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Let go of carrying the past around

7 Oct

12:02 am

I grant myself permission to let go of the past.  Drunky Drunk Girl:  You can let go of carrying around your past.  Literally.

So, I think I mentioned to you that my boo and I have decided to move back to our island home, and in preparation (because it’s really impractical to ship a lot of shit down there), I have been slogging through my boxes and bags of SCHTUFF, and it is not fun.

Did I tell you that I stored my stuff for uh, almost a decade?  Yeah, I stored it, had my drunken breakdown, moved to our island home, and simply forgot about it while I got sober and started a new, much lighter and more wonder-full life (I needed to; it’s how I got sober, finally letting go of some of what I had been carrying around, physically and emotionally, for years).

Well, now that I’ve got it all in my office (I finally cleared out the unit a few months ago), I have been forced to pare it down, drip by drop.  Paper by paper.  Photo by photo.  I could just toss it all, but, eh, I can’t do that–I wonder if this is how people on Storage Wars feel?  The constant pull of your STUFF…

I’ve been doing it on the weeknights and sometimes, entire weekends.  I mean, it should have been done years ago, along the way.  I feel like a “normal” person would have done it years ago.  But, I just wasn’t ready.  Maybe I’m a hoarder?  I do totally have some tendencies, and can kind of relate to that mentality!

Anyway, over the past decade, I built up more and more courage every time I went back to my storage unit to throw out, give away, or donate just a bit more stuff, including furniture and clothes and blankets and blah blah blah–all of which, ALL OF WHICH, tugged at me emotionally to give up.  (Oh, that’s the faux-velvet “cat suit” I wore going out to my first gay club in 1995; Aww, that’s my studded belt I bought in LA when I thought I was a rocker-chic with only one piece of rocker-chic clothing to my name then and now; Wow, my ballet slippers from that ONE class I took at 23, cuz, yeah, I was going to become a ballet dancer taking my first class since grade school at 23…)  In paring down that kind of stuff, it was hard; I had to go through each and every piece of clothing, and like, relive those moments, years, eras of my coming of age.  And, like, let them go.  It was hard…until it was dark in the storage facility and I was fondling ratty clothing that I hadn’t worn or even looked at for years.  Buh-bye became a lot easier to say every year I went back to “check” on my unit.

As you can imagine, it was tiring and of course, obsessive.  Yet, I feel the same way toward the daunting task of going through my writings, and photos, and all the “historical” stuff that tells the story of my life.  Moreso, even.  Now, I am working through the hard stuff:  mounds of CDs, tons of photo prints, entire plastic containers full of saved cards over the years; even bigger containers of endless letters from my year abroad, not to mention–let’s not forget–all my “brilliant” writings from over the years, stashed in a seemingly infinite amount of notebooks, looseleaf pages, planners, diaries, and everything else that one might have been able to write on.  Luckily, a lot of stuff after about 2003 starts to show up solely on CDs, which is great–easy to transfer to USB or the cloud.

What have I learned today?  Haha.  Well, for one, I am too fecking exhausted to carry the past around anymore.  I just cannot.  I am ready to let it go, mainly because, god, my life sucked then.  I mean, I am who I am because of what came before, but, what came before was not all that pretty or something I want to relive.  I was lonely, searching, and very easy to intimidate back then; it affected me, my choices, and my friendships.  Again, I can cherish the past, but I don’t have to want to relive it, right?  Right.

I looked at every picture, from grade school to high school, college, early 20s, late-20s, grad school, wondering, who and what made me a drunk?  I mean, every picture:  Did how I was then contribute to me becoming a drunk?  Did he do it?  Did she make me the way I was–pained and increasingly vexed and sad and unsure?  I saw a LOT of photos of a sad girl; I read a LOT of chats and journal entries of someone who was seriously searching for herself.  (Thank fucking GOD I found her, but I wish it had started, me finding myself, before my early 30s; I feel like I was SUCH a late bloomer, that life really did literally start for me at 40, just five years ago!)

I am playing this blame game the ENTIRE time I’m going through all my old shit; and, I can never let go of the conviction, in my mind, that somehow it was ALL MY FAULT.  Yet, someone had to have done something to make me the way I was, the way I would be, years later, right?  Was it my parents?  Was it my personality?  Both, and everything else that came into my life?  I don’t know.  And, what if I find out?  Will it change anything about how things progressed?

My life now, ME now, is way, way better than it was back then; and, while I can appreciate the past and cherish it, simply put, I don’t feel like I have to carry it around anymore to memorialize what is gone.  Granted, I will hold onto most of the old photos, and of course, all of my old writings, but one day, I can actually imagine throwing it all onto a heap and setting it ablaze.  And that is an insane thought for a writer who has defined herself all these years by what she has written.

Which brings me to learning number two:  If I don’t identify anymore with the product of my efforts, what is my life worth?  What and who am I without all my papers and books and notes that actually show, hey, I did this, and hey, I accomplished that?  What have I done anyway, if it doesn’t seem to matter if I burn it all at this point?  It’s like, if a tree falls and no one hears it, right?  If I have no proof of my existence, did I live?  Does my life even matter?  I am 45, and I am actually thinking that most of what I’ve written and produced, is nothing; worthless, in the grand scheme of things; prologue, at most, to my best work…which is yet to come.  So, what does that mean for my life’s work and value, if I am already halfway through it?  I don’t know yet.

And, finally, number three:  I was nicer back then.  I wanted and needed and cultivated and prioritized friendships, close ones, back then.  I can see it in all the letters and cards and notes that friends sent.  Now?  I don’t really get a lot of those cards because I don’t have a lot of close friendships.  Again, who’s to blame?  Do most people just grow apart over the years?  And, if not, was it me who pulled away when I became a drunk, angry, paranoid; when I came into my own and realized what I wanted and went for it (journalism kind of became a single-minded pursuit for me for a while there)?  Was it them?  Is there anyone to blame?  Should I try to fix it?  I have thought about reaching out to all these people from my past, yet…it feels like it wouldn’t be worth the effort of finding out that what I’m looking for no longer exists.

So, that was my weekend!  Like I said, it had to be done; it has to be done.  Yet, I am looking forward to it being done, to it being pared down, to a lighter load, to a new start, and…to just burning the remaining lot of it, sooner or later!  Haha…

(My mom is coming for a visit this week, which I will probably end up telling you about. And, my job continues to kick my ass; why did I think that nonprofit would be less work than a corporate gig?  Oh, and next time, remind me to tell you about my progress in perimenopause (haha):  things are getting better, I have to admit.  My burning up/dry chills cycles are getting shorter, less severe, and, I am having them less often (some nights, while I am hot, I am not burning up).  I have continued my “Costa Rica” diet, or have tried really hard to cut out breads and all sweets.  Now, I mainly have rice for my carb, if I want one, and have been eating a LOT less snacks and sweets.  I really, really, really think eliminating wheat and oat-based flours has helped with the night heat…  More to come in another post.)

Stillness, checking in, and…grief?

29 Aug

12:04 am

I hate that my posts are OH-so-heavy seemingly all the time, but lately, I’ve been away.  Disconnected, really.  It’s why I am here, on the west coast of Costa Rica, doing yoga and being alone and trying to get myself back.  Or, get back to myself.  Or, both!

Before coming here, though, I spent a few days in the city where I started this blog, where I got sober–and, where my drinking became alcoholic.  It was another pilgrimage, I suppose; since storing my stuff nine years ago (I’ve since cleared that unit out–a big deal after nine years!), I’ve clung to this idea that I would move back.  For sure, I would.  This is (was) where I belonged, where I am (was) my most “me,” where I feel (felt) at home.  This was my dream, for nine years.  Well, over the past nine years, I’ve gone from definitely moving back to probably moving back to most likely not moving back…to probably NEVER moving back because I don’t belong there and I don’t want to live there!  It’s been a long, gradual process of letting go–and frankly, I don’t know if I’ve actually fully let go yet.

It’s like, I can barely articulate it to myself, so I’m going to try and write it out and see if by writing it out, I can somehow locate this neurotic loop that my brain has been running for weeks, months, and years.  It could be as simple as admitting, I can’t let go of the past.  What does that mean, though?  Is it that I want to relive that past?  A part of me has a certain obsessive, stalker-esque fondness for that period of time when I started this blog:  it was all new, and I had a LOT to look forward to.  I had a new love, I was finally getting sober and starting to write about it (on this blog), and, I had finally made it back to the city of my dreams!  I realized this, as I was freakishly standing (once again) in front of the apartment that I sublet that summer (in 2012):  my nostalgia for these early years might be so strong because it includes finally moving back to the city of my dreams.  Now, do I want to relive this past?  No, I don’t think I want to relive any past–I do want to live in the here and now.  I think I just miss feeling the way I felt then.  And, every time I go back to this city, I want to feel how I felt then.

Every time I go back to said city, I am looking for this…sense of looking-forward-to, or anticipation.  I don’t know, maybe I equate this feeling of, let’s call it anticipatory glee with being young?  I was only seven years younger then!  It’s like, I want that feeling yet I know that I don’t want to relive the past, and I know that what I have now is like, the culmination of all that so-called dreaming/anticipating/looking-foward-to.  If I have what I was yearning for then, why am I sad that I am no longer in a place where I don’t have it?

Sounds neurotic, maybe even a bit crazy, doesn’t it?

What has changed in the past seven years for me is hard to deny:  I don’t want to live in this city anymore, and moreover, I don’t want to cling to my dream of living in this city anymore.  Yet, I WANT to want to!  I feel like I’m giving up, and that scares me.  What is there for me, after I finally do let go of this dream that I no longer want?  Who am I?  How do I define myself now?

Every time I go back, I become less and less enamored with the city; this time, it just exhausted me, it triggered me, and I saw all the warts.  I have almost fully embraced the fact that I need green space, nature; I need it to rejuvenate and inspire me!  I also have come to depend on a much less stimulating environment in order to write/be creative; if I know there is something new to consume (a new restaurant, a new bar–at least when I was drinking, which I’m not–a new museum), it’s like, I cannot BUT consume it out of some obsessive need to know it all or do it all or just a fear of missing out.  Yet, it’s distracting, and I don’t get anything done.  And, that triggers me to feel confused, sad, depressed, wound up, whatever it is that writers (or creatives) feel that makes us go insane if we don’t write or create.

So, it was a tiring, vexing visit; and, after all my walking, stalking, and incessant thinking, I had a night where I just melted down.  It was brought on by me looking at The Dodo videos, which made me start thinking of our sweet boy who we had to put down last year, which just snowballed into a general sense of grief–for our “son,” for myself, for my dreams, for my youth.  GAH.  JESUS.  (It’s funny now, but only because it sounds so freaking neurotic!)  It felt like my mind was dissolving that night; I felt like I had some sort of “dementia” episode, if there even is such a thing.  OH, WAIT, there is such thing, and it’s called a night of binge drinking and a hangover the next day–which I totally felt like I had.  I had an emotional hangover, and the ONLY place I’ve ever had these types of hangovers is this city!  Make the connection, Drunky Drunk Girl:  this city triggers you for all sorts of reasons, why keep coming back?  

These days, I have to admit that I’ve moved on, thankfully; I’ve formed new plans and conjured new dreams.  I am here now, in Costa Rica, and it is super-refreshing, a huge mental reprieve, to be here and now with my present-day self.  A part of me feels like I am grieving, though (which hit me clearly during a sound bath class that I took)–and I think I just needed to sit still for a little while to actually acknowledge that the grief is there, and that it is real, and that it’s legitimate to feel this way.

Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes…

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?

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