Better late than never

I’m realizing more and more lately that I don’t know how to remain in a state of contentment. I am pretty sure I never learned how, there was always something going on, something changing, someone moving in, someone moving out, constant motion. When I look back to when I was little, the one thing that sticks out in terms of consistency was the feeling that I couldn’t settle down emotionally because the majority of my weekends (and sometimes weeknights) beyond the age of 8 or 9 were spent somewhere other than my home, in my bed. Sometimes I slept at the house of the woman who cared for my aging grandmother, or with a family friend that I didn’t really like, or at a friend’s house. I honestly can’t say how often this happened, but it was a regular enough occurrence that I vividly remember how it felt to be ‘shuffled off’ to somewhere else.

Why was I being shuffled? Because my parents had to spend their free time dealing with the ever evolving, ever emotionally draining, and ever challenging enigma that was my older brother. They drove hours to Pennsylvania to visit him while he was enrolled in ‘school’ (it was really a rehabilitation center for troubled youth). Or, they went to secret court meetings with lawyers to work out what would be the best course of action when he stole the car. Or, they were out looking for him when he ran away from home for the 15th time. It must have been so difficult for them. They were trying to care for the their troubled kid who sought their attention through vehement rebellion and utter behavioral dysfunction. That’s what they had to do. They were without a choice; he was self-destructing by the age of 11. But, in the process they were essentially forced to neglect their other kid who’s emotional hard drive was being infected with a nasty, invisible virus.

It wasn’t as if I was abused or had a terrible time while my entire family was away from me doing things I wasn’t a part of. I usually had a great time with my friends. We watched Rated R movies before I was allowed to – Silence of the Lambs when I was 12 – Yikes…no wonder I have an unnatural love for Stephen King. We ate candy until we were practically sick and wrote the names of our crushes in cursive all over any surface that could be easily concealed. We obsessed about when we would get our first period. It was a very formative time, one I remember fondly. Mostly.

While I have the good memories, I still carry the hurt of feeling left out during those years. I didn’t understand why my parents always had to be ‘away’, or why they never explained where my brother was. He would simply be gone and then he would magically reappear one day without a word of explanation. All I did know was that I couldn’t get too comfortable at home because I would have to pack a bag and sleep somewhere else in a matter of days. I know my parents were protecting me – as they should have – I just haven’t been able to shake how consistently difficult it can be for me to remain content where I am.

Is that because when I was a pre-teen I spent many, many nights in a foreign house, knowing that the following weekend I would be in a different foreign house? Is that why, to this day, I am so annoyingly unable to sleep soundly in a bed that isn’t mine? Is that why I developed a destructive coping mechanism, because I learned that being away from home meant something bad was happening behind the curtain of protection? Is it why I feel more anxious nowadays than I ever have because things in my life are actually going, dare I say, smoothly?

I’m pretty sure that’s part of it. I’ve spent years not being able to truly settle into a pattern of healthy, positive, loving behavior because I’ve either been sorting through a loss, a giant mess of my own making or I’ve been bracing for the shit to hit the fan again. Part of me is waiting for that to happen now. That’s where the anxiety comes from – the anticipation of something awful, life changing and completely out of my control barreling straight for my pretty little forehead.

And that’s fine. Things will happen. Life isn’t easy and it owes me nothing. I can breathe more freely, more deeply now. I can sit with anxiety, knowing that it is fiercely fickle and will eventually move on.

The last 7 months have been a lovely, progressive shift from some dark, dark days into the light for me. The relationship I’m in grows more complex and fulfilling with every passing week. I got accepted to graduate school and my classes start May 15th. I’m going to move in with my boyfriend in the next few months. My future seems bright, and more importantly, it feels possible. 

Everything feels so new. Everything feels so exciting. Everything feels so fragile. I don’t want to check out because I feel anxious. I don’t want to miss anything that is unfolding now, I am so very aware of how precious it is. My life is finally, finally facing in a direction that I am in love with and I deserve it. However, I’ve never, ever had this feeling before – it’s no wonder I feel nervous. Of course I’m going to feel scared to let myself curl up like a cat sleeping in a band of sunlight because I’m brand new to the areas of healthy relationships, meaningful work and self-acceptance. Brand spanking new.

But, it’s never too late to let go of the insecurities of the past and embrace the confidence of the future.

Never. Too. Late.

Good Girl Addict vs. The Need to Help

Today I find myself filled with anxiety. Filled. To the brim. Anxious belly, tight shoulders, tension headache. The works. I know why I’m feeling this way and miraculously it has zero to do with booze (I’m now on day 6 of no alcohol. SIX!!) But it does have to do with what I’m slowly beginning to recognize as another layer of my addictive behaviors; I get consumed with other people’s ‘stuff’.

*Sigh*

I have always been this way, especially when it comes to men in my life (I choose the ones that are wrong for me. Really wrong And I secretly, fervently and unrealistically hope for them to change into exactly who I want them to be. Which we all know will never happen. Aces.)

I’ve never experienced it this intensely though – me getting mixed up and involved in someone else’s bullshit. Maybe that’s because I have a tiny, oh so tiny amount of clear headed sobriety under my belt and I’m actually beginning to feel my feelings again? Could be. All I know is, I got an alarming phone call yesterday from someone who should really be living in my past and I didn’t hesitate to say “YES” to helping him out of a jam that was 100% his own fault.

I’m not going to go into knitty gritty details. It was just your basic mess which comes from bad decision after bad decision mixed in with some serious denial and avoidance and….voila…he’s in trouble and needs someone (me) to bail him out. What alarms me is not that he found himself in trouble – again – but that I didn’t think twice to jump in and help. I didn’t have to help. I really, truly didn’t. But I just couldn’t help myself. I needed to get my hands in there and help him fix it. Fucking needed to. And, I felt like it was the right thing to do…so really it was the perfect combination of my people pleasing and helping syndrome. Good Girl to the rescue! Just another addiction to hang on my wall I suppose. Another thing I really should not fuck with anymore.

The reason said fuckery must be put on hold is this: I have been triggered and affected by what happened yesterday and I don’t have it in me to feel this way any longer. It’s way too much. I thought I would feel good about helping him and glad for my effort. But I didn’t. What I felt was exhaustion. Bone deep tiredness.

Exhaustion because, without knowing it, I give everything I’ve got emotionally and mentally when I’m in this ‘I have to help’ mode. I rush around and feel frantic. It’s not healthy for me. I completely do it to myself. All he did was ask for help. I could have easily said NO. But I didn’t and he knew I wouldn’t say no. That’s why he called me first.

I am still trying to save Tom in some way – this person and my brother are cut from the same cloth, Whoa Nelly – and if I can help the living, breathing version of Tom that I see in front of me then, in my Good Girl Addict way, I feel less guilty for being a ‘bad’ sister to my dead brother. Ugh.

At least I can see it. That’s the good news. I went ahead and fulfilled my misled Good Girl Addict need without thinking about it and now I know that it’s a need that doesn’t lead me anywhere worthwhile. Ever. I can see that I still need to be needed by people that are bad for me. I can see that I still need to help those who refuse to help themselves.

I’m ok with those needs. I will be able to recognize them the next time something pops up and I want to rush into overdrive to head into battle without thinking. I am learning myself. I am learning what I want for my life and what I don’t. That in and of itself is a miracle. Being able to say, ‘no, I just can’t help you because I need to take care of myself first’ is a tremendously large step forward for me. That’s what I will say the next time something happens….because I know it will.

 

6 Days.

 

The Parking Lot of Pain

So. I had a session with my therapist today and she (as per usual) had some fantastic nuggets of wisdom for me. I read ‘Visiting Day’ to her. Her immediate question when I finished was, ‘Does the pain really still feel that big to you, even now?’ My answer was, ‘Yes.’ I wish my answer was something different, but as of today, it’s not.

I then told her about a dream I had the night before I wrote the post. In it, I was walking through a huge parking lot. A Target style lot. Rows and rows of empty spaces on either side of me. The air was humid, saturated with moisture and very close. My clothes clung to me like barnacles. I was pushing an overloaded shopping cart. I had no idea what was in it, only that it was cumbersome, heavy and difficult to navigate. I was trying to get to my car as quickly as I could because of the heat. I loathe the heat. But because of the damn cart I wasn’t covering any ground. It was almost like the pavement was half melted and the wheels of the cart were forever getting stuck, twisted and off course.

I glanced behind me and saw a group of five 13 or 14 year old boys following me. They had an intense ‘Lord of the Flies’ energy about them; all charged up on primal testosterone-fueled anger. Their faces may have even been painted and they were literally carrying spears. They were gaining on me because of my snail-like pace. I could have left the cart and started to run. This idea didn’t occur to me. I just dug in my feet and continued to push. Before I knew it, the leader of the pack starting whooping, ran at full speed toward me and smacked me square on the ass – HARD. He said, ‘Get the FUCK out of here!!’ I felt the slap, but not in the good way. It Hurt. And then I woke up.

I didn’t think of it again until I was in session with my therapist today. Right away, she knew what the dream was trying to slap me (literally) with. The pack of boys represented my brother and his tumultuous existence. Their anger was Tom’s anger. It was my anger too. All my anger directed at myself. She reasoned that the parking lot represented my pain. Big. Suffocating. And she went further still saying that the boys were trying to literally kick me out of my pain. They wanted me Gone from that giant lot. Disappeared. Never to return. It was like they wanted to be left there in peace. I had been overstepping my welcome for far too long and they were just plain done with me. Done.

And holy shit. The boys in my dream and my therapist were both SO right. I feel this pain of mine too much. I turn it over and over in my hands. I gaze at it. I worship it. My Precious.

Putting the tribe of boys in my dream together with what’s been going on in my life, (e.g., drinking daily, not exercising, feeling stuck as fuck) was exactly what I needed. My eyes opened and it clicked – I’m stuck in my pain. I’m addicted to my pain. It’s like I’ve been laboriously pushing that damn cart up and down the rows, looking for a car that isn’t there (and probably never was) since 1997. It’s a fruitless and tremendously exhausting endeavor, one I’ve been trying to perfect for years.

And I don’t have to stay stuck there. I can give up the search for my non-existent vehicle and simply walk away. First I have to let go of the shopping cart. That has to stay in the lot. I know it.

All I have to do is….Let………Go.

It’s so simple.

Mindfulness and awareness have always been my biggest allies. Both have helped me immensely to foster change in my thinking and behaviors in the past. Remaining aware and mindful is where I struggle; it’s oh so easy to fall off the wagon.

But nowadays I have a blog. I can come back to this and re-read it any time I need a reminder of what I already know. I have friends who check in and can help me remain accountable and blissfully aware. I do not have to do this alone. That’s one prime piece of knowledge I want to remain especially mindful of.

I am not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting Day

Today is July 16th.

I saw my brother alive for the last time on this day 19 years ago.

He hadn’t been living with my parents and I for a few years. He wasn’t around much during my adolescence. He ran away a lot. He bought and sold drugs. He tried to kill himself. He spent a lot of time in group homes or juvenile detention centers. In the last few years of his life he was living with his girlfriend. When he did manage to make an appearance at the old colonial farmhouse we grew up in it was always because he needed something.

That day he needed money. I knew he needed money. He came sweeping into the kitchen, cool as a cucumber, ‘where’s mom?’

‘Out’, my curt reply. I was so mad at him. He had caused so much pain and never given anything back. I hated him for leaving me alone with my parents and sick grandmother. I hated him for taking my parents’ attention away from me when I needed it too. I hated him for being so fucking selfish and never asking me how I was. I hated him. I hated myself for hating him.

He showed me his new piercing. Tongue. It looked like a wad of raw hamburger; slick, swollen and red. ‘Wow, gross.’ My second short reaction to my big brother who used to have nothing but my worship when I was really little. Even though I was angry at him and didn’t know how to love him, I was really happy to see him. He would always be my cool big brother. Oh, how I wanted, needed his attention. God.

He shuffled his feet and looked toward the door, ‘Will you tell mom to call me? I need to ask her something.’

‘Sure,’ I said. I watched as he angled his body toward the porch without looking back at me.

‘See you later.’ His last words to me. Ever. I nodded and silently flipped the bird at his back.

I watched him walk back to the car idling in the driveway, his friend who drove him smoking a butt. I could see sweat beaded on his forehead as he sank into the passenger seat. The door slammed with a finality I didn’t yet understand. The car backed up, drove down the dirt packed driveway. Out of my life. Forever.

That was the last time I saw Tom. He died in a car accident the next day, along with another young man. The person driving the car wasn’t drunk or high. Just irresponsible and reckless. Going around a hairpin curve at 70 miles an hour can take lives.

19 years.

I used to think that this pain would go away. I used to assume it wouldn’t hurt as much as it once did. But that’s just not the case. On days like today, when my dreams feature him and his ghost feels so near, the pain is as big as it was back then. The loss doesn’t go away. The grief doesn’t leave. It never, ever stops hurting. All you get is distance from the pain. Sometimes it’s across the country. Sometimes it’s a block away. Other times it’s sleeping in bed with you. And others still it’s in your fucking blood.

Today is one of those times for me. I can hear the songs played at his funeral mass, ‘Fur Elise’ and ‘Every Breath You Take’ as covered by Puff Daddy. I can smell the flowers at his funeral and see the white roses of my ‘sister’s bouquet’ perched amongst the arrangements. I can hear the young girl asking my mother to open his casket so she can see him one last time. I can feel my mother’s kind reaction as she soothes a stranger while her son lies dead 5 feet away. I can feel the humidity of the July air as we buried him. All of it happening in my head in vivid living color.

It will pass. It will lessen. Soon, the pain will click its’ dusty bootheels on the pavement, steadily moving away from me…but it will always come back for a visit. Always.

No choice

As I mentioned, I am adopted. In 2014 I decided to find my birth parents. I was 34. I found them, met them, fell in love with them and then lost their affections 5 months later. I started writing the story of my life immediately after I met them. I didn’t have a choice. The need to write it was immense. Much like the need to start this blog. Maybe I really am a writer?

I tentatively named my memoir ‘Pandora’s Box’.

I started out with how happy I was to know my biological beginnings – and oh my GOD, was I over the moon to know where my nose came from, to learn that I have FOUR half siblings (!!!) and that my birth parents were always, always, always thinking about me. That was just the tip of the iceberg. I will revisit this topic and talk about it in more posts to come. Don’t you worry.

For now, I just want to share a small excerpt. The beginning of the passage is recalling how I couldn’t save my brother from himself and his inevitable death. Since then, I have always tried to find someone to love who also needs to be saved. Ever the caretaker am I.

I’m nervous about sharing this…but here goes —

‘My mind gave up on trying to reach him at an early age, but my heart. Oh, my heart. She never gave up trying to find someone just like him to love. Relationships. That word carries a lot of weight in anyone’s life. Relationships are complicated. Involved. They take work. Investment. Relationships can be difficult. Beautiful. Fulfilling. Exquisite. They can ruin you. Devastate you. You can completely lose yourself and any sense of who you are in an unhealthy one. Or, you can plant a seed with someone and grow little healthy versions of yourselves that eventually turn into generations of love and memories. It’s always a gamble. A risk.

To commit to someone and say, ‘I am yours, as you are mine, no matter where the course of our lives takes us.’ ‘I am yours’ has fucking consequences. Having someone to call mine has been the biggest thrill of my life. That singularly enveloping notion of ‘belonging’ is my adrenaline rush, my joy, my drug, my biggest challenge, my biggest downfall and my biggest failure. I tend to put far too much energy and emphasis into my relationships. I’m not talking about friendships, or family. I do not mean co-workers, acquaintances or buddies. I’m speaking of boyfriends, potential partners and lovers, all of which have never been able to win me over completely. Not a one. They each ran out of steam in their own way. Blew their load of bullshit all over my gorgeous face. My first boyfriend, with his needy tendencies. The guy in California, with his gaming, physical and emotional absence. The angry alcoholic, with his drinking, anger and mother issues. And finally, my most recent ex, with his immaturity and refusal to grow up. I saw all of these imperfections and flaws. I knew I would be sucked dry by each of them so I was forced to throw in the towel before I was entirely ready to. I certainly loved each of them and they loved me back. The love I shared with each of them just wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t enough because deep down, I really didn’t love myself. I never learned how. I learned many lessons on how to hate myself; not understanding why I couldn’t talk about adoption, not feeling like an important part of my family, hearing my brother belittle me because I didn’t tie my shoes the same way he did, being overweight and finally, at age 15 I was judged 100% on my appearance by someone I thought I was in love with. So, complacent and confused soul that I can be, I continued down the path of least resistance and stayed trapped in my self-hatred. I was too young to see how destructive the easy way would be. And in all honesty, I didn’t think I deserved anything better.’

 

Again and again…thank you for reading.

No Bargain

When did it all get so difficult?

I’ve been alone for most of my life. Of my 36 years on this plane of existence I have been single for approximately 29. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this number. In fact, most days I’m proud of myself for having the stones to be on my own for so long.

It’s no bargain folks. It takes serious independence and strength to forge your own way when the choices you have made haven’t ever panned out the way your sweet, overloaded and hopeful heart hoped. It takes guts and soul to pick yourself up after major breakup number 3 explodes in front of your pretty little face. It’s Not Easy to walk this walk. It’s Not Easy to know that when you are ready to burst at the seams from sheer overwhelmed exhaustion there’s no one waiting for you at home. No one there to offer a comforting shoulder or ear, specifically promised to you.

Please don’t take my stumbling, bungling attempt at explaining myself that I’m saying I don’t have friends or any kind of support system in my life. That is so far from the truth. I have friend upon friend who would answer my call if I said I needed to talk or vent. My mother would never turn a deaf ear to my rantings. Ever.

But those same staples of my younger years aren’t doing it for me the way they used to. I’ve just been noticing that the older I get the less I want to ‘bother’ or ‘interrupt’ my tried and true friends. All of them are coupled off or married, most with a couple of kiddos. And that’s lovely. Beautiful. They made great choices and life blessed each of them. They all deserve the good things in life.

Does that mean that I don’t feel blessed or that I don’t think I made good choices? No. I know I am blessed. I Know in my bones that it could always, always be worse. I know that I have many, many wonderful people and experiences in my life. I know my choices belong to me and I don’t regret any of them.

Does it mean that I don’t think I deserve the good things in life? You’re Goddamn right I don’t. My worth is all wrapped up in being adopted/abandoned/FAT/alone. My drinking pattern has been cumulative over many years. Remember, addiction is progressive. It creeps. It sneaks. It waits.

Life has dealt me some difficult times. I saw grief and utter desolation at 17. My troubled big brother – dead at 21. We didn’t have a good or even existing relationship when he died and I blamed him for that. I loathed him actually. I thought he was a leech and that he didn’t deserve my parents’ love. He made everything in our home difficult and angry and violent. I never forgave him for that. I cried for my parents when he died. I knew they were absolutely shattered. I didn’t feel anything, except disgust. And the guilt I feel typing that, even now – 19 years later….it’s brutal.

I can’t help but wonder why my path has been ever laced with pain – my brother was one of the early notches in my belt. I also wonder why I can’t shake it off and feel grateful and happy for what I have.

I need to reason out my emotions because they’re HUGE. I could walk all day down the corridor of one of those fuckers and still not be able to fully absorb it. I take on others’ emotions and don’t realize that my own stuff isn’t only mine anymore. It’s a mixture of his or hers and mine. It doesn’t separate like oil and water, it’s not fluid. The mixing I’m talking about is Thick; peanut butter and chocolate swirled together. It’s delicious at first, and makes harmony on your taste buds. It can initially taste so intoxicating that you get lost and consume too much and before you know it you’re addicted. This emotional mixing pushes me to the point of wanting to drink every. single. day.

I’m in a low place. I fully acknowledge and own that.

But nothing lasts forever.

This blog O’Mine is helping. I’m still drinking. I’m still overwhelmed. I’m still crippled with my Fears and Old Pain, but I’m offering it to the masses. It’s not remaining inside me any longer. Take what you want and leave the rest.