An Invitation

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I’ve recently embarked on a large writing project that had me going through all of my journals started since sobriety. I came upon one that I’d yet to revisit, my attempt at consistent Morning Pages in my second year of sobriety. Such tender and earnest expressions, I was so happy to have captured that as I hardly remember the feelings from that time. At the time, I’d been re-reading Marianne Williamson’s classic, A Return To Love. I only copied down a few quotes, one being “The truth doesn’t stop being the truth just because you aren’t willing to look at it.” Of course I was resonating with that sentence as a reference to my drinking, as I’d just accomplished the big one year milestone. But as I was reminded of that quote now, I began thinking about what current of truths I’m unwilling to look at today. There are many. Instead of addressing the parts of my life that were intolerable, alcohol dumbed me into submission, aiding me to simply tolerate aspects I was unwilling to change. Recovery gave me space and strength to slowly reassemble the parts of my life previously intolerable, the truths I’d been unwilling to look at, but it was like Sondra with a fresh year of sobriety under her belt invited current me, approaching fifty years on the planet and five years of rebirth, to take a look at all the things I’m still only tolerating.

“A miracle is a shift in perception.” —M.W.

How many times had I said that to myself in the early days. I know what that looked like then, but now I’m wondering what that even looks like for me today. I think it looks like continuously challenging your own hardened stories, the ones you are so convinced are true only because of their insistence and longevity. Because IT JUST IS. The questions I’m currently asking myself are: Am I really too old to start this thing? Has my ship really sailed? Can I figure this out? Can I do something I’ve never done before, even if I don’t see many examples of it in the world? I have come so far since those Morning Pages and I celebrate that, but I need to keep examining what else I’m just tolerating.

The truth is, I am turning fifty this year and I’m not denying that, but it’s also true that most days I feel better than I did in my thirties, so why deny that truth either. I was so self-conscious my whole life, fretting, editing myself as an attempt to control how others perceived me. It’s a tough exercise to retrain your brain to a place where you have zero inhibitions, but one of the gifts of aging is that it just happens, like you are retreating to childhood, aging in reverse. Do you ever look at those lists, the ones where people found their personal success much later in life, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Toni Morrison, Julia Childs, Martha Stewart, Vera Wang, Lucille Ball. Now, do you imagine your name there? If you’ve followed my blog since the beginning, you’ve probably noticed I don’t talk about the work of getting sober anymore, it’s evolved as I have. If you are like me, you’ve been challenged by motherhood, sobriety and now mid-life where society may be telling us we’re done when we feel like we’re just getting started. I’m adding my name to that list.

Change begets more change. That’s just how it works. Being all in on something elevates you, from mood to consciousness and science has proven it, even though I don’t need science to tell me. Artists do a better job, in my opinion. Thank you, Marianne Williamson. Thank you to the female artists who never stopped creating. Thank you, Sharon Olds, I do in fact feel very lucky.


The Stunning But True Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman

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I went to church yesterday and it was the first time in thirty years that I went to church voluntarily and it wasn’t to fulfill a parental request or attend a wedding. I could blame it on my daughter. When she returned from church camp this summer, it was one of her first requests, “Can we go to church, Mama?” But I would not be entirely genuine if I didn’t mention that I had already been doing some online church trolling weeks before.

I can’t tell you exactly what I’m craving right now, but it feels like simplicity. It looks like a woman who goes to a job every day, earns a paycheck, pays her bills and goes to church on Sundays. I’ve been inching towards this feeling all summer like a cat looking for a spot of sunshine to warm herself in. I can’t explain it because it’s not me. I like things complicated, normalcy feels like bouncing from thing to thing, but lately I’ve been feeling pangs of regret and they shoot up my spine like a bolt of lightning. What if I’d focused on one thing, where would I be? What if I’d put all those eggs in one basket? I had a dream this week that a very good friend of mine started a women’s gathering that became a movement. They focused on spiritual, emotional and physical well-being and my friend had worked on the concept for so long and then suddenly it gained momentum that very quickly, she had thousands of women joining and there were focus groups and spin-off groups all over. I couldn’t be happy for her and didn’t even want to join in because I was so, so jealous. I woke up with that nauseous pit in my stomach, Why didn’t I think of that? Why can’t I focus on just one thing? Where is my break? When will I break?

Writing resumes and filling out job applications has sealed these feelings for me, I shouldn’t leave that out. Having to face the timeline of my life, I look at my thirties and think, what happened there? What did I do? I had babies, but there isn’t a place to put that on a resume. I attempted to start some businesses that arguably honed my creative skills but never really left the Labor of Love stage. Oh and I drank. A lot. When I look at it on a document like that and there’s a whole decade, just gone, I feel the expanse of that gap, like I could fall right into it and never climb out.

On Sunday, my daughter and I went to the bible class before the worship hour so she could get the full experience. I found myself in a women’s class because I didn’t know where else to go. At the end of the lesson, it was suggested that we go around the room and introduce ourselves. From the very first woman, the introduction went as follows: Name, Marital Status, Kid Count. “Hi, my name is Delores, I’ve been widowed for 27 years, I have 2 kids, 5 grandchildren but no great-grandkids yet. They need to get busy!” I sat there thinking, I just need to give up, live vicariously through my children like so many do and seem to be perfectly content. And yet, right now, I’m weighing whether I should just try to get a job at the grocery store and go back to grad school, get an MFA so that I can teach or continue to financially struggle but write that novel that’s been scratching at the inside of my eardrum for five years and try to sell it even though the chances of selling your first novel at fifty is slim to Good Luck.

My Mom had a stroke last week. She’s going to be okay and that feels nothing short of a miracle. I watched friend after friend, people from her church, people from her job show up to sit with her, bring her flowers, make sure she was getting what she needed and offering their help for beyond. It looked nice, it looked uncomplicated and I could only think, I want that.

 

Hi, my name is Sondra and I'm a...

Multi-passionate. That's a word I use now. Perhaps this is the word I should have always used to describe myself but if I were to be honest, for years I was only passionate about one thing and that was my next drink.  The line that separated 'is this fun' from 'is this really not fun at all' had become blurred a long time ago. Am I doing this to decompress and relax or am I addicted? Does everyone drink like me or do they actually not? These were seemingly benign questions I would ponder when maybe there was still a chance of taking it back from the direction it came but that certainly wasn't the last several years. They were the years of everyday was a reason to drink and one was never enough. It was no longer a question of fun but of necessity. I found a journal entry from over a year ago where I described myself as a reckless fate-tempter, luck-pusher indestructible. And that was it, fun nowhere in sight. 

The voice that talks to you on the day you surrender sounds a lot like your own voice, only way more desperate and miserable. If your's sounded like mine, it probably said something like, "This is going to be your life, everyday, for the rest of your life". In an interview, Sarah Hepola (Blackout) said that she wasn't necessarily afraid of dying, she was afraid of never changing. And even though I was slowly killing myself, that was deeply denied. What was apparent, though, was that I would never change. Those things I loved that filled the hole to make me whole, things besides alcohol, would never get the attention and the nurturing they deserved because alcohol had turned my brain into a flophouse. 

On that day last Summer, I titled my life going forward as My Mid-Life Solution. And while there was no drink I hadn't drunk, no party I had not attended, no random guy I had not made out with (okay, that behavior actually hadn't presented itself in a while), I wasn't quite sure where that left me, but I knew I wasn't going to drink that day. And I didn't and did the same thing the next. Once the alcohol obsessed train leaves the station, it frees up some time. I listened to some podcasts, I took some long walks, I read some books, I read some poetry. I read The Summer Day by Mary Oliver, who told me, "I don't know exactly what prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" 

It doesn't have to be big. In fact, the simpler, the better. But let's plan to do something with our one wild and precious life.

 

 

Late Bloomer

If you just start typing, the words will appear, right? *Ahem* My name is Sondra and I am 45, er 46 year old wearer of many hats, the biggest being wife and Mom of two. I am also a woman in recovery. That felt strange to type but it is my truth and truths are hard things to type out, much less blab to the world.  But damn, is it freeing once they are identified and brought to the surface. I'm also a seamstress, photographer, writer, story-teller, eternal optimist and dreamer of big dreams. So...with that intro, what if there was one obstacle in your life that if removed, could free you to work towards meeting your potential? Give your life purpose? 

Would you feel like you were given a second chance?

Now, I don't want to put too much pressure on this 'potential' thing. Your potential could be mowing your lawn once a week, taking your kids to the pool every other Summer day, or maybe a more creative pursuit. Do you want to finally make the quilt that has starred in your DIY Pinterest board? Learn how to use the camera you got for Christmas two years ago and take a frame-worthy picture of your family?  Maybe you just want to make yourself feel beautiful and confident everyday, have your outsides match your new insides? Write and tell your NEW story?

For me, that obstacle was alcohol. For the last 25 years, I've felt like I've lived in a well. I was alive but my view and space were so narrowly limited, so very small. As I've climbed out of that well, I see the world as so big. I can see so many opportunities and it's amazing. Maybe your obstacle is another dish on the buffet of addictions: prescription drugs, co-dependency, love, workaholism, food. When these obstacles are addressed, worked on and even removed, there is a void to fill. Let's fill it up!

This is still in the very early stages of construction, but I hope you'll join me on this tiny chunk of space that I'm renting on the Internet as we explore and celebrate those creative pursuits that are filling the void.  Please join my tribe, The Unruffled.