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.