Posted in Addiction, family, Holidays, kids, Life, motherhood, parenting, People, recovery, relationships, women

Trying Times

I’ve been avoiding trying to post anything here for the past little while, as I am slogging through a whole bunch of uncomfortable life stuff, and can never trust myself to not say too much. I can’t guarantee that I won’t do that now. So to preface whatever comes next, I would just like to say this: This is my experience, this is my space, and this is my truth. Okay, lets get on with it.

After this many consecutive days, months, and years in recovery, I figured life would get easier, my close personal relationships would be healed and warm, close and vibrant. I really thought that if I could change myself enough, that would change everything. The truth is, changing myself only changed ME. I am the one actively working on myself, and due to that, sometimes it seems like it’s actually caused more trouble than ever before. Why? Because I have some respect for myself, and therefore, I expect other people to as well. Because I am cognizant enough to see clearly when someone else’s behavior is not okay, but smart enough now to know when I might as well keep my mouth shut about it. It seems like I am having deep issues with all the people I love most in my life, and I’m not going to lie, it hurts.

It’s made especially bad because it’s Christmas time, and this cheery little tree all lit up in my living room seems like it’s mocking me. I don’t have tons of Christmas spirit on my best days, and these are far from my best days. But I do have a happy little eight year old who deserves to feel all the magic of Christmas, so I will do my best to plaster a smile on my face and keep things light.

I also have a twenty-one year old daughter who isn’t speaking to me right now. She blocked me on social media, and told me she wants nothing more to do with me. And, listen, I know…I know that, chances are, she’ll get over it soon enough. I also know that her anger, though she might disagree, is misplaced. There are times when you have to draw the line and let people know you mean business, for REAL this time. I drew my line. She doesn’t like it. And that’s okay. She has to go about this business of growing up on her own, and sometimes that means learning some hard lessons. This is how we figure things out, most of the time. Through stark reality and pain. I wish it could be some other way, but I feel deeply that I need to step back and let her find her way on her own.

Still…it hurts. It hurts a lot. I’m sad, and angry and worried sick. I’m mad that things feel so uncomfortable. I blame myself, knowing I didn’t raise her the right way, and I have so much guilt, guilt I don’t think I will ever be free of. And it hurts like a motherfucker that I can’t even talk to my own mother about these things that are causing me so much grief, because she simply will not hear me. She has made it very clear that she just can’t handle it. So…what in the world do I do?

Well, I guess I write this. I tell the truth, and wait it out, hoping for the best. I put a smile on my face and go ice skating, telling myself that things will surely get better. They always do. And most of all, I let myself feel all these feelings: Anger, sadness, disappointment, fear. I’m lucky to get to have feelings I can name today. For so long, I didn’t feel at all, and when I did, I couldn’t trust those feelings.

Doesn’t mean I have to like them. But I can at least recognize that knowing myself, and knowing how I feel- I can see that having boundaries and holding fast to them- all of this is progress. Even when it feels like the worst thing in the world.

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Posted in friendship, Life, love, Musings, People, random

One Year, Three Months, Five Days

One year, three months, five days. That’s how long it’s been since you left this earthly plane, on to whatever comes next. Which means that one year, three months and six days ago, you were still doing whatever it was you were doing- talking, smiling, popping up here and there as you were wont to do. No idea that the minutes of your life were winding down, down, down. Oblivious. I think about this sometimes, and it scares me a little bit. It’s a hard truth to swallow, the way we live our lives so blissfully unaware that this might be it- this might be our last day, our last hour.

Anyway, God, I fucking miss you this morning. Grief is a strange thing, isn’t it? Weeks pass, and the pain recedes, and then I wake up one morning, like I did today, and it just hurts, oh so very much. It still seems impossible to me that you are gone.

There is no way for me to describe or quantify or make sense of what you meant to me, how my life was altered because of you, or how it changed when you died. But I know that my life WAS altered, and your death stole something real from me. Because of you, I learned that love can evolve in all sorts of different ways- when you stop trying to fit a relationship into a box, stop trying to label and categorize it, and just let it be what it is, something wonderful can happen. The connection between us spanned decades, and changed many times, ultimately mellowing and becoming something rich, that I cherished. Knowing you were out there, somewhere, knowing that you would be there if I needed you…it mattered so much to me.

Your surprise visits were often the highlight of my week. Just drinking coffee with you out on my front porch, or playing board games with Cam. Getting to hear you laugh and seeing you be silly and playful with my kids lifted my heart. I just enjoyed your company. It had become as simple and easy as that.

I was not blind to your faults. I knew you well enough to worry about what the future held for you, to worry about where your life would ultimately end up. We even discussed it a time or two, with me lamenting what would happen to you when you got old, joking about which girl would end up taking care of you. “Oh my God,” I groaned, “It’s going to be me, isn’t it?” And we laughed, because it seemed far away and preposterous. I suppose it wound up being a useless worry, didn’t it? But for the record, I would have gladly taken on the job. Not that you ever would have wanted to be in that position, of course, but I would have done it. In a heartbeat.

The point is, I guess, that I loved you. I love you still. I used to feel angry sometimes, resentful that I so completely loved someone who could never love me back in the same way. It wasn’t as if I had a choice- we love who we love, and that’s all. But now I’m grateful for all of it, I really am. Because of you, I know I am capable of loving someone unconditionally, exactly as they are, with no expectation and no need for them to do anything to earn it. I realized that long before you died. I know I made it clear to you. I’m so glad I did, and so glad we were friends.

I just really, really miss you today.

Posted in friendship, inner peace, Learning, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, relationships

Happiness & Curiosity

curiosity

I’ve been in a bit of a rut, lately, and it’s been hard for me to want to write- not just here, but also on my novel, which is a total bummer. Mostly because I am part of an awesome critique group and I’m running out of chapters to submit thanks to this weird writers block…but anyway, I haven’t been feeling my level best, had some minor health issues that are slowly resolving, and the whole vibe has not been conducive to me writing, I guess. When you aren’t feeling well, it’s hard to think about anything else.

For the last few days, I’ve been feeling better though, and my thoughts have turned again, as they always do, to my happiness and what I might do to improve it. Some people say that happiness is not a destination you arrive at, it’s something that you choose to experience, and I agree with that to a certain extent. But I also know that when you live a hectic, modern life full of children and work and chores to be done…the first thing we throw out of the picture are the things that make us feel the best. Forget about long, lingering bubble baths and walks on the beach with the dog- sometimes I am lucky to take a three minute shower and can’t even manage a quick walk around the block with poor Lucy. The truth is, when it’s getting dark around the same time I clock out of work, I often allow myself to just move from my office chair to the couch and spend the rest of the night numbing out to Netflix.

There may be stretches of time when this is honestly the best I can do. Do I judge myself a little harshly when this is the case? You bet your ass I do. I go to bed, frustrated and disappointed with myself because I feel like I wasted these precious hours of my life, hours I can’t get back. I think a lot about stuff like that- probably a side effect of having lost so many loved ones over the past 15 months. Death has a way of making our own mortality very, very clear to us, doesn’t it?

The good news is that, without fail, my energy returns, and I can try again. Try to fill my hours up in a way that makes me feel better about my life, try to figure out how to experience more happiness. I always come up with the same things: Be outside more, move my body more, connect with my kids and friends more,write, meditate, pray, get the house in order, and go to meetings. Obviously, these are just the little, day-to-day things that work best for me, not the longer term, “big” goals. But doing just these little things make a huge difference in my life. My magic formula for deeper enjoyment of my every day life.

Most of those things are simple enough to slip back into, once I’m back in the right frame of mind. You know what I struggle with, though? The “connecting with people” piece. And I mean this is a struggle on every level- with my own children up to the stranger sitting beside me at a meeting. I know why. It has everything to do with me being judgmental, which is really just a symptom of my own insecurity and fear of being vulnerable, i.e., I don’t want to be judged, so I will judge you first. Well, with my kids, I mean, I’m just being a mom…and to be fair, some of the shit they say is just…lets just say it’s hard not to power roll my eyes, sometimes. But with other people, this can become really problematic. When you are super guarded, or you think you already know something about someone based on their body language, their appearance, or maybe their current shitty situation, you are doing both them and yourself a disservice. When I think back through my life, to all the people who graciously chose to get closer to me when I was just awful…I don’t know how I would’ve survived without that kindness. I don’t think I could have.

Luckily, I found an easy solution to this problem. Instead of being guarded and drawing away, I have been choosing to be open and curious. There is a physical sensation attached to both of these things- being guarded feels closed off, tight, impatient, and makes my eyes look anywhere but at the person. Being open and curious feels…well, open, obviously, and warmer, somehow, and helps me look at and hear someone so much better. When I am not quick to judge, I am much quicker to listen, and when I listen well, it is so much easier to connect. For me, connecting with someone, really hearing and understanding and empathizing with where and who they are, is the best high. When I listen with curiosity, when I am open, when I take five seconds to talk to someone after a meeting and let them know I heard them…maybe it doesn’t mean anything much to them, but that connection means a lot to me. When I have friends over here for a super casual dinner, when I spend thirty minutes walking outside with Cam, playing Pokemon Go- maybe it’s not big deal, but it feels like one to me. It feels like the key to everything, to be honest.

So, this week, and for the rest of this year, my goal is to continue to make time for the things that help me to experience happiness, and to be open and curious about people, rather than closed off and invulnerable. Not a lofty goal, but I don’t know…it feels important to me. I may be onto something.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Goals, inner peace, Life, living, mindfulness, People, recovery, twelve step, women

Peace

peace

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?

Posted in inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, Uncategorized, women

Openings

It seems to me that there are specific times in my life where I inexplicably begin to feel better. I might not even be fully aware that I wasn’t feeling so great to begin with, but maybe the weight of living felt a little bit…heavier, I guess. Little things are harder. Daily life is gotten through, but joy seems just beyond my reach. I am just muddling through as best I can.

And then there are these openings- times when I wake up, and my heart is lighter, my energy is bubbling up, and life seems full of possibility again. This past weekend has been one such time, and I’m hoping it continues. I have no idea what brings them about, these openings- maybe it’s just some fluctuation in my brain chemistry. Maybe that cracked wisdom tooth I had pulled on Friday was causing me a lot more trouble than I was ever aware of. Maybe the stars just aligned. I do not know, I just know that I am grateful.

I see these shifts in me for what they are- great opportunities to get the ball rolling in the right direction again. These are the times when, if I take advantage of them, I can reconnect with the part of me that I enjoy the most. The part who goes on 6 a.m. beach adventures with her children, the me who opens up the blinds to let the light stream in, who sings while she cooks dinner. This is also the part of me who unflinchingly sorts through piles of old mail and ruthlessly cleans out the fridge until there is nothing left but a bottle of ketchup and one egg.

I am grateful for these times, but I know they do not last forever. They are gifts, and I am happy to receive them. I know that life is always a series of ebbs and flows, and my job is to learn how to ride the waves, however they show up. If I handle the easy, happy, good times right, perhaps the difficult times will be just a little easier. Perhaps. And if not, I know that there will be better times opening up for me again, down the road.

Have a beautiful week.

Posted in adventure, Dreams, family, Goals, Holidays, Life, manifestation, Musings, People, travel

New England Dreaming

fall foliage
Basically, this is where I want to live

Ever since I’ve been back from the East Coast, I have been thinking about it non-stop. I sent a text message to the girl I traveled with yesterday that said- “I am so homesick for New England. I cant stop thinking about it!” and she replied “Me too! I miss it every moment of every day.”

I guess that is the mark of a successful vacation, huh? And when I think back to my trip to Maui a few years ago, I think I felt a little the same…I mean, who has ever had a bad time in Hawaii? And even when I came back from there and daydreamed about living in Maui, I knew that if I did move, it wouldn’t be for long. The idea of living on an island seemed prohibitive, and I knew I wouldn’t last.

traffic.jpg
Ugh, my nightmare

If I’m being honest, this feels a little different to me. I’m definitely NOT a city girl. Even more than that, I’m not a particularly great “town” girl. I get upset and anxious trying to navigate the complicated four way stop that leads into the shopping center near my house- no one EVER knows when it is their turn to go, and how someone hasn’t died there yet is a mystery to me. I put off shopping at Target or for groceries as long as humanly possible to avoid crowds. Rush hour traffic makes me homicidal. And yes, Salem was a freaking zoo when I was there, but that’s only because it was October, and I should have known better, but…I want to go back. I want to be there. Maybe not Salem, maybe not even Massachusetts, but…somewhere in New England, there is a perfect place for me. I just know this.

Maine in winter
This just doesn’t look so bad to me! Courtesy of benvollmer.com

Everyone cautions me against the winters there, and I get it. I have never lived through a truly freezing winter…unless you count the first year I lived in Reno when they got the most snow they’d had in over 20 years. It reached the bottoms of my first floor apartment windows, and driving was the most terrifying experience of my life. I fell twice in one day in the same icy parking lot (I was wearing heels, like a moron). As a long-time resident of the central coast in California, I must say- I miss seasons. Last year, on Christmas, we decorated our tree in summer dresses with the doors wide open. It is what it is, I know, but it certainly dampens the magic of Christmas.

I don’t have the first clue how to make this dream a reality right now. I have a wonderful career at a place where I am comfortable and secure. I have great health insurance. I have very little- almost no- uncertainty, and for a person like me, whose life has been one uncertainty after another, this is very seductive. Safety, routine, security. I have a daughter here that has a close relationship with her father, and so, he’d have to be convinced to move with us. My other daughter is already ready to go. I have a life here, and it’s scary to think of giving it all up for the unknown.

You know what I really wish? I wish there were a way to take a time out- to take a year for myself to just go there and see how it feels. If I didn’t like it, I could come right back to my life in California, no questions asked. If I loved it, I could stay, no hard feelings. Wouldn’t that be great?

thanksgiving
If I’m being honest, this is pretty much my dream.

In the meantime, I am examining what it is about life there that is so appealing to me. I think the reason I am so enamored of changing seasons is because it appeals to my love of fresh starts and new beginnings. A new autumn, a new winter, a new spring, all marked by definite changes in the weather and the world around me. And it definitely has to do with my dreams about closeness, family, and tradition. The idea of a white Christmas, or being cozied up in my house with my kids, drinking hot chocolate…sigh. It reminds me of the magical times of my own childhood, at my grandmas house, where I felt safe and loved and happy.

So, as we go into the holiday season, as I ponder what, if anything, will come of my desire to live as far across the continent as I can possibly be…I will try to bring some of those things I loved about my own childhood into this house. Fill up the rooms with the scent of something delicious baking. Take a trip up to the snow. Bring as much holiday magic as I can to a house that is 75 degrees in mid-December.

If it is meant to be, I will find a way. I just have to keep reminding myself that I can have a wonderful life anywhere- whether it is here, or there. But I can’t allow my fear of the unknown to keep me from living the life I want most. I just need to be really sure I know what that is before I leap.

Posted in Addiction, advice, funny, health, Life, Musings, People, random

Pain: The Best Motivator

dental pain

Pain has always been a great motivator for me- nothing pushes you into action faster or more seriously than pain does, be it emotional, mental, or, as in my current predicament, PHYSICAL. Tooth pain, to be exact. Boy, I forgot what a nightmare a painful tooth can be. It’s been a long time since I’ve suffered through it, now that I’ve had dental insurance for the past decade. Before that, it was something I went through pretty regularly, unfortunately. A combo of bad genes and drug abuse made sure of that. For the past long time, though, I’ve taken really good care of my teeth- regular cleanings, fillings replaced, I’ve done it all.

All except for one thing. I have this stupid wisdom tooth, you see. It has needed to be pulled for at least a year, but…it wasn’t bothering me, so I ignored it. I have nothing against most dental procedures. I’ve even been known to fall asleep during a root canal. But extractions? Dear sweet baby Jesus, no. You would think, with all the advances in dentistry, that they could come up with something a little less…medieval torture chamber, right? It’s just BRUTAL the way they go about it. So, knowing this, and thinking back to my last wisdom tooth extraction, where, I shit you not, I had a black eye afterwards…I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger. No pain, no point, right?

Oh my God, so wrong! Why, oh why, did I wait? Last Friday, I’m sitting here, innocently sipping my coffee, when all of the sudden, it feels like a high voltage drill is boring into the pulp of my tooth. There was no warning, no hint that anything had changed. Just sudden, shocking, electrifying pain. My hands are sweating as I write this, as I am now permanently braced for the next jolt. I am SO MAD at myself.

But you know what? It motivated the hell out of me, that’s for sure. I have an appointment to get this sucker yanked this Friday, and I’m actually looking forward to it. Funny how pain can change ones perspective, eh? From fear to excitement? You bet your ass. And guess what else? I will not even be awake for the procedure, either. They are knocking me out and when I wake up, one less tooth for this girl.

In the meantime, it’s a steady diet of Aleve and Listerine mouth wash for me, not to mention little pauses while I try to use Lamaze breathing through the pain. Luckily, it only hurts sometimes, not all the time. At least, not yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And never, ever wait to deal with your teeth. I promise you, it just isn’t worth it.