Thursday, September 15, 2016
There's a shift happening. The weather is changing and I've been kind of sensing a shift in consciousness, as I've worked through a lot of the things I've lived through. Day by day I've put in the work, made mindful decisions that facilitate healing.. and there just seems to be a subtle theme surrounding everything. It's that I need to let go of the things and people that aren't for me anymore. It doesn't have to be a dramatic severance, although I am finding that it can be. It can also be the allowance of a drift, a nod to an understood cue to not call again.
I'm going to be burning my wedding dress this weekend. In the time that has elapsed since I decided to burn it and the now looming event, the act has taken on this more well rounded meaning. The dress not only represents my marriage, but whatever else is stagnant in my life. Resentments, patterns of thinking, maladaptive defense mechanisms, chaos and secrets and not being true to what I know to be right. With that gauzy white sheath of naivete, I will release those elements from my life. I am letting go of anything dragging me down on my path of growth and elevated living.
I am hopeful for what lies ahead. I am making room in my life, heart and mind for the things I've been asking for but have hardly dared to believe were possible. Even if nothing comes to fruition, or if things take unexpected turns, these are cleansing and healing things that are ultimately necessary for my well being. Relentless self awareness. I realized that many of my kneejerk reactions to situations and potential vulnerabilities were based in fear. Once I knew, I couldn't un-know. So.. time to recalibrate. No good comes from decisions made in fear. Act in good faith and be open. That is my intent. Be soft, be trusting, and remember that if things should result in pain or disappointment, I have the tools to be okay. I've done it before. I can do it again.
I was once a stoic, stony faced teenager, wondering if there was something wrong with me because I was unable to cry at the loss of a family pet. I'd intellectualized the whole thing but even after immersing myself in sad thoughts, no tears fell. Then a few years later I said "okay, I'm gonna let myself feel all the things" and dove headfirst into what became a 6.5 year slog of undeserved commitment and abuse. And then I thought... how foolish of me. I was better off an impervious and reason-driven teenager than what felt like a war-torn veteran of domestic violence.
But I can't live my life based on fear-driven foundations. So. I am going to be brave and vulnerable and let go of the reminders of all the ways those things bit me in the past. Because that was then, and the only thing I need to take from them is the wisdom I gained. Everything else is dead weight.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
In vino veritas.
In recent years I'd come to believe that a way of life that incorporates teamwork and partnership didn't really exist for me. I told myself that it wasn't possible, that nobody would be able to match my efforts and meet me at my level. I don't mean that in an arrogant way, necessarily, but I know what I have to offer and all I've known when hoping for a match was disappointment. I've reached a level of independence that affords me the refusal to settle. I'd rather go it alone than settle for sub par companionship.
It's easy to renounce the idea of finding a partner when you operate under the assumption that such a thing doesn't exist. It makes for a nice clean life, one with plans and desires that can be achieved by oneself alone. It would be silly to sit around pining for, say, the ability to fly when you know darn well its not a thing you'll ever be able to do. So you just go on walking and running and jumping and living in the realm of possibility.
I was happily cruising along in my understood realm of possibility, enjoying the fruits of my labor and making plans and setting goals that I could accomplish myself.
And then I was proven wrong.
Turns out, just 'cause you've never seen something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And then when you find out it exists, it throws your understanding of reality and possibility into a tailspin and makes some of those self-achievable goals look like a consolation prize.
I get why the catholic church was resistant to Galileo's paradigm shift. It's really quite uncomfortable to have to assimilate a new understanding of reality into your tidy and carefully curated life. But now that you know, you can't un-know. God damnit.
I don't like to want things that depend on someone else. I don't usually seek that which can be taken from me or walk away. I don't like to give anyone the opportunity to let me down. I don't like to depend on anyone for basically anything. Its risky and uncertain.
But here I am. Wanting.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
It's a double edged sword, however. As I lay awake listening to the birds outside and quietly waiting for the others to wake, I replayed the night in my head. I recounted all the side conversations and noteworthy moments, analyzing my behavior, my choice of words, wondering what kind of impression I'd given these new acquaintances. Was I too loud? Was I obnoxious? Did I embarrass the person who invited me? What must they think of me, getting completely drunk the first weekend they meet me, they probably think I have a problem.
I think this is partially normal hangover stuff. Maybe.. I don't know if the delayed social anxiety kicks in with everyone else's hangovers. I think it's also a product of various times I'd been shamed and chastised after a night of drinking, my then husband telling me I'd embarrassed him at the family dinner with his cousin from out of town, but not remembering anything of the sort. It's not that I blacked out.. I didn't. I just remembered the night differently. I remembered everyone having a great time, and getting along wonderfully with his cousin's wife, everyone laughing and enjoying themselves. He ended up getting into a debate with another member of the group about something like whether garbage is public or private property. I asked someone who was there if I'd acted out of character or done anything obnoxious, and to please be honest. She insisted I hadn't and thought it strange that he'd suggest that. Other times we'd be out at a bar and I'd end up having a conversation with someone that seemed to me to go well, and he'd later tell me I'd made a fool of myself. Little instances of gaslighting that I hardly thought anything of.
I caught myself this morning along that line of thinking. Enough times being told I'd been behaving poorly when I remembered doing nothing of the sort got filed somewhere under ways to berate myself in my psyche. Even if you think and remember everything went fine, it probably didn't and everyone probably thinks you're the worst. I recognized this morning, though, that the criticisms in my head were in his voice. It didn't necessarily make all the shitty feelings go away, but it took away some of their power and allowed a foothold for the pro-me side of my internal debate.
I inquired in an attempt to not sound insecure or like someone with a problem would sound asking if I'd been an embarrassment. I tried not to think that the answer (no) was out of politeness. I reminded myself that everyone was right there with me drinking and socializing. I told myself that if these people had a problem with what I remembered to be perfectly reasonable behavior, then maybe they're not my people. I had fun, and all is well.
Monday, July 11, 2016
In moments of wavering self worth and confidence, I find myself fearfully grasping for reassurance and validation. Seems pretty normal, but I can see how in the past, I'd misdirected that inclination towards people who weren't properly vetted sources of stability or comfort. I had appraised my value so minimally and assumed a superiority in others that was false and a product of whatever misstep I'd made. Its that perfectionism thing again. Any point of perceived failure acts as a chisel to the pillar of my confidence.
Really though, what I should be doing (and have begun practicing) in those moments is acknowledging the discomfort of imperfection, affording myself the grace and leeway I give to literally anyone else, and finding the strength to buoy myself without relying on an ill equipped and poorly chosen confidant to lift me up (or leave me where I lay, as was sometimes the case).
The old practice, I can see now, was a product of fear and an attempt to find the emotional support that I lacked as a child. "Maybe this one will have what I need." In addition to giving away my power and burdening a bystander, its a detriment to my personal brand. So much of our externally perceived value is defined by how we value ourselves. We teach the people around us how to see us and how to treat us by the way to talk about and treat ourselves, as well as what we're willing to accept. A low self valuation results in accepting a low valuation from others and therefore potentially poorer treatment.
I will have setbacks. I will make mistakes, I will stumble and have bad hair days and make bad judgement calls once in a while. I will have failures. Try as I might to be perfect, I can't be. However, my value is not malleable and my standards are not negotiable. Those things aren't invalidated by my being human. I can stand with my head held high and despite my imperfection, expect excellence from others and dismiss where the bar isn't met.
It's not easy to forge new habits of thought and action, but it's necessary for growth. Nothing changes if you don't.
Friday, July 8, 2016
I married a man I thought I could fix. His family thought I'd gone a long way towards fixing him too. Everyone commended my valiant efforts and nobody thought to mention that the idea of fixing your partner is very, very flawed. I tried everything I could to fix him. He was severely depressed and was disinterested in doing anything to fix himself, which, I understood, was common for people with depression. On more than one occasion I dumped all the alcohol down the drain, engaged in screaming matches, begged and cried for him to try to do something. I secretly dosed him with St John's wort extract. I was down the rabbit hole of codependency, trying to control all the variables and stuck on an emotional rollercoaster as my efforts were shown to be futile, time and again.
I learned, from my time with him that you can't fix people. You can't really hope for them to change, either. That's not to say that people can't change. They certainly can but it has to be their change, their desire to fix themselves and not for anyone else. But.. the safest bet is to take people at face value and then evaluate whether you want them in your life.
I'm no longer interested in trying to fix people. I don't have a career in psychology, and I am thoroughly disenchanted with the notion of being a hero and saving the day by putting the pieces back together of some broken person. That is not my role, and I'm not interested in trying. Fix yourself if you see fit, and take responsibility for it. I nearly became broken trying to fix the cracks in others. No more.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
I've taken advantage of the community pool, swimming on the hottest days like I'm a kid again. I'm harvesting oodles of tomatoes and squash and making juicy salads, savoring the ripeness of market nectarines, letting the sun kiss my shoulders bronze and the evening breeze tug at my dress.
I feel like I'm in a really good place to truly appreciate all the little magical offerings this year, because for as long as I can remember, there was a struggle. For the first time now, there isn't. Life is gloriously peaceful and delightfully fun. Funny how easy things are when you remove the sources of conflict in life. I realize it's usually not that simple, and truth be told, the journey here was wrought with heartache, but it was so so worth it.
Enjoy the literal and proverbial peaches.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Once upon a time that might have made me feel respected, or like I had purpose or like I was important in some way. But really... it's a really inappropriate thing to say to your daughter for a number of reasons. It implies that anyone can be "fixed" by someone other than themselves (you gotta do the work, I can't do it for you, nor should I). It also implies an imbalance of power and responsibility in the wrong direction for a parent-child relationship. Its just generally unhealthy and it made me think about how long I must have been hearing things like that (I have some hazy memories of playing shrink to my dad at a much younger age than I should have been to hear of his internal struggles) and internalizing them as normal. No wonder I had a penchant for trying to fix people until I did the work and fixed myself instead. My knee-jerk disgust at the suggestion tells me I've come a long way.
I'm getting more comfortable with gray area too. A trait of Adult Children of Alcoholics is black and white thinking. I have often been a fan of certainty. But lingering in the gray area of life has a certain kind of freedom that I'm coming to appreciate. Certainty seems safe but nothing is actually certain, so any subscription to it is just a comforting illusion anyway. It is still uncomfortable at times but it is the truth. In the spectrum of life, only the extreme margins are black and white. Maybe there's a really enjoyable sliver of life I have resisted experiencing because it was in the gray. Or maybe it's just uncomfortable and that's all there is to it. At least it's real and I'm not clinging to a conceptual security blanket.
When I left my marriage, I told him "I no longer self identify as codependent." (Funny-not-funny: he turned it around and told me he didn't self identify as an alcoholic...ha.) I had done a lot of work.. enough to recognize the toxicity of and walk away from a relationship that was harmful to me. I have come to learn, though, that it is a continual effort. Habits of thought and behavior are tough to change and while it is a major achievement to overcome the big hurdles of leaving the things behind that no longer serve us, it isn't one and done. I had braces when I was 12-14, and I thought I only had to wear my retainer for a little while. Nobody told me I basically had to wear it forever. So my teeth shifted back a little bit. Not all the way, but they're not perfectly straight. I think it's kind of like that. You have to continuously be conscious of potentially unhealthy habits of thought and behavior and constantly adjusting when necessary. Relentless self awareness.
I'm not sure if this is all coming across as disjointed or as a few non sequiturs, but they all connect for me. They're all part of the same thing. Do the work, recognize and reject dysfunction, and establish new a normal. It is exhausting but it is better than repeating the same mistakes over and over. While I do feel like I've done a lot of repeating mistakes, I see progress. My life is much tidier and peaceful than it once was. I think my biggest challenge right now is fear of willingly putting it to the test. So far I've been passing the quizzes life's tossed at me but.. to actively step into a situation that might risk that tidiness and peace is somewhat daunting.
So until then I can just coast in the gray area.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
I think it's important to be informed, and I don't want to downplay the seriousness of very real losses. I just... I dont know. I can't right now. I don't have the emotional bandwidth to open myself up to the heartbreak. Maybe that's trite, or selfish, or naive. I know I'm the ostrich sticking my head in the sand. I'm not callous or uncaring.. I'm just trying to take care of myself.
Let's just all try to be kind to one another. Let's try to hear each other out and judge a little less. Smile and say hello and not assume the worst. I think people are generally good when given the chance.
Friday, June 10, 2016
At times, however, I am reminded of my fragility. I am faced with vulnerabilities and moments of uncertainty and I am not impervious to a racing heart and shaking hands. Autonomic responses over which I have no control and therefore cannot dispel with a clenched jaw and stubborn resolve. Astute observers notice "You just got nervous." "I can feel your heartbeat." "You're shaking." Too transparent to deny.
Still, I trudge onward. Better to hold a torch with a shaking hand than sit in the dark awaiting rescue. Acknowledging shortcomings so that I might bridge the gap in another way. I'm becoming less firm in my stance that fragility is a failure. While I find it a distant notion that it might be a virtue, I can settle for it being a human reality. We have a feeble armor of flesh, not scales, and none of us is without weakness.
Despite our best efforts.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
In any case, I was reminded lately of my codependent identity and decided to dig these up and review them again. I might as well be reading my Meyers Briggs personality profile with the 13 Characteristics. (I'm an ENTJ, by the way). One of the more salient and timely points I noticed was that ACoA are "super responsible" or have an "overdeveloped sense of responsibility."
I see this in myself, big time. I regard it in much the same way as I view my perfectionism. I see it, I know it's not ideal or "normal" or fair to myself. But... it mitigates the potential for failure, and therefore I feel more safe indulging it than trying to change it. If I take responsibility for everything, then I'm the one in control. I take responsibility for giving the people that have hurt me the opportunity to do so. When I look at it that way, the ball is in my court. I'm not a victim, and I can avoid the same in the future by just doing things differently on my end. Don't give anyone the chance to hurt me, problem solved. If I get hurt, it's my fault.
This reasoning has also afforded me the luxury of relinquishing responsibility for anyone else's feelings. If I'm responsible for my feelings, aren't you then responsible for yours? But of course, my overdeveloped sense of responsibility doesn't really let me off the hook so easily. It just allows for a healthy internal debate when I feel guilty for not being perfectly innocuous or for some imagined slight against someone.
Examining all this has brought to light my likely inability to approach relating to another person in a healthy way. I still approach it like a timid dog. Only opening as much as it seems safe to, until I hear a noise or some perceived threat or lack of reciprocity and I shut back down. Historically the dance doesn't last long. Extended lack of reciprocity results in total shut down and tossing the key. Or, in the cases of my past lives. some unwell individual (that I probably wanted to try and save) leaps in headfirst and expresses their undying devotion. Exceeding reciprocity and no perceived risk! Until of course the reason for their being unwell causes the whole thing to unravel.
So renouncing all risk and avoiding opening up altogether seemed like a safe plan. I could just "do me" indefinitely. I really do enjoy my own company, I'm self sufficient, I've got a lot of good friends and a solid foundation for the things that make me happy. On the other hand, no risk, no reward. FOMO. Tug of war. Once in a while when I allow them to, thoughts will eke in about how it might be nice to have a partner. And then I remember that the main players in my life that I should have been able to rely on have always disappointed me. Parents too busy drinking to pick me up from a game, or to help put my desk together, or significant others who failed to pull their weight and let me bear the brunt of whatever task. (Because I allowed myself to have expectations and therefore allowed them to disappoint me. Back to it being my responsibility, ha!)
Dysfunction is familiar but it is no longer comfortable. I wrote something around 1 year after I left my marriage likening dysfunction or discontent as a tolerated constant to the hum of a refrigerator. You don't really notice it until the power goes out and it's stopped. Now that I have eliminated that from my life, it is no longer welcome. I'm slowly learning how to live without it, and the more adept I get, the better equipped I'll be at spotting it and avoiding it. Dysfunction is basically all I've ever known, so its easy to assume it's all there is available. So.. going it alone seems a preferable route.
But still, the allure of what, at this point, seems like a mythical creature sings a siren call. What if there were such a thing as a partner that didn't let you down? Didn't let you freefall or carry all the weight. An actual partner. I'd have to see it to believe it. Even then, I'd have to rub my eyes and pinch myself and still might take some convincing.
Pffft. A partner. Next you're gonna tell me Bigfoot has a pet dragon.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
I haven't journaled in a long time. Probably at least 2 years. This blog project is the closest thing to it.. and that's fallen off some. I guess I kind of fell into my old habit of writing about the negative and going dark when things are good. 'Cause things are really really good. I started a new job last week working from home. I work for a small company, only about 8 people and everyone is remote. I'm respected and my input is valued, and I can work in my underwear if I want to. I can take a break and go futz around in the garden.
Speaking of the garden. It's huge. In the span of a week I picked over 40 cucumbers. The corn and tomatoes are taller than me, and the pumpkin vines are severely limiting the usefulness of the pathways. My heart swells when I look at it, and I am so thrilled to finally see all the things I've worked hard for come to literal fruition.
I wasn't really miserable all those times I was journaling regularly. My happiness is resilient. I found joy in the same things I do now: my garden, my silly cats, the delta breeze, a good meal and time spent with quality people. I think the difference is that now I just lack all the impediments to fully enjoying all that. I grew up surrounded by dysfunction and now, I have stumbled upon the reality that it doesn't have to be that way. I can actually just.. reject anything that tries to kill my vibe. Imagine that.
I finally rescheduled that counseling appointment. I figure now that I'm here, I should make sure I keep the dysfunction at bay. Complacence is the enemy of excellence, after all.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Thursday, May 5, 2016
I remember being 15 and proclaiming that my intent was to own a piece of property and have my dream house built on it with a big garden and a small orchard. I decided I would be successful enough to fund this on my own, and if there was someone there to enjoy it with me, fine, but it wasn't a necessity. I wasn't the little girl that had all the details of my wedding planned out. I was the girl that sat at my desk as an office assistant looking up blueprints of houses with wraparound porches, roughly mapping on binder paper the hypothetical juxtaposition of chickens, a greenhouse, a garden and entertaining space. And where would the aquaponics fit in? Tilapia or something else?
To be fair and paint a truly complete picture, I was also researching natural childbirth options and crunchy parenting avenues like cloth diapering and making my own baby food. I was by no means eager to have a kid, but I felt like, as a woman, it was best to be mentally prepared for such a possibility should I be faced with making that decision. Now arguably a reasonable age to embark on such an adventure, if it were to happen without considerable planning I would not rule out any measures necessary to avoid it. I don't believe in "oops" babies, at least not in my life. Nope, no thank you.
I have, at times, been susceptible to the social conditioning that specifies that I, as a woman in my 20s, should want to be married, have a shiny rock adorning my hand, and keep up with the Joneses. In a sense I'm kind of glad I got that out of my system. Granted, while we were engaged and I was planning the wedding, my fiance would occasionally call me out and tell me that I only wanted this stuff because I was conditioned to. I usually replied with 'be that as it may, I still want it." He also sneered that I only cared about "my princess party" any time we had an argument. Go ahead and file that under "red flags." I got my princess party. It was a blast and I don't regret it at all. I had the diamonds, I had the whole shebang, albeit a very flawed shebang. My point is that I indulged in the conditioned picture of what I'm supposed to want.
This is a bit of a ramble, but I guess what I'm getting at is I'll take a semi-spontaneous* flight to Hawaii over a pair of diamond stud earrings. I'll take my vegetable garden over a lawn. I'll take a career and autonomous home-ownership over being a wife and parent. Having indulged in those stereotypical ideals and having renounced them has liberated me to define what I want my life to be. That includes the freedom to come back to those things, too, if someday they feel like a better fit. And if I do, I'll be able to approach that from a place of honesty with myself rather than a place of succumbing to social pressures.
And with a magnet on my fridge from that time I went to Kauai on a whim.
*two weeks in advance is pretty spontaneous for a vacation, at least for me.
Monday, May 2, 2016
Tales from a past life: volume 2
We decided to move in together after 6 months. I'd just turned 21 and we rented half a duplex that a friend had recently bought. We stayed there a little less than a year. He and his sister owned a house together. Rather, they'd inherited a house. Their dad passed away 2 years before I met him, but he was still riddled with debilitating grief. He was unemployed when we met, living through the life insurance money. Having recently split from a guy ten years my senior who was happy to have me support him, I was just glad he could pay his own bills.
After living in the duplex a while, he suggested that we move into the house he half owned. I was concerned that living in the house his dad died in might not be a good idea... his severe depression and resultant alcohol abuse were all tied to the death of his dad. But.. we did it anyway. We lived there almost 3 years. I have some fond memories of that time. Some terrible ones too, of course. I talk a lot about how shitty it was, and all the unspeakably unkind things I endured, but there were good times too. There were jam sessions and, until the one I have now, the garden I am most proud of. There was day-drinking white wine over ice in a blow up pool and eating garlic stuffed olives on a 108 degree day because the AC didn't work. How delightfully white trash that was.
That was the house at which the most drywall holes occurred. One year we threw a Halloween party and I bought a roll of cheesy haunted house wall decor sheeting to cover them up. Drywall patches are fine but you cant patch a hole in a door. It was the house at which I was chased into the garage and heard the hiss of all four of my tires slashed as I ran down the street at 2am, calling my friend to come pick me up. It was the house in which he learned that calling me a cunt got a rise out of me and then employed it any chance he got. It was then the house in which I learned to desensitize myself to name calling.
I don't recall exactly how the decision was made that we'd move out and that they'd sell the place, but that became the plan. He got the ball rolling, hired the real estate agent he thought his dad would have wanted... and then he checked out. We had a large waste pickup scheduled... the kind where you place a heap of junk on the street. We had a lot of things to clear out to get the house staged, and because he was hungover he elected to nap instead of help. He insisted that he'd help out later but I knew better. I did it all myself.
Eventually the process became too much to bear. He basically had a nervous breakdown and said he couldn't be in the house. There was still paperwork to be done with the agent, and all our stuff needed to be packed. But he just... couldn't be there. A friend's place was furnished but empty, because she'd begun staying with her new boyfriend. He stayed there for 2 and a half weeks, living like an invalid, while I ran around like a courier with real estate documents, packed the house on my own, shuttled the dogs across town at a moment's notice (not to mention coordinating where they could go) in case the house was going to be shown to a prospective buyer. Oh, and I was also responsible for finding a new place to live. And I had a full time job. I essentially managed the sale of a house I didn't own, while effectively homeless and taking care of an unstable adult.
I work well under pressure. I handled everything without cracking, somehow. I found us a place to live and I had high hopes for a more normal future, as I was attributing the chaos to his living in a high-trigger environment. The plan was that once the house sold, we'd use his payout as a down payment on our own house. Eventually the house did sell, and he received the payout about 2 weeks before he had a falling-out with his only client. He chose to live on the money from the house instead of trying to find a new job. I vacillated between a cocktail of anxiety and fury as I watched it trickle away over the next year, and a resolute acceptance because it was never my money to care about to begin with. I mean.. we were married so one would think that coming to a financial middle ground would be reasonable, but no. I've always maintained the stance that I don't need your money, so I refused to bring it up as a point of contention. In hindsight, not merging finances made the divorce much cleaner.
Can I just say, it feels SO. FUCKING. GOOD. to have bought my house on my own. I alone needed to be present to sign paperwork. I alone am responsible for paying the mortgage. I alone make decisions about what improvements to make, how to organize the cabinets, what color to paint a room, what to plant in the yard. I'm not waiting on anyone to get off his ass, because most of what needs doing I can happily do myself, and if I can't I'm sure I can find someone I can pay to do it for me. While I am accustomed to doing everything myself, even in partnerships, the absence of someone who ought to be helping makes the whole experience better. I don't need your money. I have my own, thanks.
Friday, April 29, 2016
I was ready to go on the annual family camping trip. I liked to get an early start because who wouldn't want to start vacation early? He (let's call him Justin) was a procrastinator and every year it was the same, I'd be antsy to leave, get frustrated that he had left a litany of things to the last minute and he'd get pissed that I was rushing him. We finally got going around maybe 3:30pm. I'd hoped to leave by 11. We'd fight in the car.
As we were leaving my dad called. He was already there, and I figured it was the expected message from my family of why aren't you here yet. Cue "we're running behind" speech. Pretty sure everyone knew it wasn't me. But it wasn't that. Dad was hoping we hadn't left yet so we could pick up a bottle of tequila for him. Justin was happy to make the stop and got a bottle of Johnny Walker for himself, too.
Tents were set up, dinner was eaten, the campfire was lit. Stars started to come out and the bottle of tequila was cracked open. It was only Thursday so the real party hadn't started yet, that's usually Friday and Saturday nights. The bottle was passed around, usually staying in my dad's hands for a few swigs each round. I passed it and stuck to my own cocktail. My dad waxed about how proud of me he was.. and called me a quarter horse. If you didn't catch that, my dad compared me to a show animal. I raised my eyebrows in what I wish I could say was surprise and said "Just call me Seabiscuit." Other topics of conversation included the two small handguns my dad had tucked into he sweatshirt pockets, because, you know, you never know what could happen.
Finally, the only people left around the fire were my dad, myself, Justin and my dad's not-to-be-trusted cousin... we'll call her Tiffany. The rest had gone to bed and with only the thin nylon between them and the loud and boisterous conversation, I suggested we move to one of the other campsites that out family had reserved so they could sleep. Everyone says sure, and we decided to light a new fire in the other campsite. Tiffany's honest to god sincere plan was to light a large branch on fire as a torch and carry it through the forest to the other camp site. 23 year old me had to explain to 40something year old Tiffany that it was not a good idea, and actually I took the torch from her and placed it back in the fire pit. Let's not burn down the campground, thanks.
The new fire was lit in a relatively sane manner. More loud conversation continued, until our people in this site were almost certainly annoyed. Not keen on getting the side-eye over morning coffee for keeping people awake, I audible announced that I'd be heading to bed, goodnight everyone. Justin elected to stay up. He and my dad had a good drunk going. In an effort to not be disruptive, they went down to the lake to finish the bottle of Johnny Walker and watch for UFOs. Dad has seen one before, he'll tell you all about it.
I awoke in darkness to a loud thud, which was my dad tripping on a stump in the dark and falling down. "Fuck." Crunch crunch, snap, crack; they traipsed through the rough area of the campsite, of course without a flashlight. Who needs those, or paths. I listened... do I need to get up or can I avoid the level 12 out of 10 drunk that Justin and my dad are both known to achieve? It became clear from their conversation that one of the small handguns that lived in my dad's pocket was missing. In a campground full of children. Wonderful. Well shit. I guess I have to get up.
Confusion and minor alarm... Tiffany was insisting that it was in his car, Dad was insisting that it wasn't possible and was muttering that she'd probably taken it. Meanwhile, Justin crawled halfway into our tent and passed out, sticking out of the tent from his knees down and his shoes still on. Doing my best to keep everyone calm I suggested we just take a look and see if it was in the car. What could it hurt? Sure enough, there it was. Tossed hapzardly on the floorboard. My personal belief is that it fell out of the sweatshirt, Tiffany found it and put it in the car. Whatever. It was found.
Standing by the car, my dad began to cry and apologize. I patted him on the shoulder and told him it was okay, that we found the gun and lets just all go to bed. He tearfully looked down at his sandal clad feet, covered in dirt and blood from the scrapes he'd acquired tromping through the forest without a light, and asked if I could help him clean up his feet. I walked him to my tent and wiped him off with babywipes. Like a child. I did the same for Justin, who then found has way entirely into the tent.
I crawled back into my sleeping bag.. still half drunk and groggy, my ears ringing. I wasn't sure what time it was but my guess was 3ish. How is this real life, I wondered.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Those that have known me more than 2 years have probably observed that in terms of making changes in my life, I don't stick to slow, steady incremental changes. I tend to err on the side of huge life-shaking change all at once. I'm wrapping up the second of these in as many years. It's kind of like molting. I shed my skin entirely and start fresh. Somewhere you might be able to find vestiges of a shell worn by a stressed out codependent woman watching her drunk husband fail to pay taxes for the third year in a row and withholding comment to avoid a new hole in the drywall. Just leave it, its refuse for a reason.
I like change. I find it to be exhilarating and rarely does it leave me worse off than I started. Stagnation is something that's impaired me, but when I step out of a rut and open up to change and just let it flow, wonderful things usually happen. I have heard that this kind of thing is scary and hard for lots of people. I wish I could figure out how to bottle the sense of liberation that comes with a fearlessness of change.
It may sound odd, but sometimes there are little omens that present themselves. Kind of like the symbols in dreams but in waking life. The last time I turned my life upside-down (left my husband, moved and got a new job within the span of a month), I found beetles in my home. Come to think of it, I think there were three over the course of a week. Ten days ago there was a beetle in my kitchen window. I remembered them as ambassadors of change, so I scooped it up and gently deposited it outside as I'd done with the others a year and change prior, and said aloud "I see you. Bring the change, I'm ready!" Today, I received and signed a contract for a new job, which will allow me to work from home and do something I believe in. Tip o' the hat to my beetle friend.
If there's any advice I can give anyone its that nothing will change if you don't. Adaptation is hard but it gets easier with practice. Trust me.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Thursday, April 21, 2016
I feared that my ex husband would find my little apartment downtown some night in a drunken rage and try to kick my door in. He's kicked doors in before.. and put holes in walls and slashed tires and dented street signs. I wouldn't put it past him. But he never did. His apathy towards life in general, I'm guessing, was the reason he never put forth the effort. Once he found out I was seeing someone new, he cussed me out via google chat and then didn't contact me again (other than a couple random one-off things.. but those were much later).
Last boyfriend was not an angry person. He never yelled, he never did anything violent. In hindsight this may have been the result of frequent opiate use, but in any case, my perception was that he was a gentle person. I had a quicker temper than he did, and thought it a good thing that he never escalated when I'd get upset. I did not think he would be the type to make for an unpleasant break-up.
This last Monday I was shown all the electronic avenues via which I'd forgotten to block him, since he sent me pleading messages on every single one. I even recevied a message via the fitbit app. Tuesday was much the same, with multiple messages and phone calls. I made clear that I would not be in contact on the first of the month, so despite many "if you want me to stop just say so" lines I refrained. I am not a fish, you can't bait me. Tuesday on my way home from work I received an email with the header "I have pictures you probably want" and a photo attached of myself, that I'd taken for him partially undressed but with my face omitted. I was never totally comfortable taking those kinds of pictures because of just such a possibility, but I played along and made sure to never have my face in them.
To me, this is a threat of blackmail. Not a very good one, but a threat nonetheless. I called his father to let him know what his son was doing to a lady, and asked him to try and talk some sense into him. I received a few more defensive messages after that, and then he stopped. I arrive at home each day with the possibility in the back (okay, the front) of my mind that he might be there waiting for me. I wake up each morning and look out my front windows to see if he's on my street, waiting for me to leave for work. I have actively and consciously been thankful that my office is badge-secure with a doorman. I have considered how I would handle him approaching me while I'm on a date. I have to think of all scenarios that could result from his apparent instability. It is exhausting.
It's been quiet for a couple days. I hope it stays that way.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
I realized that I was a couple days late in making a credit card payment today. That's pretty unheard of for me.. I am usually very on top of things. It sort of sent me in a tailspin of self doubt and mental flagellation. Stress. I imagine someone asking me "what do you have to stress about?" Work. Money. The aftermath of deleting someone from my life. Being good enough.
Being good enough. That's probably the realest, most encompassing of them all. Being prepared and responsible enough, financially. Being thin enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. Articulate enough. Charming enough and adept enough to handle whatever comes my way. Being productive and skilled enough to get all my garden tasks done. Being accomplished enough.
I sometimes feel like it doesn't matter how much I achieve, that the scars of my past will always be a black mark on my record. My decision to stay with an abuser for the time that I did will always be an indication of poor judgement. My divorce, legal documentation of my failure to recognize a bad situation when I should have. Every mistake, every miscalculation, every failure is a permanent indication of my shortcomings.
The out I usually give myself is "better late than never," but only because there's nothing I can do to change it now. Deep down, I still believe I should have done better. Should have known better, been sharp enough to get it then. Better than my environment would lead me to be.
Anyway. Back to work. I'm not getting enough done there, either.
Friday, April 8, 2016
Sometimes I feel a restlessness that can't be abided or assuaged by a glass of wine or a cup of tea at home and a magazine. Sometimes I feel the need to get out of the house and talk to someone. And because my friends are busy, dynamic individuals, sometimes they are not available, and that's okay.
I have, since I reached adolescence, been comfortable speaking with strangers. I was raised by a very gregarious man and a socially anxious woman. My observation of them led me to the understanding that while you may think so, basically nobody is out to get you, and most people are open to a little small talk, and if neither of those is true, fuck 'em.
People are, for the most part, the same. We're just bags of flesh and bone and feelings and insecurities and we all seem to think other people pay an inordinate amount of attention to our shortcomings. They don't. But we do. And I can see that and it's so liberating.
I go out by myself because sometimes I don't feel like sitting and listening to my thoughts. I am an extrovert. I need to talk to people, human interaction is a big deal. Also it's a nice distraction. I take comfort in the cacophonous din, a blend of enthusiastic conversations, piped in tunes, the clink of glasses and ice beating the sides of cocktail shakers.
Sometimes I make friends. Sometimes I just tell myself stories abut the people I see. It's always a good time.
Monday, April 4, 2016
My month of chaos finally caught up with me. In the last 30 or so hours I was hit with a freight train-esque headcold. Complete with sinus pressure induced teeth and eyeball pain.
I lay half catatonic from nyquil, tea in hand, flanked by cats. I have stuff to write about but not the capacity to write it. Hoping tomorrow is better.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
Random and appropriate.
I spent the weekend feeding my soul.
Friday night I hosted an April Fools/Don't Suffer a Fool Slumber party to rechristen my home as a Fool Free bachelorette pad. I thought the idea was a little far fetched and that a lot of people wouldn't be into it, since we're all adults with responsibilities, many have kids and who has time for a slumber party past the age of 16? Well... apparently everyone. I did kind of use the "breakup duty" card, but the general consensus was that we need to have these more regularly. There was an over-abundance of food, drink and laughter; we sat around the fire pit out back having unspeakably raunchy no-holds-barred conversations, we counseled and cajoled each other for all of our varied life crises, it was everything I was picturing. When I and the handful of gals that stayed the night finally dozed off I think the clock was approaching 4AM..
The rest of the weekend has been a patchwork of gardening, catching up with friends, meeting a brand new tiny family member, and just general feel-good awesomeness. This morning I lived what I have long imagined for myself: tea on the back porch overlooking my garden, still in pajamas, entertained by my cats as they sniff around the yard, destroy a catnip plant and watch the squirrels run along the fence.
I'm settling into my space here. Part of why I love gardening is that it's something to do while spending time outside. I frequently don't prefer to just sit.. I like to keep busy, but I also like to get to know the land I'm living on. I like to become acquainted with the scrub jay that stabs at sunflower seeds on the fence and the inquisitive hummingbird, who appears to be perplexed by the inconsistency of the solar powered fountain bubbler when it drifts into dappled shade. I want to learn the audible patterns of my neighbors and how the light hits things at different times of the day. My first peach tree has set it's first little peach. I don't have my hopes up for it, but it's a thrill to see nonetheless.
I'm carving out my personal oasis and honing the fine details, day by day. I am happy.
Friday, April 1, 2016
Thursday, March 31, 2016
A couple months ago I felt like I was going crazy. I was having trouble trusting my partner, and now in hindsight, I know it's because he was gas-lighting me. I was right to feel like something was wrong, but because he insisted that everything was fine and was still effectively hiding the problem, I turned inward for the resolution. And so, I turned to my trusty notebook to organize my thoughts and get them out of my head. Often in these situations it helps to intellectualize it rather than just sitting with a bunch of emotional garbage, and having it all out on paper can be really clarifying.
I think it was late January that I made a list of what I thought were damaging patterns on my part: making assumptions, fixating on undesirable possibilities, being distrustful, "Not believing that I'm worth change and therefore not believing that change is possible." Ugh, that one. I made a list of exercises and replacement thought habits, and a list of boundaries that I should be mindful of. Don't try to control or monitor, don't obsess, try to put yourself in their shoes. etc. And then, because I am always prepared, I made a note to myself under the header "Worst Case Scenarios."
It reads "If I get duped, lied to, betrayed. I will still be ok. I will have the strength to move on and honor myself. If my needs are too much trouble for someone to meet, I will still be ok. That's their prerogative and I do not need to shrink to accommodate someone else. Needs are just that. I will still be ok. I will thrive."
It's almost like I knew. Because.. I kind of did. And I am thriving.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
So, officially, I am absolving myself of the stress that comes with this obligation. I do still intend to complete my hundred days. And I still intend to post every day. But, if circumstance or tiredness or forgetfulness prevents that now and again I will not be beating myself up about it. A friend pointed out today that the point is not the project itself but the things that surface when one is prompted to write daily.
I have been really busy lately with living life. Doing fun things with old friends, new friends, putting my new life together. Buying things I sort of need (more on that later). I started watching Sex and the City, which I'd only ever seen a couple episodes of, at the
At any rate, I'm still here. I'll still post. But I won't be guilt tripping myself over this damned thing. I've cut off human relationships for less, why would I do it to myself.
Monday, March 28, 2016
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Ah, the sweet smell of closure. It smells like new furniture, sounds like an empty spare room, and looks like needing to buy a tv.
I am fortunate to have a great group of friends who have my back. A couple of them took shifts keeping me company as I waited for the moving chaos to be complete and for my new bedroom furniture ro be delivered.
The transition was not unpleasant. Everyone was cordial and we even shared a round of mimosas. Perhaps the most amicable post-breakup move-out I've ever seen. Cheers to taking the high road.
Friday, March 25, 2016
"The answer is easy if you take it logically
I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover"
Trouble is, when you own the house, they have to leave. Please do, drop off the key, Lee, and set me free. Tomorrow I get to have my house back. I have been overlooking the room full of his things and getting on with my days, not really thinking about it but today I realized it was all kind of coming to a head finally and tomorrow I get to have closure and can actually move forward with my life.
At an earlier point in my life I probably would have looked at the situation, stony-faced and jaw clenched insisting that I'm fine and that none of this really bothers me. And while I really am fine and it doesn't bother me as a thing that's happening, I have to acknowledge that standing by as a person I once loved moves his belongings from my home is going to result in my being affected. Nothing that might make me reconsider, of course, but it's like picking a scab that had the last 20 days to start healing.
Fortunately, this is it. No "I have nowhere to put the piano" or "there's this one thing I missed" because it's all packed and organized and ready to go. No foot in the door, loose ends or hangers on. I don't have to feel this anxiety over dealing with this situation at all after tomorrow. The day before Easter. Fitting, I think. Resurrecting something for the sake of bettering things in the long run. That's kind of a stretch, but I'm not religious anyway.
I have the broom ready for the dust bunnies, and the sage ready for the juju tumbleweeds.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
I'm not sure what to write about today. I feel like I'm too busy living to spend any energy on reflecting. I'm existing in a state of acceptable chaos. That's saying something, since I normally prefer to keep the chaos to a minimum.
I've been encountering women who've been through similar situations. It's surprising how common it is. I have been kind of regarding it as something to shy away from in conversations with new people, in a "tuck in the crazy" sort of maneuver.
I am usually an open book but have been trying to practice not baring all the deep dark secrets of my life to anyone who asks. It's not really anyone's business necessarily, and while my experience is my story to tell if I decide to, there's something to be said for leaving some things mysterious. It's an odd balance between being myself and metering information. Figure I might as well try a new approach.
There are very few things I do every single day. Hygienic things, sure, but aside from that.. my habits vary. I do really well with having a routine, however, my routine was disrupted and I'm still working on establishing a new one. Actually that's not entirely true. I'm not trying that hard to establish a new routine. I'm not accountable to anyone but myself right now and I'm kind of reveling in that, and enjoying the freedom and spontaneity it offers.
In fact, I have been actively seeking out opportunities for new experiences, new people, a break from the norm. It wasn't a conscious decision so much as a kneejerk reaction to chaos and discomfort. I'd rather lean into the chaos and find a way to make it mine instead of allowing it be be inflicted upon me. Bending so as not to break.. or something like that. Indulgences are entertained, sleep is shrugged off (until I need to be up in the morning for work.. *yawn*) and I become a more adventurous and less hyper-responsible version of myself.
I'm sure it'll even out. But, this time it needs to even out absent the influence of having a person to anchor to. I mentioned in a previous post that I go a little crazy when I'm single. The thing is, I historically have not stayed single long. I have been single for less than a year, cumulatively, in my entire adult life. A couple months when I was 18, three-ish months when I was 20, one month when I was 27.
And now here I am. Single again and tired of doing the same things over and over. Tired of going all-in with guys who didn't deserve that level of commitment from me, but got it anyway because I didn't know how else to be in a relationship. I'm a year and a half away from 30, I'm a homeowner, I have a good job and a semi-clear career path, and I know the tricks to opening a tough jar on my own. I don't need a man (or a parent, or a friend or benefactor) to cover my expenses, reach the tall shelves or make me feel valued. I value myself.
That said, companionship is fun, as are flirting and intimacy and all the components that go into dating and courtship. My goal is to approach these things in a way that allows them to be abundant in my life, but doesn't compromise what I deserve or my decision to live alone until I'm at least 30. I have been exercising my newly acquired skill of dismissing men who might be nice but aren't right for me. The long ingrained rule 'be polite, don't hurt anyone's feelings' was a detriment to standing up for what I want for a long while. It still doesn't come super easily, but I'm getting more comfortable with doing it. It's a necessary evil.
Anyway, this was a bit of a ramble, but it's a post, which is more than I managed yesterday. Cheers to doing it better.
Monday, March 21, 2016
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Friday, March 18, 2016
"I want to get into modeling so I can prove my parents wrong" she half yelled over the din of the crowded bar as she marked a tally indicating this was her 7th shot of tequila on her inner wrist, next to the daintily scripted "faith" tattoo. "They told me I'm not pretty enough to be a model." "Oh, wow, really?" I shook my head and continued sipping my first beer of the night. I shuffled around in the little footprint of real estate I'd carved for myself, occasionally nodding 90s R&B jams and shifting to avoid the contact of men with no regard for personal space or the inappropriateness of touching strangers.
What seemed a while but was probably really only about an hour and a half later, I bellied up to the bar and asked for 2 bottles of water. One for her now and one for the road. The fellow next to me was also not 22, as my new acquaintance is, and gave me a nod of respect for keeping things under control. We made it out in one piece aside from the comically domino-esque spill we all took on the way to our patiently waiting Uber (lesson learned: if they're going down, let them). She rode back to my house in the back seat with her face out the window in a not un-canine like fashion. I pulled out the sofabed and dressed it and while my friend helped her into the house. I observed with some combination of concern, disgust and mild amusement. My friend comforted her while she sobbed into the toilet, lamenting her various life choices and probably the disapproval of her parents. The last I checked her wrist tally had been at 9.
I don't usually go out on "amatuer nights" as I like to call them. The big drinking holidays: St. Patricks, Cinco de Mayo, etc. My dear old friend who's just not quite all the way finished holding on to her sorority girl days and eager to show her young new friend a good time talked me into it, and after watching the two of them in my kitchen take 4 shots of tequila in succession to pre-game, we were out on the town. I think the best part of my night was chatting with the one fellow who bought me a beer. I wasn't interested in him romantically at all, but he was in agriculture and had come up with some interesting sustainable way of managing food waste. It made for better conversation than the sea of green-clad dudebros nodding "sup."
Even when I was her age, if I went out with a group of girls, I have always acted a bit like a herding dog. Never really easing up and cutting loose because I am peripherally watching the friend of a friend in the group being cornered by a lecherous admirer, or this other member of the tribe is inconsolable after a cryptic text from this guy she's seeing, or someone's fallen off their stool and spilled her drink on herself. Oh, you'e gonna be sick? Let's get you to the bathroom.. or that potted plant will do. okay.
As I was writing this I remembered that she got sick on my front lawn. Must remember to hose that off when I get home. I'm really glad I'm not 22.