Growing Pains

I don certain perspectives with ease. They’re like sunglasses in the sense that they block out certain spectrums of light. Like that one pair of sunglasses that you hate that makes everything look brown.

It’s easy to see life as shit-colored.

Sometimes I wear my sunglasses at night.

That makes it even more difficult.

I was driving home from work one day about 2 weeks ago. Frustrated with myself, upset for feeling so constantly negative. A song came on that reminds me of my sisters, from The Holiday’s movie soundtrack. With tears in my eyes I wished my sisters were here, that things weren’t so hard for me all the time. I was talking to Rachel in my head as I usually do; she was my confidante sister who heard my inner life.

And suddenly I had an image of her, smilingly showing me a picture of myself. I was freaking out, WITH MY OWN HAND OVER MY EYES.

I was covering the light myself.

And I felt like she gently said, “Happiness is not as far away as you think.”

I’m still absorbing that message. Because as Brene Brown talks about, I hustle for worthiness. I hustle for love. I hustle for happiness, and I think that doing things just perfectly will get me there. In fact, one of my favorite perspectives is that IF I JUST DO THINGS PERFECTLY I won’t lose.

I won’t lose the things I desire. I won’t lose happiness. I won’t lose someone I love.

I begged Rachel, in the Critical Care Unit at Penrose Hospital, to stay with me. To be here. I repeated almost word for word the scene from Sense and Sensibility where Elinor begs Marianne not to leave her here alone. I did everything that I could possibly think of. I quoted all her favorite movies, from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings to the aforementioned Sense and Sensibility. I sang to her. And in the end, she still left. I couldn’t make her stay for me even though I tried so hard. Even though she was the only person in my family who truly understood me, the only one in my family that I actually felt deeply connected to.

Before that, I begged my dad not to leave. I was 10 years old or so, my dad was very angry one night and threatened to go live on his own, without us. He had threatened this in the past while we had all silently frozen in the face of his rage. I changed my mind that night. I was tired of staying silent. Maybe my feelings would change something. So I hurled myself into his arms crying. “Don’t go Daddy. I love you.”

He put me away from him, moved me away… “Stop all that nonsense.”

I shrouded my heart to keep it safe. Maybe if I had held on tighter. Maybe if I had said the right words instead of “nonsense”.

I have tried ever since to hold on tighter and to do all the right things. I lost my grandpa when I was 15, and that shattered me. 6 months after that, I lost my first love, which I blamed my dad for. I lost my sisters. I got divorced. All these things, I tried so hard to hold them all together and they fell apart. About 6 months after I got divorced, I stopped drinking alcohol. A lot of my drinking had been to release myself from the vice of perfection I was holding myself in.

When I took away that crutch, my perfectionism transferred to school and to alcohol/love addiction recovery. I tried to be the perfect person in recovery. I tried to be perfect with my grades at school. This escalated and escalated until last May when I started to see what I was doing to myself. I stopped running. The instant I did, I was overcome by the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced. I’m still not clear on why… maybe because I finally stopped running from falling apart.

I’ve been unraveling it all ever since. I see it as a huge ball. I pull all sorts of strands in, but I have this huge overarching narrative that I like to believe about myself and my life.

“If I can just be perfect I will not lose.” But I can’t be perfect, so I will inevitably lose all I love.

I wish that just seeing that this is going on would eliminate it totally, but that’s not how it works. It’s helpful to be aware that this story is ruling my life, but, then I get to take action.

Which I have been, but change is slow. Especially when there are so many intertwining stories that are connected to this overarching one. And courage is hard to come by sometimes. When I don my usual perspectacles (as dear Glennon Melton calls them) and see only loss in my future, everything gets really black. I lose so much motivation to even go forward.

And so some days it takes all I have to just have the courage to believe what Source/the Universe/my Higher Power (you know, whatever I call that thing these days) seems to be telling me. To just let go and know that It has good things in store for me. Truly good things. And seriously that does take a lot of courage some days to believe. I fight myself, trying to be perfect, until I’m tuckered out and I finally give in. Then I have a cry about my losses because I need to purge the grief, and usually after that purging the world looks a little brighter again. I can see the light again just enough to find strength move forward.

I’m grateful right now for the support I have – a wonderful boyfriend who has persisted in staying by my side, my RootEd satsang who are more precious to me than I could ever put in words, and my new therapist who has valiantly gotten down in the muck with me.

After our immersion weekend for my teacher training last week, something really cool happened. I had brought a plant for the altar as an offering. As I was leaving on Sunday, my teacher asked, “Do you like plants?” and handed me an amaryllis flower, explaining that it needed some TLC. I was thrilled to take it home and put it in my sunroom/altar area. “I’m good at resurrecting things,” I said. Like I was reminding myself.

Then I walked out to my car. Tucked under my wiper blades was a bright, beautiful, colorful bouquet from my boyfriend. I offered a flower. I went home with 3.

These words sprang to mind:

“You are so full of rain,
there is so much that is growing,
hallelujah to your weathervanes,
hallelujah to the ache
hallelujah to your full, to the fall,
hallelujah to the grace,
and every body
and every cell
of us all.”
-Andrea Gibson, I Sing the Body Electric (Even When the Power’s Out)

 

Seeds grow in the dark. Even in the dark where it’s my own hand over my eyes, when it’s my own old stories that hold me back. But that also presumes they are dirt. Which presumes they provide what is needed for that seed to grow.

“You make beautiful things out of dust…” – Gungor, Beautiful Things.

There is so much that is growing. Hallelujah to the ache. To my own precious growing pains. To the sunglasses over my eyes that reveal my need to unveil myself to the world. Hallelujah to it all.

how did I ever fade into this life…

On nights like this, I don’t want to sleep. I don’t know if it’s a visceral reaction from my teenage years, or if it’s from staying up until 4:30 am after watching my sisters be murdered. Trying to avoid nightmares. I took my first drink at 16 when I was staying up late to avoid the nightmare. I ran right into it anyway. Alcohol always made my depression worse, not better.

I don’t understand at times why I am given this particular life to fit into. I get to pick up this well-fitted, soft leather jacket of a life, and find it suddenly transformed to a military uniform. How does that work? How do I start with gentility and end up with war?

I just have so many thoughts racing around, and I’m tired. Tired from not sleeping well last night. Tired from unrest. Tired from the cruel attack of the world, the strange assault that the universe has taken on little old me. Why, why, why me? Universe, tell me. I don’t understand.

I’m sorry, friends… I haven’t explained at all why I am running around in my head so much. It feels cruel to even type the words. I haven’t been at home the last two nights, because my neighbor decided it was a good idea to randomly fire a gun. And I do mean randomly. He would come outside of his apartment, fire his gun off, then go back inside. My bedroom shared a wall with him.

I left last night after hearing gunshots. Last night, I was judging myself. I thought maybe I was just hearing things. As a victim of traumatic gun violence, sounds make me twitchy anyways. Maybe I heard the wrong thing. Maybe I was just mistaken. Maybe it was the sticky front door to my apartment house. Maybe I was just being a bother to my dear “recovery parents” who were kind enough to come and get me when I freaked out after hearing a gun fired so close.

But I came back this morning around 10:30am to find the streets around my apartment barricaded, and I immediately knew I wasn’t wrong. I was NOT wrong and there had been a gun fired.

In my apartment building.

IN THE APARTMENT NEXT TO MINE.

I just don’t understand it. I don’t get it. After watching my sisters die in a horrific shooting. After then having a former student overseas die in a horrific shooting (a student who in fact gave me the teddy bear I sleep with til this day). After THEN having a friend in the theater in Aurora last year. Now this? And as my friend mentioned today, a divorce, estrangement from parents, school, poverty, and 12 step recovery to boot.

I had to make a 911 call to police about gunfire. I was asked awful questions, questions about knowing where the weapon was. No, I didn’t see the weapon. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t just in my closet for 5 minutes, hiding to save my life. That doesn’t mean that making this phone call was easy – taking on the same role I had when my sisters died – that of 911 response.

I get to realize that when I was waking up at 4am or so the last couple months and thinking in my half-awake brain that I heard gunfire – I had. I had heard gunfire. I was correct. It wasn’t just my 4am traumatized brain thinking that was what I heard. It was real.

And that gunfire came from a neighbor I had been avoiding because he was just a little off.

I get phone calls from friends asking if I’m okay because they saw the story on the news. Hurray. Something involving a shooting, and me, is on the news. Again.

Oh and then I turn on the news to find out what’s going on, because for awhile I didn’t have my computer. What do I see? A tragic shooting in Washington D.C. There was no way I could watch it. I put on HGTV for most of the rest of the afternoon.

There is good in this. There is. My sweet “recovery family” who, without knowing it, put themselves in harms’ way to come rescue me last night, and their insistence they would do it again. They have no idea what they mean to me and I am eternally grateful. I don’t suppose words could describe what kind of gratefulness I have about that. And my “recovery mom” went back with me to my apartment to get things, and I am convinced I would have fallen apart without her there. I was already a shaking, upset mess, trying to make sense to the homicide detective. I think that was the worst part. Standing there, shaking. 

Then my therapist who was both kind and incredulous when he called me back earlier after the message I left. Who said he was “really, really, really, really glad” I was physically safe, and that he had hoped the universe would work with me while in my healing journey. And then my other friend who was right there with me when I saw the barricade, and when I started falling apart in front of police who probably thought I was crazy, and who listened to me curse profusely while she took me to my “recovery family’s” house.

But I’m still angry.

And tonight I want the world to go away. Somehow, I can make that happen by staying awake. I don’t understand why my brain thinks that way, but it does.

Lessons on Vacation

I am on vacation, but wanted to write a couple of quick snippets of thought I’ve had this week:

1. I’ve realized, partially from being around my bestie and her husband, how disconnected I was in my marriage. There were definitely issues that went beyond that which caused an end to it, but my disconnection made everything worse. I feel so much more connected to life now as a result of my past year in recovery. I’m so grateful! It really is a miracle.

2. Sometimes, learning to belong is better than drifting where the wind takes you. To be elaborated on within the next couple of months.

3. I get a lot more goofy when I actually get a chance to relax!!! 🙂 Case in point: Elvis is my boyyyyfrannnn!! 

4. Sugar DEFINITELY affects my mood and I need to pay more attention. Could be the source of some of my up and down depressive periods.

 

I hope you all are having a great week! Be sure to comment and let me know how it’s been for you. 🙂 Would love to hear from you!