Posted in family, Life, love, Musings, People

Lucky

I’ve always thought of myself as one of the luckiest people alive. I know that might sound weird, considering…well, you know- I was a raging drug addict for a bazillion years. Sometimes I was homeless. I couldn’t keep a job for very long, my love life has been pretty disastrous, etc., etc. Where is the luck in that, you might wonder?

Well, I didn’t look at it like that, to be honest. I always thought how lucky I was that I didn’t die, or worse, look really ugly as a drug addict. (I’m kind of joking here- I mean, I did get to keep almost all of my teeth, which really is lucky, but I thought I was cute as hell. I have some pictures that say otherwise, however). And yes, I might have technically been homeless, but I didn’t feel homeless- I always had a place to crash, and friends who helped me out. I never had to sleep in my car, when I had a car. So that was lucky. Maybe I couldn’t keep a job, but I could always get a job, so it wasn’t bleak. And my love life? I didn’t view it as disastrous- it was just exciting, that’s all.

So perhaps I wasn’t super lucky, or perhaps I was. The important thing is how I looked at it. If I looked at my life as blessed, even when it sucked pretty majorly, it still felt blessed to me. When I gathered with my family on Saturday evening to honor the life of my Uncle who passed away recently, along with many, many of his friends from as far back as his childhood, it came to me why I might feel as lucky as I do.

Man, I have a GREAT family. Normal? Hmm-mm, not really. I would say, if I had to describe my family in terms of a color scheme, they would be considered BOLD. Big colors. Loud. We talk loud and laugh loud and even our lives are above average messy, but, and this is important- above average awesome, too. We make big mistakes, and learn from them big-time, and go on to have large amounts of success and happiness. It’s heartening to know that I belong to this bunch. I feel lucky to have been born into my family.

On first glance, you might not think that my Uncle fit into that bold category, but I can tell you that he did- maybe more than any of us, honestly. His life was marked by tragedy at the age of 21 when he was nearly killed by a drunk driver, and he survived. He didn’t just survive, though, he beat the odds. He had a five percent chance of surviving, a broken back, brain damage, blindness in one eye, and was paralyzed on one side of his body. So you know what he did? He took a job as a ranch caretaker and went on to write music and play guitar in places all over his hometown and beyond. He loved everything about Native American’s, and he read hundreds of books about their lives and cultures. He was adored by so many people. His life could have been sad and depressing, but he chose to feel lucky. He chose to be happy. Oh, he was one of the funniest people around, too- you know, humor helps so much. Anyway, at the end, it was harder for him- his body was harder to cope with, and he was frustrated and angry after dealing with it for so many years, but…he still made room in his heart for the people he loved. He still treated me with so much kindness and love whenever we spoke. It was crazy how much love I heard in his voice when he spoke to me.

Sitting in our family home, the home that my grandfather built, and the only place I have consistently called home since the day I was born, I felt not just his loss, but the loss of my grandparents so deeply- it was like losing each of them all over again. I told my mom I could close my eyes and swear that my grandpa was in his room, taking a nap, and that grandma was fussing around at the coffee pot, while my Uncle was outside with the dogs or something. I mean, I could FEEL it, like it was real. I have memories that are so ingrained in me, so much love in them that I can’t describe it to you, that I can barely contain it all…

How lucky am I? How lucky is that, to have known so much love and joy and laughter and happiness? No matter how far off the path I ever wandered, I have had that love inside of me, anchoring me to what matters in life. I always knew there was a better way because I had seen it with my own eyes. What a gift these people gave to me. That even now that so many of the important ones are gone, it lives on inside of me. I feel them still.

I’d say I’m pretty lucky, indeed.

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Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, family, Life, recovery, twelve step

Things I Forgot to Remember

Death has been an unrelenting presence in my life over the past year, which is very, very unusual for me. Beginning with the loss of my beloved friend Joe in August of last year, then his dear friend Che, just a few weeks ago- Che, who spent countless hours on the phone with me after Joe’s death, listening to all of the stories I have to tell about Joe, that I suddenly needed to re-tell to someone who knew him… and sharing his own with me. Then, in the late hours of July 5th, or perhaps the very early hours of July 6th- we don’t know for sure yet, but oddly enough, every member of our family found themselves awake at 3:30 in the morning on July 6th- my darling uncle, Louis Earl Fulton, passed away. His life was not an easy one. One day, I will tell his story properly, but I want to do it right, and I want to have all of the facts straight first, though I will tell you this- due to an accident with a drunk driver when he was just starting out into adulthood, his lot in life was hard. He suffered, for the bulk of his years on earth, with a busted up body and what I would guess as being trouble from a traumatic head injury. Over the past several years, his health seriously deteriorated, and he had many falls, broken bones, and other injuries. He suffered from seizures, and I think he even had a stroke recently, but honestly, there was so much going on that I would have to ask my mom to be sure. The fact is, he wasn’t doing well. So you would think that his death would be less of a surprise, and maybe in some ways it wasn’t shocking, but…when someone just dies at home, and they haven’t been in the hospital or particularly sicker than usual, it really is a shock.

This blog is not going to be about him, because like I said, I would rather honor him by writing his story correctly, and I can’t do that without getting some help from my mom-she was alive when his accident happened, and I was not yet. I will tell you this- his given name was Louis Earl, but I haven’t heard anyone call him that since my grandmother was alive. His nickname (one of them) was Fizzle, because he was born on the 5th of July (get it? He fizzled out! My grandfather had a strange sense of humor) and, coincidentally, he died, near as we can tell, on the exact same day, many years later. There will never be anyone like him- there will never be anyone like any of the people I have lost this past year- and nothing I know brings a person into sharper focus than their death. And nothing slaps you out of your own miserable funk like the loss of a life that belonged to someone precious to you.

For the past month, or maybe even longer than that, I have been struggling like crazy with myself…upset about things like: hating my job because it is boring, hating myself (low-key) because I am not perfect, wishing I had better friendships, wondering why I am still single, wishing I could connect in a more meaningful way with my youngest daughter, and…this is the one I didn’t even want to write about or admit out loud to anyone who could talk some sense into me…wanting to quit being in recovery. I wanted to quit. I wanted to start drinking again, and I was really, really close to throwing the towel in. Closer than anyone but me knows. I felt like I was missing out on something. That my life wasn’t fun enough because I couldn’t go out and have a drink. That maybe it would be easier for me to deal with men if I could just relax a little bit, like everyone else does.

My uncle died on the day that my daughter was going out of town with her father for the first time in over a year- so I was already incredibly anxious without the addition of a death in the family. I took the rest of Friday off, and I cried and cried and cried. I cried so much that by the time I went to bed, my head was pounding. I woke up on Saturday morning with eyes that looked like they had been bitten by mosquitoes, or injected with saline. But I had made plans with a girlfriend earlier in the week to go hiking and hit a morning meeting, and she is notoriously hard to pin down, so there was no way I was cancelling. I pulled myself together, worried that I would be too somber to be any fun, but I went anyway. I needn’t have worried. We had a nice hike, and plenty to discuss, and it was just what I needed. We almost didn’t go into the meeting afterwards, but we did, and again, it was perfect. I came home afterwards, ate a massive amount of food, and fell asleep the way you can only when you are grieving and exhausted- face down on the mattress for four solid hours. When I woke up (which took a good hour of just sitting, staring into space) I knew instinctively that being still would be a bad idea, so I grabbed my dog and went for a long walk on the beach. That night, I went to another meeting.

Over the course of my 48 hour weekend, I managed to hit four meetings, hang out with two good friends (one of them twice), go to the beach two different times, and take two solid naps. I did something I had never done before in the course of my recovery- I doubled down on what was good for me, and sidestepped an almost inevitable relapse. I was reminded that both life and recovery require my active participation in order to work the way that I need them to. I can’t just sit here and cry about what isn’t working- or, I can, but it isn’t going to do me any good at all.

I’m sorry if this is sort of all over the place- I don’t feel like I am explaining myself well at all, but there is so much to what I am feeling, and it’s all jumbled up. The bottom line is, my uncle’s death helped me to remember what I had forgotten- that life is so precious, that while I am here, I need to rejoice in the gifts that I have been given, and they are many- my health, my beautiful children, my job which provides so well for me, and my recovery which is the only reason I have all of the other things. I will not dishonor myself or my wonderful life by giving up on that. I have all of the ingredients, but it is up to me to make something worthwhile out of them. Today, I will choose to do just that.

Posted in family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People

Horror Story

If you were to ask me what role in life I most closely identified with, out of all of the roles I play, day in and day out, I would always say being a mother. I am not pretending that I am the best mom, or the most patient mom, or that I even do the very best I can all the time at it- hell, sometimes I’m just phoning it in, trying to make it to bed time. But I will tell you this- my love for my children is fierce. I have gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to rescue my eldest, I have witnessed her drunk and ridiculous and held my tongue until a more appropriate time, I have failed utterly as a mother in my addiction, but I always, always kept us together. With my youngest, I have sat up all night beside the bed, listening to her asthmatic breathing, waking her when it was time for another treatment. I have raised hell and hurt feelings in order to keep her safe. I would go to any lengths to keep my children out of harms way. Any lengths.

Without question, I would give my life for either of them. When I do not hear from my 20 year old for too many days, or when my youngest is not where she is supposed to be…the panic that comes over me is unbearable. And for me, those times are usually very brief, resolved within minutes or hours (with the older one, it can be hours or a day) and then I get to go back to normal, worrying about average things.

And then we have these families, fleeing the horrors of their homes south of the border, and these mothers and fathers being separated from their children indefinitely. The parents go to jail, and the children, some of them babies, go to…wherever they go. Detention centers. Military bases. Foster homes.

I don’t understand politics, and I hate writing about political things because of my ignorance. I do understand the difference between right and wrong, cruelty and kindness. I am 100% sure that there is a better solution available than this nightmare going on right now, like…I’m just spit-balling here, but how about keep the families together? For the children’s sake, maybe. I don’t know any of these unfortunate people myself, but I’m willing to bet, if given a choice, they would choose to be incarcerated together rather than ripped apart and scattered. I think this is just cruelty, plain and simple.

I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum- right, left, somewhere in the middle. Imagine for a second that you are desperate to make a better life for yourself- so desperate that you are willing to flee the only home you have ever known, to a place where you know you probably won’t be welcomed with open arms, a place where you might not even speak the same language. Imagine, then, that you are even willing to break the law for the chance to leave a place that has become too dangerous to survive. And then imagine that you arrive there, only to have your children torn away from you, to God only knows where, while you are locked up, unable to speak with them, unable to even know where they are. I want you to REALLY imagine that for a second- locked up, in a cell, in a strange country, with NO IDEA what has happened to your children. Now imagine your child, locked up in a cell (for all intents and purposes) crying until they are sick from terror and panic. YOUR CHILD, not some strange child you do not know. YOUR CHILD. How does that feel? Because it makes me lose my mind. It’s so goddamned horrific I can’t even stay with it for too long.

But it’s happening, right here, in OUR country, right now. On a grand scale. Right this minute, while you are reading this, it is happening. I don’t want to hear about “The law” because you and I both know this is unnecessarily cruel. This is cruel on purpose. This is about sending a message, and it’s wrong.

I want to hear about what we can do to make it stop. What we can do to help. I don’t want to make a sign and protest, I want to know how people can come together on a massive scale and say enough is enough. Because this is just too far, for me. This is not the way we treat innocent children. I am so disgusted by this country right now.

Posted in faith, family, friendship, Goals, inner peace, kids, Life, mindfulness, Musings, parenting, People, relationships

Remember Me

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The harbor, last night.

Two thoughts have made their way into my head lately, and they are having a kind of profound effect on me. I don’t even remember where they came from, whether I read them somewhere or they just occurred to me on their own, but I can’t seem to shake them. The first one, I’m pretty sure I read it in a blog somewhere, and essentially it is “How will people feel about you long after you are gone?” Like, what is your emotional legacy, the emotional “fingerprint” you leave on the people you love and care for? The second one, which goes hand in hand with that is really random, but…it popped into my head yesterday, and I keep going back to it, and here it is- no one really knows whether they have more of their life ahead of them than behind. Well, I guess some people do- for instance, if you are 93, you can can be pretty sure you have more of your life behind you than ahead. But for average, healthy people, the point is, you don’t really ever truly know when it’s your time, or how much more time you have.

I am not particularly afraid of dying, and that’s not really what this is about, but for me, dying is not something I get too worked up about. I am not religious, but I have a lot of faith, and some pretty comforting beliefs. What I do worry about is dying before I am ready, before my children are grown enough, and before I’ve had time to become the person I want to be remembered as. And that’s where things get troubling for me, that last part- being the person I want to be remembered as- because…well, what in the world is stopping me from being that right now? If I really don’t know (and hardly anybody does) when this whole life of mine is going to end, then why am I not just being the person I want to be right now? Because it doesn’t cost money, and there doesn’t need to be a different set of circumstances for that to happen. It’s not about any of that at all.

What it is about, and what I’m learning that everything is really about, is my own behavior, my own attitude, and my own willingness to engage in my own life and the life of the people I care about, on a deeper level. How hard is it, really, to respond more lovingly? To have a bit more patience, to answer with a nicer tone, to treat someone a little more kindly? Well, when your deeply ingrained habit is to be terse, irritated, impatient and sarcastic, it can be pretty challenging, I can vouch for that. But challenging is not the same as impossible. Do I want my children, friends, and family to look back on all their memories of me and laugh about how difficult I was? Well, I mean, that ship has kind of sailed if I die tomorrow, but…it’s not too late to temper that with better things. It’s never too late to get better. I should know! I’ve been slowly improving all the time in these past few years.

But there is always more that you can do. If you are lucky enough to live to be 100, there will always be another thing to work on, another thing you can improve. It never ends. I have been actively trying to spend more time with the people who matter to me, in ways that THEY enjoy, and as a bonus, I try not to whine about it the entire time. What I am finding out is that I can enjoy myself quite a bit when I stop listing all the reasons why everything is stupid and sucks, even if I’m only doing it internally- so if you do that, just stop it. Just relax, just go with the flow, just see what happens. Because guess what? No one ever died from doing something they find mildly unpleasant, and when you keep an open mind, you might even (gasp!) start enjoying yourself.

Recently, I cleaned off the catch-all surface of my kitchen table, and started insisting that Cam and I sit down at it at least a few nights a week to eat a meal together. At first, she was confused and upset by this-“But WHY?! And why does the TV have to be off, I’ll be BORED!”- but now that we have done it a few times, I think she kind of likes it. It’s just the two of us, sitting face to face, eating dinner and having no choice but to talk to each other about…whatever. Sadly, at first, it was a little awkward- I mean, the first five minutes, but still, it seemed longer to me. All I could think to ask was “So, how was school today?” A question that all kids in every part of the world just relish being asked, you know. But really quickly, we forgot that this was different for us, and we just started being our normal selves, and now we both really enjoy it. It was important to me to do this thing with her, this normal, family thing, and now we are doing it, and it is nice. Little changes, big rewards. This is something that she will remember.

Every morning, before she wakes up, and every day before I pick her up from school, I have a little talk with myself. I remind myself to be patient, kind, and loving, and to treat her in a way that will make her feel happy and loved. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but for me, someone who’s natural state is a little more snappy and self-absorbed, this is important, and it helps. Last night, I was craving a dark chocolate pecan turtle, and I asked her if she wanted to go down to Fisherman’s Wharf and visit the candy store and maybe take a walk around after dinner. Of course, she was into it, so after we sat together and had dinner, we did just that. It was a chilly, overcast day, but we got our candy, and we wandered around in the shops, and then we took a little walk down the bike path and watched the otters play and the seals zip around in the harbor. We took lots of rests, because she is not much of a walker, but it was okay, we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. And on the long walk back to the car, she held my hand and gave me a million hugs, and told me what a fun time she was having. It wasn’t a big night I had planned- it was just a dumb thing I thought of last minute, a tiny outing. But it was a happy moment, and we were happy in it together. These are the things I want more of in my life. This is the way I want to be remembered.

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Camryn, lost in thought
Posted in Blogging, Dreams, fun, funny, humor, Life, Musings, random

Total Random Nonsense

no point
Seriously, this one goes nowhere. I apologize in advance.

I woke up this morning acutely aware of just how bad too much salt really is for me. Holy bloated frogs! I feel like I aged ten years since I jumped into bed at 8 pm last night- and yes, I went to bed at 8 last night. I was the kind of tired yesterday that is easy to confuse with depression, and I wasn’t sure what was happening, so I figured it would be best just to go to bed and see if some sleep helped the matter at all.

And I think I was on the right track, except…all the salt from the restaurant food, combined with the bizarre nightmare I had all night long sort of worked against me. This nightmare…I woke up at least two times, actually got out of bed and wandered around the house, went back to bed, and both times went right back into the same damn dream. It was a version of a recurring nightmare I’ve had since about five seconds after I gave birth to my first child over 20 years ago. The one where your kid goes missing and you can’t find her? Yeah, except this one was much more creative, involved both of my children, and my ex-stepdad (a true psychopath) who somehow morphed into Donald Trump. He had kidnapped both of my kids, was trying to marry the older one, and was keeping the younger one in a cage at a different location. Also, the younger one had turned into a cat. It sounds funny now, but trust me, it was very unsettling while it was happening.

So, here I sit. Retaining 50 gallons of water, traumatized yet again by Donald Trump, and forcing myself to try to write something entertaining because this is why I wake up at four thirty in the damn morning every single day. So that I can write captivating words such as these. Sigh…is it just me, or is it really hard to keep shit together? Like, I will do really good for a little while with some things, but inevitably then other things fall to the wayside. So, I turn my attention to those things, and the other shit falls off the map. Either I am just a terrible multi-tasker (true) or I am just trying to do too much stuff (also true). No wonder people throw their hands up and settle for less. They get to sleep a little later and accept that there will be no thigh gap again in this lifetime.

Me? I feel sleep deprived, and refuse to accept my thighs even though they haven’t done anything wrong, really, except kindly store the weight that has nowhere left to go. Like, how can you be mad at your body? It’s not my body’s fault. My body didn’t just decide to hoover down a gallon of ice cream. I did that. Poor body. If it had a voice of its own, I’m sure it would have a few choice words for me.

On the bright side, however, I am only working half a day today. I’m taking my mom to get a pedicure and then she gets to go with me to pick Cam up from school, which, you know, that’s a big deal for a kid when some other member of the family shows up at school. I loved when my grandparents would pick me up! It didn’t hurt that they always pulled me out of school early and whisked me away to their house in the mountains. I felt like I was really getting away with something. So I am looking forward to that, and to going to the gym later on. And to drinking a gallon of water to get this salt out of me.

Also looking forward to the day when one salty meal and a bad dream doesn’t completely derail my life, but alas- I do not see that day on the horizon.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, family, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery, Uncategorized

Routine Devotion

 

safe

My daughter, the older one, is obsessed with growing things right now. She moved away, out to the middle of nowhere, where she has to hike a mile just to get phone service, and…I’ll be honest with you- I didn’t think she would last a month. I really didn’t. No Instagram? Ha! That was her life, when she was still in town. Well, that was months ago now, and she’s still there. Instead of posting pictures on an app and trying to get followers and likes, she’s started planting things in the ground and saying things like “germinate” and “zones 4-9” (I’m not fucking around, she actually said “these grow really well in zones 4-9” when I spoke with her yesterday. I don’t even know what that means, but I was too surprised to ask) She has made a dozen raised beds, and every other day I get little seed packets mailed to my house with her name on them. All she talks about is her plants.

I think it is pretty amazing. I’ve only had two house plants survive life with me so far, and one of them my cat used as a litter box, so it actually died. Which I guess makes it one plant. I don’t know what kind of plant it is, but it got so big I finally had to move it outside because I don’t know how to deal with it. So I might be down to zero pretty soon. In any case, my point is, my kid has thrown herself 100% into gardening right now.

Last year, she was 100% into beach glass. Beach glass hunting was always my thing, and I dragged her with me mercilessly when she was little. She hated it, and hated the beach, because…well, because I was so into it that it made it a burden rather than fun for her. So imagine my surprise when she started hitting my favorite spot last year and bringing home stuff that was way better than anything I ever found. Day and night, she was beach glass hunting, bringing home piles of beautiful glass and pottery. For Christmas, I bought her sifters and scoops. About a month later, she was over it.

And I thought oh my God. She is just like me.

I have that, too. That thing where, when I like something, I throw myself into it to the exclusion of everything else. Of course, for me it manifested in some really unhealthy behaviors, but…honestly? It could be anything. I have done it with drugs and I have done it with online shopping. Okay, fine, I still do it with online shopping. But I’m getting better. And I really will read all those books, eventually. I’ve heard people in meetings claim their drug of choice is “more”, and I understand that. It doesn’t have to be a substance, it can be anything you do to excess, which for me can manifest itself as anything that feels good. It doesn’t matter what it is.

So I created this routine for myself. It keeps me on track, it keeps me focused, it keeps me safe. I get up early every day, I write. I pray and meditate. I deal with my job as a mom, and I deal with my job that pays my bills. I go to the gym, I walk the dog, I make the food, blah blah blah. It’s not exciting. But it addresses all the things I need to address, and it’s familiar, it’s comfortable, and it’s…safe. It’s SAFE. Like, who makes that their top priority in life? What happened to me?

I was just telling my best friend yesterday how backwards I am right now because my routine has gotten a little disturbed over the past week or so. My mom has been in town (they are “camping” in the most luxurious trailer I have ever seen in my life outside of TV. I’m not kidding, it’s like a condo on wheels) and I’ve been trying to make sure I see her as much as I can. I have…well, I’ve been…lets just say there are some other things going on in my life. No big deal, right? Except for me, sometimes even little changes, even good things, can be overstimulating and throw me for a loop.

But I’m in such a good place right now that I can see it- I can see what is happening, and why I am feeling kinda off, and so I understand it and can make adjustments- to my attitude, or to my behavior, and know I will be okay. I can choose to be more flexible without losing myself completely in the process. Because I think that is what I am most afraid of, and why I am so devoted to my routine- I’m afraid of losing the rhythm that makes my life work. Because when I have gotten off track in the past, it has been disastrous.

I am not my past, though. And life isn’t supposed to be all about following a routine, and being safe above everything else. If the things that keep you safe also keep you from people you love, or from doing anything new, are you even really living? This week I am going to trust that I can still do all the things I need to do to keep my life running smoothly, and make room for all the things that make life worth working so hard for. And I’m going to enjoy every second of it. So there.

 

Posted in Addiction, family, friendship, housekeeping, inner peace, Learning, Life, motherhood, People, recovery

Mementos

letters

I spent a good portion of last weekend cleaning my house. It needed to be done, and it always feels great having order restored, however temporary that order may be. But, when I found myself house-bound with a sick child both Monday and Tuesday, I was sort of at a loss for what to do. I could have folded the three loads of laundry that are sitting in a basket on my couch, but for whatever reason, I just can’t quite bring myself to deal with that. I did my normal avoidance routine, consisting of screwing around online, and binge watching yet another show (Mom this time, on Hulu- if you haven’t watched it, check it out. It’s pretty hilarious.). Eventually, though, I had to do something else, something productive, and I knew it was time. Time to deal with The Closet.

The Closet is in the hall, four doors, two on the bottom, two on the top, and I have been avoiding it for three years. Well, three years in March. That’s when I moved into this house, and that’s when I shoved The Closet full of bags and boxes of paperwork and keepsakes and God only knows what else, and left it to rot. I was still getting loaded when I moved into this place, and to be honest, I’ve been a little afraid of what I might find if I went poking around in there.

But on Monday, I put my big girl pants on and started digging- one bag and box at a time. There was a lot of junk, sure…things I should have thrown out eons ago. Printer cartridges for printers I don’t own anymore, file folders full of bills that no longer exist, insurance information for cars I no longer own. I filled up my recycle bin in the space of a few hours. I didn’t find anything to be ashamed of, though, and certainly nothing that put my recovery in danger. So that was a relief.

And then…and then I found some other stuff. I’ve kept boxes for each of my children- those fancy, pretty banker boxes- not the plain brown kind, but the ones you can buy at Marshall’s or Target with the beautiful designs on them? I’ve kept them for my kids and for myself for quite some time. I never really thought about how long I’ve kept them, and I don’t know if I’ve every thoroughly, soberly, gone through them since I started, but…I’m really glad I did.

Although I am working hard on my opinion of myself as a mother today, in the present, my opinion of the kind of mother I have been in the past has become rather concrete. I was a horrible mother, I decided, with no redeemable qualities, and my daughter would have been better off with anyone else. I was heartless and unloving and drug addicted, and I can rarely think of a time when I didn’t suck, heartily, at the task of parenting my eldest child. But her box of mementos tells a different story. I have every art project, every note to Santa and the Tooth Fairy, every report card and hand-made note she ever made for me- so many that I might need a bigger box. This “horrible mother” wrote things my daughter said to me on sticky notes and kept them, all these years. There are pictures of us that I had forgotten about, and we are laughing and playing, and clinging onto one another with love. My mind, my awful, lying mind told me a story and I believed it, and I have carried it around with me for all these years, without question. The things in this box tells me that maybe there is more to that story, more that I need to remember.

In my own box, I found cards and letters- real, hand written letters- from people whom I love, and who love ME. Letters from my best friend Grace, and letters and cards from my grandparents and mom, and a whole bunch of letters from Joe, my friend who died in August. You can’t imagine, you really can’t begin to imagine, how much that meant to me. Reading through all of those words from people who cared so much about me, not just when I was clean, but throughout the worst parts of my life, reminded me that I still had value, I was still worth so much, even when I believed myself to be worthless. I may not have been well, but I was loved, and I was worth something to all these people.

It blows my mind that living the crazy, chaotic life that I lived for so long, having lost nearly everything I owned on more occasions than I can remember, I managed to save these amazing items. I lost households of furniture and closets of clothes, but I have the discharge papers from my daughter’s birth in 1997, and all the cards from the people who visited me at the hospital. I lost everything, except the most important things of all- the slips of paper, the glossy cards, the letters that could fill in for me the memories I lost along the way. The story of a girl who wasn’t all dark, who always had a little light, a little more worth, than I could have remembered on my own.

The Closet is nearly done now- just one more shelf to go, and it will be neat as a pin. I put those boxes away after shedding a few tears, and I sat down on the couch full of wonder and feeling so much lighter. I am not exactly who I thought I was, and for once, I was so glad to be wrong…and anytime I start to forget, or start listening to the lying voice in my head, I know I can just pull one of those boxes down out of that closet, and find all the evidence I need that I’m not all bad. That there was something worth saving in me all along.