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Do what you want, and do it now

24 Sep

10:53 pm

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted–per usual; I have never been so busy in my entire life, it seems, with work!  BUT, I wanted to get this quick one in because well, it can’t wait:

Someone in my family unexpectedly, and rather unceremoniously, DIED this morning, and it was quite shocking!?  It IS quite shocking.  I mean, one minute you’re doing something in the back yard, the next minute, you’re dead.

Your big, huge, amazing life–the one that you spent countless hours trying to live, to not live, to outsmart, to hack, to tweak, to overhaul, to fill and fill and fill–is gone.  In an instant.  And no one really cares that much; no one outside the people who knew him, or you, or her.  (I mentioned it on a work call, because I was a bit blown away, and my colleagues were like, Ohhh, I’m sorry; and by the next split second, they were laughing about something, and we had all moved on.  The momentous event–the most important event of your life, I might say–of his death was left behind, dissolved in memory even as my mouth was still hot from breathing it.)

What did I conclude, then, today, as I felt alternately sad, angry, and well, selfishly pained for my own self, imagining a similar loss that will one day happen to me, and how it might rip me to shreds?  Well, one, don’t waste time on bad people.  You and only you get to make the call as to what that means, but to me, it means toxic people, or people who don’t want to help themselves.  Two, do what you want, and do it now.  It’s as simple as that.

Do what you want, and do it now!

I had an interview today that put me further than ever on what I think I want to be my new path–a career change into the nonprofit world.  Pretty happy about that, actually.  And, we done gave our notice weeks ago, so we’re definitely packing up a trailer of stuff and towing it to our next home in November–a place that we have yet to determine, but will probably have things like water, and trees, blue and green…and humidity, sweet Jesus, humidity!?

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Can we go home again?

2 Sep

4:24 pm

It’s strange to feel emotional, like I do right now.  I haven’t really had powerful ups and downs since I quit drinking–over 6 years ago, it was wonderful to realize that it was the wine that was messing with my mood swings, not necessarily an underlying mood disorder (which I probably have, too!).  I’ve had even LESS emotions, in general, since going on the pill a few years ago (to “treat” my first bout of perimenopausal symptoms at the ripe old age of 41).  I’ve gone off it recently (oh, joy; who told me that you’d lose your hair?), and I can tell when things are just weird, as they are today.  Yet…

I’m bothered today, and I feel sad.  I was looking at pictures from just a few years ago, and noticed that I look younger then, and happier!  Is that because I was, or is the dry desert air messing with me?

We have decided to end our short (10 months) tenure in this city that we both can’t really stand–I have to say, I will never live in a place that is this dry ever again; if going off the pill wasn’t enough to kill my curls, spending 10 months in the desert definitely did in what was left of my hair AND my spirit!  Just kidding–sort of!  When it comes to this decision, it’s all good, but we don’t know where we’re going to move to yet!  While that doesn’t stress me out that much–we have some ideas, and I have a job that I can take with me anywhere–moving back to where we came from, which is one of our ideas, sort of does.

If looking at pictures of my old self sends me into my first crying jag in months, if not years; what will moving back to where it all started do?  By “all,” I mean all:  a new place, a new me, a new relationship, a new world view.  Can I move back and be able to appreciate the past while living in the present, and not be overwhelmed by a nostalgic longing for what was?

In recent pics, I look kind of sad, worn.  I have to ask myself, isn’t this a great case for us to go back to where we came from, if all I see now in our pictures is a certain lack of joy?  Yes!  At the same time, if we do move back, will I be able to stop pining for some nostalgic idea I have of what we were?  It’s not that we don’t have what we had then (we do); it’s not that I long to be young again (I don’t consider myself old), or to be in that place, personally (I can’t imagine feeling worse than I did in my early years of sobriety, in a way).  It’s this:  I want the newness of the joy, the fresh sense of a restart.  I mean, of course, I can get that again, but I will always know that in this place lives my past–a past that means a LOT to me, and that evokes a lot of feeling.

I have to remember, though, that I’m different, we’re different, and we’re on much more solid ground than back when we first started living together.  And, frankly, I do want to go back–that lifestyle was and is magical.  It’s just this pesky fear…of…something that I can’t quite name.

To add to that, I’ve also been wrestling with taking a job that I did 15 years ago–yes, crazy as it sounds, if I go back to this job, I will be doing what I was doing 15 years ago, and for the same boss!?  Most of me is an automatic ‘No,’ but the practical side of me says, why would you pass up a job offer like this, especially when you can do it remotely?  I have to decide by Tuesday.

Just a few months ago, it seems the entire world was waiting for us, for our adventure to begin.  Now?  I don’t know if I feel less optimistic or just tired of weighing the pros and cons of big life changes; if it doesn’t work out, nothing’s forever, right?

Still inhaling and exhaling over here; this is a hard time, one of much seeking–maybe even harder than getting sober, since at least then, all I had to do was one thing, not drink!  As I always told myself, and like to tell my closest friends:  the world rewards those who SEEK.  The world rewards those who put in that work, who LOOK for what they might need or want.  I am relying on this bit to get me through what appears to be another few months, maybe longer, of being patient with no decisions made, of being open to going with the flow.

The power of positive thinking

12 Aug

1:31 pm

I wish I had this power!

Seriously, I have been thinking a lot lately about why some people ruminate and others don’t.  I have spent my entire life thinking a certain way, and it’s not easy to change that.  In fact, it’s not really that easy to see it, to understand it, and to embrace the fact that NO, I don’t have to think this way.  It feels good, and safe, and scratches some itch to keep doing things the same way–and some part of this ruminative thinking is healthy and is what’s helped me process my reality and life–but I guess at some point, you just get miserable and tired enough to TRY SOMETHING ELSE.

I keep a journal, and that’s where I dump all my negative thoughts–but, when I think about those thoughts from an above-myself view, I see that I, me, this person, this alcoholic, doesn’t actually see them as negative.  To me, they’re just thoughts–my thoughts, the ones I always have, the type of thinking I’ve always done.  From the ground, I am this, that; she and he is this, that; I am feeling down and it’s because of this, that; I don’t believe that this is going to work because of this, that.  You get the picture.  If only I could see that most of my conclusions are based on no facts; they are of my brain, inside my head, not informed by any fact or stimulus coming at me from the real, outside world.

It’s not that simple, though, to decipher negative patterns from legitimately angry or sad or even happy or joyful thoughts–these are thoughts that help guide you on your path, and inform your decisions!  It’s not easy to realize when let’s say, PMS, is changing your thought patterns, and for no apparent reason, you just feel irritated, angry, heavy, negative.

What I have been trying in small increments to do is to think above or around the negative thoughts.  To ignore them, to bypass them and like, go to yoga instead.  There is this part of my brain–maybe it’s Wolfie, the alcoholic drinking voice; maybe it’s his cousin–who says, YOU HAVE TO consider these thoughts, you have to legitimize them by taking them seriously; at the very least, you have to acknowledge them.  And, I might be wrong here, and I might be feeling around in the dark, but I’ve come to realize that NO, you don’t have to do any of those things.  You can just move on with your day, trashing thoughts and feelings that are ruminative–you can just keep moving, it’s OK.  Don’t confuse moving forward with running away.  (And, my favorite aunt once said, It’s OK to run away sometimes, too.)

So, yeah, I’ve been in my head lately.  I got a job contract renewal, so that is GREAT news–nine more months of staring at my computer for eight hours a day, in my office, alone.  Getting paid well, though, which is a relief because…I have expenses, and I have dreams that need major coin (I want to buy a house soon, I think).  I am grateful, even though it’s not a “dream job.”  And frankly, I don’t have the time, money, or energy to do a “job I love” (an oxymoron?) for a lot less money but one that is out in the “real world,” with actual other human beings.  (Btw, A LOT of people work remotely these days; it’s a great thing, so why am I even EVER complaining about it!?)  Actually, I’ve been on a quest to find that perfect new job, that perfect new career–which means, I’ve basically turned job searching, trolling the job boards, teasing out job descriptions into a hobby (sad, I know).  And what have I learned?  Well, that most writing, content, or communications-related jobs are just the same job.  Really.  So many jobs, so much of the same thing.  I can see myself doing something along the lines of international development or public health, but that will have to be a future focus.

We are doing “aight” here in our new home, but it’s very likely we’ll move back to where we came from (the tropics–ahh) when our lease is up.  I don’t want to be negative here, because I have major issues, it seems, with meeting and making friends, but:  I have never lived in a place that is so seemingly averse to community engagement.  A major complaint among people here is that there is no sense of “community,” and everyone asks why.  I think I’ve figured it out:  people here don’t want it.  If they did,  they’d work toward it.  Like, it’s a chore for people to say hello, to make small talk here; I have never lived anywhere like it, honestly.  I’m from the Midwest, and um, we talk to each other there.  I lived for many years in San Francisco and then, SoCal; even if they can come across as superficial, Californians are super-duper friendly.  I think New Yorkers are some of the most genuine people I’ve ever met.  And, we moved here from a place where two Cat 5 hurricanes ripped through the landscape; if people hadn’t come together, no one would have eaten, had ice, showered, or been able to read a freaking book for six months!?  I think sometimes I forget that younger people are JUST NOT USED TO COMMUNICATING IN REAL LIFE; I think growing up always online has created people who are oblivious to their surroundings, which, um, include other human beings.  Just my two cents.

On that note, I am going to exhale, and try to have a GREAT day.  Thanks for listening to my brain on static, and now I am going to turn off the radio for a while.

(Wine?  Yep, I’ve been thinking about it a bit more than usual–more than I have in the past few years–but I won’t drink.  “Boredom” is a symptom of something else, and I know it should not be treated with booze.)

Six months later…

24 Jul

6:01 pm

Well, tomorrow marks six months since our move, and uh, I am not sure how to describe our life here.  It’s definitely DIFFERENT from our life back “home.”  I mean, I work from my home office, so my life is relatively similar.  Yet, despite going out to see a lot of shows and things on our own, we don’t really have a social life, per se (as in, we have no friends!).

It seemed (key word) so much easier everywhere else–then again, I worked at an office in the actual outside world, everywhere else; OR, I had a social network in place before I moved there.  Here, we really didn’t know anyone; that really hit home when our sweet boy (our “bear,” our beagle-boxer mix) passed away in March.  Not having any friends or family around who knew him, who could comfort us because they knew us–that just sucked.  For the first time, I could see clearly how important it is to have family around when death (or suffering or tragedy) strikes.  I was able to glimpse how our modern ways–our lives of leaving, of moving around, of moving away–work against the benefits of age-old structures like family, and community.  I miss having a community who knows me, but I’m not sure what to do about it here.  A part of me just wants to go somewhere familiar–whether it’s where I used to live, or where I have family that now lives.

Truthfully, though, I have been feeling increasingly isolated simply because I don’t get out.  Nothing new here, and it’s been something I’ve been trying to work on or “fix” since I realized it was a big factor in my alcoholic drinking behavior.  I actually googled AA meetings in my new area, thinking that I’d probably be guaranteed to meet people there.  It’s been six months, and I haven’t really made any new friends; it is SO hard, for some reason, to make friends beyond acquaintances–is it me, this place, being in my 40s?  I don’t know, and I’m starting to sort of simply not care.  I want to let it go–if it happens, great, but if not, eh, I just don’t care–but I know I should make it happen.

I’ve also been sort of bugging out about WHAT’S NEXT?  I have been obsessively scanning job sites, looking for something, anything that I want to do–like, really, truly DO; really, truly invest myself in–and nothing has been popping out.  Nothing.  It’s like, I feel a combination of resignation to the work I do now (and the fact that it pays well and I can do it from home, for better and/or for worse) and laziness–I’m 44, and I’ve done this job/life search grind before, and I’m tired!  Still, I know I need new experiences, and I need to get out and meet people–hence, the obsessive searching.

I have been thinking of starting drinking again lately, but I know it won’t help or fix–and, I’m too lazy to actually do it (what work it would be to actually pick up again, no?) as well as I KNOW that there are SO many other more positive outlets for my boredom and/or frustration.  So, I come back to feeling grateful–for my background, for my privilege, and, yes, even for my obsessive nature (which has brought me to the point of being able to BITCH about staying home all day, writing, and earning a good paycheck).

What am I needing instead?  More interaction with people, for sure.  I (we) have sort of neglected or almost refused to get out there and get involved in this community (I used that word loosely, because it just doesn’t FEEL like a community to us…yet?).  That has to change, even IF we’re only here for a few more months.  YES, I was working from home the first three months here; YES, I then spent the next three months holed up in my office, working on this albatross of a writing project that I’ve been saying I was going to do for YEARS and finally actually did–so, there is that.  (The thing is, we both don’t really feel the desire to make it happen here, and I’m not quite sure why; will this “lack of desire” follow us, if we move to other cities on the mainland–or is it just something about this place that bugs?  The only way to find out is to actually move to another city on the mainland–or, move back to where we came from, which may or may not turn out how we envision.)

I don’t know, but being sober, and 44, and in a new place–and having the ability to totally work from home?  It makes making friends hard.  Not whining, just expressing what has been on my mind for a long time now.  Make it happen, I guess?

Recovery…from family time

14 Jul

4:04 pm

I’m back from my 4th of July trip to see my dad and mom, back to back–along with my brother.  And, whoa, Nellie, what a (head) trip, indeed!

See, I’m going to be blunt–and maybe it’s not my place, but I have to talk about it:  both my parents suffer (yes, I know they are in pain, which makes me feel pained) from untreated mental health disorders.  We think my dad has bipolar disorder, I think my mom has anxiety and possibly never-diagnosed OCD, and we know for a fact that they’ve both been treated for depression.  Not a big thang, you know, if everyone involved SEES that they are suffering and makes a CONCERTED EFFORT to get and stay in treatment.  But, you know, they don’t.  They are not.  They try to hide or avoid their issues, and they seem to be too afraid to confront them in order to change.

Of course, I get it!  I could be describing MYSELF when I was in the midst of my drinking disorder!  And, I know it takes what it takes, but…  They are both in their 70s!?  I don’t know what to do most of the time except to practice not reacting the way I want to (in anger) and accept their behavior but try to lead and/or engage them in what I see as “healthier” techniques of relating.  It’s just all very hard when these people are your parents and not some strangers, or even someone else’s parents.  Our shared history and my emotional baggage makes it harder to not react emotionally.

It makes me angry to see both of them not really ever seeming to resolve anything on the inside, but mostly, it is just draining to have to deal with it.  I felt so drained coming home, and it took me days to stop being really angry and reactive and just heavy-hearted and like my brain had been scrambled.  To make matters worse, they had these issues growing up, and they affected me in a big way–it took me years to even realize what bizarre coping mechanisms I had developed let alone start dealing with them so that they stopped negatively impacting all of my own relationships, from personal to professional!

I SO want to just out them sometimes, to yell and scream, to tell them “what is wrong with them.”  But, I don’t.  It just doesn’t seem…worthwhile.  I’ve thought about writing a letter, which would allow me to be more measured and empathetic, but again, it just seems like it might be a waste of time.  Plus, I’m not ready to go there AFTER the letter has been read, as in, I don’t have the desire to be that open right now, as their daughter, and/or the ability to play the role of psychologist.  So, I just leave it–with my mom, I think she is trying to work on some of her problems, and my dad, well, I kind of consider him a lost cause at the moment because he’s manic, and it seems like a hallmark trait of mania is that until the person hits bottom, they honestly don’t believe there is anything wrong with their thoughts and behaviors.

It was great, though, to get caught up on on this stuff, and to be with each other, and to just be real.  And a part of me feels sure that somehow, seeing their kids helps them stabilize a bit, normalizes whatever tangent their emotional or thought disorder has taken them on–I imagine our kid-parent bond as a powerful antidote, at least temporarily, to feeling estranged from themselves; it helps me, in a way, to feel less estranged from life, to reel me back into something bigger than myself, gives me a sense of order again, helps me find “myself” again, at least one that I recognize.  I hope that I’m right, and it makes me realize that I should see them more often (I hadn’t actually seen my mom for two years, and with my dad, it had been a year…but before last year, it was three years!).

You would think that all of this would have made me want to drink, and I admit, there were a few moments when I really did think a glass of wine would make it easier to just escape, to get rid of the bad feelings, to disappear for a while.  Of course, I didn’t; I had plenty of time to think about ALL that I’ve worked for the past six years, and how, really, one drink would lead me back to where I was when I started writing this blog in June, 2012.  I’ve had quite a few moments, too, in the past month or so, when I’ve felt SO FUCKING BORED here, in my new home, that I have wanted to “start drinking again.”  It’s weird how in this case, it’s not a glass of wine I want, but the entire habit, or activity, of “drinking again.”

Not to worry:  they are just thoughts, and I have every reason in the world to NOT start drinking again.  In fact, just this morning, as I was listening to a podcast about a man who lost the use of his lower body from a drinking and driving accident, I just felt so…horrible for him, and disgusted for him, but also grateful for the simple beauty of the GRAND, POWERFUL act of getting sober, of being sober.  It does keep going, and it does get better, and I am still feeling wonder-full about it all–in spite of family pressures, and in spite of the occasional side of boredom that comes with the eggs and toast of life!  (haha)  Have a great Saturday, all!

It’s crazy how things have changed

1 Jul

1:27 am

I am at home (like, home home) now, with my immediate family, and it’s crazy how *I* am the one, it seems, who is the most sober of all!  And by that I mean, irritated by how much other people are drinking, unwilling to really care about fixing them or holding onto what I cannot change, and um, SHOCKED at how late people eat and how LONG they drink into the night!?  What am I, old?

I watched them all pass out in their beds (or on chairs in the kitchen) while I went up to my room to do yoga and meditate.  (They’re kind of one in the same for me these days; and frankly, I have had such back problems that I cannot go a day without doing yoga and most definitely not more than two without working out…  But, it’s also because it’s just how I MUST DO if I am to remain centered, sober, calm and able to let everyone else’s issues and questions and concerns and gossip bounce off of me!)

So, yeah.  It is crazy how things have changed.  I’m also feeling much more willing, like I said, to accept people for who they are–and not try to change them, and not worry about me changing for them.  Like, someone grilled me about not having health insurance at the moment, and at first I felt bad, alarmed, like, oh, yeah, maybe I should get a catastrophic policy.  I had insurance, but let it lapse–and since then, well, I simply don’t worry about it.  This family member worries about stuff like that; yet, here I am, doing yoga and not drinking as preventive health, and here he is, drinking like a fish and then, downing a pot of coffee the next morning.

I am feeling super-weird about keeping this blog anonymous from my family anymore, but…I realized after talking about my sobriety last night with family members that it has to be the right moment for the reveal–and I have to be extremely ready to explain myself–and it’s not, and I’m not.  So, I keep putting it off…even though it’s starting to feel like a huge lie, a big withholding that equates to a lie.  Then again, I GET to get this; I deserve whatever choice I choose when it comes to my privacy and space, and method for getting sober and somewhat spiritually fit.  When the time comes, I’ll know it.

Till then, um, I LOVE who I have become, and I LOVE what the “right now” is for me; even IF there is extreme uncertainty (which I can deal with, and have dealt with for years as a freelance writer), well, I still have me, I have my spiritual center, I have my sobriety–which is frankly fucking invaluable.  I mean, priceless.  I mean, I’d take no job and no health insurance and a small rental in the middle of someplace that I’m not sure I like living (but am content in myself, so it really doesn’t matter where the “where” is anymore) ANY DAY over having things, and a big home, and “security” (which cannot exist without fear).  ANY DAY.

End of rant.  Good night, my sober friends.  Thank you for being here, with me, all these six years–you have no idea how liberating your understanding and support has been!

Bad news and your sobriety

19 Jun

1:38 pm

Welp, we are back from a weeklong “birthday” road trip to see my mom and celebrate my big day (well, 44 isn’t really big except for the fact that I am officially in my mid-40s), and um, yeah:  the seemingly constant stream of bad news and overwhelming cynicism (Drumpf, border nonsense, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain) is just TOO MUCH!?  If you only lived in the world of the news media, you would die, mentally and spiritually.  (Which is why I went into science and health journalism.  And, I’ll be the first to say that being a journalist is one of the most emotionally painful jobs out there, and it may very well have been one factor that contributed to Anthony Bourdain’s unhappiness!)

You need to filter it out.  Take a break.  You just cannot think about it all, and take it all in, all the time.  If you’re trying to stay sober–and even if you’re not–it is OK if not necessary to turn off the proverbial radio.

I had this longass post written about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, but I decided to not post it because, what the eff do I know, right?  I mean, I could wax on and on about what I think about life and lifestyle in USA, Inc.–and how our lack of community, increasing lack of empathy, and overall stress levels and competition cause people to lose sight of what’s really important and worth worrying about–but…

I won’t.  Ultimately, I don’t believe you can help other people become and be happy.  You just cannot help other people gain this hard-won prize (if you’re prone to negative self-talk and depression, it is, indeed, hard won).  You can be there for them, and you can tell them things, and you can try to do things that you think will help them, but every single person is responsible for their own happiness.  And, that’s a lesson that most people have to learn!?  And these days, I think that takes a LOT of work because a lot of us live in tiny, isolated bubbles of individual pursuit, punctuated only here and there by other people.

I’ll be honest:  I stopped going to meetings early on because I just could not stand the pressure of other people’s drinking problems AND my own!  And, that worked for me; it was necessary.  As I came up on SIX YEARS SOBER (more or less) a few days ago–and the anniversary of starting this blog on June 14, 2012–I couldn’t help but feel like, so what?  NOW WHAT?  There is so much cynicism and bad news drawing me away from that wonderful period of my life, those years of rebirth, of continuing to appreciate what I accomplished and that getting sober IS a worthy achievement–it almost makes me want to start on the wine again, if ONLY for a break from it all, you know?  Now, imagine combining that frustration with alcohol, drugs, and/or HUGE amounts of self-imposed pressure (Spade, Bourdain)?

I don’t know much, really, when it comes to helping people with mental health disorders.  And, frankly, I almost want to say, we are all mentally ill or scarred, in one way or another.  I think the urge to commit suicide–when you get to that crossroads in your mind–is an individual thing, different for every person who reaches that point.  It’s a puzzle, that’s for sure.

I am feeling a bit frustrated (and those thoughts of drinking again, I know, I can’t just let go), so I am going to get back on my mental water wagon–gym, yoga, journaling, and hopefully, starting some contract work again soon (grateful beyond belief that more work is looming, even if said work is “boring”–I have yet to reconcile making money with doing something I truly love; and, making money is the only way to ENABLE those dreams, so…I say yes to the work).  And, hopefully, we will eventually stumble upon a place that offers soul food for my insides, which are starting to feel kind of empty here.  (Starting?  We’ve hated this bland desert wasteland from day one!  LOL  In all seriousness, we just don’t feel at home here, and since it’s coming up on almost 6 months that we’ve been here, and we STILL don’t have a sense of wanting to be here–I think we might just call it, collect our losses, and move on.)

Onward, then, with courage; but turn the noise off if you need to (and even if you don’t)!  Your mental landscape, creativity, and spirit will thank you.  I’m not saying don’t acknowledge and think about what’s going on in the outside world, but be mindful of your inner world–and what it needs, wants, and rests upon.

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