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Love in the time of…Covid-19

19 Mar

2:31 pm

I had this long post drafted, but, as it goes, I trashed it, held off for a few days, and am starting over.

What I really want to say is, I hope everyone is hanging in there, not letting the fear and paranoia overwhelm, and well, just being OK with being isolated.  See, my preferred way of life is social distancing and sheltering in place, and I’ve been practicing it for years, so…I got it down (haha).  However, for those who don’t, my advice is, take it as it comes, try to connect in virtual ways (this blog was my lifeline when I was first getting sober), and don’t let your bad feelings and thoughts about it all get you down or make you feel less than you are, which is strong and capable and worthy.  You are doing your best; you’re not going to do it right or perfect the first time around (as a perfectionist, it’s a lesson I learn over and over again with every day, every written piece, every trashed blog post…).

I have gone insane more than once over the years, working from home from an island.  On thing I have learned is, you do need a change of scenery, a feeling of having gotten out into the world.  I have learned to go outside when I start feeling trapped and angsty about being cooped up–get out, in any way or form; whether than involves actually meeting up with people or just seeing them in action, both are helpful.  You don’t have to go far either; just far enough out of your home orbit to feel like you’ve tasted the world a bit.  Again, if you get angry or frustrated or start to feel trapped–don’t get down on yourself.  This way of life is not easy, especially for people who actually like human interaction (haha).

So, lately, I’ve been mulling/ruminating on the nature of evolving friendships as you get sober and move into long-term sobriety, and as you age.  Frankly, I feel like I’ve aged two decades over the past two years–we moved off island for those two years, and I entered the symptomatic phase of perimenopause.  GURL, I cannot tell you how the latter has made me re-evaluate my relationships.  If I was questioning the basis of my friendships immediately after getting sober–do I really like this person, or did I connect with him/her mainly because I needed a semblance of friendship or a potential drinking buddy?–I started to really dig deeper years down the line.  NOW?  I am really finding it difficult to have any patience for phony or passive aggressive behavior.  And, I seem to keep running up against that here, with friends that I had and that I am coming home to, literally or figuratively.

Granted, friendships change when you leave home; you can’t go home again is right, but one can hope–especially when it comes to deeper friendships.  I don’t know if it’s paranoia from the Covid, paranoia/anger from the pill depleting my feel-good hormones (or general hormonal imbalance), or if I am just seeing things clearly now, but….I just can’t tolerate phoniness anymore.  Maybe I’m just not willing to buy into it anymore.

That being said, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  In fact, the bad apples are few and far between in the grand scheme of a lifetime of relationships.  There are good people out there, a lot of them (all of you!).  I like to think of it in terms of “holistic” healthcare practitioners:  There are good yoga teachers and not so good, right?  Good reiki practitioners and the frauds.  Good acupuncturists and the ones who make your limbs tremble.  It’s all a matter of perspective, too–black-and-white thinking never got me anywhere.  And, I can do things to immediately change my state of mind:  Get off Facebook (gah–for real!), practice deep breathing, go outside, and um, just go to bed; remember what I have right now, to be grateful for; remember that it will not last, whatever it is that I am experiencing physically, emotionally, and/or mentally.

I promise to write more, I’ve just been feeling very challenged emotionally and physically lately.  Still, I promise to share more of those challenges, in more frequent posts.

I’m so grateful for this community–keeping me sane for almost eight years and counting…

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.

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?

Wake up!

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