10 years ago…

Ten years ago I graduated from my undergraduate work.  I work at a university so this time of year always brings back fond memories.  I cannot believe so much time has passed.  It is so hard to see how much we have changed and all that we’ve endured unless we take the moment to do so.   Here are ten things I’ve learned since graduation:

  1. Your parents want what what they think will increase happiness and decrease pain, not necessarily what is best for you.  They do this through the lens of parent love, but their wishes and hopes for you may not be what is in your best interest.  Take it with a grain of salt, consider their love for you, and do what you feel is in your best interest, not what will make them happy (I’m still learning to do this).
  2. Education is always beneficial, but it doesn’t matter what your degree is in… as long as you finish it.  So, make sure you spend the four years of college (or 11 in my case since I went on to get a PhD) studying something that inspires you.  You get a job through who you know and who you are as a person, not solely because you have the “right degree”… it doesn’t exist.  But being smart, creative, and an agile thinker will always serve you well.
  3. You will regret more of what you don’t do than of what you do.  It is better to make a move and make a mistake than to never move at all.  I saw a bumper sticker with the quote, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ~John Bingham  Amen to that!
  4. Don’t stoop to another person’s level.  Since entering into the “real world” I’ve realized there are a lot of lazy, lazy, lazy, uninspired people out there… don’t be one even if you find yourself surrounded by them.  They may make more than you, have a better office, have a better title, but at the end of the day you know that you did your job to the best of your ability and then some.  Always take pride in your work.
  5. Don’t compare yourself to others.  I am very guilty of looking at others and thinking, “wow, they must have it all, they must not have the demons in their head like I do”.  This is false.  All the perfect people and families you see on Facebook are just facades.  There is always more going on than you can imagine.  So don’t compare yourself to others.
  6. Learn to forgive yourself.  I have an easier time forgiving others than I do myself. It has been one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do and I’m still not good at it.  The compassion you show others should also be shown to yourself.
  7. Never lose your enthusiasm for life.  Marvel at a sunset, take time to smell the flowers blooming, be in wonder at the beauty of a butterfly, let music wash over you, jump for joy when you hear the ice cream truck, trick or treat, believe in Santa for the night, do everything that you did as a kid.  Just because your body ages doesn’t mean your soul has to.
  8. Great friends are there when you are at your worst and at your best.  They are there when you make mistakes, they are there when you are successful.  They provide support when your soul is crushed and they laugh when your spirit soars.  You will only find one or two that are truly great friends… count your blessings when you do.
  9. You will never stop learning who you are.  The 20’s were a wild ride and so far the 30’s have been a great period of self-discovery, but you will never “figure it all out” or have a complete understanding of what you need in this life.  But always make time to get to know yourself along the way.  You may be surprised at what you learn.
  10. Serenity.  I love the serenity prayer because it is so relevant, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  The last part is the hardest for me… the wisdom to know the difference between that which I can change and that which I cannot change.

~AA

End

The end sucks.  I got the last email from C today.  Saying goodbye.  God, I love him.  He makes me feel so fulfilled in ways that no other ever has or probably ever will.  I hate saying goodbye, but it is okay.  I really appreciate the email he sent me.  He apologized for everything that is going on in another email, but in this on he said, “Actually, fuck it.  I’m not going to apologize anymore…I don’t regret falling for you…I regret hurting you and putting drama in your life, but I will always be thankful that I had at least temporary access to a goddess like you. I am not sorry…I’m proud to have loved you.”  And I don’t care what anyone thinks.  I love this email and will keep it forever.  How many of you have been told that you are a goddess or a star walking on the Earth waiting for  your constellation?  I have.

It is so easy to judge relationships from the outside.  To say that this or that person is wrong and is a bad person, but it really is never that easy.  People may think that our relationship was just a fling, something superficial.  But it was far from it.  I’ve never opened myself so completely to another human being in my life.  Not even my therapist.  We’ve never slept together, we’ve never kissed, we’ve never held hands, we’ve never had any physical contact, but I would give everything for him and will love him forever.  I think the reason it became such a deep relationship was because we weren’t distracted by the physical.  We were talking about our dreams, fears, every day struggles and we created together.  Stories.  He finished an entire novel for me.  It is amazing.  How many people have a superficial fling that results in the writing of an entire novel?  And this is only one of many, many things he did for me.

I am so blessed to have experienced him.  And like I’ve always told him, I truly believe we will be together one day, even if only when we are both cats.

I’m going to eat some pizza and candy and continue crying for the night.  Thank goodness I don’t have to do anything tonight.  Crying is so cathartic.

~AA

Life as a Business

My girlfriend B and I were talking about how it is so much easier to be successful at work.  I have a job I like and have been informed that the executive team “has plans” for me.  I’ve only been there 4 months.  I think I’m pretty good at what I do and B is really good at what she does.  So, while we were talking last night, I brought up the fact that I feel like two different people….the professional me and the personal me.  I’m doing well in on the professional side, but not so well on the personal side.  It can be a bit confusing.  But the personal stuff is, ultimately, more important.  But I know more about how to get things where they need to be in business than I do in relationships.

So, it got me thinking that maybe I should run my life like a business with a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and develop a strategic plan around clear goals, have some definitions.  In my life business, there wouldn’t be “policies”, per se, there would be items of negotiation and non-negotiation that have guidelines allowing for some interpretation, like the Constitution.

Here’s where I am so far…

Vision Statement:  To depart this world knowing that I made others’ lives better, that I experienced all that I could, that I took risks, that I gave myself completely, that I continuously learned, that I never settled, that I stayed true to myself, that I developed compassion for myself.

Mission Statement: To take appropriate risks in pursuit of a fulfilled life.

Goals:

  1. To always love
  2. To be devoted to my family
  3. To be a leader, educator and healer
  4. To understand and incorporate my spiritual philosophies in everything
  5. Take the road of most resistance when necessary

Broken

I feel like there are so many parts of me that are broken and that, perhaps, they may never heal.  I am hopeful that they will.  That I will be stronger from all of  this.  This is more difficult than I ever thought imaginable.  I could not imagine doing this if there were children in the picture.  I feel like I’ve made so many mistakes, but that is part of life, right?  Mistakes are part of what makes life worth living.  They teach us things.  They force us to expand our hearts, to expand our ability to forgive.  Probably the most difficult thing is to forgive ourselves for our imperfections.  I have so much compassion for others, but the person I have the most difficult time forgiving is myself.  Why is that?

There are so many conflicting emotions.  I’m longing, alone, hopeful, strong, wishing to hold onto the past, wishing to move forward.  I went to my counselor today.  It was helpful.  I so needed to speak to someone.  To help me continue to move forward when all I want to do is give up.

Thank God for music.  It so resonates with me.  It helps me process the emotions that I cannot vocalize or put into writing.  Right now the song that is really sticking with me is Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper.  Some may think it too “pop”, but she’s been through so much and completely gets the underlying point of the song.  I love it.  It inspires me.  Gives me hope.  I feel like a Phoenix, but my ashes are still burning.  I haven’t risen yet.

Destroyed

I have been destroyed.  This weekend was horrific.  The only positive thing is that I think I’ve hit bottom.  I like to think of myself as a strong person, but I’m weak, I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, I’m destroyed.   I keep reminding myself of that saying, “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves to annihilation over and over, can we find that within us that is indestructible.”  I’ll get through this eventually, but right now I’m barely keeping it together.

This weekend J came home.  He is on a work assignment in a different state.  I was too exhausted to put energy into finding a place to stay for the weekend, plus it is my home too.  I didn’t leave.  So we were there for the weekend from Friday through Sunday.  It was hard.  It was confusing.  Saturday I went out with some friends.  I’ve come to realize that I simply don’t need to have a drink at all during this period of time.  I thought a few drinks couldn’t hurt.  Boy was I wrong.

Soon, everything started just welling up in me.  I excused myself from my friends and told them I was tired and going home.  I went to my car and just broke down.  In an effort to get out of there, I was able to drive my car a whopping 30 feet to a parking lot across the street and proceeded to fall apart.  I was so destroyed.  I couldn’t drive.  All I wanted to do was to run my car into a median or a large pole in an effort to end my life.  I was stuck in downtown, crying and completely losing it.  I didn’t know what to do, so I called the suicide hotline.  Which, by the way, was not helpful at all!

The lady told me to stop crying.  Asked why I was upset.  I told her.  She said, “well, if you’re the one who wanted the divorce, why are you crying?”  I hung up on her.  Eventually I got enough of my shit together to start making the drive home, although I shouldn’t have been driving in my state.  I wasn’t drunk, I was simply at the beginning of a nervous breakdown.  I was completely disoriented.

I made it home with great difficulty.  Started what seemed like an endless walk to my home (where J was).  I could barely get myself to walk, much less climb stairs.  I had to take breaks on the way up to the 3rd floor.  It wasn’t pretty.  Sobbing, shoes and purse clung to my chest like a doll.  When I got into the apartment, J was on the couch.  I continued to just lose it.  Wailing.  That is what I was doing.  Wailing.  My soul was so ripped apart, there was nothing to do but give in.  It was horrific.  It was terrifying.

He hugged me and held me while I collapsed on the floor.  Eventually I told him I needed to get into the shower–I find it soothing to be in a shower when I feel really terrible.  I got in the shower, but it didn’t provide me with the relief I needed.  I got a razor blade from my bathroom drawer.  I was in so much pain and distress and it wouldn’t subside.  I was so done.  I wanted it to end.

I started to try.  To let my lifeblood run free.  I pushed the razor against my skin.  It hurt.  I wanted to do it so bad.  To get it over with.  I kept trying, kept not being able to press hard enough.  J came in and took it from me.  He got in the shower and simply held me while I cried and broke down further.  He got me out of the shower and put me in bed.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t do anything.  Eventually even the tears wouldn’t come.  He stayed with me all night.  I’m glad he was there.

Sunday was difficult.  Waking up and feeling completely empty, foggy.  I play on a soccer league and in a wind ensemble.  And I had practices for both on Sunday.  I went to soccer practice, but J is on my team.  He was there.  I was physically ill.  I left early, but he walked me to my car.  He had to go back to his work assignment, so we said goodbye at the car.  He tried to kiss me.  He told me to let him kiss me.  He started telling me that he wanted me to tell him there was hope for us.  I was dumbfounded.  After all that had transpired in 24 hours he thought it was a good idea to ask me for more (earlier in the day, he told me that “sex makes you feel better”–I think he was joking, but I wasn’t really in the mood).  I proceeded to break down again, got in my car and left.

My girlfriend B came over and we went to dinner.  I’m so grateful for her.  She has been my savior through this.  I told her everything.  It is so hard to reach out to others when you are suffering so horribly b/c you don’t want to burden them and you are ashamed of the things going through your mind.  I lover her so much.  I also emailed a bit with C on Sunday.  He is so accepting of me in my most horrible form.  I’m blessed to have two people who truly love and care for me no matter what.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.  My family loves me, but they aren’t helping me.  My mom is trying.  She’s amazing, but I haven’t talked to my dad in weeks.  My brother doesn’t really know how to help, but he checks in with me from time to time.

This morning is a little better.  I’m working, so that helps me move forward. I know it will be difficult when I’m back home and I can let my guard down, but I need to let myself feel the pain and to work through the pain.  I’ve taken a leave of absence from my soccer league and the band that I play with.  I cannot deal with any additional responsibility right now.  I just need to focus on getting healthy and refocused.

Be kind to one another.

~AA

Life Report…continues

So, I began my life report by providing a background about who I am and that sort of left at the turning point in my life that I am now approaching.  The decision.  I’ve made the decision.   I’ve gone to counseling to help me get clarity about my choice and I know I’m making the best decision for both of us.  The next chapter in my life report will be a reconciliation of this experience and choice and the move into a new period.

One of the things that I talked to B about yesterday was the fact that J has some personal issues that he needs to work through.  B & J are both children of alcoholics, their dads in both cases.  B has been a part of AL-ANON for a number of years and we discussed the fact that J probably has some deep-seeded issues that he isn’t recognizing or dealing with.  She pointed some things out to me that I didn’t realize could be a result of the trauma that he dealt with.  And, more importantly, by remaining in the relationship, I’m simply enabling this pattern of denial to continue.  Perhaps it is my responsibility as the wife to stand by him and to force him to get treatment, but I’m a firm believer that you cannot change anyone.  If he doesn’t want to get help for some of his issues, I cannot make him.  And I don’t have the emotional reserve to keep doing it anymore.  To keep pushing to make things better.  Is that horrible to say?  If so, I don’t really care.  I’m tired… exhausted by beating my head against a wall that will never bend.  I am done.  And I am at peace with this decision.

The next part of my life report, I suspect, will look something like this:

At 31 I realized that it was time to end my marriage.  He was a wonderful man with so much to offer, but the walls and barriers that were built between us were too strong to bare.  I loved him and will always love him.  I look on our time together as a wonderful and trying experience that gave both of us the opportunity to grow, to achieve, to love, to laugh, to experience and to learn to let go when you need to let go.  It is with great consideration and difficulty that I came to this conclusion, but I know that it is right.  Looking forward with excitement and uncertainty, I granted both of us our freedom to find what will truly make each of us happy.  For this reason, I am at peace.      

Be inspired!

~AA

The Question

I’m meeting with my counselor today for the first time.  I’m looking forward to it.  I filled out her questionnaire that, as anticipated, asked “what is the reason for your counseling?”  And so I wrote:

I think that my marriage is over and I want to leave my husband.  I need help to determine this is what I want to do and I need support to do it.

I was sort of cathartic to write that.  To put it down concretely.  I’m still remarkably level headed about all of this and cannot really explain why.  This is really the reason that I am seeking counseling.  I need someone external to help me ensure that I am making the decision that I want to make and that I’m not simply having an emotional reaction to other things, which I don’t believe I am.

It can be difficult at home in the sense that I’m there with J.  I see him.  I know he will be hurt.  But in a way, I sort of think that he knows it too even if we don’t talk about it.  I care about him a great deal, but more like a friend cares about another friend and wants to protect them from bad things.  Not necessarily like a lover.  But I can’t help but wonder if this is what it is “supposed” to be like after 6 years together?  Are we supposed to be more friends that we are lovers?  Would he be a good provider? Yes.  Would he be a great father?  Yes.  Could I just stay with him?  Yes.  The question is, “Do I need him, do I want to stay with him forever, does he give me the support I need?”

The best thing about our marriage is that we are both very independent.  I could never be with someone who is too clingy.  I have my things and he has his and I would never stand in the way of his personal or professional growth, but I  do expect some consideration in both regards.

Since we’ve been married, I have taken a fellowship that required I leave for 6 months, he’s had an internship that required him leaving for 3 months, and now he will be overseas for 4 months.  There have been those that say things like, “how could you do that!?”   How could I NOT do that?  I expect the same in return.  I don’t believe in trying to hold people back or holding on to them.  I believe in supporting people and encouraging them to reach their highest potential possible.

When we met, my husband was a carpenter.  He dropped out of high school, but managed to get his GED when he was 22.  He always wanted to go to college, he was smart, but he didn’t have the support system to do it.  After we met and he moved to Texas, he decided to go back to school to become an engineer.  I never and would never have asked him to go back to school to get a better job.  I loved him as he was and he was a carpenter.  That is just how I am.  He aspired to get a degree, so I supported him while he did.  He made those choices, not me.

But I don’t know where those two went.  When we met he was so much more open to affection, we were always doing things together, he seemed excited about changes.  Now, he’s not affectionate and informed me two years into our marriage that he doesn’t like PDA, somewhat seems to enjoy being with me but less so than he used to, and is still interested in some change as long as it is on his terms.

Anyway…. I’m looking forward to my session today.  I feel good about where I am and where I am going.

~AA

Blessings

The more experienced I am the more I can appreciate the blessings in my life.  One of my greatest blessings is my mother.  I have the most amazing mother in the world.  Unfortunately, this past Monday she had to get her 4th coronary stent.  She is fine and out of the hospital now, but the thought of losing her terrifies me.  She had bypass surgery in early November, but the place where the bypass went back into her heart was too small and caused this new round of heart issues.  I hope this is the last of it.  I love her so much.

Ever since I can remember, I have aspired to be like her.  To achieve even the most remote amount of compassion and lover for others that she possesses would be amazing.  She taught me how to love and sacrifice for others.  She has done so much for my dad and for her family.  Her life has been devoted to giving.  And she is beautiful in every way possible.

She once gave me some sound advice when I was complaining to her about the fact that I felt like I was doing everything on my own even though I was married.  She said, “A, you will always do it on your own.”  This was a revolutionary moment for me and my relationship with my mom.  In that very moment, she showed me a side of her I didn’t know was there.  And I know she is right.  I don’t need anyone to make me happy.  I’m the only one that can “make” me happy.  I don’t need anyone to give me opportunities, I make my own.

To her credit, she grew up in a different time and had different views about relationships and marriage than I do.  My parents have a very traditional relationship.  She is the wife, caregiver, etc. while my father tends to be the dad, the man.  In all honesty, there were times I didn’t know why she stayed with him.  But she did.  And 41 years later, they have a wonderful relationship.  I understand it now, though.  It was her choice to stay with him and to make her family happy.  That is all she really cared about.  Her family.

Despite some of the hell that I know my dad put her through, she has always maintained a positive outlook.  It is something that I strive for.  She doesn’t know it, but she’s a Buddhist in a way… she believes all moments pass and that they are opportunities to learn.

Here’s to mothers who are friends and mentors!  I am blessed in this regard.

~AA

Love

Do you know that saying, “if you love someone, let them go?”   I have to do this.  It sucks and it hurts and it makes me want to have a tantrum, but ultimately I’m just hurting someone I care a great deal about.  I have had this experience before where I had to let someone go that I cared a great deal about.  We have since been able to become friends, but it took about two years to mend that relationship and, quite honestly, we aren’t as close as we used to be.  Perhaps one day.  But I think that is okay.

Today I found out that my mother in back in the hospital for a 4th stent this year.  She had bypass surgery in early November and now she’s back in the hospital.  My mother is so important to me and I dread the day that I lose her.  When I got the call today about her being in the hospital, I just about lost it.  I had one of those purely groundless moments where things are suddenly clear.

The petty shit that I worry about day in and day out truly is insignificant in the grand scheme of my life.  The only thing that really matters are people and relationships.  It makes me want to scream at everyone, including myself.  We waste so much time in bad relationships, at work, thinking about work, thinking about clothes, thinking about who knows what, but IT DOESN’T MATTER!

I suddenly feel a strong call to arms to get my shit together.  I say this all the time and need to say it more to myself “get with the program!”.

~AA

Life Chapters

The summary that David Brooks provided of the Life Reports indicated that the most happy people were those that could break their lives into “chapters”.

The happier ones divided time into (somewhat artificial) phases. They wrote things like: There were six crucial decisions in my life. Then they organized their lives around those pivot points. By seeing time as something divisible into chunks, they could more easily stop and self-appraise. They had more control over their fate.

This really resonated with me.  In my short life… here are my “critical” periods:

  1. Death of my friends (14)
  2. Studying music instead of nursing in college (19)
  3. My brother having his first heart attack (23)
  4. Being honest with myself about what I need (29)
  5. Being completely emotionally vulnerable (31)

These are all I have thus far, but I feel confident that more will happen and perhaps some of these things will be bundled together in the larger narrative of my life.