So here’s the dealio, Stealio… aka the New Year’s/Year End post

[Disclaimer: the second half of this post includes GIFs!!!!]

I don’t choose words for the year. Okay. Well sometimes I do. But the last time that happened was in 2007 and my word was “hope.” Interesting word for a year that was the worst of my life. I suppose it was fitting because I needed hope like a lifeline by December 31.

I love words though. Two words dropped down from the heavens like shooting stars last night. Right before bedtime, of course. I had to run and grab my journal to mark the first one down before I forgot. Audacity. Audacity is, in my opinion, entirely overused. But it’s still charming. Because the connotation makes it a little more jaw-dropping than brazen. Yet it doesn’t have quite the scandalous ring that brazen does. Brazen just sounds like a woman’s eyes in the red light district. Audacity sounds more like the unexpected. What happens when an old woman drives a 60’s red convertible mustang at over 100 mph down a country dirt road screaming, “WOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

Yeah. That’s audacity.

The other word was querulous. I just now had to look this one up in the dictionary to get the meaning. What I love about it is how it sounds (I most certainly will NOT be picking this one for my word of the year). Que-ruuu-lussss. Snotty in the extreme. The meaning gives me a picture of the elderly grandmother in Anne of Avonlea the movie. (Or Anne of Windy Poplars, if you’ve read the books) She was querulous.

I may love words, but I’m not sure I want to pick a word for the year. It’s a bit damning. Even though I really, really love audacity right now and it may just become my word of the year through osmosis. (Because I am stubborn and will not pick it) So you might see audacity returning throughout 2014. I have some ideas for that word.

Speaking of ideas… one thing I would like to do in 2014 is to make this little blog a little more official. A redesign and my OWN DOMAIN. Yikes. That’s a little scary. And also where I might be thinking about using audacity. I really want to push forward with my writing and see if I can make anything of it. If yes, cool. If not, no harm no fowl. Thankfully, domain names are only about $15 a pop for the year. Could be a nice experiment.

As for 2013… it’s been quite an interesting year. I was writing out some highlights yesterday, and since I’ve been recently obsessed with/crushing on reading Aussa Loren’s new blog, what I wrote all came out as sarcasm. 😀 That is not this version since I left that version at home, safe in my Mac which is probably being warmed by my kitty as I type. Plenty of sarcasm is still dead ahead, though. Also, lots of Happy Endings memes, since I don’t have cable and can’t watch the marathon tomorrow (Fail. Epic. Fail.).

My life has been extraordinarily adventurous this year (and always, but who is counting).

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First off, my neighbors were crazier than yours. From the schizophrenic crazy woman who talked in a deep male sailor voice to herself…


(like this, but slightly younger. Everything else is accurate)

…to the psycho whose favorite pastime was shootouts with the police…


(pew pew pew!!)

And yes the twain were friends. It was an unlikely pairing: old schizophrenic witch woman and young, sunglasses-bedecked (AKA tweaking) male… but they both talked to themselves so in the end, they probably had great conversations.

After the shootout incident, I also wore THIS perfume

For like a week straight. I AM TITANIUM, BITCHES!

I was surrounded by insanity this year. And the burning of copious amounts of sage. Especially around the back wall of my bedroom, which I, ironically (not so ironically?) shared with crazy shootout guy.

The other weird thing that happened this year was that on December 9th, the anniversary of my sister’s deaths, I had to get stitches. I was rolling out of bed TO PRAY and hit my head on my nightstand/garden table (that has metal edges).

 

But on to other, more epic things from this year:

Marked one year of sobriety in the back of a hippie van singing beautiful music. It was spontaneous and amazing. I still feel sparkled with stardust at this moment and it happened 7 months ago. 🙂 Best Higher Power ever, y’all.

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Started EMDR therapy with the coolest therapist ever. EMDR is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing… basically it’s reprogramming your brain. So thanks to EMDR, I’m much less neurotic than earlier this year.


I think…

Also, my therapist is both sensitive and sarcastic, which quite frankly is probably the best combination in the world. I get eye rolls and sarcastic renderings of myself one minute, and the next minute he’s tearing up at my tears. The. Best.

The Bestie in June. I went to Langley, B.C. the first week of June to spend some long-awaited time with my bestie of almost 20 years. We laughed, we cried… we pranced around Vancouver in 50’s swag. We looked like this:

Hermione, my kitty. Who forever seals my fate as the old cat lady. But with her leading me, I go willingly into that dark night. It was love at first sight at the adoption event in June. Then stark hatred for 3 months as I came to terms with sharing my space with this… creature. Then when psycho neighbor went all Live Free or Die Hard on everyone’s ass, Hermione was my sweet salvation… if she were a hero she might look like this…

except she’s not a boy. Also, I think I should have named her Prof. Trelawney instead… if you knew her you would know why.

Graduated from COOOLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEGGEEE!!!
After 5 years of being in college for my undergrad, I finally walked across the stage. This was so big for me because in the last 5 years, all this has happened:
Got engaged and married to ex-husband
Ramped up my drinking career – the worse my marriage got the more I drank
Realized ex was not going to stop shenanigans and started going to a 12-step group for wives of sex addicts
Realized ex would not change so filed for divorce
Divorced
More drinking
More men
And THEN I got sober in May and June 2012
And moved to NC for 3 months
Then moved back
Celebrated 18 months of sobriety
Then graduated on 2 years to the day that my divorce was final.

Talk about awesome.

So what does 2014 have in store?? I think audacity is definitely going to become my word by osmosis, just looking at this year. I will be starting grad school sometime between June and September, depending on where I choose to go. Now that’s pretty audacious if you ask me. Especially if I end up leaving the state to do it.

I also want to love with more audacity. My prayer for the past 2 weeks has been to open my heart (just not literally).
I want to take on life with more audacity. Take some risks.
I want to write with audacity – no holds barred, not obsessing about mistakes and grammar. And maybe a domain name and better branding. That’s pretty audacious because it’s taken a lot of work to get the followers I have (not many) and I don’t want to lose them but…

you know… audacity.

Happy 2014 everyone!!!! may it be filled with Happy Endings for everyone!!!

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Reconciling

Many of us seem to have some strain when it comes to relating to our families. The strain can be especially poignant around the holidays, where interacting with family is expected; if not from our families themselves, then from other well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) friends.

This was certainly true for me this year. Going into the holidays, my anxiety at being around my family spiked. Part of this was also caused by a graduation dinner that my mother arranged that occured 5 days before Christmas. While the party was a good idea, and I very much appreciated my mom’s thoughtfulness in planning, decorations, and gifts… it was also very stressful for me. I was uncomfortable the entire time. The awkwardness was so apparent and felt thick like a cloud around my head. It was scary for me. It was a time I’d normally try to avoid; by drinking or by dissociating somehow. I went to the restroom to collect my thoughts and steady myself at one point. A good friend followed me in and grabbed my hands, telling  me to take a couple of deep breaths with her. After that, I could go back out and stay with the discomfort a bit easier.

I really felt like it was a disaster; but of course, I catastrophize often. My feelings were convinced the world was ending. My expectations for my party had not been met anyway (damn expectations!) and some people had not been able to come, which in turn made the party much smaller than I had anticipated. My ego was not amused – people were supposed to be celebrating ME! As a friend of mine likes to say, I deserved a parade, damn it. And on top of not getting my parade, I had to deal with my socially awkward family (and my socially awkward self). It felt like Chinese water torture.

The emphasis is “felt.” Because as you can see, it certainly was not the end of the world. Thankfully I was aware of this within the situation and aware that I needed to sit with the discomfort of it. My meditation practice, which has been consistent for the past 2 weeks (miracle of miracles!) really helped with this, because often in order to meditate you have to sit with discomfort, even physical discomfort. That practice really helps when you have to sit with emotional discomfort.

Despite all my spiritualizing, I still came home and cried. And I think actually that’s crucial; to allow oneself to feel. It doesn’t have to define you or drive you, but feeling it is important.

All this led up to Christmas, and so in anticipation of Christmas, I had a lot of anxiety. I shared this at a meeting, and with my sponsor. Going into the week, I opened myself up to being of service to others. I also talked to my sponsor the night before I had to see my parents again.

And I won’t tell you it was a great success, because it wasn’t. I made some mistakes. I wasn’t as present as I could have been, nor was I of service as I could have been. I made a nasty remark about a family member that I will likely need to apologize for later. It was a “joke” but it wasn’t necessary. It was one of those horrible moments where you watch something come out of your mouth and have the impulse to stuff it back in right away and pretend it never was said. But I didn’t stuff it back in, and I didn’t apologize. Part of me also doesn’t want to apologize because I think this person deserves it after what they have done to me. Ouch. That is pretty ugly. Some amends to be done there for sure – and some looking at my part. So. Surprise. I was imperfect yesterday.

But I also noticed something really special that’s happening. I am reconciling fantasy and reality, my child self and my adult self.

I talked to a friend last week about my relationship with my parents, my dad in particular. How there is a part of me that is still sad that he isn’t what I want him to be. That in response to my backing away, he’s backing away. My friend said that maybe it’s my little girl self who is sad, not my adult self. And that my adult self can just sit with little girl self and comfort her. My adult self needs to back away to be healthy. But my child self is really sad about it and still thinks she can make her daddy see how wonderful she really is if she just does what he wants.

That conversation was what I needed going into this holiday season.

Yesterday, while we opened gifts, I noticed something interesting. My dad gave me his usual disconnected gift; something that has very little relation to who I am and what I enjoy. If my dad really knew me, he would know that I am not a huge Beatles fan (unlike my little sister). But my dad doesn’t know me. And as I opened the present (a Beatles CD and a CD of Bach organ music), instead of feeling angry or even sad, I felt acceptance. Because my expectations were in line with reality. I knew it wouldn’t be him magically knowing who I was, and so I accepted it internally without making a big deal out of it. It was kind of amazing actually. I have never been in that place before.

As I was driving away yesterday I felt the sadness. And today I feel anger. But it’s easier for me to deal with knowing that my little girl self is just sad and angry. I feel so much more reconciled to the truth of my family, because I’m slowly accepting what is real. And that includes how my little girl self feels, which is right and true. It is sad, and anger-inducing, to realize that your daddy doesn’t see you and doesn’t try. But my adult self is also beautiful, and wise, and holds that little girl knowing that her grandpa, her daddy’s daddy, probably never knew her dad. So it’s really no surprise that little girl Laurie isn’t known, either. In the end, adult Laurie is just going to keep on being the wise, loving, gentle parent that little girl Laurie really needs, cuz little girl Laurie is never going to have the dad she wants. So adult Laurie gets to take that role as best she can.

I also had a really weird realization yesterday too that when I smell alcohol on someone’s breath, it reminds me of my dad. My dad honestly doesn’t seem terribly alcoholic to me, although I’ve noticed that he drinks more than average people. He seems closer to a problem drinker than an alcoholic, in my opinion and if I was taking inventory. But it was so odd to me to catch the scent of alcohol on someone’s breath, then realize the familiarity I feel is because I viscerally remember the smell on my dad’s breath. I don’t know what to do with that. It’s another layer I never have completely considered. Another layer of reality.

But I’m reconciling. Past and present. Real and fantasy. Like a lens at the optometrist when they ask “is it closer to 1, or 2? Again, 1…or how about 2?” I’m clarifying between 1, and 2. And in doing so, I’m slowly getting closer to seeing clearly.


Some updates on how I’m working with my family now… It’s Complicated

Merry Christmas

The last few days have been all hustle, all bustle, and here I am now on Christmas Day. Last night, I gorged on international junk food…

  
(You HAVE to do the Tim Tam Slam!!! http://www.wikihow.com/Do-the-Tim-Tam-Slam)

And all this international junk was glorious. I sense a new tradition! I encourage you to follow in my (highly addictive and delicious) footsteps. 😉   (Don’t worry. I went running this morning – for the first time in months, but it happened)

But I’ve thought of you all today… out here in WordPress world. And I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas, wherever you are, whatever junk food you are consuming. 😉 Whatever family members you have to endure. I’m over here whispering the words my sponsor told me last night… “just stay present. that’s where the magic is.” Anne Lamott told me the same thing this morning. On this the most ritualistic of all our ritual-like days… stay present and find the magic.

Love to you all and Merry Christmas. (Which I say instead of Happy Holidays not because I am religious – HA – but because I just love the word Christmas… it’s all sparkly and glittery and stuff and that’s what I’m sending to you. Sticky glitter like the ribbon I tied around my presents this year – the sticky glitter of presents and presence… may it hold you through the rest of this day. Love)

dancing with the unknown

Sometimes I curl up in the dark night, wrap myself up with my own arms, and whisper lonesome-ly… “What do you want, baby girl?”

I stare into the darkness and wish it could stare back. In the way that the roots stare at the dirt, willing the nutrients to budge from those grains up into their tendrilled stalks. Looking for sustenance.

Uncertainty loves me like it loves wild things. Like it loves the open plains of Kansas, unzipping them from east to west with space, everywhere. Too much space until the glut of space drives one to the edge. It’s this teetering edge that holds me tight, the uncertain forces of maps and lines and attachments from all directions.

Here’s the thing: all this flowy writing smacks of the indirect way to say: I’m scared. I am terrified because I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know what I want. I think I should have known long ago. This is only the rest of my life. Deciding on where to go to graduate school feels to me like deciding if you want to marry the boy. Especially in my field. Where you go to school is many times where you settle, because licensure in counseling is notoriously difficult to transfer from state to state.

So, I made a decision almost 5 years ago that was a mistake… and it was marrying the wrong boy. Does that help with this situation? No.

What makes this harder is that there are several pathways to becoming a therapist. You can go to school for licensed mental health counseling. Or social work. Or a masters in Clinical Psychology. Or a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Or a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. Or a degree in Marriage and Family therapy. And there are few differences between each of these choices. The most blurry are the differences between licensed mental health counseling and social work. Which one do I choose? Do I want more research base (clinical psych)? Do I want the flexibility of a doctorate? Or the extended flexibility of a social work degree (and higher wage)? Do I just want to be a plain regular counselor with training in trauma work?

WHAT DO I WANT?

This is what I lay in bed and ask myself at night.

I have applied to 5 schools. And I still don’t know if I applied to the ‘right’ places or am going in the right direction. I feel like I’m driving in the dark without any headlights on… which, on a country road at night, is gorgeous and exhilarating yet suffocating.

I’m almost nauseatingly uncertain and I know the spiritual answers but it doesn’t take it away. I visited school no. 2 yesterday and I think it made things worse… so now I’m right in the crosshairs of an existential crisis.

But I graduate in 2 days. I take my last undergraduate final tomorrow. So for now… it’s time to just be here and live these 2 days up.

On the Flip Side

I am sorry if I left all of you hanging about how the anniversary actually went. I’ve been tired this week and now am finally feeling some respite. So now, I’ll tell you about the rest of my week and how it’s been.
First of all, I have to say how utterly and absolutely grateful I am for the support I received on December 9th. A number of friends called or texted me to see how I was doing and to offer their love. I can’t recall ever having had this much support on an anniversary. It was very healing for me to have people around who actually know me and my story, have entered my life, and were offering me their support. I didn’t have that when my sisters were killed, and to have it now made this anniversary so much different.
I think that might have been part of the reason that overall, the day of the anniversary wasn’t overwhelming or terrible. I felt sad and tired. But I didn’t feel heavy grief like I have almost every year preceding this one. I had funny things happen, though. That morning as I rolled out of bed onto my knees as I usually do in the morning (I pray the 7th step prayer every morning) I hit my head on my bedside table. Well, technically not my head; technically it was right between my eyelid and my eyebrow. I was still half-asleep and was thinking about my previous day’s resolution to be sincere each morning in my prayers. To make one sincere request each morning (Eat, Pray, Love again… I know). And BAM. In the face. So the first thing I had to do the morning of December 9th was go and get stitches at the Urgent Care. At the time, I was pissed. I almost cried while I was laying there waiting for them to stitch me up. But I was also grateful that I didn’t go to the ER. That, I couldn’t have handled.
So they stitched me up and I went about my day, somewhat pissed off. I had a therapy appointment set for that afternoon. That was where the majority of my tears happened for the day. I don’t want to talk about it yet, but there will be a post in the future about it. I think my next therapy appointment might be on the exact same subject as this one was. There was a lot of feelings involved. When I left I felt raw and sad, but in a good way. A clean way.
So that was my day. I made it. I survived.
And on Wednesday night I had the privilege of attending, for the first time, a meeting for shooting survivors. It was started by a group of Columbine survivors up in Denver, about an hour away from me. So I drove up to Denver and went. That was a magical experience. Just like in recovery for addiction, when in recovery from a mass shooting there’s some things that only others in recovery would get. We laughed about our experiences with the press, all groaning when someone mentioned having a listed phone number. We ALL instantly knew what that meant. It was such a cool experience. I remembered how, immediately after the shooting, Good Morning America tried sending us gift baskets at the hospital (really?). I’m laughing about it now. So hilarious. And I have to say it’s so relieving to have a place to go to talk about this stuff. I don’t talk to my family about it. But I talk to these people; I’ve been in connection with them for a year now since I found them after the Newtown shooting. They had a Facebook group that I dug up somehow, and instantly felt so much relief over. I had been trying to find connections in this area for so long. It’s a miracle.
Being in that group also validated my extreme anxiety. I’ve been struggling with some massive anxiety in the past few weeks, and I was really close to drinking because of it. Anxiety was mentioned there and suddenly I felt normal. Okay. Like it’s completely understandable that I freak out about tiny things and get overwhelmed. I’ve been through a harrowing experience (or several!) and it’s not really a surprise that I try to manage things to perfection. I’m still wondering about going on medication. Right now I’m trying to see if I can deal with it in other ways again first.
Today’s news about another school shooting in Denver is sobering. I had some intuition about it on Wednesday night as I drove home from the meeting in Denver, and that is hard now to remember. At the time even I shoved it away because it upset me, and I had the silly idea that my intuition would make it happen. It sometimes just feels like a week of horror; last year, Newtown happened (a year ago Saturday). It’s hard to see another one in the same week.
But I’m glad it wasn’t worse than it was. It could have been so much worse. But it’s still hard that other people have now experienced what I find so familiar. At least now there is a place they can go. Hold space and light a candle for them tonight… it’s going to be a dark night for some people and they need your light. Or maybe go out and laugh, like I’m going to do, so your happiness can send some good energy in their direction. We’re all connected; don’t forget.
Love to you all – all of you that I could think of were on my petition last week. 🙂 Hope you are well tonight.

a Sanity list

“Oh sister!
What’s wrong with your mind?
You used to be so strong and stable…”

I am not going to lie to you. This weekend has been rough. Historically, things get a little harder for me at this time of year right around the anniversary, and this weekend right before is no exception. I had several things pop up to stress me out, all at once. Yesterday I lay on the floor in my living room trying to will myself to move. In my head I was going through a mental list of things I could do that would actually relieve it. It looked like this:

Drinking – (not gonna help and I am too close lately)
Smoking – (this only takes me to drinking)
Find a Boy (trying to find a boy in this emotional state only results in disaster)
Eating (this doesn’t really numb it out as much as I want it to, plus, more $$ spent and that’s part of my stress right now)
Cutting – this, I can actually get away with and keep it a secret.

The fact that I even thought that shocked me. While I was sitting there I had been thinking about going on medication for anxiety or depression; I just felt so overwhelmed to the point where moving sounded exhausting. As soon as the cutting thought drifted through my mind, the counter thought was “Wow. Yeah. You maybe do need to think about seeing a psychiatrist if that is where you are going.”

See, I have realized lately that once I gave up the booze and the boys, my mind had nothing to work with. But it wasn’t going to stop obsessing. Oh no. Instead it’s found everything else under the sun to twist around. Schoolwork. Money. Relationships/Social Anxiety. My mind is a mechanism of torture, and I get locked inside it for hours. Last weekend I had an attack of shame (I have a post about that I may put up at some point) around my program, and I was locked in it for a full 24 hours of mad torture. It’s like that stupid torture machine in the Princess Bride, sucking years of my life away.

I’m not going to give you the litany of torture that was going through my mind this weekend because it’s not worth it. Suffice it to say that it’s a mixture of overwhelm about present circumstances, plus anger at the compounded losses I experienced 6 years ago. Actually, as I write that, I feel that anger is an improvement. There’s one particular instance I haven’t felt anger about yet, and it’s just now bubbling up. Probably a good thing.

Minutes later, I dragged myself up and made myself try to do homework. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to go to my friend/family house (the friends that are like my family, in other words). I didn’t want to be a bother (but they never think I am, anyway) and I sat and tried to do homework for a little while before my friend came down from her afternoon nap. It really consisted of me slumping on the couch and sluggishly trying to compile my references for this paper I have been obsessively working on for about a month already (it’s not due until Dec. 16 – I am making myself neurotic about it and I know it).

My friend came down though, and we sat in front of her fire, and I dumped over my cup of sickness and told her all about it. She sat and she listened. Graciously. My soul sighed and relaxed and unwound itself a little. And after I had driven her on a very ugly tour of my mind, she sat back. And reminded me of how loved I am. It was everything I needed to hear. I needed a listening ear, and then I needed to be redirected.

Another lovely friend gave me Eat, Pray, Love last night and I’ve been reading it. It’s been a spiritual experience for me. I decided that I was going to have a night of celebration. I bought myself a bouquet of yellow roses. Then I took a long bath and read my book and soaked, a glass of Italian Soda in my hand (hey, it’s a great champagne replacement. Just saying).

“The blackness in your heart won’t
last forever.
I know it’s tearing you apart
but it’s a storm you can weather.”

This morning I woke feeling comforted. The weather has been eerie… exactly, exactly like the weather on Sunday December 9, 2007. Sunny and snow on the ground. Man. Trippy. I went to my Sunday meeting at the hospital and I would SWEAR that my sisters sat on either side of me, holding my hands. My hands were humming with energy, and I know that sounds all woo-woo, but it’s true. I know they were there.

I am dipping down again now. I feel sadness creeping up around the corners of my heart. But here’s what’s giving me sanity. Today I wrote a petition to God for some ease. I have had a hard, hard life, and I am tired. So I wrote a petition and asked God for the sake of not just me but all of humanity that also, in a mystical way, participates in my suffering, if I could please have a break.

And I signed it with signatures of everyone I felt would be supportive of this. Yes. I stole this idea from Eat, Pray, Love. But seeing all those names was something I really needed. People both living and dead, supportive of a ceasing of my suffering because they love me.

That’s my sanity list right now.