Category Archives: Miscellaneous & Uncategorized

Fearing the Foolish


I wish I’d spent more of my life looking foolish. As silly as it sounds, in a life filled with glaringly bad decisions, this is my one regret. I wish I hadn’t been so afraid to spend a little time looking foolish.

Sometimes I lay awake in bed at night and watch my daughter sleep, snuggled up close to me in perfect contentment. I think about all the things I want to teach her, about this whole big world and the little pieces of it I’ve seen. I don’t just want her to have more opportunities than I had, I want her to be a better person than I have ever been able to be.

I don’t want her to be afraid. More than anything I don’t want my fears to become hers.

I paused to wonder the other day what my life might look like if I hadn’t been so afraid all of the time – afraid to fail, afraid of not being in control (and actually showing it!), afraid of feeling uncomfortable and, most of all, afraid to look foolish. There are so many things I didn’t do, journeys I didn’t go on, because I was afraid of one of these things. I’ve spent so much time worried about what other people were thinking about me, concerned about how I looked to the passersby, perfecting and presenting this canned image of myself, that I’ve missed more chances than I’ve taken.

I didn’t spend a semester of high school at sea, despite my love of sailing, because I was afraid of getting seasick going through the Panama Canal. I skipped my high school graduation because I was afraid of walking across the stage in front of all of those people. I’ve never learned to ski or snowboard, although I love the idea of it, because I worry about falling and failing and looking foolish in front of whomever takes the time to teach me. I haven’t allowed myself to be taught any number of things, in fact, because I was afraid I wouldn’t look good learning how to do them and I wouldn’t master them quickly enough to impress those around me.

I haven’t played games at parties because I didn’t know how to play them. I haven’t taken fitness classes, worn bright colors, sung at an open mic, traveled by myself, taken big and bold chances, and so, so much more, all because I’ve been afraid. I’ve missed opportunities to work with a band or begin one of my own because I was afraid of what I would sound like while learning something new. I closed a profitable company because I was afraid it would fail. I’ve turned down business offers because I was afraid to try. I have lost chances to meet people, gain knowledge, learn skills, and live a truly full life.

More than addiction, more than failed adventures, more than any instance in which I said “yes”, I am haunted by the regret of all of the times that, out of fear, I said “no”. This sort of half-lived life is not what I want for Mabel.

And so I am learning to say “yes” when I want to say “no”, because that little girl is going to grow up with her eyes fully on me and she’ll do what I do more than what I say. I’d rather her see me try a hundred things and fail at all of them than let her watch me sit and do nothing at all.

For her to be better than I’ve ever been, I have to be better than I thought I could be.

Even if that means looking foolish.

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How’d That Work Out For You?


This might surprise you but Wendy’s is not where I go to meet men. I don’t actually go anywhere to meet men since I’m contentedly in a relationship but I can tell just by the way you’re looking at me, you’re not going to bother yourself with that kind of detail. So, just so you know, if I were looking to meet a man, I wouldn’t go to Wendy’s. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, which I am, when I go Wendy’s it is to indulge myself in the kind of greasy, guilt-laden, fatty goodness that my boyfriend and most everyone else I know turns their nose up at; if I’m extra lucky they’ll even hand out one of their trusty lectures about the brutality of the life of the cow I just ate, or the preservative and chemical laden nature of the french fries. I know these lectures, I have a couple of my own, in fact, but I’m also an emotional eater and when I’ve been struggling with pain for weeks and woke up in tears because I couldn’t face another day of it, I’d rather not hear the blah blah blah of why what I’m about to eat is bad for me, the environment, and the world as a whole. I just want to eat it. In peace (at least until the guilt hits).

So then, if my appearing here alone has somehow confused you and your pudgy friend over there, I am sorry. I’d guess from your behavior that you were raised to believe that a woman all by herself anywhere is just waiting for the kindness of your attention, perhaps those are the lessons you learned at hunting camp or maybe you watch too much TV. I’d guess, rudely I’m sure, by a glance at the sagging jeans exposing a stomach churning plumbers crack that you definitely watch too much TV.

I saw you see me before I even made it in the door. The jerk of your friends chin making you turn your head and watch me walk across the parking lot and into the restaurant. I’m not easily intimidated and so making eye contact wasn’t difficult for me. It’s amazing to me how many of your type fail to recognize at this moment that I’m not smiling. It’s equally amazing how many times I’ve heard that I shouldn’t have made eye contact in the first place. Apparently there’s this baffling belief circulating around that men will stare and be dogs and women should just do their best to ignore it. Lucky you, I’m not that kind of girl.

I try and give you the benefit of the doubt. I do have half of my head shaved after all. I probably don’t look like any girl next door you’ve seen around here and I remind myself of this in moments like these. People like to stare at what is different.

But when I get my tray of comfort food deliciousness and turn to find a seat, you and your buddy are still taking turns staring. He leans forward to say something and you turn in your seat to run your eyes over me again. Do you see you right now? Actually turning your body in your chair so that you can look over a girl you don’t know. I shake my head and find a seat, opening my computer and enjoying my first bite of the salty sticks called french fries.

Maybe I should have sat with my back to you, but the glare would have made the computer screen nearly impossible to read. On the other hand, maybe I shouldn’t have to find a seat that takes into consideration your rude inability to keep your eyes to yourself.

Your friend is still murmuring, the both of you are laughing, and you keep turning yourself around to find my seat. It’s more than I can take. Finally I lift my head and clearly meet your gaze. This might be your second chance to notice that I’m not smiling, if someone hadn’t convinced you (wrongly) that you are somehow God’s gift to solo women. You don’t notice, of course. My unsmiling, level gaze has encouraged you in some unexplainable way and now you’re pulling your expansive body from the table and lumbering toward me. Great.

I take a deep breath and turn to look at you as you stop beside my table. I’m smiling now, but only slightly and only because my mother raised me to be polite to strangers.

“Hi there,” you say, with a glance back to your friend. I might have taken a moment to, once again, let you prove me wrong in my assumptions of your intent. You could be interested in who cuts my hair, I suppose, or maybe you know my brother. But the way you’re resting your dirty hands on my table and leaning over me, the way your gaze seems just a little south of well-intentioned, well, we both know where this is going, don’t we? You turn from your friend to me again and smile, self-assured.

“Do I know you?” I respond, with as much of a smile as I care to muster.

“No…” and you’ve got something else to tell me, probably your name or why you came over to bother me or maybe even why you’ve been so rude as to stare at me thus fa r.

“I didn’t think so,” I interrupt. “Have a good day.” And with that I am done, my gaze back on my computer, a french fry to my mouth. You pause for a minute and I hope you’ve run out of things to say. I can tell my face has turned to stone and that anger has reddened my cheeks. You think better of hanging out and are, instead, left to the task of strolling away from my table in a way that makes you look good to your laughing friend. Our little game is over and I know, of course, that everything about that exchange has made me the bitch. It’s a role I’m comfortable with.

I have to wonder, gee, what that as good for you as it was for me?

When One Door Closes, It’s Closed


There are some things that I wanted to do in my life that I realize more and more lately I am never going to do. If you’re like most of society, or at least the society that I know, your first instinct is to reassure me in some way. “Now, now, you never know what the future will bring.” “Never say never.” That sort of thing. These platitudes are meant to encourage me to follow my dreams, to not give up on the things I wanted to experience, to do, to be. They’re almost always said with affection, a verbal hug of friendship and hope. We say these things to each other because we want to let our friends and families know that we believe in their possibilities. We say these things to each other because if the people around us give up hope on some of their dreams, that might mean we should too.

I wonder if we are doing our friends a disservice when we continue to encourage belief in a goal or a dream that realistically is just never going to happen. I wonder if, instead of encouraging them to have faith and hope in the future, we are instead discouraging them from having a healthy affection and esteem for the person they have become.

When our life choices lead us away from what we thought were our dreams should we believe they can still come true, or should we dream new dreams that better fit the person we’ve actually become? If we understood more fully that our choices can, in fact, change our dreams, would we be more careful in making our choices?

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to live in New York City. I’ve been enchanted by the city from afar, overwhelmed and inspired by it the few times I’ve been there. I’ve always thought I would spend a year or two in the hustle and bustle of that city, of that life. Sometimes I add to the vision. I see myself in crisp business suits and towering heels, hailing cabs with authority and juggling phone calls with the dexterity that comes to the very busy and important. Other times I can see myself at night, singing in a club, surrounded by a laughing crowd of diverse people with funky clothes and hair. In both of these visions of mine I am beautiful, the city is beautiful, my life is beautiful.

Lately I’ve come to understand that it’s simply not going to happen. I’m not going to be either of those women living in New York City. Every time I confess that thought to myself I want to encourage it away, “Never say never,” and the like. But to what end? Why should I perpetuate a vision of a life, a dream that once was, into a goal that doesn’t fit the reality of who I am anymore?

When I think with enough clarity to be honest with myself, I am able to understand that I am no longer the person who first dreamed the dream of living in NYC. I have made a decade or more of decisions that have shaped me and formed me into the woman that I am today. I am no longer the girl who romanticized being a CEO, and I never did learn to play an instrument. I live my life slowly and peacefully these days. I value agriculture and self-sustaining environments over bright lights and busy sidewalks. As much as I hate to admit it, I barely even put on a pair of towering heels anymore. I’m having a baby and I can’t imagine raising him or her anywhere but right here. I love my life. I embrace the woman I have become. It’s time to let go of some of the old dreams and make room for some new ones.

It’s bittersweet, of course. There is a taste of mourning for what might have been and won’t be, but with the letting go there is also a new surge of excitement. There are new dreams to be had, ones that are attainable and beautiful to the woman that I have become, not to the woman that I was. My life is still beautiful.

I wonder, are we doing ourselves and our friends a favor when we encourage the belief in dreams that are not only unlikely but incompatible? Is there a better way that we could build hope in the future that also recognizes and applauds the people we have become? Is it possible that when we hold ourselves to the possibilities of dreams that have grown old, we are keeping ourselves from embracing our real future? Are we preventing joy and peace in our present day? Have you examined your dreams lately to be sure that they are still a real part of who you are? Are you brave enough to do so?

Ready For 34


It’s the eve of my birthday and that, for me, is always a time of reflection. Where am I now, where was I then… that sort of thing. It’s amazing to chronicle the turning of the years in this way. I can’t remember many of the birthday parties, heck I can’t even remember some of the birthday years, but I maintain a general idea of where I was when.

When I was 18 I thought I’d be a missionary. I spent my 21st birthday at Nectar’s bar in Burlington, soon after moving to the city. By 25 I was living the high life in Dallas and one month after my 30th birthday soiree I was in rehab. My 31st birthday I spent with my loving horde of nieces and nephewsand last year… well, I don’t really remember last year very well, but I’m sure it was fun.

I wonder what my 34th year will bring. I wonder if I will be more at peace, more settled? I wonder if I’ll stop changing all the time and enjoy a little consistency. I wonder if consistency is enjoyable. I wonder if I’ll make peace with my faith, maybe even figure out what it is. I wonder if I’ll still be a writer this time next year. I wonder if I’ll still be happy.

As the final hours of my 33rd year pass I look at my life and know that I am happy, that I am content. It is not where I thought I would be, it is not what I thought to be right, but it is my joy. I am sober. I am in love. I am moving in with the man I love. I am striving to find balance and very often succeeding. My world is racing toward wellness. My faith is rushing toward wholeness. I am blessed and fortunate and very aware of both. I am ready for 34.

Here’s to a year prosperous in love, faith, and success in all it’s truest forms – for all of us.

Remembering Me – The Life in My Life


I want to know what my favorite colors were when I was a little girl, what toys I played with the most. I want to know whether teenaged me was awkward or self-assured. I want to know how old I was when I left home, left town, came back, left again. I want to put together the missing pieces of where my life took me while I was gone.

I want to know where I come from. I want to remember.

I’ve tried to make myself remember. If I think very hard and focus all of my energy on trying to remember a certain occasion, experience, age… well, I still can’t. It’s like those memories have been erased completely, there is no getting them back. It’s an empty feeling, the vague sense that there was nearly nothing before Now.

To be fair, there are some things I can bring to mind. There are some small highlights that my memory skims the surface of. For example, I remember a surprise 16th birthday party, but I don’t remember who was there or what actually happened. I remember participating in theater throughout high school, but I don’t remember all the players or the beauty of friendships formed and conversations had. My memory is like a skeleton without organs or flesh. There is no life to my life.

I can remember, however, almost every moment of abuse.

I’ve wondered lots of different things when contemplating this memory lacking – which is just as prone to affecting new memories as old, though not with the same vengeance. I’ve wondered if my brain, in looking to protect me from memories of abuse, somehow short-circuited and got things backwards. I’ve questioned whether I might have more personalities than I know of, if these fades in and out can be explained by another personality taking over a situation. Can a decade of drinking and pot smoking, really erase an entire mind? Did I have memories before I had addiction? Is there anyway to stop it? Anyway to fix it?

Last week I wrote a blog post about my teenaged suicide attempt. There were many holes left in the telling of that story, huge pieces I couldn’t remember surrounding the few moments that I could. I mentioned a family friend coming with the gift of a “fluffy white, stuffed something-or-other”.  After reading the post, that friend sent me a message on Facebook. “I think it was a baby seal,” she said.

I read her message and remembered! Yes, it was a baby seal! And with that missing piece, others returned. I suddenly had a picture of
me, in my hospital room, holding that very soft, stuffed baby seal.

I could see the hospital room. I remembered that I collected baby harp seals for awhile. Memories!

It’s just a couple of new things, a memory here and over there, but they are precious to me. A piece of me, returned. Treasures.

It occurred to me the other morning, laying in bed a few extra luxurious moments and contemplating book ideas, that there might be a way to reclaim the life that I have lost. While it may not be me, someone remembers, someone knows what I was doing, where I was going. There are people who can help me to remember who I was.

An idea for the recovery of my life is born. I will interview the people who were there. I will ask for the memories my family and friends have of me, both the good and the bad, and I will remember my life through them. With any luck there will be many more instances like that with the stuffed seal, my own memories will return to me. Whether they do or not, however, I will at least know the where and why and with whom.

I will write it all down. I will tell my story in a book, as remembered through my eyes and through the many sets of eyes that have journeyed along with me for a season or for a lifetime. And I will not forget anymore.

Why Write?


I spent 45 minutes tonight staring at my computer and trying to figure out what my motives are in writing and publishing the posts on this blog. I argued back and forth in my head, selfishness vs nobility. It finally occurred to me that it’s neither. I’m not out to play the devil; I don’t want to point fingers and shift blame. I’m not out to shock people. I’m no angel either; this is not the telling of a completed and successful journey. I’m no where near ready to tell people how to navigate this crap.

The truth is, this blog is the prettied up musings I would be writing anyway. The point is that I got sick and tired of being who I was and wanted to become somebody better and, since I didn’t know what that actually meant, I started thinking out loud. What does ‘better mean?’ Who’s deciding? How will I know when I’ve gotten there? What’s the ‘right way’ to do this?

Why post it? Lord, why not? Look, people have this idea that they are alone; that they are the only one who think thoughts like they do, or have feelings like theirs. Isn’t it such a relief to realize you are not, in fact, alone at all? People are messed up. Maybe if we all just started telling each other about it instead of pretending to be perfect then we all wouldn’t be so messed up. Maybe we could all start getting better.

I post these things because sometimes I’m afraid I’m all alone. I’m scared that I’m the only one like this, that only my head thinks in this way. I want to know if anyone else is feeling the same. I begin to ask. I tell someone how I’m feeling and see if they can understand what I mean. Everyone’s amazed I’m talking about it, they thought they were the only one.

Why are we doing this to ourselves, to each other?

Some of the things I post here remind me of how much damage I’ve done throughout my life. Sharing experiences of addiction brings to mind the havoc that era caused for my family and friends; it makes me remember the ugly person that I used to be, that I’m capable of being. Other times, I don’t feel up to the level of exposure that I bring upon myself. When the things I write bring to the surface my current failings and weaknesses, I’d rather keep it to myself.

Sometimes the things I post about my past can make people uncomfortable. If you’ve known me a long time and are suddenly learning these ‘terrible secrets’ about me, it can be discomforting. Should you say something? Can you talk about it or should you pretend you don’t really know? Then again, I would imagine that being one of the actors in the stories from my past would be equally difficult. Am I mad at you? Am I blaming you? Should you have done something differently?

So why write?

When I write and when I share it with people who understand, I feel soothed. When I discover that I am not the only one with this sin or that wickedness, it’s easier to forgive myself for failing in the first place. When I realize that there are others plagued by the same questions as me, suddenly I have permission to ask, which is the only way to get answers.

And sometimes the answers to the questions I have today are hidden in my past. It’s important if I’m going to continue to grow, and if I’m going to stop making the same mistakes, to allow myself to heal from the inside out. Writing about the past is the only way I know how to deal with it. If I don’t deal with my past, my future is going to look a whole lot like right now and that’s just not good enough for me.

Maybe I’m idealistic in my certainty that if I can just keep being transparent long enough, some good will come of it. I might be completely naïve to think that if I can bare myself to you than maybe you’ll share yourself with another and we might all begin to have these conversations that, for now, are still cycling endlessly in my head.

I’d like to tell you that my intentions are entirely community minded and focused on the well-being of all, but it’s just not true. The truth is, I want to be well. I want to be whole, I want to be valued, I want to be free and I don’t want to be alone. I definitely don’t want to be alone.

And so I write.

We want to tell you that you’re beautiful and that we love you. And that no matter who you are, or what you believe, or what you do, or what you’ve done, that God loves you too.”  – Flyleaf, Live in Concert

Suicide


I wrote this blog post on December 23 but thought it best not to post it until after the holiday had come and gone.  

19 years ago today I tried to kill myself. It was the only time I would do so, unless you count a decade of drug and alcohol abuse. It wouldn’t be the last time I would want to, but it was the last time I was brave enough to try. I was 14.

I took a bottle of aspirin. People laugh when I tell them that now. It is funny, I suppose, thinking a bottle of aspirin would be able to kill someone, but this was an era before information on how to kill yourself was readily available on the internet.

Most of that age is a blur, save a few reserved memories that are very clear. I don’t know the span of days or months from which these memories are pulled. A month, a year, who knows? I don’t remember much but this…

I remember my mother picking me up at school, crying, wanting to know if the confession my father had just made was true. It was. I remember her letting him come home after a few days. I remember doing dishes and him sitting at the kitchen table. I remember being upset and feeling awkward.

I remember being left in charge of my younger brother, who had just turned two, when my mother went to the hospital to give birth to my youngest sister. My older brother stayed shut away in his room. I remember scanning the cupboard that held various family medications, but don’t remember what I was thinking, how my mind got to that place. I remember kissing my younger brother goodnight when I put him to bed, thinking I would never see him again and that I would miss him very much. It was a tough goodbye.

I came downstairs and lined up the contents of the aspirin bottle, one by one, around the perimeter of the lamp stand. I sat in the rocking chair with a glass of water and took them, all, one by one. I went to bed thinking I would never wake up again. I fell asleep. Surreal.

I woke up.  And how.  A startling, sit up straight while vomiting wake up. I remember thinking that this is what it felt like to die and that I suddenly didn’t want to. My father had come home from the hospital sometime during the night, I guess, but I passed his room and went downstairs to wake up my brother. I don’t remember what I said to him but I know he told me drink milk. I tried, while he went upstairs to get dad. It didn’t go well.

Dad came downstairs and stared at me for a long time, scowling. He said, “That was stupid”, and “I guess I’d better bring you to the hospital, or your mother is going to be pissed.” I’m sure he said other things, but I don’t remember them. He was disgusted with me, disgusted by me.

He brought me to the hospital. I was certain I would die, I couldn’t believe how painful it was to be that sick. I remember being struck by the change in my father’s nature when we reached the door to the emergency room, he was so protective suddenly, arm around my shoulders, consoling. I thought he’d had a change of heart, I remember feeling encouraged. I was a fool.

Fading in and out again, not sure what happened next. Memories come in flashes, a doctor(?) leans in and says ‘why would you do this, you are so beautiful’. I’m sure I’d been told I was beautiful before, isn’t everyone? But it had never meant more than it did in that moment, covered in vomit and charcoal.

Aunt Kathe and a fluffy white, stuffed something-or-other… I won’t let it go. Mom’s there, she seems mad … I have to stay, I have to talk to a psychiatrist … I’d better not tell him anything about what happened at home. I talk to the psychiatrist, I say nothing… He thinks I should stay. Mom’s back, wants to know what I said to the psychiatrist… I said nothing. They’re signing me out and taking me home. I want to stay at the hospital… I don’t say anything.

We told the rest of the family I’d had a stomach problem but was just fine now. I remember talking to Aunt Kathe when she came to visit. I don’t remember what we talked about but I think it made Mom mad. The minister from the church we attended came to see me. I can’t remember what it was he said to me exactly but I remember something about how “grownups make mistakes”.

I remember being called into the living room, and told to close the door. It was our impromptu conference room. I remember the lecture. What I did was inconsiderate and stupid. Did I realize the ramifications of causing my mom to sign out of the hospital early to come and see me in another one? She would never get back those precious first days with her newborn daughter, those were gone forever. How could I do this to them? How could I be so selfish? I needed to apologize. To both of them.

I was numb. I apologized. It was not to be mentioned again. For the sake of the family, do not mention it again.

I say all of that to say this: not everything is a product of disease. Some of the experiences in my life made me who I am today.  While bipolar is a disease that I can’t fully control, wounding of this nature, and the scars left behind, are a different matter; they can be overcome. Healing can be achieved. If the truth is told.

Sometimes it’s good to remember that the root of some things lie outside of myself, which means the answers do to.