40 Thoughts

As of yesterday, I have survived 40 years on the planet.

I am not blah because I’m depressed about getting older. I’m just blah for no reason. My love is deployed and it sucks. We are in the last few days of summer before school starts. The kids are blah. It’s hot as hades here (110-115 degrees with the heat index!) Other than swimming or spending a load of money, there’s just not much to do. We’ve been to the library. We’ve been swimming. We are all just blah.

Usually for my birthday I do burpees. Birthday burpees to celebrate physical fitness, and the fact that I CAN do burpees. I can do 40 of them and that’s awesome, but I wasn’t feeling it this year. What I am feeling is a bit introspective. So here are my introspective/sober/blah/40 thoughts on turning 40.

  1. I like getting older. And wiser. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s for anything. I want to be the woman who has long grey tresses and rocks them!
  2. Authenticity is paramount. I’m tired of all things artificial. Hair dye, fake nails, pretending, small talk, covering up, stuffing down, fake friends, and phony niceness. I’m done with anything that is not real. It physically exhausts me.
  3. I like the clarity of sobriety. I’m doing the work and it’s good. It’s hard. So damn hard to deal with myself. Liking clarity and enjoying the process are two very different things.
  4. I LOVE that there are so many books in the world. I want to read any and everything I can get my hands on. I love to read everything – trashy fiction, poetry, autobiographies, cookbooks, self-help books, parenting how-to’s, and anything else that strikes me. Blogs, articles and news, too! The thing that bums me out is there is not enough time to read all the things!
  5. Movies are a wonderful escape. I love movies and always have. Much like books, they provide a brief respite from the monotony of everyday life. I love the way I’m transported to faraway places and events through the medium of film. And I love watching my kids’ face light up while watching a movie or busting out in spontaneous laughter.
  6. Deployments suck. They just do.
  7. My dogs have my heart. We are so undeserving of their love, but I will continue to soak up all the grace they extend me daily.
  8. Coffee is necessary. Adulting is hard. Coffee helps.
  9. Will this matter 100 years from now? An old friend used to say this and it has stuck with me. “Will this (whatever the situation was/is) be important 100 years from now?” If not, perhaps it’s not as important as I’m making it out to be. In other words, don’t sweat the little stuff.
  10. Exercise is still a passion….but…. I think I will always love movement and working out. It’s one of my tools to maintain sanity, as well as physical health, but it doesn’t hold the same spot anymore. I’ve always gone in spurts and waves, loving it, being consistent, then taking a break, then getting back at it. Overall it all evens out. I will never be a couch potato like I was before 2011, but I’m currently riding a wave until I feel as passionate about it as I have in the past. Sometimes you just need a break, and that’s okay.
  11. Meatfree is for me! I have done the vegetarian thing off and on for years, but never gave up cheese and milk. I feel so much better without dairy and meat – I was shocked at just how much better I felt (less aches in the morning, fewer allergy symptoms, less sluggish, etc.) I will likely always loathe mock foods, but have no plans of going back to omnivore land.
  12. Going against the norm is hard, but sometimes it’s the only thing you can do. For sanity. Courage is required. Doubts and second guessing, yes, but ultimately you know when it’s time to disengage and self-preserve.
  13. Perfectionism can suck it. Some days good enough is sufficient.
  14. Therapy isn’t a dirty word. It’s not “airing dirty laundry in public”. It is a valuable tool to get out of one’s own head and see things from a different (outside) perspective. It provides not only a necessary and safe witness to unpacking baggage and pain, but the tools to move forward in a healthier way.
  15. This. images-1.jpeg
  16. There is something about water. I have some of the most profound thoughts in the shower. The minute the tap is turned off? Yep! All gone with the water down the drain! I need to get one of those waterproof notepads for the shower…
  17. Kindness counts. Just don’t be a jerk. Not that hard. Everyone has bad days, but don’t take it out on the other cars in traffic, on the barista, or anyone else.
  18. You gotta be some kind of stupid to drink then get behind the wheel. Just don’t.
  19. Be still. Sit in the uncomfortable. Feel the stuff. Breathe.
  20. Holding grudges holds you. Being angry and mad and hanging on, replaying scenarios (real or imagined) is exactly like taking poison and waiting for the other person to fall. It keeps you bound up in the past.
  21. Be creative. Do something, write, draw, make music – whatever – but express it. Even if no one ever sees it. There is value in creating.
  22. I don’t feel like an adult. When someone calls me “ma’am”, I’m still looking over my shoulder thinking they must not be addressing me. People keep getting younger, but some how I don’t age….Ha!
  23. Overwhelm and exhaustion are signs! Listen to them.
  24. Being alone and being lonely are different. Being alone is okay. Sometimes it’s necessary. 
  25. Self care is more than taking a damn bath. Self care is so much more than a stupid pedicure or some other temporary something to do. The phrase has become cliche. Self care in action is taking time, getting enough sleep, eating well, making yourself a priority on the to do list  and not a last resort. This doesn’t not make you selfish.
  26. All the Brene Brown things. Seriously. Read her books. Truth, truth, truth.
  27. Music is a must. All the music. The guilty pleasures, the tunes that make you think, the ones that make you cry….all of it.
  28. It’s only #28? Do I have 40 thoughts?
  29. Change is the only constant. Better to embrace it than to fight it. Change will always win.
  30. Self-improvement is a worthy endeavor. Even when it’s not successful. Even when it takes try after try after try.
  31. Sing. Even if you don’t sound good. Sing anyway.
  32. This too shall pass. Kind of tied to #9. Ride the wave. The intensity will likely fade over time.
  33. Few things feel as good as clean, crisp, sheets. Life is too short for pilly, cheap sheets to sleep on.
  34. Travel. It opens minds and hearts in ways you can’t imagine until you experience it.
  35. Home is where you make it. Home doesn’t necessarily mean where you grew up. Home is where you choose.
  36. Service. Serve others in some way. Both the giver and the receiver are blessed, but the giver is more than you might think.
  37. A good mug makes the contents taste better. I don’t know why, but a good, thick happy mug makes me smile from the inside.
  38. Little things matter. If something matters to you, it matters. It’s valid.
  39. The older I get, the less I know. There is so much I am unsure of, lots of grey area. I am wary of people who are certain they have it all nailed down.
  40. Grace, Hope, and Love. Without these, we have nothing.
Advertisements

Fool Me Once…

Rehab stays, divorce, infidelity, cops breaking up fights between suburban mothers, and inflammatory gossip running through it all. “This is why people don’t speak with their neighbors anymore,” I’ve thought on more than one occasion, or “This crap would make a reality tv show look tame…”

Hearing neighborhood gossip, the words said behind my back pierce right through every one of my insecurities. It’s happened more than once. As a military spouse, sadly, it’s sort of expected to have those socially awkward moments, but I find that living off base this time around has brought far more immature behavior than I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience.

I may not always share the quality openly in real life, but I am an extremely sensitive person. In my working life, there were many times spent in tears and crushed after job performance reviews. “Needs improvement” in black and white for all the world to see felt like a hot poker searing right through my gut. It’s uncomfortable at best, and more often than not even constructive criticism sends me wanting to curl up in the fetal position sucking my thumb. I get that it’s irrational, extreme even. But the initial sting of these situations is a gut level response, involuntary. Highly sensitive people are “the ones whose feelings are so easily bruised that they’re constantly being told to ‘toughen up'”, according to Psychology today.

Being an overly sensitive person in this toxic frenemy environment is soul-sucking agony. Think J.K. Rowling’s dementors sucking the life out of Harry Potter.

Unknown.jpeg

Mean people just suck ….the life right out of you. Why do we tolerate and participate in this demeaning behavior? Is loneliness too high a price that we will settle for people we’d probably not choose otherwise? I’ve wrote about real friendships many times. I still feel the same about being real and showing up authentically, but I have to say adult friendships with kids can be a real pain in the ass challenge.

images-2.jpeg       images-1.jpeg

“Why would they be so mean, Mom?” she asked, tear-stained cheeks turned up to look at me. “Not every family works the same way,” I tell her feebly. “It’s life. Not everyone is nice.” What goes unsaid is just how angry I am. I want to tell her that for some reason, two can get along just fine but when three are involved, there is usually one left out. It broke my heart to watch them break hers. What I pray she takes away from these encounters is to remember what it feels like. Remember what it’s like to be mocked, ridiculed, and excluded. Remember. Then have compassion and empathy enough to never participate in making someone else feel that way.

What I feel most sad about is the fact that it took me this long to figure it out. What should have been glaringly obvious took me a while.

images-1.jpeg

Unknown.jpeg

It may have taken me a detour or two to get here, but I’m here now – wiser, and with eyes wide open.

via Daily Prompt: Glaring

The First Time

The first time I had a drink, I was 4 or maybe 5 years old. My older step-sisters, in high school at the time, were having a party. I don't remember much about that night, other than I felt amazing being with all those big people. I was making them laugh! They let me play their ping pong ball game with them, and even let me cheat and win! I don't remember having an opinion about what I was drinking, or even what it tasted like. I drank it though. I liked the attention. I have a vague recollection of not feeling good, but specifics are not clear. I do recall dark brown fuzzy carpet.

Dragging me by my arm, I was told to go to bed and pretend to be asleep, as people rushed around shushing each other and scrambling to pick up. Hindsight and retelling of family stories years later filled in the gaps that were confusing for me as a child. They were home, and evidently earlier than anticipated.

To this day I do not know where my parents were that night. Or the time I woke up one early morning to a sea of sleeping bags and blankets, covering so many bodies splayed out all over our rec room floor. It was a different time, the eighties. The thought process was "at least they are partying at home instead of out driving around. They are doing it safely".

I will be 40 in 10 days. I have drank alcohol up until 65 days ago. I didn't drink in my early teens, but by 18 had a boyfriend with legal friends. For over 20 years I have ….

been an alcoholic? An on and off binge drinker? Both? Does it really matter?

When I look back at my history, on paper yes. If I was reading this about someone else, it would leave no doubt. Of course she's an alcoholic. But because it's me, it's somehow normal….

It's not that bad…I didn't wake up and have a bottle of vodka for breakfast. (Although I've had Kahlua in my morning coffee on a couple of occasions with friends.) I didn't hide bottles. I never drank before work. I did strategize calorie consumption with alcohol, as in skipping meals to get tipsy quicker, skip meals to compensate for anticipated alcohol consumption. Switched from sugar- and calorie-dense cocktails to straight liquor over the years. Granted, the worst of the bottom occurred in my twenties.  I didn't drink while pregnant. After the kids were born, I drank, but responsibly. I didn't drink alone.

Until I did.

I've had horrendous hangovers, but never withdrawal symptoms.

I think that's the thing. That alcoholic term is so loaded. (Pun not really intended, but I'm leaving it there.) Alcoholics are physically addicted, right?

I don't think it matters.

I don't care what the definition is. Alcohol does not work for me. It doesn't make me feel good, it doesn't improve my life. It never feels as good as that elusive just-tipsy-but-not-drunk feeling does for that brief moment. Chasing that ever-closing window of buzzed perfection always led way past excess. When having 1 leads to 10, it's not good regardless of whatever the definition says. I love the way Jim states it at Fit Recovery, "I didn't want to drink, I wanted drunk."

Exactly.

I am done wrestling with am I or not. Doesn't really matter in the end, does it?

Day 55

I have not had a drink in nearly 2 months. In 5 days I will have earned my 2 month chip. In that time I have also switched to a plant-based diet.

I would like to say that these 2 decisions are miraculously making me into the fabulous version of myself that I always knew I could be, much like an after picture where life is now wonderful and amazing and the problems of daily life do not exist.

Truth?

What I'm noticing is an awareness of the pervasiveness of drinking culture. Mommy play groups, social media, cute videos depicting funny women discussing parenting over glasses of wine, college life, radio ads, military groups, music, books, etc. It's everywhere. It seems normal. But is it?

I notice personally, that my skin is clear-ish. My clothes are loose. Life is going by, just as it always has. My head is clearer. I feel better. Burying feelings under a heavy blanket of alcohol is no longer an option. I'm reading more and am noticing more, but it's still me. I think that's the thing is that you still have to deal with yourself. I am not reaching and pining for something to drink, as I imagined I would. I don't wake up tired and cranky most of the time. I go to bed without regret, usually just tired and ready for the day to be over.

The 'one day at a time' mantra is ringing true just as much for sobriety as it is for deployment. Play a game with the kids, be present. Prepare a meal. Read. Write. Be with the dogs. Clean the house.

Just do life.

Without the numb.

The Life Raft of Gratitude

Navigating this deployment with kids old enough to comprehend time and distance more than they did the last time around, I’m finding that it’s teaching me how to teach them how to navigate tough emotions. One has to have a good cry, the other wants to not talk about it, for now. “Later, mom. We’ll talk later.”

The urge to fix it is there. It’s like this gene that makes us desire to make everything all better is implanted the minute we hold our children for the first time. I resist this “fix-it gene” because in the long run, masking over feelings is not healthy. I want them to sit in the middle of the mess and know it’s going to be okay. Cry, rage, be mad, exhaust all of it. Feeling all the feelings is healthy and normal. Stuffing, ignoring, masking, and distracting pain will only prolong the inevitable. You cannot go around, over, under pain; at some point you have to go through it. It takes guts. When I don’t know what else to do, I grasp for the things that ease pain. Exercise and physical exertion are often-utilized tools in my belt. I don’t always have that in me, though. That which eases without fail: gratitude. Gratitude is the raft for traveling through the gut-wrenching sludge of pain. It’s a survival vehicle that my kiddos will know well.

For today, I’m focused on the little things; a freshly mowed lawn, dogs that seem to sense a shift and are snuggling in close as if they know we need a little more love today, the dishes that were done last night so I could just sit and be today, teaching my daughter the exquisite release that comes from laughing through tears, the automatic coffee maker for preparing a warm pot before I even slipped a foot out from under the covers, and the quiet calm of knowing that the worst part for me is over, so I can focus on what the kids will need in the coming weeks.

Figuring out one thing – even a tiny thing – that I am grateful for can create a 180-degree shift in my mood and attitude. It creates calm in the midst of chaos, fear, and uncertainty.

I used to love browsing shops and looking for sales before kids. Getting lost in a store or the shelves of a Barnes and Noble was a way to pass deployment time. I still enjoy it a little from time to time when I am afforded the opportunity to escape alone. I really don’t like shopping with other people. While I would gladly stop a bullet and step in front of a train for my kids, I loathe dragging them to the store. LOATHE.

fb899070db7c5d08231e1ba2c774bc38--the-grinch-christmas-movies.jpg

As a person who gets distracted easily, the concentration of remembering what I need from the list I left in the car (but am too lazy to go back and get), mentally canvassing the cupboards and refrigerator from memory, checking ingredients and prices, all while attempting to keep the kids in line, not grabbing stuff, and preventing bodily injury to themselves and unsuspecting passersby with the cart – I come home exhausted and cranky.

The big thing I’m thankful for this deployment? Amazon Prime and our local HEB Curb-to-You online service.

Seriously. LIFE. CHANGING. I know I’m late to the party, but whoa! School supply shopping? DONE. Birthday shopping for August? DONE. The next upcoming birthday and Christmas will be done and done online. I will never have to leave my house if I don’t want to! No crowds, no hassle, no problem! I got this!

Table for 3 please. We’ll take gratitude for things large and small, with a big ol’ side of humor.

 

 

Changes

Why all the changes?

Chopped all the hair, stopped working at the gym, vegetarianism, no alcohol….

Um…wait, what?!

That’s right. I stopped drinking. Permanently.

But having a cocktail or two is fun! Drinking responsibly is no big deal. Having a glass of wine with dinner doesn’t make you an alcoholic. There’s no harm in having a drink or two with friends! Ugh. It’s summer. The kids are home – drinking is a survival mechanism.  It’s been a long day, I DESERVE a drink, damn it. Nothing tastes so good as a cold beer after mowing the lawn. There’s just something about the smell of grass and the taste of a good, cold ale. 

I don’t know if I am an alcoholic. I know that it’s really easy for me after one drink to have five. Or ten. I guess in my mind, when I think of an alcoholic, I think of a stumbling drunk who has to go to the bar everyday. In my early 20s I was a binge drinker. Get trashed, wake up with cotton mouth and a belly full of shame. I ended up in the hospital once, broken blood vessels in my eyes from having vomited so hard it felt like I had hacked up my toenails. But that’s just part of being a twenty something, right? I never had a problem not drinking for long stretches. It has never been a compulsory thing in that way. As an introverted person, alcohol is convenient for putting on the mask of “shiny, happy, and fake-extroverted”. But, does that make me an alcoholic? A cursory Google search offers many definitions and parameters under that term.

Alcohol is a depressant. So if you are already someone who battles with depression? Yeah, alcohol is really not your friend. If you have an addictive/impulsive personality AND deal with depression? It’s definitely not a winning combo long-term. I used alcohol as a tool to deal with depression, to numb out, and to deal with uncomfortable situations. What I have really come to realize is that it’s not serving me. It doesn’t make me healthier. It adds to the grocery bill. I don’t feel good about myself when I drink. So why continue to partake?

I downloaded an app called NOMO. As in no more. It has encouragement, a counter clock tracking days of sobriety and chips you earn at milestones. Strongly rooted in AA, I have found it very helpful.

I still don’t know if I’m an alcoholic. I know that it is not a good thing for me, or for my goals. Evolution is necessary if what I’m doing is no longer productive.

The haircuts are optional.

Irony

The daily post prompts of the last three days; Adrift, Unmoored, and Descend all succinctly describe my inner thoughts as of late. Perhaps depressed, anxious and floundering would be more accurate.

Continually vacillating between feeling justified and completely ridiculous by any real world standard; in my head it’s a panicked loop of: upcoming deployment, two great – but challenging – kiddos, single parenting for a year, sell the house, move to an apartment (but how will the dogs adjust?), get out of debt, don’t let the kids see you sad, exercise, eat right, self-care, walk the dogs, cook from scratch, feel crappy for not being grateful and wanting for things that don’t really matter (but matter to me), have a drink, get back on the wagon, mop the floor, keep the house clean because God forbid someone see the real you and how you live, don’t be so hard on the kids, those kids need more discipline, I’m doing it all wrong, I want to exercise, but my body hurts, my feet ache and my shoulders are numb again, feel guilty for not doing any and all of the above. Repeat at full volume and ever-increasing speed.

The other voice tells me to shut up and just “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” and it will be fine. You’re overreacting and overanalyzing. Maybe I am. Or maybe I’m clawing and scratching to get off the mental merry-go-round.

I’m grieving the loss of relationships. I feel like I’m being a bad person and completely relieved at the same time. I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want a relationship with them and I feel like crap for thinking it out loud. They are not entirely to blame, and neither am I. It’s a dysfunctional pattern that’s gone on for so long it seems normal. I chose to step away for self preservation, only now I feel like I’m drowning in the consequence of it. Do I mend fences just to keep the so-called peace or forge ahead into uncharted territory? Feeling scared, sad, liberated, relieved, guilty, nauseous, uncertain, etc.

So where to from here?

I have absolutely no idea. I’m trying to take all this one task at a time and get through to the next thing. It’s raining here and has me feeling a bit melancholy. I’d like to take a nap, but I will walk the dogs.

Dogs make everything better. And snapchat silliness. Such as this:

Dogs and humor for me. What about you? What helps your anxious and or depressed heart and mind get through to a more even keel?