Thursday, June 30, 2016


I am really reveling in all the summery goodness this year. In years past, summer has sometimes been a stressful time, with too many obligations and too little time in which to meet them. Parties and barbecues would start fun and but take a turn as the liquor took it's toll on my S.O.; or even last year was a scramble trying to get my house put together since I closed on it in mid June. But this year... this year I'm free. I can attend parties without fear of having, in a matter of hours, to embarrassingly schlep my completely faded husband home where we'd inevitably fight for another several hours. I can accept invitations to skip town for an impromptu weekend in Tahoe. I can spontaneously book a flight to Portland to visit some dear friends. I can eat ALL the ice cream (not that I ought to... ahem).

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


One way to gauge whether I'm happy is to note whether I'm cooking. I like to cook, but when I'm unhappy with how my life has been going, I just don't feel motivated to get in the kitchen and make stuff happen. I've been cooking lately. I'm sure it helps that I've got a steady flow of fresh vegetables coming in from the garden to inspire me. Fortunately I haven't yet grown bored with summer squash, green beans and tomatoes. 

Life is good. My weeks have been filled with impromptu pool parties, trips across the state, making new friends, wine tasting in Napa, ice cream cones and hammock lounging by a lakes. I have a handful of camping trips to look forward to, a handmade goods exchange, and probably several more pounds of produce from the garden. Good things are abundant and I want for very little. 

Someone asked me today what my plan is for the foreseeable future; several months, five years, however long. For the first time I don't really have one. For as long as I can remember, I have had a running list of things I wanted to do/achieve, and now... I have basically crossed them all off. There are little things that are on my list.. (get chickens, get a deck built out back, organize the garage, set up a retirement plan) but those are just a matter of budgeting and aren't really the kind of life milestones that I'd set my sights on in the past. 

I finished school, found a satisfying career, got married and had a big wedding and a honeymoon (and a divorce), bought a house, built my garden. That's basically all I ever wanted. The failed marriage may not have been on my list of goals, but it was necessary for me to learn the things I needed to learn about myself and about life for the rest of it to fall into place. I am as contented as I suspected I'd be. 

I don't really know how to answer the "five year plan" question anymore. I guess the truest answer is that I just want to pay off all my debt, continue to carve out my oasis on my modest parcel of California, and have adventures. Do fun things with fun people, see new things, go to new places. Eat good food, drink good wine, make love, laugh, run barefoot and jump in lakes. 

I don't know if I'll get married again, or if I'll have kids, or if I'll ever go back to school or get a professional certification, and right now, maybe for the first time in my life, I'm not really worried about figuring any of that out. Right now I am enjoying right now. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Lately I feel like I've been given a lot of opportunities to prove my growth. I think my immediate rejection of an addict when faced with the reality of what was happening was a big one. Another recent one was a visceral 'yuck face' when my dad apologized for an inebriated transgression and punctuated it with "I'm sure at some point you can help to fix me."

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


Last year when I moved into my house from my little one-bedroom apartment, I took a cab to the U-Haul, where I rented a truck and drove it back to my apartment in time for the movers I’d hired to get started. It was my first time driving anything that large and I was a little nervous, but it went fine. The feeling reminded me of the first time I ever pumped gas. It’s silly because it’s such a simple task, but nobody showed me how. “You’ll get it, it’s not that hard.” My dad said. On one hand his confidence in my abilities has been a buoy, but on the other, both of my parents’ partial absenteeism from prioritizing getting lit left me flapping in the wind a bit. I’ve learned to be fearless in making change in my life and trying new things and getting things done, but there has always been part of me that wishes I didn’t have to be. My mom was going to pick me up from the U-Haul and take me back to my car after the move, but she wasn’t feeling well. I took another cab back.

The truth is I don’t really know what it’s like to be able to rely on someone. The adage “if you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself” for me as always begun “if you want done at all…” I don’t know what is appropriate to ask for, I don’t know what kind of help is reasonable to expect. So I don’t ask, and I don’t expect. I accept kindnesses when they’re offered, and offer them freely. I also don’t know what level of help or generosity is appropriate to give. When buying gifts, I always feel like whatever I’ve gotten is not quite enough. I don’t want to be a doormat, and I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or feel obligated. 

My habit in relationships past was to just give everything. I like to be thoughtful and sweet and indulge the one I am with but I’m not sure it was always appropriate. Perhaps it was just the ones I was with, but it created an imbalance and a precedent and my kindness was taken advantage of. I always allowed myself to be leaned upon, but never did the leaning. I don’t know how to lean. I have never been given reason to believe that the thing upon which I might lean wouldn’t give way and send me crashing to the ground. If I’d just not dared to lean, I might be fatigued but I’d still be standing.

But I am fatigued. I want to lean. I want to believe that there’s something sturdy enough out there. I think that I have wanted to believe it in the past, too, so I listened to untrue tales of “I’ll be there for you” and let myself believe them. I fell for the mirage of reliability, stability, comfort.. in people who really just wanted to use me. I don’t want to be duped again. I don’t want a mirage. But I don’t know how to tell the difference.


So much awful stuff is happening in the world lately, and as much as I hate to admit it, I've been sheltering myself from it. I don't want to grieve, I don't want to be angry, I don't want to lament the fact that there any one person can do to change anything about any of it. It's not apathy. It's learned helplessness. No amount of exposing myself to ugliness and tragedy is going to make me better equipped to help any of those things from happening in the future. I cannot single-handedly end rape culture. I cannot do anything at all about gun violence. I vote, but even then, representatives do whatever they want.

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


I like to think of myself as strong, capable, resilient. I like to maintain that I am unaffected by stumbling blocks and setbacks. Surely I stumble, but I will never let them knock me down. I sincerely believe that I can do just about anything, if I were to learn how. I say that I am invincible, or at least nothing's killed me yet.

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


There are a couple schools of thought of Adult Children of Alcoholics. One is promoted by AA/CODA which cites a Laundry List of traits. The other is a simpler summary list of 13 Characteristics developed by Dr. Janet Woititz. I tend to prefer the latter, in part because I identify with a majority of the points, as they're presented there, an also because the Laundry list has a flip side, a second laundry list and that one has a flip side, and while I can understand that a broad range of characteristics could result from growing up in a dysfunctional environment, I find it to be a bit much.

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


It's been a while. I noticed something when I used to keep a journal; I would only write when I was discontented. I would write to work out the dilemma. Or, as was often the case, to talk myself into not feeling shitty about circumstances that it was perfectly reasonable to feel shitty about. I have periodically gone back and read some of the previous entries as I became more mentally well, more removed from the abuse, more capable of seeing things clearly. It usually makes me sad, because I can see the ways in which I'd participated in allowing myself to be mistreated. I'd eaten up the lines about how it was my fault, how I was the problem. I used my journal to perpetuate my own gas-lighting. Later I'd use it to practice gratitude and focus on the things I was happy with in my life, which in hindsight was a coping mechanism. Turns out, when life is actually good, one doesn't need to make a concerted effort to be thankful for contrived blessings.

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.