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Staying healthy in the time of COVID

29 Jul

1:09 pm

Do I have COVID? Did I have it? What if I tested negative–can I still have had it? How will I even know that what I have is/was COVID and not something else? What if I get all the scary long-term symptoms?

I think we’re ALL fixating on these questions now, as we zero in on every little ache, pain, cough, or twinge. I know I have been sort of hilariously worried, so to speak, whenever anything feels off: a whisper of a cough one morning, and, I’ve got The Corona! A slight pressure behind my eyes, a passing shower, really, of a headache, and, OMG, I’ve got The COVID!

While I don’t think I’ve had coronavirus (yet!), lately, I have felt unwell–and that’s making me go, hmm. I have been feeling achey, feverish, fatigued. I mentioned in my last post that I think my chikungunya virus infection is back, and I’m still sort of convinced that this is the case. Chik-v, as I like to call it, is a mosquito-borne illness, similar to Dengue fever and malaria in the way it’s transmitted (through mosquitoes) and in some of the symptoms. For some people, it can go dormant after the initial infection and clearance, and then keep coming and going. I got it in 2014, and I’ve had it come and go once in a while; I haven’t had it for a long time, though, and I haven’t had it come back this bad.

When I got it, I had severe pain in joints that were already lame or weakened. For instance, my left knee cap has been straying off course for years, and it usually hurts when I jog or walk down hills. When I got chik-v, it was like, the virus made a beeline for this joint and moved in; it really hurt, moreso than other body parts or joints.

When the chik-v flares, I feel achey and a burning sensation in some joints, feverish, and just kind of blah. The aches I have today are quite reminiscent of when I was first infected, so I’m pretty sure it’s that. The feverishness? Well, hi, menopause. Who knows–I am hot like, 99% of the day and night now, so…LOL, I have stopped wondering if a fever means anything anymore. (Sometimes, I am worried that when they temp-check you, like at a local grocery store here, before you walk inside, they’re going to find that I have a fever and be like, you can’t come in, you have corona…and I’ll have to say, nope, just menopause.)

Not to go on and on about this, but I think it might be worth sharing. Past few years of bloodwork, my white blood cell count has come back high. Nothing to worry about, and the doc didn’t really say much about it. But, I have been wondering why. Is is the latent chik-v, resting in my cells, that’s causing my body to be on immune alert, so to speak? I often wonder, am I working out too hard? That’s really the only other thing that seems plausible to me since, sometimes, after a hard workout in the sun, climbing hills, probably in 95-degree heat and 80-percent humidity (I don’t even want to know what the “feels like” temperature is)–I feel under the weather.

I have the feeling it’s chik-v, and it’s been riled up because I’ve been taxing myself too much working out. Yet…I can’t help but wonder, could I have another infection, and if so, could it be corona?

I’ve been staying relatively well, otherwise, during this pandemic. I am not prone to the anxiety, I guess, that others (my mom) are feeling, in terms of not being able to socialize. It’s true that I do have a significant other, and I am grateful and fortunate to have that–others, like my mom, don’t. I don’t need a lot of friends, I guess, to be happy and feel safe; I need to socialize from time to time, but a lot of the deep thinking and emotional work, well, (in getting sober) I learned to keep to myself. When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I needed WAY more close friendships; I depended on my “tribe” for survival. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped needing–or wanting–to be that open and vulnerable about my inner world. In this pandemic time, it’s probably helped that I’ve sort of always been able to be happy and imaginative in a bubble of only a few close people and pets.

For some reason, I haven’t wanted to cook more, or experiment more with random ingredients. I don’t know if I’m bored or lazy in the kitchen these days, but I would love to do more cooking (of things I’ve never made). I have truly sucked at reading more books–I am literally hanging my head in shame that I haven’t finished one book (yet!). Um, speaking of book–haha; I have a book idea (a few), and it’s in project stage, and said project is on my to-do list EVERY day, and EVERY day, I find something else to do instead of that! Haha. I’ll get there.

My workouts are strong, my job search has been going well–I made it through my video interview on Monday, now it’s a matter of waiting. There are good things, too, and we have to congratulate ourselves on doing the good things, on simply staying sane.

We are expecting our first storm of the season down here–it’s the ninth storm to form, the first to touch down, this year. I cannot believe how EARLY we’re getting our first tropical storm this year. By comparison, in 2017, when we were struck by TWO category-5 hurricanes within two weeks’ time (cat-5 is as high as it goes, so, a very bad season), Hurricane Irma was the ninth storm that year–that was in early September; we aren’t even out of July yet!

Anyway, the water is churning, the wind is rumbling the hurricane shutters, and we’re getting ready to just close up and sit tight for the next day, if not several days. Stay well, everyone, and I’ll see you soon.

Days go by

25 Jul

5:05 pm

Days go by, and I keep plugging away.

There’s my job search, which is going well. I’ve got a great lead on a great company/gig, and I have what I believe might be my final round of interviews on Monday. I am trying to not overthink it, as in, wonder all sorts of things about the industry, full-time vs. freelance, my own emotional and/or mental investment… However, here and now, in the midst of a pandemic where over half of my own organization was furloughed; where jobs in THAT space are few and far between; where a TON of people are without work and I should be thrilled that this job even exists, let alone that I have the potential opportunity to be offered said job–I am trying to not overthink it, keep an open mind, and focus on the task at hand.

Which is definitely being helped by me being off Facebook! I actually went on last night–and, of course, I got sucked in for a whole hour, from 2 to 3 am! The good news is, I didn’t really obsess about anything or anyone’s posts; I didn’t let much affect me–that felt good; it felt good because I was able to check my groups (which I miss), read a few people’s updates (I miss keeping up with some friends’ lives, more regularly that I would in person), and then…log off. I will probably continue to go on periodically, but I don’t have a desire to get hooked in on a daily basis.

Speaking of my 3 am bed time, um…yeah. I am trying, but it’s hard for me to get to sleep before 3–especially when I don’t have to go to work the next day. I mean, I have always been a night owl, but I actually want to see if I am waking up after three hours (so, 6 am) every night because I went to bed too late and it’s sunny as shit by then or because, well, menopause.

I started on the estrogen patch this week, so, I’ve been off the birth control pill for two weeks. I have to admit, I think I’m actually having daytime hot flashes/flushes now, and I never had those before on the pill. Hmm…maybe it’ll just take a while for the patch to start working? Or, maybe I’m just hot (it is really hot here right now; 90 degrees in the shade, lawd knows how humid)? Maybe I need a higher dose? Who knows? (I’ve stopped trying to figure it out…because, well, menopause! WHO KNOWS what’s going on? I don’t, and I majored in physiology!?)

Maybe I’m hot because I am taking care of our dog all day long? It’s like a crossfit workout, taking care of her! My girl hasn’t been able to walk for oh, three days now. Her hind legs are just so tired–atrophied , crossing each other (it’s like, her left hind has lost all tension). She’s struggling. We spend a lot of time helping her get up, walk across the room and outside, go for walks on the harness. I say, it’s a crossfit workout, taking care of her, what with the bending and kneeling and lifting. She’s been pooping on her bed for months now, but recently started losing control of her bladder, SO…lots of wiping and washing and drying, spraying and folding and moving and tucking in… I love her, but we’re all getting tired.

I was thinking of how much of a higher power she was to me when I was getting sober. I’ve written about it on my blog before, how she and our other dog (RIP, sweet boy) were my higher powers. He taught a newly sober me how to love others; she taught me how to love myself. That’s all I can say. They were such a huge part of my early years here, on island; such a huge part of my sobriety–I know, I know, they’re “just dogs,” but, to me, for me, they were so much more than that; they helped me more than most humans could have helped me. I just can’t imagine life without her, her not having life–it’s too hard to contemplate. She wants to live, and until she lets me know otherwise…?

What else? I swear, my chikungunya is back. It usually resurfaces to a degree when either I am infected with another virus (the flu, for example) or my immunity is low (when I work out too hard, for instance). Past few days, I’ve felt achey all over, especially in my ankles and wrists and fingers, and like, have had this familiar internal burning feeling in these areas; just blah–“chikungunya-y.” I hate to say it, but, maybe I’ve contracted the COVID? Hopefully not. I’ve been reading about the chronic nature of COVID for some patients, and it reminds me of the way chikungunya virus can hide out for a long time in some people (apparently, me; I got it in 2014, and I still have symptoms once in a while). Yipes. No, thanks!

On that note, I’ll sign off.

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down/into the blue again, after the money’s gone/once in a lifetime…

More like my dog

8 Jul

1:14 pm

During these dogs days of summer–I can’t believe we’re well into July; it’s been a steamy one here, too–I’ve been watching my dog a lot. And, man, I wish I could be more like my dog. She is fierce, endlessly patient with herself and her limitations; she is never mean, always loving, and keeps trying and trying, adjusting to every new normal as if it’s no big thang. If it’s sunny, she’s resting peacefully in her spot outside in front of the door; if it’s raining, she wants to be out there, too, getting wet and inhaling the breezes, more alive than ever as she stands guard against enemy dogs who might try to take advantage of the dark wet night’s cover. She never, ever complains; when she is unhappy or depressed about her condition, she gives a nod that she wants to be left alone, and then sleeps it off. Oh, boy, I wish I could be more like my best girl!

Me, on the other hand, I am not patient; I try to take my transitions in stride, but, usually, I let them get the better of me. This past week has been hard, with my hormones not quite right–major heat, constant heart palpitations, anger. The other night, my night heat got the better of me: after about 1.5 hours of sleep, I was jolted awake by some freaking intense heat, burning up head to toe. I turned the a/c down, cranked the fan up, and decreased the temperature setting on my chiliPAD (it’s been a lifesaver these past few years; Google it!). I rushed out to the kitchen, literally gave myself a bath at the kitchen sink, and overheard myself whisper-screaming, This is a living hell; this is truly a living hell. (One more week, then an off-week, and then I start the estrogen patch–we’ll see if it helps.)

My dog just rolls with it at night, which is her worst time, too (panting like crazy, hurting from the day). When I get up at night, she just looks at me like, what? I pet her, smell her ears and feel her fur, and it all just makes me feel better. She helps me get through the nights, which are “dark, and full of terrors”–she’s my best friend, mainly in that she knows more about my nights than anyone can or would want to know. And, still, she loves me!

I am trying to just embrace the days and live free. I’m still off Facebook–and it feels great. I got off in April, didn’t go back on until June, and then went on two more times last night and this morning…which was an excellent reminder that I’m so much better off without it, at least right now in my life. I can’t speak to Twitter or the ‘gram or any other social sties, as I have never been a big user of these platforms.

I do miss certain things about Facebook–I miss my “on this day” feed, which is kind of like a journal that reminds me of the cool things I’ve done on this day in years past; I miss my groups; and I miss certain people, mainly those people with whom I don’t have typical friendships (like, folks I met while volunteering abroad, locals who live in those communities). Most of the other posts fill me with a sense of, this virtual reality is not only not real, but it is designed to keep people stuck in it, wasting time, wasting their actual, in-real-life energy! Increasingly, I see it as a tool to remind me of MY life, but not as a way to actually interact with others. Only took me a decade to figure this out!

I had a job interview yesterday, and I think it went well. The huge plus of job searching as a remote employee looking for remote work is that…everyone is now open to it, if not at least initially. I have been working remote for a long time, years and years; every time I interview for a job, though, it feels like a piece that requires explanation and justification. Not now! And that’s a wonderful relief–it’ll allow everyone to finally focus on the job, not the logistics or politics, you know? We’ll see; it’s one of those jobs that will require a long interview process (at least two more people and then a panel video interview with, I’m guessing, three to six more people), but, it will be worth it if I do land the gig!

It’s a beautiful day here, so I am trying to embrace the wonder; the past few days, I was just angry all day (thanks, hormones), and I took it with me–on my walk, around my boo, maybe even toward my best girl. Today, I’m just trying to be more like my dog: patient, taking it as it comes, and accepting all of things, good, bad, and in between.

Eight years as Drunky Drunk Girl

15 Jun

11:33 am

I can’t believe it: yesterday was the anniversary of starting my blog, on June 14, 2012, EIGHT YEARS AGO!? It feels a lot longer than it sounds; like, eight years, sure, but eight years ago, I was a totally different person. Mostly for the better, a little bit for the worse.

Frankly, this blog has not only kept me sober, but it’s become a defining experience in my life; for that, I will be forever grateful.

Back then, I was lost and alone, drinking alcoholically, unsure of what I wanted or, even if I did know what it was (I did), too afraid to make the change to get it. One day, though, I DID make that change–I don’t know why the night of June 12, 2012, (and into the wee hours of June 13) was different from other drunken escapades or hangovers; as I wrote in my first post, and as you hear in the rooms, I had just had it. I was done. I was so tired of avoiding what I needed and not getting what I wanted; I was so exhausted of never being able to drink just one…and the ensuing drama that always came with this “failing.” I was tired of failing–others, sure, but mostly myself. I wanted to never black out again, to never say or do the horrendous things I said and did, ever, ever again. And, so it was born; I was re-born in a small studio apartment in the big city where I did my graduate degree and figured I’d live forever (but that I eventually left, after realizing that big city was part of my old drinking self).

I wrote my first blog post during a hellish, two-day hangover. I had no idea that starting my blog would not only allow me to get and stay sober, create an online sober community, and continue into long-term sobriety; but that I would still be blogging, eight years later!? I turned quite a few of my blog posts into story ideas, actually, for my day job (when I was a freelance science journalist). These days, I am not writing journalistic stories, but I still consider the years of 2013-2015 to be precious in terms of how “on fire” I was re: science journalism. Why did I stop? Well, it paid shit and I was burnt; yep, I have come to simply accept that after two years as a freelance journalist–and by then, close to a decade as a journalist–I was tired of it. And, I’m still kind of there; I mean, I think it would take a change in subject matter (back to something that truly intrigues me, like addiction, maybe other areas) to get me to want to interview, transcribe, write, and edit journalistic “stories” again. We’ll see–I mean, there is still a flicker, so that’s encouraging.

This blog–and my sobriety–have allowed, and continue to allow, SO many things. I have grown as a person, a human; I have grown up. I have come to appreciate and be grateful for every moment, everything that I have and that has come my way–mostly due to quitting drinking. I chose to move to an island, to get into freelance writing, to make it work here; I chose a man, a dog (well, dogs) to share my life with; I chose to live consciously and intentionally, regardless of how crazy or sad or neurotic it made/makes me feel sometimes to be sober, to feel alone in how aware I must be all the time. I am proud and grateful for this blog–and, I am indebted, really, to the community that has supported me and encouraged me, HERE, all these years (when others didn’t, when the in-real-life relationships faded away).

The only thing I regret, somehow, is remaining anonymous; however, I promise that one day (soon?), I will come out.

On the “for worse” side, um, I think I’ve just sort of settled into a not-pink-cloud reality; like, I got sober, it was thrilling, and then, all of the sudden, life got real again. And, maybe that coincided with me taking a corporate job and leaving journalism (I did it because I needed to start earning some real money, putting away some real savings). Anyway, I do feel a bit more jaded, or cynical, or maybe just in touch with the day-to-day rhythm of “real life”–it’s not pink clouds forever. On the other hand, that reality is not something I wish wasn’t so; it just is, so this has become an exercise in how to cultivate joy and excitement and “fire”…even when you’ve seemingly plateau’d in your sobriety.

Anyway, I recently learned that my furlough has been extended, likely forever. SO, I will be job searching (and soul searching) the next few days, likely offline.

Stay safe and well, y’all, and I hope everyone has a great start to a grateful week…

You are what you think, or not think

2 May

12:11 pm

I just got done listening to the NPR hourly news broadcast, and it was nothing but reports on death and destruction.

The Morning Edition show is all about coronavirus, each story having its unique, terrible angle.

When I troll through my Apple news feed, the stories bring to life, literally, death, destruction, and in general, a sense of anxiety toward the people, places, and things in this world.

When I go on this blog, I write (and read) posts about life, drinking, sobriety–the underlying constant being struggle, rumination, darkness (albeit, a darkness-turned-light).  I mean, there is this thing called a pandemic, and there is this thing called human nature, the human experience–none of it is easy!  And, there IS light in sobriety (which has been born of dark days, for all of us).  However, I (we?) tend to usually write about the struggle to out-think addiction and mental health disorders so that I (we?) can see and feel and breathe in that light.  One day.

I am just tired of it all, in the best way possible, I guess.  I have spent eight years writing about the darkness–the ruminative thinking that perpetuates the darkness.  WHAT IF…I stopped breeding more darkness by simply stopping the thinking, stopping the writing about it all?  By focusing more on the forest not the trees, on things that are not enveloped in the dark shadows of ego-centric thinking, the twists and turns that bind and trap my mind?

I know this to be true:  while daily journaling helps me process my reality and stay sane (100% true, which is why I can’t quit it), I wonder if I am just giving shape and form to dark thoughts and thought patterns–unnecessarily and to my detriment?  In other words, I am not sure if journaling is healthy–or, if it just makes me more pensive; at the very least, if it just brings to light smoldering pre-thoughts that should really just die there, in the rustling, restless dirt patch of my neurotic mind.

Is writing about it making it worse?  Or, should I continue on, living the whole “the unexamined life is not worth living” thing?

I’d like to somehow move on from this process, but to give it up?  I am not sure how I’d function, for real, without my daily journaling (and, I guess this includes blogging here).  I have been longing for some time for an emptier mind–maybe like a white-walled room, or a beach with no movement on the water–emptier than one that has been purposefully splashed with stark, contrasting colors or toed up to make the water murky with sand.

I don’t know; I have been wondering for years, is this writing about it all the time making it better or worse, and I have to conclude:  only I can make that call, decide to carry on or cancel the show.  And, I have to trust my judgment–and ignore the fear of missing out, or of being forgotten–instead of relying on anyone else’s say in the matter.  No one is going to tell me what to do, so, I have to go with my gut (my gut always comes running back to writing it all down, though).

In the end, this is one of those things that made me drink, made me drink alcoholically; it is, in a way, part of my addiction as much as it is part of who I am and who I have grown up to be.  I have always been overly thoughtful and more than a little self-conscious; it’s good for a writer, but bad for a human.  I guess the answer lies in understanding oneself and finding the balance…

Three weeks off Facebook coming up, and I swear, I do not miss it at all.  I SO do not miss keeping up with my “friends,” which makes me wonder a bit about myself, but mainly, gives me a huge sense of relief and solace that I could so easily just let the whole thing go…  I get my news elsewhere, and eh, I don’t think I necessarily need to reconnect with my professional groups, though, I know I will want to one day soon.  Till then, I am happy in my bubble of not knowing; I think it’s time to focus that energy on myself and my projects and goals (to finally start meditating?  haha).

Ironically, just a post as food for thought (or, shall I say, food for not-thought?)!

Back again to where it all began

5 Feb

10:32 pm

Tonight, I am remembering last August, when I paid a visit to the city where I first got sober in the summer of 2012 (and started this blog!).  My fiance is there now, getting his stuff and hopefully, my stuff out of storage so that we can finally consolidate it all under one roof.  I’ve had my stuff in a storage unit for a ridiculous number of years (I’m too embarrassed to reveal how many; suffice it to say, *I* am that person they write stories about when they want to feature the amount of money people waste on storing stuff that eventually becomes the equivalent of a big, fat ZERO), so this is good.  What is also good is that I am not there with him, having pangs of doubt and longing as I consider cutting my last remaining tie to the city that stole my heart and then, stole my sanity!

I spent 5 years there, and I went back many times since moving away almost 9 years ago, always with the plan that I would move back one day.  Before I left, I put my stuff into storage, and over the course of these many years, have consolidated and moved to a smaller unit, but I never got rid of it.  Of course, I am moving back here, I kept telling myself:  this is where I went to grad school, had amazingly new experiences, became a drunk, had my heart broken and mind burnt with every crushing hangover.  Of course, I have to live out the rest of my days here.  These are my people, this is where I belong.

Not being there to finally say goodbye might be a good thing–to just let it go, finally and forever, from afar.

Anyway, it’s got me thinking about the week I spent in the city this past summer–I tend to go back once a year, to “visit friends” (I literally have no friends anymore in that town except my brother, who has recently moved there part-time), “reconnect with the city/see my old haunts” (I have wasted countless days, walking past old apartments, old bars, old university buildings, being reminded that I am simply chasing a drunken ghost), and, I guess, plan my move back.  Yet, every time I go back, I become slightly less enamored with the place; sure, I will always love it–I went to graduate school there, I became a drunk, I had many life-altering experiences; it’s the place where I spent the first month of my sobriety holed up in a studio, starting this blog in an attempt to finally get sober.  I remember during my last stay this August, I walked by the studio where I got sober and started this blog, and took a picture of the place–again.  I have more than one picture of that place, and of all the other apartments and sublets I lived in in that town.  I can’t let go, and I don’t want to.  Why?

I haven’t lived there in many years–that must tell me something, right, even amidst my rationalizations of why I can’t let it go (because I am still in love with it/that life/that lifestyle/my dreams of that era).  Thing is, I never did come back, and I’m not precisely sure why, except, I couldn’t financially, and I didn’t really want to anyway.  It’s cold, and dark, and my dreams are all intact, inside my mind; I can be anything from anywhere; I can write from anywhere, not just a cold, dark city where I also lost my mind to wine.  The more times I return, the more I see that it is and always will be part of my past–the past is the past, and searching for it is just, well, like I said, chasing your own ghost.  When I look at it that way, I have to wonder, why not just let it go?

These days, I am starting to sort of feel being in my mid-40s:  the whole perimenopausal thing has something to do with it, but I have to say, it comes and goes and right now, I feel totally normal (plus, my blood work came back at almost all normal levels, so that leads me to believe that nope, at the ripe old age of 44, I am definitely not in menopause yet!).  It’s just, when I wander around that city (in particular, but not just that city alone), I am very much aware of the difference between me–and my life, and my state of mind and being, and my sobriety, and all the amazing experiences I have had AFTER leaving that town–and all the 20- and 30-somethings around me.  I have to accept not that I’m not young or that I’m old, but that I’m just not THERE anymore.  My being is telling me to just let it go; it’s too much work holding onto it, and there are so many other things to do, and dreams to be had!  I can–and will–let go of holding onto that past, that idea of who I was in that past.  I am still her, she still is me; but, we are here, now, and we are plugging away, moving and building.  I do not belong to that time, to that past; I belong to me, here and now.

Speaking of which, yes, I continue to build–every day is like laying one lone brick, and hoping it doesn’t fall down or get knocked off by an unexpected wind that came up in the night.  My new job is sort of a lot of work–and YES, YES, I am grateful (it’s good work, and my coworkers are probably the nicest, most fun people on the planet to work with), but…  I miss my old life!  Haha.  I have to admit, I miss the freedom of being, of time, of mind, of dreams that island life granted.  There is just no other way to say this:  I am back in the real world (well, I work from home, but I work every day from 9 to 5, and my day is fairly regimented), but I long to be on that physical and metaphorical island, soaking up the nothingness of the moment, and the magical possibility of the future.  I miss being/feeling “young” (um, I moved there the year I turned 38), which I guess entails a bit of saying “fuck it” and just doing what I want, not caring anymore about achieving and doing “important work,” or participating in the consumer culture of the mainland–I mean, who wouldn’t?  I miss the sense of fullness of soul that comes with no material possessions.  Sure, life here is easier, and I need this “real-world” job so that I can continue to build something that sort of broke down after years as a freelance writer, but…I miss being a freelancer, too!  And, most of all, I miss being a barista–ahh, the simplicity of it, the satisfaction, the sense of ownership of doing something a little bit unique to my story and my past.

I have hope that soon come, after the bricks have been laid, we will move forward, or back to, the place that stirs magic in our hearts.

As for that old city where I got sober and that I might not have any remaining connection to once my manz clears out my storage unit in a few days for me–well, there is nothing left to do but let it go.  Accept what happened, and what has passed; and let holding on, and longing, and the old idea of my younger self–let it go.  I am here now, wherever that may be; I belong to this story, to this place, to this here and now.  And, thank Goddess for that.

You don’t have to be awesome, or win

25 May

4:16 pm

Yes, that’s right, folks!  At 43, soon to be 44 next month, I have at last made the realization that, nope, you don’t have to be awesome, and you don’t have to win.

You don’t have to do anything amazing, or challenging even; you don’t have to do it perfectly, or better than someone else; you don’t have to win any prizes.

Life goes on; life will go on, whether you publish a book, or open a business, or make millions as a lawyer or doctor.  NONE of that really matters; what matters, I say, is the fact that you got to fall in love with a dog, and walk him–he laughing into your tears with his tongue–until you stopped crying and starting laughing with him.  Our boy is gone now, but he lives on in my mind; and most days, that’s the only thing that feels like it matters to me.  And, I’m not sure if I am supposed to feel liberated by that or straight up SCARED to death that I am getting closer and closer to just not giving any fucks anymore!

There is so much consumerism here–buying and selling of things, of work, of jobs, of people, of relationships, of experiences–in America.  Maybe it really is everywhere, but, man, does there seem to be a desire here, almost a frenzied one, to acquire experiences.  I’m in on it, too, of course, and as frenzied as the next person–and enthusiastically so most days!  Yet, I try to remind myself of the existence of my higher power, the higher things, the lessening and loosening and lessons of sobriety.  Life is about the wind, the breath being taken away; the letting go.  Sometimes I do feel…estranged, I guess, in a “land of plenty” where there is never enough, and in some cases, feels like nothing.

I am trying to write these days, and all the usual bullshit comes up; somehow, though, I had this thought the other day that it just doesn’t matter–for real.  It’s a thought that I’ve tried believing before, and I got to a certain level and then you know, went back to being my normal competitive, hard-on-myself self.  Yet, the other day, I just thought, you know, you’re going on 44, you don’t have to win anymore.  You don’t have to get into a good school (did it, twice), be the best in that school (failed at that, but I’m sure I tried and tried), do this and that and the other (did it all, in search of “growth” and “challenge”); you don’t have to get another degree and even if you do, you don’t have to do well in the program!  You don’t have to DO anything or BE anyone except…yourself.  A person who will maybe be loved and maybe be forgotten; that is life, and that is what we fight for, and against, it seems, every single day.

At this, I drank.  I drank so much trying to be and do and achieve and win–and also, to NOT be and do and achieve and win.  Now, I don’t want to drink at this; I have accepted that this is how I feel sometimes, and what I think, and well, maybe the reality that we all have to face now and again in this lifetime.

It’s so hard not being hard on myself; it’s so hard for all of us, I assume, to not be hard on ourselves.  And, I would venture to say that, even IF someone tells you, Oh, DDG, don’t be so hard on yourself; in the back of their mind, they’re thinking and plotting and planning because there seems to be so very little example here (I’ll just call this world USA, Inc.) of actually choosing to not do, to not achieve, to not regard the world and your place in it as part of a game whose very existence hinges on your winning.

I’m not sure I know anyone who has completely said, fuck it, and decided to do away with the need for validation, by self or others.  I am not there yet, but there is a voice inside me that is screaming, quietly, DDG, it does not matter what you do, just be.  Just breathe.  You can try stuff, and do stuff; and trying it is good enough; doing it is good enough.  There are no prizes, and there is no winning, and when you die, your name and your achievements will not really be remembered as much as who you were, and what your presence meant to people.  So, just be.

Ahh–if ONLY I could practice this now-ness all the time, and not for about three minutes a day!

Who you are vs. who you want to be

14 May

6:14 pm

So, as you all know, we moved to a new place about three months ago, and we’re managing to stay sane, I suppose!  Being in a new place, my contract job having ended, and neither of us really all that extroverted or desiring to be so–it just sort of sucks!  It is NOT EASY moving somewhere new in your 40s!  Haha.  You sort of just don’t feel like any of it anymore, you know?  I knew that I would feel more comfortable in one of the many places that I have already lived, but I thought, take a chance, go outside your comfort zone (again), yada yada yada.  I think we have both realized that there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to aging and trying certain new things, like, moving to a new place.  I don’t know.

And, this has all made me start thinking about this whole, “go outside your comfort zone” thing, which I’ve been trying to do my whole life, to varying degrees of success.  Like, what IS a comfort zone, and why do we have this idea of it being a bad thing?  Are you supposed to be doing something that makes you feel comfortable, most like yourself; or are you supposed to be challenging yourself and doing things that are hard or scary or too big to chew?  I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I just can’t stand writing anymore, and I want to do something else; but, when I boil it down and observe myself in action–you know, being who I am, or who I have always gravitated toward being–I realize that I AM simply a writerly type (quiet, thoughtful, introverted, so at ease in my thoughts) and then, can’t seem to conclude that I should do something else.

Yet, what IF I didn’t want to be that thing anymore?  Can I just go and be someone else entirely, throwing off the “callings” and character traits that I always seem to relax into, and instead do something that I think would make me the person I want to be (less in my head, more active, more intrepid, as it were)?  I have thought about this a lot in getting sober, in moving through it all, in relocating, in losing yet another job that I didn’t really want in the first place but that I was “good” at and that I made money doing.  Are you supposed to be who you are, or work at being who you want to be?

I am SO fully on board right now with trying to be who I want to be–with putting in that work–because I am so tired of who I am.  I am so tired of being the neurotic writer, the science geek.  It’s like, I wasn’t that good at science and wanted to major in freaking poetry in college (yeah, the fear started way back then, and it is one of my life’s regrets)!?  Um, when as a child did I say, Mommy, I really want to be a…technical writer when I grow up?  Time is running out, y’all.  And not only that, but I am sort of becoming desperate to NOT be in my head all day–even IF it means taking a huge pay cut…at a time in my life when I need all the money I can get.

The other day, as I was contemplating who I am (a writer) versus who I want to be (maybe a public health professional, maybe someone who works for an international development nonprofit or NGO), I was struck by how confusing it is to decide who to be:  which person (the one you are, the one you want to be) is more authentic, more truthful, more along the lines of fulfilling a personal destiny?

It’s a dilemma.  As a writer, I am always looking for work, selling myself, and moving from contract to contract, subject to subject.  I mean, it would almost be easier to be a lawyer, or anything with a well-formed trajectory, and then at a certain point be like, it’s too late to change course.  As a writer, part of your job is changing course, so you are constantly also thinking about courses outside of your own realm (well, at least some of us are).

I am trying to sort of end this chapter in my life, but I have only ideas, and not enough savings, and a heavy dose of fear.  I hate that.  I hate feeling afraid at this late stage–I am 43 years old, and it’s only been in the past several years or so that I wouldn’t have just up and left a well-paying job to pursue a shitty paying passion.  And, I am grateful for that newfound level-headedness (it has enabled a lot of financial progress and big changes, like this move), but I’m also still learning how to balance my need to earn a big check with my equally large need to feel stimulated, excited, fulfilled, wanting to get out of bed in the morning.  I know there are many an alternate career I can pursue, and I just need to sit down and chart a course of action beyond the next few months.  All in due time, I say.

I gave up freelance writing because it did not pay the bills; and, I think it might have just tired me out and made me believe that I didn’t like writing when in fact, it was the stress of never making enough money.  I WANT to be like, eh, I don’t need the savings, the retirement account; I should just Go For It and become a barista (again), or a teacher, or a poorly paid writer for an international NGO.  Yet, can I expect to feel safe, or, the way I want to feel, on that kind of income anymore?  In an ideal world, we would have a thriving business, which would allow me to pursue a more “passionate” career again; in THIS world, maybe we would both feel equal parts comfortable and challenged; in this world, maybe I would love being a writer again.

Exhale.  It will all be OK, I keep telling myself.  You got this.  It’s all about balance, right?

Writing and cold cities

27 Nov

11:45 am

Hey, folks, Well, I’m here, back at it, and ready to be fierce.  NOT!  Happy Thanksgiving to all, and a kickoff of the holiday season!  For some, that means painful memories, for others, it means an uber-busy next few months.  For me, it means both, and cookies, and cakes, and just continuing to be grateful–5-plus years later–that I am here, and not there.  Here, having this life, with its ups and downs; and not there, drinking my everything away, and all the possible everything’s, too.

I realized recently that part of what is causing me to feel less than whole is that I’ve stopped writing.  Even writing this makes me feel a bit sick in the pit of my belly–anxious, actually.  Must must must start writing again!  I think  my depression, and self-loathing (to be blunt, I hate myself more than a little when I don’t write or create), is caused by this.  There is no magic in my world if I’m not writing, or, in general, being creative.  I look at this blog and think, what happened to that girl?  She is still here, she’s just not writing.  And therefore, not feeling quite whole.

The hurricanes have turned our world upside down, and rearranged our lives.  I miss going to the beach; I miss running on said beach road.  I miss knowing that while I’m in the middle of the ocean, things are FINE here–things are NOT fine here, and things won’t be fine for a while.  There are uncertainties that won’t–can’t–be ironed out.  There are things and faces and places that are never coming back.  And, while I want to ignore this reality, it’s there, the new “normal,” as everyone down here keeps repeating.

I refuse to give up, though, on figuring out what, exactly, I need and want right now.  It’s not wine, it might be hormones, it could be a move (while we have made our exit plan, which is both saddening and enlivening to me, I know changing locations is not going to change what’s going on inside my head and heart, fundamentally), and it most definitely is to start writing/being creative more.  I won’t give up!  And, I won’t stop choosing to be happy, content, grateful, and empowered by that choice.

I flew home last week after about 3 weeks away.  I am glad to be home, with my loves, in the light (literally; cities just might not be in my cards anymore because they are so dark, so angular); and one main thing I realized when I was there, in the big city, is that if I’m honest, I don’t really want that lifestyle anymore.  And, that it is OK to be angry and that instead of fighting the anger, the sadness, the whatever negativity I’m feeling, I should just accept it.  Huh?  The thought sort of bowled me over:  accept and don’t judge your negative feelings instead of exhausting yourself trying to outrun them.  I’m going to try the former and see what happens.

And, so, yeah, cities.  Drinking and going out in cities, which is what I did and how I defined myself for so long.  Not anymore.  I mean, YAH, it really is a bit more heartening to go out for a pink twilit walk with the dogs than to be walking into a pub, ready to temporarily and artificially enhance my mood!  It really is better this way, soooo much better.  Even when I feel quite lonely here–alone as we all do now and then on our solo paths and journeys–I know that I have this world within that is never-changing, that is always bathed in that pink moonlight, that is there to hold me, to embrace me, and to tell me that It Will Be OK.

It Will Be OK.

That is default setting when you’re sober.  When you’re not, default setting is, The World Sucks and Nothing Will (Ever) Be OK.

Walking into a cold bar to drink among cold non-friends?  Eh, no thanks anymore.  I choose light, and happiness, and maybe even accepting the darkness so I can move through it without fear.  Huh, maybe cold cities have more to teach me than I thought?

Phrase of the year

2 Jan

11:24 am

I’ve seen many posts re: word of the year.  I used to do that, too, and in a way, I guess “phrase” is akin to “word”.

Move the earth.  Or, move the earth, beyotches.  This is my phrase of the year.

2017.  It does have an ominous, heavy feel to it.  Maybe because it’s closer to “20” than “15” or even “10”.  Maybe it’s because I know what lies ahead:  digging in, pushing out, molding form out of lumps of wet clay.  Focus, and effort.  And:  sweet, sweet smells of dirt, of salty earth, of pepper and fire and flint–steely eyes, steeled tongue.  I do not give any fucks anymore–in a good way.  😉

I’ve spent 18 months at a nearly-intolerable job in order to make money, essentially.  I feel like I’ve been PREPARING and PLANNING for a long time, and that includes, thinking about and writing about getting sober.  I won’t stop doing that–it seems, IS, as much a part of staying sober as any of my well-worn coping mechanisms.  BUT, I can officially say that I want something more.  Else.  Different.  New.

(Mind you, I also made my science journalism about writing about addiction, too, for a while, so maybe I’m just burnt out.  Sometimes I think, if I never have to write one more fucking word in my life, I will be the happiest girl alive.  And then I come back to reality:  I am a writer, I am compelled to write.  And I miss it terribly when I don’t write; I can’t even live my life when I don’t process it via the written word!  So, I let that thought go and try to embrace the grey area, so to speak–something that becomes more challenging the more I want to make real change instead of waiting, wanting, working toward something that is coming, in due time, if I just keep plugging.)

Last year at this time, I was in a world of hurt.  Glad that hell is over.  Yes, I made good money and have since continued working (remotely) for that company, but man, was I depressed last year.  No more.  Done.  I made it through.  Happy to NOT be there, and to be here.  Much has transpired between then and now that has helped me get happy again:  I moved home (I am much more myself in a tropical than desert climate); I worked as a barista, which I really loved; we got engaged in May; we traveled a lot this year (New Orleans was my favorite!); I paid off my graduate student loans; I got into running more (I have somehow managed to keep off those 15 pounds for 2.5 years).

One big thing I want to mention is that I started taking hormones by way of the pill!  Imagine:  at 42, I am taking the pill for the first time.  Haha.  It’s worth mentioning because, I have ZERO PMS craziness anymore.  It’s awesome.  MANY of my worst drinking binges happened around or because of my fluctuating hormones–many women who drink can probably say that, they, too, drank when they were PMSing.  No one talks about that, of course, but look, it can be as simple as taking birth control, or, I guess if you’re older, actual hormone replacement therapy–to feel way better, to NOT feel crazy, to not feel angry, or depressed, or like you want to down oceans of wine for two weeks out of the month. Not to mention, the hangovers are from SATAN when your body is not really processing booze well, which (ironically) is what’s happening around this time o’ the month.  (More on this for another post, methinks.)

Anyway, I feel stronger now, and I think I’m simply ready to start thinking about other stuff more of the time.  I mean, I will always blog here, that’s a given.  That I can’t let go.  I would love to wake up, however, and not have this feeling of, I have to think about sobriety.  I have to relate things I do now, in my present life, with my having gotten sober.  I DO, constantly, because it is all intertwined; I just wish there was a way I could both appreciate the past without having to think at all about it.  I’m grateful, though, and it’s just a matter of perspective when it comes to “ruminating” on getting sober, and being sober.

I need to get out more, too.  I quit the coffee shop job back in September, and it has been rough.  I am SO tired of these four walls, you know?  And, I’m getting kind of irritable.  Maybe, mean.  Like, cynical.  I need connection, we all do.  I’m on day 5 of a Facebook fast, and I feel like I like people more–what I get now from interactions is real, it’s authentic.

I admit:  I have felt lonely since not logging into Facebook.  Like, there’s no reason to go on my phone!  Haha.  BUT, I’m slowing down and opening up to the people and places around me; and I’m gaining a little bit of mental patience.  I can take things in that used to annoy me because they were too slow, not enough, immediately boring.  I felt…controlled by Facebook, and that felt very much like being addicted to binge drinking.  Now, I feel better, freer.  It’s good.  Despite feeling truly out of it, and lonely, I’m going to keep going.  (I really miss “on this day”, though…)

As for wanting to drink?  Well, I have to admit that on New Year’s Eve, as I was remembering other NYEs–when I was single, granted, and was going on all these crazy, “life experience”-type trips to far-flung places for the holidays–I felt staid.  Boring.  Not lacking in contentment, but sort of unhappy.  Vexed.  Fear of missing out was an actual, I am missing out.  I am not learning, or growing, or expanding my horizons!

Drinking won’t bring back the “life-changing” experiences that were INVARIABLY RUINED anyway by the time New Year’s Day rolled around in said far-flung places.  I know that drinking isn’t the answer, and cannot be:  it doesn’t work and hasn’t for years.  I know that what’s simmering in the pot will come together into a lump of…something good to eat, soon.  Yes, it still comes and goes, this desire to drink to fix, or transfer, or be reborn.  None of that happens, and never did, and never will.  It was fun, looking back–but, I’m here now, and pretty content, actually.

This year will still be about plugging away, and working, but also, finally starting to do stuff, you know?  After all this obligatory preparatory work–laying the groundwork-work, doing this before moving on-work–it will pay off.  Move the earth, beyotches!  🙂

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