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Who you are vs. who you want to be

14 May

6:14 pm

So, as you all know, we moved to a new place about three months ago, and we’re managing to stay sane, I suppose!  Being in a new place, my contract job having ended, and neither of us really all that extroverted or desiring to be so–it just sort of sucks!  It is NOT EASY moving somewhere new in your 40s!  Haha.  You sort of just don’t feel like any of it anymore, you know?  I knew that I would feel more comfortable in one of the many places that I have already lived, but I thought, take a chance, go outside your comfort zone (again), yada yada yada.  I think we have both realized that there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to aging and trying certain new things, like, moving to a new place.  I don’t know.

And, this has all made me start thinking about this whole, “go outside your comfort zone” thing, which I’ve been trying to do my whole life, to varying degrees of success.  Like, what IS a comfort zone, and why do we have this idea of it being a bad thing?  Are you supposed to be doing something that makes you feel comfortable, most like yourself; or are you supposed to be challenging yourself and doing things that are hard or scary or too big to chew?  I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I just can’t stand writing anymore, and I want to do something else; but, when I boil it down and observe myself in action–you know, being who I am, or who I have always gravitated toward being–I realize that I AM simply a writerly type (quiet, thoughtful, introverted, so at ease in my thoughts) and then, can’t seem to conclude that I should do something else.

Yet, what IF I didn’t want to be that thing anymore?  Can I just go and be someone else entirely, throwing off the “callings” and character traits that I always seem to relax into, and instead do something that I think would make me the person I want to be (less in my head, more active, more intrepid, as it were)?  I have thought about this a lot in getting sober, in moving through it all, in relocating, in losing yet another job that I didn’t really want in the first place but that I was “good” at and that I made money doing.  Are you supposed to be who you are, or work at being who you want to be?

I am SO fully on board right now with trying to be who I want to be–with putting in that work–because I am so tired of who I am.  I am so tired of being the neurotic writer, the science geek.  It’s like, I wasn’t that good at science and wanted to major in freaking poetry in college (yeah, the fear started way back then, and it is one of my life’s regrets)!?  Um, when as a child did I say, Mommy, I really want to be a…technical writer when I grow up?  Time is running out, y’all.  And not only that, but I am sort of becoming desperate to NOT be in my head all day–even IF it means taking a huge pay cut…at a time in my life when I need all the money I can get.

The other day, as I was contemplating who I am (a writer) versus who I want to be (maybe a public health professional, maybe someone who works for an international development nonprofit or NGO), I was struck by how confusing it is to decide who to be:  which person (the one you are, the one you want to be) is more authentic, more truthful, more along the lines of fulfilling a personal destiny?

It’s a dilemma.  As a writer, I am always looking for work, selling myself, and moving from contract to contract, subject to subject.  I mean, it would almost be easier to be a lawyer, or anything with a well-formed trajectory, and then at a certain point be like, it’s too late to change course.  As a writer, part of your job is changing course, so you are constantly also thinking about courses outside of your own realm (well, at least some of us are).

I am trying to sort of end this chapter in my life, but I have only ideas, and not enough savings, and a heavy dose of fear.  I hate that.  I hate feeling afraid at this late stage–I am 43 years old, and it’s only been in the past several years or so that I wouldn’t have just up and left a well-paying job to pursue a shitty paying passion.  And, I am grateful for that newfound level-headedness (it has enabled a lot of financial progress and big changes, like this move), but I’m also still learning how to balance my need to earn a big check with my equally large need to feel stimulated, excited, fulfilled, wanting to get out of bed in the morning.  I know there are many an alternate career I can pursue, and I just need to sit down and chart a course of action beyond the next few months.  All in due time, I say.

I gave up freelance writing because it did not pay the bills; and, I think it might have just tired me out and made me believe that I didn’t like writing when in fact, it was the stress of never making enough money.  I WANT to be like, eh, I don’t need the savings, the retirement account; I should just Go For It and become a barista (again), or a teacher, or a poorly paid writer for an international NGO.  Yet, can I expect to feel safe, or, the way I want to feel, on that kind of income anymore?  In an ideal world, we would have a thriving business, which would allow me to pursue a more “passionate” career again; in THIS world, maybe we would both feel equal parts comfortable and challenged; in this world, maybe I would love being a writer again.

Exhale.  It will all be OK, I keep telling myself.  You got this.  It’s all about balance, right?

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I have to find out

25 Apr

10:24 pm

I’m going to post a short thing tonight, mainly because we drove to a lake in the middle of the desert today, and like every other day of living in said desert, I was completely dehydrated.  It’s not easy living here, and we are longing for life in not necessarily even the tropics again, but maybe like, somewhere above 10 percent humidity!?  Gah!  How did I get here?

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down…

I was reading something the other night, and realized, I don’t like being idle.  As a writer, I do my best when I am IMMERSED in something, whether it be a project, work, a business, a story, an adventure–whatever and wherever I am learning new things, that is what feels good.  And, frankly, sometimes feeling good is about not feeling bad anymore.

I am not good without goals, and when one (ahem, me) doesn’t have wine to distract me from my free time, my idle hands, my inertia, my fatigue or burnout–well, it just feels bad.  So doing what feels good is often a matter of immersion.  I am working on finding that new thing or things, but it’s not easy, especially when I know that I kind of need to earn money instead of work my tail off as a freelance journalist (pays in fulfillment, but not in money).  At the same time, I really just want to work at what I like, what inspires me to get out of bed in the morning–and at this point, that might not even be journalism, but it definitely won’t pay me what corporate “writing” does.  There has got to be a balance, and I think I am simply feeling tired and afraid of the chase–I know how hard it is to find a job that pays enough to actually get ahead.

I have savings, but it goes fast, and considering that our move cost a lot and continues to cost money; that my mom needs financial help–well, the making-money thing should take priority over the fulfilling-me thing.  Same time, I know I need to be immersed in something I find fun and challenging.

Hmm.  I think I just have to find out right now–find out what those other things I want to do are like, what they will truly cost financially and emotionally.  At some point, soon, I guess.  Haha.  I am not ready to dive off the board, and I feel cautious toward simply walking away from corporate work; I don’t want to see my bank account go down in the process either.  I guess I have to choose between happiness and money.  Or, is that just an illusion?

Incidentally, when I got sober, money was making me drink (I was earning money at a job I hated, and drank constantly); when I strove for happiness, I was much more centered and able to get sober, but making next to nothing!  Yet I was happy, striving for happiness!?  Again, though, I’m afraid I need more money than a job that offers me happiness can provide.  I think I just have to find out…again.

Perchance to dream

16 Apr

4:26 pm

I had to look up this quote from Hamlet to make sure I wasn’t using it totally out of context–no, I have no intention of ending my own life, but the phrase conjures this idea of dreaming, of an uncertainty toward the future precisely because you have one.  I like this.  That is what I mean, perchance to dream…

I haven’t been writing much lately mainly due to the fact that life just feels busy–has felt busy, for going on years now.  I average one post a month here, and sometimes I feel like I have more to say, and sometimes I feel like I have nothing more to say.  So it goes with writing, I guess.

Anyway,  my brain has felt overloaded for the past too many months, with doing what needs to be done:  all the little details of work, earning a living, making life happen.  Two weeks ago, my contract job ended, and I don’t know if it will come back to me as a full-time role, and I know I don’t necessarily need to work for a few months–well, it’s the first chance I’ve had to breathe, to clear my head, to DREAM in a good long several years now.  Shit!  It’s been years since I pitched a journalistic story!?  It’s been years in the making, my to-do list of personal projects and ideas!  YEARS, friends, not months!  And, how GREAT does it feel to finally, at last, have some real time off in my new city (well, it’s suburbia, but it’s been home for three months now).

I feel like I can finally take that much needed step away from the daily grind, enjoy a slower pace, see what there is to see in this new home, and really look at what I’ve been spending my mind time doing–finally use this time to DREAM.

I need time to figure out what’s next.  We’ve been living states-side for about three months, and frankly, we don’t like it.  Well, no:  we LIKE the conveniences and cleanliness very much; what we don’t love is, well, the TOO much convenience, and the TOO much cleanliness!?  I know this feeling, as I felt it when I came back to America a couple years ago for a while after having lived in the islands for a few years.  It felt sterile, and the consumerism was just too much–cars and malls, malls and cars.

Now, that sense of “buy buy buy” is acutely intense–everything is about buying and selling here, and nothing feels to be about community, or “culture,” as it were.  I sort of hated the “culture” when we were in the islands, as I never felt all that welcome; now, all I see here is a lack of character, and a lack of history in some parts, which kind of lends a certain soullessness to the place.  On the other hand, I am grateful to be here, to have been able to finish out my contract in a new apartment with easy access to green space and with reliable, always-on utilities!  So, it’s not all bad.

So, yes, perchance to dream?  It’s a luxury that many people don’t often get.  In this mental space, though, I’ve noticed that a LOT of self-judgment is coming up, and I guess I should see this as a chance to work on simply accepting how I feel, and going with my gut, and not judging it as bad, or wrong.  We all have gut feelings about people, places, and things.  I am not sure why, but for most of my life, I did what I “should,” and not necessarily what I wanted–partly, it was and continues to be about deciphering calling from job; and discarding things that I simply don’t like or don’t suit me, that don’t make my brain hurt or scare me to death but that challenge me just enough to feel fulfilled.

These things change, and I am pretty sure that they will keep on changing–what fulfilled me in my teens and 20s is no longer what I want or need to do now!  So, instead of judging the way I feel about being here, in this new place; instead of punishing myself because I “should” like it–why not honor those feelings, and embrace them for what they are, which is guiding lights?  I need all the guiding light I can get right now, and so, embracing how I feel, actually honoring my feelings instead of hating on myself for having them, well that seems KEY to future happiness.

Perchance to dream–I will let you know what I come up with!  For now, it includes finally working on finishing the start of a big writing project; checking out the barista scene here; taking some camping trips (one reason we moved out here was to be able to camp and see all the great natural wonders of the West; we didn’t realize that a desert climate has all sorts of variables that might slow us down, like wind, and lack of humidity, and dangerously high temperatures); looking into finally moving from corporate work to nonprofit or NGO or disaster response (I once dreamed of getting a degree in public health, and maybe that’s something, too)…the list goes on, and I am super-duper grateful for days like today, when I feel “up” enough to not be overwhelmed, when I feel energized and clear-brained and well-rested enough to WANT to do all these things.  NOT always the case, folks; there have been quite a few days here when I haven’t felt like doing anything, where I’ve been wondering, will I ever feel excited the way I used to, about doing all these things on my “bucket list?”

It brings me ’round to mentioning that yup, over the past few weeks into months, I have wanted to start drinking red wine again, mainly for the “anticipation celebration” effect.  When I was getting sober, I wrote a lot about how drinking seemed to fuel a long many years in my life of achievement-oriented work, play, goals.  I drank in order to get excited to do things–and it worked, as wine drops dopamine, and your entire system just feels excited, and MOTIVATED–and I drank while I was striving for “excellence” and “achievement” in order to reward myself for all this freaking brain-crushing, soul-sucking “excellence” and “achievement.”  It was as if–and maybe it was actually so–my entire life of striving was built on the anticipation and then, reward of wine after a “job” well done.

So, when I quit drinking, and even now, of course, I struggle with feeling excited to do stuff!  Like, at night, I often feel I’ve done nothing, or not enough, with my day; I felt that way before I quit drinking, and I would mask it by downing wine.  I can’t hide from these feelings anymore, and I still have them, and I struggle at night when it’s time for bed and I’m like, I feel SO GOD DAMNED BORED but yet of all the MILLION things I could be doing, I don’t want to do any of them.  So, I go to bed, moping, feeling defeated, depressed, wondering, what’s the point here?  I am SO squandering my talents, my time, my LIFE.

Wow.  I know, I am neurotic, and it’s helped and hurt me.  What I am saying is, lately, I have been wanting to drink out of a sense of frustration at night (I am so not sexy anymore, here, this wine will make me feel young and hot again–NOT…haha) and a sense of existential panic (I feel so bored and so maybe I should read or write, but I SO don’t feel like doing that, and I can’t escape both feelings so here, let me have this wine to just erase the fuck out of all of this nonsense–NOT…haha).  Of course, I have no intention of drinking again, I stay firm, but, it’s not to say that this wispy idea hasn’t been coming back to me over and over again, sneaking its way into my “Oh, that sounds like a good idea” thought patterns…  I know I could benefit from meditation, and it’s something that has helped me in the past.

It’s a process, but I stand firm because I KNOW that drinking is not going to change ANYTHING but the cosmetic appearance (to myself) of my life; that I will wake up with the same face, black eyeliner smeared into bruise-like patterns where rouge and lipstick should be, wondering why I just spent $50 on wine and wasted another night?

Anyway, perchance to dream, and inhale, and exhale, all while sober–how lucky am I!

Oh, hello, 2018!

4 Jan

4:26 pm

Does it feel to others like 2018 has come in so quietly it’s almost snuck in?

This year is going to be all about transitions, crossings, and changes–and, of letting go of the reins, or at least, loosening the grip.

Welp, without much fanfare–and with some anxiety–2018 has arrived.  2017 went fast, flew by, sort of took my breath away; and, I had a feeling it would, when by the beginning of February, I had already flown across the country for work, and was embarking on the first of  several (months-long) job interviews (none of which I was offered, but that’s OK).  In fact, last year was all about searching–pushing and planning and striving and trying SO hard to see…the future.  I took a lot of trips, my favorite, of course, being a solo journey to South America (man, I can’t even believe that happened, what with how the hurricanes have changed the course of our lives)…  All this is to say that, last year was so much about trying to move the Earth, and sort of succeeding, but mostly just laying cable and putting up with all the frustrations that come with trying so hard.

Last year, I think my “phrase” of the year was, move the Earth, or something like that.  I guess I moved it a little bit (I started on a big writing project, and that is the one thing, aside from moving, that I want to get done this year).  I moved around it a lot, that’s for sure.

This year?  Shit.  Let the damn Earth move itself.  Let it happen.  Let it go…

Gratefully, I am bouncing back after a few weeks of pretty intense sadness:  our dog WAS diagnosed with canine lymphoma, and…yup, major tears all around.  Wailing tears, to be exact, for a few days in a row, and then…acceptance.  This is happening, and there is no cure.  He’s only 9, and far too young to be looking like an old dog now, but…this is happening.  We aren’t going to treat him in favor of making his last months somewhat bearable with prednisone (though, that stuff is making him really, really groggy).  I have started him on this weird diet thingie I found online, so I’m hopeful (yay, hope!) that this might turn it around and land us a miracle.  There’s always the possibility of a miracle, I have to believe.

So, there’s that that’s been literally keeping me up at night.  Oh, and we’re moving, too!  In a few weeks!  Like, a big move, across the continent!  This, too, is happening.  We’ve sold my car, arranged for our landlady to buy our household full of stuff (so she can rent our place furnished), and are in the process of getting flights, flight letters for our precious babes (dogs), and all the other stuff that comes with moving.  My job is aight (but, another thing!  it’s ending in March!), and the only thing that sucks about it is that we don’t have anything resembling a good cell service connection at home anymore (thanks for nothing, AT&T), so I have to go out looking for Internet in order to work (and write this blog post).

Mostly, I feel excited, sad about the endings that are coming up, and on edge.  Like, I have been waking up almost every night at 4 am–after only about 4 hours sleep, which is exhausting and maddening–and it’s usually accompanied by anxiety.  Like, dark terre thoughts.  And, the next day, I feel anxious and depressed.  And, it’s made me realize that I have NEVER truly experienced this before, but now I can totally see the connection between insomnia and anxiety and depression!  Like, there is something about waking up at 4 am that makes me crazy–angry, panicky, and depressed the next day.  I cannot control my negative thinking the way I can when I am fully rested.

And, this just makes me remember how I used to get wrapped up in drinking thinking–negative thoughts and thinking patterns that are caused by alcohol, and not a part of me.  I used to think that all my complicated depressive thoughts were of me, but really, they were a part of the drinking.  It’s so hard to see that when you’re not sober; it’s very easy to see when you’re separate from alcoholic drinking.  Anyway, I guess it’s a reminder to be cool, and remember that it will get better.

Just a quick update to say, happy new year and that I’m looking very much forward to watching the Earth move itself in 2018.  How about you?

Writing and cold cities

27 Nov

11:45 am

Hey, folks, Well, I’m here, back at it, and ready to be fierce.  NOT!  Happy Thanksgiving to all, and a kickoff of the holiday season!  For some, that means painful memories, for others, it means an uber-busy next few months.  For me, it means both, and cookies, and cakes, and just continuing to be grateful–5-plus years later–that I am here, and not there.  Here, having this life, with its ups and downs; and not there, drinking my everything away, and all the possible everything’s, too.

I realized recently that part of what is causing me to feel less than whole is that I’ve stopped writing.  Even writing this makes me feel a bit sick in the pit of my belly–anxious, actually.  Must must must start writing again!  I think  my depression, and self-loathing (to be blunt, I hate myself more than a little when I don’t write or create), is caused by this.  There is no magic in my world if I’m not writing, or, in general, being creative.  I look at this blog and think, what happened to that girl?  She is still here, she’s just not writing.  And therefore, not feeling quite whole.

The hurricanes have turned our world upside down, and rearranged our lives.  I miss going to the beach; I miss running on said beach road.  I miss knowing that while I’m in the middle of the ocean, things are FINE here–things are NOT fine here, and things won’t be fine for a while.  There are uncertainties that won’t–can’t–be ironed out.  There are things and faces and places that are never coming back.  And, while I want to ignore this reality, it’s there, the new “normal,” as everyone down here keeps repeating.

I refuse to give up, though, on figuring out what, exactly, I need and want right now.  It’s not wine, it might be hormones, it could be a move (while we have made our exit plan, which is both saddening and enlivening to me, I know changing locations is not going to change what’s going on inside my head and heart, fundamentally), and it most definitely is to start writing/being creative more.  I won’t give up!  And, I won’t stop choosing to be happy, content, grateful, and empowered by that choice.

I flew home last week after about 3 weeks away.  I am glad to be home, with my loves, in the light (literally; cities just might not be in my cards anymore because they are so dark, so angular); and one main thing I realized when I was there, in the big city, is that if I’m honest, I don’t really want that lifestyle anymore.  And, that it is OK to be angry and that instead of fighting the anger, the sadness, the whatever negativity I’m feeling, I should just accept it.  Huh?  The thought sort of bowled me over:  accept and don’t judge your negative feelings instead of exhausting yourself trying to outrun them.  I’m going to try the former and see what happens.

And, so, yeah, cities.  Drinking and going out in cities, which is what I did and how I defined myself for so long.  Not anymore.  I mean, YAH, it really is a bit more heartening to go out for a pink twilit walk with the dogs than to be walking into a pub, ready to temporarily and artificially enhance my mood!  It really is better this way, soooo much better.  Even when I feel quite lonely here–alone as we all do now and then on our solo paths and journeys–I know that I have this world within that is never-changing, that is always bathed in that pink moonlight, that is there to hold me, to embrace me, and to tell me that It Will Be OK.

It Will Be OK.

That is default setting when you’re sober.  When you’re not, default setting is, The World Sucks and Nothing Will (Ever) Be OK.

Walking into a cold bar to drink among cold non-friends?  Eh, no thanks anymore.  I choose light, and happiness, and maybe even accepting the darkness so I can move through it without fear.  Huh, maybe cold cities have more to teach me than I thought?

Redefining yourself sober

30 Aug

11:40 am

I know, I know, it’s been a while.  Seems that once we finally do make it through that whirlwind of sh*& called getting sober, and actually ARE sober, and actually have a ton of amazing and good and interesting things going on, to write about–we stop writing about it!  I, for one, have always tended to write, to express myself, in general, only when I’m experiencing negative emotions.  I always used to drink when I felt bad, to self-soothe, not necessarily to party or celebrate (sure, on the surface it was to party, but really it was to pass time, to avoid committing to spending time, to soothe my social anxiety in group settings, etc.).  Anyway, I’m still here, and still have a lot to write about–being sober is challenging enough, but writing about daily life challenges without whining about being or getting sober is, well, one of the hardest things I’ve had to try to do!

Another thing that I’ve found a LOT harder than I would have thought before getting sober (I know who I am, pfft) is redefining myself.  Man, this is hard.  Everything from how I feel and how I express how I feel, to managing my emotions, to figuring out not only what I want to do, but if it’s OK to actually do what I want to do–all this stuff relates to figuring out how to be sober, how to LIVE sober.  And, it’s a process.  It’s been about 5 years since I got sober, and most of the time I’ve spent getting there.  Now, I’m definitely here (sure, I have a twinge now and then of wanting my old self back, my old life, but it never lasts long and it almost doesn’t make sense to my brain anymore to feel this way), and I’m like, now what?

Of course, I’ve figured it out along the way, but it hasn’t been without angst.  And, every day, I wake up wondering, now what?  Not in the sense of, what am I going to do today?  I have my freelance career (as it stands, I don’t write as much as I work for one place, doing one thing, getting paid once every week–woop!), and my life here, which I try to live to the fullest (walking dogs, meeting friends–err, investing in a social life is still a huge problem area for me–doing yoga, working out, eating out, traveling here and there, etc.).  It’s just…there are all these other things that sort of don’t come naturally that I have to work on–and I often sincerely wonder if “normies” have to “work” on them, or if they just live them, and move on?

Some of these things include wondering what to do next, and how to make it happen; wondering if I should invest in a home, a piece of land, a business, or…a new career; learning how to not feel, in general, that the world is an abrasive, combative place toward me; managing my moods (which have been SERIOUSLY controlled for the better simply by going on the pill last year) such that I don’t let the negative feelings and thoughts set my course for the day and disturb not only my experience of the events but also my productivity…  So many daily things that, well, maybe are new because you grow and change and that is life; or, maybe are new to me because while I was drinking, I was able to avoid dealing with them.  I did what I “had” to do, or thought I should be doing, and then I downed myself in wine every night in order to not have to deal with the stress, or manage the pain, or confront the why and how of the stress and pain in the first place.

Exhale–it’s still my mantra these days.  I realize that there is a higher brain, a higher power, and maybe I’ve sort of neglected the “getting sober” lessons that were so animated in my early sober days/years?  I don’t think about getting or being sober, and I’m kind of starting to think that I need–not want–to put myself back there.  Not to avoid picking up again–that’s unfortunately over, over–but to…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, MOVE FORWARD IN MY SOBRIETY.  I feel stuck, and it’s because I’m not dealing, or confronting.  I’m being, and to be is great.  However, I think I need more.

I think we’re definitely going to move this fall–it’s a big deal, a big change, one that I know we need to do and want to do, but that will bring a lot of bittersweetness (I know what mainland life is about, and I know what this life is about, and I think my soul likes this life better, but my spirit needs out of this place–you know?).  I bring it up because I think once we do hit the road, I’m going to look into finding a counselor to work through some of this…confusion, I guess is the best word to describe it.  I saw someone a few months into getting sober, and it helped, so maybe this will help me iron out some of those big folds in the landscape?

Hope all are well, and here’s to blogging more often!  (Jeez!)

Lesson in amends

13 May

10:33 am

Saturday.  I have to say, before I start ranting about anything, I am grateful.  Every morning, of every day, I am grateful–relieved, joyful, content–to wake up sober.  To a life I sort of think I deserve, but probably not.  (haha)  I have my fiance, my dogs, the blaring tropical sun bleating off the blue ocean below; I have a freelance career that I’ve somehow made work for 5 years; I have a past that I don’t have to live anymore, but that I get to consider, and to think about, and to dwell on, only as much as I want or need.  I am here, and not there.  Why?  How did I deserve this?

Because I worked my ASS off.  (There she is!  Good morning, ego.)

All that being said, I still have trouble dealing with people from my past, relationships gone sour or become nonexistent (maybe not directly because of my drinking, but related to it on one level or another).  And, while I’m eager to “forgive and forget,” it’s not easy.  And mostly, I’m still sort of angry, I guess, at people who have written me off!  It’s not that I’m angry all day, every day; it’s that, when I think about attempting to rekindle our friendship, I think, Eh, it’s been too long.  Eh, I have other relationships that I’ve cultivated here, where I live now, that make more sense to put energy into.  Eh, you sort of wrote me off, or didn’t take my “getting sober” that seriously; why would I want to relate now?  The problem with all this thinking is that, you just don’t know if people need an amends, or if they just need a phone call or an email–have you hurt them or has the relationship simply moved on?  I have to say, every relationship is unique, and has a unique past; so it’s hard to generalize what I would or could or should do.

I received a couple emails recently that made me start thinking more about all this again.  One was from a friend, someone I’ve known since undergrad–needless to say, we’ve been through a lot.  I mean, I consider her my sister (or, sistah, as it were).  However, while we were friends, there were a few key things I really hated about her  personality–one was her grudge-holding.  My hatred eventually came out, when I got drunk.  As you can imagine, when my drinking got bad and our friendship dissolved, she wrote me off.  (At least, that’s how I remember it; who knows, maybe she thought I wrote her off?)  When I got sober, I sent her a few emails (this was years ago)–nice emails, reaching-out emails.  I never heard from her, so imagined that I never would.  BAM!  About two months ago, I got an email from her, wanting to reconnect.  It was short and sweet, but in the end, I truly appreciated it.

It took me a few months to reply, though.  I couldn’t believe or want to accept that she had held a grudge for so many years (I believe it’s been 7 years)!?  On the flip, that’s one thing I really disliked about her, and watched her do over the years to many other people, so I’m not sure why it surprised me.  In any case, I just wasn’t sure she “deserved” a reply.  Then, I got another email (see below) and realized that my hesitation to reach back to her was because of my own sore ego.  Let it go, I said to myself.  The real question is not, Should I forgive her and let her back into my life?, it’s, Do I really want a relationship with her, going forward?  I’m pretty sure she’s changed, and grown; and so have I, and I think she probably assumes that about me–yet, I’m scared to find out.  I did eventually reply, so we’ll see where it goes from here.

And then there is the case of my brother’s email.  Yes, that brother.  Yes, the one who has been forgiving and “unforgiving” me for the past 5 years.  Yes, the one with the girlfriend who takes “angry and bitter” to incredible heights.  Inhale, Drunky Drunk Girl.

Exhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaale.

I’m not sure I ever really understood making amends–the concept, really, and how to do it right.  I’m not sure I ever really did it right, but, I did it, and sometimes, it backfired.  Frankly, I always had this niggling sense that raking up the past was worse than just letting shit be.  Of course, if I truly wanted that person in my real life, then I would attempt to rekindle a broken relationship; but this almost always did NOT involve apologizing again for my bad behavior while drunk.  In those cases, it was never received well.  I didn’t know how to make up for my bad behavior except to say I was sorry, and to let them know I was sober.  Beyond that, if they refused to accept, then what else could I do?  I just always felt like I left them angrier than if I hadn’t said anything at all!

I think for most of us, we focus on the shit we did wrong, and who has NOT forgiven us, in our amends; instead of focusing on the other person’s perspective, how they feel, how we’ve affected them, and their choice in the matter.  That’s a lesson for the ages, though, and for everyone–how to let go of your ego when you say you’re sorry.  I have to say, the hardest lesson, by far, I’ve had to learn in both sobriety, and be extension, normal life is the one where you tell yourself “it doesn’t matter what they think of me” and actually believe it.  Actually embrace it.  Actually, move on, if you have to.  And do it all in empathy, with nothing but good will and honest compassion for their choice, even if that choice is to stay angry.

Oof, our egos do not like that.  Which is ironic, because most of the time, we’re not fighting for the relationships, we’re fighting for our ego–we want to know that we are loved, that we’ve been given a chance at redemption, that we are worthy of that.  If I’m honest, most of the relationships I tried to amend–make up for my wrongdoing–I actually didn’t want to continue to have, after getting sober.  There were huge flaws, cracks, and those cracks sucked me into them when I got drunk–hence, the raging blackouts directed at people who were, in reality, frenemies.  (My problem was, having so many frenemies in the first place.)

So it goes with my brother.  He’s forgiven me and then taken it back numerous times these past 5 years, and he just did it again.  (And, via an unexpected email, which, by the way, I consider a form of bullying.)  I see things so much more clearly now, and suffice it to say, I know that there is nothing I can or need to do at this point.  The “incident” where I went bat-shit crazy on their asses while blacked out happened over 5 years ago, and in that time, we’ve all gone back and forth with the mean notes and apologies, and more mean notes and more apologies.  This time, I got another email saying he has not forgiven me–and will not consider it–until I apologize to his girlfriend.

Um, OK.  At first I thought maybe he wrote it while blacked out (or she did; she’s drunk to blackout and sent me mean notes–oh, the irony), because it certainly exudes some kind of delusion, some kind of altered reality.  It sounds like HER words written in his hand, which it could very well be.  She’s the one who refused every single attempt at my amends, and viciously so, not him.

I started shaking when I got it, which I hate to admit; so I immediately called my mom.  I didn’t know what else to do.  She gave me some perspective–there is nothing I need to do; this is their drama, don’t get dragged into it again; it’s time for you to move on, because sometimes in life, we don’t get closure–and I’m grateful for that, and for her.  (And, it makes me remember how wise and present and loving my mom has always been, through all of our and her own struggles–I need to see her more!?)

I wanted to reply with a litany of “I did this, see this email; she sent that, see this crazy Facebook message or that bizarro email sent from your email account, btw;” but, I didn’t.  And, I see now that I should not.  Because, there is one thing that I know for sure to be true in this situation:  what they think of me is none of my business.  I cannot change what they choose to believe, and how they choose to feel, and how they choose to behave.  NO email in the world is going to change those things, because those things are theirs.  It’s not my business what other people think of me.  End of story.

Exhale.

It’s not easy seeing the forest through the trees when it comes to amends, and forgiveness–and, what it all means on a practical level.  For me, a true people-pleaser, it’s hard to not be forgiven!  And, as a persistent-as-fuck person, it’s really hard for me to stop trying (remember:  I want to win!).  Once I remove my ego from the equation,  though, I am left asking myself:  Do you actually want a relationship with that person, if they do forgive me?  Often the answer is, no.  I have good relationships now, with people who are real, and honor my sober person.  The thing is, I’ve always tried to maintain friendships over the years, even in spite of the recognition that we’ve both changed…beyond the point of no return, so to speak.  It’ just something I’ve done, been brought up to do.  Maybe it’s time to try something new.

Five years later, and I’m still learning fundamental lessons about sobriety!  Believe me, friends, it gets better, and the work gets harder, but the well never runs dry.  This is our path, as we get sober:  toward truth, toward enlightenment, toward peace.  As my fiance and I were sitting on the beach the other day, and as I was just floating in the water, embracing the big blue; as we drove home over the hill and came into our ridiculous view of rolling green hills and ocean to horizon–it dawned on me that my brother does not have peace.  Whether he’s angry, or jealous, or just unwilling to address negative emotions, he does not have peace.

I have peace.  Some of the time.  I might not have closure, and I might not have HIM in my life, but I have peace.  And, I am grateful for that.  In fact, I have the sense that not only is it the cornerstone of my sobriety, and sober life–it’s probably the most I can hope for…to just be, in peace.

Laura Parrott Perry

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