This morning, when I took my dog Lucy to the beach, I made a conscious decision to leave my phone in my pocket. I didn’t want to be taken out of the moment by my urge to take the perfect Instagram picture and then cross-post it to Facebook, and subsequently spend the rest of the day compulsively checking for likes. I grow tired of that cycle, but the truth is, it isn’t easy to stop. But I did it- left my phone in my pocket, resisted the urge. Picked up a shell or two, and enjoyed just throwing the ball for my dog. I also met a few fellow beach strollers- something much easier to do when you are looking up, being present.
After the walk, I dropped Lucy off and decided to hit a meeting. I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t been to one in nearly a month! It was just what I needed today. I saw my sponsor, and a few core people that I really love and respect. What a message of hope you can find in those rooms sometimes…it really is amazing, when you think about it. Escaping from the life of depravity that is addiction is such a freaking miracle. If you know, you know. It’s incredible to me that I have somehow managed to stay clean, that I somehow have made a success of what was once a very sad, broken life. I’m very proud of this life I have given myself. I forget sometimes.
Here we are in November, and I am already thinking about the year coming next- what I want to work on, where I want to focus my energy. The theme going forward is going to be “Making Peace”, and by that, I mean with ME. As much work as I have done on myself, I still carry around a lot of guilt and shame, and so many upsetting memories from the past. I still have a lot of anxiety and worry around the future. The past is gone. The future isn’t here yet. I think I need to forgive myself and focus on today.
I was listening to a TED talk yesterday about how to be happy- I didn’t finish it, but something stuck with me: People are happier when they are focused on what they are doing. It’s when our minds wander that we begin to feel anxiety, dread, and unhappiness. This makes so much sense to me! Since then, I have noted when my mind was spinning off, and started focusing on where I was right in that moment, and I found almost instant relief. I think it’s going to take a lot of practice, but if I can master this one, I’ll be in business.
Anyway, I will not so much be seeking peace as I will be doing the things that I know bring peace to me, and doing less of the things that take peace away. I deserve to feel good about my life, to feel peaceful, content, happy. We all do. I encourage you to really think about the content of your life, what is working, what is not, and what you can do to bring your life closer in alignment to what you’d like it to be. This is not a dress rehearsal, and the clock is always ticking. I’m starting now. How about you?
Since I can’t seem to get my body back on “normal” (West Coast) time, I figure I might as well go ahead and tell you all about day 2 of my trip. Day 2 wound up being my favorite day, and I learned some important things about myself as a traveler- namely, that I am happiest without an itinerary, and much, much happier in more idyllic settings, with far fewer people.
The day started off super slow- we were both so tired from the debacle in Salem the day and night before that we were not in a big hurry to get anywhere. To be honest with you, I actually felt hungover. I had been so tired the night before, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, and then I woke up way earlier than I wanted to, so I wasn’t very rested. I felt achy and dehydrated, and just generally shitty, but…when you are on a short vacation in a new place, you find it within yourself to soldier on. Which I am so glad I did!
Anyway, after an incredibly unappetizing hotel buffet breakfast, we hopped in the trusty charger and headed…north? North-east? Anyway, we headed out of Peabody and away from the more populated areas. The thing about these little towns off the freeway is that they are literally right off the freeway. The parking lot of our hotel exited onto the actual freeway. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. They also have stop lights on the freeway and places to make U-turns. Crazy. But we made it on safely and before you know it, you are in the middle of massive beauty. The bright red and orange trees, and water, just everywhere. I still don’t know which were lakes, rivers, or inlets, but I guess it doesn’t matter…all I really know is, for me, water is the key. I love being near large bodies of water. I just feel better.
Just off the highway, we stopped for the first time at a big old candy store in the middle of nothing. Nichols candy house has been in business for 86 years, according to the sign. They make all their candy on site, and the ladies running the counter looked like they might have been there when the store opened. Seriously, they were adorable, in a no-nonsense, getting shit done kinda way. I didn’t buy anything there, which is my one regret of the whole trip. Alicia did, and I was lucky that she shared with me, because they know what they are doing. My advice to you? If you find yourself there, buy the truffles!
Anyway, after that, we programmed directions to a lighthouse into GPS. This was one of many times that Siri failed us on this trip. We asked for a particular lighthouse, she steered us to the middle of a neighborhood in Gloucester and told us we were there. After that, she stopped speaking to us. I’m assuming she was embarrassed. So, here we are, lost, trying to figure out why the ocean was so far away from a lighthouse, and we turned a corner to find…oh my God, the most beautiful graveyard in the world. It was called Oak Park Cemetery, and I demanded to be allowed to wander through it. I could tell Alicia was hesitant (she’s got weird Catholic guilt) but I was going, no matter what. I am so glad I did. The wind was super chilly, but the sky was bright blue, and the trees looked like they were bursting into flames, and the cemetery…so peaceful, and so insanely full of history. The headstones back east are incredible. I wish I had taken more pictures, up close, so that I could look into the symbolism. But at that moment, I was just so happy to be there, experiencing REAL fall weather, ambling quietly through this beautiful place, surrounded by graves that were hundreds of years old. It was one of many perfect moments I had that day.
After a while out in the cold, the warm car was a welcoming place. We got back on the road, missed another turn, and wound up in downtown Gloucester (pronounced “Glah-stah” by the locals 🙂 ). Sometimes those wrong turns are fortuitous. We easily found parking (yay!) and walked up the hill to a little coffee shop to get a warm drink and figure out what next. The place was called Drift Coffee, had a wonderful view of the water, and, much to Alicia’s delight, a full bar! I had a fancy latte, she had a glass of pinot noir, and we figured out our next move. I have to tell you, I had my next perfect moment sitting at that little coffee bar, staring at the street below and the harbor across the way. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, and so quiet…I was in heaven. THIS was the trip I had imagined, and I couldn’t have been happier to be where I was.
We wandered the down the cobbled street a bit, did some shopping and sightseeing, then headed down to the harbor to see the lost fisherman memorial. We saw our first drawbridge thingy- that’s what they’re called, right? Anyway, it was delightful. And I picked up some shells and sea glass to take home. After a while longer in the icy wind that was no longer quite as bracing and more like torture, we headed over, on the recommendation of one of the friendly shop owners, to Rockport.
Rockport, if you can believe it, was even more idyllic and quintessential New England, (or what I imagined New England to be like, anyway) than Gloucester had been. We parked near a little white church with a tall steeple, and braced ourselves for the now freeeeezing wind rolling in off the ocean. Holy smokes! It was so cold. The first thing I did was find a store that sold beanies, and happily threw down 20 bucks for a super warm cap. Once my ears had recovered some feeling, we walked around a little bit, and decided to check out the little harbor. It was incredible. I know I keep saying this, but the sky there is just SO blue. Coming from the coast myself, there were so many similarities, but differences as well. The ocean smells saltier and brinier there, somehow. The scenery was just breathtaking.
By this time, we were starving to death, so we found a little place called the Blue Lobster Grille, and grabbed a table. I had hot apple cider- it’s a whole different thing over there than any I’ve had here- and a giant plate of mussels, followed by seafood pasta that I could barely put a dent in. So, with full bellies and to-go bags, we raced to the car, waved goodbye to Rockport, and headed back to our room to get rested for our final day in Boston.
I went to bed last night feeling grateful for the sleepy little bed-hog lying next to me, even if she was mad at me for cruelly coming between her and her Kindle at the obscenely early hour of eight p.m.- no one ever said being a good mama was always fun. School starts up again today after a week off, and she needs her rest, after all. But I lay there, drifting off to sleep, patting her leg, and I was happy.
I woke up this morning, poured myself a big, strong cup of coffee, and began my routine of letting various animals out and in, and then out again. My cat, in particular, is incredibly indecisive, and we do this little dance about forty times a morning. Anyway, I let Lucy, my big, sweet black lab in, and realized I didn’t so much as acknowledge her existence. Here she is, so absolutely in love with me, and I don’t even look at her when I let her in. How rude. So I sat down and called her over for some love. The goofy little look of bliss on her face as I hugged her and scratched her back was worth a million bucks.
I’ve just been noticing, lately, how sweet my life is. Been feeling grateful for the blessings of my children, my pets, my home, my job, and of course, my recovery, without which the rest wouldn’t be possible. I wish I could say that it’s just coincidental, or maybe because this new medication is kicking in, but…the truth is, it’s because I’m about to leave all of this behind and fly away on Thursday to the East coast for a vacation all on my own. I mean, I’ll be with my friend Alicia, but no kids, no pets, no job, no nothing. I will be bringing my recovery with me, of course. That goes with me everywhere. But nothing makes me more grateful for something than the idea of being without it, even if it is just temporarily.
I have 100% faith that my older daughter and her boyfriend will take excellent care of my pets and my home while I’m gone. They definitely aren’t the type to throw parties or do anything stupid, so that’s not a concern. I’m like 98% sure that Cam’s dad will take excellent care of Cam in my absence, the 2% basically being that he won’t brush her hair properly or make her go to sleep at a decent hour. But she’ll survive that. I’m about 75% sure that my plane won’t crash, either going or coming home, which is a vast improvement over my previous feelings about flying, where I was 99% sure I would die, so that’s good news. Especially for the people unfortunate enough to have to sit near me on the plane- I could drive anyone to drink with the anxiety that used to pour off of me. I’ve decided to just watch X-files and zone out until we touch down in Boston.
But one thing I know with absolute certainty is, I am damn lucky to have a life that I love enough to miss while I’m away, and that I will love coming back to. Sometimes I forget where I came from, what it was like for me not so long ago. I get so wrapped up in my head, so tortured by my thoughts, that I can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m glad to have this clarity for once, this better perspective on my life. I’m proud of the woman I have become- one who has healed so many relationships, and grown a life that is more calm and more loving, and more “normal” than I ever thought myself capable of having. And I’m super stoked that I planned and payed for (a whole year in advance, even!) a vacation to a place I have been dreaming of going for the longest time! No way I could’ve pulled this off in my addiction. No. Freaking. Way.
So cheers to that! To me, and to my life, and to my beautiful children. To safe flights and new sights, and the big world waiting to be discovered. To daydreams, and adventures, and the people we come home to. And last, but never least, to the life recovery has made possible. I am truly grateful.
I forget that living a full, happy life involves leaving my house. I get lazy from sitting still and want to keep sitting still. I spend way too much time in this house, by myself, and I think it is bad for me. I need to push myself a little harder to get outside, and to interact with real people.
One of my best friends showed up at my door yesterday (because she knows that’s pretty much the only way to get a hold of me- I can ignore phone calls, texts, refuse to make plans, but you can almost guarantee to find me at my house) and at first I was annoyed. I didn’t want to see anyone! But after a few minutes, we got to talking, and by the time she left after my lunch was over, I felt happier than I had in a while. I need to be with my friends. So why is it so easy for me to forget that?
I don’t know…I will tell you this, though. I spend way, way too much time on Facebook. This has come up again and again, and lately I have been fantasizing about how good it would be to break free of that site. I don’t want to know so much. I want to know the bare minimum about people again. I don’t want to know how different we are, and how bad your spelling is. Please, God, take me back in time. I think being on social media so much makes me think I don’t like people, when the truth is, I LOVE people, I just love real people. People who, in real life, aren’t so eager to vomit up every little dark corner of their heart. Trust me, I do it too. I’m just as guilty. So I am signing off of Facebook, again, for an indeterminate amount of time, and I am going to try to get out in the real world.
I want more laughter with my friends. I want to go to the apple orchard and pick apples with my kids. I want to fall into bed at night, exhausted but happy. I want to sit outside around my fire pit and talk to people I love about things that mean something to us personally. In other words, I want to change the way I have been living. It is time. It is way past time.
Now I just have to figure out how to invite people over without using Facebook…shit. I might have to use my phone to make a phone call. That will be interesting. 🙂
Yesterday, against my better judgement, I went to see Christopher Robin, the new Winnie the Pooh movie that is out right now. I had scheduled a play-date for Camryn and her little friend Robine from school- she’s this adorable little girl who is here for three years with her family from the Netherlands, and she is literally my favorite of all the kids in Cam’s class, aside from Cam herself, of course. Anyway, I had wanted to see The Incredibles 2, but as usual, I missed the boat on that one. So the only thing playing was Christopher Robin, and that was that.
I have never been a big fan of Winnie the Pooh. I don’t know why, I was just never into it. And honestly, the movie wasn’t all that great, but…that didn’t stop me from bawling my eyes out through half of it. Why? You want to know why? Okay, I’ll tell you: Because it reminded me of a few things- one of which is the terrible way we lose our true selves as adults, and become these tense, unimaginative people most of the time. We get our priorities so wrong, we place work and money above our families and the things we truly love. I think about this all the time, but I still catch myself doing it, no matter how bizarre and backwards it seems.
Another reason it made me so wistful was the way it portrayed the sad loss of childhood, the way we leave behind the playful, joyful little people we were. Especially right now, especially for me…dealing with all of this anxiety lately, just trying to hold it all together. It doesn’t allow me a lot of room for full-throttle happiness. I mostly feel like I am peering inside myself with a spotlight and a magnifying glass. Which is utter bullshit, because the world is far too big for me to spend all of my time gazing at myself. I need to stop it.
Which brings me to my third reason for crying- my daughter is having her childhood right this very moment. This is such an odd time for being a child, isn’t it? So different than the way it was when I was little. I played outside, unsupervised, for hours and hours at her age. I explored the woods next door to my grandparents house with a friend my age- we found a creek to jump in and a low-voltage fence to take turns touching, we explored abandoned buildings and did all sorts of stuff that was unwise and dangerous. But I never got seriously lost or gravely injured, and I grew up to be independent and mostly unafraid of the world.
With my anxiety being primarily about the safety of my children, you can imagine what the thought of that kind of free time for my seven year old does to my stomach. And yet, I wouldn’t trade my experiences as a kid for anything. What a quandary. If it is my responsibility to provide her with the most enriching and full childhood that I can, but I am scared to let her loose, what do I do? I guess I find a happy medium. Let go a little, but keep her in sight? Spend more time doing things I don’t really want to do because I’m lazy, knowing they will be the best memories for her? Yeah, I think that’s really all there is to do. Because lets be real- I’m not releasing her into the woods to explore abandoned buildings. I don’t know what the hell my family was thinking. LOL.
More succinctly, I was crying because it hit me that my littlest daughter isn’t going to be a child forever- not even for very much longer, really, and we forget, don’t we? We just live through the days as if they will stretch on forever, forgetting how fast it all goes by. The thing is, childhood is so short, but it is so beautiful and so important. I guess I just want to remember, so that I can make hers the very best I can manage. That’s what I am thinking about today.
Also, spoiler alert: Christopher Robin is a total dick to Pooh, and that also made me cry. The kids didn’t cry, but I was a mess. How embarrassing.
It feels like I return, over and over again, to these restless feelings- like I carry them around with me always, only sometimes, I can hide them for a while by throwing myself into something new and interesting. Most recently, those things have been working on my novel and learning the tarot. Over the past several years, I have run from the restlessness by focusing on recovery, educating myself about nutrition and exercise, trying to quit smoking…repeatedly, and binge watching seven million shows on Netflix. Social media and outrage over politics have also been a band-aid I have used.
Some of these things have been more beneficial than others, obviously. But in the long run, none of them have been able to satisfy what is ultimately a much deeper issue- I am not living the life that my heart wants to live. I have this great career, but it is not the right career for me, and I KNOW this, but I am terrified of what comes after that knowing. I don’t want to sacrifice all of this comfort and security for some unknown thing…and that’s the even bigger problem. I know I’m not living the life I want to live, but I have no idea what it is that I DO want.
There are little flashes of insight, of course. Ultimately, I would love to just be able to write full time, but I don’t think that is the next step. If I am just going on what my intuition has to say, I can tell you that that might be down the road a ways, but it is not next. I feel pretty strongly that I am supposed to go back to school, and at the age of 43, this seems very daunting. I have a lot of friends around my age who are in school now, and the amount of stress they are constantly venting on Facebook is enough to give me serious pause- like, is that what I really want?
If it is what I want, I have the support of my boss and my employer to do so. They have already told me they are willing to accommodate my schedule (to a point) so that I could go back to school, without losing my benefits. The only problem with this is that I would still be working nearly full time, which means I would have to take less classes, meaning I would probably be in school for MUCH longer. And again, at my age, how long do I want to drag out the schooling thing? And how much time would that mean I would miss with my daughter?
There are so many questions, so many unknowns. Perhaps I am just trying to know too much all at once. I have always liked to know everything that was coming down the pike before I committed to something. I’m not sure I can do that in this situation. I think I might have to begin first, and learn as I go.
I don’t know. I don’t know nearly enough. And yet…I really feel strongly that I need to get started on whatever is next. I feel like it is time. I’ll let you know what I come up with, as soon as I come up with something.
So, yesterday was amazing. I have to admit to you, I had my doubts- spending three hours at a spa for someone as restless as I am started to seem a little less like a luxurious indulgence and more like a possible torture situation the closer I got to it. I know how dumb that sounds, but I can’t even stand going to barbecues that aren’t rigidly structured, because just sitting around talking to people with no firm end time makes me want to run and hide in the bathroom. I thought I would go crazy sitting in a little room with a private hot tub and sauna for an hour…like, a whole hour?! Hahaha! Just goes to show you how dumb I can be, because I could have stayed in there for WAY longer. Of course, in all honesty, I was happily floating in the hot tub, looking out the giant, floor to ceiling open window into a private garden with a freaking water fall, you guys, and I was typing away on my phone nearly the whole time. But you know what? That’s okay. It’s what I wanted to do, so it was perfect. My allotted time was over before I knew it.
Then I put on the little robe they provided me, threw all my stuff into a bag they gave me, and walked, steamy and barefoot, down a little hall and into a waiting room. I was given a little rack of essential oils and told to pick two for my massage and facial, so I sat there and smelled every single one, and finally settled on jasmine (my favorite scent of flower, hands down) and lavender, which is just the ultimate essential oil…I mean, I know it’s so played out, but that shit smells amazing. Anyway, I was ushered into the massage room, and to be honest with you, it is all a happy blur after that. I was in there for two full hours. I had a full body massage, focused foot massage, a hot oil scalp massage, and an aromatherapy facial massage.
When I left that place, I was not energetically the same. All that relaxation, from the start to the end, had shifted me into a totally different place. And I know that that’s the whole point of doing something like that, but did you ever stop to think about how strange that is? That by letting someone rub away the knots in your back, the soreness in your neck, the weird cramp in the back of your thigh, it can change your entire energy? That’s wild. I noticed that I was moving a LOT slower on my way back to the car. It took me like 30 minutes just to get my shit together enough to drive away.
It was a gorgeous day in Santa Cruz yesterday. I mean, it couldn’t have been more beautiful out. All the trees downtown were full and green, and the sun was shining. Santa Cruz is such a cool place anyway (aside from the soul crushing traffic, but I didn’t have to be anywhere, so it was no big deal) with the big old Victorians around downtown, interspersed with cute little bungalows, and so many gardens in full bloom. As I turned up Lincoln, heading back to the freeway, I was thinking “Man, I would love to live here.”, and I suddenly remembered a very specific dream I used to have…not a sleeping dream, a goal-dream. I even wrote it down, and all these years later, it popped into my head, clear as a bell.
Here it is: I had sold a novel that I’d written for a LOT of money, like, tons- possibly even film rights, who can say? Anyway, I had bought this amazing, gigantic, beautiful home, right in the heart of Santa Cruz…it had shining hardwood floors, and a staircase with a fancy carved banister, and the front door was made of heavy wood with a little window in it, criss-crossed with iron. In the back of the house, I had an office with a big desk right in the middle of the room, and if I turned my head I could look out into my back yard, where the sun was shining and little white butterflies fluttered around the flowering bushes. I got to sit in that office every day JUST TO WRITE, and people paid me to do it. And, because I worked right there in my house, I didn’t even need to worry about the stupid traffic…even the super healthy grocery store was within walking distance, so maybe I only busted my car out for the occasional off-hour jaunt, who knows?
I remembered all of that in the space of just a few seconds, and it made me think automatically of the novel I am working on now, and wonder “is it good enough?” I don’t know…but could it be? Yeah, I think it could. All of the sudden, my head was so clear, and I was so relaxed, and I realized that I could have all of the things I wanted- it didn’t seem far fetched or crazy or any of that. It made perfect sense. I’ve been so busy living my life for the past ten years- and it has been an amazing ten years, don’t get me wrong! Everything about it has been important and meaningful, and things that I HAD to experience and grow from and get through. But I had to put my big dreams aside to deal with some soul-growing stuff, and now I’ve done that. I’ve done that, and haven’t known what to reach for next, because it is just my nature to want to keep reaching. I don’t remember a time when I haven’t been working towards a goal. That’s just what inspires me.
So here I sit this morning, relaxed and happy, just relishing the thought of all the wonderful ways my life might go. Will it all come to be? I have no way of knowing that for sure…but it feels amazing just to entertain the possibilities. For right this second, that is enough. Have a wonderful day!