Archive | Psychology RSS feed for this section

Two weeks off social media–do I really exist?

27 Apr

3:55 pm

Well, I’ve been off social media–Facebook specifically–for two whole weeks as of today.  And, I gotta say, I really don’t miss it, at all.  Like, I almost forgot about the entire affair until I ran into someone I knew last night (who I am not FB friends with) and thought, man, I should Facebook friend them.  And, then I thought, oh, wait, I’m NOT ON Facebook!  Haha.

No, for real, I don’t miss it.  Maybe I’ve just gotten lazy in these COVID times, but keeping up with my groups and news feed seems sort of futile–who cares if I miss something, right?  Of course, I am following the news on individual websites, and it’s hard to miss the mainstream news if you turn on your TV, ever.  However, I really couldn’t care less about what I may have missed when it comes to posts in my groups and by my friends.  I meet up with my friends here, of which there are a few–and, that has been totally enough.  I am not craving to know what they’re “doing” on Facebook; I feel like I am literally missing nothing.

That’s a relief!  I thought I would feel like I was missing out–and, frankly, it’s made me wonder about something that was in the back of my mind that this break from Facebook helped to precipitate:  is not sharing about your life on Facebook (or, in real life, too) the same as, not sharing your life?  And, is either necessary to live a good life, however one defines “good”?  Do I truly exist if I don’t share about my life on Facebook, or with anyone in the real world?

I have a roll of photos that only I have seen; I have tons of videos of our dog, but yet, NO ONE but me knows, really, of her life and times.  Is that fair to her, to have no one remember her because I didn’t share?  Am I depriving the world of something (my light, my perspective?) if I never share what I’m doing?  I mean, if I moved to an island and disconnected from everyone, how would my family and friends feel?  And, when I died on that island, would it have been a wasted existence since, except for me, no one else knew anything about it?

Two weeks ago, the thought of stopping sharing posts or photos of my life gave me a bad gut feeling–a feeling of fear, anxiety, dread; of, what will happen TO ME if I stop sharing about my life?  It’s mostly gone now, surprisingly; however, I am 45, an introvert, and sober (as in, I have had years of feeling sort of like, an explorer in the Arctic, totally clear-minded but alone as fuck), so I wonder how strong this fear is for young people, who grew up on social media, whose entire sense of self/personal reality are intertwined with “existing” on social media?

Is the hardest part of leaving Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram) not really a fear of missing out, but a fear of being forgotten, or, worse, never having existed?  Maybe.  Of course, we can share photos with people in real life, but, this aspect of the entire world being able to know us–a little piece of fame, maybe immortality–is appealing on such a base level.

Anyway, after two weeks, I definitely feel like the noise has stopped.  I am receding into a quiet, perhaps naive, bubble of my small, but real, world; and it’s calming.  I don’t feel overwhelmed by the bumbling thoughts and misperceived slights bouncing around in my head; I don’t feel overdone by the incessant headlines, most of which I can’t read (for lack of time and effort) and can’t do anything about anyway (stories about elephants being abused in Thailand, for instance!).  I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on my actual friends’ lives; we have gotten quickly caught up in person when we have seen each other.

In fact, if I was job searching, writing, or reading (most of which I am doing, but um, not doing all that much of, I have to admit), I would probably be getting a lot done with all the noise gone and focus back!

On another note, our beaches re-opened last week, and this has been a glorious development!  We’ve been a few times; yesterday was a perfect beach day, and it was the first Sunday Funday anyone has had in a long time–it was a good day.

Our dog is hanging in there; the vet told us that there wasn’t much more she could do, however, she thinks our girl still has time.  Every day is a good day with her; every morning is a great morning to see her sweet almond eyes staring up at me, or her skinny back legs running like a horse in her sleep…

We’re just waiting, like everyone, for normalcy to return; and, while I said that as an introvert, I love me some lockdown solitude–even I am longing for things to start their upward swing soon.  It’s getting a little too quiet in here!

Almost a week off social media…

19 Apr

4:26 pm

…and it’s better than good-ish!  I mean, I am starting to see how hugely beneficial this “break” from Facebook might actually be in terms of my relationships, including with myself.

At first, I felt a sense of relief; as in, ahhh, I don’t have to follow all the news/information; ahhh, I don’t have to “care” about this random person’s feelings or thing they did.  I felt like there was much less noise in my head, and that made way for more space to think about *my* life, this blog, my future employment prospects, i.e., what I want to be when I grow up (after lockdown ends and we all are supposed to go back to normal).

Then, I had a sense of clarity around relationships, accompanied by some sort of resentment and ultimately, mild disappointment.  As it turns out, some of my “friends” on social media are just that–friends only on Facebook.  In real life, I guess we don’t have that much to talk about, and frankly, we probably kind of annoy each other.  I just can’t anymore with passive-aggressive behavior, so I might just let them go–it’s probably for the better if I feel this good!

Past two days, I seem to have “remembered” that I have, um, really old, really good relationships with some people–cousins, old friends from growing up, my family–so, why the HECK have I been chasing the comings and goings of people I barely know?  It’s just crazy-making, and I see it now as such:  I mean, why not focus on your actual, tried-and-true relationships, the ones that have already given back and will continue to do so?  That’s what I’m going to focus on this week when I get bored or restless wondering where all my “friends” have gone–reach out to those friends that I have, to those that have already proven to be worthwhile, to be relevant (as in, we have a real history together).

On another note, my furlough is going well; I mean, I have a ton of things I want to do (read my last post), and have just started to get back into reading.  I am supposed to be reading 50 pages a day in this book (it’s over 1,000 pages long, and I just want to get it done!), but I’m already behind on that!  I love taking walks, and of course, I go running outside and do yoga (and sometimes lift weights) indoors.  I mean, life on an island is pretty glorious as far as “lockdown” goes; we’ve got space here, and no one is enforcing any strict orders (except for the beaches; they have been closed the past two weeks, supposedly reopening tomorrow).  We have all this beautiful outside world to explore, and I love it–more than ever, since now it’s truly empty of humanity and I get it all to myself!  (as an introvert, I am dreading when things open back up…and the pressure of having to socialize is put back on us)

On a different note, we woke up this morning to our sweet dog–a chow-shepherd mix–in what I have come to call an “osteoarthritic crisis.”  She’s had a few of these crises, which seem to come on at night, usually around dawn (um, thanks to perimenopause, I am up most of the night with her, to witness when all this takes place–haha).  She pants really, really hard, and kind of paces around, obviously in a lot of pain based on the way her limbs have stiffened even more than they usually have by the end of the day.

This morning, however, she was in a state that I have never seen:  not just panting, but panting SO VERY hard that her tongue was extended to breaking point and was almost purple; she was like, almost seizing/having a seizure, her legs and arms would not move her around no matter how hard she tried.  She finally got to one of her beds and eased herself down to a half-sitting/half-standing posture; and she kept panting, her body shaking with the force of her panting (I thought she was going to have a heart attack, I really did), for like, an hour.

We gave her her morning meds–gabapentin and rimadyl–and on top of that, some old pills that we never give her, save for when she’s in a lot of pain, both a tramadol (a pain reliever) and a trazadone (a sedative that the vet gave us for the flight down, which we never used).  Finally, after much panting, watering, and just sitting next to her with my hand on her side, she settled down, eased down onto the bed, and went to sleep.

I think it’s getting really close to time…  I mean, other dog owners would probably shame us for letting it go on this long–she started to limp badly almost 1.5 years ago–but, it is what it is.  I have never had a dog go through this, and most of the time, she is fine in her mind.  Lately, though, and especially this morning, which scared me, her body is just showing severe signs of “I can’t do this for much longer.”

At least I have time to spend with her now, not having to work.  Today was like a hangover day for her:  those days that were 100% wasted, sleeping off the sobering up, and then, waking up at 5 pm to realize that it was almost dusk, you still felt like shit, and you had just wasted another day (and night before; none of my nights of drinking were ever memorable, if remembered at all).  That’s a dark comparison, but one that I can’t help but make.

It’s almost sunset time here, which means, time to go onto the deck and watch the colors fade from the sky, sinking into the horizon until everything turns to ink, then black.  The stars will appear, first Venus, then the Big Dipper; then, the night will fill out as the evening plods on, and the black will become peppered with a spray of pinpoints of light.  I wonder, how many of those are stars and how many, satellites?  I can never tell which points of light are planets, and I can never pick out but a few constellations.  Every night, though, I go out onto the deck, and look up, and gaze in awe, and in gratitude–most nights, I am burning up and feeling awful along every inch of my skin, BUT, I can still muster gratitude…and hope.  I hope that our girl knows that she is up there, already, one star and many–she is my shining star, my Higher Power; she will light up my night sky forever.  I hope she knows that, or at least knows that mommy is thinking about her when she steps out into the night and looks up.

Fourth day off social media…

16 Apr

5:57 pm

…and it still feels good-ish.  In short, I feel freer, mentally, like there is just less noise; but, I am finding myself sort of feeling like–poof!–some of my friends have just disappeared from my life.  Of course, they haven’t just disappeared–they just rely heavily on social media to relate to me.  It’s weird.  (Nothing is rational about this process, about why we feel the way we feel on social media–if anything, it’s a form of talking to ourselves, a monologue, not representative of a dialogue with another person, which, in my opinion, is the definition of a relationship.)

Sure, I feel a bit out of it when it comes to current events.  However, all I have to do is put in a little bit more time to intentionally go to news sites—especially those that cover the local news, for instance the government’s updates on the COVID-19 situation.  And, the idea of being intentional about this appeals to me:  instead of just consuming this, that, and the other that pops up in my Facebook feed, I’m choosing to see all the stories at one publication’s website, choosing to read all the headlines and then, choosing to read the entirety of some of these stories.

I know I’m not missing much in that regard since I’ve got a world of news right at my fingertips.  As for my groups, eh, those will be there; the important ones, I’ll be able to catch up on.  For my grad school groups, I can catch up quickly on those, since new posts don’t appear that often and the content remains evergreen, relevant for quite a while.  For this perimenopause/menopause group that I follow–um, I think I have enough information to tell me, there isn’t really a fix, let alone a quick one, so…I can let it go for a while.  For this one, a hiking group, people post super-cool pics all the time, but, I’ve done a lot of the hikes that folks are posting about, and, what do you know, I can go back to my own photo library and re-live these hikes by looking at some of my own, awesome pictures!

What I haven’t been able to shake yet is this feeling of resentment toward some of my friends.  Maybe just disappointment.  It’s true, we are in a pandemic and everyone seems to be hunkering down.  I know that some of my in-real-life (IRL) friends spend a LOT of energy living via their Facebook pages; I also know that, in the past, whenever a friend of mine deactivated or deleted his or her account, I felt personally affronted–it was like, really, you’re just ghosting on me and everyone else like that?  I wonder if the friends who have gone silent the past week, are they feeling like I’ve been “ignoring” them, or have ghosted them?  No texts, no messages, no calls–I can’t help but feel slighted, but the benefit of not having that noise in my life right now simply outweighs all the rest.  Distance will help, I know; hopefully, whatever real or virtual tiff will have dissipated by the time we interact again, on the ‘book or IRL.

Mainly, I have felt bored, but also this sweet sense of quiet–a feeling of peace, focus, less noise in my head.  Very little of others’ lives and feelings are bumping around in my brain, taking up my time and energy–and that is glorious, really.  A relief.

It’s a bit tedious being in my own head and world all the time, especially under lockdown, but, going off Facebook and other social sites has been instructive as to how much I rely on virtual, almost-pseudo-connection to feel connected.

So, onward.  Time to finally read a book–haha.

Face value

6 Apr

11:13 am

Take it at face valueTake what he or she says at face value.

I am so used to hearing expressions like these, but not really understanding them.  Lately, I am coming to grasp the meaning–and the value–of face value.  Maybe it’s the COVID-19 situation bringing it into better focus.

What is face value when you no longer see anyone’s real face?  I mean, in the age of text and social media, is there really any face value?  Sure, we have video–and, truth be told, I’d rather Zoom than not see people (I was SO excited to see my boss’s face the other day, after literally about nine months of just hearing her voice on the phone).  However, the majority of our relationships, for the most part, exist on text and social media–at the very least, I would say, NOT face to face, or, as they say, in real life (IRL).  Is anyone else getting simply tired of it?  Or, if not tired of it, wondering why you are feeling like an outlier because you don’t really want to count it anymore as real interaction?

I feel like so many of my relationships consider text communications to be sufficient–and, to be fair, sometimes they can be–to be the brunt of our total interactions!  To that, I am increasingly saying, it’s not enough.  It really does require more than that (for me, for where I am right now in my life and in my recovery).  To add, my not responding (or not responding fully) does not mean that I don’t like you, or that I am angry or pissed or whatever; it just means that I just don’t consider it “real” face to face–and I refuse to give it that value.

Even my mom sends emails a LOT more regularly these days; she used to get annoyed when I emailed her instead of calling.  Now, I can’t be bothered to go into depth over email, so she’s the one who’s like, why didn’t you reply, it’s been days!  The irony!

I know my tendency as an introvert is to not interact with people; but since getting sober, I have tried really hard to go around that tendency and force myself to talk to people, to try and see people (versus other ways of staying in touch).  We are, so many of us, introverts; however, being an introvert is not the same as using text to avoid someone because you are insecure; or, using text as a means to replace an actual “IRL” relationship because, for some reason, you don’t want to commit to a relationship.

The thing is, a lot can get crossed over the wires when you’re only–or mainly–texting or using social media; a lot can be misinterpreted or misunderstood.  Which can lead to, well, relationships gone bad.  And, these are never made better unless you see each other face to face–you can never really truly take things at face value unless you’re face to face, body to body (in my opinion, anyway).  This might be a rather traditional, luddite approach (favored by my grandparents, no doubt!  damn, has perimenopause aged me four decades instead of two these past several years?), but one whose value I am only now beginning to truly appreciate, in the midst of a pandemic that has forced us all to re-consider how we’ve been interacting lately.

On a personal note, I was furloughed from my (normally remote) nonprofit job–90 days, no pay.  I am going to try to collect UI, but we’ll see (I am not 100% sure I can get it considering how hairy things have gotten pretty much everywhere with everyone applying for unemployment benefits).  The silver lining is actually gold:  I get to step away from this job for a while, which has sucked up a lot of my mental and emotional time this past 16 months, and invest it in this blog, in my own personal writing, in well, my recovery.  Lately, I feel like I need to address my reactions to other people–maybe it’s as simple as, I see some of my acquaintances’ behavior differently now that I am more sober and older, and it probably was never cool to begin with.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am increasingly like, bye, gurl, when it comes to confusing/indirect/passive aggressive behavior–I don’t have the willpower or desire anymore to dig deep and speculate; I choose to take things at face value.

In any case, I suggest everyone step back and give yourself a pat on the back and a big hug–you are doing great.  Amazing, actually.  And, I mean that–you can take that at face value.  YOU ARE AMAZING.

Introverts, rejoice (in hiding, of course)

28 Mar

8:53 pm

Well, if no one else is going to say it, I might as well:  as an introvert, I’m kind of loving this social-distancing, sheltering-in-place stuff.  I mean, I haven’t seen any media story cover the COVID-19 pandemic with the angle of, how do introverts feel to “have” to be alone all the time.  It feels like the elephant in the room when I’m talking to people who really know me.  I keep joking about it, like, haha, this is how I usually live, my life hasn’t changed at all, secretly wondering if I was, am, and will be judged for being an introvert (some might say that I am bordering on hermetic these days).

Of course, all the stories zero in on extroverts, or are written from the (more common?) extrovert mindset:  this sucks, to not be able to have human contact, to not be able to get together, to not be able to talk or hug in person.

Um, not if you’re an introvert!  It kind of truly is how I live my life most of the time.  And, a part of me feels slightly scared (is there something terribly wrong with me?) and another part is intrigued (what is it about me, about my own company, that sustains me more than that of others?).  For me, the timing of this pandemic is a relief, considering my days and nights are stressed by work and trying to maintain a sense of sanity and normalcy in the face of my severe perimenopausal night heat.  As an introvert, I find myself thinking, I finally don’t have to make excuses anymore for not wanting to go out or be with other people in a social setting!

I mean, I am used to working from home, but also, spending my time alone and doing a lot of things alone–and preferring it that way!  Even to me, that still sounds bad, but it’s taken me 45 years to not feel the urge to apologize for who I am; it’s probably never going to feel perfectly right, but at least I’m on my way toward being more accepting of myself.

Like, my life is pretty much EXACTLY the same as it was pre-lockdown:  I spend all day home, alone, working, except for the (admittedly relieving–even introverts need connection!) conference calls that I typically almost always conduct via voice (we don’t normally dial in using video); I work out alone; I usually don’t go out to dinner or (gasp!) the bars anymore.  Once in a while, I’ll hang out with a friend or go to the beach with a group, but it’s rare.

Of course, I have my people, those one or two or three people whom I’ve let in, who know me, and with whom I can be myself.  Even still, I need my space and “me” time.  And, by that, I mean, time alone to observe, to process–and, to get the kind of deep, soulful feedback from myself that I need to feel full, whole, good.  I’m not saying I don’t enjoy others’ company; more often than not, though, I prefer my own, maybe because I am overly self-conscious, maybe because I feel like I “get more back” (in terms of what makes me feel grounded and optimistic) from my inner self.

That being said, I totally understand that feeling of being out of control and insane from spending too much time alone!  I’ve been working from home, as a writer, for almost a decade; what I’ve found helps me is this:

  • tracking my time (making to-do lists, writing in a journal);
  • processing the negative thoughts that just start to whir when you’re alone a lot (again, writing in a journal is essential to me getting all that junk down on digital paper, as it were, and letting it go/clearing the way for positive thoughts); and
  • doing things outside my home (and, that could be, doing yoga on the deck instead of in my bedroom, just to see a change of scenery).

It’s not easy, and I feel for people who don’t have significant others, pets–anything to help you feel less up in your head after a long day of being and working alone.  I have hated it at times, but, the alternative is one, not being a writer (I’ve done that, and I’m probably going to do that again–though an introvert, I can swing toward extroversion for extended periods of time as well; a true Gemini!); and two, writing from an office with people around me, which isn’t really different from writing alone at home except there are people around me, talking or distracting me.  I guess the biggest difference is that I don’t have coworkers to chat with, and that can grate on anyone’s nerves, even mine!  Dogs don’t talk back to you (in words, anyway).

And, all that being said, it does suck to not be able to go out and see friends, hug your people, etc. etc. etc.!  But, this, too, shall pass, this, too, shall pass.  (at least we don’t have to worry about keeping stocked with red wine, right?)

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!

You mean, it’s OK to not care what they think of me?

22 Dec

7:20 pm

I started this post a week ago–it’s been busy, to say the least.  BUT, it’s good to be home.  It’s starting to feel like home now, not some weird in-between world where mostly dead things were floating and roaming.  My memories have gone from sepia to color.  I can walk around and plan the current me’s day, not cry and think about the “old” me of eight years ago.

It’s good to be home again, it really is.  The re-entry was a bit rough, I have to say, but I feel like I’m settling into a new normal:  the feeling that this is too familiar has been replaced by, I’m grateful to feel at home; the feeling that I have outgrown my old life has been replaced by, I’m grateful that I’m in a different place, both personally and professionally (wow, that is an understatement:  I have a full-time job this time, whereas when I came down eight years ago, I was embarking on a freelance writing “career”…oof, it makes me tired and stressed just remembering just how much work, and uncertainty, and being poor that whole thing brought with it).

Mostly, I’ve come to accept that it is not the same, and it never will be.  BUT, it is still a place where I can live fully (with a different sense of self and empowerment, since I am sober and not getting-sober) and fully enjoy all the things, those that are familiar and those that are new; I get to rediscover the things that I loved most about living here.  It is what it is, right now, at this time–we are who were are, and there is no living in the past.  To live in the past would be…to turn into people who have never left, and that is not who we are.

So, it’s been a little over a month since we moved back to our island in the sun, and a lot has happened.  We’ve received our shipped stuff and our car; we’ve had a holiday (Thanksgiving) and a birthday (my boo’s); we’ve been on two boat trips (which is a record; normally, we didn’t go on a boat trip to neighboring islands but maybe once every three to six months!); I’ve somehow managed to make my brain work through the past four weeks of my job (hello, fog brain; I will fight you to the death) and survive yet another month of some crazy nighttime burning-up shit (I have stopped my Googling and just accepted that there is nothing more I can do right now except what I am doing and wait until I am further along; but, things have gotten better re: the night heat, I think, since last year, since two years ago, so there IS that).

What else?  I’ve walked countless times through our old ‘hood, along all the old trails; we’ve come to realize that our dog is never going to be able to walk much around here, but we can take her to the “dog beach,” which we’ve done a few times, and which she loves.  She loves being in her old childhood home; she’s finally remembered and is loving all her old spots, all her old things (she likes to guard her territory; she loves to sit on the deck, surveying the world, making sure it’s in order–I am so glad she can do that now because she’s not cooped up in a second-floor apartment).  We’ve been to quite a few restos again, and a few different beaches (kind of slacking on that, but we’ve both been cranking at work).  I’ve actually reached out–on my own–to several friends here, and we’ve done dinners, lunches, beach meetups.

And, I’ve actually joined a gym and gone a few times!  See, when I lived here before (for the entire five-plus years), I was always afraid to go to a gym for fear I would, I don’t know, have to be social, meet new people, work out in front of others.  It was one of the many sober ticks I had that held me back; it also served to further isolate me, as I only and always worked out alone (which meant slogging up and down the hills in the blazing heat, alone).  Anyway, this time, I just couldn’t slog it out anymore, hot and alone; and, running around our ‘hood today reminds me way too much of my sober walks with our now-gone son (our boxer-beagle) and our younger girl (the one who can’t walk much these days)–it was a wonder-full time, full of thinking, and wondering, and ruminating on getting sober, celebrating being sober, living in my pink bubble, but…

Been there, done that.  I still love my walks in the sun, surrounded by lush green hillsides and crystalline blue vistas–but, I am sober, and all that is done.  I mean, I am still and always will be in recovery–lately, I’ve realized that I still have a lot of work to do on my anger and resentment–but, those years spent getting sober are gone.  It’s time to fully embrace the present, here, and live in the real world, here, which I sort of didn’t do the last time around.  I mean, maybe not–can I just write fiction instead?  Anyway, if this makes any sense, going to the gym here is one step forward.

Another is not caring what other people think about me, or what I’m doing!  And, who KNEW that um, like almost every other alcoholic drinker, I, too, care/cared A LOT about what others thought of me (or, what I thought they thought of me, of my behavior, of my actions, etc.).

I have to say, I just don’t care that much anymore what other people are doing and what they think of what I’m doing (or, more accurately, what I think they think of what I’m doing).  It is subtle, but not really: before, when I was here getting sober, it was almost all I thought about.  What do they think of me, of me getting and being sober?  What do they think of what I’m doing?  I used to fret all the time about whether people thought I was antisocial; if they judged me for choosing to stay at home and work for a company on the mainland.  Granted, I never thought twice about not being able to actually earn a living working at a low-paying job down here, and so intentionally never cutting my ties with my professional world; but, I always thought that people might have judged me as snooty, or somehow too good for this place.  It was weird.

This time around, I simply cannot and do not care about any of the above.  I am doing my do, and glad–no, super-grateful–for the fact that I CAN work remotely and that I had the vision to go for it so that I could pay off my student loan debt and start working on other financial goals.  Honestly, I don’t even have the time to care about what others are actually thinking and going through right now, let alone what I think they think of me!

Leaving helped.  Being away helped.  We were alone, without a familiar set of people and places; we had to had to sit down and figure out what we wanted–that was hard, and it took work, and it’s paid off.  I feel like I have a much broader idea of this world as it fits into the outside world, and our possibilities.  Frankly, I don’t feel intimidated anymore by people here, by MOST people (well, except my big boss at my current job–she is just too much fire for one five-foot woman).  Maybe it’s because people never WERE that intimidating, especially here; this place feels way more relaxed and inviting/welcoming than I ever remember it!?  Maybe we’ve just evolved and this is how it feels to be in your mid-40s (and, for that, I love being in my 40s).

Whatever, it’s just been liberating:  I feel allowed (by myself) to finally just do my thang and live.  To make my gorgeous plans, and to live them.  I don’t have to waste any more of my time wondering about what others are thinking, or doing; not that I don’t care, but that I have boundaries now such that I am able to live most fully and most happily.

Anyway, it’s good to be home, to be here.  Finally.

Who said you can’t go home again?

23 Nov

3:47 pm

I am not sure where my brain is, but it didn’t seem to make it from the check-in counter to the airplane.  Wow, can someone say, brain dead?  Brain fog?  I have literally gone home again, and it’s like, I’ve gone through a wormhole and don’t know if I’m eight years younger or 800 years in the future, talking back to my present-day self in an alien tongue (or maybe through code, like in one of my fave movies, Interstellar).

(Just a brief recap:  I moved to, we’ll just call it ‘the island’, in 2012, after a few months-long visits; during those visits, I fell in love, decided to get sober, and then spent the next five years, until the end of 2017, living and working and loving and being sober in this magical place.  We decided it was time to leave around the end of 2017, early 2018, and since then, lived in two places on the mainland.  We never felt at home after we left, so, when the stars aligned–our jobs worked out, our old house came back up for rent–we decided to move back.  That happened this week, two days ago, actually!)

Wow.

So, I turned off all my computers on Tuesday afternoon after my work day, and I haven’t turned one on until right now.  Yes, I have had my phone, and yes, I do “take notes on the day,” but in terms of processing my journey, nada.  And, y’all know that if I haven’t written about it, it didn’t happen (haha).  And, it’s been brewing to the point where, I was just angry last night–at the gods for making my dog have osteoarthritis, at myself for not being able to snap the eff out of it–so, here I am, starting to process the journey.  And, wow, it’s sort of been a trip.  Hopefully, the lessons I’ve been trying to practice over and over these past two years–living in the moment and letting go of the past–will serve me well.

To sum it up, we packed up our apartment and loaded a bunch of stuff into plastic containers, which my boo drove to a warehouse to be shipped (on the ocean!) on a palette; then, we cleared out, drove our car with luggage and dog to a port, where we dropped the car to be shipped (on the ocean!) via a car container (I think the cars are put into containers), then drove to our hotel, where we stayed the night so we could get up early for our flight the next day.  While our dog lived to tell the tale, I don’t think we’ll ever fly her again.  She is somewhere around 12 years old and seems to have gone from bad to worse in terms of mobility just in the past week.  It has become so painful to watch her try to walk, to struggle at night panting, to seem to be utterly exhausted.  She made the trip and the flight (we had to carry her through the airport), but by the time she stepped back into her old home, I’m not sure if she was glad to be home or just glad to be still, on a bed, not moving anymore.

Which is fine, because I have been a bit blown away.  Like, this house is literally the house we lived in for five/six years here; this is the only place I’ve lived on island.  And, it’s the house where it ALL began and happened and transpired:  I got sober here, I fell in love here, I acquired dogs to love and care for again here, I committed to a freelance blogging and writing career here (all the early DDG posts, I wrote right here); I recovered here, in this house, in this ‘hood.  Oh, and don’t forget, we survived and recovered from the twin cat-5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, right here, in this very ‘hood.

I don’t quite know yet what to think or feel except, the view is still amazing, the people are still amazing, the island bush (an assortment of green shrubbery that protects the island, secures privacy, creates that magical sense of being hidden/tucked away on an island) is still amazing.  It’s all still here, almost exactly like we left it, in fact–our furniture (we sold our entire household to our landlady, who rented it furnished in our absence), our neighbors/family (they even kept our spices for us for these past 22 months), the water and sun and plants and trees and rocks and jungle critters that nourished us for all those years.

What isn’t here is a young dog.  What isn’t here is the younger version of me, the one who was BLOWN away by the newness of it all, as a newbie eight years ago.  I mean, it’s all so emotionally charged for me because I moved here and let go of EVERYTHING I was doing and embraced a brand new life and lifestyle–I got sober, I fell in love, I got to have a house and dogs to take care of, I got nature and ocean and this place that was SO the opposite of the competitive urban jungles I had been dwelling in for almost 20 years.  I was 37, so my time here then was also a time of great transition–my friends from those years, we went through the big choices of your late 30s:  getting sober, committing to your partner, having a baby.

I’m 45 now, and much improved–I am recovered (mostly), so don’t need to spend hours, days, weeks, months, YEARS inside my pink cloud/sober bubble.  I can go out and help others get sober, hey!  Back then, it was an unnatural feat to leave the house, let alone do something huge, like write a story and get paid for it, or get a part-time job as a barista.  Now, I’ve gotten my old self back–I have grown and I can’t ungrow, even if that means not necessarily feeling that same sense of excitement and achievement I once felt.  I know I have to let that entire past go–the plus is that I get to cherish, appreciate, mine my past and make something of it…without having to relive the weird and awkward of my early sobriety (even though I miss that time, I really do).

Our dog is probably not here for much longer–I didn’t want to admit it this past year, but, at this point, seeing her struggle to even lift her body up on her back legs…  It’s going to be really painful to let her go, too.  The thing is, our dogs meant SO much to both my boo and myself; they weren’t just strays to rescue, just dogs to care for and walk and have fun beach days with–though, we did all that and more.  We’ll both say, they saved our lives.  And that is not an exaggeration.  Both our dogs were my higher power; they both went through sobriety and recovery with me; they made me the person I am now.

With our other dog, it was too late by the time we got him to America–he was too sick to really enjoy the new place, the “world” off his little island rock that we wanted to show him.  The entire nearly-two years we’ve been away, we’ve kept telling our other dog, you’ll go home again soon, girl, you’ll be home soon.  Now, she is home, but…I think it might be a little bit too late for her, too (we can’t really take her on any of the walks that she knows and loves–or, at least knew and loved, as I’m not sure how dogs’ memories really work).

And then there’s me.  And my boo.  We’re not the same, and we have had our ups and downs these past two years.  The truth is, we’ve both become bigger and better humans–and that is how it should be.  I don’t want to roll back our evolution as people, of course not; what I miss is the naivity of even just a few years ago.  We had no idea what to expect; I feel like I’ve aged a decade at least in these past two years.

I also have to admit that I am probably never going to recover that sense of awe, of newness, here; and, I have to admit that I sort of mourn for that; I grieve, still, for the girl I once was…while also feeling relieved that I am no longer in that place of extreme sensitivity and vulnerability.  So weird, and so conflicted.

I’m not sure how I’m going to fare here, socially–I am hoping for the best, or at least, better than my first whirl.  When I lived here before, I came as an active alcoholic, so, not only did it takes years to become social, but I felt like my experience had become defined by who I was before and while getting sober.  At least now, I can leave all that angst and struggle and baggage behind, and approach my life here as a “normal” person…  I mean, I do feel a LOT more confident and social and able to be social and to form and nurture relationships now than I did then.  The question is, will I want to or will I fall back into old habits?

Eh, it’s all good, really.  Aside from our dog, things are already going to be smoother (we both have friends already, we both have secure jobs that pay well, um, I am already sober!).  So, what I say to my overactive mind is, let it work out, let it transpire, and think the thoughts but let them go.  Let them ooze out like pus so your brain can heal and start working again.  🙂

Why was I so angry?

9 Nov

10:05 pm

As you know, I’ve been rather methodically going through my “stuff,” the stuff that I threw into storage a decade ago and haven’t really looked at since.  All these seven years, while getting sober, I have speculated but never really “corroborated” the conclusions I came to regarding why I drank; I never really looked at all those writings and notes and pictures, just to see, was that really how it went down?  Was that really who I was back then?

Anyway, the question keeps coming to mind, Why was I so angry?  And, after all these years and all that wine–and now, all these weeks spent purposefully going over my “boxes of the past,” so to speak–I don’t really know.  It’s really a tough concept to wrap my head around:  I was SO angry back then, and it defined my life and relationships during that time as well as impacted them for years to come, but I cannot for the life of me really remember what I was fuming about.  It’s crazy-making, albeit I’m grateful to not be anywhere near that angry anymore–and, have had, dare I say, years of feeling relatively stable and joyful.

I have to say, this process of sorting through my stuff (as we prepare for our move back to the island) has been tedious by my own making, and it’s been more a process of reminiscing as well as letting go (of the past, of my youth, I am not even sure).  I mean, I was perfectly fine not remembering all this stuff, and then here come the boxes and I’m all reflective and sad and kind of reliving that horrible past that “caused” me to drink in the first place (caused in quotes because I know that no one or no thing made me drink–I loved drinking until I didn’t and couldn’t).

After going over some stuff, looking for clues as to what made me so angry that I ramped up my drinking, this is what I do know:  I seemed to be my “old” self, bruised and battered like everyone else, but still happy and smiling, confident and well, resilient, up until about 2000 or 2001 (I turned 27 in 2001).  I had already gone through many things prior to then that might have broken me but didn’t–fighting parents; a binge eating disorder in my late teens and early 20s; college itself, which was difficult and maybe a key to my drinking.  I majored in biology/pre-med, something that I wasn’t even really good at (Does a love for animals necessarily equate to studying biology?) because I told myself that “I should”–instead of something that I loved and was good at and DREAMT of doing, writing, specifically writing poetry.  I was too afraid, so I pushed my dreams out of mind and did what I told myself I should do.  I negated my dreams, discarded my self.  It hurts to even write that, to read it out loud, but it’s true.  Pain is behind anger, and maybe this is where it all began?

All this is to say, there wasn’t this one big thing that made me angry.  Did I just feel erased, exhausted by my refusal to express the real me?  Maybe.  I mean, looking back at pictures of myself from around 2000, 2001, 2002–that was when I became uber-angry and started drinking; or, started drinking and became uber-angry–I can’t come up with any one thing that happened that should have made me as angry as I looked and felt.

I hate to admit it, but I think my drinking ramped up with an increasing disappointment over my romantic relationships.  Like, it sucks to admit that my life could have been derailed by a man (haha), but I think that most of the depression and rage that came to a head during my late 20s came from feeling slighted and not good enough and then, finally, unloved and unloveable, or so I told myself.  Of course, I had a role in all these failed romances (I was that crazy drunk bitch), but it was still painful and frustrating–and made me angry.

Another thing that might have made me angry, over time, was the fact that by my late 20s, I was starting to get ground down by always doing what I was supposed to be doing, and hating every minute of it (I mean, I still do the same kind of work, but I have a longer-term plan, and I’ve spent years finding my voice as a freelancer).  I never allowed myself to freely express myself, to not be agreeable, to be loud and ugly and well, angry!  By the time I turned 30, I finally decided to go back to school for one of two things (writing was one), two things that I had determined I liked.  Before then, I felt like I had not lived a determined life, that I had let this people-pleasing mentality go on for far too long.  I was desperate to break free–to fucking break things!  And, break things I did, while blackout drunk.

I think one key aspect to blackout drinking is saying, fuck it, I give in/up, let me just smash the fuck out of it all.  Let me drop the ball.  The only way perfectionists and people-pleasers, the always-agreeable ones, are going to let it go is to not be aware of the fact that they are letting it go.  For me, drinking to the point of not remembering what I was doing not only let me do things that I would never normally allow myself to do, but it also allowed me to not have to account for dropping the ball, you know?  If you can’t remember, it didn’t happen (in your mind, at least).

At the end of the day, I can’t say what ONE thing made me angry.  What I can say is, I cannot blame anyone else for doing anything to me that caused me to be angry, and to drink.  No parent, no man, no biology text book made me drink.  I chose to drink–the way I wanted to drink, which was to erase the anger, the hurt; to erase the self who was stuck inside, trying to get out.

Drinking soothed my angst (I was scared to be a poet, so I told myself that someone was telling me I “should” not do it), my loneliness (I wasn’t able or ready to relate, which is why I picked the wrong men), and my social anxiety (I am by nature an introvert, so drinking made meeting new people actually somewhat fun).

SO, do I have any more answers than I did before I got my stuff out of storage and started rummaging through said past for clues as to why I drank?  Eh, sure, I guess, but like all things related to alcoholism, nothing is cut and dry, and everything is everything.  It’s not like I can close my boxes and computer and say, I know why I veered off track (the scarier question is, was I ever on one?), I know what made me drink.  It won’t ever be resolved, but…there’s good news.

The good news is, I’ve realized with almost certainty that you don’t have to live in the past; you can remember your mistakes and learn from them, and you can process your experiences in order to be a better person or live a lighter, truer life–but, you can take the good bits of the past, and relive those, and leave the bad bits behind.  You don’t have to relive any of it.

Honestly, I feel like I’ve lived LIFETIMES since that time, which was almost 20 years ago.  And, really, does it even matter anymore what made me so angry if I’ve moved so far beyond who I was then?

Let it go, let it go, let it go.  Learn from your past, cherish it; but don’t hold onto it.  Such a simply worded mantra for one of life’s hardest exercises.

The power of a sound bath

14 Sep

10:19 pm

I think I mentioned in my last post that I recently spent a week on the west coast of Costa Rica, mainly to do yoga, but also to be alone to process the fact that there are changes and evolutions going on in my life, and there is grief, and I am having a hard time dealing with all that AND keeping everything else in place.  I only spent four days there–two were traveling to get there, and then, the final two days were spent getting home (and, stressing:  I was booked through Miami on the way home, and Hurricane Dorian was just picking up speed that week and it looked like it was going to blow through Florida).  Anyway, my time there was short and I only had four days, but four days was enough to see a transformation.

WhirrWhirrWhirrrrrrrring.  This was the sound of my mind–the sound of my incessant thinking–during the first two days (well, all the time).  I filled those days taking yoga, walking along the beaches (gosh, the Pacific is immense and amazing–and warm!?–down there), eating fish and rice and fruit (my perfect diet, I must say), and going to bed.  Yet, my mind!  Would.  Not.  Stop.  Thinking.  JESUS.  I mean, I could literally hear the whirring sound…like a swarm of mosquitoes, filling my skull to the brim, spinning in one huge loud circle of BUZZ, WHIRR, WHIRRRRRRRRING.

On the evening of the second day, I decided to take a sound bath.  The instructor was fantastic–the resort where I took my classes had some of the best teachers I’ve ever had, actually–and the sound bath was really cool.  I mean, I’ve participated in sound “healing” ceremonies before; and yeah, afterward I do feel calmer and I can remember at least a few interesting visuals that came up during the ceremony; but, I have never felt anything beyond that.  I enjoy them, that’s true, but I’m not sure I would consider them to be healing, per se.

Until I woke up on the third day feeling…quiet.  QUIETED.  Happy.  Calm, clear, optimistic.  Like, the sense of clarity was unmistakably uplifting!  The whirring had stopped.  What the…?  I walked along the beach that morning, noticing that all my confusing, conflicted thoughts and thought tendencies and thought patterns–this mental weight that had been bogging me down for the past two days–had just gone away.  The whirring was gone.  Now, I don’t know if I should credit the sound bath, but…

The following night, my last, I went to my second sound bath–and this time, I listened a bit more closely to what the teacher was saying before he started in on his instruments (I have to admit, during the first class, I was just like, yeah, uh huh, right).  And what he said was:  by utilizing sound waves, sound baths ultimately allow your higher mind to distance itself from your lower mind (the thinking, the judging, the ego mind)–which helps to quiet the lower mind.  I was like, what?  That is literally exactly how I felt; that I had this newfound sense of clarity because the whirring just seemed to have ceased, and my higher mind was now fully present–quiet, not as judgmental, open.  This, in turn, made me feel happier, friendlier to self and others, more willing to have conversations with strangers, more able to take in and enjoy the scenery…

At home now, what this clearer, quieter state of mind has allowed me to do is be more positive, in general, and resist negativity (from my own mind, from others).  I don’t feel like judging people or situations or getting angry; I just want to let it go and continue to vibrate, as it were, at my higher, quieter level.  It’s helped me feel and be more positive toward my relationships, my job, my coworkers; it’s helped me let things roll off my back and maintain a sense of calm happiness.

This feeling was really strong during the first week after I got back; I’m on my second week now, and while I don’t feel as happy and/or quieted, I find myself going back to that place of quiet clarity in my mind.  I mean, even if I no longer presently own that sense of clarity, I can remember I once did and what it felt like–which goes a long way toward cultivating (I guess you could say) that state of mind.

It was definitely worth suspending my disbelief!  Now, I feel like there is hope, there is a place to go, there IS clarity and quiet to be had–it’s just a matter of finding the tools to get there and developing those tools to keep you there.

Dogmatic Panic

just a dude writing about being a dude

Violet Tempest

Author of Gothic Horror & Romance

Walking in Sober Boots

Footfalls on a Path of Recovery

Sober Mormon

Navigating life after Mormonism and addiction recovery. (It's a trip.)

Ditching the Wine

Getting myself sober; the ups and downs

The Sober Experiment

Start your journey of self discovery

Devon Maid

Devon Maid is a story about my ongoing wellbeing journey and life in a rural playground

Sober and Well

Live your best life free from alcohol

The Phoenix Files

The Outspoken Opinions of S.M. Phoenix

cuprunnethover

Filling my Cup with what Matters

Lauren Steinheimer

freelance writer. trail runner. relentless savage.

winesoakedramblings - the blog of Vickie van Dyke

because the drunken pen writes the sober heart ...

I love my new life!

Changing my life to be the best me. My midlife journey into sobriety, passions and simple living/downshifting.

Waking up on the Wrong Side of 50

Navigating the second half of my life

Sunbeam Sobriety

Just a normal lass from Yorkshire and her journey into happy sobriety

runningfromwine

Welcome to my journey to end my addiction to wine!

Without the whine

Exploring the heart of what matters most

New Beginnings

My Journey to Staying Sober.

Sober Yogi

My journey to wholeness

When Women Inspire

Inspiring women in business, health, and lifestyle

The Sobriety Tree

Putting in roots; mixing metaphors at the leaf level

'Nomorebeer'

A sobriety blog started in 2019

A Spiritual Evolution

Alcoholism recovery in light of a Near Death Experience

No Wine I'm Fine

An alcoholfree journey in New Zealand with a twist

Untipsyteacher

I am a retired teacher who quit drinking and found happiness! After going deaf, I now have two cochlear implants!

Life Beyond Booze

The joys, benefits and challenges of living sober and alcohol free

Functioningguzzler

In reality I was barely functioning at all - life begins with sobriety.

Mental Health @ Home

Building mental wellness on a foundation of strength

Faded Jeans Living

By Dwight Hyde

Moderately Sober

Finding my contented self the sober way

Sober Courage

from liquid courage to sober courage

Musings Of A Crazy Cat Lady

The personal and professional ramblings of a supposedly middle aged crazy cat lady

Life in the Hot Lane

The Bumpy Road of Life as a Woman 45+

Wake up!

Operation Get A Life

doctorgettingsober

A psychiatrist blogging about her own demons and trying to deal with them sober

Storm in a Wine Glass

I used to drink and now I don't

Off-Dry

I got sober. Life got big.

Laura Parrott Perry

We've all got a story to tell.

Finding a Sober Miracle

A woman's quest for one year of sobriety

Dorothy Recovers

An evolving tale of a new life in recovery

Lose 'da Booze

MY Journey towards Losing 'da Booze Voice within and regaining self-control

Laurie Works

MA., NCC, RYT, Somatic Witch

Drunky Drunk Girl

A blog about getting sober

The Soberist Blog

a life in progress ... sans alcohol

soberjessie

Getting sober to be a better mother, wife, and friend

mentalrollercoaster

the musings and reflections of one person's mental amusement park

TRUDGING THROUGH THE FIRE

-Postcards from The Cauldron

%d bloggers like this: