Friday, January 30, 2015

For Rebekah

It's your smile I think about most.  And that giggle.

I have never met anyone who loved to laugh more than you.  It was infectious.  No matter what my mood, you could pull a reluctant smile from my face, and I soon found my self erupting in laughter.

I want to say thank you.  Thank you for the cozy, late-night chats, the two of us snuggled in our beds. The darkened room and hushed corridors brought something out of us; a pure honesty, shared unvarnished truths.

We'd laugh, you and me, about our twenty-three year age difference.  How could someone so young be so wise, I'd ask.  You would pull a face, stick out your tongue.  See?  You'd say.  I'm just a kid.

But you weren't just a kid.  You were a soul sister, one who had been through so much and still with that smile.  OH, that smile.

Remember the two of us, duffel bags perched on our laps, heading to the next chapter of our journey with wide eyes?  Wondering what would happen next?  You grabbed my hand, as I recall, and said I'm glad I'm going with you. 

One time, as I schlepped up all those stairs to our room, I heard beautiful music playing.  I paused outside our door, listening.  I thought you had speakers for your iPod, and was going to chide you for keeping them secret.  But no, I saw as I opened the door, it was you playing your guitar and singing. Ethereal and melodious, your talent came from someplace deep inside you, someplace God-given. You sat up, startled, when I opened the door, and blushed.  I'm no good, you said and abruptly threw your guitar to the side, nobody is supposed to hear me. 

I stood speechless for a moment, awestruck.  That was beautiful, I said.  Please don't stop.  True to form, you picked up your guitar and belted out some crazy made-up tune, twangy and funny, and I jiggled around the room in my own middle-aged funky way.

Every morning you got up early.  Every morning.  You weren't going to miss that morning meeting for anything. While I mumbled and grumbled from the comfort of my blankets, arguing in favor of an evening meeting, you be-bopped around, humming.  Get up, girl, you'd say.  I got us a ride. 

You made fun of how all my shirts had stripes.  Is that some middle-aged Mom thing? Or just an Ellie thing? you'd grin.

Interesting coming from you of the eleventy-seven-hundred LOVE PINK sweatshirts, I'd grin right back.

Of all the girls in the house, you worked hardest at getting to meetings, chasing your recovery.  The minute you were eligible to get rides from other women in the program, you hit that pay phone and called and called and called until you got to a meeting.  You wanted this, badly.

Keeping a clean room, however, not so much.  You bounced into the kitchen one morning chirping about how you made your bed, how proud I should be.  Later that day, I smiled to myself when I saw the comforter pulled up over a pile of clothes, lumped up like a tiger sleeping under the covers.

I could make you bust out laughing by trying to be all hip (nobody says hip anymore, Ellie, you'd say).  I'd tell you I was feeling some kind of way, and you'd clutch your stomach laughing.  Sorry, you'd say, it just doesn't work coming from you.  I had to ask you want a 'snipe' was, which you found endlessly funny.  For those of you wondering, it's also called a 'put-out'.  Yeah, I had to ask, too.

A favorite memory is the day we were told to put on a skit about the counselors.  You picked one of the more colorful counselors, and groaned.  I can't act, you mumbled.  I'm not funny.  But then, your big entrance came, and you clacked in on borrowed  high heels, reading glasses (mine, of course) perched halfway down your nose and gave everyone a stern look before breaking into a dance and belting out "Because I'm happppyyyyy!" - a dead-on imitation.  I glanced over to the counselor you were portraying and she was wiping tears from her eyes she was laughing so hard.

And a proud moment:  when we put on a recovery version of the Wizard of Oz, and you bravely played your guitar and sang to the acoustic version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", facing one of your biggest fears:  putting your talent out there for all to see.  You were, of course, amazing.

You made friends everywhere you went. People were drawn to you, to your light.  Always quick with a hug and a smile, you had an eye for someone in pain.   You made people feel special - you made me feel special, the way you'd light up when you saw me.

Even after we were no longer roommates, you encouraged and inspired me.  We'd text inside jokes, check in on each other.  Your bubbly sweetness flowed through your words:


But nothing - NOTHING - compares to the way you loved your child.  Little Madisyn.  The way she would squirm and wiggle and dance when she saw you, then collapse into your arms and stay there for hours, perched on your lap like a queen ruling her subjects.  And just like her Mom, she would giggle and giggle and giggle, for hours.  Her little face so like your own, big eyes staring up at you with unadorned love.

My sweet friend, you left a gaping hole, a dark space devoid of light, when you left.  You are one of the great ones, those rare people I meet who slip into my life like a pair of comfortable slippers.  I owe you a huge debt, sweet girl, for being there for me during such difficult times, for buoying me up when I was sinking, for making me laugh in spite of - and at - myself when I needed it most.

Mere words fall short of how much I love you.  And I always will.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My incredible friend Rebekah died on January 26th of an overdose.  I won't tell her story; it's not mine to tell.  But I know she would want me to say this, because she said it to me over and over:  if you are struggling, please reach out for help.   She posted just those words on her Facebook page only three weeks ago.

It's hard not to stamp our feet and ask why. I get it, because I live in this world.  Addiction is a confounding, baffling and insidious disease.  It doesn't hold back, doesn't discriminate, and it pounces the minute we are weak and alone.  I don't waste time wondering what happened, or why.  I know there isn't any reasoning that will help, or explain.

We have an epidemic in our country.  In my little part of the world - South Shore, Massachusetts - a person dies everyday from an overdose, and countless more are hospitalized, paralyzed, slip into comas.  The more affluent areas are hit the hardest; it starts with pills stolen from medicine cabinets, usually, and it's so addictive it leads people straight to heroin.  And it can be found everywhere.

No child is exempt from its reach: no amount of love, or money, or strict rules can spare a kid from its grip.

What we need is education; parents need to get educated on what is really happening in our middle schools and high schools.  It's so easy to think:  not my kid.  But by the age of 14 or 15 every kid will know someone who has tried opiates or heroin.  They will know where to get it.  They think they are immune from danger, as all teenagers do, and they are vulnerable.

Rebekah's love and light will live on in me and everyone she knew forever.  Her death is so tragic, and it saddens me beyond words, but it fuels my determination to keep on mission, get the word out there that addiction is all around us, and despite all the tragic tales there is so much hope.  But we can't fight something we can't face.

Talk to your kids.  If a friend seems off, ask if they are ok.  If you think someone is struggling with drinking or drugs, they probably are.  Reach out a hand.  If you are struggling yourself, know you aren't alone.

Asking for help isn't weak; it's the strongest thing anyone can do.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Best Hardest Year

It's that time of year where we get nostalgic, look back at the soon-to-be-behind us year. 

This past year was tough, and I find myself longing for it to be over with, for the chance to start fresh in the New Year.

But, of course, life doesn't work that way. It doesn't follow our calendar year, and magically reset itself at the stroke of midnight on New Year's eve.  Life is a day-by-day endeavor.  Sometimes, it's minute-by-minute.

2014 brought a lot of heartache.  I saw the inside of a jail cell, albeit briefly, and felt the cold steel of handcuffs around my wrists.  I stood before a judge and anxiously awaited my fate. I was away from my children for three months in treatment, not knowing if I would be an active part of their lives when I got out.  My thirteen year old dog died.  I have a probation officer.  I lost my driver's license for a year. My fifteen year marriage ended. 

My gut twists as I type this; it's so hard to look at that list.  That doesn't feel like me, like who I am.  But, of course, it is.  Or it was. Or it is.  I hear voices in my head telling me: "Don't write that! Do you want the world to know all these things?"  The answer is, no, I don't. I'd rather turn my face away from the cold hard truths.  I know it's not really anyone's business but my own.  But here is the reality: I own my mistakes.  I know they are here to teach me important lessons, and if I turn my head away, I won't learn.  I won't grow. I will be awash in shame and fear, and I don't want to live there anymore.

It's tempting to sweep everything under the rug. After all, many blessings came from that heartache, and I could write an eloquent post all about the gifts.  I'm sober. I am home with my children, and our relationship is stronger than it's ever been, after months of hard conversations, difficult truths and hard work to rebuild trust.  I don't resent the consequences of my relapse; I am grateful there is a way to repay my debt to society, my family and my children.  Not driving has forced me to ask for help - something I never, ever did before.  I can no longer hide behind any masks.  The consequences of my relapse stripped away any possibility of glossing over what happened.  I still have a lot of work to do; there are relationships that are important to me that are strained.

This is hard-core life on life's terms.

Instead of wishing 2014 away, I am embracing it.  More than any other year, 2014 has forced me to stop and listen.  It has given me a hard choice: grow or die.  Learn or lose everything.  I have had to take a hard look at all of me, not just the comfortable parts.  I have had to reevaluate everything, and make tough changes.

This past Sunday we did a Bubble Hour show on Shame. I produced this show, and it got me thinking about what shame means to me.  Am I shameful about the things that happened?  The things I did?  Yes. Did I beat myself up about it, and nearly lose myself to the Shame Spiral?  Yes.  That's the thing about shame: it's a zero-sum game.  It feeds on itself, like a serpent eating its own tail, until there is nothing left.

The only way I have found to break the Shame Spiral is brutal, compassionate honesty.  I thought about how I talk to my daughter about shame, about mistakes. I tell her that we aren't defined by our mistakes, but rather what we learn from them, what we change about ourselves as a result. I tell her that our biggest mistakes can become our biggest achievements, if we listen to what they have to teach us.  I emphasize that if we never made mistakes, we'd never learn. Because we grown from pain; it's the way we are hard-wired. We don't tend to learn from the things that come delivered on a silver platter.

So I find myself today, nine months sober, clear-eyed and fully present, with my feet planted firmly on the ground.  I don't skirt around the hard truths, but I treat myself with compassion.  I talk to myself, today, the way I talk to my daughter.  As hard as this year has been, I can honestly say that if I could magically wipe the slate clean, I wouldn't. 

Some people who read this will judge me, I'm sure.  That's okay.  Breaking the Shame Spiral means I don't derive my self-worth from other people.  If I weren't me, I might judge me, too. 

The most important lesson I have learned from 2014 is this:  I am okay just the way I am, as long as I remain teachable, grateful and present.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Newly Seperated Girl's Guide to the Holidays

I went to the mailbox yesterday and received my first holiday card. 

I used to adore this time of year - both sending and receiving cards - picking out that perfect picture (always taken as a family at Thanksgiving) and running to the mailbox every afternoon to see it chock full of those non-bill-shaped envelopes bearing updates from friends and family.

When I saw that first green and gold envelope with a little heart sticker on it, my stomach plummeted.

This year there will be no holiday card from our family, because our family is separated.

I suppose I could send a card with just the kids on it. But what would the message say?  Joy?  Merry Merry?  Happy New Year?

I don't feel any of those things this year. 

Over the holidays, even more than usual, there are reminders of what-isn't-anymore all over the place, like little bomb-lets that explode in my face when I least expect it.

Holiday commercials of intact families celebrating over a Thanksgiving meal. Magazine ads of Moms and Dads kissing under mistletoe, or grinning conspiratorially to each other as they stuff holiday stockings or wrap gifts. 

The holiday cards with smiling Mom-Dad-Kids, their arms slung around each other, wearing goofy Santa hats or matching outfits.  All together, just like they were last year, only one year older.

The holiday season makes me glare at the wedding rings of the Moms in front of me in the grocery line, their chubby babies' drooling grins taunting me.  I used to be them, I think.  My stomach twists with regret and jealousy.  Why didn't I pay more attention when all that was mine.  

The changes are coming at me fast.  Our beloved dog, Casper, died last week.  She was thirteen years old, lived a long, full life, and it was time for her to go.  My husband and I got her when our marriage was only two years old.  As I mourn her loss, I find myself thinking: my marriage began and ended with her life.

I don't want to put up the tree.  I don't want to decorate.  I don't want to celebrate.  Every step of the way I'm haunted by traditions past:  he cuts the trunk, I hang the ornaments, a crackling fire blazing in the background. 

I want to curl up in a ball and unfurl on January 2nd.

Friends mock-complain about all they have to do: the in-laws coming to stay, prepping meals, planning trips to see family, grumbling about what to buy their husband or what their husband will get for them.  All of it sets my teeth on edge, but I just stand there and smile, feeling like I have a blaring neon sign on my forehead that says:  separated.

I gazed at the smiling faces peering out at me from that first holiday card.  Then I closed my eyes, and I prayed. 

May they have a happy holiday season. May I find joy in the blessings I have, instead of all I do not have.

It helped.  A little.

Here's the thing, though: none of these emotions have any bearing on our separation specifically, on the circumstances behind it, or the reasons why.  I don't regret the separation itself, I realize, although it's confusing and hard and sometimes I just want to get in my way-back machine and start all over.

What I'm grieving is the loss of The Dream, the one that is shoved in our faces over-and-over-and-over during the holidays.  If you were an alien from another planet and landed on earth on December 14th, or thereabouts, you would think we were the happiest-smilingest people in the Universe.

At least that's how it feels to me, newly separated for my first holiday season.

Our society commercializes happiness, and it's never more glaring than in November and December.  I'd like to see a magazine ad, or a commercial, of a single mom and her kids sitting down to Thanksgiving, or buying a Christmas tree. 

They'd be smiling, I know they would, because my kids and I smile together. A lot.  I am not unhappy when I'm able to live my life as it is, and not how I feel it should be.  Most of the time I am content, and I'm able to grow and learn from the hard lessons life is teaching me right now.

But, dammit. It's almost impossible not to lose myself in comparisons when family-and-togetherness is everywhere.  Logically, I know that we're still a family, just in a different form. I know my kids are over-the-top excited for Christmas, and that they had a great Thanksgiving with their Dad.  I had a great Thanksgiving, too, with some amazing sober friends. 

I would be okay, most of the time, if that damn cookie-cutter family wasn't grinning out at me from my television, Facebook stream and mailbox. 

That's not how the world works, and I know this.  This is hard core life-on-life's terms. When I'm in a good head space, I can find peace in chaos.  When I'm not, I find chaos in peace.  I fall into the 'shoulds' - how my life should be instead of how it is. 

Don't Should On Yourself, my friend would say.

I'm trying. I will get through this. I will say a prayer of compassion over every card I receive this year. I will pray for peace of mind, for acceptance of what is, and gratitude for all I have. 

But sometimes?  Sometimes I just have to get my truth out there, that this is hard. 

It just is.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Whisper Or A Scream

Three years ago today I got the call.  The one that told me I had cancer. 

As I meditated this morning, I travelled inward and tentatively explored how I feel about cancer, about fear, today.

Three years, in Cancer Land, is both a lifetime and a blink of an eye. With cancer you're never completely out of the woods, but of course each passing year in remission brings more hope.

Ah, hope. I used to think hope was the antidote to fear, but I was wrong. The antidote to fear, I have found, is acceptance.

If you had sat me down four years ago and asked me to make a list of the things that scared me the most, it would have looked like this:

1) Something happening to my kids (serious illness or death).
2) Something happening to one of my family members (serious illness or death).
3) My marriage ending.
4) Relapse.
5) Getting cancer.

During my meditation, I thought about this list.  Four of those five things have happened to me in the past three years. Thankfully - OH so thankfully - my kids are not only fine but they are thriving.

But numbers 2-5 have all come to pass.

I sat quietly, pondering this fact, and waited patiently for some kind of emotion to surface: self-pity, rage, resentment, or sadness.

Five, ten, twenty minutes I sat in silence, my eyes closed, waiting.

Nothing.

I felt...... nothing.

Well, at least it looked on the surface like nothing, but eventually I realized it wasn't nothing. 

It was acceptance.

It's not that they don't matter, all those hard things.  They have taken their toll on me, and my family, for sure.  In that sense they matter quite a bit.

But there is nothing I can do to change the past.  All those things are shaping me, molding me, nudging me down the path of my life. 

I am not the same person I was four years ago.  Not even close.

As I went deeper into myself, moments flashed by:

My sister's voice on the phone, telling me to hurry, to get to the hospital because Dad wasn't going to make it and I needed to get there nowI can't do this, I said to my husband.  I just can't.  But I did. 

The doctor's somber-yet-neutral tone as he said "I'm sorry, it's cancer".  I recall how my hands shook and how my mind went white with fear.  That's it, I thought.  I'm going to die. But that isn't how it turned out. At least, not yet.

This past spring, waking up in the detox with my head stuck to the thin plastic mattress and thinking:  Oh no, not again. I'm not going to make it. I'm not worth it.  But God had other plans, because I'm still here, and I'm sober.

Sitting on the beach this past summer, the warm sand under my skin, as my husband looked at me with hurt and sadness in his eyes and told me he didn't want to be with me anymore.  I won't make it without him, I thought.  I just can't.  And yet, here I am.  Alone, and okay.

I'm finally understand that trying to control the outcome of anything is futile. Trying to control how other people think of me or respond to me is futile.  This doesn't mean I don't try my best; it means if I want to stay sane and sober I stay focused on the only thing I do control, and that is how I metabolize my world.

Something horrible or scary happens and despite how out-of-control it makes me feel, I do have control over my choices.  I can drink over it - or not, ask for help - or not, pray - or not.

I can accept it, or not. 

I am still scared.  A lot of the time, in fact.  But I don't numb it out, or run from it, or ignore it. 

Today, instead of a scream, I whisper into fear's ear and ask:  what are you here to teach me?


Friday, November 7, 2014

The Hallway

You know that expression, the one that says "God doesn't close one door without opening another one"?

I've never particularly liked it - it felt too much like a Band-Aid over a bullet hole, like plastering a bumper sticker over an openly bleeding wound.

Of course it's true, like most over-used sayings.

The part that isn't mentioned, though, is the hallway.  The one I find myself standing in right now,
one door firmly shut behind me, but the new door remains out of sight, at the other end of a shadowy journey I can't define.

I spend a lot of time by myself. I can't drive, and so I leave the house only with help, and only when necessary.  It's amazing how much of my identity was wrapped around the woman-who-did-stuff.  I used to go non-stop, all day - rushing to and from appointments and errands and business engagements and housework, and making dinner, and activities ...and, and, and.

What I have learned is the vast majority of all that rushing around was unnecessary.  Life just felt more comfortable when I didn't stop moving.  I would never simply sit and think, or pray, or breathe.  When I did these things the feelings would start to come -the fear, anxiety and uncertainty I felt at the core of my being - and so I'd go someplace.  Like Target. Or Michael's. Or Stop & Shop.  I would lose myself in the mundane hum of normalcy, mindlessly pushing my cart up and down aisles, making hundreds of tiny decisions so I could avoid thinking about the bigger ones.

What happened, when I stopped - well, let's get real .... when I was forced to stop - was all the feelings came to the surface.  I could no longer dodge the reality of my fear.  I don't numb it from the inside-out with alcohol, and I don't numb it from the outside-in with labels I affix to myself to validate who I am.

I am slowly peeling away all those labels, and its scary.  I pick away at their sticky edges - Wife, Mother, Writer, Daughter, Blogger, Alcoholic, Cancer Survivor, Sister, Friend.

Every major way I defined myself has changed.  I no longer lose myself by slipping into the characters I assembled to feel better about myself through your eyes. 

Now, when I push the cart up and down the aisles, I don't feel like I fit anywhere, and it's uncomfortable.  The Moms I talk to jostle about, clutching their car keys and dashing off to the activities I can no longer take my kids to.  They talk about the husband I no longer have.  The family dinner I am no longer preparing.  Planning the family vacation I no longer go on. 

All of the major relationships I have in my life are changing, evolving. I have taken a giant step back from everything that used to define me, before.  My work. My family. My marriage. My social life. My writing.

I long, sometimes, for the way my life used to be, before the weight of all those self-affixed labels crushed me.  When my biggest problem of the day was how to fit it all in - get one kid to soccer and the other to CCD and get to the grocery shop and start dinner.  When my brain was so crammed with my To-Do list - my businesses, my family, my husband and friends - that I didn't have to think about myself.

I know I can't go back there.  I know this hard stop is in my life for a purpose.  I squirm in the silence, in the calm.  I'm great in a foxhole.  It's the lulls that scare me.

I suffer when I resist the reality of what is, as opposed to what was or what might be.  I am in the most pain when I scream and kick against all those closed doors, those maladaptive coping mechanisms - my people pleasing, my co-dependency, my self-medicating with alcohol or work.

I can't even hide from myself in my marriage anymore.  I am not Mrs. Anybody.  I am just me.  

When I can let go, when I can just stand still in this dark hallway and just be, I feel fleeting moments of peace. 

I am mourning the loss of the blueprint, though.  The one I so carefully drafted for how my life was supposed to look, like a perfect holiday card.  The one that made me feel as though I was in control of my destiny, although of course I never was.

I don't have any blueprint anymore.  Every pre-conceived notion I had - every label - is torn and tattered.

Now I stand alone, peeling back the labels, feeling naked and vulnerable without their papery armor.  I stand shivering in the Damn Hallway, waiting for God to crack open the next door.   So far, He hasn't.  He is making me wait. 

He is making me put up boundaries, ask for help, sit with myself awhile.

And so, I do.


 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Becoming


The hardest part of the day is the last part. Those six or seven minutes between wakefulness and sleep, as I drift off in the in-between space of moments past and moments yet to come.

Instead of those sleepy, mumbled conversations between two married people, parents downloading their day, giggling over a funny thing a kid said, or offering assurances that the work meeting the next day will go fine.... there is silence. 

Sometimes I unconsciously slide my foot over to his side of the bed, expecting the warm reassurance of his presence.  My toes are always icy, and I used to snuggle them up against his shin.  He'd wince and say "ah, c'mon!", but he wouldn't move away.

Now the sheets are cold.  My toes are icy.  He is not there.

I knew separation would be hard, in the broad sense.  I worried about juggling all the moving parts alone.  I didn't know how I would handle the morning routine all by myself.  And what would I do about dinner?  Do I cook for just the three of us?  The kids only really like to eat about four things, so I mostly cooked for him. For us. Would the kids and I sit around the table, where we ate thousands upon thousands of family dinners, with his empty chair blaring silently at us?  I wrung my hands about the schedule - how much time to spend there instead of here?  How would they adjust? How would I adjust?

What I didn't know, what I couldn't know until I was in it, is the hardest part isn't the big picture.  In many ways, because of his long work hours, I handled many of the logistics on my own anyway. Mornings he was out the door before we were all up. Many nights he worked late, and what to eat or where to eat it never bothered me before.  And managing all the moving parts of the kids' schedule?  Well, that was always my role. I'm a pro at all those things.

The part I didn't expect?  The ghosts. Every inch of my life is our life. Was our life.  Is our life.

See?  It's confusing.

Over there is the bureau we bought decades ago, as a newly engaged couple, feeling very grown up on an afternoon of antiquing.  On the mantle are the metal statues of two cranes intertwined, purchased at a funky little store down the street from our first apartment.  When Greta was born we found a little baby crane. "Look, they are a family now, like us," we said. They whisper to me of what was, what is, and what isn't anymore.

I am surrounded by my most familiar and comfortable space - my home and everything in it - and nothing is familiar anymore.  Or comfortable. 

"We marry people because we like who they are. People change. Plan on it. Don't marry someone because of who they are, or who you want them to become. Marry them because of who they are determined to become. And then spend a lifetime joining them in their becoming, as they join you in yours."  ~ Huffington Post


The funny thing about becoming?  It's not a straight line.  It's not all forward momentum. 

Before I thought of becoming like brick laying - cumulative - each brick snuggling firmly on top of the other as we build.  Upward. Stronger.

Then life happens, and that brick wall is smashed to smithereens.  Every brick is still there, except they lie in an unrecognizable jumble at my feet.  Over there is the brick where we saw our first ultrasound picture.  We made a girl, I whispered to him in awe.  That moment is still there, as solid as it ever was, except now it has a crack down the middle.  All that happy, that certainty of how it would all play out, is altered.

Because sometimes, to become, we have to break apart what is to make room for what will be. 

People do change. We know that for a fact, right?  So why is it so hard to keep up?  To pay attention to the thousands of tiny moments, infinitesimal feelings, decisions, thoughts that accumulate every day?  And then it seems so sudden, when things fall apart, or fall away.  But it isn't.  Because we're always becoming.  Changing.  Evolving. 

But our expectations stay stuck.  It's human nature, I think. I am still that young woman clutching her first ultrasound picture, a Technicolor vision of how my life - how our life - would be dancing in my head.

That vision didn't have alcoholism. Or death. Or cancer. Or depression. Or separation. All these things are just as much a part of my becoming as all the joy, success, happiness and peace.


"Marry them because of who they are determined to become. And then spend a lifetime joining them in their becoming, as they join you in yours."

Ah, yes. Sounds straightforward, right?  All Hallmark card-y.  Hopeful.  Because becoming sounds so positive.  All new-agey and personal growth oriented.

But growth, like becoming, isn't all forward momentum.  Most of the growth I have experienced feels a lot like the opposite, in fact. It feels like zooming backward, blind to where I'm headed, white knuckles bracing for impact. 

It's how we survive the out-of-control moments, the backward zooming moments, that define who we become.

Back to marriage. To becoming, and growth.  How do I ask someone to stay with me as I zoom backwards?  As I cast my eyes at the broken pile of bricks at my feet, only to stare in amazement that I'm the one holding the sledgehammer?

I guess the answer is that I don't.  This moment in my journey is an inside job. 

I can kick and scream and lament what was lost, or I can set about, well, becoming.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Simplicity, Serenity and Struggle

I find myself in a tug-of-war.  I love writing in this space, and I miss it.

Following the chaos of my relapse(s) and subsequent 90 days of treatment, I vowed to take a break from living my life so publicly.  I have been doing serious thinking about the role blogging plays in my life, in my recovery.  I have more questions than answers.

I still receive numerous emails from people who identify with my story, have been helped in some way by my words. People offer bits of their own struggles, their own triumphs, and it comforts me, makes me feel less alone. 

I don't have regrets, because despite everything I continue to believe that being open brings more gifts to me than being closed. When I share some of my vulnerabilities with the world, the blessings I receive back are beyond measure.  I am long past worrying about judgment, censure or sideways glances on the soccer field.

This blog has been, in large part, about my addiction and recovery story. But I also wrote about motherhood, creativity, advocacy, balance and family.

The past six months have shown me that I do not need to share all the intimate details of my journey. Some things are meant for the sacred intimacy of real-life: family, close friends and recovery people.  
I have focused on living a quiet, simple life. I stepped away from the day-to-day of running Shining Strong, I took a hiatus from my jewelry businesses and from blogging.

My main focus has been on self-care and my family.  My kids are my priority - after my recovery, of course, because without my recovery I will lose everything.

I find myself in an in-between space. There are lots of changes happening in my life, and I ache to write about them.  But it's not just my story to tell.  What I say here impacts my kids, my husband, my family.  

Because I have shared my struggles here, I am stopped often - even from people I barely know - who look me in the eye and ask me, in a heartfelt manner - how are you?  

I don't know what to say anymore.  I am someone who shares; I find comfort in connecting with people.  I want to be truthful, but I find myself uncharacteristically speechless.  

I struggle with the balance between what is private and answering authentically. It feels shallow simply saying, "I'm fine!  And you?"

So what to do about here?  In the land of One Crafty Mother?  I realize, looking back, that I have never been untruthful or misleading here.  I have written as authentically as I could.  But there is a kind of safety in crafting words to describe my life to the unseen masses.  It's the parts I didn't even have access to myself - the pain, the depression, the grief and anxiety - that got me in the end. Writing is powerful, but it can allow me to skip rocks over the really hard stuff, even as I believe I am digging deep.

So here is what I can say:  I am okay. I have an incredible relationship with my kids, and for this I am beyond grateful.  My recovery is solid. I am able to live in acceptance and surrender and keep it in the day, with lots of prayer, meditation and support.  

Recently I re-opened my online jewelry shops, but I haven't been marketing them aggressively. Like sinking into a hot bath, I am slowing reintegrating into creating again.  It feels good.  I am writing a lot on the side, away from the public eye. It is healing.

I am smack dab in the middle of a fantastic recovery community; I reach out for help.  I stay active, present and involved.  I lean into my feelings, and share them face-to-face with the unbelievable support network I have right here in front of me.

I am also not okay. My husband and I are separating. I won't get into the details, because it isn't my story to tell.  It's our story. It will always be our story, no matter what happens in the end.  We are working together with love and respect for each other, and that's a lot.  That isn't to say it's not hard - man, is it hard, but I find that anger, resentment and fear block my contact with God.  It's simpler to live in compassion and faith. Well, maybe not simpler, but certainly more serene.

I know that God's got us, that we need to row the boat but that He is steering. I know I will learn and stretch and grow. 

Our little family has been through a lot in the past three years, and a lot of it revolves around my issues: the death of my Dad, my cancer, my depression/anxiety, my relapse, my absence during my treatment.  And now our separation.  

I find myself waiting for things to settle down, for life to return to normal again.  I find myself grappling for a foothold, wanting to shake answers out of the Universe because I want to know, dammit, what is going to happen.  

When I do this, when I live in the land of expectation, I suffer.  When I pry my white knuckles off the steering wheel, surrender and ask for help, I am calm and steady.  I know now that this is the only power I have over anything: how I metabolize my world.   

I have the power to let go.