Legacy

We’re not up for that.

The countless times I heard that phrase as a child. It started with disinterest. It became a lack of time. It became a lack of motivation. It became a lack of energy.

It was too hard to interact with the world, to interact with life, to interact with others. So much easier to shut it all out. I think my dad was really, really afraid.

I see his legacies still hanging as paintings in corners of my mind.

BIG

 

They’re lovely dreams, really. My dad just thought that because something was painted in technicolor, it was real. Or perhaps it’s just that he wanted them to be and was afraid of what real truly was.

Some days I don’t blame him, either. Living in a low-income apartment complex carries a certain amount of stress with it. Children throw rocks in the street for entertainment. Heroin needles are littered by the trash can. We were awakened in the middle of the night to drug busts, hysterical drunk women calling for taxis, and overdramatic boyfriends driving pickup trucks across the lawn. Murders happened first down the street in shocking drive-by fashion. Then one day an apartment is boarded up and you’re told it’s because someone murdered his wife/girlfriend. Posters for sexual predators are hung on light poles, and your sisters are followed home by strange men.

I can’t understand why we stayed so long. 10 years in the same apartment. 1997 – 2007. In the beginning, we were on food stamps. At the end, my dad made almost 100K a year. And yet he felt somehow trapped. Perhaps those paintings had become reality.

Or maybe it’s just that when you shut yourself away from life, from reality, the light can never reach you enough for you to grow. Energy disappears because you have nothing to innervate you.

I’ve gone through periods of anger at my dad for his fantasies of riches.

1.7 billion dollars, Dad? Really? And did you really have to maniacally twist my life around the stunted tree you were growing from the seeds of your delusion? Did you have to ruin my life for your dream? I had to listen to you every damn night for 10-15 years, talking about what coincidence that day “PROVED” that God was going to give us this money.

So many words became loaded with the bullets of your desperation. Persia. Imminent. 1.7. Montana. Any time Iran was in the news, I knew about it. Every Montana license plate or moving truck that drove past our car, becoming an endless blur of reasons. Riddling me with holes.

We were

We were all shot through with the emptiness by the times my sisters were shot in reality.

Maybe that’s gratuitous of me to say, but we were all slowly dying anyway. When your 16 year old sister is desperate to move to Virginia to live with her best friend, there’s a problem. When you’re slowly suffocating inside your life, there’s a problem. I lived in a glass box.

I heard “no” so often. No, it was a family day so I couldn’t go to a concert with my then-boyfriend. No, our family was busy so I couldn’t go hang out with this or that friend.

Louder were the silent “noes” inflicted. No friends nearby because church was 2 hours away and we were homeschooled. No boys because courtship was the name of the game. No speaking up because Dad was head of the house – ok… that wasn’t a silent no, it just became one after we spoke out one too many times and had to face wrath.

My parents slammed the door in the face of Life, a wragged wraith disguising the sorceress beneath. They became the beast, but I was the one locked in the castle for years while the rose dropped petals and I waited for love to find me.

It’s legacy.

I still struggle to open the door.

I have flashes of insane rage at my dad for doing this to me. But somewhere down the line I calm down because I realize I’m still doing it. I am my father’s child, just as he was his father’s child.

My dad used to come home in the 1960’s, and no one was there to greet him. My grandma says he used to ride the streets on his bike trying to stay away from my grandpa. My aunt says the atmosphere at home was abusive. I don’t know what the truth is, but I know that my uncle is a sociopath and my dad has very obvious delusions.

So it’s no wonder that my dad carried this legacy on. The anger that he unleashed on us if we “crossed him” although it almost always was never our fault. The way he pushed away life as if he couldn’t bear it. He had never been able to. He had never been taught to. And reality gets very heavy sometimes. Especially when your dreams fail, and you have to eke out a living on food stamps for awhile after making 20K a month, as he had in his younger years.

He just closed his eyes and shut it all away. And in fear, he shut all of us away, too, lest we threaten his world with our unique version of earthquake. With our uniqueness in general. He disguised our prison with beautiful visions of future wealth, and they became our virtual reality.

I have learned well to shut out the light. I still do it. I was taught all the right phrases. “It’s too much for me right now.” Maybe though I’m just really, really afraid. Because I have learned how the pain of loss aches through your bones long after the loss has passed. To let light in means I might lose it soon.

Why do I feel such exhaustion? Maybe it’s not because I’m too tired to open the door. Maybe it’s precisely because the door is closed. Growing things can’t create food without the sun.

It’s been so long, though, and I was taught the ways of caged life so well that I struggle to learn what it means to live free. Liberated. I still stand behind the door feeling too tired to pull it open. Or that’s what I tell myself because that’s what I’ve learned to label it as. That’s the story I’ve learned about this dogged weariness.

I'm frozen in fear of even the beauty of

I’m not in constant anger at my dad anymore. Compassion is more often the norm. I have no desire for anything more than a shallow conversation with him, and I will never ask his advice. But I understand it now, the way that reality can feel like a stalker haunting your steps. I understand because I run away from it, too. Reality can equal hollow, endless loss.

I shut out good too, though. Just as the Universe extends its warm loving arms. I don’t know how to accept it because I’m always waiting for the backstab.

It’s legacy.

And I know it’s time I start a new one, for the sake of my future children. It’s what I continue to strive for. Backstab is no legacy to pass on.

But please hold me in the light, because some days it feels like too much for me to find on my own. Just know that I am trying.


 

An update to how I’m working through things with my dad now – It’s Complicated

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This is Real

It is so frustrating when I am in the middle of making dinner and realize I need another pan, but I take one look at what I’d have to do to get one, and I completely shut down. I decide not to wilt the kale and sear the garlic. I decide to just go with what I have because it’s too much effort to wash a pan. It would be one thing if this was just once a week, but when it’s every damn night, it gets debilitating.

When every day I go to work and I usually start out okay, but by the middle of the day I’m slumped in my desk chair. Or the reality that many mornings, before I go out the door in the morning, I’m playing that poem I recently posted over and over again just to give myself the courage to go to work. Even the fact that I have that poem half-memorized from reciting it to myself so much to just give myself courage.

“Some people will never understand the superpower it takes for some people to just walk outside…” “…screaming for their pulse to find the fight to pound…” “every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo so I keep listening for the moment that grief becomes a window…” “…knowing their is a chance our hearts have only just skinned their knees…” “…friend if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other, my god that is plenty, my god that is enough, my god that is so so much for the light to give…” “…live, live, live…” (From The Madness Vase by Andrea Gibson)

I went to the doctor today. And it wasn’t for my body, it was for my soul. It may have been a medical doctor, but I needed an emotional one. When I reeled out my history, how I’ve struggled with depression since I was 15, he asked why I hadn’t been on medication before. “My parents kind of didn’t believe in doctors, and also I have a lot of neglect in my past.” That statement was loaded.

It also wasn’t completely every morsel of truth. I am stubborn. And everyone has told me – “Once you get divorced it will be better. Once you do the steps it will be better. Once you get through EMDR, it will be better.” The past 2 months have proven it to me that it’s not better. No matter what I do, I am chewing glass constantly. It’s why my smile has such an intense sparkle.

My friends know I’ve been tossing around the idea of medication for at least a year now. In actuality it’s been 2 years since I first came across this idea. The telling thing is that my mind hasn’t changed. I’ve had periods of up time, periods where I smile and I’m happy and I’m okay. But I always drop back down again into the dark, and it’s tiring. I’m tired of bouncing along the bottom.

The past 2 months have been the worst in a very long time. I have lost all motivation. I am sure it has something to do with starting a new full time supervisor job and totally changing my career path. But my career path too just served as a way to keep me running. There is a Pablo Neruda poem that I love that says:

“If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.”

Except, that my silence is filled with sadness I’ve never taken time to stop and face. Now that I have taken time to stop and face it, it’s hit me like a ton of bricks. “And the bass keeps runnin’ runnin’ and runnin’ runnin’ and runnin’ runnin and runnin’ runnin’ and…”

Somehow I have always wanted this to happen, though. Somehow I have always felt that I’m just outrunning myself and I want permission to just stop, collapse, admit I really am not okay and line up my external reality with my internal one.

I did a daylong meditation retreat on Sunday and it was horrible. The idea of it was lovely. The thought and intention behind it was fantastic. But we started with a meditation connecting with our body, and it was then I realized just how much emotional pain I’m holding in my body. A LOT. I was all choked up. And the whole day was about sitting with unpleasant feelings. I had pretty much only unpleasant feelings and meditating felt like absolute torture. I wanted to be anywhere but my body. There were other meditation events this week that I was planning on attending, but I haven’t. It feels much too raw.

I knew even more surely that I needed to take next steps.

I was terrified going into the doctor’s office today and jittery from drinking only coffee and having no breakfast. They asked me to fill out the medical history form, of course, and they asked about mental illness. For the first time I stared at that in recognition. Then I marked:

Mom: Depressed.
Dad: Mentally ill. Thyroid.
Grandparents: Mentally ill. Bile duct cancer. Depression. Anti-psychotics.

I stared at the page in shock. I don’t think I’ve ever so concretely put down the fact that my father is mentally ill. My mother is mentally ill. My grandparents, also mentally ill. My parents are undiagnosed. But it’s obvious. The questionnaire didn’t ask about aunts, uncles, cousins, and that would have been even more revealing. I’ve known these things, but never written them so clearly in front of my face. I felt the cold reality of this whole thing settling over me. My DNA was a mess of strange genes, and I was a petri dish that a bunch of them had gathered in.

So I told the doctor (a cool guy who blends Eastern AND Western medicine) some of my history. That I had been in counseling for PTSD, and why. That I’d been depressed off and on since I was 15. Divorced. Crazy family“Why weren’t you on medication before this?” All of my friends have been shocked at this very thing – that I have never been medicated.

After explaining my symptomology, the doctor prescribed me Zoloft, with instructions to pay attention to its affects. He’s concerned (I’m concerned, too) that I might have Bipolar II, and if so, Zoloft will make my manic states worse, so I’m instructed to look for that. He asked me to get a nutrition lab done so we can look for any markers in my nutrition that might cause depression, too.

I was also told not to date. I quote – “You’ll be a new person next year after we get this thing sorted out so you don’t want to get into anything before then.”  I don’t know how I feel about that, to be honest; I’m tired of avoiding dating. But maybe it’s just a signal that I can take things more slowly and just ease into friendships with men, like I have been. But that’s a whoooole other post.

I left the office feeling both relieved and totally different. Something pinches my heart with a strong thumb and forefinger, and the resulting pain and bruising is proof that it’s not a dream. The reality is: I am now a person prescribed to take depression medication. I am depressed.

This is real.

Stay Here With Me

There is a spoken word poem by Andrea Gibson that is my love poem to myself. It’s called The Madness Vase/The Nutrionist. I heard it in person last week when she was here for a sold-out show in Colorado Springs. (By the way, talk about an awesome experience – attending a SOLD OUT Spoken Word show. All the feels, errywhere)

 

 

It just so happened that the day I saw her live was the 10th anniversary of my Gramps’ death. He died the year I was 15, which was one of the most difficult and painful years of my life. Spoken word has always pulled me back to that year, as evidenced by the poem I shared on here a couple weeks ago. So it seemed so extremely fitting that I, by no fault of my own, ended up at a spoken word show on the 10th anniversary of his death.

In any case, I had watched The Madness Vase about a week before the show, and cried. Spoken word always makes me cry. This one in particular so spoke to me in my current and past selves.

But hearing it in person, on the anniversary of my Gramps’ death, was an incredibly healing experience. I could feel her in me, the 15 year old. The depressed one. The one that didn’t want to live anymore, that strained with the effort of staying in her skin for one more day, that drew bloodlines on her calves trying to let her trapped self out. The Madness Vase grabbed her and didn’t let her go. I grabbed her, hearing these words, and didn’t let her go, and I whispered to her, backwards in time, Live. Live. Live.”

Because I think my current self can still somehow reach back to my past self and speak those words to 15 year old Laurie. I think it kept her alive from then until now.

And well, the poem’s been rattling around in my heart like socks in a clothes dryer ever since. I found Andrea and Kelsey’s Tumblr yesterday and I’ve been using it to speak healing to myself, over, and over, and over. I encourage you to go have a read if even for a moment you don’t want to be here. Not even just necessarily if you want to commit suicide. Maybe you’re just so tired of life and don’t want to be here anymore, and you’d never pull the trigger or swallow the pills, but some days you just wish a Mach truck would plow you and end it all.

This site will give you a few reasons you might want to stay. Stay here. Stay present. Stay aching.

Lately it’s been so hard for me to stay here. To feel that generous ache that takes over the black hole of my heart and to want to stay here in the face of all the wounds that still need healing. There is no bruise like the bruise loneliness kicks into your spine.” It’s hard to stay here with the bruises.

This poem makes me want to never stop crying. And maybe that’s a good thing, because lately I’ve been coming out of my skin and trying to put my own self back in. Doing my addict thing and avoiding the raw fierceness of my inner girl who is crying for healing. So maybe I just need to keep “listening for the moment when the grief becomes a window.” Maybe I just keep repeating to myself fiercely, these words: “you stay here with me, okay? you stay here with me.

Live. Live. Live.”

 

You too, out there. You stay here with me, okay?

 

STOP – In the naaaaaame of looooove…

So, last week was pretty much hellfire and brimstone aimed at my dwelling. Wish I could say I did the celebrity walkout with explosions in the background…

explode
(Source)

But I didn’t. Got nicely caught in the crossfire happening in my own brain. I’m still dealing with aftermath and all the beautiful particles and things. I got seriously spun out. Thankfully, I was able to do some energy work yesterday and that was regrounding.

Thing is, I really care about what people think of me. It makes up my value system. Merit badges galore, based on opinion or numbers. Numbers like GPA, or the accuracy percentage I achieve at work for dictating calls. Or opinions deeming me a worthwhile person, a “sweet” person (oh how often I hear those words), a “nice” person, etc, etc, etc. These measure my value and worth.

It was also the standards that in many ways, drove me to alcohol. “If that’s what you all think of me, well I’LL SHOW YOU HOW I REALLY AM!” (imperfect, bitchy, unbridled, that is)

I still haven’t resolved this inner maelstrom, unfortunately. With 21 months of sobriety, it still pops up and I still assign my value to what others think of me, to outside standards. So when someone on the outside confirms my inner insecurity – that I’m not actually measuring up to the standard of “quiet, peaceful nun who makes no waves”, well…cue the explosion pictured above. I crumble because my entire value is dependent on what others think of me.

Most of the time, too, I spend my days rushing around trying to meet standards. My own, or the standards of others. When I was in school, it was professors and GPA. Now that I’m not in school, it’s all about work performance and what my friends think of me. I graduated with my B.A. in December, and when I tell people I graduated Magna Cum Laude, they usually react as if that’s a huge accomplishment. Well it is. But here’s the deal. It doesn’t mean necessarily that I’m just “a good student.” That Magna Cum Laude, for me, is a sign of how obsessive I become about maintaining standards.

I did it in my sobriety for a long time. I still struggle with it. I really care about what other people think of how I’m doing my sobriety. Back a couple of months ago, I realized I needed to change up my sponsor situation. I had been working with my love addiction sponsor primarily and had never worked a full set of steps in AA. There was a variety of reasons I chose to do that (and it was a conscious choice) but they’re not really important and if I explained them, it would be further evidence that I was trying to get your approval. In any case, it was working for me; until it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. So I got a new AA sponsor, who just “happened” to be available right when I needed her. But I had a tremendous amount of shame around the whole thing, so much so that this is the first I’ve mentioned it on here. WHAT would others think of me if they knew? Especially people who I had told that I had a sponsor? Were they all secretly judging my program? What if I wasn’t good enough after all? Since I was basing all my values on things outside of myself, this was a massive concern.

This has all been sending me on a collision course since November, and now I just can’t avoid it. My outside circumstances are almost forcing me to go in. At the very least they’re putting up HUGE signs.

thisissign
(Source)

So my head and heart have been in a nasty firefight for almost a week. It completely knocked me off my feet and my thoughts have been drifting through the ozone ever since, dragging my hapless feelings behind them. One outside situation, and boom. It was like a rocket to the moon.

Here is the thing. I can’t measure up to a standard of “quiet peaceful nun.” I don’t really want a 3.83 grade point average. Nor do I really want to maintain 98% accuracy on my calls at work at all times, pushing myself to get there. I can try to push myself into that cage all I want. I can let what others say, think, or do push me into that cage. I can let numbers push me into that cage. But unless I releash the cracken (MWAHAHA!) I will always go back to the things that satisfy the pain of being in a cage… things like alcohol, or men, or more recently, work standards.

kraken
(It’s not really a cracken, by the way. Source)

It’s not anyone else’s fault that I got into this firefight. Honestly it’s just a reflection of my inner state and what I am doing. To myself.

But here’s what the bigger, wiser part of me is saying:

stopinthenameoflove
(Source)

Stop trying to live up to standards. Stop trying to be someone I’m not. Stop trying to conform. Stop trying to push myself in a box. Stop being invisible. Stop hiding. Stop running from yourself. Stop the go, go, go that pushes you even further away from the truth. Stop, in the name of love. Before you break my heart.

Do I know how to STOP?

Nope. I am stumbling forward pretty ungracefully. I have help from a really wonderful Higher Power though.

I think some of it means grounding myself on my truth. Some of it means that being an emotional and sometimes erratic person isn’t a bad thing. I am not bad because I am emotional. Some of it means accepting the loudness of my soul. A lot of it means letting myself off the hook and out of the cage. Dropping keys for my beautiful, brilliant, rowdy prisoner (and letting her know that it’s okay that she’s rowdy, it’s really really okay).

It’s reminding myself of this poem I wrote right after I got sober:

You are not incarcerated by fear.
The key is in the space
between you
and the door.
Breathe.
Open.
There is no distance between you and freedom.

Stop, Laurie. Find the space. In it lies the key.

This is Where I Say I’ve Had Enough

This is where I say I’ve had enough
and no one should ever feel the way that I feel now.
A walking open wound,
a trophy display of bruises
and I don’t believe that I’m getting any better, any better.
-Dashboard Confessional, Saints and Sailors

You know it’s bad when I’m quoting Dashboard Confessional in one of my posts. Going back to my “emo” high school days with all of THAT emotion.

I feel like I’ve been tricked by the Universe. Or perhaps, I’m just being led into a place of dealing with a very painful wound. The Universe/my Higher Power has a way of using certain situations to single out what needs work.

Remember how I wrote that post two posts back about my abandonment issues?

Well, they continue to come up. I’ve been trying to ignore it or something, thinking that maybe it’s just a one-time thing and it will pass. It hasn’t. Things have continued to happen that trigger me in the extreme. I’ve had so much pain going on that it’s been really tempting to find something to numb it. I finally just admitted that to my sponsor in a voicemail. And saying “I want to drink” was an extremely painful admission. I shouldn’t be weak.

titanic
(Source)

My head is screaming that I shouldn’t be so many things. There’s a post that’s been resounding in my head lately that Glennon Melton wrote over at Momastery. She talks about breaking out, about being who you are, about defrosting. I wish I could sit down with her and just ask, “How do you do that when, if you are a bit off kilter, the world looks at you cross-eyed and thinks you’re insane? How do you do that when your heart is in a meat tenderizer?”

Is it a coincidence that my word for this year, not by my choice but by some kind of Divine Guide, is audacity? Of all things. How does one have audacity, pray tell?

I see now that I shrink back in invisibility not because I want to be small but because I am so, so big. I am so big that I am afraid it will scare people and it will be too much and TOO big. I feel like I’m holding a firehose that will twist and turn in my hands out of control, too much water coming through. My inner self is so big I don’t know how to handle her. So I stuff her away because if I can’t handle her, how can other people?

And if she’s so big, what if she’s all big and dramatic and narcissistic like my dad? What then? Am I just like him in the end? Am I crazy?

I am terribly, terribly ashamed of my inner, overly dramatic self. She’s embarrassing.

I’m crying at my computer screen writing this, and I cringe writing that because that seems dramatic, too. But it’s true. My shame is overwhelming and I want to hide. I’ve just been laying on my bed for an hour trying to hide. I’m crying now because this crazy girl inside me is so ridiculously shameful. I’m screaming at her, “STOP! Just stop! Just quiet down! You are too loud. You are too big. You are too much of a bother and I wish you would just go away, maybe forever. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with you trying to escape all the time when you shouldn’t be let out at all. You’re too dangerous.

Most of all, my big, dramatic inner self is just going to drive other people away from me, in the end. So she needs to just go away now. She needs to become the quiet little nun in the back of the monastery, silent, serene, one with the Universe. Meditative. Keeping everything behind the sweet face that everyone knows. If everyone really knew how monstrously large she was inside, they would be afraid.

I am afraid. She’s going to destroy my life and leave me here all alone.

And another part of me inside is 7 years old. Laying face down on the grass near our townhouse, sobbing my heart out. “Amanda!” I’m crying. I tried getting her attention by crying loud enough that she could hear me up the hill. I couldn’t go up the hill to be with her and her friend because I wasn’t allowed to play up on the hill. And she picked her friend over me. Finally I cried loud enough that she came back and gave me a flower. I proceeded to throw myself down and cry some more. “She came back just to give me a flower and say goodbye to our friendship,” my seven year old mind said. I sobbed and sobbed but she didn’t return again. I was alone and no one wanted me. I knew I was being dramatic but I couldn’t stop.

I can’t unseparate my little, histrionic, overdramatic 7 year old from the big inside, beautiful artistic part of me, so they become completely snarled together. The terrified little girl grabs the firehose in an effort to get attention. Instead, it just goes everywhere and sprays everyone, and they all run away because they don’t want to get wet. She’s just a little girl so she doesn’t know how to direct it.

The adult me still struggles to untangle them because the 7 year old is still so afraid, and the adult still doesn’t know sometimes how to take care of that. Because adult me still never learned that people are sometimes more consistent than that and only run away because it’s wet and they don’t want to be wet, not because it’s strong and beautiful. The adult me also has a hard time figuring out still that the 7 year old just wants to be seen and just wants company. The adult still thinks sometimes that she’s the 7 year old, waiting for a rescuer to come. She forgets that she is actually the rescuer.

Okay. That’s my heart, out on a page. I’ve written myself out of the tangle in my head, now. At least for this moment. I can see now that I need an ocean full of compassion today for all my inner selves. The poor dears. No wonder when I asked for my Higher Power to show up, all They said is, “I’m so sorry, honey. I know this is hard.

I can’t guarantee that I won’t get snarled again later. That’s kind of life, sometimes. And this is my work right now, apparently – this issue within myself. It hasn’t stopped coming up, so I’m guessing this is where I’m supposed to be.

But I did find it interesting that when I went to find firehose pictures just now, many of them have TWO people holding the hose. Even when adults are holding it. Maybe hoses are not meant to be held alone.

firehose
(Source)

And when I went to get the link for Glennon’s recent post, I had to re-read it. And that told me that I’m at level one today and I need to pay attention and accept myself so I don’t go to level two. That I am not safe to others until I stop trying to kill my real self. (See the post here) When I started reading all her other recent posts they told me how to do that… told me not to keep running from my broken heart. Told me that small women build cages for everyone she knows but the sage drops keys for the beautiful rowdy prisoners. Maybe little girl inside needs that key – bringing me back to the LAST post on this subject where I realized I am the key. How’s that for full circle?

I could just backspace this messy, stream of consciousness post but in the interest of honesty, I’m going to put it out there (even though that one part of me still says that’s pretty overdramatic). And if you read through all of that – thank you.

Resentment and Addiction

“Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” AA Big Book, page 64.

On my palms are two broken blisters, one unbroken. They are still raw with the storm that the howling wind blew through me last night, leaving me shaking and exhausted in its wake. Adrenaline roaring up through my esophagus and out of my arms and mouth.

It’s been coming up for me that I need to let out some of my anger. I mentioned in my last post that I feel a lot of anger and resentment right now towards a certain person in my life. This anger and resentment hasn’t been apparent until… I’m not sure. I think it showed up in the last few months. Now it sits in the pit of my stomach like a great big ball of fire.

But honestly I am pretty sure it’s been there all along, masquerading as something else. In Fall 2012, I told my sponsor that I think for most of my life, I’ve been turning my anger inward. That’s why the self-mutilition as a teenager. I was turning on myself the same anger I felt for others. Making it my responsibility.

Then I found alcohol.

I was the fuel. Alcohol was the fire[water]. When I swallowed that shot of whatever, the burning matched the same intense feeling in my stomach. I forgot that fire doesn’t extinguish fire. At the time it felt like water in a desert. Now I have another perspective – that it was my own resentment at myself. Because I wasn’t allowed to have anger and resentment at anyone else.

Especially not my father.

Last night, I walked up a steep trail and found a tree by a creek. I knew, knew, knew that it was time to begin this. I picked up a stick and began to hit the tree. I let all the words I wanted to say fly out of my mouth as I cracked wood against wood.

When I was done (though not totally finished) I realized that all along, every shot I had poured back had been a “fuck you.” And then I knew why the Big Book says that resentment is the number one problem.

No matter where I directed that resentment  – whether I turned it in on myself, or outward while raging at my ex-husband, or funneled it into the burning of alcoholic rancor – all of it culminated into a roiling mess of entitlement. I was entitled to drink because I was such a fuck-up, or he was such a fuck-up. Someone was a fuck-up, dammit, and that meant I got to drink.

For me, though, here’s the thing. I can stuff all that resentment down and turn it into a sword I fall on. I can explode outwards and spew resentment over everyone else. Or, I can take a few afternoons and go beat up a tree in the woods near where I live, and let the anger move through. Personally I think the last one is my best option; let the anger move through so it can be replaced with emptiness, which can then become a breeding ground for something else to grow besides entitlement and addiction.

Maybe something called audacity. Vitality. Life.

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