Posted in Addiction, adventure, alcoholism, faith, family, Goals, Life, living, motherhood, Musings, People, random, recovery

Looking up

looking up

I went to bed last night feeling grateful for the sleepy little bed-hog lying next to me, even if she was mad at me for cruelly coming between her and her Kindle at the obscenely early hour of eight p.m.- no one ever said being a good mama was always fun. School starts up again today after a week off, and she needs her rest, after all. But I lay there, drifting off to sleep, patting her leg, and I was happy.

I woke up this morning, poured myself a big, strong cup of coffee, and began my routine of letting various animals out and in, and then out again. My cat, in particular, is incredibly indecisive, and we do this little dance about forty times a morning. Anyway, I let Lucy, my big, sweet black lab in, and realized I didn’t so much as acknowledge her existence. Here she is, so absolutely in love with me, and I don’t even look at her when I let her in. How rude. So I sat down and called her over for some love. The goofy little look of bliss on her face as I hugged her and scratched her back was worth a million bucks.

I’ve just been noticing, lately, how sweet my life is. Been feeling grateful for the blessings of my children, my pets, my home, my job, and of course, my recovery, without which  the rest wouldn’t be possible. I wish I could say that it’s just coincidental, or maybe because this new medication is kicking in, but…the truth is, it’s because I’m about to leave all of this behind and fly away on Thursday to the East coast for a vacation all on my own. I mean, I’ll be with my friend Alicia, but no kids, no pets, no job, no nothing. I will be bringing my recovery with me, of course. That goes with me everywhere. But nothing makes me more grateful for something than the idea of being without it, even if it is just temporarily.

I have 100% faith that my older daughter and her boyfriend will take excellent care of my pets and my home while I’m gone. They definitely aren’t the type to throw parties or do anything stupid, so that’s not a concern. I’m like 98% sure that Cam’s dad will take excellent care of Cam in my absence, the 2% basically being that he won’t brush her hair properly or make her go to sleep at a decent hour. But she’ll survive that. I’m about 75% sure that my plane won’t crash, either going or coming home, which is a vast improvement over my previous feelings about flying, where I was 99% sure I would die, so that’s good news. Especially for the people unfortunate enough to have to sit near me on the plane- I could drive anyone to drink with the anxiety that used to pour off of me. I’ve decided to just watch X-files and zone out until we touch down in Boston.

But one thing I know with absolute certainty is, I am damn lucky to have a life that I love enough to miss while I’m away, and that I will love coming back to. Sometimes I forget where I came from, what it was like for me not so long ago. I get so wrapped up in my head, so tortured by my thoughts, that I can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m glad to have this clarity for once, this better perspective on my life. I’m proud of the woman I have become- one who has healed so many relationships, and grown a life that is more calm and more loving, and more “normal” than I ever thought myself capable of having. And I’m super stoked that I planned and payed for (a whole year in advance, even!) a vacation to a place I have been dreaming of going for the longest time! No way I could’ve pulled this off in my addiction. No. Freaking. Way.

So cheers to that! To me, and to my life, and to my beautiful children. To safe flights and new sights, and the big world waiting to be discovered. To daydreams, and adventures, and the people we come home to. And last, but never least, to the life recovery has made possible. I am truly grateful.

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Posted in Addiction, Dreams, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, recovery, Uncategorized

Bloom Where you’re Planted

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There’s this thing I love to do, where I window-shop for houses on Zillow, almost exclusively in places where I’ve never been. I have this obsession with the east coast, and the idea of seasons- autumn leaves in fall and snow on Christmas, the sweet relief of melting snow in spring and delicious summer nights spent with the windows open. And there is nothing wrong with that, I guess…except that I live here, on the west coast, and this is where my life is unfolding.

I notice that I do the Zillow browsing most when I am feeling the least thrilled with my life here. The cost of living in California is astronomical, and it would be really hard for me to buy a house here on my own, something that has become more and more important to me over the past couple of years.

But it’s more than that, I think. I have always been a daydreamer, but there is this other part to these daydreams- the idea that I could be happier if only I were somewhere else, doing something else. There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming, but it’s the idea that the grass is greener elsewhere that makes trouble. Rather than tending to this lawn right beneath my feet, I’m staring across the country, into the yard of someone who has made it look really pretty for the photos.

And then there is this other part- the part where, and I have learned this lesson already- I will still be me wherever I go. No matter where I am, all my troubles come with me. You cannot run away from your own restless nature. You cannot escape a longing for another place…no matter where you are, that longing will just change direction. When I ran away to Reno years ago, thinking that this peninsula where I sit now was the root of all my problems, I would stand in my bathroom late at night and pretend the cars rushing by on the busy road some miles away were the roaring of distant surf. I just wanted to go home.

I am such a strange human. I long for change and for routine at the same time. I want to travel and still, somehow, sleep in my own bed. I want to start over without losing anything in the process. I want to keep everything I have and have everything I want.

But most of all, I just want to be happy.

And happiness is not a place. Happiness is not waiting for me in an empty house in Maine. Happiness is right here, waiting for me to notice it. I found it yesterday in the most mundane things- a morning spent with my daughter, cleaning out the “linen” closet, which held everything except linen, and packing up seven bags of junk to go to Goodwill. It was in the satisfaction of accomplishing something with someones help, and just being together.

I found it working my 11th step with my sponsor yesterday, and really understanding what this journey of recovery has meant to me, has made of me, over this past few years. I am not at all who I was at the start, although the changes have been so gradual and subtle that it’s hard to notice as they happen. We had to take turns reading because we both kept getting so overwhelmed with gratitude and choked up.

I found happiness standing on the beach yesterday- a perfect late afternoon in early fall. The air was just right- not too cold, not too warm, and my daughter flew a kite with her dad as I tossed the ball for the dogs and just took it all in. I feel peaceful and…full, I guess, just thinking about it.

The grass is not greener somewhere else. Happiness is not a place. I am fine right where I am.

A long time ago, I had this sticker that I loved. It said “Bloom Where You’re Planted”, and I thought that was such a wonderful saying. It was easy for me, at 17, to be happy wherever I happened to be. I think it’s high time I get back to that.

Starting right here, right where I am.

Posted in family, friendship, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, relationships

Yesterday

connection

 

God, yesterday was gorgeous. Not just the weather- although that was gorgeous, too, but…it was the content of the day that left me, at the end of it, feeling loved and valuable and as if I truly have places and people to whom I belong, where I am wanted.

I didn’t know that I was feeling like that wasn’t true. I didn’t know what that emptiness was or why it was there until it started to fill up again, and then I got it. I’ve been lonely, and I didn’t even know that’s what it was. I thought loneliness felt a different way, I guess.

I know that I spend too much time alone. I thought that I preferred to be alone, and it’s true- I do value my down time. But, as with all things in my life, I tend to overdo anything that feels good…and too much of anything that feels good will eventually morph into something that doesn’t feel so good anymore. Balance- I have never been very talented at that. I could use a little bit more moderation in most things.

I attended a celebration of life for my friend Che who passed away a few months ago. He was only 46- just a few years older than me- and he had a heart attack while surfing. I was nervous, as I usually am before any type of gathering, but I pulled myself together and I got in the car and went. As I drove over the hill to Carmel, the sun was shining, and the world was so breathtaking, and the tears started coming…yesterday would have been Che’s 47th birthday. He was too young. What else is there to say? That is just too young.

I got to meet his mama, and give her a big hug. He was her only child, and I don’t know how…I don’t have any idea how one survives something like this. I didn’t know anyone there at first, but then a few old friends of mine showed up, and God, it was so good to see these people. One in particular that I hadn’t seen in…gosh, probably almost 20 years! We were over the moon to see each other after so much time. There was more laughter than tears, lots of love and warmth in that place. I’m so glad I went.

I had to leave a little early to head over to a baby shower- my daughter’s best friend since 5th grade is due in November, and I couldn’t miss out on celebrating with her. We had so much fun! I adore Kristina, although her mother and I despaired over our two wild girls many, many times throughout their teenage years. We laughed about how often we plotted to keep them apart, all of it always amounting to nothing. Kristina has been a steadfast and faithful friend to my daughter, and it’s so wonderful to get to watch her life progress. Oh my goodness, we laughed so much yesterday.

After that, I got a surprise phone call from a friend who NEVER calls me, and we talked for almost an hour. She is trying to cope with the terminal illness of another friend of ours who has very little time left…he has made her the medical decision maker, and she is doing the best she can. I offered to help any way that I could, and we talked…oh, she is one of the good ones, we get to talk about the deep stuff, and I love it so much.

Finally, just to cap off my day, I loaded up the car with Cam and Lucy the lab, and we headed to the beach. We made it just in time for a beautiful sunset, and I…what can I tell you? My heart was so full.

In one short day, I celebrated the too-short life of a friend I’ve known for over half of my life. I celebrated the coming birth of a brand new life. I reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in years, had some deep conversations, reminisced about a past that might not have been as awful as I’ve let myself believe. I witnessed the full spectrum of life, didn’t I? And at the end of it all was a stunning sunset with more people (and pets) that I love.

I dumped the sand out of my shoes last night, and fell into bed exhausted, but, for the first time in so long…I was content.

I want more days like that. Of course I do. Maybe without having to lose anyone else, though. That would be even better.

Posted in anxiety, Depression, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People

Changing Your Mind

change your mind

Yesterday, I had a little breakthrough. It all started because I made up my mind on Sunday (statistically, the day I am most likely to make up my mind about things because, as you may know by now, I am the one person on earth who loves Monday’s, since they are the start of a fresh, shiny new week) night that I was going to have a good week this week. Anyway, I woke up yesterday feeling groggy but hopeful, and within an hour or so of waking, I had worked up a little enthusiasm for the week.

Would I allow my anxiety to get started? NO. Would I be enthusiastic and engaged in my life? YES. There is a little cheerleader who secretly lives in my brain (don’t tell anyone, please) and she comes out when I let her, to get me all excited about the possibilities. Yesterday was a good day for her. Which usually means it will be a good day for me, too. Obviously, we are one and the same, it’s just that I have a hard time identifying with a cheerleader, so I like to compartmentalize. Anyway…

Some things that have been troubling me were examined and re-framed. One of them was this whole worry about my kid thing- I talked to the principal last week and found out that there are at least two teachers present during pick-up, one of whom is usually him, and the fact that he knows Cam, and is aware that she is being picked up after school, and who is picking her up- that went a long way towards soothing my worries. Plus, this is the second week now, so it has become more routine. You know how I love my routines. So, that is under control for now.

Another thing has been work. Since we have gone to a new computer system, work has been chaotic and so very different. What I thought would be an easy transition has actually been like starting a brand new job, and after ten years of doing the same thing every day, it has been a major disruption to my routine (there’s that word again). But you know what I realized yesterday? There has never been a task set before me that I could not master- not ever, not once, at least not at work. I can’t think of anything outside of work, either, to be honest. I’m not saying I am great at everything, but I am teachable. I am smart enough to figure things out. This will be no different. So my goal now is to learn this system and become proficient at it, and I think that will come with time. Knowing that, I can relax a little bit.

Finally, yesterday was the one year anniversary of my friend Joe’s death- I’ve written plenty about him, but in case you missed it, his death shook me pretty hard. I’ve made peace with it- what else is there to do? But it occurred to me how blessed I am to be alive, to have all of these opportunities to evolve and change and get better. Rather than sit in my shit and expend all of my limited energy being upset, worried, and critical of myself, I should probably find a way to celebrate my very life, reflect on all those blessings, and be attentive to the things that I get right. Doesn’t that sound so much better? Yes, I thought so, too.

Which brings me, finally, to the point of this post. I am not naive enough to believe that simply making up your mind to be happy will solve all of your problems, believe me. Mental illness, to whatever degree you may suffer it (and seriously, we all have our shit) is REAL. But the mind IS a powerful thing, and on a good day, we can get ahead of the game a little bit if we set ourselves up in the right way. I do believe that is possible. I have gotten really good, over the years, at noticing the ways in which my thoughts go wrong and lead me to trouble. I used to think the most awful things about myself until I really started paying attention, and now I am much less likely to go off the rails thanks to my inner mean-girl insulting me- but it took time, lots of time, and lots of noticing it.

Well, yesterday, I noticed that my mind tends to focus on all of the things that I couldn’t get to in a day, or forgot to do, or could have done better. The thing is, I have unnaturally high expectations of myself, and of other people, if I’m being totally honest. Which makes it hard for me to like and accept myself, and doesn’t make it easy to be my friend, either. Passing acquaintance, yes. Good friend? Not so much. But that is a blog for another day. Right now, I want to tell you how, once I started noticing my tendency to fixate on what hadn’t gone right in my day,  it was super easy to change my mind to focus on what I HAD done, and what HAD gone right. I simply changed my focus. Again, and again, and again. I congratulated myself on everything that I had accomplished. I said out loud how proud I was of myself. I called myself a good mom. I’m really glad no one could hear me, because I probably sounded crazy.

The thing is, by the time I threw my happy ass into bed, I was all aglow with my own praise. I know, I know- this sounds weird as hell. But you know what? Who cares? It worked for me. It felt good. And honestly, there is no one else around to give me the positive reinforcement that I crave as a human being, so why not provide it for myself? It’s certainly not hurting anyone.

Replacing a negative thought with a positive one. Noticing an achievement rather than a “failure”. Giving yourself props instead of tearing yourself down. Exercising your power to change your mind, to choose your thoughts and perspective. What a concept, huh? Maybe all this mindfulness bullshit isn’t bullshit at all.

Have a wonderful day!

 

 

Posted in Depression, family, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, random

Good Morning

Outside, the fog has been thick, every single morning for days and days. Just a typical summer here on the peninsula. My garden is in full bloom, wilder than I know how to contain, and the whole world smells like the ocean. It’s not quite daylight yet.

Inside, I sit here at my desk with my little desk light on, writing this. The wash machine is chugging away, and the dryer, too. My house smells like clean laundry. My daughter sleeps soundly in my bed, and the dog is snoring in her own bed. The cats wind around my ankles, demanding attention, and I mostly ignore them. Mostly.

Thursday, Friday, and yesterday I was bogged down in exhaustion. From Cam going back to school to me having to change my whole schedule for work, not to mention getting used to our new computer system and doing all the chores that the new school year entails, it’s no wonder I was tapped out. But I always worry when I start to feel that way, as it’s often the first sign of a new round of feeling low, depression nipping at my heels. I worry. It’s hard to tell the difference between just plain tiredness and something more serious. And I’d only just started feeling better, so…

Luckily, I woke up this morning feeling rested, peaceful, and ready to take on the day. Good thing I did, because I have a LOT to do around here. Being out of the house for the past two weeks during the day, and coming home ready to collapse into bed, things have reached a new level of disarray in this house. The laundry is piled up to the ceiling (almost) and the fridge is full of food that is no longer edible. I have shopping and cleaning and laundry to do, so this would not be a good time to fall into a funk. I’ll do what I can today and not a sliver more.

But for now, for right this minute, I’m going to revel in contentment. Pour myself one more cup of coffee and read another chapter in my book, watch the world wake up. Exactly the way a Sunday morning should be. Hope you are having a good morning, too, wherever you are. 🙂

Posted in Addiction, escape, Goals, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, recovery

Time for Change

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On Monday, I was feeling grouchy and restless, like a caged animal after sitting here working all day long- that’s one of the drawbacks of working at home; when I worked in the office, I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. When you work at home, all you want to do is go somewhere else when you clock out…except, if you are me, you are probably still wearing sweaty-ass yoga pants, no make up, and hair that looks like you stuck your finger in a light socket. So, I either have to summon up the energy to make myself look slightly less homeless in order to leave my house (how funny) or, give in to the beckoning call of inertia and flop on the couch to watch TV which will ultimately do nothing but make me feel even worse.

On this particular day, though, Camryn suggested we go to the library. We had books that were a week past due, and I really did need a change of pace, so I agreed. Plus, bonus- you don’t have to look nice at all to go to the library! After settling part of my outrageous overdue book fees, Cam got herself a drawing book, and grudgingly trailed after me as I wandered up and down every single aisle in the downstairs section of the Monterey library. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I hoped to find something inspiring and uplifting- something to shake me out of the funk I had been going in and out of for the past…I don’t know, 40 years or so.

I grabbed a stack of books, and we checked out and headed home after a quick stop at Trader Joe’s for some chocolate and blueberries, among other snacks. Soon as we got back to the house, I pulled out one of the books and started reading it. It was called “Martha’s Vineyard- Isle of Dreams”, and at first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get through it- it’s written in handwriting-like script, and there are hundreds of quotes and watercolor pictures throughout the book, so at first it’s a little jarring, as it doesn’t read like the books I am used to- books that have very few, if any, quotes, and generally no pictures at all. But within a few pages, I had forgotten all about the strangeness of it and was totally sucked in to the story.

Oh, and it’s not a story-story, by the way. It’s a biography of sorts, the true tale of a woman named Susan Branch who “accidentally” moved to Martha’s Vineyard and bought a house in the woods, after fleeing California when her marriage ended. She was looking for a house to rent, short term, and wound up buying a little house after being there for three days or something like that. The whole story takes place in the 80’s, which doesn’t matter other than the fact that you probably can’t buy a house there super cheap anymore, and anyway…I just fell in love, you guys. The way that she describes the changing seasons, and the beautiful simplicity of her life- her garden, and her walks in the woods, the ocean, the seasons, the quiet. Just talking about it right now makes me want to cry. It stirs such a funny longing in me. And it really makes me think, very hard, again, about the way I am living my life.

I have only been clean for a little more than three years. Which means that I am just now, at 43, learning about what kind of person I am, and trying to figure out what sort of life the person I am truly wants to live. I sort of woke up right in the middle of a life that I had stumbled into, and it is a GOOD life. I have this career, and security, good health insurance, stability…all of these things that people want, right? So when I think to myself “this doesn’t feel like the right life for me”, it is scary and I feel guilty, as if wanting something different makes me ungrateful. I am not ungrateful. I’m just…wondering. Wondering if I could survive, or thrive, or be wildly, giddily, in love with a different kind of life. And I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to be happier.

I checked out the book on Monday evening. It is now Wednesday morning, and I have finished it. It was 368 pages, and I worked all day yesterday, so when I tell you that I did a lot of reading, you have to believe that I did. Because of this book, I made a batch of blueberry muffins with Camryn, from scratch, yesterday after work. Because of this book, after my meeting last night I went by myself to the beach, and sat on the rocky sand, as evening descended, and just soaked in the salty air, watched the choppy, steel-gray waves crash on the shore, and relished the cold. It really got me thinking.

I need to slow way down. Like, way, way down. Be outside more. Be quiet more. Be on Facebook WAY less. Read more books and watch less TV. Cook more often. Talk to actual people, rather than scroll past their faces online, clicking like instead of having conversations. I don’t have to- and I shouldn’t, I know this- uproot my life on a whim and move across the country to “find myself”. But I do need to examine these feelings, and see what I can do to honor myself, and my one precious life. I have faith that I will find the answers, that they are already there, just waiting for me to discover them. I have to stop losing sight of what really matters, and every time I check out- on the internet, or by binge watching twelve seasons of some stupid TV show- I am doing just that. Losing sight of what really matters. Checking out. No wonder I feel so restless…my spirit is trying to get my attention, and I have been ignoring that.

No more. It’s time to pay attention. Time to make some changes.

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.