Some possible missions

I was talking to a friend the other day, about sobriety and breakups and other things that feel like getting punched in the guts. We were comparing “what have YOU done sober” stories. I have gone to more weddings sober than him, but he has gone on road trips with friends sober, while they were drinking, which I thought was impressive. He was amazed that I had traveled to Europe sober, and I was in awe of how he was going through a break-up without booze. It felt like we were comparing badges of honor. We were stocking up on sober experience, to make it to the next level. We were going on these impossible missions, and coming back alive. So now I’m thinking about sobriety as a series of missions. The question we ask ourselves is “Am I going to be able to make it through this xx without drinking?” and even if we’re feeling confident that we can do that it’s like “What will it be like doing xx sober?”

I will admit that viewing sobriety like a video game may feel like I’m trivializing the emotional energy this whole thing takes. I’ve been sober for two years, and last night I had to get up and walk around my dark house, breathing, remembering that I was here now, because I was running “here’s how life would be different if I had quit sooner” scenarios through my head. Then I went to sleep and had a drinking dream. That’s just a note to say that I still feel it, and it rarely feels light. But. This mindset around specific activities being missions on this crazy sobriety journey, I like.

I don’t know if you’re sober, or you’re a little curious about the sober thing, or if you’re my mom and you read all of my blog posts just to make sure I’m OK. Regardless, you’re doing hard things all of the time, and I bet you feel like it’s all normal and you don’t deserve to celebrate it. You’re an adult, and of course you should be able to xx. You should be able to go to a Christmas party where you’re ex will be, and you may additionally think you should be able to do that sober. Sure. You totally can. But that doesn’t mean that the loosely tied sober community out here doesn’t think you are goddamn amazing for doing so, and I bet there is a member of your current support system who would like to have the chance to congratulate you on doing that hard thing. It’s easy to forget, especially in sobriety, that you’re facing hard things head on, and it’s making you stronger. Every sober wedding, every sober trip, date, fight, lonely night, hard day at work, every SINGLE day you get out there and did what is hard to you, is a mission completed. And in theory, at least in my experience, knowing I can do that thing one time makes it easier the next time.

I got married about a month ago. I asked that there not be alcohol at the wedding, for one because it was at 10am, but also because large groups (40 people is large, OK?) plus booze make me feel anxious. I didn’t think of drinking once- we had so much coffee…it was dreamy. I felt like asking for that and feeling confident that my guests wouldn’t be terribly annoyed with their weirdo sober friend was a mission in itself. However, if I hadn’t done all of the mini-missions before that, like a sober bachelorette party, drinking sparkling juice the night we got engaged, celebrating with friends over tea, and on and on, this sober wedding mission may have felt impossible. It didn’t. There were moments, but I got through it. It’s pretty much the best surprise ever then, when the hard thing becomes enjoyable. That is undoubtedly some next level shit.

What kinds of missions are you going on? Does it feel easier every time or not? Tell me! I’m always interested in what you’re figuring out along the way. Keep up the good work, friends.

xo

You’re not alone in the dark. It’s just dark. Keep going.

It’s been a little over a year since I quit drinking. 3 years since I took a huge leap and left the life I planning with someone else, and went in a completely different direction. Sometimes I look around and realized how far I’ve gone, and how much good stuff I have here, on the other side of that time. I also see how much I still need to let go of, how much I need to soften in some spots and grow stronger in others. This is not a “it was bad and now it’s good” story as much as it’s a “I was there, and it was dark, and I couldn’t see the light, but now I can see both”.  For me, seeing that there was another way to live, without all of the abuse I was inviting into my home, my body and my heart, was what helped me go forward. Yes, things happen to us, and they’re not our fault. Also yes, we decide when to move, to let go, and to hold on to what holds us. You don’t need to own it all, to claim that it’s all your fault, to feel empowered. Some stuff wasn’t, some is, but it’s all behind you now.

This isn’t just about drinking either.

If your partner was an asshole to you, it’s much easier for some of us to believe that we really were too needy, just like they said, and that if we had thought more of ourselves, they would have too. Our insecurity was to blame, not their condescension.  Acknowledging that you were being mistreated is hard to accept, but that acceptance is the key. Then you can move forward, decide what to leave behind and carry with you, and then just keep doing that. Moving, letting go, holding on, moving, letting go, holding on. That goes for mistreatment of yourself too. Decide what to leave, move on, move forward, repeat.

I’m writing this today to tell you that if you’re looking for a story that sounds like yours, and haven’t found it, keep looking. I felt so alone when I went through a big break-up a few years ago, and when I moved to another state, alone, and especially when I quit drinking. It wasn’t until the last one that I started looking, or I should say urgently searching, for people who shared my story. Simply seeing that someone else had done the hard thing that I was trying to do, was comforting. We have such an opportunity to share and listen to each other; to find out where we’ve been and to see where we might go. So if you have a hard thing that you did, I hope you don’t feel like you need to hide it, to prove that you’re fine now. We need your story. And if you’re searching for answers, please, don’t stop. Ask. Search. Read. You’re absolutely not alone in the dark.

 

Boo! A story about ghosts.

ghost

ɡōst/

noun

  1. an apparition of a dead person that is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.

There’s been a ghost in my house, y’all. A “nebulous image” that’s been chasing me like a shadow. Let me tell you a story.

In the last year and a half, I have tried to deal with a bunch of change and grief in so many fun ways, most of which I’ve mentioned here already: running from it (figuratively and literally), drinking too much, dieting too much, dating too much and generally pretending that everything was ok when it wasn’t. Like, here is a hole…I will fill it with all of the things except more me. 

I reached a point of exhaustion with it all the other day, and something amazing happened. All of the too much-ness washed over me like a wave, and I felt like I had been knocked down. When I got up, I was alone on a shore of sorts (ok, it was my sister’s bed in Chicago), feeling dehydrated and sore, and could clearly see that I was holding onto a ghost in my mind. The ghost wasn’t just the past relationship. It was my old house and my old job. It was old habits. It was good things and bad things that had made up a home. I had spent the last 18 months trying to pretend that the ghost didn’t matter, until it all mattered too much to move. It was time to let the ghost go. It was dead. I couldn’t breathe anymore life into it. I suddenly felt like I had been sad enough.  I had cried and screamed enough. I had wondered “what if I had…” exactly enough. After wringing all that sadness out, I was left with a choice, as I saw it: I could let go and move, or cling and stay.

In the last 18 months, I’ve learned so much as I’ve stripped away the things that I no longer needed and added on new layers that were completely my own. In the end, it was me and the ghost on the shore. I forgave it enough, but I didn’t fall down at it’s feet. I looked it in the eyes and said goodbye. Now I’m walking away. It’s the most grateful I’ve been for a revelation in almost exactly 18 months.

Sometimes walking away is coming home.

xo

 

Emergency kit

When life gets hard, I pull out an emergency kit. My emergency kit has a dog in it. It also has coffee, a candle, sage and something to write with. There are some rings in there that remind me to be strong; one from my sister, and one from me. I put them on, make the coffee, and burn the things that smell good. I write with one hand and pet the dog with the other.

When emotions swirl in, and wrap themselves up in my head, I’ve been trying to resist the urge to do battle. I’ve been trying to learn about mindfulness lately, as I figure 488 million Buddhists can’t be wrong about something as simple as being present. I find it challenging because my brain is a pretty loud, jangly place. It is not a peaceful drive in the country. It is a sticky child in the backseat eating crayons, asking if we’re there yet.  So I’m interested in this mindfulness business, focusing on letting feelings come and just sort of observing them. This is uncomfortable at times, which is why I don’t think that the Buddha would mind me pulling out said emergency kit before sitting with all of this shit.

Eventually, I would love to feel comfortable wherever I am, with no need for a sense of security. My inner calm would be all I needed. For now, as I figure that stuff out, I’m not going to feel bad about the fact that my dog and some sage can help me avoid a panic attack. Or that sometimes they aren’t enough.  If I’m going to jump into all of this vulnerability, I need a baby blanket sometimes. Literally– I have the blanket I came home from the hospital in, on hand. JUST IN CASE. If I’m going to quit drinking booze to try to find some inner peace and balance, I’m going to occasionally eat ice cream while crying to my mom about how dating is hard when you have to tell dudes that you’d love to meet for drinks but that you won’t be drinking and could they please for the love of PBR just order a beer and not get weird about it?  I strive to love every inch of my body, because it’s mine and I know deep down that it’s great. I’m still going to spin into a body-loathing frenzy from time to time that involves trying on 7 pairs of jeans and then hiding in bed pants-less for a few minutes before getting back up and trying again.

Pants attack

When pants attack. *

Last summer, I wanted to do a headstand. I practiced almost every day in my room, smashing around, falling down, and sweating. It was not pretty. Eventually, I figured it out. I was able to do one. So I tried handstands. Same process, same smashing. I still can only hold it for a few seconds before I fall on my face, but those moments that I’m up there, balancing, feel good. The moments that I’m lying on the floor panting, checking for rug burn, also feel good. It’s a mess, but the whole thing makes my body stronger. Trying to do a handstand makes my arms just as sore as doing the actual handstand. Point: There aren’t good and bad parts here. Just parts. Trying parts, succeeding parts, starting over parts.

Today, I thought about some heartbreak, and I thought about some insecurity, and I felt small. I took a bath. I thought about all of the ways in which I am capable of treating myself like shit, and was tempted to do them all. I drank some coffee. I convinced the dog to snuggle with me by bringing all of my bedding to the couch. I lit a candle. I wrote this. Every step forward is a celebration.

 

*Want a colorful print of pants attacking? Comment here or share this post for a chance to win your very own copy, which I will send you in the mail. xo

Congrats to last week’s winner, the beautiful and talented Andrea Gallagher. I picked the winner live on Snapchat (me: perplexxis) so you know it was an honest random pick 🙂

GTFO vs. bloom where you’re planted

Honest admission: I want to put my bed into a camper van, toss the dog in there, with a bunch of paper and pens and paints. I would drive around the country, slinging art, sleeping in my van. In reality, I would have no clue how to fix a van if it broke down, and without my sturdy 9 to 5, I wouldn’t have the money to do it in the first place. I like showering in my shower. I like sitting in my bedroom, after work, burning candles and rearranging furniture.  I recently started contributing more than zero dollars a month to my 401K fund, and I feel good about it. If that doesn’t strip me of my wanderlusty free spirit badge, I don’t know what does. And yet, the desire to run remains.

ByeJobsmall

Dream*

When I get restless, I first look back, to see if that’s the place I want to be. It’s not.  Paulo Coelho says “I think it’s important to realize you can miss something, but not want it back”. I miss Chicago, I miss mysterious, toxic people, and I miss smoking and drinking and dancing until the sun rises, but I don’t want any of it back.

I decided to move to Michigan from Chicago a year ago, to recover after a breakup and to find comfort in a state that I grew up in. It was part knee jerk part planned reaction. Most things I try to plan go directly to shit, but somehow, this one worked out. I had planned on a year. A year is, in my mind, how long you stay somewhere. A year is long enough to find a new passion, or job, or lover or person to live with. It’s long enough to hate something, to discover something better, or to decide it’s time for a fresh start. After a year, with no real reason to leave, I have no idea what to do. This has led me to a discovery: I love to react. Anyone else? Not reacting is hard, right? I started thinking about moving out of Michigan. Why? No idea. I just feel like I have to do something. Staying and just doing the things I’m doing now feels wrong, even though I love the things. So how long do we stay? Why do we stay? How do we know if we’re running away from something or towards something and do we have to judge it? Sometimes words do battle in my head. The word “complacent” and the word “content” fight when this topic comes up and I haven’t come up with a winner.  Did I “run away” or did I “try something new” when I left Chicago? Does it matter, if I’m better for it?

I’m in a better place now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to run.

 

*Want me to send you a beautiful large print of this silly drawing I did? Leave a reply or share this post, and I’ll pick one of you at random and mail it to you.

16 months later + 620 words on heartbreak.

Heartbreak is no joke.  Whether you are the one that ends it or not, the end aches with loss and emptiness. Time passes, and sometimes it heals all wounds, like it’s supposed to. Sometimes it doesn’t. People tell you to keep on keepin’ on, because time will totally take care of your sad little heart. Recently I learned that if we don’t let ourselves feel our feelings, and get mad and confront certain shitty truths, time can pass, and we can stay in the same place.

I went through a really hard breakup a little over a year ago. I thought that time would fix things. I thought 6 months sounded about right. But then 6 months passed. I was still hurting. It was constantly on my mind. I met new people but was not fully present because I was always thinking that maybe I made a mistake. Maybe that past relationship wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe I needed that person in my life at the cost of so many other things. Only recently, I realized that time does help to numb the sharpness of the loss, but by pretending I was fine, that I wasn’t mad, that it didn’t hurt, I was keeping myself in the same shitty place, mentally. I kept small ties to the person I had been with, because finally letting go would mean exactly that. That I had let them go. I found this quote by Lou Doillon. She’s a beautiful French woman who writes and sings and acts and I would like to be her friend. She had things to say about heartbreak and I was all “yes, yes, mhmm, yes” about it:

The best way to deal with heartbreak, she said, “is to embrace it, to surrender to it, because it’s all right and it makes you a better person to let it destroy you. My grandfather used to say, ‘No one’s dead yet’. The worst drama in life is death. The second drama in life is heartbreak. The worst ones are the ones that have to do with passion. I do believe that passion is a projection and love is a projection, when you fall in love with people who are mysterious enough for you to project whatever you needed to project. Those are the worst heartbreaks because it was all a fantasy anyway. You’re closer to a junkie at that point, so you might as well surrender to [the heartbreak].”—Jezebel

I had so much trouble with surrendering to the heartbreak and the loss because it made me feel vulnerable. I was much better at hurtling myself through the day, with tear soaked cheeks and wine stained lips, yelling “I’M FINE” as I headed off to my zillionth yoga class of the week. I thought I looked very together. Nobody bought it, because wine lips don’t lie, and when I try to lie I fail miserably. So I had to give it up, and go back to square one. Crap.

Heartbreak is hard but I don’t think we need to fear it. Embracing it without romanticizing it, accepting that you might be sabotaging your own grief by not letting go, and being about 10 times kinder to yourself than you think you deserve. That’s my advice, based on a year of mistakes and wrong turns. I deal with as it comes, whether it’s every day or once a week. I just let it in. It’s like a ringing phone. I answer it, I let it talk, and I listen, and then I hang up the phone. Letting the damn thing ring and ring will drive you nuts. I just go with the hope that, one day, it stops calling.

xo

Thoughts? Feels? Leave ’em in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.