Saturday, December 31, 2016

Maps at Halfway

I have twelve stitches running up the middle of my back. They've been knitting themselves together for eight days now, pulling together pieces of skin on my back that have never been neighbors all these 45 years until now.

I have a mole on my upper lip that once concerned a periodontist when I was in my middle thirties. At that time I was still feeling pretty immortal, I'd picked up smoking again while I was training for a marathon and was drinking heavily in fits and starts, trying to parent two people and failing miserably at parenting myself. I had no time to worry about concerning moles, I could barely keep my daily shit together. It was monumental that I was having my gunky gums deep cleaned, that was as healthy as I got that year. For some reason this fall I got around to the idea that I should see a dermatologist.

Something happened to me when I turned 40. One day the big thought occurred to me: MY LIFE IS HALFWAY THERE. My mind dropped to it's knees and my heart sank and I think that was the moment that I realized I was really going to have to quit drinking, I just didn't know when or how I'd be able to put the other foot down to take the full step. It would take me until 41 years and almost 8 months old to bring my feet together in that life salvaging step, and then two more years after I got sober to realize that being sober was not enough anymore, that I needed to use my sobriety as a push off point for the deeper care of myself- my body and my mind.

I finally got around to calling the dermatologist this fall, waiting three months for my appointment. The mole on my upper lip was fine, she said. The odd blurry mole on my thigh came off, and one on the middle of my back got taken off too. I got two band aids and a prescription for the weird rash around my eye and left her office happy that my favorite mole got to stay.

About a week after my appointment the dermatologist called me. She left a message. How nice of her to call, I thought, and promptly forgot to call her back. She called me again the next day and left another message. I had some time so I called her back and was put right through. I should have known that it's not good news when the doctor calls you, but I thought she was being super attentive and still had no clue something could be wrong. She started talking, saying words like "melanoma" and "melanocytes" and "dermal nests" and "severely atypical" and I still didn't understand. I asked her to say all these things in Amy Parrish language instead of doctor language and still didn't get that it could be serious until her nurse called me five minutes later and said the the doctor wanted to get me in as soon as possible to do an excision. Oh. Shit. Shit.

I Googled melanoma. Mine was a stage 0, in situ, survival rates 99-100%. I decided to freak out and also to be okay. Cancer is a big word, I am a big person, life is a big deal. I kept thinking Don't put the cart before the horse and then I'd do things like pull up to the stop sign at the end of our street on my way to pick up my youngest at school and I'd look at the traffic going by and the sun shining and I'd imagine that all of it would go on even if I didn't, that someone else would pick up my smallest boy at school and he would miss me with all of his heart and be so lonely in the world sometimes without me but he would live and go on just like the traffic and the sun.

I talked with people close to me. They had two kinds of stories: the everything was fine story and the dead in 4 months ones. I kept thinking I was going to either be okay or dead before summer.

It's a strange thing to come up against my own mortality, the breathtaking sharpness of thinking about myself dying, of no longer being, my family's empty arms longing for me. Even stranger the deep calm I felt from knowing that I am actually living now. Dying doesn't seem like such a raw part of the deal. I alternated between thinking it was no big deal and desperate that my life was over. I was mostly okay, but fearful sorrow would come on suddenly, I would burrow my face into my husband's chest and gulp out a sob and feel so bereft and he would pull my chin up and look into my eyes and say he was scared too but we were going to be fine. I knew he meant I would be well, but I prayed hard for them to fine no matter what, no matter what.

I went in for the excision on December 23rd at 2:30. I thought she was just going to take out a bigger circle around the spot she'd had tested. No problem. No biggie. There were five people in the room, my doc, her resident, three nurses. I still thought she'd be taking at most penny sized piece of my back and I'd be sewn up and out the door by 3:00.

She started with the lidocaine, about eight shots. Talked me through what she was going to do: cutting more skin around the site, there'd be inner stitches, cauterizing, outer stitches. I'd need to take it easy for 2-3 days. After a while I began to wonder what was taking so long, it couldn't possibly take this long to cut out a penny sized piece of my back. So I asked, "Hey, just out of curiosity, how big of a circle are you doing? Is it like a dime? A penny? You know- size wise." There was a pregnant pause. "More like a dollar bill," said one of the nurses. I pictured the small side of a dollar bill, but as a little rectangle of skin coming off my back. Like the white edge part of the dollar bill. No big deal.

They sewed me up, bandaged me up, let me know the pathology would be back within two weeks, maybe longer because of the holiday. I made follow up appointments, went to work, still thinking I had this slender rectangle of skin taken, wondering why it felt so sore. I left work early and Googled melanoma excisions and dollar bill measurements and figured out what had actually happened: she had taken a 2.5 inch long oval out of the middle of my back.

 We spent the next day traveling to my in laws. That night my husband changed my bandage and counted 12 stitches on the outside. He took a picture with his thumb for scale. It was twice as long at least. She took a lot. She was more concerned than I had ever imagined.

Late Christmas afternoon we took the boys out to the beach while the sun was starting to set, they ditched their shoes and ran shrieking to the water, then down the beach, watching them my heart caught so hard while the cold wind whipped my hair, I reached out for my husband and sobbed out What if this is our last Christmas? What if we were too late? He held me tight, the boys ran up, my oldest asking "Mommy? Why are you crying?" stopping my breakdown, allowing me the white lie of saying something about the sunset-y beach being beautiful before he hugged me quickly and ran off.

Yesterday, the 30th of December, I got an email from my dermatologist's office. AN EMAIL.

Your surgical margins are clear, and no further treatment is necessary. We hope you are healing well and will see you at your next visit. 

My margins are clear. No further treatment is necessary. I did not make it this far for it just to be over. I get to keep going. I get to live this life that I have only now just started to have the courage to live. When I thought it was possible that I might be dying the one thing that was my saving grace was the fact that my life got to be lived, that I got to be sober for these four years, that I wasn't going to head into dying never having known what it was like to live as me.

There's something about thinking I could be dying that makes it simpler to make hard decisions, to take chances, to be kinder when I would have been impatient- to look and see the good in everyone. To stop thinking there's plenty of time left and instead using the time I've got as if it's valuable currency rather than an all you can eat buffet.

I don't know how to not be preachy here, so I will just be it. If you think you should stop drinking you should stop. Today, right now, this minute. If a doctor told you that you might have a disease that could kill you how would you decide things differently? What if you could save yourself?

I realized yesterday afternoon that if I were still drinking that I would never have made the appointment with the dermatologist, that maybe if I hadn't quit drinking I would have died from skin cancer at 50, never having gotten sober, never taking the time to check out my moles, sadly ragged and hungover while going through cancer treatments and trying to make it up to my children and failing miserably. My decision to quit drinking has saved my life twice now. In all the maps that have led me to this place, the middle of my life, the clearest directions have come from my efforts to care for my own self, to save my own life.

Here's to life. Here's to living, to surrender, to finding the courage when there's none to be found, to grace. This time, it will be different. Happy New Year y'all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


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.


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


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


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, 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:

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 

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.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

On the Ground

Back in the spring of 2011 I decided I was going to do yoga teacher training. I'd been doing yoga regularly for a year or two, and I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Yoga teacher seemed better than waitress, so I found a studio, paid a deposit, and signed up.

Then, because the universe is so universal-y I developed an umbilical hernia six weeks before training started. No yoga said the doctor. No yoga, no running. Let's see if it heals, or surgery. Heartbroken I cancelled yoga teacher training. I stopped yoga. I stopped running. 

I drank. We moved. I had hernia surgery. I drank a lot more. Then I quit.

Yoga helped save me. I would get up before dawn and write and then at 6 AM roll out my yoga mat and practice with the lady on PBS. I remembered what it was like to flow, to move. I was creaky and felt a little silly and a lot delighted that I was up doing yoga rather than nursing yet another hangover. We joined the Y and I meant to go to yoga class but I never made it. I practiced some at home and wanted to do more but just didn't. You know how that goes, I mean just... life.

Then in early 2014 a friend invited me to visit a new yoga studio that her friend had just opened. The space was beautiful- a big loft on the third floor of a downtown building that was not only the studio but home to the owners. The wood floors stretched long and lovely, the windows full of sun. It felt welcoming and warm, so pretty that it felt almost like it wasn't real. I met her friend, who is now my teacher, and my life changed forever. 

I'd been secretly thinking about being a yoga teacher again, wondering if I could. I didn't have a steady practice, but I started taking classes there sporadically. I really liked the people who owned the studio and always felt so welcome. I'd go steadily and then I'd be gone for months at a time but then back. I started thinking about taking teacher training there, then seriously thinking about it. It took over a year for me to arrange it but here I am- learning how to be a yoga teacher. 

People say things like "This changed me forever" and then the rest of us get skeptical and sort of waggle our eyebrows at each other behind that crazy person's back, but damn if it isn't true. I have been to two weekends of training and I am pretty fucking different. Not unrecognizable, just more me, more of a being with the world. 

One of my teachers is a sixty year old woman. She is bright and bold and thoughtful and incredibly human and honest. She encourages us to feel and move in our own ways, to get to places in our own time. Her influence in my life has put my feet on the ground. She is teaching me how to stand, how to sit, how to walk- physically teaching me how to walk on my tibia, not my fibula, how to stand on the big toe side of my foot and the little toe side and my heel. I am a forty four year old baby learning to roll around on the ground and feel connected to the earth. You wouldn't think rolling around on the ground with no effort would be so freaking hard, but try it- you'll be efforting all over the place- trying to hold your body just right or to look like what you imagine is the "proper" way to roll around on the ground. It is hilarious to realize that there is no right way to do it, but you've been trying to do it right the whole time. You're on your mat, on your side in the shape of a banana, all tensed up about it, then you let go, and you roll from side to side and something in you loosens and you can breathe again.

After the first weekend I felt like I had the flu. My hips felt like someone was grinding my femurs into them like a mortar and pestle. I was tired and achy, listless, spent. Our training is a lot of talking by all of us- sharing our stories, supporting each other in the spirit of our sangha, learning how much alike we are and how different. Noticing each other. There are the Yamas, and the Niyamas, and the chakras, it is also physical- we do classes and practice teaching each other. We chant, and breathe. That first weekend took a huge toll on me emotionally. Then we got to the second weekend and our second chakra- water and sexuality- and I almost fell right off the world.

 I have come to terms with many things since I got sober at the very end of 2012 but sex has not been one of them. I have a big sad history of big sad things that I did or that happened to me because I was drunk and that is almost impossible for me to shake. I lost my virginity in a drunken blackout when I was fifteen. Was it taken from me? I don't know, I was so drunk I wasn't in my body. It all rolls on from there, getting bigger and bigger until I get to here: me clueless about how to be a sexual and feminine woman in this middle aged body, still sometimes shaky about just being a person. I don't know how to feel comfortable being a woman, how to not equate sex with sadness, how to not equate feminine with sex. I spent half of a morning class silently sobbing, tears leaking and leaking out of me wanting to run from the room and break down but I stayed and let myself quietly cry and start to heal. I've run away enough. That's yoga.

It all goes back to basics. I got lost when I was twelve and started drinking at fourteen to stop hurting. And that's where I stopped knowing how to be in the world. I don't know how to walk in the world as a woman because I haven't done it. It has taken three years of me swaddled in sobriety like a baby to be ready to learn how to stand. But I am ready. Oh, I'm ready. My feet are right here on the ground. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Radical Waiting

I have made a radical discovery. It's probably something you've heard of.

Meditation. And waiting.

Dude. Whoa.

I remember back in my twenties I went to a meditation class and I thought I might have both disappeared and fallen asleep. It was incredible. So of course, I never did it again.

I have tried meditating so many times. It goes something like this:

OK, I'm going to meditate now...I'm breathing in. And out. Following oh. I wonder why I hey! We need toothpaste! Ugh, my legs look kind of sausage-y in these pants. Oh, right. OK, back to it. I'm breathing in. And out. And in. And is the alarm going to go off? Do we have anything for the kid's lunches? What am I going to have for lunch today? What's going on this weekend? I want to go camping. I'm terrible at this. I give up.

It was like that every time. I would hear about how amazing meditation is, how it can change your life, and since I'm still way open to some life changing I would try again. I would flail again. So many times that I have a little meditation PTSD. I think about meditation and there's a lot of eye rolling and hurumphing. Until now.

How did I not know about guided meditation? Do you know about it? I have this great app on my phone called "Stop, Breathe, and Think". It is the bomb. It is mostly free- I think I spent $7 on some additional meditations. It asks you how you're feeling and then pops up a few meditations for you to choose from. They run anywhere from 5-20 minutes. I have five minutes!

Turns out I have ten minutes- after a few months of having only five minutes now I can meditate for ten minutes and I can do it every day.

What's radical is not only the meditating but this: it took me a few months to get here- but I'm here. What's radical is that big changes don't happen overnight in these life exploding moments but in the slow but sure collection of days and weeks. This is true about meditating and about being sober, about a lot of other things too.

There is the big decision (I quit drinking, I start meditating, I write every day, I floss at night) and then there's the waiting, the doing over and over until the day you realize that you really have made a difference in your own life, and that it is good. I've started looking at the things I say in my head I could never do and then that's the thing I try to do. A year ago I only did one thing on that list up there, now I do all of them. It took a year, but now here they all are. Part of me.

When I think about change I always imagine it to be sweeping, and instant. This is just not true. Change is slow and steady, it progresses at a pace about fifty times slower than I want but the timing isn't what's important, it's the steadiness that's key. It's about being satisfied with who you are today and being able to hope to be (not have to be) more tomorrow. It's about not letting yourself make bullshit excuses ("I'm too busy/ I don't have time for that" is the biggest bullshit excuse ever- I think that's fear talking) but taking something you think is important and making it important.

I get so impatient with my sweet life- Be all the things I want you to be RIGHT NOW! but really, I am starting to feel so radical in my waiting. My own slow day at a time revolution that takes patience and persistence- ten minutes at a time.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Going to a Therapist and Doing My Best

Me before my appointment. I really wanted to stay in the car wrapped in my seatbelt. 

After months of deliberation and worrying that insurance wouldn't cover it and then knowing that it would but still being flaky I finally sat down and found a therapist.

For those of you familiar with my story you know that I have stayed sober for the most part on my own. I haven't been to AA, I don't have a therapist or a support group besides my blog community, which feels very real and reliable but as we all know isn't the same as a real look in the eye and a real hug. I decided that to go the big further I want to go I needed some in person help. Professional help. Not a friend who might sugar coat the hard truths, or whom I might be too embarrassed to tell about all the sex stuff weighing on me, but a therapist. Someone with training and experience in how to navigate with stuff I'm dealing with.

Then I waited for months. I waited and waffled and struggled and read loads of self help and memoir and my daily Rolf Gates and Judith Lasater and wrote and then didn't write and kept it together and fell apart. Over and over I got the message that I needed someone else, and over and over I made excuses. I spent the better part of last year gearing up to be able to tell someone else my biggest secrets and fears and also my big dreams and plans. Someone who could help me get used to the idea that I am a lovely sexual being and that's nothing to be ashamed about, someone to help me loosen my often strict and rigid standards for myself.

A few weeks ago I started my morning pages again, and meditating every morning. Without excuse or failure I have remained committed to these practices and that built me up enough to do the actual work of finding a therapist. Sometimes things happen so fast!

I started looking at the approved list on my insurance website. I couldn't tell much, and got impatient but kept going. I had to give myself a stern talking to when I wanted to just say fuck it and spend the nonexistent money to go to my former recovery group leader. I looked some more, I got more frustrated. I called one woman on the list who sounded promising and nothing- no answer, no machine.

So I stopped looking and wrote an email to my old recovery group leader asking for help with recommendations. I was honest and said I didn't know what to do. I was just about to hit send when my phone rang and it was her- the therapist I'd called and gotten no answer! She was charming and funny and I felt an instant kinship with her. I made an appointment with her and deleted my email to the other.

There's something funny about going to meet and talk to someone for the first time who knows your big stuff. That before she meets me she knows I'm kinda fucked up. And by fucked up I mean you know you aren't quite there- the place where you're mostly balanced and safe in the world. I'm here- still out kind of lost and looking for more of the map and some help. That there are things that have happened that I can't shake out and resolve because I don't really understand them. There are things I haven't looked at realistically because it hurts too much to do so, and also it hurts too much to let them go.

One of the things I'm trying to let go of is my stale idea of what doing my best means. The problem comes from me expecting everyone else to be upholding themselves to my always high standards and judgements. As in: be perfect at all times my way. Be perfect in my own random proper white knuckle-y way that then meant the house was in order but I was drunk on the back porch and a hungover wreck a few days a week. Now as in I'm keeping it together in all the ways you can see. Trying too hard on the things that are easy distractions and not the content of the actual growth and tasks that needs to happen for me to become more settled and at ease.

I'm reading "Rising Strong" by Brené Brown and it's making me think every day. There's a part about people being their best that came along right when I was really starting to question why I think it's my job to determine whether someone is doing things up to my standards. At home this looks like me coming home from work at night and huffing about dishes I wouldn't have left in the sink or a towel left on the bathroom floor. At work it looks like me just doing more work faster instead of my fair share. In all of this I build resentment and judgement until I'm a superior miserable mess. Fuck that.

She's asked an interesting question: "Do you think other people are doing their best?" Do you? At first my answer was a firm "NO!" I thought more about it and tried thinking that no matter what, at all times everyone is doing the best they can at that moment. That to meet people where they are you have to meet them where they are, not where you think they should be.

Since I started thinking about this best thing I have been thinking about it particularly when I go running. It goes like this: I start to run, my body is cold. I am slow. At that time, my best is small- just that I'm out there, feet plodding one in front of the other. That is my at-that-moment-best. Is it stupendous? Remarkable? Impressive? No, it's pretty regular and totally boring and normally not qualified as "best". Here's the thing: best does not have to be Everest. Sometimes it's just getting out the damn door.

Here's the other thing: what if what I think is totally crappy and awful is your best? Who do I think I am? Someone out there is thinking my best is crappy and awful too. I could only breast feed both my boys for about six months before I gave up. I was drinking at the time and falling apart and that was my best. That I wasn't drinking every day and  I was trying to pump before I did drink was my best. My boobies wouldn't fill, I couldn't stop drinking, I struggled and struggled, my children were hungry. Me giving up and feeding them formula was my best. Someone out there is horrified by that, and someone else thinks I really tried. Everyone's best is different.

Being the best person I want to be makes me the happiest when I am honest about what I am capable of at the time. Best doesn't have to be the dirty word it's made out to be. Best doesn't mean I run frantically all over my life, it means I listen to it and hear it. Best means I honor myself by minding my own expectations and extend myself some compassion and understanding when my best is being a banshee when people won't put on their shoes. It's sharing that compassion and understanding with others too. It also means not being afraid of it, not being scared of failing or falling. It means pushing myself when I want to stay comfortable, hearing when I really need to stop.

The thing I really love is the thought that everyone can be the best. That there is not only one best, but many of them: that I can say "I am the best at running in the woods!" and you can say "I am the best at running in the woods!" and it's all true. Being the best isn't selfish or only. It's not trophies for everyone, it's the inner knowledge that even if I'm not on stage with a prize I know what's up.

Rock your day. :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Close Enough

(Post written 11/15/15)

This morning my husband was trying to help me gather together a few blog posts for me to share with my memoir writing class. As soon as I asked him for help I was pissed.

This is at once terrible and hilarious.

It could come as no surprise that an alcoholic might be also a perfectionist. More times than I can count I've discovered this is true about people. I inherited my perfectionism from a task driven father. Each Saturday morning we would stand in the bathroom locked in a battle of wills and Soft Scrub. He wanted me to clean the bathroom right. I wanted to clean it right. I did it wrong. He got mad. There was yelling and I usually ended up sobbing in my room wondering why he was so mad about the way I scrubbed the tub. Now that I clean my own house I get it- there's just a certain way things look to me when they're cleaned properly- not sparkly really, or immaculate- just right.

My father comes from a non family. I have never once heard a story about a wonderful or even good memory- only the ones about a drunk father or another perfectionist: his mother- my grandmother. As tender and kind as she was to me I don't know that she ever shared that side of her with him.

I realize that I am hard to love. This is something I can't seem to reconcile with the sweet and tender insides of myself, but I know where it comes from. It's not that I'm hard to love, it's that loving is hard for me. So when I do things like ask for help I feel wrong already, which makes me impatient, which makes me feel dumb, which makes me act like an asshole instead of grateful for the help. God, I hate to be wrong. And still, ingrained so deeply in my psyche, is the knowing that asking for help is wrong. Even though here, in this now, I know asking for help is the rightest.

So I struggle through his instructions. He didn't listen, he didn't understand what I wanted and so now I just want to do it myself. I don't need his help, no one ever listens when I talk. No one understands. I am so irritated, jittery with frustration in my chair, irrational with the need to get out of here right now.

I am only this way with my husband, and my father.

I have never had a completely trusting relationship with a man. By this I mean me feeling safe. Loved. Adored. Honored.

In the beginning my father loved me. He plopped his army hat on my fuzzy baby head and drew an anchor on my little chest. He joked with me, he adored me. He made snowmen with ears and said dad stuff like "Nice to meet you hungry!" when I announced that I was hungry. There's a picture of me at five or so draped across him- the two of us lolling about grinning on a chenille bedspread at my grandmother's house. The picture of him holding up a flounder for me to kiss, both of us laughing. It tells me that I felt safe in the world once.

Then we bought a house, then we moved away into another bought house, and he disappeared into work and reponsibility. He stayed away from home to avoid my mother's bitterness and anger at being plopped out into the country with two kids half an hour from a crappy town. It's sad to know that when I could have used a father he was trying to salvage his own life- they both were- struggling to stay married because that was the right thing to do.

I never chose boys as friends or lovers that were actual choices. They all kind of fell into my life and then fell out. There was the older boy who would take me out to the treehouse and feel me up, finger fuck me while I laid there legs spread and confused. I knew I was looking for love, but also knew that this maybe wasn't it. But maybe it was.

Drinking made it lots easier to not worry so much about what I was allowing to be done to me. I would drink too much and then sort of come to underneath someone, or in a strange bed without my pants, or in a relationship. I fell in love, but not desperately- there was always a big part of me that was solidly alone.

I have never ever been able to trust anyone with my heart. Even my best friend from kindergarten found someone else and moved on. No one has ever clung to me with undying devotion, loving me always felt more like an easy either or. Even my mother, who was estranged from her own mother, used to tell me how she ditched her mom and she could easily cut me off too. There's more to that story but that's the part I always heard: you're hurting me so I will leave you.

In my long term relationships I bonded with people who seemed as confused as me. I thought that by me being their savior I could also gain salvation. This never works. I punished myself with holding on to boys and men who didn't really like me anyway. And they held on back because maybe it was just easier that way for them too. I chose friends who drank like me, not ones who thought I was funny, or who just loved to be with me because,

The hard part is this: I really love my husband. But I feel that part of me- the one that's resigned to being alone. The one that has been left over and over again- a whole lifetime of leftovers. It's so hard for me to soften my heart towards this man who dearly loves me but whom I've taught to defend himself lest I break part of his heart. I've broken so much of it already. How can I relax into my own loving heart? How can I gain the trust needed to build a secure relationship? How do I crack open this well of hurt and bail myself out so he and I don't spend our years together abiding?

Note from today, 1/5/16: I can tell I was in such a hard spot this fall. I'm still trying to help myself love and be loved. Man, this shit can be so tough! Onward. :) 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Word for 2016

I love and don't love choosing my word for the year. Last year my word was "FUN" and I think I had it although I also think I forgot that was my word about halfway through and thought my word was "BOGGED DOWN" or "OVERWHELMED" or "SAD" but whatever.

I did have a pretty sad fall and winter- there are things in the air that are slow motion falling into place and there are things I'm waiting for and dammit sometimes I just want to know how it's going to turn out. I get almost forty-five and impatient and feel like I'm running out of time which I know is irrational but that's how I am sometimes- concerned about imaginary or inevitable things. Plus I'm so excited and happy about some stuff that I want it to be right now

I was considering these other words...

2. community
3. how
4. enough
5. practice

...and I still like all of them. Is it fair to have five words for the year? Totally fair. 

I have been doing so much thinking about keeping my life safe and small and then I listened to a TED talk Brené Brown did about shame and in the first part she talks about her other TED talk about vulnerability and how in it she said she had a breakdown and that a few hundred people might know she said that because it was going on YouTube and she wanted to stop it from being there. And then four million people saw it instead of a few hundred. She said this:

"... I learned something hard about myself, and that was that, as much as I would be frustrated about not being able to get my work out to the world, there was a part of me that was working very hard to engineer staying small, staying right under the radar. "

and it was a good thing I was laying down since sometimes when the universe says exactly what I'm thinking back to me and I am purely amazed for just that moment it takes me to get it, really get it. Then I'm all of course! and it's like the truth that's always been.

I have been started, but stopped. I made it to a place in my life where I am not drinking finally finally finally and I've been baby stepping my way to where I am now. Which is fine except it isn't fine all the time. Here I am, path wide ahead and I'm leaning down to tie my shoes again instead of taking off. I too have been engineering my life to stay comfortable and small and I think my frustration these past few months comes from that. I thought it was from things getting too big, but my bad.

One of my favorite things about sobriety is the way that I think my way through things in a thought full not too hurried way. I put on headphones and suddenly remember the Legends of the Fall soundtrack, and I remember to pick up my Morning Pages again because to be a writer you have to write. There are so many ideas I've had that don't stay or stick, and then there are the ones that come back over and over until I make peace with them and then they're me. ME.

And so now, here, waiting to start- I start again. This year I take on yoga teacher training, getting more serious about my writing, being a vegetarian for the first six months to honor the Yama of Ahimsa, tweaking my schedule to make the important to me things fit, and spiritual stuff, service stuff. These aren't resolutions but ways to try out my life until I find another thing that sticks and then that's part of me. It's so hard to put myself out there- to make connections to people, to write what's real so other people can see, to not be the total introvert I am and stay home and not go out at all. It's me: end of the diving board shivering and afraid, holding my breath waiting to jump. It's me too down in the water arms out yelling "You can do it! Don't be afraid!" up to my scared little self rocking from foot to foot.

But then there's another me- the me that's gained such confidence from showing up sober every single day of these last three years. That me's standing at the side of the pool, a smile playing at the corners of my lips because I know I'm going to do it, I know I'm going to jump. That me knows all the can do yelling and drama can't compete with that little feeling that grows inside when I remember that I can trust myself to not hurt myself anymore, that I care for myself with reverence and honor and love. Onward says that me. I listen. I jump. The air is fine, falling is better, the water encloses me. I surface and lock eyes with the me standing at the side of the pool. Onward I mouth back. And onward I go.