Because You Are Already Good

a. zalonis, flickr

You might have noticed that I’ve been on radio silence for a little bit. I actually have written quite a bit, but none of it has felt share-worthy.

I suppose I’ve been second-guessing myself a bit too much.

This morning, my husband says, “Hey, I was looking at your website yesterday and I noticed that you haven’t posted anything new in like a month! Aren’t you worried all your people will go away?”

Me: “I’m worried about a lot of things, dear.”

And, I suppose that has been it. I’m still making my way back from that horrible depression that kicked my butt a few months back. It feels like my writing is still influenced by that.

And I guess I just didn’t want to be tiresome. One of those other things I worry about.

Should I pretend to be entertaining, or should I tell the truth?  Which is really only my truth. And that is really only as true as I decide it is. Just for today.

Plus there was this: A couple of weeks ago, a pretty successful blogger posted that you should only write positive things for your people. She went on to note that if you write anything angry or sad or depressing in any way, you’ll only attract angry, sad, and depressing people. And, those people aren’t “buyers.”

Is that what I should be worried about? Buyers?

Really?

I gotta apologize to Beautiful You for getting stuck there for a bit. It sounded so plausible. But then the chink in her argument opened up and I saw it:

If you only write positive things because you only want to attract “positive” people who become buyers, where do people go when they are experiencing the other half of their human condition?

Where do you go when you just can’t sing one more verse of “Life is All Sunshine and Roses”? Where do you go when it feels like everybody but you has a magical unicorn that farts rainbow sprinkles?

You know what I mean?

Sometimes, it seems like everywhere a woman turns she is being told to:

  • Play nice
  • Don’t make trouble
  • Smile
  • Help other people
  • Feed the hungry
  • House the homeless
  • Tend the sick
  • Ignore the exhaustion

Self-denial, self-denial, self-denial.

It’s no wonder we arrive at the middle of our lives completely confused and depleted.

So, here’s what I think:

I think we – the women here at the LAT community – are the brave ones.

We aren’t afraid to discuss the truth – that life is OFTEN messy, and confusing, and even ugly.

That doesn’t make us messy, and confused, and ugly – okay, well maybe we’ll give you a “yes” on the confused part.

But you can be confused and still embrace life.

You can be afraid and still show up.

You can be angry and learn to channel that anger into right action.

So, I’m poking my head back in from the silence because I’m so tired of all the messaging that insists that a woman deny her own experience to make other people more comfortable.

To heck with that! Just because we know fear doesn’t mean we succumb to it.

We are Women Who Rise!

We can talk about the messy, depressing, unfair parts of life because we also see and note the stark beauty that reveals itself from the destruction.

Beauty and hardship define each other.

So be it.

Love, Jennifer

P.S. If you agree and are looking for a community that supports you in living into your full life experience, we would love it if you joined us. Sign up here for regular updates:

photo: a. zalonis, flickr

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The Gift that Should Have Killed Me

flickr, yolanda

“24 Years.

364 Days.

Today. Just for today.”

 

That was one of my first thoughts upon awakening this morning.

You see, I am an alcoholic.

Fortunately, I’m the kind of alcoholic who no longer drinks.

Well, at least I’m not drinking today. That is the promise I make to myself on this, the eve of my 25th YEAR of sobriety.

* * *

I wasn’t supposed to be an alcoholic.

In fact, I worked really, really hard not to be.

I was a good girl. I did what I was told. I got good grades, graduated at the top of my class in college. I carried up to 23 credit hours a semester at college. I was on the Board of Student Government, a member of five national honor societies.

I was first chair in the University Symphony Orchestra. In fact, I played the flute so well and practiced for so long that they actually paid me to practice.

And perform.

* * *

Oh, I’m a performer, all right.

I performed and performed and smiled and plotted.

So I wouldn’t be an alcoholic.

Cause alcoholics die and leave you. Like my father did.

The leaving came when I was a baby, the dying took another decade.

Esophageal varices (that’s when you drink so much you thin the lining of your throat and then you bleed out) followed by double pneumonia.

Age 34.

Sick his entire adult life. In and out of institutions. But he got that one award from the Red Cross for donating blood.

Oh – he was a brilliant musician, too.

Self-taught.

In fact, my very first life memory is toddling down the hallway to watch him play the banjo.

* * *

So, at any rate, I thought if you worked really hard and achieved great things the disease couldn’t “get you.”

I was wrong.

There was another alcoholic in my life in those days — my grandfather, Francis Marcey, or “Pop Pop,” as we called him.

I was in the third grade when Pop Pop nearly died before he decided to get sober. After that, his entire life was dedicated to helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

We used to spend summertime at Grandma and Pop Pop’s beach house in Piney Point, MD. In the back room of the cottage there was a black rotary phone.

That was the “sobriety phone.” When it rang it meant that another alcoholic needed my Pop Pop’s help.

It was serious business, that phone and it’s special ring. It was so effing LOUD for one thing. There was no way you could miss it.

When it rang, Pop Pop would grunt and lift himself from his baby-poop green recliner.  The ringing of the phone signaled the silencing of all grandchildren present.

Pop Pop had work to do.

And work he did.

There are entire generations of Southern Marylanders whose lives have changed because of my Pop Pop and Grandma’s tireless commitment to helping others recover from this otherwise terminal disease.

* * *

Pop Pop and Grandma had a back cottage on their property. That’s where all the men who were new to sobriety lived while they were being restored to health.

Grandma made them lunch. We were in charge of taking it back to them.

White bread, thick, ruby red tomato slices from the local farmer’s roadside stand. Mayo. Salt. Pepper.

So many alcoholics getting sober on Grandma’s tomato sandwiches.

* * *

Fast forward 27 years.

I’m an alcoholic in recovery now. I’m 31 years old. My baby – my only daughter – had just died in my arms.

I didn’t drink over the death of Grace.

I didn’t drink because, like my Pop Pop, I had made a decision:

 

We Stay Sober Under Any and All Conditions.

 

That’s my decision.

I’ve been sober through the death of a child. The end of a broken marriage with all the trimmings. I’ve been sober through the death of countless friends – my poor comrades in sobriety who just couldn’t grasp – and KEEP – this one tenet of living –

We stay sober under any and all conditions.

I’ve been sober through good times and bad. I’ve been sober through mundane times – those are actually the trickiest.

Because when life is quiet my mind gets busy making shit up to worry about.

But through it all, I don’t drink. Because we stay sober under any and all conditions.

Here was one of those “conditions”:

* * *

Some months after Grace died, I was mercifully pregnant again.

It was a “high risk” pregnancy.

I spent the last four months of my pregnancy lying on my left side.

So my baby would LIVE.

I didn’t drink.

Because – We stay sober under any and all conditions.  And this particular condition was life threatening to the child growing inside me.

So, there I was.

On my left side.

I was allowed to sit up three times a day.

So that gravity didn’t kill my baby.

I reflect with awe on the Jennifer who lived through that time.

I admire her courage so very much.

Every day I was in a race – a battle with gravity, a race through time.

I couldn’t stand up for long periods of time. The baby might fall out like his big sister before his lungs would allow him to survive on the outside.

Oddly, I don’t remember being afraid at the time, though the memory of that time TERRIFIES me.

But I don’t drink.

Because, we stay sober under any and all conditions.

* * *

In April of that year, my eldest son, Clark FRANCIS was born.

Full term.

Working lungs.

Beautiful.

Safe.

Clark was the first sober baby in more than 100 YEARS on one side of my family.

You see, I am the first sober parent in more that a CENTURY from the Boykin side of the family. And, honestly, there haven’t been that many from the other side, either.

Alcoholism is my family disease. It has RAVAGED my ancestral line.

My sobriety prayer?

“Let it begin with me.”

* * *

A few months after Clark was born, we took him on vacation with us to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

I don’t know why, but something told me I HAD to take him with me to meet some other sober alcoholics I knew there.

These were my sober alcoholic friends from the beach. The summer before they had loved me through the death of my only child. Now it was time for them to meet her little brother.

* * *

There was a man speaking at the front of the room. He was celebrating twenty-something years of sobriety at the time.

His name was Jim.

Jim was talking about his early sobriety. He had gotten sober in Southern Maryland. In fact, he has newly sober at the same time and in the same county as my Pop Pop.

Jim went on and on and on about his first sober mentor. He talked about all the things that man had shared with him. He credited his sobriety – his entire life – to the love and support of that one sober man.

Afterwards, I went up to Jim. I had to introduce my second sober baby to him and ask him – did he know my Pop Pop?

So, standing there cradling the second sober baby in a century in my arms, I asked Jim –

“Did you happen to know Francis Marcey? He was sober in southern Maryland, too, about the time you were there and he was my grandfather.”

“Francis Marcey?” he boomed.  “Your grandfather was Francis Marcey?”

“Well, yes,” I answered. “And this is his namesake, Clark FRANCIS, and he is the second sober baby to be born in my father’s family in over a century. You see, my daughter, Grace, died last year. But I didn’t drink. Because WE STAY SOBER UNDER ANY AND ALL CONDITIONS.”

And this is the incredible thing that Jim said to me –

“Your grandfather was Francis Marcey?! Well, Francis Marcey was my first sober mentor. And he is the man I was just talking about who saved my life. In fact, I lived in Francis’ back cottage when I first got sober.”

Tears are streaming down my face by this time.

You see, that sober man standing before me – Jim?

Well, he got sober at Grandma and Pop Pop’s back cottage.

And here is the second miracle: when I was just nine years old – long before I picked up my first drink, I carried my Grandma’s tomato sandwiches to that man.

I was part of the family who nursed him back to health.

DECADES before that meeting with Jim and hundreds and hundreds of miles away, my grandfather had shared his experience, strength, and hope with that man.

And 27 YEARS later, he brought it back to me.

And so it is.

Because those are the sorts of miracles that happen in your life when you decide to stay sober under any and all conditions.

* * *

Twenty-five years ago TODAY I took my last drink of alcohol.

I wasn’t supposed to be an alcoholic.

It wasn’t my plan.

But alcoholism, and then sobriety, has been the greatest gift of my life.

I am so very grateful to be an alcoholic.

Love, Jennifer

P.S. Can you guess the most important word in this phrase? —  “We stay sober under any and all conditions?” I’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments for today. 

photo: flickr, Yolanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love Yourself Like It’s Nobody’s Business

flickr, Barney Moss

Cause it isn’t.

Anybody else’s business, that is.

Loving yourself is YOUR business. And, while certainly we can and are loved by other people, ultimately only we can be responsible for the love that comes and goes in our one beautiful life.

Love should not hurt. Well, okay, sometimes loving does hurt. But, in the main, love should add to our lives, not cause stress and anxiety.

Loving yourself means being responsible for yourself.  When you love yourself, you

* take care of yourself

* take care of your finances

* take care of your health

* take care of your beautiful heart.

It’s not always FUN to do some of this stuff. Facing your fear of your financial future, facing your sadness over what a lifetime of donuts has done to your hips is not fun. Facing the truth that certain people who are “supposed” to love you don’t seem to be acting that way — well, in truth, that one just kinda completely BITES.

But unless and until we stand in our own truth — our own UNADULTERATED TRUTH — seeking neither to minimize nor dramatize any of it — unless and until we do that —

Well, we can’t receive the kind of love that adds to our lives. If we are looking for love to fill the “hole in the soul” then we are living on empty emotional calories.

There’s no soulful nutrition in that.

If you lack the energy or incentive to move forward, it might be that you are filling up on this kind of near-beer of happiness.

So, love yourself. Do good for and by yourself.

Find your light and stand tall in its center.

Then, reach one hand to your right and one to your left. And grasp the love and support of your sisters who are making that same journey.

We are here. Right beside you.

Even now.

Love, Jen

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photo: Flickr, Barney Moss

 

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The Curse of the Blinking Cursor

Sadie Hernandez, French Horn I’ve got a blinking cursor cursing before me.

It’s patiently waiting for me.

To move it across the page.

I’m pretty sure my cursor works out.

It never takes a break.

Not only that, but it blinks in perfect time with itself.

As for pace, it’s a little slower than you’d want to hear the end of the Overture from Wagner’s Tannhauser.  I don’t know what made me notice that, except that, as I was staring at it just now, I suddenly had a flashback to my high school band’s Spring concert, circa 1978.

And the French horns.

What did you do today?

 

Photo cred: Sadie Hernandez

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