Getting Unstuck

I’ve working on getting myself unstuck from a pretty significant rut. But good news… I found 5 relatively simple things I could do to reconnect with myself & the world around me.

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I’ve spent the past few weeks re-examining my life a bit. I guess that’s to be expected since I’m (ahem) . . . middle aged. (WTactualF?!?)

I first realized there was a problem when I caused a online scuffle on Facebook with some other folks, and I was completely unable to let it go. Like hella unable. As in not-gonna-let-that-shit-ride. As in personal interior devastation and destruction.

Holy shit. Hello, outsized response to criticism. (Let’s be clear: I’m talking about my own outsized response here. I’m not trying to take other people’s inventories.) So, yeah, something was WAY wrong with my internal balance. And upon further examination, I realized my personal growth had kind of stagnated. And I just didn’t feel the same muppet-like enthusiasm for life as usual.

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(Actual footage of me on an average day)

How’d I get out of my rut? So glad you asked. Segues are SO hard.

5 (Relatively) Quick & Easy Ways I Got Emotionally Unstuck

  1. I got me a therapist. I am 100% on board for therapy. We’d all be much happier (and more well adjusted) if we ALL had a therapist. Sure, they require an investment of time, money, and emotional energy. But (and I think as women we sometimes forget this) I am worthy of that investment. So are you. Yes, it’s hard work sifting through some of the past events and current hangups that landed me in emotional quicksand in the first place. But you know what happens if you stay in quicksand too long… (I mean, as an adult I haven’t really encountered quicksand as much as I thought I would. But as a kid, I knew all about the hazards of quicksand. So, I’m always prepared for a quick escape)

2. I delved into my spiritual practice. Over the years, my spirituality has looked wildly different–depending on where I was in my journey. Right now, it looks a whole lot like reading a lesson from A Course in Miracles each morning, practicing the exercises throughout the day, and finding a crystal that resonates with me (I them to set intentions and to return to as a touchstone so I don’t wander during the day). I’ve had to learn about 100 billion times that a spiritual practice is crucial for me. Like, I absolutely cannot exists happily without it. And, you know it’s kind of the whole foundation of my recovery:

It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

So, yeah, NBD… spirituality is just the key to EVERYTHING.

3. I started striving toward being fully present. During those two days when I was so in my head about a conflict going on in the ether, I couldn’t even participate in conversations happening right in front of me. This undercurrent of ugly self-talk, picking arguments with ghosts, and just general bullshit that my brain pulls sometimes had me miles away from where my feet were. It sucked. So, I made a conscious choice to be more curious about my immediate surroundings. What did I hear, see, smell, feel? What made this moment unique? Where could I find joy, or love, or hope, or connection? The pictures at the top of the post, they’re where I’ve been the past 2 days: physically, mentally, and emotionally. They are real. They are here. The present matters. It’s all I’ve really got. So, I sure as hell am going to make an effort to embrace it.

4. I put down my damn phone. Well, I put it down MORE than I had in any recent memory. Suddenly, it seemed foolish that some flat rectangular object could have that much pull over me. Instead of enhancing my life, it was really bringing me down. So, I cut it loose(ish). And I created some hard and fast rules for myself about engaging on social media. It turns out that it’s MUCH easier to be present if my nose isn’t always pressed up against my phone. Who knew?!?

5. I made it a point to connect. I love people. Which is why I love social media. But nothing beats looking someone in the eye and really connecting with them. Small connections, seemingly inconsequential interactions… they make up so much of our lives. The way we move together in the world and develop empathy and understanding can be truly beautiful. So, I committed to letting more of that beauty into my life–to really see people, to interact with them in ways that are kind and compassionate, and to laugh. In real life.

And these 5 things, well they’ve got me feeling a lot more like this these days:

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So, when you find yourself in an emotional rut, what do you do to get unstuck?

Monday Twitchiness

I’ve got a mental list of all the things that MUST be done before mid-September that wraps all the way around my brain (twice) and squeezes it like a boa constrictor.

I am excited. Or anxious. Or, maybe, just really energetic?

I’ve got this feeling that begins in the center of my being and radiates out that makes me want to move. But it’s an amorphous feeling—and I can’t decide if I need to literally get up and move—you know, like get shit done—or if I’m supposed to be searching something out, learning, pushing my intellectual/emotional boundaries.

It’s a state of flux.

I am UNCOMFORTABLE with flux.

Maybe the feeling stems from moving. I’ve got a mental list of all the things that MUST be done before mid-September that wraps all the way around my brain (twice) and squeezes it like a boa constrictor. I alternate between rarin’ to go on that and complete ennui over the mundane nature of packing a bunch of material possessions we don’t likely need anyway that are just going to psychically (and physically) clutter our new digs.

And, of course, I still have work projects that I both need and want to do. But I only get about 13.5 minutes of good-focused work done before something ELSE that needs to get done makes off with my attention. Then I find myself just staring. At nothing.

I’m overwhelmed, it seems.

But I’m also excited.  And heavily caffeinated.

And then I want to ponder big, philosophical questions. Or dig at my current conflicted feelings about Christianity, which are fascinating to probe but don’t exactly get boxes packed or client work checked off my To Do List.

This space is a weird one to occupy. Especially on a Monday.

More coffee will fix this. Right?

But even if I have to sit with these bizarre-o feelings until we move (3 weeks. Just 3 more weeks), I’m grateful to have work that needs to get done and to have the financial means to move to a new house. And, truth be told, I like new adventures. And moving is one big clusterfuck adventure.

Fresh starts are reason for celebration. And ours, in a brand new house, will begin 15 years and two weeks after Simon and I first met. We’ve been drunk, gotten sober, struggled with infertility, had a baby, lost a pregnancy, transitioned (well, him… but it’s a process for the whole family), and moved to Atlanta. This new house feels like a nod to all we have been through and a celebration of who we are going forward. It’s something we chose together, something we want to build on and live into.

So, I guess, primarily I’m sitting with the excitement of beginning anew. We get to hold on to all we love about Atlanta, and we get a clean slate. It’s a tremendous win for us, a validation that we’ve done things right. I’m grateful… for a new house, for a family that stayed together despite the odds, and for my ability to stay (mostly) in the moment.

Okay, okay… I’m rarely in the moment these days. But I’m not totally freaking out, either. Progress not perfection, y’all. 

 

 

Photo by Robert Shunev on Unsplash 

Valedictorian of Taking Myself Less Seriously

I like to be valedictorian of everything. I want my conversation to be the wittiest, the wisest. I want my contributions to be insightful and to command respect. And I never, ever want to admit that I am wrong. I’m a gem, aren’t I?

I like to be valedictorian of everything.

I want my conversation to be the wittiest, the wisest. I want my contributions to be insightful and to command respect. And I never, ever want to admit that I am wrong.

I’m a gem, aren’t I?

The good news is, after years and years of being a perfectionist with a zillion excuses and justifications for never actually TRYING at much of anything, I got sober. And that taught me two important lessons: 1) Perfectionism is just a bullshit excuse to prevent me from ever really putting myself out there, and 2) I don’t know shit about shit.

Really. I am wrong a lot.

The first few years of sobriety taught me that I’d been a master at making myself a victim, at playing helpless to avoid work, and pain, and adulting. So I womaned up and started taking responsibility for my own chaos. And it sucked. I thought my tragic victim role was all kinds of romantic (it wasn’t). But this actual attempt at vulnerability and openness–the kind that allows you to learn, grow, and accumulate real wisdom–was gritty, and real, and hard AF.

Then I had a baby. And motherhood disabused me any idea that I was always right. And it sure as hell has taught me to admit when I’m wrong. Jane has taught me about ditching perfectionism in favor of joy and about letting go of expectations and just being in the moment. I’ve relinquished the constant need to be right in favor of building up and supporting the people I love the most. (But I still love an “I told you so” more than I probably should. Progress not perfection, y’all)

But the latest BIG lesson for me is a doozy: I take myself too fucking seriously.

 

After we all stop singing Closer to Fine, I’ll give you the most mundane (profound) example. Ready? Alright:

This morning, I was plodding along on the track. And my leg was all janky. It was tight, and the tightness was throwing off my gait. And I was going to run through the accumulating pain. But then I thought: WTF? What am I trying to prove? Hasn’t this summer been all about really diving into the adventure of running? Why the hell wouldn’t I just stop and stretch? What was I trying to prove? That I could run a 5K? I’ve done that over and over and over again. This run just wasn’t that serious. I had nothing to prove.

So, I plopped down on the side of the track, laid back, and stretched. For a good long time. I ran a few more laps. Then I stretched AGAIN. And it felt luxurious. And indulgent. But it also felt like adulting. Because I was taking care of my body. Turns out that, over this long, hot Summer of Running, I’ve learned to trust my body and to listen to what it’s really asking for.

I’ve also learned to listen to my heart. Because living a satisfied, joyous life isn’t about being right all the time. Or holding firm to a position (or an identity) when you’ve outgrown it, or evolved past it, or when it just no longer works for you. There’s power in evolving, in being open, in embracing change.

And there’s so much room for joy when I don’t take myself so fucking seriously. It’s only life after all.*

 

*C’mon. You knew I’d work in that last Indigo Girls reference, didn’t you?

There Is Power In the Seeking

Yesterday, during approximately the last 15 seconds of an AA meeting, a dude chimes in with this nugget:

“The power isn’t in ‘knowing’ God. The power is in the seeking of God.”

And I was all, “Don’t mind me. I’ll just sit over here quietly. Mind BLOWN.” Because YES. It’s this that I have been trying to put my finger on for weeks. This is what called  me back to AA. This seeking.

In theory, I’ve always been a seeker. I revel in pondering big questions about God, humanity, and purpose. In fact, I gravitate to these conversations–but try to engage me in small talk & I’m a hot mess. (SO BAD AT IT. Tragic, really). But I’ve struggled with how to do more than just ponder the big questions abstractly. Distantly. I don’t always know how to engage with them, get hands-on about them, and turn them into practice.

That was what AA gave me the first go-round: a set of steps (a guideline) for connecting with my Higher Power. There was work to be done, it turns out. I mean, relationships are beautiful–but GOOD GOD, they are work. My relationship with my HP requires work. And that work is the seeking. And that’s where the power lies.

For a long time, I stayed connected with the Universe (God…whatever…) through really traditional Christian practices. I had a community that pushed me to examine and expand my spiritual practices–that offered me accountability. That sense of community was central to my seeking. But that’s not where I am at the moment. Right now, church is–for me–about celebrating God, lamenting and rejoicing in community, and striving for more justice & mercy in the world. But I’ve been missing that one-on-one connection that pushes me to do the work, to seek.

I wish I could excel as a solo seeker. It sounds so cool. And mystical.

But it’s really not who I am. I process life by talking about it. A lot. And I strive for stronger connection with my own spirituality when I watch other folks live out theirs in ways that wow me.

There’s a line in “How It Works” in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that says, “If you’ve decided you want what we have, and are willing to go to any length to get it…” I always thought of that line as a “do you want to see the world through something other than the bottom of your pint glass?” situation. And OBVI, the answer was yes.

But, at this point in my own evolution, the question seems much weightier. Like a spiritual question. Am I ready to seek “conscious contact” with God (the Universe… whatever…)?

And that’s how I ended up sitting in AA meetings (after an 8 year hiatus). Because so many of the folks there ARE seekers. They’re examining their actions, their motivations, their spirituality–taking stock of it all and seeking to be better, to be more connected with their own Higher Power (whatever they understand that to be).

There’s power in the seeking. That’s my current mantra. So now I’m curious: what drives you to connect to something bigger than yourself (whatever that something may be)?

A.A. (The Return)

When I walked into AA almost 10 years ago (in my cowboy boots and jeans, hair pulled back neatly into a ponytail, with a Big Book in hand, because I like to be valedictorian of everything), I was willing to show up. And that was about it.

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When I walked into AA almost 10 years ago (in my cowboy boots and jeans, hair pulled back neatly into a ponytail, with a Big Book in hand, because I like to be valedictorian of everything), I was willing to show up. And that was about it.

I didn’t want a sponsor. Because, I mean, how do you even go about picking someone that’s going to shape your spiritual formation? In all the meetings, they were always on and on about “spiritual fitness” and how one day my relationship with my higher power would be all that stood between me & a drink. That’s BIG. How did I know if any of these jokers were even qualified to help me dig through all this emotional baggage to get (and stay) sober?

And I sure as hell didn’t want to call people. The AAs seemed to want me to call people just to say hey. To talk about…whatever. Uh, no thanks. I had friends for that.

And sharing in a meeting? No. Definitely not. I mean, first of all, most people just rambled on and on and said nothing of any significance. Then, if I did decide I wanted to share, I couldn’t hear anything anyone said over the roar of “DON’T FUCK IT UP” in my own head. So, no. Sharing wasn’t going to happen. Not for this alcoholic.

I showed up for two years. I did work the steps–mainly because I found a sponsor who didn’t want a relationship with me at all. She wanted to get me through the steps quickly and thoroughly so I could stay sober. She did. And I did. (She was precisely what I needed in that moment in my life. And I’m so grateful for her.)

But then I was done with AA. I stuck around because I believed the line that if you stop going to meetings, you’re going to get drunk. Then I gave myself some credit, continued to practice the principles and work on my relationship with my Higher Power–and quit AA.

When unmistakably, and completely out of the blue, I knew I needed to go back to AA meetings, it wasn’t because I wanted a drink. Or because I was afraid I’d drink. I mean, I if I say God told me to, are we gonna be able to take me seriously after that. Because that’s what happened. I stayed sober because I have been maintaining that relationship with my Higher Power all along—and so I knew I, undeniably, that I was being called to go back.

I still have no idea why.

But I do know this. I am so different than I was 8 years ago.

Look, AA meetings are all about sharing experience, strength, and hope with a whole group of (mostly) likeminded folks. These are people who have gotten a daily reprieve from their own self-inflicted hell. And the only way they get to keep that reprieve is to work on their spiritual life–striving toward selflessness, connection, service. HOW COULD I NOT LOVE THAT?!? It’s literally almost everything I love & strive for in my own life. And folks are just sitting around, talking freely about their struggles & triumphs, supporting each other & pushing each other to grow. It’s kind of miraculous, really.

But it comes down to willingness. 8 years ago, I wasn’t willing to do shit. I wasn’t willing to share my vulnerability, to admit that sometimes I might not exactly know everything. I wasn’t willing to let people see me. And you can’t exist in AA without being seen.

The program hasn’t changed at all. But my perspective has. I have.

It’s like my buddy said after a meeting, “It took me a long time to understand, but it’s all just love in here, man. It’s just love.”

Avoiding Anvils

What happens when an AWOL AA goes back to a meeting? She remembers how damn good it is to be sober.

Euphoric. That’s how drinking always made me feel.* (Until it didn’t.)

The trouble with euphoria, though, is that I didn’t really feel anything. I just kind of existed in this heightened buzz of emotion. So, something as still & quiet as intuition… yeah, I couldn’t use something as subtle as intuition at all. Everything seemed like a good idea when I was drunk. And drinking made me bulletproof–so I could do anything. Which really meant I could sit on a barstool and talk about how easy it would be for me to do anything.

The actual doing? Yeah, it never got done.

I’m a bit more capable of honing in on things like intuition now. Like when I got the nudge about AA. I felt it. I tried to ignore it. But I felt it alright.

And I kept feeling that same nudge over & over again. Until I finally pulled my shit together and showed up at a meeting today.**

Post AA Meeting (in a Rocket Designs Shirt)
Check the recovery shirt. Simon designed it.***

The topic? Helping others (skillfully). Which boils down to this: it doesn’t matter how much I want someone else to get sober. They ain’t gonna until they’re good and ready. Sure, I can beat someone over the head with my sobriety. I can shame them about their behavior. I can point out the fact that they are RUINING THEIR LIVES.

But that’s a bunch of sanctimonious bullshit. And I know it.

I remember every cutting, cruel comment people made about my drinking during the worst of it. And I was an awful drunk. I cried. I puked. I slept with other people’s significant others. I hurt everyone around me. People were fed the fuck up with me. I get it.

But I also know now that the level of shame a drunk feels about their own behavior far surpasses what anyone else can pile on.

So, if shame didn’t work, what did?

Nothing really.

But I do also clearly remember my boss (yes, I held a job. Yes, they should have fired me. No, I don’t think they did me any favors by shielding me from the consequences of my drinking. But I also get that it was hard to know what the right thing was in that time and space. Nobody likes to see someone else self-destruct in front of them) telling me stories about the insanity that transpired when she was drinking. Funny stories. Stories I could whole-heartedly relate to. And then she’d invite me to an AA meeting. Real chill like. I always said no. In fact, I didn’t get sober until 5 years after I’d left that job. But she kept inviting me. And she kept living her sober, happy life out loud in my presence.

And when I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired (the AAs LOVE to say this), I knew where to go.

That boss that stuck it out, that never shamed me, that just kept inviting to meetings… she’s a huge part of my sobriety. Not because she’s in my life now. But because, without shame or judgement, she offered me a lifeline.

She couldn’t get me sober. She couldn’t save me. No one could. But her kindness–her gentle, super-chill invitations to AA meetings–showed me that she believed I was worth saving. When my time came, I believed her, and took the first steps toward saving myself.

 

*At least for the first hour or so. After that, all bets were off. One of Simon’s infamous one-liners was “It’s HAPPY hour, not crying hour.”

**Totally glad I went. Will probably go again even. WHO AM I?!?

***Need one of these shirts? Of course you do. Head over here to get one. Want a different design? No worries. There’s other rad stuff there, too.

Facing The Things I Suck At

Moving pushes all my buttons. For real–uncertainty and WAITING? I suck at those. But I’m doing it. And that’s growth.

Moving. For real, this whole process is fraught with uncertainty: will the house sell quickly? Will we find another house we think is dreamy*? What if we close on our current house and then have no where to live? What if? What if? WHAT IF?!?

I suck at uncertainty. 

That’s kind of just always been my truth. So, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I haven’t been freaking-the-hell-out. Not even a little bit. I’m just kind of along for the ride. The Universe (… God… whatever) hasn’t let me down yet. So, I’m trying to be all zen. (Living life on life’s terms, as the AAs say).

But shit, I am DONE with this moving business.

I know. I know. I don’t get to be done. And no one cares if I’m done. The process is the process is the process. Listing a house–cleaning, prepping, threatening family members that if they leave their dirty clothes on the floor one more time…–is the opposite of fun. It’s anti-fun. It’s soul-sucking. And that’s just when I’m feeling positive about it.

Through my efforts to be zen, a feeling keeps pushing through: discomfort. I am uncomfortable with this moment in my life. I want to be settled. I want to focus on writing. I want to think about something else other than keeping the house clean so that random strangers can wander through to decide what they think our home–the place where the most sacred things in our life happen, where love and tears and laugher and intimacy collide, where our LIFE happens–what they think it’s worth. I want to live my life. And right now, I’m just waiting.

And, if there’s anything I suck more at than uncertainty, it’s waiting. 

But, that’s okay. I can manage these things I’m ultra-sucky at. Because managing them is building resilience. How the hell are you supposed to develop something that seems so inate (like you’ve just got it or you don’t) as resilience? Brené Brown has some thoughts:

It’s all about a “tolerance for discomfort,” she says.

People who healthfully navigate firings, divorces, and other super difficult situations are able to do so because they’re aware of their emotional worlds — which are often uncomfortable places.

“What I’m talking about is an acceptance that our drive, this insatiable appetite for comfort and happiness, does not reconcile with who we are as people ,” she told Tech Insider in a recent interview. “Sometimes we have to do tough things and feel our way through tough situations, and we have to feel tough emotions.”

“Hold up!” I can hear you thinking. “This move is, like, no where near as emotionally intense (and potentially devastating) as a divorce or being fired. What is your major malfunction?” 

And you’re right (although you can ship “major malfunction” back to the 80s where it belongs). This move (that we chose freely to make) is not in the category of a major life event. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hit on some of my biggest pain points, some of the places I can most use growth.

Truthfully, an earlier iteration of myself wouldn’t have chosen this move, even though it is best for our family. Because earlier iterations valued comfort and certainty above all else. I wouldn’t have been able to take a chance on leaving a good house in a good neighborhood to move to another community that we think we might love EVEN MORE, just because we thought it was right.

But this iteration of me can. And I’m proud of that. And I’m god-awful uncomfortable. But I’m sitting with it and managing it. And I’m choosing to stay in this moment and do the next task at hand, instead of letting the what-ifs make me frantic.

And that is the best I can do. That is my next right thing.

 

*I watched a ton of Brady Bunch as a kid. I was always a little smitten with how Marsha used “dreamy” to describe a variety of things (although, most often a boy). So, because I’m into living my best life and seizing the moment and all, I worked it in. I think we’re all better for it.

 

Pug Image by Matthew Henry on Unsplash