Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Shell





I've recently discovered the shell around me. It's a deflector: it protects me from anger, disappointment, and criticism. It also shields me from kindness, compliments, tenderness, and good intentions. It prevents me from receiving help gracefully, and from loving fully.

This shell appeared around the time I was five years old and has been slowly and constantly spiraling out, winding around and around me for the past forty years. Trying to squeeze myself out from inside it could be why I started drinking: I wanted to feel, and I didn't want to feel the way I was feeling, but then I realized I was feeling too much and so had to drink more. When I stopped drinking my shell helped me have a place to hide and heal, it's been such a dear friend to me- a security blanket, a refuge, a prison.

My beloved protector has also been my jailer, guarding against all the feelings- guarding against the ones that make me feel loved and cared for same as the ones that hurt. My first inkling of this was when my therapist noticed when I told stories that should bring up big emotions for me I was just...flat. Or smiling, even. I'm relating stories to her that have caused me years of pain and I am...smiling.

I've noticed how the shell prevents me from being myself, but only in those moments when I am out of the shell and I feel that feeling you get when you are one hundred percent in your own body, speaking your own words, feeling your own way- safe and open to the world. As soon as I recognize it I am right back inside the shell, afraid I'll be found out and unwilling to chance hurt. I don't want anyone to recognize me, know me, help me, or...love me.

I noticed how frustrated I get whenever the dogs come around and want me to pet them. They run towards me, smiling and panting- nubby tails wagging, delighted that Here she is!! Our girl!!! YAY!!!! and I get... pissed. I ask my husband for more affection and then he gives it, so I get mad because he's getting in my way and interrupting me. I have this way of handing out instructions for how I want to be treated, but then I don't have a clue how to handle being treated the way I asked for. I have all this big love to get and to give, but then the actual getting and giving it part comes up and I'm all angry and clumsy and lost, looking like I know how to read the map on the outside but on the inside the map is lost under all the shit in the glove box. I'm like a two year old in relationship years.

Do you ever have those moments when you discover something so big about yourself that you cannot even believe you've been alive all this time not knowing this gigantic thing is true? It's like the time I stood at a crowded fancy bar with the back of my skirt tucked into my underwear, so buzzed after dinner that I was careless in the bathroom and didn't check my skirt, I didn't realize my entire ass was hanging out for all the world to see. No one said anything. Maybe no one noticed, or they didn't really care, until finally a friend ran up to me as we were leaving and urgently whispered in my ear "AMY YOUR SKIRT IS IN YOUR UNDERWEAR!!!" and she quickly jerked the hem of my skirt out of my undies while I stood mortified, paralyzed with how long it had been since I'd walked out of the bathroom.

Like I thought my skirt was settled and adjusted properly back there, I've always thought I was that way too: settled and adjusted properly in my heart. Lovable even. My big discovery is that I may be love able, but I am not able to be loved. Regardless of my impatient attitude towards accepting love for myself in my mind I am open hearted. On paper I feel safe exposing things I cannot in person. I have the temperament and the tolerance to sit and be thoughtful and careful when I write, but in person I am ham handed and impatient, intolerant of love towards me and of giving love when asked.

I might be partly an asshole.

I am not a total schmuck. I do have a big capacity for giving, so there I am not an asshole, but in the receiving department? Oh, man. I fear that I am, in fact, kind of a jerk.

I think I'm kind of a jerk because of my beloved shell.

Oh, no! My darling shell! I hold my head in my hands, my eyes down, heart heavy because I have to leave my constant companion behind- the thing I thought made me okay and life livable is in fact the thing that is holding me back.

Getting sober and being sober seems like it is relentlessly about the things I have to lose to keep going. It's sort of like the simplicity trend: get in there and get rid of stuff, and then when I think I'm as bare bones as it gets I've just gotten started. Which makes me want to wail about how unfair that is because, fuck. I quit drinking- can't that just be enough??? Why does there have to be so much of the squeezing???

But there is, there just is. Being sober is all about the squeezing. And the molting. It's all about the fears and the tears and the snot and the feeling so one hundred percent uncomfortable that you might die. It feels so hard and so awful sometimes that I think I cannot go on even one more second and then I realize: Oh, hey...look at me. I'M FEELING! I'M FEELING FEELINGS! Oh, yeah. That's what this is about. I'm doing it right, even though it sucks. The feeling feelings is the point.

Sometimes I sit in my therapist's office, there on the worn out beige and red striped loveseat, looking out the window through all her plants at the parking lot, and I feel like I'm being skinned alive, like every single nerve I have is sticking out of my skin and the world is made of sandpaper and it's on fire. There's nowhere to hide. I hate it. I do it anyway. I don't want to talk but I do, I speak up and stare off into space and gulp for air and speak again.

I'm...molting. It is as inelegant as it sounds. There is crying, and snot, and deep sorrow, and being afraid, but relief, such relief too because my shell has gotten really tight since I started to grow out of it a few years ago. It is squeezing me. Maybe even squeezing the life out of me, but in a good way. There is laughter, and recognition- it's me catching myself in the mirror of myself and knowing who is standing there. It's stretching and moving and seeing clearly through to who I really am.

It's me, without my shell.










Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Back Around




Baby me. An approximate representation of who I was after I finished yoga teacher training. 



Hi y'all! It's been months and months and here I am, still sober. :)

Yoga teacher training pulled me apart. In ways like warm rays of sunlight shining on fragrant fields of growing grass, but also in ways that are like the stinky liquid goo you find at the bottom of the kitchen trash when someone hasn't put the bag on right. I have been feeling the hills are alive with the sound of music along side I want to be in bed, in the dark, maybe forever.

Did you know I was a waitress? It's what I've done my whole adult life, aside from a four year stint at Whole Foods where I thought I was going to set the world on fire- maybe in ten years I'd be running my own store! I could make great money without having to go back to school! I could stop waiting tables forever! Then I quickly realized I was not cut out for working at a corporation- even if it was Whole Foods. I still stayed there for four years. It's where I got sober, halfway through my time there. It's where things got so bad that I had to either quit drinking or become a total fucking failure- me at forty, working at the grocery store and not able to handle that much less my life and my family.

I've been sober for almost four years, and back waiting tables for two. It seems ironic and at the same time a bit awful that I make a living serving food and loads of drink. Bottles of expensive wine, big cold martinis, things to taste and pour and talk about and enjoy and I just smell and play along, relying on knowledge I gained fifteen years ago when I was at the top of my booze game. It doesn't bother me much, randomly I'll long to be a person who can go out to dinner like some of the people I wait on, people who can carefully select a bottle of wine and then make it last all of dinner, maybe even leaving a glass in the bottle. How can you just leave a whole glass behind? I'll think and I have to laugh at my disbelief when this happens, knowing what I know about my a-holic self.

My husband waited tables at this same restaurant, I took over his job two years ago when he left to go to computer coding school. I stayed at Whole Foods too, working two jobs so he didn't have to work at all while he was in school.  Our whole marriage has been one of us waiting tables at night to supplement the other person who is working a "real" job during the day. It means that one of us is always around for the boys, and that we are not much around for each other. After twelve years of this style of marriage we are both ready for the way out- not out of being married, but out of being apart, single parenting patiently together for what is starting to feel like might be forever. Now that he's finished with school and has been working for over a year at this amazing job that we still both can't believe happened and I'm finished with yoga teacher training it's time to make some decisions. It means that I have started to think about what I want to be now that I'm grown up.

If there's one thing being sober has taught me it's dream big, and then think bigger. Half the reason I ended up as a waitress is that I never dreamed all that big- in spite of being smart and creative and capable I chose instead to dull myself down because success scares me. I remained contained and small, safe in the place of not pushing myself deserving the just settling. Amazingly enough it seems that I can't tolerate that anymore. That's part of what led me to do my yoga teacher training: I had to. I knew it was going to wake me up in ways I may or may not be ready for and for sure, it did.

After teacher training I had to take a break: I had to gather all my scattered thoughts together to see what thoughts I even wanted to be anymore. Who I wanted to be anymore. To see if I can handle blogging about who I am and what is happening to me. To see if I was ready to move away from putting sobriety front and center, if maybe I could just quietly be sober and perhaps something else would become a beacon of my life.

Lessening the importance of my sobriety didn't happen. What did happen was that every time I though about my life and choices, I was reminded of how recovery has given me the life I have today. Recovery is the lighthouse, it is what sends my ship to sail and plants my feet on the ground. It doesn't need to be in the background, because it doesn't have to. It isn't everything I am, I am everything it is.

My recovery is an ongoing, lifelong project. I quit drinking, but that isn't the finish line, not even close. I get alternately frustrated and overjoyed with the prospect that la la! recovery is going to last forever!!! and that recovery.  is.  going.  to.  last.  for.  ever. There isn't even a finish line. ACK!! How can this be?

How to stay? How to remain open and transparent and stay in the blogging world when things have gotten so much bigger than simply quitting drinking? How to give value to the privacy my life deserves but to also let it all hang out because what if my honesty can be a thing that helps someone whose ship's almost run aground find their lighthouse too? Can this be part of what I am? Is it okay for me to be who I actually am, all out in the open? Can I stop hiding and offer and accept the gifts I am given? Who the hell am I anyway?

I figured it all out... the answer is I don't know.

So here I am, back at my keyboard, thinking of myself and of you there, reading and maybe finding some something that makes you feel ok at your life. I apologize if I left you stranded while I put the oxygen mask only on myself for a while. I thought at the end of my yoga teacher training I would be awake and alive and healed- so healed that I would glow with it, emanate it, radiate it. Instead I was a tender naked mole rat- more than ever out in the bright scary light of the world with only the steadiness of my breath and my feet on the ground to carry me along to where I am today. Yoga helped save me at the beginning of my sobriety, it was an answer to my S.O.S. that now anchors me when I start flailing around. But it also can be so fucking hard because if I practice with honesty and integrity there isn't anywhere for me to hide.

I'm okay with that now. I'm not in a hurry anymore, I'm not searching for the finish line. I'm afraid every single day without pretending I'm not anymore. I'm glad to be here, back where I belong.




Monday, May 30, 2016

Grace and Stillness




I am still thinking so much about all the things I learned about myself since January. I haven't written here because, well, because it's so hard to put into words, all the things I can see but can't explain because they are ideas and feelings, not things I can contain in a sentence or a blog post. Maybe just not yet.

One of the things I learned is how to hold myself responsible to myself- for me this means not doing things just because other people would want me to, but because I want to. It means not writing blog posts when I can't do it, it means leaving the laundry because I need a walk, it means flossing my teeth even when I'm tired and all I want to do is fall into bed. The amount of honesty I have gained in these last few months is still such a pleasant surprise- like when a dear friend arrives with no notice at the front door and the house is dirty but you don't even care, there are just hugs and hellos and gladness for the arrival. Maybe you push the dog hair out of the middle of the floor and wipe up the leftover breakfast crumbs and teacup rings and you're ok, not feeling judged by life because the table is messy, but being understood because life, sometimes, is messy.

I have been thinking so much about what it all means. Doing yoga teacher training and starting my first go at one-on-one therapy together was the smartest thing. It meant that all the deep deep stuff I dug up had a place to go rather than skitter around in my incapable hands. Therapy for me means I have to be really really brave and speak up from myself because otherwise we just sit there and talk about the weather or nothing and then I leave and feel more scared than when I arrived. Yoga does that for me also- whether we're practicing asana or breathing or supporting each other I have to participate as the me I am or I end up lost then too.

I learned that I really have to start with the basics. Like breathing. Feeling my feet on the ground. Walking. I still have trouble sitting and not feeling like I don't know where I am, but it's better. Sometimes when I sit cross legged I can't find my balance, I feel like a toppling top. Then I get frustrated: my god! who doesn't know how to sit? and then I remember oh right, me and I breathe and adjust and smile to myself for having the courage to not know how to do even that.

I cried so so much over these past months. I am almost crying now. It became a tender running joke at training that I would probably cry, but I was understood. It's all the sad and glad feelings I pushed down so hard all my sweet life having to get out because now the door is open and it's safe out here. I discovered something I'd secretly always thought about myself and could now recognize as true: I am lovely. I can offer love and care freely, nurturing others is something I am good at. Now that I feel safe and held I can give what I've got and not be ashamed or nervous that people will reject me, I give what I do because I want to, the results of that aren't really in my control. Other people aren't in my control: all I can do is offer my wisdom, my compassion, and my caring with humility and grace. Joy and sorrow go hand in hand- I'm not ashamed of either of those. My hands remain open.

I'm learning when to speak up, when to be quiet, when to say yes, when to say no. I challenge myself to be out there, trying headstands and intelligently pushing my practice when I want to act tired and stay safe in the way that means I'm cheating myself. The thing is, yoga is not just asana- it's every moment of every day- so pushing my practice means I push myself to be filled with grace whether that's not yelling when I'm frustrated, or being disciplined with my work, or taking rest, or breaths, or doing things I'm afraid of- like having an open heart.

I am still full of doubt sometimes, afraid I'm an imposter and a failure. I still eat too much when I can't figure out how to handle things, and I bail on myself when I get that anxious procrastination feeling where I just wander around doing nothing while I worry over all the things I could be doing. Only now I know how to take my hand and see what I need instead of should-ing myself to death- making it better instead of making it worse. I don't do that every time, but I do it some times, which is a yard better than how it used to be- no times.

I am here. I am sober, I am alive, full of grace and hope- lovely. I have thought so much about how to write about all this, and I guess I still don't know. Or I do, but it comes out as it comes out- forcing things just isn't my style. I wondered about y'all- whoever still reads or missed me, or who might find me. I knew whoever was here would be here when they needed to be. I knew I would be here when I needed to be too.

Hello :)







Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Just Warming Up




This past few months have been hugely intense for me. Starting therapy and yoga teacher training is big: so big that I am still looking at it on my plate, chewing my first bite. I have come up with so much forgiveness, so much comfort and care for myself by allowing myself to pursue a dream that is still undefined but so needed. I have pushed myself mentally and physically and soulfully in ways that I totally hated every second of, but did it anyway because I know the hard stuff I can barely stand is the stuff I obviously need to pay attention to and do. I have loved so much of it, deep down constant gratitude and joy for being here, where I am.

It all winds back to the decision I made to quit drinking. That moment, that life defining choice, has built and grown my courage to be nice to myself. To care for the being I am that lives in this body, the person I have always been and am allowing myself to become. It was so awkward and weird at first, this kindness and care for my own self, but it keeps getting easier and more normal. This goes on forever- I am always healing and forever changing because healing and staying always one way aren't necessarily the same thing.

In teacher training we did an exercise about shame during our study of the third chakra. Our teacher had us write down three things we were ashamed of. I wrote:

my drinking
my lack of sexual abandon, yet TOO MUCH unconscious abandon
breastfeeding my children after I'd been drinking- losing their early childhoods

Then she had us decide about that shame. Decide yes or no, then stand up in this lofty open wood and brick big windowed wide space and push our arms out with great force away from ourselves, one arm at a time, side to side, yelling our word: yes or no. Hands open or in fists, eyes open, she started us off- yelling yes! YES! YES! her body swinging back and forth with the strength of her conviction. We started too, shyly yelling and moving. It took us a minute to warm up, and then we all yelled our yes's and no's and threw our arms out and in pulling our way towards a bit of freedom.

My shame about my former life is so big when I think back on the things I do remember and cringe to imagine the things I don't. I can't live in the steps I've already taken. I am not that person anymore, even if my brain wants to drag me back there for another round of punishment.

After about five minutes she stopped us, and said write it down. Write down what you mean about that shame now. I wrote this:

YES
it wasn't right. it was awful, and selfish, and it's OK. I did it the only way I knew how. It was wrong and I am forgiven. I am forgiven. My heart was always there 
ALL ALONG
ALL ALONG
ALL ALONG 
ALL ALONG
ALL ALONG

Then she said write your biggest wish. I wrote:

to continue

I cannot change what I've done, but I can honor myself every moment from now until I die. I can forgive myself, I can surrender to the bad and the good of who I've been and the woman I am at this very moment. I am all of my history and I'm making history all the time, the longer I live the more I can tip the scales so memory mostly recognizes who I am now. We'll tell it like used to be stories you tell about your children. "Remember when Amy would only wear dresses to school and ate cereal every day for breakfast? Remember when Amy used to roller skate all the time? Remember when Amy used to drink? Whoa! That was a long time ago." Then we'll scratch our heads and look off into space trying to even remember what that felt like.

I got myself sober and then I learned how to live like that, and now I am feet on the ground enough to open my heart enough to love and be loved by others and the world. To trust that my dirty laundry can be what it is, and not be more than it's been meant to be. I know that I am all those blacked out hook ups, those nights I had too much to drink and picked up my innocent baby sons in the middle of the night and fed them breast milk laced with alcohol, I am the fights I picked with my husband, the drunken wish for it to stop but not stopping. I am all of those things, but that is not all that I am.

I am just warming up.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

On the Ground





Back in the spring of 2011 I decided I was going to do yoga teacher training. I'd been doing yoga regularly for a year or two, and I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Yoga teacher seemed better than waitress, so I found a studio, paid a deposit, and signed up.

Then, because the universe is so universal-y I developed an umbilical hernia six weeks before training started. No yoga said the doctor. No yoga, no running. Let's see if it heals, or surgery. Heartbroken I cancelled yoga teacher training. I stopped yoga. I stopped running. 

I drank. We moved. I had hernia surgery. I drank a lot more. Then I quit.

Yoga helped save me. I would get up before dawn and write and then at 6 AM roll out my yoga mat and practice with the lady on PBS. I remembered what it was like to flow, to move. I was creaky and felt a little silly and a lot delighted that I was up doing yoga rather than nursing yet another hangover. We joined the Y and I meant to go to yoga class but I never made it. I practiced some at home and wanted to do more but just didn't. You know how that goes, I mean just... life.

Then in early 2014 a friend invited me to visit a new yoga studio that her friend had just opened. The space was beautiful- a big loft on the third floor of a downtown building that was not only the studio but home to the owners. The wood floors stretched long and lovely, the windows full of sun. It felt welcoming and warm, so pretty that it felt almost like it wasn't real. I met her friend, who is now my teacher, and my life changed forever. 

I'd been secretly thinking about being a yoga teacher again, wondering if I could. I didn't have a steady practice, but I started taking classes there sporadically. I really liked the people who owned the studio and always felt so welcome. I'd go steadily and then I'd be gone for months at a time but then back. I started thinking about taking teacher training there, then seriously thinking about it. It took over a year for me to arrange it but here I am- learning how to be a yoga teacher. 

People say things like "This changed me forever" and then the rest of us get skeptical and sort of waggle our eyebrows at each other behind that crazy person's back, but damn if it isn't true. I have been to two weekends of training and I am pretty fucking different. Not unrecognizable, just more me, more of a being with the world. 

One of my teachers is a sixty year old woman. She is bright and bold and thoughtful and incredibly human and honest. She encourages us to feel and move in our own ways, to get to places in our own time. Her influence in my life has put my feet on the ground. She is teaching me how to stand, how to sit, how to walk- physically teaching me how to walk on my tibia, not my fibula, how to stand on the big toe side of my foot and the little toe side and my heel. I am a forty four year old baby learning to roll around on the ground and feel connected to the earth. You wouldn't think rolling around on the ground with no effort would be so freaking hard, but try it- you'll be efforting all over the place- trying to hold your body just right or to look like what you imagine is the "proper" way to roll around on the ground. It is hilarious to realize that there is no right way to do it, but you've been trying to do it right the whole time. You're on your mat, on your side in the shape of a banana, all tensed up about it, then you let go, and you roll from side to side and something in you loosens and you can breathe again.

After the first weekend I felt like I had the flu. My hips felt like someone was grinding my femurs into them like a mortar and pestle. I was tired and achy, listless, spent. Our training is a lot of talking by all of us- sharing our stories, supporting each other in the spirit of our sangha, learning how much alike we are and how different. Noticing each other. There are the Yamas, and the Niyamas, and the chakras, it is also physical- we do classes and practice teaching each other. We chant, and breathe. That first weekend took a huge toll on me emotionally. Then we got to the second weekend and our second chakra- water and sexuality- and I almost fell right off the world.

 I have come to terms with many things since I got sober at the very end of 2012 but sex has not been one of them. I have a big sad history of big sad things that I did or that happened to me because I was drunk and that is almost impossible for me to shake. I lost my virginity in a drunken blackout when I was fifteen. Was it taken from me? I don't know, I was so drunk I wasn't in my body. It all rolls on from there, getting bigger and bigger until I get to here: me clueless about how to be a sexual and feminine woman in this middle aged body, still sometimes shaky about just being a person. I don't know how to feel comfortable being a woman, how to not equate sex with sadness, how to not equate feminine with sex. I spent half of a morning class silently sobbing, tears leaking and leaking out of me wanting to run from the room and break down but I stayed and let myself quietly cry and start to heal. I've run away enough. That's yoga.

It all goes back to basics. I got lost when I was twelve and started drinking at fourteen to stop hurting. And that's where I stopped knowing how to be in the world. I don't know how to walk in the world as a woman because I haven't done it. It has taken three years of me swaddled in sobriety like a baby to be ready to learn how to stand. But I am ready. Oh, I'm ready. My feet are right here on the ground. 







Friday, January 29, 2016

Radical Waiting

I have made a radical discovery. It's probably something you've heard of.

Meditation. And waiting.

Dude. Whoa.

I remember back in my twenties I went to a meditation class and I thought I might have both disappeared and fallen asleep. It was incredible. So of course, I never did it again.

I have tried meditating so many times. It goes something like this:

OK, I'm going to meditate now...I'm breathing in. And out. Following oh. I wonder why I hey! We need toothpaste! Ugh, my legs look kind of sausage-y in these pants. Oh, right. OK, back to it. I'm breathing in. And out. And in. And is the alarm going to go off? Do we have anything for the kid's lunches? What am I going to have for lunch today? What's going on this weekend? I want to go camping. I'm terrible at this. I give up.

It was like that every time. I would hear about how amazing meditation is, how it can change your life, and since I'm still way open to some life changing I would try again. I would flail again. So many times that I have a little meditation PTSD. I think about meditation and there's a lot of eye rolling and hurumphing. Until now.

How did I not know about guided meditation? Do you know about it? I have this great app on my phone called "Stop, Breathe, and Think". It is the bomb. It is mostly free- I think I spent $7 on some additional meditations. It asks you how you're feeling and then pops up a few meditations for you to choose from. They run anywhere from 5-20 minutes. I have five minutes!

Turns out I have ten minutes- after a few months of having only five minutes now I can meditate for ten minutes and I can do it every day.

What's radical is not only the meditating but this: it took me a few months to get here- but I'm here. What's radical is that big changes don't happen overnight in these life exploding moments but in the slow but sure collection of days and weeks. This is true about meditating and about being sober, about a lot of other things too.

There is the big decision (I quit drinking, I start meditating, I write every day, I floss at night) and then there's the waiting, the doing over and over until the day you realize that you really have made a difference in your own life, and that it is good. I've started looking at the things I say in my head I could never do and then that's the thing I try to do. A year ago I only did one thing on that list up there, now I do all of them. It took a year, but now here they all are. Part of me.

When I think about change I always imagine it to be sweeping, and instant. This is just not true. Change is slow and steady, it progresses at a pace about fifty times slower than I want but the timing isn't what's important, it's the steadiness that's key. It's about being satisfied with who you are today and being able to hope to be (not have to be) more tomorrow. It's about not letting yourself make bullshit excuses ("I'm too busy/ I don't have time for that" is the biggest bullshit excuse ever- I think that's fear talking) but taking something you think is important and making it important.

I get so impatient with my sweet life- Be all the things I want you to be RIGHT NOW! but really, I am starting to feel so radical in my waiting. My own slow day at a time revolution that takes patience and persistence- ten minutes at a time.




Thursday, January 14, 2016

Going to a Therapist and Doing My Best


Me before my appointment. I really wanted to stay in the car wrapped in my seatbelt. 


After months of deliberation and worrying that insurance wouldn't cover it and then knowing that it would but still being flaky I finally sat down and found a therapist.

For those of you familiar with my story you know that I have stayed sober for the most part on my own. I haven't been to AA, I don't have a therapist or a support group besides my blog community, which feels very real and reliable but as we all know isn't the same as a real look in the eye and a real hug. I decided that to go the big further I want to go I needed some in person help. Professional help. Not a friend who might sugar coat the hard truths, or whom I might be too embarrassed to tell about all the sex stuff weighing on me, but a therapist. Someone with training and experience in how to navigate with stuff I'm dealing with.

Then I waited for months. I waited and waffled and struggled and read loads of self help and memoir and my daily Rolf Gates and Judith Lasater and wrote and then didn't write and kept it together and fell apart. Over and over I got the message that I needed someone else, and over and over I made excuses. I spent the better part of last year gearing up to be able to tell someone else my biggest secrets and fears and also my big dreams and plans. Someone who could help me get used to the idea that I am a lovely sexual being and that's nothing to be ashamed about, someone to help me loosen my often strict and rigid standards for myself.

A few weeks ago I started my morning pages again, and meditating every morning. Without excuse or failure I have remained committed to these practices and that built me up enough to do the actual work of finding a therapist. Sometimes things happen so fast!

I started looking at the approved list on my insurance website. I couldn't tell much, and got impatient but kept going. I had to give myself a stern talking to when I wanted to just say fuck it and spend the nonexistent money to go to my former recovery group leader. I looked some more, I got more frustrated. I called one woman on the list who sounded promising and nothing- no answer, no machine.

So I stopped looking and wrote an email to my old recovery group leader asking for help with recommendations. I was honest and said I didn't know what to do. I was just about to hit send when my phone rang and it was her- the therapist I'd called and gotten no answer! She was charming and funny and I felt an instant kinship with her. I made an appointment with her and deleted my email to the other.

There's something funny about going to meet and talk to someone for the first time who knows your big stuff. That before she meets me she knows I'm kinda fucked up. And by fucked up I mean you know you aren't quite there- the place where you're mostly balanced and safe in the world. I'm here- still out kind of lost and looking for more of the map and some help. That there are things that have happened that I can't shake out and resolve because I don't really understand them. There are things I haven't looked at realistically because it hurts too much to do so, and also it hurts too much to let them go.

One of the things I'm trying to let go of is my stale idea of what doing my best means. The problem comes from me expecting everyone else to be upholding themselves to my always high standards and judgements. As in: be perfect at all times my way. Be perfect in my own random proper white knuckle-y way that then meant the house was in order but I was drunk on the back porch and a hungover wreck a few days a week. Now as in I'm keeping it together in all the ways you can see. Trying too hard on the things that are easy distractions and not the content of the actual growth and tasks that needs to happen for me to become more settled and at ease.

I'm reading "Rising Strong" by Brené Brown and it's making me think every day. There's a part about people being their best that came along right when I was really starting to question why I think it's my job to determine whether someone is doing things up to my standards. At home this looks like me coming home from work at night and huffing about dishes I wouldn't have left in the sink or a towel left on the bathroom floor. At work it looks like me just doing more work faster instead of my fair share. In all of this I build resentment and judgement until I'm a superior miserable mess. Fuck that.

She's asked an interesting question: "Do you think other people are doing their best?" Do you? At first my answer was a firm "NO!" I thought more about it and tried thinking that no matter what, at all times everyone is doing the best they can at that moment. That to meet people where they are you have to meet them where they are, not where you think they should be.

Since I started thinking about this best thing I have been thinking about it particularly when I go running. It goes like this: I start to run, my body is cold. I am slow. At that time, my best is small- just that I'm out there, feet plodding one in front of the other. That is my at-that-moment-best. Is it stupendous? Remarkable? Impressive? No, it's pretty regular and totally boring and normally not qualified as "best". Here's the thing: best does not have to be Everest. Sometimes it's just getting out the damn door.

Here's the other thing: what if what I think is totally crappy and awful is your best? Who do I think I am? Someone out there is thinking my best is crappy and awful too. I could only breast feed both my boys for about six months before I gave up. I was drinking at the time and falling apart and that was my best. That I wasn't drinking every day and  I was trying to pump before I did drink was my best. My boobies wouldn't fill, I couldn't stop drinking, I struggled and struggled, my children were hungry. Me giving up and feeding them formula was my best. Someone out there is horrified by that, and someone else thinks I really tried. Everyone's best is different.

Being the best person I want to be makes me the happiest when I am honest about what I am capable of at the time. Best doesn't have to be the dirty word it's made out to be. Best doesn't mean I run frantically all over my life, it means I listen to it and hear it. Best means I honor myself by minding my own expectations and extend myself some compassion and understanding when my best is being a banshee when people won't put on their shoes. It's sharing that compassion and understanding with others too. It also means not being afraid of it, not being scared of failing or falling. It means pushing myself when I want to stay comfortable, hearing when I really need to stop.

The thing I really love is the thought that everyone can be the best. That there is not only one best, but many of them: that I can say "I am the best at running in the woods!" and you can say "I am the best at running in the woods!" and it's all true. Being the best isn't selfish or only. It's not trophies for everyone, it's the inner knowledge that even if I'm not on stage with a prize I know what's up.

Rock your day. :)