When I drank, it was a method of coping with the discomfort of life’s stresses. I had other methods of avoidance as well. During the day: my phone (even in the car, I am embarrassed to admit), Facebook, online shopping, reading, listening to music/podcasts, anything to distract from the messy, prickly space inside my own mind. Of course at the time, I would have pointed to everything outside of myself for the reasons why I was stressed, upset, angry, sad. Little did I know that it came from within.
Although it was not a conscious part of why I quit drinking, I’m now realizing that the space inside my mind is becoming a more comfortable place to be.
And through sobriety, exercise, rest, meditation and an awareness of the distance between my thoughts and my Self, I’m creating that space intentionally.
No longer avoidance, but acceptance.
As I start sketches of a crows-nest treehouse for the boys, I’m imagining it filled with soft pillows, covered by petals of fabric, open to the trees and sky above… a quiet, safe place away from the usual routine of life. Similar to the goal I have for my mind.
I’ll give a recent example – one that doesn’t really make either of us look bad – just a function of working together as a team. Work approached me with a request that I travel to NC again for an important meeting. This time, for 3 days, not 1.
Initially, C was very resistant to the idea – for a number of valid reasons.
After getting past his anger at my request, we brainstormed other possibilities (getting a sitter to stay over night, having my mom travel down to be at home with the kids, looking into a video conferencing option out of Philly, telling work I couldn’t do it and they needed to find another person etc etc).
In the end, after eliminating most of these alternative options, C told me it was OK with him if I went. Through this whole process, he had been less than happy about the idea so I asked him if he was going to be upset if I went.
I really wanted him to tell me he wouldn’t be angry or hold it against me; that in the end, he saw that the benefit outweighed the cost and actually wanted me to go. I wanted him to be happy about it before I made the final decision. I wanted to please him.
I was allowing his mindset to determine my decision.
But I can’t control his mindset. Nor is it my responsibility. If I’m confident that I’m doing nothing wrong, that my intentions are pure, how he reacts to the decision is HIS responsibility, not mine.
Here comes the rub, though.
If he’s angry about it or holds it against me in the future, that negatively affects me. And THIS is where the people-pleasing becomes toxic.
I need to learn better how to set boundaries, so that I’m not as hurt by these behaviors or take them to heart so seriously. If I’m confident that his negative opinions of me are inaccurate – then I need to dismiss them instead of absorbing them so completely.
Today has been all over the map. Blood work to check for Lyme’s first thing after boys drop-off (due to a tick bite that won’t heal), then a first-time appointment with a new therapist, then speeding to a daycare tour for PreK this fall, before heading home to complete a 1/2 day of website work.
I’ve got too many browser windows open, literally and figuratively.
And where I’ve chosen to cut back has been with exercise & evening meditation. Not great, I know. Unfortunately, as important as those things are, sometimes the rest of life’s demands scream a bit louder.
Right now, Little W is top on my mind, followed by work, my relationship with C (and Little C), and then self-care.
I have a little notecard I keep near the bathroom mirror that helps remind me to chill in times like this:
You can have it all, but you can’t have it all perfectly.
Late PM update:
Well, speaking of imperfect, guess who went and undid days of positive communication with C by complaining about his parenting participation?
How frustrating that days of intentional positivity and encouragement can be completely erased by one, 5-minute, PMS-induced, “why do I have the entire responsibility of calling OT agencies, insurance, local schools, daycares and scheduling tours, interviewing people, researching places and programs online, coordinating everyone’s time etc etc etc?” bitch session at the end of a stressful day. Even worse, when he protested that he absolutely did not have the time to help out, I got preachy about the alcohol.
“You know, when I cleaned up my life, I found that I had a lot more bandwidth than I did previously…yada yada”
God damn it, why didn’t I just shut up when I felt the grumpy coming on? This conversation is exactly the kind of shit that C grabs onto and doesn’t forget. And attaching a preachy anti-alcohol slogan to the end of it only harms his chance of ever considering a change. I wish I could undo the evening.
It’s like neither of us has any compassion for the fact that the other is completely overwhelmed. In my case, I need to believe that he really can’t handle anything else, so therefore I must.
The benefit of the doubt is seriously lacking in our marriage right now.
We both believe the negative stories we’ve told ourselves about the other, and at the same time, we both feel trapped by the box the other has put us into.
I think I need to redo the meditation sessions on Anger. Struggling with communication today. You ever feel like you’re speaking a different language from another person? You might both be speaking English, but neither of you are understanding the other.
How does this happen with those closest to us? We form such rigid opinions of the other person, we tell ourselves the same stories over and over, and then can’t get outside of that mental loop to actually see and hear that person. I’m guilty of it, and I also feel the isolation that comes from feeling misunderstood.
No answers for now, except that I know the only way forward is to work on what I have control over: myself and my reactions to life.
Tonight’s task on the commute home be to tease out which portion of the current mess is my responsibility, and which is the other person’s. The line between myself and others is one that has been rather gray until recently. Still figuring that out.
No work today, but it was a full one. Little W had a behavioral evaluation that C and I attended. It went well and confirmed our parental instincts that all is fine, although our current preK environment is not ideal for W. C and I worked well as a team and I’m proud of us.
As I’d taken the day off for this, I filled my afternoon with appointments and am now rolling in the door to two crazy kiddos home from daycare and C grilling some salmon.
Do I know I’m spoiled? Yes.
Does a glass of chilled chardonnay sound nice after running around all day, and after the relieving outcome from W’s evaluation? Yes.
Would that make anything better? Maybe for a 1/2 hr in the pre-dinner glow, as C and I congratulate ourselves on today while the kids watch a little TV. But not afterwards, during the evening crazy and the late evening compulsion to “keep the buzz going”, which always turns into the middle of the night “oh shit, why did I have that last drink?!” and the too-early morning regret.
So I’m headed down to help with dinner prep and maybe pour myself a sparkling water with ice as a treat.
I took Mother’s Day off from anything except family and fun. An exciting (and exhausting) visit to the Lincoln Science Center followed by a mani/pedi during the boy’s nap, and then making a giant bubble recipe and trying it out with the boys (grand success!). All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.
Now, it’s back to the Crazy, and this all-over-the-map post follows suit.
Today’s work day included two opportunities to drink: a wedding shower and a company-wide meeting with some special announcements. As a freelancer, I’m skipping the last one (giving me the chance to write this – ha!), but at the first celebration, I was the only one not raising a glass to toast, as there wasn’t a non-alcoholic option around. Maybe at some point I’ll be fine joining in just for appearance’s sake, but not this time.
Another update on the alcohol front: C only had one cocktail prior to our Family Meeting last night, which I remarked on – grateful that he’d stayed somewhat sober. And the meeting went well! More sharing, less directing.
This morning’s meditation is providing background throughout the day – the simple concept that happiness involves empathy, because through empathy we are connected to others, and connection brings happiness. Disconnection or isolation creates unhappiness.
This isn’t a new thought, but just a slightly different way of looking at it, for me.
I’ve struggled with having empathy for the non-empaths in my life (“how can they not understand how that makes others feel?!! how can they be so blind?!”), but this simple thought allows me to see how lonely that position must feel.
I think the Lone Wolf concept is idealized, especially for men. All you have to do is look to Hollywood for examples (James Bond, the Bourne series, Sherlock Holmes the list goes on… one man, acting alone, solves the mystery, rights the wrong, saves the world).
But in the end, isolation is bad for us. And alcohol plays a big part in that, telling us that it’s providing the solace from the hardships of life, while we slowly drift away from those people closest to us and the connections through which we might actually find solace.
The re-connection I felt with those around me just in the first few months of quitting was astonishing, almost embarrassing. Had I been this out of touch?
But now, another meeting notice is pinging…back to work – today’s pondering moved to the back shelf again.
Morning yoga alignment, then fun times with the boys (picnic lunch is always a hit), then planted veggies and herbs in the garden and mowed the lawn. Now… I’m showered up before supper. All in all, a well-rounded Saturday. I’ve got that zen relax from all the exercise and outdoor time, and almost… almost… wanted a glass of chill chardonnay to call this moment perfect.
Then I reached for a La Croix, ice and a slice of lemon and didn’t miss the wine for more than a second.
Grateful for so much today: the boys have been a delight, C has been in a good mood – last night’s “road pop” didn’t turn into a late night problem, chores done together with the boys (!!!) who helped out, and even fit an awesome yoga class in.
I found myself feeling a deep hopefulness while mowing the lawn – in the past, a time often spent ruminating about the state of my marriage. There is something about watching the seasons come and go, the death and decay of winter being replaced by the slow but sure greening and growth of spring, that helps remind me that nothing is for forever. Even in the periods of our life where it feels like everything is destroyed, dead, or dormant, change is happening underground and before you know it, a season of life will spring up.
What a week. I’m about to sign out from work and head home, looking forward to spending the evening with my family.
Grateful for the lack of personal investment I currently feel at work, where stress balls of impossible deadlines, angry client expectations, and “we’re gonna need to work the weekend” conversations are flying around. I just keep ducking my head, in spite of my Ego which keeps wanting to fix it all.
I’ve done my part, and now am headed home for the more important stuff. It’s been a couple weeks, so I’m looking forward to smoking a little after the kids go to bed – maybe C will even join me. Usually, when we do, the conversation is more connected than usual.
I’ll have to unpack that thought later…the boys are calling.
Well, I’d forgotten that C had a concert gig in NY tonight. It was nice to see him briefly before he headed out the door, beer in hand. Yes, he took a “roadie”. Did I freak out on him a little bit? Yes, yes I did. Might have even called him “Bud”, which I only ever use with the boys.
..but then, headed in to do baths and bedtime with the little boys (after chasing them around the yard a few times). If he has an accident tonight, my last words to him were “Please be safe on your drive home!!” given with a glare of death. Maybe I should have added an “I love you” too.
No big thoughts today, just an appreciation for what’s going on around me right now.
It’s 70 degrees and sunny outside.
The first thing I did this morning was reroute my usual coffee-meditation-yell at the kids to stay in bed until the clock turns green routine, by snuggling with W in his bed… one of those mommy intuition things, and I knew instantly that I’d made the right decision as he sighed deeply and snuggled into me. I’m grateful that I made that decision, always so hard for me to slow down or deviate from my plans.
I’m grateful to be working from home in my dirty sweats (having gotten a kickboxing class in this morning, no shower since because Why?), and in spite of the busy workload, feeling rather relaxed and chill – knowing it will all get done.
The gardens, grass and trees are budding out and looking especially green, while the front tulips are still putting on a killer show in their red lace.
We met with the boys PreK teachers this morning and it went well. W’s behavioral evaluation is next Tuesday and things are lining up for that too.
Somehow in the midst of today’s juggling, I fit groceries in. I’m grateful for the awesome salad I had for lunch and for the dark chocolate nut butter cup I’m about to eat.
And I’m grateful that C and I had a heart-to-heart a couple nights ago that cleared the air and opened better communication between us.
We even talked about his drinking. I saw an opening to ask, “Do you ever wonder if you might have a problem?” and his answer was, “I think about it every day.” After a lot of conversation about it, my understanding is that he is aware and not particularly happy about the situation, but not seeing his way to doing anything about it now or in the near future. And even if he were to take a month off, he says he’d always return to having a cocktail “every now and then”.
I didn’t ask him to quit and the entire conversation was very civil. We ended the evening with a warm hug.
Maybe that, more than anything, is what is buoying my mood right now – it’s like the dark cloud that was hanging over us has passed, and the blue sky that was always there is now open above us.
Hope. What a magical thing.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”