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Practice makes patience

1 Mar

12:55 pm

I know, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted!  I don’t know why, but this year has felt so full, so busy, almost overwhelming.  Good and bad things, both, I guess.

And, well, the challenges continue, is all I can say!  From social anxiety surrounding “you can’t go home again” relationships–ones that seem to have fractured in our absence–to my night heat and insomnia–I see my doctor in a few weeks, so maybe she’ll have a “magic pill”…haha–to our sweet girlfriend goin’ down–our dog of 12 years or so, who has so magestically endured intense osteoarthritic pain, is starting to really show signs of hitting bottom–le sigh.  Sure, I’ve wanted to drink, but it never goes beyond those pangs of desperation.  Not yet, anyway.

I am trying to cultivate more patience this year, but this week has really tested my resolve!  I have had conflicts, let’s just say, with some of my relationships, and I’ve been mulling over just what to do about them in order to somehow resolve that conflict.  It’s been bugging me, just hanging in limbo.  After much thought, I guess I’ve concluded that, in sum, relationships that require too much work just need to be put to the side–maybe not forever, but for now.

It does not take work with my mom, or my boo, or those friends who don’t want anything from you and who are, in a word, OK with being vulnerable.  There are a LOT of people, it seems, who are not OK with being vulnerable, and who are, um, so up in their heads that it’s simply difficult to relate.

I get it, I was there, both before and while I was getting sober; and I wasn’t easy to relate to.  Maybe that’s why I see some of my fractured relationships with such clarity:  I am trying to relate to someone who either does not want to, actually, relate (manipulative or narcissistic people); or to people who are not ready to relate (insecure people).

In any case, I put in some “work” this past week–a few trying phone calls, some dinners where I felt uncomfortable social anxiety–and have come to a few resolutions about some of the trickier ones.  One of those is with this one person who, I feel, has not only led me on, but led a LOT of people on in terms of who she is and her intentions.  I don’t know what either is, her or her intentions, but they are not what I thought (years of sweet, friendly texts, only to be responded to with a cold shoulder in real life, again and again and again).  At first, I took offense; but now, I look outside and see the quiet green hills and soothing blue water; look down at my sweet girl; look at my life and how grateful I am to be here, witnessing it–and I say, let it go, she’s not ready; and, frankly, it’s neither my problem nor worth spending time trying to figure it out.  Essentially, you can’t relate to someone who either simply isn’t into you or, for whatever reason, cannot relate.  And, I can resolve this conflict now by stopping texting her back.  And, I believe with someone as inscrutable as this woman, that’s the best thing to do.

My dad is another story, and the short of it is, he is a bipolar narcissist–who, I’ve noticed, lies a lot (maybe he did before and I just refused to see it). Anyway, we had a conversation last week that once again left me feeling confused, upset, and essentially, used–he is using his kids for a few things these days, for one as sounding boards for said lies, half-truths, and flights of fancy.  If he refuses to get help, then, at a certain point, I get to say, I refuse to engage in this relationship.  I talked to my mom, and she said, be prepared to emotionally block it out when you talk to him; my step-mom says, don’t feel guilty about not calling him back.  Me, I just want to not relate at all.  It’s one of those niggling things that makes me want to drink sometimes.

Another niggler is um, being catcalled by men stopping on the road alongside me as I’m running, and saying, need a ride?  That, along with feeling like, I have no control over my body these days (night heat, insomnia!), sooooo maybe I don’t deserve control, as these men are implying as they drive by, assuming ownership?

ONE more niggler–waaaaaa, I don’t get to drink or smoke weed on the boat trip or at dinners with our friends, but everyone else gets their break; it’s just not fair!–and I just about almost inhaled the shitty white cooking wine that I was staring down in our fridge last night.

On a positive note, the night heat subsided the past 10 days–what a fucking reprieve–and, I am plugging away at my job, heading off on a trip at the end of this week (a fun one–a yoga retreat partly led by an old friend), and going away again in a few more weeks on another trip (a pseudo-fun one–a conference for work).

(On a less positive one, the day is approaching when we are actually going to have to say goodbye to our dog–my best friend; one of the anchors to our first years on island, our past; one of my sober higher powers; the one who taught me how to love myself, how to be fierce, and strong, and steadfast.  My best, best girl.  I know it’s probably not humane to let her shit and piss herself, but…aside from that, she’s fine, she’s fine.  Ugh.  I love her so much, but I will have to let her go, too.)

Most days, I cultivate a LOT of patience; some days (and nights), it gets away from me…  BUT, I will not drink.  Promise.  I cannot drink.  I deserve much more than to drink, no matter if I somehow think that it will make some of this stuff easier.

The power of expectations

29 Apr

12:02 am

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations lately–who gets to have them, if anyone, and when they should be had, basically.  In fact, I expected this post to go smoothly–I mean, I wasn’t thinking it would go any other way–and after typing a few paragraphs, I hit the wrong key and deleted everything!  Haha.  So much for my expectations!

The other day, my mom told me all about her hashtag-fail of an evening at her brother’s (my uncle’s):  in my words, he and his partner got stupid drunk (this has been happening for as long as I can remember; they love to drink, but at this point, I wonder if they might consider themselves on the alcoholic spectrum?) and said mean things, and he ended up passing out before she went home.  She expected the night to go one way, and it didn’t; I talked to her today, and she also expected him to react differently to her reaching out to follow up on his short email of an apology, and he didn’t.

I do this all the time, putting expectations on people’s behavior toward me, and then when they don’t behave how I expect or want, I become upset and almost obsessive.  Why didn’t they do this (what I thought they should have done)?  Why didn’t they say this (what I thought they should have said)?

I had a roommate about 10 years ago (man, time flies!)–in all honesty, I feel like I lost her when I decided to get sober; or, at the very least, we both had a hand in our growing apart–who was studying to be a clinical psychologist, and she was the first person to ask me why I was putting expectations on people’s behavior.  It was the first time I wondered, in fact, why I expected people to do and say things that seemed “right” to me, but that really had no basis in any universal truth or code of conduct or morality.  It was the first time I looked back at my own role in bad relationships; it helped me to start to let go of a LOT of stuff that I was holding way too close to my heart.  It helped me to stop taking everything so personally–a trait I am pretty sure I learned from my mom.

It’s really hard to not have expectations, I have to say.  I have high expectations for every weekend, but I usually don’t get as much done as I want, and I feel let down.  I had expectations of my new job (as my boo pointed out to me the other day) that I wasn’t really aware I had:  I thought my new job, because it was in the “nonprofit” realm, would be less “corporate,” but I’ve discovered over the past five months on said job that this simply is not true (and, in fact, it’s more “corporate” than any other job in the professional world I’ve held!).  I don’t know–plug in any task, chore, event, situation, and I have some level of expectation around it.

It’s also hard to determine what, actually, are expectations, and what are hopes and dreams and goals.  I don’t want to have no expectations of let’s say, my relationship or job and then not know what I’m striving to gain, or hold.  My question to self has always been, should I expect anything, and is having NO expectations a form of cynicism?  It’s almost impossible to not expect things:  when I inhale, I expect to breathe, right?  When I walk into a church or synagogue, I expect to feel and be safe (ugh).  When I interact with coworkers, I expect to be treated fairly and with an appropriate amount of professionalism…and now I’m getting into the territory of “personal ethics” versus “truth” or “morality,” and that’s where it starts to get blurry.  Not everyone has your code of personal and professional ethics!

It’s nebulous, and it’s challenging–my ideas and moods and perceptions change on a daily basis, as I hope (expect?) other people’s do, too.  How much should and how much can I expect?  Or, what expectations protect me from being cheated, or hurt, and what expectations, if not met, should force me to change something in my life in order to honor myself, others, my goals, or my worldview and set of personal ethics?

Hmm…

“Deep” thoughts for a Sunday night.

It’s a work in progress, figuring all this out; but I will say, not drinking and being hungover makes it a lot easier to see it all clearer–and, to stop introducing unnecessary complications into my relationships to people, places, and things.

On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

So, this morning, as I was scrolling Facebook, I became frustrated:

Why do I have to care about you?  Ugh, I should have gone to that thing last night–why am I so lazy, why am I so antisocial? 

And, on and on and on.  I saw in the early years of my sobriety just how much I could overthink and overanalyze, and how this contributed to my unhappiness and dependence on wine to escape my thinking.

It got me thinking about something else, too:  here I was, on a beautiful Sunday morning, and what was I doing but berating myself because I had let my Facebook feed intimidate me!

In getting sober and staying sober, I have come to realize that creating boundaries and saying ‘no’ are essential to my peace of mind.  There are a LOT of things that caused me to binge drink and drink alcoholically, and I never made the connection between that reactive behavior and the bullying forces in my life until I got sober.

In fact, there are a lot of bullies in everyone’s life–whether your friends, parents, or coworkers are consciously aware that they are being bullies is up for debate, though.  And, until I started to understand the concepts of boundaries and saying no–that there could be emotional bullying, and that this is far more prevalent than actual, literal bullying–I didn’t get that I could both say, No, I will not do that, and say no to taking on other people’s stress or expectations of me (or themselves).

It still makes me feel angry when I delve into this aspect of long-term sobriety, and I feel like this is something that will never go away completely because almost everyone out there (including myself) is engaging in some form of bullying–whether it’s dumping their emotional baggage on you, manipulating your weaknesses, or just using your reactions to make themselves feel better.  I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it’s ME who is in control of how I perceive and receive people, and how I react and interact with them–that ultimately, bullying is a two-way street.

Some real-world examples:

Facebook/social media–Before I got sober, I would scroll relentlessly, and I would allow everyone’s story to affect me.  I would internalize my feelings of “not good enough” and “guilty” and “should have, could have, would have” without realizing that one, I didn’t need to feel any of that, and two, I had control over who and what I let into my worldview.  These days, when I feel that coming on, I try to remember that social media is not real life; people posting to social media are not trying to offend me, personally; and if I want to not care, I can choose to not care and close the app.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not really interacting with my so-called friends; I have friends in the here and now, and I can interact with them–and this is healthy, and it is good enough.  These days, I would much rather engage people offline, in the real world, and not on social, email, or text.  And, some days, it’s as simple as closing the app and moving on with my day–and not judging myself to be a bad friend, somehow, because I have chosen to be a spectator on social media and not a player.

Parents–You know, before I got sober, I didn’t have as much frustration toward my parents for their mental health issues as I do now.  I knew that my mom’s difficulty setting emotional boundaries and my dad’s bullying behavior definitely contributed to my drinking, but I didn’t know exactly how.  In any case, I internalized my mom’s pain, and I always tried to please my dad–two things that I have to work very hard at today, every time I talk to them, to NOT do!

These days, I don’t know if I’ve figured out exactly how these family relationships have made me who I am, but in getting sober, I have learned that calling my parents less is OK, that not allowing them to control how I feel is OK, that putting up boundaries and saying no to their projections and expectations is OK–I wish it was different because they are in their 70s and “should know better,” but…

My mom has a lot of health problems these days, and so, our calls are always quite long and tedious. I feel like she feels slighted that I don’t call often, and I feel almost unconsciously judged for having become an alcoholic drinker and for not having had kids; but none of this matters when it comes to me needing to say no to taking on her bad mood or her feelings of helplessness.  In part, I think she wants me to share my own health problems, but I refuse to go down that road because it’s almost as if she relishes that; simply put, I DO NOT relish it.

My dad is an entirely different beast in that the family believes he has multiple actual mental health disorders, and his entire way in the world with everyone has always been about manipulating other people to do what he wants them to do for him, and expectation (I am hard on myself and need to prove my worth, so you should be, too).  I have simply come to the frustrating conclusion recently that nothing will ever change in our relationship except the way that I deal with it.  I have decided that while our conversations won’t change, and while I’ll never likely be able to directly say no to him, I can say no to his expectations–I love our life, and I don’t have to let him lead the conversation toward accomplishment as a measure of success.

Job and school stress–It took me getting sober to see that I was putting a TON of unnecessary expectations and pressure on myself for many, many years.  And, that I don’t have to respond to stress the way people around me are either responding to it or worse, telling me how I “should” respond to it.  It’s like, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses by wanting that house, or that car, or that “bigger” job–likewise, at work, I don’t have to stress out just because my boss or coworkers are stressing out, necessarily or unnecessarily so.  You don’t have to stress out to care, or to prepare; stress will not help you have fun.  You can (and should!) take long showers, eat nice dinners, go to your yoga class, or hey, even hit the beach (man, I miss it!)–AND get your work done, and be a careful, caring employee who is worthy of her paycheck.  This mentality is really hard to push back against, but I have to push back–if not just in defense of my health, but in defense of my sobriety.

Exhale.  We all have to set boundaries and guard them fiercely, no matter if we’re getting or staying sober.  Likewise, we all get to say ‘no’–and that is a beautiful thing.  I think that is the most empowering aspect to my sobriety, and to my evolving life and lifestyle these days.  As recovering binge drinkers or alcoholics, saying no is essential to our happiness, to our joy, to our continued sobriety.

So…just say no (sometimes)!

Wake up!

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