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Cherish the moment

15 Feb

8:18 pm

Lately, I’ve been doing a LOT of thinking, working, analyzing–one day, I keep telling myself, I won’t have to do what I do for a living; one day, I can do something different.  Then, I look at how much it costs to buy a home and think, um, yeah, I better keep my day job, as it were!

Anyway, this morning, I had a really nice moment:

Between the “partly” and “cloudy,” we had a few minutes of sunshine.  It is truly glorious here after a short, light rain:  the water gets caught in all the tropical nooks and crannies, and it makes everything sparkle as the breeze blows.

I took my coffee outside and found a patch of sun and just stood there.  I noticed a HUGEASS spider–we have these crazy-big, black-and-grey, striped spiders down here, and they like to weave their nests in the bush, from branch to branch.  I saw it and just stared.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw motion, and it turned out to be this orangey lizard slowly and smoothly swishing its razor-fine tail back and forth in the light.  Next, I fixated on a quiet bee meandering through the air, from one landing spot to a future one, no doubt.  I could hear the near-symphony of sounds, scents, and movement in the air–all enveloped in this quiet calm.  There was no rush, nothing to think about, nothing to analyze.  It is, to me, a heavenly place, the natural world, especially the tropical one.  So much life, and crosstalk, yet complete harmony.

Ahh, I thought.  I’d love to be here one day, a part of this world; no longer analyzing, or trying to remember, or attempting to capture or somehow hold onto this moment.  It’s an illusion, the stress of not holding onto it; there is no need to hold what does not go away, what is constant.  And, in this rare moment this morning, all I wanted to do was have this moment, to observe it, and then, let it go.  And, I did.

It’s been a long year so far, with every day presenting challenges to my motivation and sanity!  However, I am reminded (thankfully, on days like today) of the “real-er” world around me, the one that does not need to be understood or made better or fixed; it never needs to be analyzed; its moments are special, but they are transient and meant to be let go.

I am glad I had a moment like this, this morning, to remember that good things are coming my way; just be here, now.

Being grateful and staying present

31 Dec

3:33 pm

So, as you know, we are about to embark on a new year, a new decade, a…blah blah blah.  For some reason, I just can’t this year.  I can’t try that hard to have a “memorable” New Year’s Eve this year.  Granted, just being sober will make it 100 percent more memorable than a lot of my past New Year’s Eves.  Kidding aside, I’m just kind of burnt this year, and tired of trying to coordinate and make it happen–in spite of my own resistance, fatigue, and other people’s inability to commit.  Frankly, I kind of want to spend it alone, with my dog, watching TV (my boo has to work).  I have never wanted to watch television on NYE, but this year, it sounds perfectly acceptable!

What I want for myself for this new year is to stop taking people–their actions, my thoughts about their actions–personally.  I think that will go a LONG way toward being grateful and staying present.  Lately, I’ve found myself spiraling down my mental rabbit hole by forgetting to be grateful for the BAZILLION things that are important–my sobriety and all the past and present struggles that have come with it; our moves and moving around, which have taught us some serious lessons about who we are and what we want; my relationship; the handful of meaningful friendships that I do have in my life; my sweet dog, who is ailing and probably won’t see another holiday season, but for which I have to be grateful, and for whom I have to stay present.

Today, my big outing was taking my girl down to our local “dog beach,” which isn’t an actual public beach so it makes for a quiet setting.  There is an inlet protected from the swell where she can go swimming.  It was sad watching her, and I cried.  I mean, I cry a little inside every time I have to carry her up the stairs, help her get up, pick up her poop on the carpet inside because she can’t control her muscles back there that well; but I don’t “cry” cry.  This felt good, and I needed it; I need to start letting go.

I am not sure what is worse:  having a dog that gets cancer and goes fast, or a dog who has this horrible, progressive arthritis that gradually transforms her into one that barely resembles the pup you once knew.  I know, I know, she’s a dog; but, it’d be the same emotional rollercoaster with a person (it IS the same, watching my mom), only the progression would take 20 years, not two.

I was angry for a bit, like, I am never getting another dog, why bother, I don’t/can’t go through this again.  But, it got me thinking, well, that is so depressing and cynical–if I lost my partner, would I choose to spend the rest of my life alone, choose to be angry and antisocial because…life?  This is life, the coming and going.  This is life, and it hurts, and it sucks, but…the anger and frustration is life, too.  And it all passes, sooner rather than later.  What can you do but choose to accept, embrace, process?  What can you do but decide that you will NOT fall into the self-defeating trap of black-and-white thinking?

This year, I want to start getting past my anger and frustration regarding this general aging shit–myself, my dog, my mom and my dad, both of whom are struggling immensely with physical and mental decline.  To not let perimenopausal night heat and insomnia (though, lack of sleep is its own mental health disorder) overturn my world; to not let my mom or dad’s decline influence my emotional state so much; to just love my dog and try to let it be, accept it for what it is, let it go, let HER go…  I can’t live in this state of resistance all the time, but, I also don’t want to lay down and let the world run me over, like a huge ocean wave; that might lead to me giving up.  I don’t ever want to give up; I don’t ever want to stop listening to the radio (Walking Dead reference, folks…!).

Sometimes, I want to drink; most times, I think, why bother?  I know it won’t change anything–it’s not going to stop time, and it’s not going to change how I deal with the passing of time and aging.  So, I won’t, and I’ll keep plugging:  be grateful, stay present.  Cry.  Whisper-scream (oh, all right, just scream, but no banging on the thighs in the middle of the night as you whisper-scream).

How hard can it be?  Hahaha…

Inhale, exhale, and remember:  drinking only makes it better for a split second, and then it makes it much, much worse.  I tell myself that every time I have recently thought, eh, maybe this is the year I start drinking in moderation, I’m ready, why not?  Um, because, it won’t make anything that is good better, and it won’t fix anything that is bad–it will just make it more bad.  That is logic that Wolfie-boy, drinking-brain does not like because it makes drinking seem illogical and irrational–which is what it is and why it’s so cunning and baffling; and small and ridiculous and empty.

Aight, off my box.  I wish everyone a wonderful eve, spent here, there, everywhere, and nowhere–it’s all good.  Be grateful and stay present.  The stars keep shining, and if you let it, your head does keep wanting to look up to see them (though, we might not see Betelgeuse soon!).

Happy 2020, friends, and we’ll see you on the flip!

No pangs for parades

16 Mar

11:54 am

It’s St. Patty’s Day weekend, and we all know what that means:  beer, green, parades, fun.

In reality, it means:  beer, brown (vomit), blurred memories of taking off your shirt or falling down or crumbling into a heap of tears inside a bar or on the curb outside the bar while the dude you met is looking at you with mock concern; or calling your ex and begging that you get back together while realizing, somewhere in the back of your mind, you knew you were never really together in the first place; a pounding headache the next day as you come to and realize what went down.  Oh, the fun.

I know how these holidays can trigger cravings for going out and getting shitfaced with the gang–the fear of missing out is intense, and intensely ingrained in our memory.  My neurons still pulse with those memories, I have to admit.

These days, there is none of that intense craving; there is only the whisper of a pang–if only I could have fun this St. Patty’s day–only the brief momentary life and death of a craving for what was.  And what was, we all know, was always a lie.

These days, there is only getting up on a Saturday, after a LONG work week, realizing that I made it happen, I made money, we are working toward our collective professional and personal goals (getting back to our island in the sun!); looking out at the grasses draped in fallen drops of rain, wondering only, should we go hiking through the marshland today or tomorrow?  (I love the marshland here, the white egrets and the blue herons; so gentle, so tentative, yet still so graceful, admirable, strong; I wish the world loved appreciated herons as much as I think it should.)  These days, there are no pangs for what was, because what was never was anything but pain, and fear, and avoidance.

On a side note, this weekend marks ONE whole year since our beloved beagle-boxer mix “crossed the rainbow bridge,” and that’s also something that I thought about this morning, as I was doing the obligatory check for events going on in my ‘hood on Facebook (I try to steer away from scrolling/trolling my news feed, but I usually give in, at least for a few minutes).  Our sweet son–I still feel almost as sad as I did that day; I still cry when I think about him and his role in my sobriety, and my life, and our days and years of shared love.  The good news?  I am not drunk or hungover thinking about it, and I’ve processed it (as much as anyone can process the event of a death).  The good news is that I won’t be falling down into a pile of tears on a curb outside a vomitous Irish pub because I am also drinking 10 beers while thinking about it.

These days, it’s just moving through the mornings, afternoons, and nights, without much of any pangs–I have so much more to look forward to, like watching a sunset from a tower overlooking marshland to the sea.  And, while this life is a million times better than getting shitfaced in an Irish pub on St. Patty’s Day, entertaining the potential to flirt and hook up (all at the same time totally NOT wanting to flirt with just anyone, or hookup at all; all the while longing for love, a special person, a life together–all of which I have now), there are still remnants of those old longings.  I push them away, as a matter of practice–I am sober, and getting sober is about practice.  Getting sober is about the process of practicing being sober–which includes recognizing the whisper, the faint memory of a pang, and releasing it into the space above.

There is no need anymore for pangs, for cravings.  I can let them go, again and again and again, until they are, truly, no more.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend, all my fellow sober friends.  May your weekend be filled with everything you want–and maybe even some things you don’t–in service to your sobriety.  Ever growing, ever strong.  You got this.

Getting all Marie Kondo on this isht

17 Feb

1:03 pm

Just a quick post to say, we got our isht out of storage, the both of us.  And just like that, my “life in Storage Wars” is over.  After 9 ridiculous years, I finally and quite unceremoniously (my love actually cleared out my unit, and I closed out online, so I wasn’t even there) vacated my near-decade old room away from room.  And, the past few weeks, I’ve been going through yet more boxes and bags of clothes, books, pictures, paperwork–tons of CDs, a “Let’s Go: Europe” book from 1993, an MCAT prep guide…all of which are about as valuable to me now as, well, a glass of red wine!

I have to admit, I’ve been feeling pretty damn happy and proud of all the things I’ve done (lived through), and excited about the future.  I mostly let go of this past a long time ago, the one that was weighing me down with should’s and must-do’s, careers that I tried but was never meant for, relationships that ended up YES, teaching me things but also leaving deep psychic scars.  But, I clang to it in some way; hence, a storage unit for 9 years of stuff dating back to 1993 (and earlier!).

It just feels great–mainly, I see now just how HAPPY and GRATEFUL I am to have the life I have now, to have the man I have now, to have the dog and the job I have now (I would not trade schlepping to an office every day for anything anymore, though, I sure had some cool clothes to do it in; I am perfectly content with the low-stress version of what I used to do, and honestly, secretly, I want to make it even MORE low-stress); super-grateful for the memories of 6 years on the island, a move without having made I would probably still in many ways be in that dark place that I was in for decades.  Kind of like a few of my old friends, who still drink, who still do the same jobs, who still cling to that big city as “home”…when there is a whole, colorful (warm) world out there to explore.

I mean, I know our 20s and 30s are not easy, but the searching is of course, necessary; searching for what fits, and doing all sorts of things that just don’t make you happy.  Some people move on quickly, or start doing what they really want almost immediately–others, like me, take years to stop trying to please people who are not ourselves; and frankly, we ALL take years to pay off that student loan debt that is holding us back.

Anyway, it just feels great.  I cannot emphasize enough how ready I am to move on, to move forward, to simply clear out the past.  To really, truly let it go so I can make room in my mind for, well, everything else, maybe even blank space.  In this round of boxes, I’ve found so many items that I clung to for years, that I simply happily and gratefully acknowledged the person or experience’s role in my life, and then threw out.  I think my other boxes, the ones from high school and college, were more difficult to pare down since a lot of that stuff is just stuff that you don’t want to get rid of!  And you shouldn’t.  But these boxes, the stuff from my recent past, well…

Don’t get me wrong, there were and are a lot of things that I want to keep–things like framed pictures of recent trips (well, dating back to the 2000s) that “spark joy” in that they remind me of my growth:  who I was then, and who I became because of those times.  And, they remind me less of the failed relationship or job of that era and more of the actual place, and the experience, and my particular love of the Getty in LA, or the Rodin in Paris–and so, I cherish the now-framed black-and-white photos that hang on my walls here, now, because I still love those places and they still remind me of me.

I don’t know if I believe in purging necessarily; but for some reason, right now, at this time in my life, I am SO ready to retire it all; to retire, in a way.  I have been grinding away for years, and it’s not been all bad, and I wanted a lot of the writing gigs; but right now, I’m ready to put some of it behind me, and start on a new path–truly, one that redefines me, maybe away from writer, science writer, journalist, maybe just more toward creative writer.  I didn’t dream of this as a kid; I dreamt of being a poet, a vet, and later, an anthropologist in Africa.  I’ve dreamt of opening a coffee shop for decades, long before I actually started working as a barista.  I have so many other dreams that have nothing to do with writing, and especially science writing, is what I’m saying; I drank for years to cope with the stress of this work, and with the stress of “should’ing” myself into it.

Lately, and this might sound weird (perimenopause is weird, and no one told me about that mid-40s awesomeness either), but at almost 45, I kind of feel ready to die.  Haha.  It sounds ridiculous, and I mean, ready to die to my old self, and be reborn into a new version of me, the one who I’ve been building and cultivating for years…but who still hasn’t been allowed her long day in the sun.  As I went through my boxes, I found this tube of pink lipstick that dates back to 1994, when I was 20 and studying abroad in Paris.  Yes, a 25-year-old tube of lipstick can be harder to trash than a drinking problem–this is long-term sobriety to me, this eventual letting go and evolution of self, of how we choose to see ourselves in our lives, of who we choose to be.

Sobriety continually gives us choices to be–the same, different, old, new, evolving.  It’s up to us to do what is a scary and constant paring, cleansing, purging…with that elusive goal of sparking joy in our present moment.

The pictures I have hung DO spark joy, and I am relieved and so very happy about this.  I was afraid they wouldn’t, that they would remind me of those times and make me feel nostalgic for my old self, my younger years, the people associated with those times who are no longer here, or in my life (What a waste, one might lament; what’s the point of any and all relationships?); yet, they didn’t.  They don’t.  They spark joy.  I was afraid of my reaction, but you know what, I, too, have changed; I have evolved to prioritize joy over nostalgia and sadness.  Maybe it’s just that so much time has passed, and I can only now appreciate the joy of those moments, the simple beauty of the imagery that made me snap the pictures in the first place.  Only now can I relive the past and feel joy–not because I have forgotten the past, or gotten too old to remember; but because I can see it clearly now, and can find a healthy balance between past and present feeling.  Maybe I am just ready to move on, to retire in a way, to let go of that past in order to make way for a wonderful most-recent past, a present for which I am grateful, and a future that I increasingly believe holds the best yet to come?

Moving…houses and jobs!

11 Nov

7:17 pm

Some great news:  we are (finally, after 10 long months) leaving the desert!?  Ahhhh…  And, none too soon, as we’re both about to dissolve from dehydration.  I mean, we’ve gotten used to being here (it’s not a bad place; I have always liked it for what it is), but being constantly dried up–well, it’s a grind, and I can’t help but wonder with incredulity how those who choose to live in this part of the country deal with it!  My mom has lived in this part of the country for years, and she seems to appreciate the lack of humidity.  All I can say is, we didn’t even make it a year, and we’re pretty much over it.

Inhale, exhale.

In less than a week, we will head east–close to where we moved here from–we will see palm trees (where they should be growing) and actual clouds; feel mosquitoes buzzing around our ankles and sweat dripping under our armpits; inhale the sweet odor of naturally humid air…  INHALE.

Some more great news:  I got a new job!  After a long summer of soul searching and job searching–and interviewing; so much interviewing–I can finally EXHALE…into a new career.  It was a hard decision to leave my current gig, because it’s…well, it’s uber-easy–and I can do it remotely and it pays well.  BUT…I need to move on.  I need to actually use my brain.  I need a higher purpose, essentially.  I need to invest my passion and my talents into a job that I actually respect myself for doing.  It’s not that I don’t respect others for choosing the corporate path–God knows I’ve had to work in many jobs that weren’t personally fulfilling–I just know that I need more.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t have been able to accept this job if the offer wasn’t financially viable, so, I’m not above it coming back to money, because it does.  Still, it’s a plus that I am finally moving into nonprofit and able to keep making about the same amount I’ve gotten used to making at my current job.

It’s been years since I’ve worked as a full-time employee–my last full-time gig ended in 2009!  I’ve been freelancing and contracting since then, so the adjustment to full-time status might be a bit weird.  BUT, I will be able to do this job remotely, so, working from home (which I’ve been doing since 2012, in various shapes and forms) won’t change–thank goodness!  I am WAY too used to being able to work and write in peace, and not have to commute, or be distracted by coworkers.  It has its ups and downs, but I really do prefer working remotely–I love not having the stress that going to an office every day brings, and I absolutely love being in complete control of my time.  There really is nothing I’ve found that motivates me more than having absolute ownership of my time.

Anyway, it’s been a busy few months, and that’s sort of why I’ve been offline-ish.  I want to thank everyone for all the caring and careful comments  to my recent posts–I appreciate them more than you know.  My insomnia has passed, thankfully, and now it’s back to…not being as grateful for restful sleep as I was irate at not getting sleep.  But, isn’t that how it always goes?  You never call IT to thank them for their service; it’s only when something goes wrong with your computer, and then you only call to bitch at them!

I was wondering how I could tie my sobriety into all this (yes, I am still sober!), and well, I guess it’s that I’m not sure I would have had the long-term perseverance to turn these dreams, step by step, into reality.  I know I would have second-guessed everything by now, might have just run out of gas so to speak out of fatigue, or fear, or just letting myself talk myself out of it, taking my eye off the prize to look back at Wolfie.  And for this, I am definitely grateful to be sober, or maybe just more mature–to be able to get a glimmer of how it actually works, seeing the long haul through.

Here’s hoping things move smoothly this week into a whole new life; if not, we’ve survived worse, right, guys?  And, taking one second at time makes every second OK.  It will be OK; it will always be OK.

Huh:  this is really the first time I’ve believed that it will all be OK.  I never considered that it just being it, makes it OK; that things not working out the way I had imagined or predicted would still be OK.  Alas, a small discovery, but one that might change my world!?

Recovery…from family time

14 Jul

4:04 pm

I’m back from my 4th of July trip to see my dad and mom, back to back–along with my brother.  And, whoa, Nellie, what a (head) trip, indeed!

See, I’m going to be blunt–and maybe it’s not my place, but I have to talk about it:  both my parents suffer (yes, I know they are in pain, which makes me feel pained) from untreated mental health disorders.  We think my dad has bipolar disorder, I think my mom has anxiety and possibly never-diagnosed OCD, and we know for a fact that they’ve both been treated for depression.  Not a big thang, you know, if everyone involved SEES that they are suffering and makes a CONCERTED EFFORT to get and stay in treatment.  But, you know, they don’t.  They are not.  They try to hide or avoid their issues, and they seem to be too afraid to confront them in order to change.

Of course, I get it!  I could be describing MYSELF when I was in the midst of my drinking disorder!  And, I know it takes what it takes, but…  They are both in their 70s!?  I don’t know what to do most of the time except to practice not reacting the way I want to (in anger) and accept their behavior but try to lead and/or engage them in what I see as “healthier” techniques of relating.  It’s just all very hard when these people are your parents and not some strangers, or even someone else’s parents.  Our shared history and my emotional baggage makes it harder to not react emotionally.

It makes me angry to see both of them not really ever seeming to resolve anything on the inside, but mostly, it is just draining to have to deal with it.  I felt so drained coming home, and it took me days to stop being really angry and reactive and just heavy-hearted and like my brain had been scrambled.  To make matters worse, they had these issues growing up, and they affected me in a big way–it took me years to even realize what bizarre coping mechanisms I had developed let alone start dealing with them so that they stopped negatively impacting all of my own relationships, from personal to professional!

I SO want to just out them sometimes, to yell and scream, to tell them “what is wrong with them.”  But, I don’t.  It just doesn’t seem…worthwhile.  I’ve thought about writing a letter, which would allow me to be more measured and empathetic, but again, it just seems like it might be a waste of time.  Plus, I’m not ready to go there AFTER the letter has been read, as in, I don’t have the desire to be that open right now, as their daughter, and/or the ability to play the role of psychologist.  So, I just leave it–with my mom, I think she is trying to work on some of her problems, and my dad, well, I kind of consider him a lost cause at the moment because he’s manic, and it seems like a hallmark trait of mania is that until the person hits bottom, they honestly don’t believe there is anything wrong with their thoughts and behaviors.

It was great, though, to get caught up on on this stuff, and to be with each other, and to just be real.  And a part of me feels sure that somehow, seeing their kids helps them stabilize a bit, normalizes whatever tangent their emotional or thought disorder has taken them on–I imagine our kid-parent bond as a powerful antidote, at least temporarily, to feeling estranged from themselves; it helps me, in a way, to feel less estranged from life, to reel me back into something bigger than myself, gives me a sense of order again, helps me find “myself” again, at least one that I recognize.  I hope that I’m right, and it makes me realize that I should see them more often (I hadn’t actually seen my mom for two years, and with my dad, it had been a year…but before last year, it was three years!).

You would think that all of this would have made me want to drink, and I admit, there were a few moments when I really did think a glass of wine would make it easier to just escape, to get rid of the bad feelings, to disappear for a while.  Of course, I didn’t; I had plenty of time to think about ALL that I’ve worked for the past six years, and how, really, one drink would lead me back to where I was when I started writing this blog in June, 2012.  I’ve had quite a few moments, too, in the past month or so, when I’ve felt SO FUCKING BORED here, in my new home, that I have wanted to “start drinking again.”  It’s weird how in this case, it’s not a glass of wine I want, but the entire habit, or activity, of “drinking again.”

Not to worry:  they are just thoughts, and I have every reason in the world to NOT start drinking again.  In fact, just this morning, as I was listening to a podcast about a man who lost the use of his lower body from a drinking and driving accident, I just felt so…horrible for him, and disgusted for him, but also grateful for the simple beauty of the GRAND, POWERFUL act of getting sober, of being sober.  It does keep going, and it does get better, and I am still feeling wonder-full about it all–in spite of family pressures, and in spite of the occasional side of boredom that comes with the eggs and toast of life!  (haha)  Have a great Saturday, all!

Wake up!

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