Friday, March 27, 2015

Working Things Out

I have been doing some different things since I found out I might have MS. It got me to thinking about how I want things to be- that and that journal I was reading- the one that said the same stuff over and over again for like two years about cookies and not doing yoga.

Almost three weeks ago I made a promise to myself to walk every day. Do yoga every day. Brush and floss and wash my face before bed. Write each day.

I'm doing it.

It's kind of incredible what listening to yourself can do for you. I had coffee with my dear friend (my bridge moment friend) and we talked about shame. She's reading Brene Brown and totally groovin' on it and made me realize that I want to revisit that book too and got me to thinking about my progress since I read Brene Brown last. The patience I find for myself increases every day, the delight in my own me-ness is such a new and tender thing I'm still surprised when it shows up.

So many of our decisions can be based on shame. I drank because I was ashamed of who I was, and who I wasn't. Either way I was never good enough. I was full of shame for all the things about me, and I drank to stop feeling so bad about it. Which made me feel bad about that. Then I got sober and I wasn't ashamed about my drinking anymore but I still hadn't really looked at the person I wanted to be. For a long time being sober was enough. But then I realized I was still here- and I was still not tuning in to my nature, things were still wonky because I was still not turning to my own true North.

That inner voice is damn hard to hear because it gets overrun by the voice of shame. It all is attached.

There's something about being told I might have a disease that might put me in a wheelchair. It makes me want to walk. It makes me want to bend and twist and feel my breath. It made me look at of all the time I spend being sorry at my life, at all the time I spend in my head wishing I was one thing yet being another. It's making me try harder to be good at my life: not good for any one reason other than it is mine.

A while back I listened to Anne Lamott give an interview. She said something that I will never forget: "YOU WILL COME THROUGH." Until now I didn't realize that there are two ways to see that. One is that, yes, you will. You will reach the end or the other side. You will, with patience and time, come through all the things. All things good and all things bad- you will come through. I was only thinking of it as it defines the journey, not as it connects my soul to my outer life. Now I can see that not only will I come through, but that I will come through. I will, despite my efforts to not, come through. My self-ness will seep through until I become saturated and unable to ignore my own self.

I do that by remembering that I am no longer ashamed. I don't have to hide the woman I am because I was so drunk last night and did embarrassing things again. I know my mind, so I can speak it. I can feel strong enough to be who I am in the world without fear. I am connecting these things because I am listening to my voice- my conscience that wants to love and protect me that I mistakenly thought hated me all along.

Once in a while it takes a big something to motivate you to change. Other times it's just time to be different. But I have always known who I am, in my heart of hearts- I know. I'm working out how to be brave enough to be that person. Although it sounds kind of morbid it helps me to think that one day this life of mine will be over. How will I have wanted to spend it? Fearful and ashamed or at least trying my fucking heart out for the best life I can have? I don't want to be dying and wishing I'd done the simple things my heart desired. I want to do all the things. I want to live out loud and wide open and unafraid and unashamed with a balance of gentle and strong. But most of all, I do not want to keep wishing for things that are in my power to make come true.

I have a spinal tap scheduled for April 22. The day after my 44th birthday. Then there will be an answer: a yes or a no that changes my life either way. I am not afraid. I am not afraid because I am who I am, I am strong enough to handle hard things and ask for help. Being sober gave me life, and it also gives me something to live for. It gives me the courage. And for that I am forever grateful.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How the Story Goes

I read this book and I loved it. I'm reading this book now and I also really dig it.

You know how the life of an alcoholic is- well, I know how mine is: I drank for a long time, then I stopped. And now I have a pretty good time figuring stuff out about myself like I'm really an introvert, or I need time by myself to stay steady, or I will be lazy about things unless I push myself to do them.

In the second book Donald Miller talks about the story our lives tell. If my life were a story it would be me being little, then me being drunk, and then the much more interesting me sober and getting on with it. It really got me thinking about the story I want my life to tell, the story my children might tell about me. The story my husband might tell of our marriage.

It made me think about how many things aren't under my control, but then how many things are.

Books always seem to show up right when I need them. I have been in that winter rut where I do the winter thing I do: gain weight. Abandon everything except Facebook and avoiding all the things. I let the boys fry their brains on computer games and I sink into my own version of hibernation until thankfully spring happens and I find some books and some sunshine and get off the couch and back out into the world.

I also found a journal entry that I can't stop thinking about. It's the one where I talk about telling myself no, and doing the things I want to do, and how sad it makes me feel when I just give myself full license to eat all the cookies. But it isn't just one journal entry- it's a lot of them. Then I came across the book that talks about our life stories and I knew I needed to start writing mine instead of it writing for me.

It's like this: when I was drinking I just told the same story over and over again. And over, again. I don't want to do that now that I'm sober- it's just the same thing over and over but without being drunk. (which is a huge plus)

I sometimes feel like I'm in limbo land. Sober long enough to not be newly, but not sober long enough to be consider totally "there". I feel like when I put myself out on a limb people still want to tell me to "be careful" and "take it easy"- like they think if I take on too much I'll drink again. Or are they comfortable with me the way I am? Or am I always changing things?

I feel very comfortable in my sobriety. What I don't feel comfortable with is carrying the alcoholic behavior on in my story. My perhaps MS has got me thinking about the many things I would be sad I didn't do when I had the chance to do them. And then I think about when I get to the end of my life will I wish I'd eaten more cookies or gone for more long walks? I don't think I'll be heading into the light wishing for more time on Facebook.

The idea that my life is my story to write is all at once kick ass and scary. It's a balance of control and free fall. But it is mine. And it's up to me to choose it: the people in it. The things that happen. I can't control outcomes but I can write them as close to my desires as I want them to be.

Think about your story. How you want it to be. How to write it, how to read it. How it's true, and hard, and lovely, and yours. I'll be out on a long walk in the sun thinking about mine, too.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Thursday in between one job, my follow up appointment with my neurologist, and my other job, I went for a walk on a trail I used to run frequently. I set my timer for fifteen minutes so I wouldn't worry about the time and started walking.

I love this trail. Three plus hilly and woodsy miles. Challenging in spots. Back when I was still drinking and I was still running I would go and punish myself with the two big hills- one steep and one endlessly long. On my way I would always look for a rock to pick up because towards the end I would stop at this bridge and hold that rock tightly in my hand and wish. I would wish I could stop drinking. I would whisper intently to the woods and my rock that I needed help please. Then I would look at my rock, squeeze it hard, and gently toss it into the creek below.

I had forgotten about this.

Until the other day, when I'd just been to the neurologist, and she said things like "spinal tap" and lumbar puncture" and "up to you". I had an hour before I had to be at work. I remembered that this trail was on the way. I had just enough time to take a thirty minute walk in the woods to think on this. Right at the time I needed to turn around I came to the bridge. I stopped walking and went over to the rail. I grabbed it with both hands and took a shaky deep breath. The memory of me, and my rocks, and my wishes came flooding back. I could feel my old self standing there next to me. I stood quiet for a long minute. Then I cried a little, then smiled.

I have been sober for over two years y'all. Right there, in that picture up there, in that spot, is where I wished so hard for myself to hear me, to help me. Below the bridge is the creek that took all my rocks and kept my secret until it was time to tell it, to tell it out loud.

Yesterday a beloved friend and I walked this whole trail. We were talking about some heavy shit, but when we rounded the corner and came to the bridge I said "Wait. I have to interrupt. I have to tell you this." My face crumpled all up and I started to cry.

"I used to run this trail," I told her. "And I would be sad, and hungover, and I would pick up a rock." We walked over to the rail, and held it. "When I would get to this bridge I would wish into my rock. I would wish for help. I would wish to be sober. I would say 'I wish I could stop drinking' and I would throw my rock into the water, then watch for a minute and try to hold it in." I cried harder. "I've been sober for two years and three months now. I am a miracle." I whispered it again. "I am a miracle."

She grabbed me and held me tight. She looked at me and told me she was proud. Proud to know me, proud to be my friend. I hugged her back, and then we laughed at ourselves crying on this bridge- both of us with our big life stuff but still brave enough to show each other who we are and ask each other for love and support. I said out loud what I hardly ever say: how proud I am of myself.

Sometimes when winter has been too long, and the grey is holding me down, life just really shows up. It shows up as a bridge, a book, a dearest friend. It reminds me of all the good I do for myself, the meaning I give to my life, the meaning I give to the lives of others. It reminds me that I am an important person in this world, that I matter.

I have been doing the things I said I was going to do for five days now, and magic is happening. Whether it's because I've been making it or keeping an eye out for it so I notice when it shows up I'm not sure. But it's here, every day. I've been being the person I wish I am.

It's all a bridge, wherever you are. There is always that place, that time, when you wish so hard for things to be different. When that voice inside cannot let go of that wish. The thing about wishes is that most of them are ones that we can make come true, you just have to be brave enough to embrace your inner wizard and to remember that you are worthy. No one ever really plans that one moment when wishes start to be real, where you start from a new spot. You only know that happened when you look back, when you conjure your old self and see who you aren't anymore.

My neurologist wants to do a spinal tap because she is suspicious that I may have Multiple Sclerosis. That day in her office I turned her down. She told me I could change my mind, and I have. Because that's the thing about wishes- I wish I didn't have MS. I don't even know that I do. But I have to look, I have to see, because then I'll know what to do. It's just like me wishing I wasn't an alcoholic- I wish I wasn't one. But I had to look, and I had to see so I could stop wishing and know what to do. To not wish for wasn'ts but for things that can be.

What I know is this: there is nothing wrong with wishing. Whether it's with pennies and fountains, rocks and bridges, or in your heart alone in bed at night, there's a reason that wish keeps coming back. When you get to that place, your bridge where you made your wish, you will know that wishes really do come true. And you will know, no matter where you are, that you are a miracle too.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Quick Post

Today is the first time I've posted away from my computer. I was just talking with one of my work mates about responsibility. How sometimes it feels like you do so much and there just isn't any tangible reward.

Here's the thing: I work hard. I do what I'm supposed to. I show up on time, I rarely call in (and only if I'm sick- I took my first "mental health" day a couple weeks ago because I was wiped out) But there are no parades, no t-shirts, no big or small thank yous. I work for a corporation. There isn't a lot of time for hugs and Kumbaya. Sometimes I feel really frustrated that someone isn't saying "thanks" and "we notice you working hard".

Then I think about what my head would sound like if I wasn't doing my thing. It would suck. It would sound just like all the guilt trips I give myself about other stuff, but on top of all the other stuff. No thanks.

It's my responsibility to take care of myself- whether it's staying sober, working hard, walking, writing, or yoga. Even if it's just brushing and flossing my teeth at night it's still up to me. Maybe there aren't fanfares and big prizes but there is the peace of mind I get when all is right in my world.

That's good enough.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hamster Wheel

I was out for my walk a few minutes ago and I remembered a blog I posted with a picture of a girl sitting in a box and how I've been feeling very in my small box lately (and by lately I mean all winter). So I looked it up and I was amazed that I wrote it two years ago almost to the exact day.

Am I really on a big hamster wheel here or what?

I picked up my journal last night to jot some thoughts down for the first time since the end of January. To be honest my journal and I have always had very whiny and inconsistent relationship. Both are totally my fault. I noticed that the last thing I wrote about was the thing I was about to write about again- weeks later! Then I bet myself that if I read back it would all be the same thing: me bitching because I was eating too many sweets, or not doing enough yoga, or going for walks or runs, and I'm not happy because I'm not writing enough, and also when will my pants fit right again.

Jesus H on a biscuit. I am the hamster wheel.

It was the same journal when I was drinking: why can't I quit, what will I do, making paper floor plans for when I finally quit that always fell through. Oh my god. How boring can I be? No wonder I need all these distractions now that I'm sober- I can't even stand to hear myself think all these same old tired thinks. I'm like a worn out circus act: same shit, different day. Gah!

If you didn't read it my old post was about getting out of the same old box. Not really getting out of it, but building on to it. I was all spring inspired then just like I am now, but what a jolt to the system to know that I've been trying to do these new same old things for another two years!

I have changed so much, but maybe not as much as I thought....

I'm not sure about you, but I seem to stay frustratingly the same at some things: mostly not doing things that make my life cozy and good. More like knowing what feels good and then heading in the opposite direction. I'm not sure if it will make sense but I feel like I'm on the verge of figuring something out here. I have this head full of "rules" that make my life work, but I keep avoiding them almost out of spite. I wonder sometimes if I stagnate some because I have been isolating myself- not blogging much, no recovery friends, not reading my favorite blogs or finding new ones.

Is it staying safe?

Is it fear?

The hamster wheel is pretty safe. It just goes around and around with the same old scenery, the same old groundhog day days. Plod plod spin spin. I wonder how many days I can run amok before the siren song of the wheel calls me back again? Or if I ignore that voice and just keep happily heading up the hill enjoying the scenery dropping old luggage like flies? What if I just stop checking Facebook all the time? Or I promise to write and yoga and walk and keep it? Huh. What if I do?

Well. What if I do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Change is Fucking Hard

I get letters with some frequency from people who want to quit drinking, who quit and then started again. Who have quit and I helped and they send me a letter of kind thanks. Which always delights my soul and amazes me all at once.

Change is fucking hard. I've been mishy mashing around reigning in some bad habits and general constants all winter. Getting the thought from floating in my head to actual bodily practice is so...erratic. From great idea to maybe tomorrow happens every day. Every day. And then I'm comfortable and in the same place I was yesterday. Sigh.

It's like even though I know what will keep growing me I keep on hiding from the rain and the sun. I stretch a little new green leafy arm out towards the light and then get distracted and lazy and there withers my new leafy little arm and there I am- dirt buried and too tired to try again. But just like a little seed I just can't resist the wanting to grow.

This is the hardest part: the wanting to. The knowing, the need. The have to but I don't want to. Someone was explaining to me how our bodies are like pendulums and how they want to be aligned the up and down swing side to side way, but how they can just get used to being off sideways after a while and then sideways is the right way, even though it is really really the wrong way. Then that fucked up way is the comfortable way, but still way in there you know it isn't the right way so you just yearn to get back to where you belong. But fight it the whole time.


I have started and stopped so many things this winter: things that have to do with food and sweets and yoga and hikes and writing. I have started, but I have not. Sometimes I use quitting drinking as an excuse to not push myself harder because SHIT. I already did that one hard thing, right? Can't I just go with that one? Forever? Lol.

I made a list of the simple things I want to do to feed my soul. I made them things that I know make me feel the most like myself: most like I'm living according to the inner blueprint that just will not shut up. I suppose that voice will nag me until I actually do what it wants me to do.

I thought about how wonderful it was that first year I quit drinking to not have to listen to that never ending voice that constantly begged me to please just stop. I thought about how now I have more room inside for more big stuff, and how because I'm scared I just keep on staying the same- scared to be anything but guilty and miserable- scared to really really live this life for all it's worth. I thought about all the time I waste on Facebook, and playing Two Dots, and checking my email again, or Facebook. Ugh. How all of that shuts up the inner voice during that mind escape and then it just comes back. I thought about how I love to write, but then I don't because I'm afraid it won't be the very best thing I've ever done, or that it will be stupid. I thought about how I love to run, but I don't because I can't even run a mile anymore without it being hard. I don't do yoga because I am not as good at it as I used to be. I just tug on the waist of my jeans, wish for what used to be, and grab a cookie and my phone to forget what I really want to be doing, but I'm just so afraid to be good at life. I'm so used to sucking at it.

This all sounds pretty miserable, and truthfully it really is. I'm exhausted trying to pretend I'm OK when I am not.

The good thing is that I am exhausted but not done. The nagging voice keeps telling me the answer, and I want to listen. I realized that I tell people all the time: do it. Quit drinking: you will not regret it. I realized that I was being a total hypocrite. I can't stop what I've started. Getting sober wasn't the finish, it is only the beginning. And maybe that voice is not a nag, but my biggest fan.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Healed Sometimes

After my last post something happened.

The person I had a tough time with in group contacted me by text. There was apology. Acknowledgement. Explanation. Kindness.

Boy, was I pissed.

So I slept on it.

I'm all about being here and now, but sometimes that means I have to wait a minute. That right now isn't my moment. I was pissed and I was hurt and I needed time to think. So I took it. It amazes me that I used to handle big emotional things so off the cuff. I can still have my beginning thoughts while I move towards the end and the middle, but I'm letting the water boil and cool. I'm making my intention pure and safe. For everyone.

The next morning I woke up and read the text again. And again, my ego got right on up. "How dare she!" "What was she thinking?" and then. Then I saw her. I saw her pain, her confusion. I saw that she is no longer that same person in that room that day just like I'm not either. I saw us, us- two women. Just doing our best, and sometimes in spite of that hugely sucking at life anyway. I saw her- the person I know her to be. Open hearted, kind, and generous. I saw the parts I love, and the parts that hurt me. I saw myself, misjudged and mistreated so many times in my life because I did things without thought or remained quiet when faced with hard things. I saw the two of us, side by side- questiony blank faces: what should we do?

What else could I do? In my soul I forgave her, forgave us. I let the women decide, not my ego, not the hurt, not that old day. I let myself be humbled by her grace full brave hand that reached out even though she had no idea how I was going to react but just went ahead and said I'm sorry anyway. I got a moment of grace and made sure to notice it, made sure to act in it.

There's a difficult balance between forgiveness and doormat. It's hard for me to not make every person in the room okay except me sometimes. I have a tough time not seeing all sides when really I just need to see my side. I am getting used to saying things like "That's not right to me" and "I just can't agree with that" but then being able to get on with it and not stay stumped at the speed bump of this way or that way.

It's like this: we disagree. You say po-tay-toe, I say po-tah-toe. Well well. My old way would be to clam up, think about all the reasons I was wrong even though for me it felt right. Then I would just agree with you to keep the peace and feel like an asshole because I couldn't honor myself enough to stand up for myself and be firm about what I believe. Wishy washy is one of the things I can't stand about myself. I'm that way because in spite of my best efforts I just really really want everyone to like me. Ack!

The big hurt happened: we disagreed. And in my new way I said what I felt and I didn't let myself go. And just like I suspected I got hurt. Other people got hurt. The was not even a little bitty hint of peace anywhere around- and it was all my fault. "I knew it!" I told myself. "I am never right!" I said to myself. "I suck." And then I remembered that I was right for me, even though I might not have been right for anyone else, I was right for me. I made it okay for me. It was not all my fault. And I quit my group, and I got on along with it. It hurt all summer long, and all summer long I didn't blame myself. And I healed some.

I healed some. Some people from group showed up out of the blue. And so I knew it was time to take a look. I had to write about the hurt because seeing them reminded me that it still hurt and that's what writers like me do: I write to put the jangle jumble in my head in some sort of order. To settle my debt.

I was ready to be unstuck. And because I was ready, and someone else was ready, it all lined up. Now there's a part of me that's complete where there was a dangly string before. I was ready to forgive and forget. Forgive both of us for being human. Forget about that hurt and understand that it can happen and be and we can be stuck but not forever.

So much of sobriety is all the unsticking. The grace it took for both of us to unstick and see each other as whole people rather than this one hurt was quite beautiful. Last summer I would have never guessed that I would be thankful for the turmoil and upset of that weeks long hurt. Sometimes the grace we gather isn't always wearing the suit it shows up in.