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Trace the moment.

Chris and I have a perfect place. He found it first. He shared it with me. It’s this little tucked away place that doesn’t even feel like it’s part of our town. Or our state. It’s our sacred place. It’s hitsuzen. We have to have a certain kind of weather for it tho and winter is often not it.

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A couple weeks ago it was perfect outside tho. Still snow on the ground, but the bike path was almost entirely clear of snow and ice. The air was crisp, but the sun was so warm that it didn’t matter.

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Despite the fact that the car had been making this weird noise, we risked the 20 minute drive to go for the walk. It was worth it to get that kind of time in that kind of place. A place that brings us back to ourselves. For me, it doesn’t bring me back to an older, idealized version of me or an older, iidealized version of Chris. It just always brings us to a more grounded place of our present selves. I think that’s what I always love most about it. The everything else falls away and we’re stripped down to our purest, naked selves and we can just be.

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We walked for maybe an hour and munched clementines and kiwi. We showed L all the cool things we love and he ooh’d and ahh’d the 50 foot wall cliff and the train tracks and the river and the trees.

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We stopped and marveled the sewer/tunnel pipe and L made up stories about it coming out into the river. And then he sang songs as we walked on.

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The day before this walk, we walked too. The weather begged our presence. Our relationship begged connection. We showed up. It’s the greatest thing we can do.

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We always walk back to us. This season has been filled with ebb and flow and pain and growth. Distance and connection. Falling away and coming back. As the earth warms again, I feel a tingling of change. There’s a buzz my skin feels. A fire sparking. Despite the ebbs–and there will always be ebbs–I can feel the flow’s energy building up momentum.

Yesterday Chris and I had a…discordance. It wasn’t an argument. It was just….an overwhelm of feelings and thoughts and fears. It was vulnerability and anxiety and honesty. In years’ past, it would have broken us. It would have been a full on argument. It would have been irreconcilable for hours, the day, the weekend. It would have been the thing that, Chris especially, wouldn’t have been able to navigate through. (I say Chris especially because for the most part, I lean toward compartmentalizing as an involuntary coping mechanism. I’m not bragging here…)

But yesterday, because we’ve both had so much growth–because he is diligently searching to reclaim his self–it was only discordance and an exchange. The moment of ebb made the subsequent flow that much more energized. It was like reaching hitsuzen without the walk.

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Why are you running away?

Part of my sponsee homework this week was to flesh out my higher power a bit more. Not necessarily to share with Beth, but to have a more tangible and articulated foundation for myself.

Chris and I had this two hour conversation tonight that rocked my night. I love those nights where we set up the computer to watch Heroes, but then fall into deep, connected conversation instead. The world falls away and it’s just him and me in this moment.

And it wasn’t until we had this two hour long conversation that I truly grasped the validity and necessity of forming and articulating your higher power. In part for myself, which I’ll expound on in a minute, and in part for Chris because he’s been in this process of working his fourth step for a couple months now. And it’s completely his journey and I want him to walk it as such, and at the same time, I know it’s been a hard process–one I don’t have experience to speak on–and it’s been on my radar that he hasn’t written anything yet. I imagine it’s a crazy hard thing to sit and explore and he’s so incredibly brave to even go there. Tonight, with our talking, as I articulated my higher power and he shared how he’s been fleshing out his own, I realized the beauty of the sequence of the first four steps.

How can you write out a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of yourself alone? That sounds terrifying and traumatic. That’s not a process I’d want Chris to endure without a solid higher power. You got a clear picture of your higher power tho? That sounds terrifying and completely doable. That’s the experience I prefer for him.

I haven’t done my fourth step yet. I’m not there. Tonight’s conversation was pivotal to all of this tho. I was saying how I had this solid higher power picture. I was saying my foundation is solid. So freaking solid. But also, I’m a sponsee for a reason and I don’t claim to know all the things. Beth wants me to be able to come to a point of articulation. Cool, I can comply with that. And I even said to Chris, “so while *I* feel I’m set with my higher power picture, Beth, she’s the poker and she comes in to poke at my views to show me what’s strong and what needs work.”

I know my place. Even when I want to snarkily boast about my evolvedness.

So I eloquently tell Chris about my higher power.

My higher power is the universe. I unquestionably view the universe as a thing that will always take care of me without exception. It is always looking out for my best interest, and the best interest of all.

As an added characteristic, I also view my higher power as a parent, who, when I come to it, vulnerable and broken and damaged and hurt, it will always show up with open arms, always wrap me in comfort and will leave no room for me to believe anything except that I am all-loved.

That is my higher power.

(Pretty cool, huh?)

And then, I played Beth in my head for a moment (poke poke poke) and considered “ahh, my higher power only works in the present.”

OH MY FREAKING GOD–

(No pun intended.)

I have spent all this time with a freaking kickass higher power and I only let him play with present me. Oftentimes I think about including him in future me stuff, but it’s not really in a tangible way. Never do I let him interact with past me.

This is where I call upon my inner Julie and allow her to say, “what would it mean to you that the universe was looking out for past Jill?” That past me-the scared little girl me–is safe with the universe. That she was being looked after back then, as well as right now–if I so chose to dive into the psyche of all that.

And I guess my immediate, involuntary response is, “Fuck you, you can’t be trusted. She got hurt and you didn’t look out for her at all.”

……

Well, that was unexpected. I probably have some work to do there. That was very honest and vulnerable of me. I was expecting to go somewhere else with all that. I was expecting that posing the question would bring a sense of relief and provide an immediate safe haven where past Jill could come out to play and heal.  I expected immediate growth here and the opportunity to wrap it up in a neat little bow and call it a day. Figuratively and literally.

Instead I think I’m just going to call it a day and sleep instead. And think on this again tomorrow. There is time for forgiveness in tomorrow.

xo.

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I knew every back road and every truck stop.

My sponsor assignment for the week is to take five minutes each day to be still. She wants me to have the opportunity to find contact with my high power.

It’s a good plan.

Last week, which I don’t think I mentioned, she wanted me to define unmanageable. As a follow up I’m supposed to think about the things I can’t control that lead life to feeling unmanageable. Because unmanageable and control are linked.

She’s a really good sponsor.

Truth be told? I knew I wanted her my very first meeting. (Maybe second.) She said something that sparked for me and I knew she’d be it for me.

The hard al-anon thing for me is that I have a hard time feeling like I belong there. My story often doesn’t touch or significantly overlap others’ stories. My story sometimes doesn’t feel “enough”. But we are all cut from the same cloth. I still find things there I need, and as they tell me, I apparently provide things they need. It’s never been a question of not continuing to go. I go and that means I grow. Nothing wrong with that.

My sponsor talks about how this sponsor/sponsee relationship is sacred and unconditional. I can share anything, as a safe space. And she will always show up. And part of me just kinda wants to cry. ‘Cause isn’t that, like, every damn thing I’ve ever wanted? But then another part of me is like, “why on earth would you do this without me paying you?”

She talked randomly on Saturday about something called “a god-sized hole”. How people hope that their partner can fill this hole they have, but no one ever can. ‘Cause it’s a god-sized hole. It made a lot of fireworks go off in my head and I have things to say about it. But not tonight. Because I need sleep.

Good night, ever shifting plates buried deep beneath my feet.

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Tap on my window; knock on my door.

This hilarious thing happened. Where I was listening to the Rise Together podcast and Rachel and Dave were fucking geeking out about their enneagrams and I wanted in on it, despite having previously been vehemently (read: quietly) against taking the quiz. So I stopped the podcast and took a quiz. And apparently I had gone and decided some expectations beforehand because of all of my growth and accomplishments. I thought my results would give me further fuel to kick ass and take names amidst my personal growth journey.

And then I got a 2.

And I was like “what the shit is this?!”

Here I’ve been working on personal growth and growth mindset and so much me me me for a really long time and now I have this thing in front of me saying I do everything for everyone else and at my expense and to top it all off, I disrespect others’ boundaries.

I was not pleased.

To add insult to injury, I had been chatting with Chris about it beforehand and I felt like he had completely dismissed my everything about it. Which then triggered me to remember the random things he has dismissed in the past that mean something to me.

(Side story. The first time was back in 2014 when I went to a neuromusculoskeletal specialist (MD) who gave me an adjustment I was ill prepared for and I experienced my first…I’m not even sure what to call it. I had to navigate trauma that was released from my body. I sobbed. Like, sobbed. The doctor called me a delicate flower and he said it in such a sweet and loving way that he made me feel loved and worthy and strong in a way I had never felt before.

After I navigated this experience I felt so at peace and free and practically giddy and I relayed the whole thing to Chris on the drive home and he was so….mad. And he was so….oversteppingly protective. And then suddenly I felt invalidated and stupid.

This memory hurts. I know he never wants me to feel hurt. I know he wouldn’t want to be the thing doing the hurting. I also know that the reality is, we hurt people without realizing, especially when we ourselves are hurting.

I can view that part objectively. It doesn’t ease the hurt. Both things exist simultaneously.

I don’t purposefully hold onto this. I have never mentioned it to him, tho we did talk about it shortly after it happened. I don’t hold it over his head. It’s not usually any source of resentment or ill feelings. It’s not a chalkboard checklist of ways Chris has done wrong. It’s mostly just a feeling that resurfaces when I feel triggered by invalidation, if I feel unseen, or if there is something I’m interested in that is…not tangible.

The interesting thing to note here is that Chris has interest in things that he himself deems as hokey. It must hurt a lot to follow something, to take stock in it, to have it have meaning to him….and to also invalidate it as crap. I wish he could see that believing in something “other” or spiritually unexplainable doesn’t make him less than.

So it shouldn’t surprise me when he dismisses love languages and enneagram and whatever else could help give him insight into himself or me or our children or the relationships that intermingle all those things.

Also, I want to say, that I have never been anything less than wholly supportive and compassionate about anything he has ever had interest in, be it Jesus/god, when he was super religious, or cigars or pipe tobacco or vaping, for that stint, or when he was blending tobacco or making snuff (ground tobacco) or blending juices and making his own mods. I was present and stood next to him for all of it. Even when he drank. Twice. I show up every time. He could never say I don’t show up. I am there and I support every endeavor and every mistake and every rabbit hole. I listen through every news blip and political rant and all the Joe Rogan and UCF fights and Sargon of Akkad.

And some days I have real, tangible pain that I don’t feel the same in return. Not all the time. Not every day. But enough.

And I know I should say something. And I would. If I had any idea how to. Without it sounding needy or ungrateful or petty.)

So, back to today. I was trying to talk out my feelings about maybe being a 2 (77%). Or perhaps even being a 5 (74%) and he went the route of talking about coding those kinds of quizzes and how stuff like that is easy, and I…I closed off and shut down.

And there was no good way to say “but I want to talk about me”. And…it was such a 2 thing to do and to think.

And even tho it happened 10 hours ago, I’m laugh-crying about the irony and sadness and amusement of it all. I’m certain that any person who was well versed in 2s would say “oh, sweetheart” and envelop me in their arms and I could cry about how much being alive hurts and how much pressure there is and how I never feel seen and usually I’m okay with that, but today it just hurts, and they would get it.

But I don’t know any enneagram people because I don’t feel like I have any connections with people and it is a chasm that deeply aches.

So I’ll cry my good cry and I’ll “through; not around” and I’ll keep chugging along anyway. ‘Cause while I may be a 2, I’m also a fierce fucking fighter and I refuse to ever feel stuck.

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Yesterday a child came out to wonder.

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It feels like this was specifically written for me. It is words I haven’t been able to find for myself. It’s not answers. But it’s something.

It’s a spark.

I don’t yet have a real grasp on…who I am. I know the what’s. I know I’m silver lining girl and mom and wife. I know I lead with gratitude and kindness and perseverance. I know I practice and practice and practice.

I know I don’t have a clear grasp of my special qualities and skills. I know Chris rolls his eyes when I say “yeah, but everyone is always working toward active growth and progress!” ….which is apparently not quite true. And then he rolls his eyes again when I say, “yeah, but I had no choice to keep going!!” Which…again, apparently, not true.

But I don’t know these things. I thought everyone just kept reaching for more self-awareness and growth. I didn’t know “just keep swimming” was a suggestion.

So here I have these, apparently, special attributes. And a huge lack of confidence to go with them. Apparently I’m super self aware, but only to my weaknesses.

So I’m on a ladder.

And I see soooooooo many people above me. And so many people below me. The people who are also working toward having some of their shit together and who are making so much money. And the people who have no shit together and are raking it in. The people decluttering, but not to the best of my ability (super vulnerable moment here where I admit my judginess. Which I totally realize stems solely from my own insecurity…). Or worse yet, they’re not decluttering to the best of their ability! And they don’t even care! (vulnerable moment #2 because fuckin’ a, other people are none of my business and I know this and I’m making them my business anyway!) The people who are drowning in depression or anxiety or addiction. The people drowning in their spouse’s addictions. The people who sound like they’re sucking up to people I admire and having their response be eaten up. Me, being publicly vulnerable, and reaching out to these same people I admire, and having their responses feel lacking when I confide. Then I second guess myself and wonder if I sounded….sucking up-esque.

Ohmygosh, I’ve just gone back and reread what I wrote and it all sounds exhausting! There are so many people on the ladder and I haven’t learned how to turn my brain off about them! Or about myself!

Mostly, not turning my brain off has only served to make me feel inferior. And then I constantly have this sense of “I can’t do anything right” when it comes to interacting with others. And all I want is to connect with people and all I’ve managed so far is to make that impossible.

I lead with love on the surface, but below the surface I am waiting in fear for the next person to pounce me and put me in my place or tell me I’m wrong or that I’m no good.

I feel like I’m getting closer. I feel like the puzzle pieces are moving around and a clearer picture is trying to come into focus. I can feel the uncomfortable forces of change stirring around me–stirring within me. I know it’s time to dig deep and lean into it. I know I’m scared. I know it’s worth it. I know, one day, I will feel worth it.

I need to step off the ladder.

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Get myself back home.

Today is laughably hard to navigate. Painfully, laughably hard. Like so ridiculously hard.

But.

Despite the knot in my stomach and the clenching in my chest and the tightening of my throat, I go on.

And truly, even this is so much better than the alternative of the life I used to live. So, I’m deeply full of gratitude. And also. Because it’s always both. I am deeply in the middle of this excruciatingly hard moment.

*20 minutes later*

I was gonna tell this heartwarming anecdote about the dog and how all she wants is to go outside, and she jumps on you and then refuses to go out when you open the door because she wants you to go out with her to play, but it’s freezing and snowy and you have pjs and slippers on. And she gets all too-playfully-bitey and she just wants you to meet her when she is.

And that’s kinda what this anxiety feels like. It keeps poking me and jumping on me and biting too hard because it wants attention.

So I sat with the dog and fed her peanut butter off a spoon, so both her playful and my anxiety could have some respite.

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And that was awesome for about ninety seconds.

Then R came in to tell me about her plans for the day. Originally her boyfriend was supposed to come over at 10:30, and then I was supposed to take them to the movies at 11:30. But my car (my freakin’-something-always-comes-up-with-it car) is making a sound right now that makes it too scary and unsafe sounding to drive. (The car place is squeezing me in at 2pm today, thankfreakinggod), so she navigated driving plans today and was totally on top of it (that’s my girl!), which then left me totally……not.

I want to be only grateful that she has the fortitude to continue forward. But here I am instead practicing the lesson of “both” and so I’m sitting here sad to be missing out on having her boyfriend here all day or taking them to the movies myself.

And then to top it all off, she told me how she’s been telling her boyfriend all the things she has never tried (he replied, “ohmygod, you lost your whole childhood!”) because I bought healthy food and she never had Trix cereal or Trix yogurt and we didn’t keep a cornucopia of Little Debbie’s in the house.

Sigh.

And it touches all my triggers, while I already feel triggered enough. And so I cried. Because it’s that kind of day.

(I feel the need to pause here and assure my husband that she wasn’t being mean or manipulative and that it’s okay for me to sit in a moment of uncomfortable and be sad. It doesn’t touch my self-worth in a permanent sort of way.)

So I cried and L came up to me and said, “you have snot?” and I said yes and he said, very concerned, “oh! You crying??” and I said yes and he said “why you crying?” and I told him I was sad and it’s okay to cry when you have lots of feelings.

And it is.

And also, holy heavy anxiety and overwhelm. Where the fuck is my blanket fort?

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Approach. Appear.

I didn’t know what the rest of my day would look like earlier when I wrote. I felt on top of everything, but in that way where you are until you suddenly aren’t.

I finished my paper clutter pile from yesterday and tried to occupy L because Chris has the flu, as well as detox from another round of medicine that didn’t get here in time. I know he feels like shit physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. I take great comfort in the fact that I am not the woman who contributes to that. That I don’t try to find (false) validation in making him feel worse. That I don’t have the means to feel better at someone else’s expense. Especially someone I love so much.

So I spent my day focused on me and my growth and my worth and betterment and evolution. And I was feeling so connected to me that I found connection with R and S and L too.

I taught S about time management. I empowered him with management of his own time, while giving him confines and boundaries to work within. I told him I was like the boss. “You gotta get this, this, and this accomplished by x time, but you manage the rest. You run your own show.” And he practiced in kind. Sometimes fast and sometimes slow. But it was his and I let him own it and he took pride in it.

I taught the same to R. “Do what you want with your last day of winter break, but any food trash needs to be cleaned by 5.” She argued she might not get it done by then and I countered reasonably and objectively, “You’ve got four and a half hours to do this one thing. Choose how you want to do it. You can wait til 4:55 and then haul ass picking up trash. Or you can do it all right now. Or you can do some now and some later. It’s your show. But ya got til 5, and if at 5 it’s not finished, your phone goes on the island until it is.”

No shame. No guilt. No tough love. No bringing up past anything. Just right here right now, reasonable objectivity. Might as well have told her the sun was gonna set by 5pm. Just a fact.

And she responded with the same respectful objectivity and it was barely even reluctant when she said, “okay”.

And L and I worked on puzzles together today. And I let it be his show and we made a game of it, but I never rushed him or did it for him. I let him lead.

I gave them the opportunity and then I stepped aside and let each of them shine today.

What a blessing and a joy to take me and my feelings and my thoughts out of the equation and just talk to them.

I was afraid I’d break today. I was hoping I’d be able to withstand the bend. Turns out I stood tall all day.

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Damn sure better than rain.

I went to my first Al-Anon meeting.

I wasn’t nervous at all when I left for the meeting. When I got there and sat down I was suddenly doing all my nervous things. People were inviting and warm, but also people were inviting and warm. They were paying attention to me and fawning and supportive and caring and gosh, that is a lot.

But I went. And I stayed. And I plan to go back.

Really, I already knew I’d go back before the meeting. I’ve been to AA meetings and OA meetings and I know the program is good. I know the people are supportive.

Well, most of the people. OA was a completely different fish. I once had a man tell me I didn’t belong there because I was too skinny. As if my appearance precludes me from using food as a coping mechanism. As if anyone in food recovery has to forfeit community support once they find healthier tools to survive. But I digress.

Al-Anon isn’t like that. I can be there for any reason, for any timeline in my life, for any alcoholic who has touched my life. And I didn’t really understand until recently that I probably should have been going all along.

I should have gone six years ago when Chris and I started dating. In the days when a small argument could have compromised his short sobriety.  Or when he switched jobs for his dream job and then they insisted he throw away his integrity or quit. And he quit. At an immeasurable hit to his self worth, closing not only that dream in his mind, but a true hope for any dream at all. Or the moment we got pregnant and then miscarried and didn’t get to keep Caleb and he retreated from life for a bit. I could have used Al-Anon when his doctor and seizure medication fucked him over completely. Or when he started taking another medicine he put all his faith in and it backfired and, for all intents and purposes, took away his sobriety. For three years.

I could have used Al-Anon. I could have used the support and guidance of people. And I just…I didn’t know better. I didn’t know there was help for me for all of that or where to find it or, really, that I needed the help. That I deserved the help. I thought maybe that’s just how it was going to be from now on. I knew I needed help–wanted help–, but I didn’t know the help I needed was possible to receive. That it was out there.

And so now here I am. Going to meetings. Getting the community I have so desperately needed. Allowing myself the self-care of actual help. Of not going at it alone. Of being told I’m braver and stronger for showing up than I ever was of trying to hold it together by myself. And so I’m gonna keep doing this awhile.

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Some kind of light at the end.

I’m not going to eat tonight. I’m so tired from making decisions I shouldn’t have been making. I’m so exhausted I could cry.

I’m so exhausted I didn’t realize I was already crying.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to catch up from the last week. I don’t think I’ll ever try. I think I will just blank slate it. And I will just sleep instead. And maybe sometime tonight my skin will pass by Chris’s skin and he won’t shudder. Because finally finally he has found his way back to me.