who…you know what? I’m going to stop the list there, and just say, if you support someone who embodies those terrible qualities, you are supporting those qualities. And that makes me think less of you. I can’t help it. But that’s not what I want to talk about, either.

As disgusted as I am over everything that is happening in our government right now, I have had some strange and hopeful thoughts about it, and I want to share them with you. They are sort of new to me, so hopefully, writing them out will help them make more sense to me, too. First of all, I’m kind of grateful for this past election season. It was awful. It made me madder and more disgusted than I have ever been in my life. It was a total shit show. But you know what? I paid attention, I REALLY paid attention, for the first time in my life. And because I was paying attention, I learned. I learned a lot of things, not the least of which was this: I learned what my values are. I learned what really matters to me. I learned that I am a feminist, that I believe in equality, TRULY, and that I am a bleeding heart fucking liberal, and proud of it. If Trump hadn’t run, and hadn’t been such a side show, I might not have ever learned about who I was. So something good kind of came of it, right? I mean, I have talked to a lot of people, and so many of them have learned so much about themselves and their values through this. We have discussed it with wonder on our faces- “Wow. I am REALLY a feminist! Thanks, Trump.” (We don’t say that last part. Give me a break.)

Anyway, my really weird thought is this: What if this is happening exactly the way it is supposed to? We just had eight easy, comfortable, happy, relatively peaceful years with the Obama’s. We could relax, for the most part. We took for granted that our rights were our rights, and no one was messing with anything. Then Trump won. I still don’t get it, but it happened. And everyone freaked out- especially here in California, where I live. I mean, we are pissed off! The world we thought we were living in got shaken to the core. And out of the deep rifts that resulted came a lot of ugly, nasty stuff. Racist, hateful shit popping up all over the country like festering boils. “Oh my God!” we thought, “Look what Trump has caused!” And it would be easy to blame him, because, lets face it, we just don’t like him. He’s a horrible person. But the truth? That stuff has been there, all along. He, much the way a hot compress on a boil brings all the shit to the surface, just brought it out into the light. And you know what happens when you expose the worst things to the light of day? You can deal with them head on.

I have never before been a political person, let alone any kind of an activist. I have learned a lot recently, but not as much as I need to know. I can tell a fake news story from the facts, usually, and I know where to look if I am having doubts. But there is much to learn. Today, I will be taking part in the Women’s March, here in my town, much like women are doing all over the world. And I am stoked to be doing it. But I also want to help in more meaningful ways. I want to protect my rights, and the rights of others, in a more direct way. And I don’t know exactly how to do that. However, I am willing to learn. And I have lots and lots and lots of friends who are just like me- they didn’t know, before, that these things mattered to them, but now they do, and they are pissed off, passionate, brilliant, and full of piss and vinegar. I almost feel sorry for the Trump administration. Almost.

There are a few things that Americans do so well in times of crisis. We come together, and we fight like motherfuckers. Today, I am going out to find my people, and get ready for whatever comes next. Look out, world.