Category Archives: Musings

The Cat Whisperer

You know…I never, ever wanted nor intended to be the cliched, weird “cat lady” on my street- or on any street for that matter. Bad enough that I didn’t get my original little black kitty fixed soon enough, and she jumped out the window the first night I lived in this house, showing up a week later pregnant, with a giant abscess on her hind end. Even worse, I didn’t get rid of her two kittens fast enough (both pure black, like their mama) and now they are my babies- so, for anyone keeping count, I now have three black cats, and a giant, goofy black Labrador Retriever named Lucy, for good measure. The baby cats, who aren’t babies anymore at all, are named Rose and Frankenstein, respectively.

But now it looks like I might have accidentally picked up another cat. I don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, but I do know it’s been hanging around outside, eating the food I leave for my original cat, who refuses to come inside, due to overcrowding. He- lets just call him ‘he’ for practical purposes- he finally came over to me last night, and let me pet him. I could tell that he belonged to someone at one time, because he is super tame and sweet, but very thin and nervous. So, I sat with him a while, and gave him lots of love and scratches on the butt. I felt pretty good about it.

Anyway, I went back inside, and that’s when the crying began. I mean, he sat there and cried and cried and cried until I finally opened the door. When I did, he darted inside, and now he refuses to leave. My other cats are very distressed, hissing and spitting and growling, but this cat gives no fucks at all. He’s like, I’m here, get used to it. I tried putting him back outside, but he is having none of that at all.

My older daughter Aisley calls me the Cat Whisperer, because cats love me. I think that’s a kind way of calling me a Cat Lady. Either way, it looks like I have a new cat. Dammit.

 

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Three Things, January 11th

three ostriches

Last week, on Wednesday, I made a post where I gave myself 15 minutes to write out three random things I wanted to talk about- it was super fun, AND it helps me keep my sometimes (okay, pretty much always) lengthy blogs to a reasonable length. I think this might become a thing I do. Anyway, here goes:

  1. What I am Pondering: If you die, is it still your birthday? This has been bugging me all day, as today would have been (is?) my friend Joe’s birthday. He passed away in August, and he’s obviously been on my mind even more than usual today, which is saying something. So, happy birthday to you, Joseph, on the other side. I just heard that on that good old “other side” we are all eternally 30. I think, if this is true, Joe is very happy there indeed.
  2. Life Tweaks: In all the excitement of planning out my busy time of emergence from the cocoon I’ve been living in for the past year, I forgot all about the fact that I’m kind of an introvert- a very extroverted introvert, yes, but an introvert nonetheless. What this means is that I do like being with and around people, but it is also exhausting and overwhelming for me, and I need time to recharge. I did not account for this, but have added a place in my schedule for just the sort of slacking that I need. I am calling it “Do Nothing Thursday”, and may extend it to part of one weekend day. I’m going to see how it goes. The only thing I will be scheduling on Thursdays will be couch time and Travel Channel.
  3. What I am listening to right now: I had a colleague tell me about a podcast she heard of called “By the Book”, and it is hilarious- two women pick a self-help book and live exactly by its rules for two weeks, then report back. I’d go more into it except I am running out of time. Check into it, it’s great!

 

Calm Inside the Crazy

be here now

Sometimes I think I just shouldn’t leave my house. Or read the news, like, EVER. Seriously, days like today really bring home the phrase “Ignorance is bliss”.

What might be bothering you, Courtney? You might be asking yourself right about now. Well, let me enlighten you- In the very immediate sphere of living, we have a massive flu outbreak here in my little corner of the world; yes, I realize it’s probably also in your corner of the world, but I’m not there, I’m here, and I’ve suddenly become very preoccupied with remaining healthy. The flu sucks ass, for one thing. The last few times I’ve had it, it knocked me on my butt, and I HATE being sick. I am such a massive whiner when I am sick, and there is no one around to take care of me, plus I have to miss work, and I am always treading the line of disciplinary action for one reason or another. Aside from me, if my kiddo gets sick, she gets REALLY sick, like, asthma-inhaler-wheezing-no mom anywhere can sleep when her kid can’t breathe- kind of sick. I work at a hospital, and it is banana’s up there, I am not kidding you. We are breaking records, and not in a happy way. So there’s that. (And yes, we had our flu shots, but they are only about 10% effective this year.)

Going beyond that a little bit, we have fucking Donald Trump for president. I still can’t even believe I am typing those words with any degree of seriousness an entire year later. After my hope that our country were smarter than that had been crushed last November, I came up with the paltry little hope that maybe he wouldn’t be able to screw things up that bad- I mean, we have a series of checks and balances, right? This is a democracy! How bad can it get?

The answer to that is still unfolding, but I can sum it up in one word- Bad. Or three words- really fucking bad. I guess before I got my hopes up I should have factored in Twitter, eh? I mean, can we all agree now that this is not going well? Can someone make him stop antagonizing North Korea? Can we please get a grown up with some sense in there to help out? Because I am feeling very, very nervous about things.

I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to die in a nuclear holocaust. I don’t want to keep reading about the scary, crazy weather happening ALL THE TIME, EVERYWHERE. I’m frightened. I’m frightened, and overwhelmed and pissed off because I have no control over ANY of this shit. None of it.

So what can I do, then? First of all, I can remember that I am here, right now, not sick, not in the middle of a war, and that I am safe and okay, in my own little home. I can be present right now, which is the only time that really exists, right? Deep breath, in and out. I can choose not to look at the news- either on TV or on my phone. Let it go. There is nothing I can do about any of it right this very second.

Most importantly, I can remember that I have faith, not just when things are wonderful, but also when they are scary or dark or weird- you either have faith or you don’t, right? I have to remember that I trust that God, the Universe, whatever you choose to call it- that there is a plan and I don’t have all the information, and that is okay. Whatever happens, I trust in God, period.

And finally, uncertainty is ever present, whether we are conscious of it or not. This only underscores the fact that we need to wake up and be as grateful for our lives RIGHT NOW as we would be if we knew it was all ending soon. How loving would you be, how easily would you forgive, how much more would you savor the small things, if today was your last day? I mean, it changes everything, doesn’t it? And that is really kind of sad, isn’t it?

Sigh…I needed to get that out so badly. Stay healthy, warm and close to your fallout shelters, my friends. Jesus, I hope that last part isn’t necessary.

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.

The Best Christmas Yet.

the best christmas yet

 

In the 42 years I have been on this planet, I have had all kinds of Christmases. I have had magical ones- lots of those, thanks to my mom, who REALLY pulled out all the stops every year to make it special for us kids. I have had terrible ones- I remember a year, when Aisley must have been about seven, when I had stayed up partying all night, and all of her presents were from the dollar store. Also, a guy I didn’t know was passed out on my living room floor, left there by his friend the night before when we couldn’t wake him up. We just stepped over him. That’s the kind of life I have lived.  I have had angry Christmases, and lonely ones, Christmas days filled with too much driving, too much fighting, and too much wishing I was somewhere else.

But I have never, ever, had a Christmas day when I was so overcome with gratitude as I listened to the sound of my family- all the people I love most in the world- chattering away and laughing in the living room behind me, that I broke down in tears. Not just a pretty little drop or two as I brushed garlic butter onto bread, but full on, “Oh shit, Courtney, this is not the time for a breakdown” kinda tears. Sobs, you might even say. I don’t know how to describe it to you, the way I was feeling, except for that worn out word, grateful. So, so, so full of gratitude that it hurt a little bit.

Because that, that feeling that I had, that sent tears pouring out of my eyes, and my mother rushing to hug me- that, my friend, is what recovery is. All the meetings that I make and the stepwork that I do, all the self reflection and correction and digging deep and starting over, forgiving myself, forgiving others, all the TRYING. All of the never taking anything, no matter what- THAT is what I have been searching for, and striving for, and wanting in my life and heart all along. That feeling of peace. That feeling of love, and belonging, and contentment and family. I have been really working a 12 step program for two and half years straight, but I have been trying to be where I was yesterday my entire adult life. My whole life.

If you are reading this, and you are new in recovery, I want to encourage you to stay the course. Don’t give up. There were times in the beginning when I was more miserable than I had been when I was using. I had zero coping skills, nothing left to take the edge off, and my brain was fucked up, even if I couldn’t come to terms with that at the time. My temper was as short fused as ever, and goddammit, I got clean so that I could stop being so hateful, but it didn’t seem to be working. If this sounds familiar, just wait. Just find whatever small improvements you do see, and hold onto them. Know that it will change.

When I had about a year clean, I got really mad at my mom, for a good long while. She didn’t do anything wrong, and I didn’t understand it- I hated it, actually. I was afraid that I was going to stay mad forever, and it scared me. But I had faith that I was working through old shit, feeling feelings that I should have felt a long time ago, and I held on. I kept pushing forward, inch by inch. One day, I looked for the anger that I had almost gotten used to lugging around with me, and I found that it had faded. Day after day, it lessened, leaving me surprised by what took its place- love, warmth, affection, acceptance. Yesterday, I can tell you, I did not have one single weird feeling where my mom is concerned. I never felt judged or criticized, picked on or even remotely insulted. The reason I am telling you this is because relationships change in recovery. You will change, and they will change.

Every single person in my house yesterday has been hurt by me in my addiction. Every. Single. One. I just now realized that. Wow. How blessed am I, that I get to make a living amends to these people? That they have forgiven me? That they still love me, that they are so proud of me? I literally would not have ANY of it if I wasn’t clean. I wouldn’t have it, and I wouldn’t even know that I wanted it. I would still be trying to fill that hole in my spirit with all the wrong things, wondering why everything hurt so much.

Listen, I want everyone to be able to feel the way I felt yesterday. If you have reached the end of your rope, and you need some help figuring out what to do next, shoot me an email. I will try to help you figure out a solution. Clduncan1@outlook.com, or just message me here.  And again, if you are new in recovery, I promise you- the pain will be worth the gain. It will be worth every second.

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!

 

 

The Fleeting Nature of Life

I have changed by leaps and bounds over the past two and a half years. Some of it was just by nature of staying off of drugs and letting my brain heal, but a lot of it was intentional and through hard, hard work, deep soul-searching, and honest reflection about the kind of person I am and who I want to be.

I am doing the recovery stuff- working with my sponsor, doing step-work, going to meetings. I am doing spiritual stuff- daily prayer and meditation. I have a therapist, I pay attention to my behavior, and try to reign it in when the way I am acting doesn’t jibe with the person I know I can be.

But nothing- and I mean NOTHING- can shake you up, nothing can clear the cobwebs out of your eyes, like the sudden loss of someone you love. I have never been more heartbroken in my life than I have since last August. That was when I lost my friend Joe, whom I loved so much more than I can even begin to explain, and even if I did, it wouldn’t make sense. That’s okay, though. Love doesn’t need to make sense, right? I always think about the way that most people get on my nerves, their frail human side is always coming to light, ruining everything. His never did. He never got on my nerves, like, not ever that I can remember. I am not trying to say that he didn’t have a bad side, that he never disappointed me or hurt my feelings, because he definitely did. He was just so easy for me to forgive. I wish I could love more people that way, but I haven’t yet (aside, of course, from my kids, but that is a different kind of thing altogether).

Anyway, he died. And it was one of the hardest days of my life, one of the worst phone calls I have ever survived. I remember that my knees just buckled, and I fell on the floor, the tears came in a torrent, and the grief was immediate and overwhelming. There have been lots of tears since then, and lots of times that I am totally fine. I can think of him or talk about him, and it makes me smile or laugh, no tears at all. As long as, you know, I don’t think too hard about what I am saying.

But what has happened as a result of him dying is, I have changed. I thought he was invincible. I know how stupid that sounds, but if you’d ever met Joe, you would understand why.  So, now that he is gone, I guess I view everything with more urgency, through the scope, I suppose, of someone who understands that life as I know it could change in an instant.

You might think that this would make me fearful, or hold on even more tightly to everything than I already do, but no…in a way, it has been a gift. Because I have had to face the fact that there is absolutely nothing I can do about some things. When it is your time, it is your time, plain and simple. Rather than making me cling to everything, I find myself learning to let go. Life is short. You had better enjoy every beautiful moment that makes itself available to you. Tell people you love them. Dance, be present, look up at the stars and the moon in the beautiful sky. Slow down. Say yes when you want to, and no when you should.

Don’t waste a bunch of time on petty anger, rushing through your day, always trying to get to the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. Take a moment to realize that this, right now, is your life. It is happening NOW. Maybe you are lucky, like me, and you are still relatively young, and your whole body works the way it is supposed to, and you can basically do anything you want to do. Do you realize how lucky that makes you? Don’t waste it. Don’t waste a single minute of it.

And that is all I have to say about that today. Carry on.

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!

 

Wasted

broken heart

 

There are few things that can bring the past back to me quite as viscerally as music can. Memories I might grasp for another time come sliding back to me, unexpected, with the right (or wrong) song playing in the background.

When you have the kind of past I have, it can be painful, sometimes- even the happy memories. Today, we were listening to the Dixie Chicks, a CD that once had permanent residence in my old Camry’s stereo. Cowboy, Take me Away came on, and I remember driving around, with the song turned up loud, the windows down, the sunlight streaming in- and this little tiny dark headed girl in her car seat in the back, singing along with me.

She’s all grown up now. Our lives were such a mess back then- well, my life was, and hers, by association. Any happy memories I can find, I cling to, because there just aren’t that many of them. It was a dark time for me, and I was very, very deep in my addiction. I didn’t know how to be a mother, or what it meant, or what, exactly, I was robbing her of. Oh, if only I had known. You know, my heart will very probably never heal from that. I know, I know- we are supposed to learn to forgive ourselves, to leave the past in the past…but I think there is a part of me that honestly doesn’t feel like I ought to forgive myself.  Like maybe punishing myself for the rest of my life is my penance for robbing my daughters childhood of the joy that was hers by right. I don’t know, but I do know this: However it is I feel, I won’t be talked out of it. Trust me, it’s been tried.

Heartbreak Town. I remember listening to that on our way to Reno, where I ran off to, to escape myself. There she was again, that little person in the back seat…always in the back seat. If you are curious, I didn’t fool myself into being someone different just because I crossed state lines. I was still me, still sick, still not a mother anyone should have had. Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like for her, but when I do, it hurts too much.

It is only recently- maybe just since she has been sort of a “grown-up”, or maybe it is because I am raising another daughter now, in such a completely different way- that I have started to sincerely wish there were some way I could go back, and do things differently. I know that kind of thinking is useless and foolish. I know I would be better off trying to make my amends to her now, by being the best mom I can NOW, and I do that, I do…but still. If I could just go back, just for one measly little day, and be tender with her. Give her my undivided attention. Just hold her, and love her, and do all the mommy stuff I have learned to do now…I would just really like to do that, that’s all.

This is a lot of stuff to carry around inside of one small heart. The memories, and the worry about what you may have inflicted upon another small heart, one that you created. To look back and see all of the time, and the chances, and the love you wasted. It doesn’t feel very good. I’m glad to say I don’t sit in this shit every single day, but when I do, I don’t even try to deny myself the opportunity to cry about it anymore. It’s a sad and terrible way that I chose, and if it didn’t make me cry, I guess that would mean I haven’t changed much, wouldn’t it? But I have. So at least there is that.