Transitional Willingness

I’m starting to accept that my career path is about to change. I’ve been ‘Annie the Nanny’ for almost 12 years now and for a long time, that was a huge part of my identity. I was the woman whom other women could depend on to help raise their children. I was their ‘go-to gal’, and Man Alive, did I love that shit. I loved that the kids would run to hug me when I walked in the door at 8am. I loved that the moms felt comfortable and confident leaving the precious little lives of their offspring in my extremely nurturing and responsible hands. I loved the freedom of not having another adult around watching my every move (there was a HUGE downside to that when the only interactions you’ve had during a 10 hour day were based on playing ‘dragon mommy’ with an extremely imaginative 5 year old girl and all you wanted was an empty chat about the new Starbucks latte coming out with a GROWN UP). I loved that I got paid to laugh Every. Single. Day. And truth be told, I still love that about my job. I got paid to take a 45 minute walk with a puppy today. I got paid to sit on my ass and watch 2 episodes of Walking Dead on Netflix too. Even though I am ready to move on from this line of work, there really are things about it that are priceless.

That said, the priceless moments of down time and exercise – while great in the health and relaxation department –  are making the very real fact that my brain and spirit have no real room to grow at my current job very, very apparent. The old me would sit on this realization for months and months, hemming and hawing and bemoaning the idea that yet another change was about to set its’ sights on me. The old me would wait until the job I was unhappy in started to suck my soul out. The old me would wait for it to get unbearable – loss of sleep, copious amounts of tears, general resentment throughout each day, anger…you name it –  before making a decision to really take some action.

Since I’m big into this whole Evolution of Annie right now I will say that the old me isn’t in charge anymore. The old me had the mentality of a 17 year old. She didn’t accept that change is a very real and manageable part of being an adult. She only saw change in black and white. Alive and dead. So, to her, a change meant the end of something….the death of something…or someone. That’s understandable. I get why that part of me viewed change in that way. I forgive her for that. I just can’t give her any more room to blow off steam.

I have been deep in the transition from the 17 year old I have felt like for the last 19 years to who I am today – the extremely capable, battle-tested, beautiful woman sitting at my laptop in my boyfriend’s house while he works on a music project downstairs (God, I love him) – and I’m facing this new professional pivot in my life with next level courage and awareness. I’m not cowering in a corner, eating or drinking myself into a numb haze to avoid what I know to be true. I’m talking about it. I’m writing about it. I’m reading about it – ‘Transitions’ by William Bridges. I’m giving myself time to work it out in my head before I make a plan to move forward. And I will move forward, I just have to reconcile the internal identity change first. I’m such an emotional creature; always in tune with what’s going on in my mind and heart. That’s gotten my into trouble in the past because my emotions are big, loud and over-fucking-whelming. But I have a better safety net for them now. My emotional barometer is solidly reliable. I can filter and interpret my giant emotions. I don’t let them own me and take over like I used to.  A helpful reminder from my gorgeously kind mother was – This too shall pass. Too true mama. Too. True.

Something major shifted over the last year and a half. I have started to give myself a chance. I have begun the journey back to my true self (my therapist would be so fucking proud) and I honestly can’t wait to see what a healthy dose of self love, patience and consistency will yield. I’m going to come into my own…what that looks like, I still don’t know…but I’m willing, oh, so willing to find out.

Such a fucking revelation.

Accountable Shma-ccountable.

I wrote the following italicized paragraphs on Friday night while I was drunk. *sigh* I didn’t have the balls to actually post the post while drunk though. I was venting my frustration at myself by typing furiously on my keyboard. I had every intention of hitting ‘Publish’ but I just….couldn’t. I felt too raw. Too exposed. But now that’s it is Monday – Labor Day, say thankya – I feel like I can handle letting this one go live.

Truth telling time….I’m drunk. In this moment of writing, I am drunk. And I feel incredibly shitty, false and low because I am drunk. Do I feel this way because I have gotten drunk while alone? Do I feel this way because I am drunk after many days of not being drunk? Do I feel this way because I think I have fallen off the wagon? Do I feel this way because there was really, utterly, definitively no real reason for me to drink enough wine to make it hard for me to type coherently? What am I compensating for? What makes it so tough for me to sit in my own company sober?

I’m searching for a catalyst and there just isn’t one to be found. I guess I’m just an addict. And I think I like the drinking and drunk feeling too much to give it up completely. Does that mean I have to give it up? DO I have to go stone cold turkey? Do I? Really?

A program made of 12 steps and a power greater than myself that has a penis attached to it says I do. I’m not saying it is wrong or completely misogynistic – even  though it kind of is – I’m just wondering why it has to be set up within a litany of extremes. Why do I have to give up my control to a power that I know nothing about? Why does this power have to be male? Why can’t I just handle this shit, as I handle the rest of my shit, my-fucking-self? Why do I need to ask for help? Why am I not enough?

I suppose that’s the core of my issues and addictions. I’ve never felt like I’ve been enough for anything – be it a man’s affection or attention, being free of the bonds of not understanding my abandonment into adoption or some other form of ‘not enough’ that I have programmed into my psyche.

That’s as far as I got because I was getting fucking angry before I crumpled to the floor to stare at the ceiling for a while. I do that sometimes. I do it drunk and I do it sober. Sometimes I just need a different perspective and lying down, flat on my back, legs and arms akimbo gives me that. It centers me a little and helps me remember to breathe. I forget to breathe a lot. I forget that I will make mistakes and I freak out when I realize I have started dancing with the Dark Side again.

And, (more truth telling time) for the record, I don’t know if I actually think that getting drunk on Friday night was a mistake. Was it? Really? Maybe it’s more a stutter step. A slight stumbling point on my road to Annie’s version of Recovery – whatever that may look like.

These past weeks I have been drinking. Not daily. Not heavily. Small amounts, usually with dinner when I get home from work and not much more than that. I don’t want to not have wine in the house. I want it to be available still. Which, as shown above is a slippery slope because I can easily get carried away. But I still need a binkie, my own version of a Recovery Security Blanket. I don’t want to be 100% booze-less.

Ugh. Do you ever just get plain old sick and fucking tired of listening to your own thoughts? That’s me right now. Maybe I’ll lie on the floor and breathe and try to convince myself not to have a glass of red with dinner tonight….I know I’ll cave. I’m making steak tips. Nothing better than deep red wine with succulent, buttery red meat. Am I right?

And if I do have wine tonight, so what? So fucking what? Is the Recovery Police going to come banging on my door and rip the wine glass from my hands and take me to Recovery Jail? I often wonder if that’s what I actually think will happen because lately, I feel guilty when I sip wine. Guilty as Fuck! I think it’s because of this blog. If I drink, no matter how much, I feel an inner obligation to report it here since my intentions in the beginning were to remain honest and accountable. I’m taking responsibility right now and the teenager who likes to let her hair down and forget hates when I make her do that. But the wise been-through-the-trenches-of-life-and-wants-to-be-free-of-this-crutch part of me needs to let this out.

So, now it’s out. And I feel better. Thanks Blog O’Mine. I love your face.

 

A Shift

After my monumental realization in therapy (that I really do live in my pain – no matter how much I tell myself I don’t. I fucking do. The dream I had couldn’t have been more clear about that) this past week, something shifted. I feel different. I feel less restricted somehow. My day in day out routine feels less like a chore and more like living. I haven’t felt the heaviness of addiction in a few days. It’s been pleasantly quiet in my head. I also haven’t felt the pure need to drink/eat myself away.

It’s kind of amazing how addiction and dependence on something else really tries to trick you into thinking that your life is a complete mess when it’s really, truly, definitely not. The warped thinking is what fascinates and terrifies me the most. The mindset of addiction is the true killer. Nothing will change as long as your brain is telling you that you need the drink or drug or food or sexual partner or lottery ticket or whatever to survive. As long as your brain is pumping out the untrue slogans of ‘YOU NEED TO DRINK’ or ‘THERE’S NO WAY YOU CAN LIVE WITHOUT BOOZE’ or ‘IT’S TOO HARD; YOU DESERVE A BREAK, TAKE A SIP’ the truth doesn’t stand a chance.

The more I’m examining this problem of mine and reading about it (I just tore through Lit by Mary Karr. Fantastic read), the more I’m learning that my mental state is mostly the culprit. The thoughts I have and messages (most laced with negativity, denial and self-hatred, Awesome) I send to myself are the bulk of what’s been holding me back and keeping me wrapped up in my security blanket of addiction. The past 18 years of my life featured some deep lows, there’s no denying that. My spirit was broken down and splintered and I lost track of who I am many times. That’s all I could focus on. I was hurt and tired and scarred and no one could possibly understand what it was like for me – or so I told myself. I began licking my wounds – it became my favorite pastime. And then, my mind got stuck on repeat and the rest of me didn’t realize that all I had to do was press ‘play’ again to allow forward momentum.

So simple.

I think that weird, humid, jarring dream was a gateway. It was a way to press ‘Play’ again. It was a way to remember that when I am feeling familiar emotions that lead me to feel trapped or low or misunderstood or tragic I don’t have to choose to stay with those feelings. I don’t have to wander around in the dark with them, searching for an answer to why it huuuuuuurts so much. I don’t even have to pick them up. I can simply acknowledge the pain, honor the fact that it happened and that it exists and then, I can walk away. I can leave it be. I can allow myself to be free from the pain. I can. And I have been able to sit with that idea for the past 4 days and let me tell you, I can breathe. I can stand tall. I can smile and feel whole. I can look ahead with a sparkle in my eye. I fucking can.

Holy Fuck. Revelation Personified. I swear to God.

I have found myself defaulting into my pain a few times since having the dream. The familiar lump in my throat rises (as it is right now thinking about my tricksy little Precious), my shoulders rise and tense and I take a sharp breath in, immersed in the toxic thrill of feeling shit that needs to be put down. Immediately. Yesterday. Better yet, it needed to be put down last year.

And you know what, it’s ok that I haven’t figured out a way to leave well enough alone. I’m actually starting to feel deeply at peace with where I have been. You know why? It’s because something shifted. Something clicked. I don’t want to numb myself. I don’t want to miss out on my life because the propaganda that’s on loudspeaker in my head is telling me I can’t or don’t deserve to or that everything is too hard or that I’m too FAT, too broken, too much of a lost cause. I don’t want the best times to fly by me because I was too self-involved and tragically wandering to see it all.

My daily drinking is a first class ticket to missing everything I want to see, experience and feel. I don’t want to end up paying for something I never had any intention of buying in the first place.

I want to find myself again (I’m already on my way).

I want to give myself a hug.

I want to look into whatever version of my eyes that are hurting the most (17 year old Annie, most likely) and tell myself, ‘You’ve always been enough, sweet, sweet girl. Always. All you have to do is believe it.’

And then I want to……….Let it Go and Move Forward.

 

Guess what I’m not planning to do tonight?

Drink.

 

 

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.

Open Spaces

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I took a long walk today. I haven’t done that in far too long. There’s a nice little park near my house that has a paved loop to walk on. It’s lovely and lots of people walk their dogs there so I get to people and puppy watch. Double threat. I don’t take advantage of it as much as I would like to, but today it was calling to me. So, when I woke up, I hopped out of bed, ate some breakfast, strapped on my sneakers, threw my hair in a ponytail and I was out the door. The weather was perfectly agreeable for an outdoor walk – nice and mild, cloudy and not overly hot. I was really excited.

I started walking the loop and felt an inner calm wash over me again and again. I smiled at the people I saw. I smiled at the babies in strollers. I even got a little manhandled by a passing husky. He was about 120 pounds and had muddy paws. I got a pawprint stamped across my left breast as he jumped up to lick my chin. No bother, I just laughed, wished his owner a lovely day and walked on.

When I take walks outside I always feel free. I feel like my breathe comes easier and my mind feels more clear. My entire body knows there is actually room to breathe and responds in kind by releasing endorphins. I feel good when I’m out like that. I don’t get out enough. I don’t put myself out there enough. And today, I realized what that reason is….fear. Plain old stupid FEAR.

I’m scared to be out in public sometimes. I assume and believe that other people judge or hate me because I am overweight – or as my 17 year old self would say, because I am FAT, disgusting and worthless. I hesitate to participate in my own life because when I step outside my comfort zone I leave myself vulnerable to judgment. What I forget is most people are wrapped up in their own agendas, worries and fears. Why would perfect strangers take time out of their own thoughts and plans to silently and hatefully judge the overweight woman in her 30s who is walking along, minding her own business? And even if they do, their judgment or distaste has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. Why do I think they even care what they think? Could it be that I’m a little narcissistic, yes? Or, it could be that I’m hyper aware of my body shape and I’m overly ashamed of it. I think I deserve others’ judgment somehow. I deserve to be hated because I am disgusting. I am FAT.

Well, so fucking what? Lots of people weigh more than they want to. Lots of people aren’t perfect physical specimens. I’m not alone in this. I’m not the only one who is tragically unhappy with her body. I’m not the lone FAT girl in a sea of skinny ladies with perfect, undimpled, unstretched skin. I put so much of my value into the minds of other people. My confidence lives in the supposed judgment of strangers. It’s ludicrous. It’s a completely insane thought pattern that keeps me prisoner.

But I had a freeing moment on my walk today….

I usually wear baggy tops or hoodies when I walk or workout. I can’t stand the thought of someone else seeing how out of shape my body is, so I hide it. Hoodies are the best because they are meant to cover. Unfortunately, it’s summer (my least favorite season because the weather requires me to wear less clothing….) so a hoodie is out of the question. I had to wear a t-shirt today. It would have been too hot otherwise.

So, I’m walking along and a breeze starts blowing in my face, cooling the sweat. Lovely. The breeze also pushes my t-shirt against my entire front, putting my misshapen, roll-filled body on display. Unacceptable. I normally lift my hands up and pretend I’m adjusting my top to cover myself and avoid prying eyes seeing anything I can’t bear them to see. But today, for maybe the first time ever, I thought, ‘why am I making myself do this every single time? This is silly. I deserve to walk comfortably. Who gives a fuck what this passing person thinks of my body?’ And I kept my arms by my sides and walked along. Head high, looking at the trees and smiling.

I felt free of my own destructive Inner Dialogue for the first time in years. And it didn’t matter what the passersby thought because I was gone from their view in seconds. And I felt good. I felt confident. I felt at home within myself.

Please, please let this mean I’m finally waking up.

Shhh…Just let it happen

I wrote the following two paragraphs about a week ago. I was trying to force my way into my next blog post before it was ready to peek out of the soil. Not the way I want these posts to be born. I would prefer for the words to own me for a time and take over. I want them to bloom on their own. I don’t want to think too much about what I’m saying. That’s usually when I do my best work. But when I was writing the following words I was putting a gun to my head and making myself bleed. (Bleeding is what I have been calling my process ever since I started my memoir. When I write about myself I end up being brutally honest with whoever reads this and with myself and I bleed. All over the page. And damn if that doesn’t feel Good.)

‘Right now I am practically forcing myself to finish a glass of wine. I slept very little last night and drank more than I normally do. I had a busy day at work – I take care of other people’s children and essentially their entire lives to bring home self-respect and money – and I am thoroughly exhausted. I want to go to sleep. I want to rest my weary bones and over taxed body. I want my brain to be quiet. Sleep will be the best remedy.

But here I sit, at my trusty laptop, sipping my second giant glass of white. And I don’t even fucking want it. But I cringe at the thought of trying to lay down to sleep without the numbing agent of my precious elixir.’

It’s not good to force things. I never, ever want to feel forced or rushed in my work life, social life, family life or even in traffic. If I’m going 80 in the passing lane on the highway and some ‘need for speed’ fuckbag comes bombing up behind me and starts to tailgate me I will refuse to move over to the right. I will remain and remain in the passing lane until the fuckbag angrily swerves around me to pass on the right. Fine by me. I might even look over, smile and flip him the bird – I will not be rushed. I will not.

So, when I was rushing myself to write something, anything, I knew I had to put down the pain and walk away from it for a time. I started those almost forgotten paragraphs with the voice of my Addict (17 year old self) in charge. She likes attention. In any form. I didn’t let her take over though. And I’m glad because now my Highest Self is at the wheel and I feel the flow, the words are coming. I feel the satisfaction of purging what is in my mind. Somehow typing it all here makes what I have to say feel less shameful.

I drink too much. Sometimes, as seen above, I force myself to drink too much because the agony of sitting alone with myself in an unblurred fashion is too itchy, twitchy and uncomfortable to even consider. So I don’t. I just walk in the door and pour. I don’t give myself time to think. I want my shoulders to come down and blessedly relax and the only guaranteed way to get there is to sip my beloved wine.

I feel I must illustrate that I don’t drink to get drunk. I don’t like being drunk. That feels irresponsible, chaotic and scary. I drink to get floaty, fizzy and tipsy. I drink to let go of the Internal Dialogue that has been judging and criticizing me all the live long day. I drink to disconnect from my reality, just for a short time. That realm feels safer than drunk. I do not give Fuck One when I’m drunk. I think everything is a good idea, everyone is my best friend and that I am invincible.

Drunk is too harsh. Too dangerous. Drunk is when I make even worse decisions than drinking everyday. Drunk is when I go home with strangers. Drunk is when I cry myself to sleep after eating an entire pizza by myself because I ‘need’ something to soak up the alcohol. The morning after being drunk hangovers are the worst in the world. My head feels full of painful, hot liquid and every time I move the liquid moves and I want to die. It takes me a solid 24 hours to overcome that feeling. The hangovers after getting fizzy, tipsy and floaty ain’t no thang. Those I can live through standing on my head. I’m a beast at handling those.

I am beginning to wonder when I am going to start stopping myself from having to ‘handle’ them though. So far it hasn’t happened. I do not want to stop drinking. I like it too much. I enjoy it still…except for when I’m forcing it. That’s when I hate it. That’s when the voice of my Addict (and 17 year old self) won’t take no for an answer. She is incapable of hearing a real ‘NO’. She is spoiled, unruly and incredibly insecure. When she calls the shots I feel powerless. I let her take over far too much. She has never recovered from when Tom died. She never moved out of the home with the angry, drunk ex. She hasn’t even begun to face losing Dad and don’t even attempt to talk to her about adoption or birth parents. Off limits.

When I let her out too much is when I know I really Do have a problem, when I know that something’s gotta give eventually. I know I need to sit down with my Addict (my 17 year old self) and really listen to what she has to say. I have to really let her feel and accept that she may never, ever change. She might simply be stuck. I am starting to realize that I’m the one who has to change. I’m the one who has the power to stop listening when she cries. She deserves my compassion and my understanding, but I can’t keep holding her hand. I might have to let her walk out of my life so she can wreak havoc somewhere else. I might have to let her go so that I can move forward (and away) from all the pain she carries.

I’m getting closer to that point. But today, I still drink.