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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.

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.  🙂

Welcome to the doll house

21 Oct

1:06 am

I like that title, never saw the movie, and it only pertains to this post in that, I’ve been going through my old collection of Barbie dolls and really getting into it again–remembering why I loved them so much as a kid.  I was going to put them all up on eBay, but um, most aren’t worth that much because they are super-used, and, I do NOT have the patience to spend HOURS picking through my dolls and clothes and trying to figure out if this was Dream Date or Loving You or Peaches N Cream Barbie and then, after posting to eBay, having to field collectors’ questions!  I thought I was pedantic (which is what makes me a good collector/historian…!).  Still, THAT was actually fun, going through my dolls; I think I’ll probably keep the special dolls and clothes (I had the dream house and car and camper van, too, back in the day; I kind of want to hold onto something of my collection!).

What wasn’t as much fun was going through the other stuff.  And, I have been avoiding writing about it and I guess I should write about it, is all I have to say.

About what? Well, everything! Haha. Life, getting older, my dog getting older, my mom getting older, um, discovering via all this sorting of old stuff–writings, mainly, and photos–that my life seems to have been not an adventurous, freewheeling trip of courage and coming of age; but more a meandering path of mental illness.  That, all my writings are not a gold mine of material but a testament to mental illness over the years–and how to live with it while also not even acknowledging that it is there.  What an iceberg I feel like this realization might be; no wonder I threw this shit into storage a decade ago, moved to the island to start over, and never, EVER thought about looking back literally, at this stuff.  I didn’t want to confront it, and I couldn’t.

One good thing about getting older is that, for me anyway, I can see my own life and choices and path and behaviors much more objectively (it also helps that I am not drinking and wine is no longer exacerbating my issues or masking them!).  What mental illness am I talking about?  I’m talking about depression and social anxiety, sure; but also, things like being on the autism spectrum, borderline personality disorder, maybe even some form of paranoid delusions of grandeur (schizoaffective disorder, something of that nature).  I am not saying I suffered from these things; but, that, there may have been some element of all of them in my past.

It’s not easy, and it’s a slow unraveling.  I’ve kind of wanted to drink past few weeks, but more out of boredom than avoidance or fear of confronting this stuff.  I mean, I’m OK, no one is going to die, but…it’s a bit scary and daunting to remember just how effed up I felt back then, as a teen and 20-something (and 30-something!).

So much has happened the past few weeks, too.  After my mom’s visit–and seeing in action what I would call pretty obvious mental illness; where do you think I get it from?–I am just a bit burnt on all the self-analysis.

My mom’s visit was hard, to say the least.  I don’t think we’ll be spending anymore time alone (without the buffer of other family members), I hate to say.  Before her visit, I spent what felt like an eternity sorting through photos from 20 years ago and beyond.  I hadn’t looked at the scrapbooks and piles of prints from grade school all the way through my early 30s (about the time digital cameras took over, thank god) for years; I mean, we’re talking, I hadn’t looked at some of these photos but ONCE since I printed them at a Walgreens in 1995!  At this rate, I won’t look at these again until I’m 70 (um, in 25 years–holy CRAP, that sounds terrifying); what’s the point in keeping them?

And, that is where my mom comes into the picture.  In looking through the old photos, I saw who she was then more clearly, and I saw who I was then more clearly.  She is different now, but not that different!  All this time, I’ve been thinking that somewhere along the way, she just BECAME super-irritating to me; but, she’s always been herself.  So, what’s changed?  It must be me!  I have changed, a LOT, and especially around how I view my upbringing and how I let it and my stressors affect my life now.

Without really going in too deep around her and me and our issues, one of my big takeaways from our weekend is that, she does not want to hear the “objective” truth; she’s not ready to truly look at her own role in her unhappiness.  The ONLY reason I can say this is that I’ve lived it; as an alcoholic, as we all know, a HUGE part of our recovery is coming to terms with the following life FACTS:

it’s not all about me

stop taking things personally

it’s none of my business what others think of me

let it go

These basic “tenets” of sobriety seem to be what normies just know, or what other people learn as they mature without having to go through recovery first!  Why, at 73 years old, is my mother still seeming to refuse these universal mantras?  Like, I know that it’s really hard to choose to not take things personally, but I also know that continuing to do so causes me pain and that pain is greater than the effort of practicing new behavior.  I don’t know, it was like talking to a wall.  She knows all this stuff, too, but for some reason, she seems to be clinging more and more to choosing patterns of behavior that are negative and take up all her time.  Who knows?  I sure don’t know it all, and I can’t spend much more time trying to figure another person out (I am enough work!).

After talking a bit more with a few people close to me, I realized, if she’s not ready to try to see her role in relationships that are not working for her, and if she’s not ready to do a little self-analysis, then…I can’t take on the sadness and guilt that I do feel because she seems terribly unhappy (unless she isn’t really all that unhappy and is just being dramatic or passive aggressive–another story for another blog post).  I just have to let it go, and allow myself to do what I can for her but to then be happy, unapologetically and fully.  And I do, and she wholeheartedly wants me to (consciously, at least).

At this point, I’m like, who knows?  I have to let it go, and I will…

On that note, my brain is a bit fried, I am burning up tonight (again, who KNOWS what’s going on with my hormones, why one week or day I’m fine, the next my torso is on fire, and the next, it’s only my legs!  WHO KNOWS?), and I really just need to close up shop and turn the light out (in my brain).  I had a great day taking my dog to the beach–she’s “elderly” now, sweet girl, and that is painful; but, the twinges are counteracted by the fact that she’s still out there, frolicking in the water, and truly loving life.  What more could a girl want for her “daughter?”

We are moving in less than FIVE short weeks, and of course, my pedantic self has sold off quite a bit of our furniture.  I have this strange desire to get rid of EVERYTHING, to have no bleepity bleeping stuff anymore–maybe I’m just tired of carrying the weight of the past, feeling like I owe it something that I don’t; maybe I’m just tired of caring about keeping stuff.  I’ve never been one to be truly obsessive about not having clutter, but lately, I’ve been dreaming of a truly clutter-free existence where no stuff is going to trigger me, where the only thing that surrounds my field of view is white light, an open space of present-future, silence to meditate and dream…

The power of expectations

29 Apr

12:02 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm…

“Deep” thoughts for a Sunday night.

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

On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some real-world examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…just say no (sometimes)!

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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