Feelings and Facts

I am finding myself unable to begin writing my Statement of Intent for grad school. It’s on my mind all the time that I want to (and really should) start getting what’s in my head about my intentions onto the page. I have had a plan all week to sit down on a quiet afternoon – RIGHT NOW – when I have nothing calling my attention elsewhere and start typing out what feels right. Just to see what comes of it. To see if any new ideas or revelations or truths might reveal themselves about what I want my professional path to be. I want to really think about what I want to do with a Master’s degree and how I want to go about chiseling out a place for myself in the world of my chosen discipline. I want to start. But somehow, I can’t.

Ok…for now I can’t. Fine. I can roll with that. So, I started to wonder why I can’t. Is it because I don’t feel like doing it right now? Yes (enter the petulant child). Is it because I don’t know what to say? Sure. Is it because I am still allowing an old fear of failure to sabotage what I truly know will bring meaning, depth, community, evolution and quite possibly success to my life? Of course.

I have always been able to write honestly and candidly. But I’m sitting here feeling paralyzed. I just want to get going and get it done so that I can move forward and feel more grounded in this process. I’m rushing to the finish line a little bit too; I know I can’t force the words to come and it’s always better when I don’t think about it too much – and obviously, I’m overthinking like whoa right now – but this…new challenge…. is an application for graduate school. Holy Intimidation Batman.

Ever the Good Girl Addict, I’m putting pressure on myself to be good and do good and to write a fantastic statement of intent. But what if my version of ‘good’ falls short? What if what I write feels flat? Or weak? People tell me all the time that my writing is great…but what if I can’t fucking do it in any other way? It’s been 15 years since I was in school. To say I’m rusty is quite the understatement.

And again, Good Girl Addict patterns in full swing, self-doubt is trying to convince me that being a nanny for the past 12 years will not be enough to grant me acceptance into a graduate program. I haven’t been pushing myself or trying different things or growing professionally AT ALL over the last decade and the people who evaluate my application will know and they’ll be able to smell my inadequacy a mile away.

And there it is. The word that fits exactly what I’m feeling….inadequate. I don’t feel good enough today. I don’t feel evolved. I don’t feel professionally solid. I feel young and out of touch and vulnerable.

The good news though, (I looooooove that I can find my way to good news after I spew a little bit of irrational insecurity and self-pity) is that I won’t feel like this tomorrow, or even this evening because what I’m feeling right now is only that…. a feeling. A whole bunch of feelings and – hold onto your hats kids – they are not facts. Holy shit! Feelings are not facts. Thank you al-anon for giving me that insight back in 2009 when I was trying to leave my abusive alcoholic boyfriend. It’s such a simple statement that I forget time and time again only to be reminded of its truth when I feel overwhelmed by something that I can’t control.

Because I’m feeling scared and stalled and underwhelming does not define me. The core of what I’m feeling is nervousness and apprehension about a big fat transition that I’m volunteering for. And there’s another nugget that just revealed itself as I was stream-of-consciousness-ing…I’m signing up for this. The change heading my way is my choice. How liberating is that?? I’ve sludged through almost 2 decades of change and upheaval that had nothing to do with a decision I made. It was loss or illness or grief. That shit is not easy to navigate. And I felt trapped on top of it because I was so utterly powerless. But I’m not a prisoner anymore. I’m a fucking warrior.

*Deep Cleansing Breath*

I got this.


Good Girl Addict vs. Grad School

So. I just sent an e-mail to my bosses to let them know that I have decided to apply to an MSW program. I told them without hesitation that I want to be a therapist and that I am planning on a part-time online program beginning in May. Even as I type this and really think about going through with what I told my bosses I am planning, I can hear the mean-spirited Addict voice in my head telling me that I won’t actually see it through or that something will fall through and I will have to postpone this dream again. I have a lot of self-doubt. I have a lot of pent up fear and guilt around going after a Master’s degree. A lot.

I sabotaged my chances of earning an MSW right out of undergrad back in 2002 because well, I just didn’t give a fuck about pursuing a degree in anything. I didn’t care. And when I didn’t get accepted into the master’s program that immediately followed the Bachelor’s program at Syracuse (I was probably the only one of my fellow classmates who applied and didn’t get in) I was surprisingly devastated. When I read my rejection letter I literally crumpled to the ground and started sobbing. The stone cold reality of the letter hit me fucking hard even though I knew I wasn’t going to get in. The effort I put into my application to grad school and everything that preceded it was far below what I am capable of. I was simply going through the motions of completing my college education to prove to my parents that I was ok. I wasn’t trying to build a future for myself because I didn’t care about my future and I wasn’t ok. The only things I cared about back then were not being present, partying, being young, and being irresponsible – after all, that’s what my brother did and an unconscious part of me thought if I carried on some his behavior I was keeping him alive (this would be why I got my tongue pierced Freshman year). So, not getting into that graduate program proved how irresponsible and just like my big brother I could be. It is one of my biggest regrets.

I couldn’t face that particular regret for all these long years because of all the pain I had to sift through. Can you imagine someone who hated herself as much as I used to trying to give advice and help other people mend the broken parts of themselves? I wouldn’t have been able to do any good back then. I would have burned out or worse after a few years. It just wasn’t the right time for me – most of me believes that, but the tricksy and false Addict part of me wants to berate those past decisions and failures again all in a thinly veiled attempt to coax me into drinking to numb. But that’s not going to happen. I’ve learned my hard lesson and I want a clear head as I move forward and on through my life.

I tap into my strength and wisdom to channel the energy I need to take the next step and the next. I take a lot of deep breaths to help the nervousness abate. I’m a capable, courageous, and powerful woman. I cannot let the regrets of my past dictate the trajectory my future. I will not let the Addict part of me which has so addled and deadened me for years take control again. That part of me deflected a lot of hurts that I just couldn’t handle. I used to live for the times when I could numb. But nowadays I live for more. The time for aversion is at an end. Now is the time for how I mindfully choose to live my life to begin.

I’ve pieced myself back together, guys….I really have. I want this degree for me and no one else. I want to learn again for me. I want to help others for me. I want to feel good about me for me. And I do. I do. I do.

I’m sitting here at work, still not believing I finally let my bosses know that I won’t be working for them for as long as they (and I) thought I might and I can’t quite put my finger on how I’m feeling….floored, elated, terrified, excited, certain, free.

I’m scared as fuck….but I’m going to do it anyway.

Walking Alone

Today is New Year’s Day. I took a walk with my boyfriend and his dog, and as with most things I share with him, it was lovely. We speculated on what he might want to do to improve his house and watched a hawk land on a tree branch. While walking hand in hand with him I suddenly remembered where I was last year at this time…..I was taking a walk alone and I was trying to reconcile the fact that I was about to watch/help my mother endure a stem cell transplant. Prior to the beginning of last year, she had spent 8 solid months getting her body ready for a complete restart. She had chemotherapy and bone marrow biopsies and countless doctor appointments all to help ensure the addition of a few years onto her life. My mother has multiple myeloma, which is a blood/marrow cancer. There is no cure. She will always have it. But all doctors have said that people who do well with stem cell transplants can add as many as 10 years onto their lives. Years in which they can work and travel and live.

Everyone seems to think this is great news and in many, many ways it is. Science is an amazing tool and asset. Without it, she could be gone. But I can’t help but think about and process the fact that her life has been shortened. By how much, I can’t say, but shortened just the same. I know I don’t know that for certain, her life will be as long as it’s supposed to be. But when the diagnosis of cancer comes and it’s a strong, incurable, non-remission kind of cancer, it’s incredibly difficult to not feel fucking angry and robbed of the assumed 20+ years I hoped she would have. Now you’re telling me she might be able to have 10? Go fuck yourself.

I used to drink the pain and uncertainty about my mother’s illness away. I certainly did when she was in the hospital last year for 2 weeks. She had to stay that long because they gave her a massive dose of a chemo drug to knock her immune system down to zero so that when her stem cells (yes, her stem cells, it was pretty amazing to watch actually) were implanted back into her they could start with a completely clean slate. Her entire system was starting from scratch to help her body combat the myeloma cells more efficiently.

I camped out in a hotel, alone, for a good chunk of the time she was laying in a hospital bed. She was there for almost 14 days total and I was there for 6 of them. Watching the woman who raised you, loved you, never judged you and took care of you no matter what lose her hair, throw up repeatedly, and lose her dignity all with a graceful smile on her face is heartbreaking in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined. Seeing her go through that, being alone while I watched, feeling like I could do nothing to make it easier broke me open. It felt like life was poking and digging its’ greasy, ragged fingernail directly into my heart – as if it were fishing around for every extra bit of strength I had. I could barely stand it. So I drank to help salve the aches I felt. But it didn’t help. It took me away, briefly, which sadly I needed. But ultimately all the booze did was zap what precious little energy I had. I was giving everything I had either to my mom or to the bottle. It was an awful, awful time.

But that was last year. I got through it. She got through it. And she began to heal. Over the past year she started working at a little part-time gig with our dear, dear family friend who is like the sister I never had in her consignment shop. She traveled with her best friend. She celebrated another mother’s day and another birthday and another Christmas, with me. She got to meet my best friends’ sweet baby boy. She got to meet my wonderful new boyfriend. She got to read a wonderfully written and heartfelt letter from my brother’s favorite friend that brought her to tears. She got to see another year begin. She got to live, even if it was very different from what she (and I) is used to.

I’m so grateful for that. I’m grateful to see her smile, even if the smile she wears nowadays is incredibly sad. I’m grateful for the pain, even when it stops my breath. I’m grateful for my journey, even though it has exhausted me time and time again. I’m grateful for my strength and wisdom. I’m grateful that I still love to laugh as much as I do. I’m grateful that I see so much beauty in the darkness (sitting quietly next to my mother while she slept in the hospital, knowing she would be comforted to see me when she woke was fucking gorgeous). I’m grateful that I was given some perspective on my walk today. Last year I was walking alone, wondering how in the blue fuck I was going to get through what was coming toward me. This year, I was still wondering how I’m going to get through…but I wasn’t walking alone.