Forgiveness & Love & Remembering

Moving forward involves forgiving myself. Sometimes, it’s easier said than done. But it’s a spiritual practice…

Occasionally, usually as I’m trying to fall asleep, a memory will drift across my consciousness. I’ll pick up the string and follow it along. And then, unwittingly I stumble on a semi-related memory that makes my stomach clench and cold dread slide through my body straight down to my toes. Always, it’s a memory of something I did when I was drinking. Something I would never dream of doing now. Something that makes me think “what the actual FUCK?”

Truth: I hate those memories.

Coverse truth: Those memories keep me humble. They remind me who I am.

I never again have to be the person I was when I was drinking. That much is a welcome truth. And I believe I’m forgiven by the Universe for brokenness, my transgressions. I don’t carry guilt anymore. I found it too destructive a burden, one that kept me stuck in the past instead of moving forward. But hot damn, does it floor me the things I did.

And the most fucked up part: I believed I wouldn’t be me anymore without alcohol. Seriously. I thought I wouldn’t be witty or charming, sensitive or fun. But I’d long stopped being any of those things. I could mimic the actions (sometimes). I could carry on what I thought were deep and meaningful conversations. But I didn’t really know how I felt about anything. I wasn’t letting people see me. I was letting them see what I thought they wanted to see. And any time the potential for a real emotion arose, I just numbed it with alcohol.

An unmitigated disaster. That’s what I was.

And, no, I don’t like to remember it. I especially don’t like to run across memories buried in my subconscious. Remembering them takes me right back to the wreckage I caused–for me and everyone around me. But maybe it’s a good exercise, the remembering. Because then I have to practice forgiving myself. Again.

I do believe the Universe has forgiven me. Forgiving myself is something I’m still learning. Bit by bit. One resurfaced memory at a time. But, as much as I may not like it, my ability to forgive myself is directly tied to my ability to forgive and love others.

I used to find something noble and strong in holding a grudge, in remembering the ways in which I’d been wronged to prevent future transgressions. It took me years of sobriety to finally understand that grudges (resentments) keep me stuck, stop me from growing. They take up too much mental space. The emotional scabs stay raw, so I can’t heal. I can’t move.

Forgiveness is a return to Love. And that’s where I’d rather be.

So, I forgive myself for being like napalm in people’s lives (most of all my own). I forgive other people (it’s a process, for sure. I swear, I forgiven some people like 3 different times for the exact same transgression. Not similar transgressions. That exact one. Like I said, it’s a process). And, when old memories come creeping in, unbidden, in the middle of the night, I allow myself to remember. I take a deep breath and forgive myself again.

 

 

Puzzling Through

Know what grace looks like for me? It looks like reckoning with a 1000 piece puzzle. It looks like family. It looks like gratitude.

It’s been a few weeks since Jane and I embarked on our Epic Puzzling Adventure. One day at Target, more or less on a whim, I picked up a 1000 piece puzzle because I am a glutton for punishment adventurous. A puzzle seemed like a nifty, wholesome way for Jane and I to do some quality time. I mean, usually I opt for giggling with her as people face-plant on AFV or expressing my deeply held belief about Pilgrims in our spare time. But, I mean, a puzzle could be fun, too.

 

We dumped the entire puzzle on the dining room table and set about sorting through ONE THOUSAND PIECES to find all the edge pieces. The sheer volume of little funny shaped cardboard pieces meant they got shuffled all about, some teetering precariously on the edge of the table. Our boxer pup slimed at least one of them as she sniffed to figure out if they seemed edible (that dog and I have VERY different ideas about what might be edible). Occasionally, Jane and I would hear a piece quietly thunk to the floor. And then we’d yell, “DON’T LET THE DOG GET IT!”, as we both scrambled to find it before Delilah used it as her daily dose of fiber.

Pro Tip: If it’s going to take you weeks to finish a puzzle, you probably shouldn’t leave it on the dining room table. If you do, pieces will get shuffled under papers. Someone might use your puzzle as a coaster. The dog might occasionally try to snag a piece off the table, not really because she’s interested but because it’ll get a rise out of the whole family.

Jane and I took to doing the puzzle in spurts. We’d start on it and get really engrossed in finding a specific kind of piece. I liked the aqua camper. She got entranced by the fire. Then, invariably, one of us would get bored and wander off (usually her) while the other puzzled on valiantly (usually me). But even if Jane wandered off, she’d pop back in frequently, always finding a piece to snap into place or cheering me on when I was on a hot puzzling streak (you wish you were me, don’t you? I know. I’m hella cool.)

These moments, when we were working together toward something that seemed almost unreachable, they gave me hope. The whole trope about mothers and daughters not getting along really bugs me. I love my kid a lot. But I also really LIKE her. I value her input. I think she has stellar ideas. She’s introspective and kind. I want her to choose me when she’s an adult. I am hyper aware that children do not have to choose to allow parents to be part of their lives. I hope I am the kind of mother that she will want to rely on, that she will trust, that she’ll look to for encouragement and support. And the fact that we could work together on this damn puzzle, even when one of us got frustrated, meant something to me. It meant a lot, really.

As we got close to the end, Jane kept wanting to count the pieces. And I tried my hardest to stop her. I just knew, after all the shuffling, falling, coaster-using… I knew we’d be missing some pieces. Well, I didn’t know. But I assumed. And I didn’t want to know for sure. Because why would it be worth it to do this crazy big puzzle, if we couldn’t even get all the pieces together?  I mean, what would be the point even?

And sure enough…

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But, in the most bizarre twist, I realized that I wasn’t bothered. Not really. Because if you leaned back a little, that missing piece wasn’t as noticeable. My eyes kept landing, instead, on the parts of the puzzle Jane & I had adopted as our own, the ones we’d worked so hard on.

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And if I stood back even further, all I could really see was all the bright colors, and the woodland creatures wreaking havoc on a hapless campground, and the hours of fun and camaraderie. Unless I looked for it, I really couldn’t see that missing piece at all.

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Jane keeps asking if it bugs me, that we’re missing ONE piece. I get why she asks: I kind of acted like it would be the dawn of the apocalypse if we lost a piece. But I keep assuring her that it doesn’t matter.

For my first 33 years, I spent so much time fixated on what was lacking. Looking back, it feels like sometimes lack was ALL I could see. I missed lots of beautiful people, experiences, moments … they were all muted, drowned out by what I thought I didn’t have.

Know what grace is for me? Realizing that lack no longer defines my worldview. That each day, I’m astounded by what I do have. Because my whole life could’ve gone down so very differently. Getting sober taught me to see all the beauty that weaves itself together, so that lack isn’t apparent. It taught me to look at the bigger picture–and to be grateful for the 999 pieces that we do still have.

Welcome to Remotely Intellectual!

Welcome to Remotely Intellectual! Grab a cup of coffee & let’s discuss life. Parenting? Oh, yeah. I’ll write about that in all it’s messy glory. Recovery? Yup. It’s the basis of everything good in my life. So it comes up quite a bit. Spirituality? Oof. I’m a hot mess on that one. But you can watch my explorations unfold right here! Atlanta? Love it! And coffee.

 

Hey, y’all!

Welcome to Remotely Intellectual! Grab a cup of coffee & let’s discuss life. Parenting? Oh, yeah. I’ll write about that in all it’s messy glory. Recovery? Yup. It’s the basis of everything good in my life. So it comes up quite a bit. Spirituality? Oof. I’m a hot mess on that one. But you can watch my explorations unfold right here! Atlanta? Love it! And coffee. And social justice type stuff–like racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia. We’re going to talk about it all.

Oh! And I’m reading 43 books during my 43rd year & reviewing them all for you–in 250 words or less. It’s currently one of my favorite projects. Check it out:

I’m super excited about this new space. For those of you coming over from Rocket Fuel, you’ll find the same content but under a much more apt name. Because really, what am I if not remotely intellectual?

A Quick Recap

Rocket Fuel got its start as the offshoot of Rocket Designs (a recovery brand that Simon & I launched together). Originally, all my posts looped back to recovery (as everything in my life does). But, I started to feel a little stifled by being tied to a theme…

Rocket Fuel got its start as the offshoot of Rocket Designs (a recovery brand that Simon & I launched together). Originally, all my posts looped back to recovery (as everything in my life does). But, I started to feel a little stifled by being tied to a theme…

At the same time, Simon and I got pulled in different directions (by things like his transition, a move to Atlanta, a near break-up). We decided to continue selling recovery shirts online, but not to further develop the brand. Which left Rocket Fuel hanging around in cyberspace on it’s own.

And soon, I started to wonder if the name really fit what was happening on the blog. And what I want to happen in the future. What do I want to do more of? Well, I’ve dabbled in fiction. (I’ve got a whole middle grades book written… but not published. Remind me to work on that). I love to read (and I’d like to talk about what I’m reading a bit more…) And I want to do a lot more critical thinking and writing about what’s happening in Atlanta (and in the world at large).

What won’t change? Well, me being me. Which means a whole hell of a lot of honesty. And some cussing. And lots of pictures of my kid. And post about running and recovery and coffee and spirituality and parenthood and LIFE.

But the name. Y’all. The name of the blog has got to change.

Good Enough

I am a master at self-sabatoge. I’m a hard worker. But I like to work right up to where I want to be, then decide I just can’t do it. That I don’t deserve it. That I can’t handle it. And then, I just …. stop.

I’ve spent a lot of time convincing myself I’m not good enough. Like most folks who excel at alcoholic-type behavior, I am a master at self-sabatoge. I’m a hard worker. But I like to work right up to where I want to be, then decide I just can’t do it. That I don’t deserve it. That I can’t handle it. And then, I just …. stop. No dramatic flame out. Just a quiet deceleration that takes me back from the precipice of success and puts me on the slow track to just-good-enough.

But…

About a year and a half ago, I realized I’m guilty of holding myself back. On so many levels. Emotionally. Spiritually. Professionally. And I realized that this is my next hurdle: to embrace real, substantive growth on all levels. To allow myself to change and explore new territory, whatever that looks like.

Today, I sat in a meeting with a big, international client. Which I never would’ve allowed myself to do just a few years ago–I would have been so consumed by anxiety that I wouldn’t have been able to hear the conversation around me over the roar of “don’t fuck this up” in my own head. But this morning, I sat there. Cool as a fucking cucumber. I munched on a bagel, offering my opinion when it seemed relevant. Otherwise, I was just  being. Being comfortable in my own skin. Being worthy just because.

If this doesn’t seem revelatory, I’m so glad. I love that not all people struggle with self-worth. I hope my kid never has to. But I had to sit through a few rounds of therapy and lots of AA meetings to get to a point where I got it: that I am okay. That I am MORE than okay. That my brilliance comes just from being–not because of anything I do or don’t do. I am worthy just because I am.

I’ve surrounded myself with people who believe that miracles happen on a daily basis. I’ve jumped whole-heartedly into the belief that we humans habitually limit ourselves–that we are capable of so much more, that the possibilities are so vast and endless that I can’t begin to even imagine them. I’ve begun to trust my own intuition. To listen to my inner guide. To be open to the Universe (God… whatever…) in whatever way it presents itself.

And, more than anything, I’ve embraced my own divine spark. My own self. My own worth. It’s freeing. A little scary sometimes… there’s just so much POTENTIAL here. But the view from here is peaceful and hopeful.

A friend today told me that I sparkle. And it’s possible that she’s been a bit mesmerized by my shimmery eyeshadow & lipgloss… But the current around me feels electric with joy & possibility. I am deeply content. Not because everything in my life is perfect. It isn’t. I still fuck up. I still fall into old habits. I still have ultra-petty moments. But none of these things define me anymore. They never did. But now I know it. And that kind of knowledge ripples out to the folks around us.

That’s the kind of energy I want to put out to the world. The kind that sparkles. (The shimmery eyeshadow doesn’t hurt, though)

I’ve Unfollowed the God of My Childhood

This God question is still lingering about. And it’s weighty as hell. Okay, it’s not really a GOD question. I’m all down for my higher power, which sometimes I call God & sometimes the Universe, and sometimes HEY YOU, if I’m feeling really impatient. It’s more a spiritual practice question, I suppose.

This God question is still lingering about. And it’s weighty as hell.

Okay, it’s not really a GOD question. I’m all down for my higher power, which sometimes I call God & sometimes the Universe, and sometimes HEY YOU, if I’m feeling really impatient. It’s more a spiritual practice question, I suppose.

And like all good questions, emotional dilemmas, and garden variety baggage, it stems from my childhood. Because the God I was raised with was scary as shit. He was a God to be feared. Not to be questioned. He was capable of taking things away, if I happened to love something more than I loved Him. So, I was always worried about my family. Because OF COURSE I loved the people who lived with me & cared for me more than I loved a God I couldn’t see & who seemed to be capricious as all get out. I was constantly re-praying the salvation prayer, because if I hadn’t “really meant it” God might deny me at the moment of judgement. I was afraid of God. Because I had good sense. I surely didn’t want to get smited. Or have everything I love snatched away from me. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the weight I felt to save each and every one of my friends who hadn’t acknowledged Christ & who surely were bound for hell in the proverbial handbasket.

No wonder I was an anxious child with questionable self-worth. This God’s love totally needed to be won. And I just wasn’t sure I was up to the task. You see the problem, right? Because this God was the one I learned about in church.

This God of my childhood is so diametrically opposed to the God that’s been presented to Jane that, if I were to tell her what I’d learned about God as a kid, she’d call bullshit on it immediately. Because we’ve always attended a church where first & foremost, God is love. And, in every discussion I’ve ever had with my kid about God, I’ve shown her the God I met in AA. That God (the Universe, my Higher Power, whatever…) is big and expansive and loving. That God can’t be pinned down, pigeon-holed or co-opted. That God loves without strings or conditions. There’s no fear, because there’s nothing to be saved FROM. That God loves Jane simply because she exists. And she knows it. It’s intertwined with who she is. I see that every day, in the joy she exudes, in the choices she makes.

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Jane just being Jane.

This morning, as Jane & I were meandering toward the front door of her school, she said, “Mommy, I’m so excited.”

“About what, love?” I inquired. Because, I don’t know, she kinda said it like maybe a circus was coming through.

“I’m excited about everything about today!”

This kid. I swear. I think she knows more about God than I do. She sure does radiate joy & love. At 7, she seems to have access to an inner peace & sustainable joy that I didn’t have until my 30s. So, maybe, with this kid, it’s not so much a question about what to do on Sunday morning. Maybe it’s more about teaching her the Judeo-Christian* stories and just opening up the conversation. Being more transparent about my spirituality & inviting her to participate with me. Maybe that’s enough spiritual practice for now.

Maybe.

 

*Yes, I totally agree that stories from other traditions are important, too. But I do want her to know the stories I grew up with. So, we’ll start there.

Spiritual Progress (rather than spiritual perfection)

I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be.

Virgo – Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it. Thoughts, people, potions, food… get rid of what you’ve had your fill of. Even if it still smells good.                  —@leahtrox

Ooof.

Alright, truth time: I’m struggling hella hard with Christianity right now. Not in a theological sense. Theological stuff fascinates me but doesn’t shake me. No, I’m struggling with the Christian church. It’s a struggle that found its genesis in 1994, when I realized I was queer, and hasn’t let up much since.

So, what does a girl who was raised in the church, who is a big fan of Jesus but feels a bit skeeved by most of the folks who follow him, do? At various points in my journey, I’ve been able to jump whole-heartedly into the church vibe. But now, even with a church I love and admire—that really lives into social justice and mercy, that IS what I believe Jesus wanted his followers to be—I am struggling to fit.

And I’m just not sure I should any more.

I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at the spriritual not religious folks. But that’s a more accurate descriptor of my current state of being. I’m in recovery, which I talk openly about (because openness saves lives when it comes to addiction). I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be. It feels like work. But good, honest work. Like meditation. It’s all kinds of hard. But it’s worth it. Managing a spiritual program of recovery iswork. And it’s work I’ve been doing all along (I wouldn’t be sober without it). But now it feels like work I need to do in community to push myself to do better & dig deeper.

And I’m not saying folks aren’t doing that at church (especially at my church, because I KNOW they are). It just isnt’ resonating with me in this place I’m in right now.

So, what’s my hang up? Why don’t I just step back quietly from the whole church business and be done with it? Why am I even still pondering this? Because of my kid.

It’s always been important to me to raise Jane in the church. I want her to have an unshakable foundation—an understanding that God made her, adores her, seeks communion with her without condition. I’ve always felt like, even at my lowest, my belief—deep down—that I was loved by God saved me. Doesn’t she deserve to have that touchstone?

Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it.

But here’s some deeper truth: I didn’t really have any sort of meaningful relationship with my Higher Power until I got sober. Church didn’t teach me about God in the way that shapes my life now. AA did.

It’s so complicated, this question of how not only to impart something I hold so sacred to my child but also to find my own place of ease. Everything about parenting is complicated & joyful simultaneously… that’s the mystery & magic of it all.

I’d love to hear your (complicated) thoughts on spirituality & religious tradition and how you share that weighty and sacred stuff with your kids. But no hellfire & brimstone bullshit. I grew up with it & have had my fill. Just light & love welcome here.

 

Photo Cred: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash