Wednesday, December 7, 2016

FOUR YEARS





This morning I studied spelling words with my youngest son. On this morning four years ago I woke up so hungover I could not get out of bed.

If you have read my story you know that four years ago today I was supposed to get up, make french toast, and study spelling words with my oldest son. Instead I had gotten so wasted the night before that I could not even get out of bed. Both of my boys stood by my bedside- eyes wide- part trusting, part curious while I squinted at them and tried to hide up how un-able my body was to function, while downstairs my husband made french toast and covered for me, again.

FOUR YEARS AGO.

December 7th has been an important date in my life since 2004- my oldest son was due to be born today, twelve years ago. He arrived exactly a week late. My sobriety arrived late too, not until December 7, 2012. But it arrived. That's the important part.

I've thought so much about that morning, about the piece of my brain that packed up and disappeared forever, the idea that I am a person who never ever drinks moving in in it's place so quickly and miraculously that I still examine myself with a sense of wonder at the revelation that occurred right here inside of me; inside of my sad, struggling, hungover, yearning to be free body that couldn't get out of bed because I'd gotten so wasted- just four short years ago.

I am a miracle. Since I got sober I have always believed it in a secret way, in the aw shucks and scuffles my foot across the floor way. I have believed it in a quiet way, in the way that delights me but that I feel like I should hide because I don't want to hurt anyone else's feelings who maybe doesn't know that we are all a miracle, and also I feel imposter syndrome big time sometimes. Add to that the way I wait for the other shoe to drop, only almost all the time, and I push down my light so no one can see or get overwhelmed by who I am.

It has taken every day of these four years to light my light- for me to get comfortable with being a lighthouse, because that is what I am. I've been doing so much reading and thinking and listening and learning all this time about what it means to own and embrace the who of being this person, to understand that I can say I am a child of God out loud and without feeling like a total dumbass because it means what I want it to mean- it means that the things I am alive to be and share are unique to me, to me alone. I found God in my spirituality, which for me is a totally different place than religion.The idea of God and saying God out loud still makes me feel squirmy, but I love the holy way it makes me feel inside to let myself be loved unconditionally by God, who is maybe the most beautiful version of us all.

I am proud of who I am. I took a shitty situation and made it beautiful, I took my broken self up gently and cared for the hurt and the pain and worked so fucking hard to get my feet on the ground and my heart into my hands. I will do that good work every single day of the rest of my life.

I am the perfect person for this job. "You are exactly the right person to do this," someone said about something else and I immediately made it my motto for my life.

I hid behind my drinking until I couldn't bear it one more day. I have hidden behind my fear until now. Does this mean I don't ever feel afraid? Um, HELL NO. It means that I know I am afraid and I keep going. I am the only person, the only one who can do this just like I do. The only one who resonates and speaks and loves the way I do.

I've been practicing yoga for a long time. I used to worry about if I was wearing the right thing to class, get there and worry the whole class thought that I wasn't doing it right, that people were thinking I didn't belong there, convincing myself that I was an outsider in every situation in all parts of my life. Even through yoga teacher training and beginning to teach I felt like at any moment someone was going to come in and announce "GET OUT!! You are obviously not qualified to be here!" And then everyone would know I wasn't supposed to be here, that I wasn't supposed to be anywhere, that I wasn't supposed to be.

These are all things I told myself, that I did pretty much everything wrong while struggling mightily to do everything right. No one ever walked up and said "Um, your downward facing dog is wrong" or "You are driving wrong" or "You obviously know nothing about putting groceries in a cart" or even "You suck". It was me. All me. I told myself all these things to protect myself from being the person I am meant to be in the world. Because that shit can be big and scary! And it was easier to hide behind booze and fear than to put my naked vulnerable sweet self out into the world.

A few months ago one of my favorite yoga teachers said something at the beginning of class that blew me away. He said, "Think of your practice as an offering." Later in that same class during a particularly challenging posture he said, "Do this pose as if God is watching." As if God is watching, watching my offering I thought, and really put my whole heart and being into it- not to do the pose picture perfect, but to do my version of the pose as a beautiful offering to God, who was watching. Then I immediately made that another motto for my whole life.

This is where I am, four years in. I am living my life as an offering, because God is watching, because y'all are watching, because everyone I meet is watching, and someone else is watching them. I am exactly the right person to do this, I am the only person that can do it this one way I do. It is who I am meant to be: an offering lighthouse, practicing for God, shining my light gloriously every single day as a tribute to the gift I have been given. Thank you so much for reading, and for being here. We are all lights, miracles shining together.










Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How to Take Care of Yourself Part One




so many options...


I'm reading this amazing book called Rise Sister Rise and listening to Tara Brach and blowing my own mind almost daily with new stuff to think about, and new stuff to think about myself which translates into new stuff to think about us. Like this: 

I am a people pleaser- many of us are, it makes self avoidance so much easier. If I'm working on making someone else happy then I can totally avoid looking at my own contentment which means I also avoid looking at my own discontentment which means yay! I'm safe! Which I understand now is complete bullshit, I've known it for a long time, but there's this big difference between knowing something and understanding something.

Like how I knew I had a big drinking problem for ever, but I didn't understand it until I just blammo, GOT IT. Got it hardcore on the last morning I woke up hungover and saw my future full of shame, empty bottles, full ashtrays, and deep sadness.

I sometimes think about my life as a series of lines and tributaries- all these ways and paths to places I've been a thousand times before or never seen, that the places I've been maybe I've always been looking left when I really needed to be looking right, or the places I've never been I haven't gone because I was afraid or it seemed too hard or mostly because I felt uninvited by my own ineptitude.

I am inviting a lot of opposites and bravery into my life these days. And by that I mean looking at situations from ALL the sides, not just the ones that are comfortable to me, or the ones I know, but trying to see it from another point of view, and then another, and then another because all things don't have just two sides. There are a thousand sides to see, then another thousand after that, and by looking and seeing I can make informed decisions. So I try to see things from a few different sides. (not a thousand though, I mean I don't have that kind of time) That takes patience- and that's one way I take care of myself, by having the patience to not rush my brain and my heart into rapid fire judgements but to take my gut reaction and then de-gut it, look at it from exactly the opposite reaction, and then work my way around the circle to see where I might land when I stop being dragged along by myself.

I spent a long time thinking I felt one way, and then opened myself up to the possibility that maybe I had no frickin' clue who I was at all, but that it would be pretty cool to learn about who I might be, and then allowing for that person to change and metamorphose and be dynamic rather than stagnant.

One of my biggest mistakes has been sameness. I have always thought that I would strive and push and pull and get myself fixed into this idea of the woman I think I'm supposed to be and then I'd happy. That if I weighed the right amount and wore the right thing and said the right words I would somehow be initiated into the secret society of people who have their shit together and other people would wish they were me and I could feel glad and even superior and wooo! be at the finish line. All I'd have to do every day was be this same person, over and over again.

How fucking boring. ACK!!!

I am not even the same person from when I wake up to lunchtime, much less even when I go to bed, how did I think that would ever work? I found so much freedom in the idea that I do not have to stay the same, that I can like blue one day and orange the next, that I want to be alone this morning but I need company this afternoon, that I am anxious today and tomorrow I am courageous and calm. I am an ever evolving, ever changing being. THANK GOD. It means that I lose feeling groovy, but it also means if I'm having a shit day that can change at any moment. It's kind of all up to me.

I put a lot of pressure on myself about this blog, I take it so seriously these days, never publishing anything because it isn't "significant" enough, or I don't proofread it enough, or I compare myself with other people and get bogged down by what I imagine I'm not and then I don't write because you know, I'm suffering from paralanxiety. So this morning I'm just writing what I'm thinking about, and then instead of picking it apart I'm going to publish it, just like I used to do.

This is where the bravery comes in: allowing myself to be me. Not complicating it by wondering what someone else might do with my life, not holding back because someone might think I'm stupid, not talking myself out of putting myself out into the world. There's a place for us, there is one other person out there who reads what I write and thinks "me too". Even if that someone else is me. :)


Monday, October 10, 2016

A-holic





Do you ever feel like you're getting your shit together for like the nine hundredth time this year? That's me. I mean, do people who aren't a-holics just understand this all their lives? I'm getting used to the ebb and flow of my life, although I'm still surprised by how it does it. After almost four years sober I know what's coming mostly- about four times a year I get sad and lost, and about four times a year I pick myself up and find a way around that corner again. 

I wonder if it's stretching out my life suit, like growing but instead of in sizes in measures of prayer and hands up. But also like my ass is spreading out some, like I'm settling it down into the mud that is my life, wiggling it into the mud for a long stay. Getting comfortable. Finding a home.

I was laughing with my therapist the other day about how impossible it seems that until about eight months ago I had no idea that I struggled with anxiety. And now that I know it I recognize it everywhere- in traffic, at work, teaching yoga, when my kids argue, when my husband doesn't seem to see me, when people disagree and I'm not even involved, when I feel lost about who I even am anymore, should I have a cup of tea or water- there it is: anxiety. Is it attachment to outcome that makes me grab on so hard or just the fear of being an afterthought? 

But because I recognize it I can recognize it. And then that helps me to understand that if I recognize it then I can surrender to it because it's something I know. It's like the day I decided to quit drinking- I recognized myself as a person who is an alcoholic and so I understood that I could surrender to that, that it was safer to be an alcoholic than it was to be someone who would spend another day denying what I knew was the truth. 

Is there a difference between an alcoholic and a problem drinker? I only know that as soon as I slapped the label of "alcoholic" on myself I got sober. How fucking weird is that. It brings me a strange comfort in a way to be able to call this strong forceful part of myself something. Over the years that grew into calling myself an "a-holic" because I don't just only want to drink all the booze, in varying degrees I am driven to have more more more of anything that feels like permission. Giving this part of me a name gives it a form, it gives me something I can grab on to and hold and shake and shape. It gives me a part of myself I can identify and recognize. It makes it so when I feel anxious and I'm holding a handful of chocolate covered raisins I can think about who is holding those raisins and be able to put them back. It gives me someone to run to in the dark, someone to hand the light and pull in and tell sweet things like "it's okay" and "I think you need water".

I'm interested in your thoughts. 




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Shell





I've recently discovered the shell around me. It's a deflector: it protects me from anger, disappointment, and criticism. It also shields me from kindness, compliments, tenderness, and good intentions. It prevents me from receiving help gracefully, and from loving fully.

This shell appeared around the time I was five years old and has been slowly and constantly spiraling out, winding around and around me for the past forty years. Trying to squeeze myself out from inside it could be why I started drinking: I wanted to feel, and I didn't want to feel the way I was feeling, but then I realized I was feeling too much and so had to drink more. When I stopped drinking my shell helped me have a place to hide and heal, it's been such a dear friend to me- a security blanket, a refuge, a prison.

My beloved protector has also been my jailer, guarding against all the feelings- guarding against the ones that make me feel loved and cared for same as the ones that hurt. My first inkling of this was when my therapist noticed when I told stories that should bring up big emotions for me I was just...flat. Or smiling, even. I'm relating stories to her that have caused me years of pain and I am...smiling.

I've noticed how the shell prevents me from being myself, but only in those moments when I am out of the shell and I feel that feeling you get when you are one hundred percent in your own body, speaking your own words, feeling your own way- safe and open to the world. As soon as I recognize it I am right back inside the shell, afraid I'll be found out and unwilling to chance hurt. I don't want anyone to recognize me, know me, help me, or...love me.

I noticed how frustrated I get whenever the dogs come around and want me to pet them. They run towards me, smiling and panting- nubby tails wagging, delighted that Here she is!! Our girl!!! YAY!!!! and I get... pissed. I ask my husband for more affection and then he gives it, so I get mad because he's getting in my way and interrupting me. I have this way of handing out instructions for how I want to be treated, but then I don't have a clue how to handle being treated the way I asked for. I have all this big love to get and to give, but then the actual getting and giving it part comes up and I'm all angry and clumsy and lost, looking like I know how to read the map on the outside but on the inside the map is lost under all the shit in the glove box. I'm like a two year old in relationship years.

Do you ever have those moments when you discover something so big about yourself that you cannot even believe you've been alive all this time not knowing this gigantic thing is true? It's like the time I stood at a crowded fancy bar with the back of my skirt tucked into my underwear, so buzzed after dinner that I was careless in the bathroom and didn't check my skirt, I didn't realize my entire ass was hanging out for all the world to see. No one said anything. Maybe no one noticed, or they didn't really care, until finally a friend ran up to me as we were leaving and urgently whispered in my ear "AMY YOUR SKIRT IS IN YOUR UNDERWEAR!!!" and she quickly jerked the hem of my skirt out of my undies while I stood mortified, paralyzed with how long it had been since I'd walked out of the bathroom.

Like I thought my skirt was settled and adjusted properly back there, I've always thought I was that way too: settled and adjusted properly in my heart. Lovable even. My big discovery is that I may be love able, but I am not able to be loved. Regardless of my impatient attitude towards accepting love for myself in my mind I am open hearted. On paper I feel safe exposing things I cannot in person. I have the temperament and the tolerance to sit and be thoughtful and careful when I write, but in person I am ham handed and impatient, intolerant of love towards me and of giving love when asked.

I might be partly an asshole.

I am not a total schmuck. I do have a big capacity for giving, so there I am not an asshole, but in the receiving department? Oh, man. I fear that I am, in fact, kind of a jerk.

I think I'm kind of a jerk because of my beloved shell.

Oh, no! My darling shell! I hold my head in my hands, my eyes down, heart heavy because I have to leave my constant companion behind- the thing I thought made me okay and life livable is in fact the thing that is holding me back.

Getting sober and being sober seems like it is relentlessly about the things I have to lose to keep going. It's sort of like the simplicity trend: get in there and get rid of stuff, and then when I think I'm as bare bones as it gets I've just gotten started. Which makes me want to wail about how unfair that is because, fuck. I quit drinking- can't that just be enough??? Why does there have to be so much of the squeezing???

But there is, there just is. Being sober is all about the squeezing. And the molting. It's all about the fears and the tears and the snot and the feeling so one hundred percent uncomfortable that you might die. It feels so hard and so awful sometimes that I think I cannot go on even one more second and then I realize: Oh, hey...look at me. I'M FEELING! I'M FEELING FEELINGS! Oh, yeah. That's what this is about. I'm doing it right, even though it sucks. The feeling feelings is the point.

Sometimes I sit in my therapist's office, there on the worn out beige and red striped loveseat, looking out the window through all her plants at the parking lot, and I feel like I'm being skinned alive, like every single nerve I have is sticking out of my skin and the world is made of sandpaper and it's on fire. There's nowhere to hide. I hate it. I do it anyway. I don't want to talk but I do, I speak up and stare off into space and gulp for air and speak again.

I'm...molting. It is as inelegant as it sounds. There is crying, and snot, and deep sorrow, and being afraid, but relief, such relief too because my shell has gotten really tight since I started to grow out of it a few years ago. It is squeezing me. Maybe even squeezing the life out of me, but in a good way. There is laughter, and recognition- it's me catching myself in the mirror of myself and knowing who is standing there. It's stretching and moving and seeing clearly through to who I really am.

It's me, without my shell.










Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Back Around




Baby me. An approximate representation of who I was after I finished yoga teacher training. 



Hi y'all! It's been months and months and here I am, still sober. :)

Yoga teacher training pulled me apart. In ways like warm rays of sunlight shining on fragrant fields of growing grass, but also in ways that are like the stinky liquid goo you find at the bottom of the kitchen trash when someone hasn't put the bag on right. I have been feeling the hills are alive with the sound of music along side I want to be in bed, in the dark, maybe forever.

Did you know I was a waitress? It's what I've done my whole adult life, aside from a four year stint at Whole Foods where I thought I was going to set the world on fire- maybe in ten years I'd be running my own store! I could make great money without having to go back to school! I could stop waiting tables forever! Then I quickly realized I was not cut out for working at a corporation- even if it was Whole Foods. I still stayed there for four years. It's where I got sober, halfway through my time there. It's where things got so bad that I had to either quit drinking or become a total fucking failure- me at forty, working at the grocery store and not able to handle that much less my life and my family.

I've been sober for almost four years, and back waiting tables for two. It seems ironic and at the same time a bit awful that I make a living serving food and loads of drink. Bottles of expensive wine, big cold martinis, things to taste and pour and talk about and enjoy and I just smell and play along, relying on knowledge I gained fifteen years ago when I was at the top of my booze game. It doesn't bother me much, randomly I'll long to be a person who can go out to dinner like some of the people I wait on, people who can carefully select a bottle of wine and then make it last all of dinner, maybe even leaving a glass in the bottle. How can you just leave a whole glass behind? I'll think and I have to laugh at my disbelief when this happens, knowing what I know about my a-holic self.

My husband waited tables at this same restaurant, I took over his job two years ago when he left to go to computer coding school. I stayed at Whole Foods too, working two jobs so he didn't have to work at all while he was in school.  Our whole marriage has been one of us waiting tables at night to supplement the other person who is working a "real" job during the day. It means that one of us is always around for the boys, and that we are not much around for each other. After twelve years of this style of marriage we are both ready for the way out- not out of being married, but out of being apart, single parenting patiently together for what is starting to feel like might be forever. Now that he's finished with school and has been working for over a year at this amazing job that we still both can't believe happened and I'm finished with yoga teacher training it's time to make some decisions. It means that I have started to think about what I want to be now that I'm grown up.

If there's one thing being sober has taught me it's dream big, and then think bigger. Half the reason I ended up as a waitress is that I never dreamed all that big- in spite of being smart and creative and capable I chose instead to dull myself down because success scares me. I remained contained and small, safe in the place of not pushing myself deserving the just settling. Amazingly enough it seems that I can't tolerate that anymore. That's part of what led me to do my yoga teacher training: I had to. I knew it was going to wake me up in ways I may or may not be ready for and for sure, it did.

After teacher training I had to take a break: I had to gather all my scattered thoughts together to see what thoughts I even wanted to be anymore. Who I wanted to be anymore. To see if I can handle blogging about who I am and what is happening to me. To see if I was ready to move away from putting sobriety front and center, if maybe I could just quietly be sober and perhaps something else would become a beacon of my life.

Lessening the importance of my sobriety didn't happen. What did happen was that every time I though about my life and choices, I was reminded of how recovery has given me the life I have today. Recovery is the lighthouse, it is what sends my ship to sail and plants my feet on the ground. It doesn't need to be in the background, because it doesn't have to. It isn't everything I am, I am everything it is.

My recovery is an ongoing, lifelong project. I quit drinking, but that isn't the finish line, not even close. I get alternately frustrated and overjoyed with the prospect that la la! recovery is going to last forever!!! and that recovery.  is.  going.  to.  last.  for.  ever. There isn't even a finish line. ACK!! How can this be?

How to stay? How to remain open and transparent and stay in the blogging world when things have gotten so much bigger than simply quitting drinking? How to give value to the privacy my life deserves but to also let it all hang out because what if my honesty can be a thing that helps someone whose ship's almost run aground find their lighthouse too? Can this be part of what I am? Is it okay for me to be who I actually am, all out in the open? Can I stop hiding and offer and accept the gifts I am given? Who the hell am I anyway?

I figured it all out... the answer is I don't know.

So here I am, back at my keyboard, thinking of myself and of you there, reading and maybe finding some something that makes you feel ok at your life. I apologize if I left you stranded while I put the oxygen mask only on myself for a while. I thought at the end of my yoga teacher training I would be awake and alive and healed- so healed that I would glow with it, emanate it, radiate it. Instead I was a tender naked mole rat- more than ever out in the bright scary light of the world with only the steadiness of my breath and my feet on the ground to carry me along to where I am today. Yoga helped save me at the beginning of my sobriety, it was an answer to my S.O.S. that now anchors me when I start flailing around. But it also can be so fucking hard because if I practice with honesty and integrity there isn't anywhere for me to hide.

I'm okay with that now. I'm not in a hurry anymore, I'm not searching for the finish line. I'm afraid every single day without pretending I'm not anymore. I'm glad to be here, back where I belong.




Monday, May 30, 2016

Grace and Stillness




I am still thinking so much about all the things I learned about myself since January. I haven't written here because, well, because it's so hard to put into words, all the things I can see but can't explain because they are ideas and feelings, not things I can contain in a sentence or a blog post. Maybe just not yet.

One of the things I learned is how to hold myself responsible to myself- for me this means not doing things just because other people would want me to, but because I want to. It means not writing blog posts when I can't do it, it means leaving the laundry because I need a walk, it means flossing my teeth even when I'm tired and all I want to do is fall into bed. The amount of honesty I have gained in these last few months is still such a pleasant surprise- like when a dear friend arrives with no notice at the front door and the house is dirty but you don't even care, there are just hugs and hellos and gladness for the arrival. Maybe you push the dog hair out of the middle of the floor and wipe up the leftover breakfast crumbs and teacup rings and you're ok, not feeling judged by life because the table is messy, but being understood because life, sometimes, is messy.

I have been thinking so much about what it all means. Doing yoga teacher training and starting my first go at one-on-one therapy together was the smartest thing. It meant that all the deep deep stuff I dug up had a place to go rather than skitter around in my incapable hands. Therapy for me means I have to be really really brave and speak up from myself because otherwise we just sit there and talk about the weather or nothing and then I leave and feel more scared than when I arrived. Yoga does that for me also- whether we're practicing asana or breathing or supporting each other I have to participate as the me I am or I end up lost then too.

I learned that I really have to start with the basics. Like breathing. Feeling my feet on the ground. Walking. I still have trouble sitting and not feeling like I don't know where I am, but it's better. Sometimes when I sit cross legged I can't find my balance, I feel like a toppling top. Then I get frustrated: my god! who doesn't know how to sit? and then I remember oh right, me and I breathe and adjust and smile to myself for having the courage to not know how to do even that.

I cried so so much over these past months. I am almost crying now. It became a tender running joke at training that I would probably cry, but I was understood. It's all the sad and glad feelings I pushed down so hard all my sweet life having to get out because now the door is open and it's safe out here. I discovered something I'd secretly always thought about myself and could now recognize as true: I am lovely. I can offer love and care freely, nurturing others is something I am good at. Now that I feel safe and held I can give what I've got and not be ashamed or nervous that people will reject me, I give what I do because I want to, the results of that aren't really in my control. Other people aren't in my control: all I can do is offer my wisdom, my compassion, and my caring with humility and grace. Joy and sorrow go hand in hand- I'm not ashamed of either of those. My hands remain open.

I'm learning when to speak up, when to be quiet, when to say yes, when to say no. I challenge myself to be out there, trying headstands and intelligently pushing my practice when I want to act tired and stay safe in the way that means I'm cheating myself. The thing is, yoga is not just asana- it's every moment of every day- so pushing my practice means I push myself to be filled with grace whether that's not yelling when I'm frustrated, or being disciplined with my work, or taking rest, or breaths, or doing things I'm afraid of- like having an open heart.

I am still full of doubt sometimes, afraid I'm an imposter and a failure. I still eat too much when I can't figure out how to handle things, and I bail on myself when I get that anxious procrastination feeling where I just wander around doing nothing while I worry over all the things I could be doing. Only now I know how to take my hand and see what I need instead of should-ing myself to death- making it better instead of making it worse. I don't do that every time, but I do it some times, which is a yard better than how it used to be- no times.

I am here. I am sober, I am alive, full of grace and hope- lovely. I have thought so much about how to write about all this, and I guess I still don't know. Or I do, but it comes out as it comes out- forcing things just isn't my style. I wondered about y'all- whoever still reads or missed me, or who might find me. I knew whoever was here would be here when they needed to be. I knew I would be here when I needed to be too.

Hello :)







Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Just Warming Up




This past few months have been hugely intense for me. Starting therapy and yoga teacher training is big: so big that I am still looking at it on my plate, chewing my first bite. I have come up with so much forgiveness, so much comfort and care for myself by allowing myself to pursue a dream that is still undefined but so needed. I have pushed myself mentally and physically and soulfully in ways that I totally hated every second of, but did it anyway because I know the hard stuff I can barely stand is the stuff I obviously need to pay attention to and do. I have loved so much of it, deep down constant gratitude and joy for being here, where I am.

It all winds back to the decision I made to quit drinking. That moment, that life defining choice, has built and grown my courage to be nice to myself. To care for the being I am that lives in this body, the person I have always been and am allowing myself to become. It was so awkward and weird at first, this kindness and care for my own self, but it keeps getting easier and more normal. This goes on forever- I am always healing and forever changing because healing and staying always one way aren't necessarily the same thing.

In teacher training we did an exercise about shame during our study of the third chakra. Our teacher had us write down three things we were ashamed of. I wrote:

my drinking
my lack of sexual abandon, yet TOO MUCH unconscious abandon
breastfeeding my children after I'd been drinking- losing their early childhoods

Then she had us decide about that shame. Decide yes or no, then stand up in this lofty open wood and brick big windowed wide space and push our arms out with great force away from ourselves, one arm at a time, side to side, yelling our word: yes or no. Hands open or in fists, eyes open, she started us off- yelling yes! YES! YES! her body swinging back and forth with the strength of her conviction. We started too, shyly yelling and moving. It took us a minute to warm up, and then we all yelled our yes's and no's and threw our arms out and in pulling our way towards a bit of freedom.

My shame about my former life is so big when I think back on the things I do remember and cringe to imagine the things I don't. I can't live in the steps I've already taken. I am not that person anymore, even if my brain wants to drag me back there for another round of punishment.

After about five minutes she stopped us, and said write it down. Write down what you mean about that shame now. I wrote this:

YES
it wasn't right. it was awful, and selfish, and it's OK. I did it the only way I knew how. It was wrong and I am forgiven. I am forgiven. My heart was always there 
ALL ALONG
ALL ALONG
ALL ALONG 
ALL ALONG
ALL ALONG

Then she said write your biggest wish. I wrote:

to continue

I cannot change what I've done, but I can honor myself every moment from now until I die. I can forgive myself, I can surrender to the bad and the good of who I've been and the woman I am at this very moment. I am all of my history and I'm making history all the time, the longer I live the more I can tip the scales so memory mostly recognizes who I am now. We'll tell it like used to be stories you tell about your children. "Remember when Amy would only wear dresses to school and ate cereal every day for breakfast? Remember when Amy used to roller skate all the time? Remember when Amy used to drink? Whoa! That was a long time ago." Then we'll scratch our heads and look off into space trying to even remember what that felt like.

I got myself sober and then I learned how to live like that, and now I am feet on the ground enough to open my heart enough to love and be loved by others and the world. To trust that my dirty laundry can be what it is, and not be more than it's been meant to be. I know that I am all those blacked out hook ups, those nights I had too much to drink and picked up my innocent baby sons in the middle of the night and fed them breast milk laced with alcohol, I am the fights I picked with my husband, the drunken wish for it to stop but not stopping. I am all of those things, but that is not all that I am.

I am just warming up.