Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thanks Receiving

From Nov. 29 2015

After almost three years sober I have a lot of gratitude practice. In my head and in reality I get on my knees every day or I look up at the big sky and give heartfelt thanks. And I mean it: my sobriety has given my life breath, and I know enough to know that it's polite to say thank you for the greatest gift I've even been given.

It's cold here now, the woods are staring to get bare. The leaves have fallen and gone from vibrant to brown in a matter of weeks. Me too- I feel myself shriveling a little, shrinking in, but gaining a little weight. I'm trying not to worry about that. I looked in the mirror this morning, my face a little swollen, my belly a little more belly-y and thought about what a great diversionary tactic that is: worry about this outside shit so I don't have to go inside where things can get real real quick.

One of my favorite things to talk about is feeding the right part of you: if all your attention goes in to the part that is always saying how ugly and awful and worthless you are then that fucker gets fat quick. But why isn't my kind part ever hungry? Probably because it just sits there on the couch watching TV every day, waiting to get out, waiting to get to work, expending no energy at all while I'm out tirelessly running around with that other part that secretly hates me but won't leave me alone.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't always getting the runaround from my own self. In junior high school I had a pair of embroidered Gasoline jeans that were a bit too long but looked pretty great until I remembered that my butt was too big. I colored my hair red with temporary hair color mousse and shopped at all the places I was supposed to but it rarely quieted that voice. I used to dream I had the perfect outfit to wear to school and I would wake up so relieved only to remember it was just a dream and I was stuck in this reality where all my clothes were wrong, I never looked right, and no one really liked me anyway.

You would think after all these years I would have wised up and stopped paying attention to what that dang voice is saying, but there I was just this morning ears perked right up. And so I started the litany of self improvement plans.

"Yep, tomorrow is Monday. Perfect time to get back to my old routine. I'll just do what I want today, then tomorrow I'll start eating right again. I'll run every day, do yoga every day. I will feel comfortable in my own skin because I won't be swollen, or pudgy. And then I can feel OK about myself. I'll stop drinking coffee. I won't have dairy. Or bread. Or sugar. Then I'll be controlling all these things and I'll be good enough."

God. I feel so sorry for that part of me that just cannot give all that up. It's that same part of me that thought giving up drinking was going to solve all of my problems: if I'm sober then I'll be OK.

Another of my favorite things to talk about is facing your problems. Here they are, relentlessly chasing you and you just keep running and running. It seems like I've kind of been looking back and throwing band aids at them instead of stopping and seeing what's really going on. 

Thinking Big

Here I am holding most of my children's clothing so they could swim in the ocean at Folly Beach the day after Christmas.  Thinking big.

Someone said to me the other day, "I can't wait for the holidays to be over so I can take a break from drinking." It took me a minute to realize what they were talking about- but only a minute. I can easily remember this feeling- the exhaustion from all the "celebrating". I can remember feeling like I wanted to drive away and go hide from everyone so I didn't have to get drunk again because Christmas and New Years. I remember how it felt to drag myself through the joyful days of the holiday season- puffy faced, fat feeling, endless guilt and drinking, drinking, drinking.

The feeling I can't shake these days is the one that doesn't understand how almost everyone feels like getting drunk is normal. That this is the truth: I am the oddity because I don't drink. It's accentuated by times of celebration. Another feeling I can't shake: how disingenuous it seems to find celebration at the bottom of a glass and not in the space of our hearts. Why does it take some liquid courage to own up to the love we feel for one another?

I have been so remiss in my writing, I almost feel like I could never catch you up on all the things I've been connecting one to the other in a flurry of one to the other. I have been hibernating, concentrating myself small small small like I have to. I have been lazy- caught in the suspension of this warm rainy winter- ironically frozen almost in my middle place of this thing to the next. Life getting bigger isn't so much about big motion as it is about being willing to sit still.

In the van on the way back from visiting grandparents over Christmas my husband and I were talking as we sped along I-95. We talked about the new year- wishes, responsibilities, possibilities. I tried to explain to him how I want to be out loud- proud of myself and my sobriety, how I want to help others who want it, but how I want to remain humble too. I have such a hard time when it comes to writing my blog now- writing people one on one gives me such pleasure, but when I sit down to write here I find myself struggling to not leave anyone out, to not be preachy or too woo woo, too. Sometimes it's just hard to put into words what I'm thinking in a way that makes actual sense.

I am afraid. Sitting here thinking about it I know that I have been keeping things small because it's safe. I read Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron and I take writing classes and sign up for yoga teacher training and join a writing group and then I push my feet into the sand and try to stay scared and small but my life just ain't having it. I've spent this month trying to think myself into keeping my life little- less work, less connection, less of everything when truthfully I am ready to give more than ever before. It's not the more that's cramping my style- it's the way I keep trying to keep myself as less. 

It strikes me how much truth is in the telling. Mostly the stories we tell ourselves, and the ones made from the things we're told. How telling you the truth here makes it more OK to tell myself the truth inside. How this, here, now, tells me what I need to know. Maybe it tells you something now, too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Getting to Solid Ground

This time of year is so all over the place for me- glorious things happen all month: my yearly I got sober day, my oldest's birthday, Christmas- but I'm sort of an emotional wreck at this time of year just by the natural way my body works. I have noticed, since getting sober, that I have about three times a year when I get downer than just down and I have to work for normalcy.

This time of year just lends itself naturally to change- it seems like I learn big stuff around this time, so that November and most of December seem to be me pushing something big around and around until suddenly things start to fall into place and I feel lighter again.

I am wondering about yoga teacher training- still a solid five weeks away. I finished my writing class and feel so inspired to write but can't seem to get it into my schedule with any regularity. I feel so fragile, and incapable-  I'm trying to honor that instead of pushing myself. But then I'm just in my head all the time which sucks. It reminds me of all the years I spent trying to quit drinking: I wanted to be different but I was so scared to be different. The me that I am is still a comfort, even when I've outgrown myself.

I've been sick for three days, a sure sign that I need to do less. While I was lolling about in bed for those three days I came across an article about how people who are into controlling everything like to make lists about all the things they want to do, but then never actually get around to doing it. That is so me! I love to map out ideal schedules, regimented times for yoga and writing and running and book work and research. Then my life gets in the way and I abandon my ideal in that hopeless way I get when I just can't get myself on track.

I have a huge problem with things being the way they "should" be. I did it when I was drinking- if I couldn't quit on the first of the month well then, fuck it. The month was ruined. If I didn't keep my New Year's Resolution to quit then the whole year was ruined. Might as well drink. This carries over to my sober: if I can't do an hour of yoga why bother? Unless I can write for a solid two hours I might as well just fritter away my time on the internet, or wandering around the house accusing myself. What good is a fifteen minute walk? I need to run, and for an hour.

I know, of course, that all of that is ridiculous. A few minutes of yoga is grand. A few minutes of anything is better than no minutes of it. I know, I know.

I've been thinking so much these past few weeks: thinking about my spirituality (have you read "Take This Bread"?) my habits, the way I wake up sort of mad and disappointed every day even though that's not how I really feel. It's so confusing to try to reconcile the person I feel like I am with the person I'm in the habit of being. It's like I'm stuck in a rubber suit- it's too small, I need to take it off, but I'm held fast by my inability to surrender.

It reminds me of the time I was running in the fall a few years ago. My therapist had given me a beautiful palm sized amber crystal-y rock. She told me to write down all the things I was trying to control and rubber band them to the rock. Then I had to carry it with me everywhere. So I was running, holding my rock- list of control things held tight by a big purple rubber band from the broccoli. I started crying. "What if I fall?" I wailed. "What if I catch you?" said a voice from inside of me. I cried harder and had to stop running.

There is not much faith in the world in me. I have always felt unsafe and on the look out. It's like I'm on a tightrope- sometimes I'm ok, carefully picking my way along, and sometimes I'm flailing everywhere, but I never reach the end where I stand two feet solid on the ground. I've developed the habit of reminding myself that I am loved, that I am safe, but years of flapping are hard to undo. Even if I'm settled I still long for lopsided. It's hard to feel the precariousness of my place in the world, it's just as hard to trust my roots. Feelings are just hard all the way around sometimes.

I am not so good at being caught. I am good at pushing people away. I want to help everyone, but feel so uncomfortable accepting help for myself. While I was sick I made myself have help. It sucked. It felt awful and I felt useless but my husband took care of me- a job I reserve exclusively for myself because I am not accustomed to or comfortable being cared for. It feels....weird. Like I have to wait for the other shoe to drop- here's your help, now here's the price.

But here I am, wrenching my heart open anyway. Sometimes the work we do is not so obvious- it can't be plotted on a bullet list or mushed into a clean neat schedule. It's just me, and my heart, and the days and years it takes to heal from all the years that came before. I have these moments now- where I feel like myself, really like myself and I know it's working. I know the tightrope walk is coming to an end- to a place where I can carefully place my feet on solid ground. Even if it's only for a few minutes.