Monday, September 21, 2015

Body and Mind

I do a lot of my living right in my own head. I noticed yesterday when I was out for a run that I was thinking about all sorts of other stuff besides the actual running. I'm taking a once a week class and this week we talked about living in our bodies rather than living so much of life in our minds.

One reason I drank was to escape my own mind. That thing is big and powerful and always at work. I drank to forget who I was, why I hurt, and to get some peace and quiet. If I had enough to drink I didn't even remember that I existed and that, somehow, felt nice- even though it caused me no end of grief and regret around all the other hours I wasn't drunk.

What about my body? What about it? I've pretty much avoided it my whole life: even though it counts for my whole presence I discounted it as a source of healing or grace. I abused it and hated it and existed solely in my head and forgot about my sweet body.

As I head into the last bit of my third year sober I have discovered something: I like my body. I like it because I am finally thinking with it instead of just my brain. I don't ask my brain if it wants cheesecake or another cup of tea anymore- I ask my body. My body has an intelligence all it's own. It knows without debate what I really want. My brain can suck me into an endless internal debate that usually ends with me doing the exact opposite of what my body wants to do. Perhaps they're like sisters who can't help but fight and the mind big sister will win if the body doesn't speak up. Ego and voice of reason.

As much as I love the thinking my brain can do that shit can be exhausting. All the thinking I do about things and the actual feeling I don't do about things. How to live in my body and not live in my mind. How to feel the power of hurt, of joy, and not just feel the thought of it. Pinpointing where in my body I feel something: anxious about a family gathering? That's in my shoulders, in my jaw. Then I can breathe into my shoulders, open my jaw. Take charge of the anxiety and feel it for what it is, not start thinking about the last family lunch that went wrong and replaying scenes and conversations but being here now. Breathing. Feeling my lungs expand. Getting quiet for a moment. When I concentrate on identifying where I feel something in my body it makes it real- and reality is something I can relate to. It's a lot easier to think to myself "Relax your jaw" than it is to try to fix something in my head that happened a week ago.

There is something so powerful about separating the body and the mind and then allowing them to work together. Boiling it down to the physical and then seeing where you are at the moment. And then thinking about your big mind (your higher self) and your little mind (your ego) and how to make them work with your body.

Our bodies are such a battlefield- especially for women. We are taught that they should look this one way. That we are not beautiful. That our bodies can be hurt, that we should hide. I have struggled with the way my body looks my whole life- I have always felt "too"- too fat, too short, too plain.

I willfully harmed myself steadily and purposefully for almost all my life and still- here we are: me and my body. I drank to ease my mind without giving one thought to how it felt in my body. I ate too many cookies and made excuses for just one more and forgot that my body, when unhappy, would show it. Then I'd be mad at my body for showing the evidence of my troubled mind. I would be furious at the 16 in my jeans and forget that even with all this abuse my body still showed up every day doing the best it could given the circumstances. Heart beating. Lungs breathing. Creating the motions of waking, of mothering, of living. Despite all I could do to make it quit it just kept going.

That's the thing I guess, really: to keep going. To take a fine example from your showing up every day body. My brain will take me places, dark ones, that my body has never thought of. I can be brave enough to visit and heal the dark places because my body can step me into the light. It can tell me too much, or press on, or I need a break. If I pay attention I can feel what my life is trying to tell me rather than think it to death.

It's taken me such a long time to make friends with this flesh and bones miracle that makes I'm only now just just learning to know when I need a rest, or a minute, or to be alone or together. To recognize that my shoulders are creeping up to my ears or that I'm holding my breath. There's a magic in these little details: consciously putting my shoulders down, the exhalation of breath. It makes it easier not to try escape mad dash with my inner -aholic when I feel physically what I'm running from. Touching the physical event gives me my own power in the story.

Friday, September 4, 2015


This week I am one thousand and then one thousand and onetwothree days sober. This blows my mind a little, but comes as no surprise.

When I quit drinking the last time I really quit. Back at the beginning on that day onetwothree it was all I could do to keep a grip on just getting through the motions of my day. Now I can have a friend come visit and she and my husband can sip wine one day or have a beer on the porch the next and no one gets hammered and I don't flake out because I just don't drink alcohol and that's just that.

My truth is that I am an alcoholic. Their truth is that they are not. We all have our own truth- our own truth. Sometimes I get so bugged by how big the sobriety part of my truth is: goddammit, can it be a less part? Do I always always always have to be so aware of being in recovery- of my self that gets nervous when beer walks in the front door? That I have a thousand bits of shame willing to wash up on my shore at any random moment to remind me of the woman I used to be? Or that I am still big time changing and not the same me as I was five hundred days ago and I know I'll be different in five hundred more? It can get so exhausting sometimes. It makes me want to lay in the middle of the bed and stare at the ceiling for a week.

A thousand of anything can get pretty tiring I suppose.

I will always always always be so aware of my sobriety- of my recovery- of my healing from this disease that kept me unhappy and unwell for most of my life. I will always honor the depth of strength it took for me: one woman me- to get myself sober. You don't get sober by yourself, but you do. In all the minutes that go into a thousand days the only person around for each and every one was me. I did it- I do it. I am a little different: I find comfort in the solitude of healing myself- I don't go to meetings or therapy or spend a lot of time discussing being sober as much as I just do. Maybe because I am still perhaps getting used to this me and not able to push myself to the middle of the class for show and tell, maybe because the right people are still coming to my life who will help prepare me to be brave enough to stand center stage. I know they are: I signed up for two classes (a ten week yoga one and a six week writing one) this fall, yoga teacher training in January. I'm putting myself out there because now I'm ready. I will probably be so flush with teachers and mentors that I'll start having yard sales of them just to manage the overflow. Just thinking about it means I'm readying myself: because I am sober every day my life gets bigger, and different, and more.

The gratitude I feel towards myself is uncomfortable and incredible. My dear friend who came to visit got me thinking hard about the hiding that I still do. How I want to make me getting sober into just another ho hum casserole thing when it's actually this amazing astounding miracle! I am as embarrassed by my successes as I am my failures. Here she was, in my thousand days week, to come and firmly remind me that I must celebrate and own my accomplishment. That I can be proud and humble all at the same time. That when I diminish what I've done I go backwards. That it is wonderful to be me since along all these days I have become the woman I longed for: capable, reliable, steady. Full of gratitude, full of grace. A foundation for the things to come.

A thousand of anything can be pretty amazing. It was amazing on day one. It was amazing on day fifty, day 247, day 400, day 708.43. And today, it's amazing today. It's amazing to know that 1000 days can be joined by another 1000. That the thousands can go on and on forever. That my life, this good life, can be counted on and accounted for.