Writing About Writing

I did my taxes last week.  I thought you should all know that.  I waited until July 15th on the off chance that they actually would magically get done.  They did not. I am never doing my own taxes again.  I am good at a lot of things.  I enjoy a lot of things.  Filing my taxes does not fall into either of those categories.   Something else that isn’t magically getting done is that book I am writing.  Or, not writing as it turns out.  I tried using the share it to social media for accountability approach.  That looks like me sitting down at my laptop by 6:30 every  morning and posting a selfie to my story so the world knows that I am doing the thing I said I would do.  But early morning selfies are tricky.  I always forget that I just woke up until I see the pic.  Then I have to take 72 more selfies until I get a decent one.  Then I write.  This is is what I have learned.  I write like I do everything in my life.  I am either all in or I am all out. There is no in-between. These past two weeks I have been all out.  And it feels like I am done.  Not just done, but mad about it.  As in fuck this fucking book, it’s stupid and I don’t even want to write it.   Which is how I know that I’ll keep doing it.   I was doing great, sitting down at the same time every day, posting my selfies to my story,  getting solid word counts.  I felt like I was really doing something.  But I don’t actually know what I am doing.  I’m just writing.  Which is probably fine because I never know what I am doing, and things always work out for me.  Usually better than I could imagine.  When I look at my life I see that things work out for me.  But I also know I have to put the work in.  None of it ever happens magically.  One might think I would stop hoping for that, and yet, I never do.   But I have this friend.   I am 100% certain this woman showed up in my world to help me write this book.    She’s a writer.  And an editor.  Among other things.   And she believes in me way more than I believe in myself.  Some days she talks me into believing in myself and it lasts for weeks.  Then I slowly start to get in my own way.  Doubt creeps in.   I am writing about a past that is painful and dark.  As I write from this place it’s hard to remember that I am not that person.  It’s hard to be the confident and strong person I know I can be.  The old story creeps up and brings those old feelings with it.  The doubt struggle is real.  It shows up as shame.  It shows up as “not enough.”  It shows up as “too much.”  It shows up as “who am I to think I can write a book?”  It shows up as “why would anyone care what I have to say?”   The worst part is that I know in my heart that none of it is true.  It’s my head that gets in the way.  My story is powerful.  My voice matters.  But that dark past is a hard place to write from. When I write from that place, I am IN that place. It’s painful.  It was suggested to me that I write about my right now.  Because my right now is pretty damn fabulous.  It’s full of love and joy and so many blessings that it sometimes brings tears to my eyes.  It’s full of amazing people and beautiful experiences.  It’s full of women who lift me and a family who loves me.  It’s full of beaches and sunshine and dancing.  But it’s still so new to me.  I recorded a podcast a few weeks ago, and that’s probably right around the time I started losing steam for this writing project now that I think about it.  The podcast was recorded with a woman who thinks I am 100% bad ass.   I have only met her in person two times, but she’s followed my journey on social media and knows enough about me to know that she wanted me to share my story.  I  shared my journey to self love with her for this podcast.  Because it really is a journey.  We started in my childhood and moved forward.   We had an hour for the podcast.  When we were finished I was worried that she might not have gotten what she wanted.  She got a small piece of the self love she was looking for.  She got a LOT of darkness.  But that’s the story.  That’s where I am in my journey.  I lived many, many years in that dark place.  I have only been here, in the healthy place, a short time in comparison.   It made me sad.   I felt like she wouldn’t want to use my story because there’s too much self loathing and not enough self love.   There’s no self love in judging myself harshly for my past. I know this.  It’s easy to say.  But it happens. It happens when I write about my past.  And the doubt comes back.  It’s a vicious cycle.  But I have awareness and awareness is everything.   I am going to keep writing.  I am going to write with the expectation that it actually will be easy.  But it won’t.  And then I’ll get mad and I’ll quit.  For a while.  This is how I do everything worth doing.  It’s not really for me unless I say “fuck it, I’m not doing it.”  It’s my go to.  And I mean it every time.  A thing to know about me is that I am persistent.  I know this about myself.   It might take years, but I’ll do it.  I already have the tattoo. I have to do it now. I fully expect the process to suck. But that’s just because I’m still mad about it.

Sober Yogi

When I started this blog years ago I had a hard time deciding what to call it. Sober Yogi represented who I was at the time.  Since that time, I have grown in every possible way.  When I started writing here I figured I would write about yoga and being sober, since those were the things I knew. I fully expected more of a how to format. Nothing like what I actually write about. I have used this space to document my entire healing journey which has been so much deeper and bigger than not drinking. Who knew? I’ve shared so much of that process right here with all of you and received so much support. What a beautiful healing space this is for me.  I’ve played with the description of the blog, but have never changed the name.  I’ve thought about it because I’m not so sure “Sober Yogi” represents what the blog actually is, and I am soooooo much more than a sober yogi.  Those things are just pieces of who I am and being sober doesn’t really seem like it’s a big of deal anymore.  It’s just my life.  But today I was 100% THAT girl.  I fully experienced myself as a sober yogi and it was so very special.

This morning I taught a yoga class on the beach.  As I was teaching, I noticed a guy hanging back and observing us.  No big deal, because yoga on the beach is cool.  Who wouldn’t want to check that out?  At the end of practice, I led everyone into Savasana.  The final pose of practice.  Corpse pose.  Here’s a little truth about Savasana on the beach.  Every time all of my students are lying on their backs, eyes closed, exactly like corpses, I feel a little (lot) like Jim Jones.  It makes me laugh and feel weird to be the only one standing or even sitting around all the bodies laid out on the sand.  So today, I walked down to the water while my students rested peacefully.  And they were beautiful.  As I was standing on the water’s edge, I sensed the man that had been observing us approaching me.  In my mind I had an entire conversation about how happy I was that he was definitely not coming to talk to me because of social distancing.  But he was.  And he did. He kept his distance. Don’t freak out. He asked if I was Shannon.  Then he introduced himself and asked if I remembered him.  I didn’t.  He shared with me how he had been to one of my 12 step  recovery yoga classes years ago.  Those are classes that I taught for a very limited time, because I just never felt like I could connect.  The energy was always off.  But, at that moment I remembered exactly who he was.  And clearly, I had connected. He told me he was two days sober and didn’t know what to do or where to go, but he knew I was teaching on the beach this morning and I would be a good place to start.  So he came to the beach.  I still had students in Savasana, and went back to them.  We finished our practice while he hung back.  When everyone left I was able to give my attention to this man.  I directed him to the local meetings and shared recovery resources with him.  He had a ton of questions and seemed so willing to try a different way.  One of the women from my class had stayed behind to enjoy the beach.  A licensed mental health counselor.  I invited her into our conversation and she was able to speak to him on the ways alcohol affects the brain.  All the cool science of the addicted brain.  She was incredibly helpful and informative.  It was such a Divinely orchestrated plan to have her there in that moment with her understanding of addiction. A God moment. You can call it a coincidence if you feel better about that, but I’ll silently disagree with you. I have no idea if this guy will get sober or not.  Sometimes people take that first little step into sobriety and then jump right back out.   Sometimes it takes years.  It did for me. People reach out to me all the time, and then I never hear from them again.  It’s not my job to get people sober, but it is my responsibility to be there when someone reaches out.   I saw honesty, openness and willingness from the man on the beach this morning.  Those are the three things a person needs to get sober and stay that way.  I’m hopeful. I’m rooting for him.

Being sober is such a natural piece of my life today.  It’s no longer some foreign experience I am trying to navigate. I don’t write about it as often as I used to.  It’s not the most interesting thing about me. But it’s never about me is it?  As much as I want it to be.  This morning, on the beach, I was a sober yogi.  Yes, I am so much more than that, and as uninteresting and routine as the sober piece is, without it every good thing in my world would go away.  I was reminded this morning, in a very big way, that being sober is incredibly special.  Sharing about sobriety and connecting to so many people through my words is a privilege and an honor.  I am extremely grateful that I am able to recover out loud.

 

Smooth Sailing. Until it’s not.

And then it happened!  I made a Covid 19 memory bigger than toilet paper!  And there was dancing!  And my heart was full!   Yesterday I hosted a social distanced parking lot dance party.  Most of you saw the pics on my FB page.  I am sure there are people who didn’t approve, and that’s ok.  I wasn’t looking for approval.  I was looking for connection.  Friday was a hard day.  Some days are.  I’ve had plenty of down days lately.  I know we all have. Friday was my worst.  I woke up that morning and went downstairs to my fortress of solitude.  I sat on my cushion to meditate, but instead I cried.   I cried a lot.  A thing to know about me is that I am not a crier.  But I couldn’t help it and I couldn’t stop it.  I’m sure it was necessary and I get that crying is good.  I love when my students cry in yoga, and I love when the women in my circles cry.  I’m just not the one to do it.    I was THIS close to jumping on the blog and writing through it, but that seemed like a stupid option.  So instead, I stayed stuck in it.  And I cried.  I haven’t cried like that since September 9th 2018.  I can’t remember why I cried, but I remember that it started at home and continued during the yoga class I went to that morning.  I was hosting a teacher from Florida in the studio and I was in her class, bawling my eyes out the entire time.  Pretty impressive that I have a timeline, right?

This is where I stop to tell on myself.   Because I live my life on social media and share so much from my heart, I was guessing there must be something posted that day to give me a clue as to what that was all about. I had to make the connection back to the date that teacher was here.  A quick search pointed out the date and down the rabbit hole of my activities log for September 2018 and BOOM.  Here it is.  Of course I was crying.  Also,  I was probably due for another good cry on Friday.  2018 was a LONG time ago.  I should cry more.  You know, if I was down to play that “should” game.  I did have a big crying episode on January 1st during sunrise meditation on the beach.  I bawled my eyes out and even pointed it out to my friend who also doesn’t cry.  I was proud of it and wanted to share it with her.  But, that was all gratitude and full heart stuff.  Quite different.  But sooooooo good.  For the record, I am down to cry gratitude tears any time.

The unhappy cry is the crying I have an aversion to.  Back to Friday where I cried for the first time in a L O N G time.  I think every emotion I have experienced over the past 6 weeks caught up to me.  It was a tough day.  After the tears came the anger.  I’m not exactly sure why I was angry, but I suspect it’s easier for me to be angry than it is for me to be sad or fearful or fully feel all the grief that we are collectively feeling.  And by I suspect, I mean that’s definitely it.  This afternoon I talked with a friend on the phone who spun her woo woo therapist magic on that situation.  She pointed out that my inner “kid” likes to get angry and rebel against…….well, she rebels against all kinds of things, but she definitely doesn’t like to cry.   So she gets angry. I knew that being angry around my family for no “real” reason wasn’t going to be helpful, so I stayed in my fortress of solitude.  My husband came down to check on me.  He NEVER comes into my fortress.  Ever.  He asked if I wanted to walk to the beach with him.  We live 15 streets away from the beach and while it’s totally doable, I didn’t want to do it.  I’m not much of a beach walker anyway.  I’m more of a sitter.  My husband isn’t a beach walker either nor is he the kind of guy that wants to walk 15 streets because it’s good for his health.  Bless him.  He wanted to fix me because all of my emotions made him uncomfortable.  He just wanted me to be ok. Because he loves me.   I eventually got past the anger and settled into a nice, comfortable funk.  I stayed there the rest of the day.  Ice cream and music in the bathtub that evening helped, but more than that, sleeping and waking up to a new day was the real trick.   Saturday was the first time I have seen real people outside of my home, not counting the grocery store, in six weeks.  I know I’m not alone in this and that we are ALL right there.  I know that for me and the women who either showed up to dance in their own (appropriately spaced out) circle, or just sit in their car and watch, it was so uplifting.  Dancing for me is ALL about connecting to that inner child.  That girl needed to let loose and have fun.  Saturday was the soulgasm I needed to carry me through another 14 day week. Who knew quarantine days were gonna be 48 hours long?  I’m really looking forward to the day that quarantine and Covid 19 doesn’t come up in my thoughts, in my blog and in every fucking conversation I have.  Today is not that day. Tomorrow is not going to be that day.  This is where we are.  Doing the best we can. Adapting and overcoming.   I had an amazing 10 am writing group Zoom meeting with fabulous women today.  I’m happy to be writing again. For now. Even if it’s just a bunch of rambling.  It feels good for me to connect in this way.  Last week quite a few new readers found my blog.   The toilet paper blog.  People who have never read my blog somehow stumbled onto that one.  I need you to read that again, slowly,  in my southern accent.  People who have never read my blog somehow stumbled onto that one.   What the hell?   I was almost embarrassed.  Almost, but not quite.  I was dealing with too many other emotions to be bothered with embarrassment.  This week is gonna be smooth sailing.  I can feel it.  Until it’s not.  LOL

What an uncomfortable time to be alive.

What an uncomfortable time to be alive.  When I open social media, which is way too often these days, I see two types of people.  The excessively grateful and the excessively pissy.  The pissy ones are the ones arguing with everyone and posting nothing but doom and gloom.  Arguing with everyone. I tend to fall on the excessively grateful side.  Don’t get me wrong, I can be all kinds of pissy and I am at some point every day lately, I just don’t spread that out into the world.  I keep it to myself, take it out on my yoga mat, put it in my journal and my husband gets more than his fair share of it.  Sorry Leon.  The world is stuck right now.  What I see is that those of us who have a practice are getting through a little easier than those who don’t.  When we actually practice.  Which is proving to be a challenge for me.  That’s why it’s called a practice, right?  I’m completely off my schedule like the rest of the world I imagine. Staying up late and sleeping in.  I miss my morning quiet time, before the world wakes up.  Some days I set my alarm, but most days I don’t.  Getting up early is one of those things I “should” be doing.  My mind swims in the things I “should” be doing.  I “should” be reading all those books on my shelf, and I am trying, but I’m just not into it.  I have two books that I am currently working my way through, both by authors I know and love. And I hate both books. I’m sure it’s just me and the weird mood and lack of focus I’m experiencing. Maybe I just need some good fiction in my life.  I “should” get my ass off social media because it’s a waste of time and since the studio is closed, I don’t have to promote my business.  But, my friends live there and it keeps me connected.  I unfollow and unfriend people constantly.  The negative Nelly’s.  Limiting screen time is on my list of things to do.  It’s seriously right at the top of my intentions.  I “should” be streaming online classes. I paid for a Zoom account and everything.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t want to.  And I have some guilt about it.  I feel bad about leaving my people high and dry, but the reality is that while yoga is absolutely essential, I am not.  Anyone can lead people through an asana practice.  Every teacher I know is streaming on Zoom.  It might be the Rebel in me that is refusing, but my heart just isn’t in it. I could change my mind next week.  Or even tomorrow.  That’s what I’m noticing more than anything is the way my mind and emotions are all over the place.  I know that’s not unique to me and we are all experiencing that.  I’m just trying to be gentle with myself and the rest of you.  All of this is showing me that I am judgmental AF.  That’s my lesson this week, this month, this year and maybe this lifetime.  I judge myself more than I am judging everyone else, but I catch myself doing that too and I have to stop and remind myself that we are all doing the best we can with what we have.  I just wish some of y’all could do better…….lol.    I “should” be writing.   I “should” be doing my taxes, but now I have that extension, and if you know me, you know I’m not. I “should” be connecting to my community and leading everyone in group meditation because the world needs that right now.  The list of things I should be doing goes on and on and here I am doing none of it.  That’s where I am.  Stuck.  And I know it’s ok.  I really do. I know I’m not alone in this.   Every day is a new opportunity to practice.  Practice moving forward through the stuck-ness. This feels a lot like early sobriety to me.  The being unsure of what I’m supposed to be doing.  The emotional rollercoaster.  The uncertainty.  The being uncomfortable.  All of it.  It’s not my favorite.  But unlike early sobriety, I have the tools to navigate this.  I can be uncomfortable.  I can be uncertain.  It’s about going back to basics. It’s about sitting with myself.  Just sitting.  Writing my way through it, which I will admit I haven’t done.  I opened my journal yesterday and saw that I hadn’t written in it since March 10th.  Which is craziness, but these are crazy times.  And I wrote.  No guilt over all the days that had gone by. I just poured my heart out onto the pages. Back to basics means that I might be taking two baths a day.  Snuggling my boys.  Netflix.  I don’t even watch TV, but here I am on the Tiger King train(wreck).  I even busted out the adult coloring book today.  That took me way back.  I’m getting by the best I can.  I believe we all are.  Whatever that looks like for each of us.  I’m letting go of “should” and doing what works. Giving myself permission to just be. My heart hurts for the world.  Some moments it overwhelms me.  I am one of those excessively grateful people.  I have to be.  Gratitude carries me through.  I can be mad, sad and all the things in between, as long as I bring it back to gratitude for all the things that are right in the world.  Gratitude is my anchor.  I see beauty on the other side of this.    I’ll keep looking for the beauty in every day. I have everything I need plus all the extras for my comfort. I have my family and community for support and love and I have all the free time I could ever ask for. When I feel overwhelmed, I bring it back to this. Again and again.

No Magic Cure

Here’s a thing to know about me.  I like it when things magically happens for me.  When I don’t have to do any work and shit just gets done.  Rarely does this happen, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping.   I am currently waiting for this to happen with my taxes.  When a warning light comes on in my car, I prefer for it to magically go  off all on it’s own.  I not only prefer it, I expect it.  Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it doesn’t.  When I announced to my readers that I am writing a book, I fully expected that I would magically have the discipline to sit down at the same time everyday and write.  Without distractions.  This has not magically happened for me.  YET.  I’m still hopeful.  I’m still writing.  Just not with the magic discipline I had imagined.  Certainly not with no distractions.  You best believe that when I declared to the world I was going to get sober I had no doubt that it would just happen for me.  Magically.  Because that is my preferred way.  I assure you it did not happen that way.  I pick up a lot of new followers and friends on social media because of my sober status.  Every time I post about sobriety, someone new reaches out to me to inquire about how it’s done.  I know how it worked for ME so that is always where I start. I also know that there are many ways to the top of the mountain, so I share resources that might be helpful.  I always give my time to the people who reach out for help.  If the person is local it almost always ends with them asking me to go with them to a meeting so they don’t have to go alone.  I always agree even though I rarely go to meetings anymore, because meetings are a great place to start.  I know that first meeting is super scary. Here’s an interesting fact.  I have gone to exactly zero meetings with the people who reach out and ask for help.  Because, inevitably, something else comes up and they can’t make it.  And I get it.  I so get it.  They know they have a problem, they kinda/sorta want to do something about it, but ultimately, they want it to happen for them.  Magically.  And I hope it does.  I also know that as much as I want it to happen for me, my taxes aren’t going to get done unless I do them.  My book isn’t going to get written unless I sit down and write it.  The warning light on my car is a toss up.  There’s a chance it actually could go off all on its own.  Doubtful, but possible.  For my readers out there waiting to magically get sober, I promise you it doesn’t happen.  Ever.  When I first arrived in the rooms of AA it wasn’t even because I had a problem with alcohol.  It was strictly because the people around me had a problem with my alcohol use.  I didn’t even try to get sober in the beginning.  I drank on my way to meetings.  I was in a meeting once and the person sharing made a reference to the bottles they used to hide in their active drinking days.  I learned in that meeting that lots of “those people” hid their drinking.  They hid bottles around the house so nobody would know they were drinking, or maybe just how much they were drinking.  That knowledge changed my life.  It was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard.  Why hadn’t I thought of it?  That knowledge changed my life because on that day I started to hide my drinking.  That decision (if you can call it that) changed my life in awful ways.  Seriously.   Once I started to hide my drinking it made perfect sense to have a drink at 6 am.  Why not? Nobody would know.  It would be as if it didn’t happen.  On those mornings I would hold my hand under the ice dispenser and catch the ice as it fell so it wouldn’t make noise hitting the glass.  I would make breakfast and pack lunches while drinking bourbon.  Those days all run together and none of them make sense.  I do know that some of those mornings I would wake up and know that I had things to do and if I started drinking, I wouldn’t be able to do them.  I started to understand the severity of the situation when I would promise myself I wouldn’t drink until 5 pm (or let’s call it 2 pm) but my hands would shake so badly that by 8 am, I was having a drink to make them stop.  That’s when the fear set in for me.  That’s when I really began to understand that no matter how much I wanted to wish myself sober it wasn’t going to happen.  I was depressed and the alcohol was making that, along with everything else, worse.  I felt like the biggest loser in the world.  Really, who drinks so much that their body becomes addicted to alcohol and they have to drink in the morning to function?. How does this happen to a woman in her 30’s who has everything in the world that should make her life perfect?   In my mind that kind of alcoholism was reserved for the people who lived under bridges and drank from  brown paper bags.  But in my heart, I knew what this was. And it terrified me.   I had been addicted to “worse” things.  So I thought.  And I had beaten those addictions.  But once I crossed that line with alcohol, and my body was physically addicted, it was the same horrible addiction as any other addiction I ever had to fight.  And it took me down lower and lower for the next year and a half.  There was no magical cure for me.  I had to decide that I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink.   That meant that I had to choose sobriety above all else.  When things sucked, and everything does in early sobriety, I had to choose not to drink.  I had to stop making excuses and show up every day ready to do the work.  I had to stop expecting that I could latch onto someone who would make it easier for me.  It’s lonely getting sober.  (Latching on is a whole different set of issues.)  We are all familiar with the term one day at a time, but it’s often more about one hour, one minute or one breath at a time.  It’s a fucking battle some days.  In the beginning, I would say it’s a battle most days.  Being in contact with people who are in the midst of it and looking for a way out keeps it fresh for me.  It is so much easier to be sober than it is to get sober.  Getting sober is for the warriors who have the strength to say I want to live.  I never expect the people who reach out to me to “get it” right away.  And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful each and every time.  Because I am.    I just hope they get it before it’s too late.  I’m here for anyone who reaches out.

Too Much, Not Enough & Shame

I started a 7 week “Embodied Writing” course on Monday called Too Much, Not Enough & Shame.  What I mean by “started Monday,”  is that on Monday I received my first email with my instructions, looked at it, and then didn’t do any of the exercises.  Yesterday, the second email came with new directives.  I have yet to open it.  This is who I am as a person.  When I lead writing workshops, there are always people who don’t do their assignments.  It’s never my favorite, but I understand it.  Resistance.   In the circles I lead, a common theme for us is “letting go.”  Over and over we let go of that which no longer serves our highest good.  Outdated beliefs we hold about ourselves.  Shame,  being “not enough” and being “too much” are always right at the top.   Not just for me.  For ALL of the women.  It’s a common theme.  Doubt is another biggie, but isn’t that just us telling ourselves that we aren’t enough?  Or too much?  I was having lunch with a friend a few weeks ago, and we were discussing this very thing.  Later that day, I opened Instagram and saw a post advertising the course.  We all know social media spies on us, but in all fairness, this was a page that I actually follow.  And this course was everything she and I had just discussed.  Obviously, it’s not just prevalent in my circle.  This is a real thing.  I emailed her the info and before I had a chance to sign up, she texted me to say she was in.  Signed up, and paid for IN.  I followed her lead.   This week, I have been the girl who signed up for, paid for and was excited for a new journey only to avoid the shit out of it when it was time to actually do the work.  I think this will sound familiar to some of the women who are in the writing group I am currently leading.  I see you.  I feel you.  I am you.  Resistance to doing the work.  Because it’s not fun unpacking these narratives that we have been telling ourselves for so long.  This morning I finally did the first exercise.  We were asked to spend time with our hands holding our heads…..embodiment.  Followed by connecting to our breath. I typically like to come out of my head for these practices, but this asked me to do the opposite.   We were to make two columns on a page (or 7 pages if you’re me) and list the times we felt we were too much or not enough in one column and in where we heard that story or whose voice is telling it in the second column.  I get the method to her madness head holding embodiment practice now.  This is what I discovered.  I carried a sexual abuse secret with me as a very young child.  I went to Kindergarten knowing I was broken and different than the other children.  I didn’t need any other voices telling me I was not enough, or too much, because my own little voice was powerful enough.  Of course, there was plenty more on that list.  That was just the first thing that I wrote down.  My first memory of feeling broken.  My list was long and full of stories and voices other than my own, but really, my own voice is the loudest.  And as I grew, the secrets and the shame grew. That “not enough” story got louder.   In the rooms of recovery the phrase “we are only as sick as our secrets” gets thrown around a lot.  And it’s true.  I don’t hold onto secrets anymore.  I have a full conceptual understanding that for me, secrets are incredibly harmful. I have a team of support people in my life that I am comfortable sharing with.  Women who won’t judge me and will hold my secrets.  Women who will love me unconditionally.  That is exactly the thing I aspire to give back in the circles I facilitate.   The first exercise of this course has cracked me open and brought up a ton of shit that I have already worked through.  And it’s brought up things I haven’t thought about in years, or rather, conveniently misplaced in my brain.  Because that’s what our brains do.   Rearrange things to help us survive.  But I am no longer about that surviving life.  I am all about thriving in life.  And I absolutely AM enough.  I know this in my soul…..my mind questions it occasionally, but my soul knows that’s bullshit.  That leads to how knowing I AM enough can feel a lot like being “too much.”   Whew.  How’s that for some serious bullshit stories I tell myself?  Embracing ALL the parts of me and sharing with the world can feel like I am being too much.  Too silly, too smart, too spiritual, too sexual, too loud, too public, too much.  I’m gonna do it anyway, because that’s who I am.  Unpacking the story of too much is going to be interesting. But I’ll be right here. Embracing ALL of my too muchness and showing it to the world. 

Solitude Is My Friend

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This weekend I escaped.  All alone. To a cabin in the woods.  I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for quite a while.  My sweet husband booked the cabin for me as a Christmas gift.  My intention was to come here and spend the weekend writing.  Which I have done, along with reading, hiking, napping and all the other beautiful and quiet things.  But let me back it up just a bit.  I arrived on Thursday and pulled right up to my cabin.  I walked up to the door and used the code I had been given to open it.  It wouldn’t open.  So I tried again.   And again.  No luck.  I called the cabin rental office and they informed me that my cabin wouldn’t open because that wasn’t the cabin I had reserved.  I was sure they were wrong.  I had specifically told my husband that THIS was the cabin he needed to book.  Surely he didn’t do it wrong.   They directed me down the gravel road to another cabin that they said was mine.  I used my code and it unlocked immediately.  This was NOT my cabin.  This cabin didn’t have an upstairs loft area.  This cabin was one big room and a bathroom.  This cabin meant that I would be sleeping between the front door and the back door with no walls in between.  There would be nowhere to hide should a murderer bust in during the night.   I was prepared to be able to hide upstairs in the other cabin.  I called the man at the cabin rental office again.  He said he was sorry, but, this cabin was the one that had been booked.  I told him I wanted to switch my reservation because I wanted to be in that other cabin.  Again he apologized and told me it was already booked.  I wanted to cry.  This was not what I had seen in my mind’s eye and I couldn’t get past it.  I was pissed and in that moment, all of the things I practice went away.  I had a mini meltdown on the phone with the man.   I was already scared to be here by myself.  In the woods.  Now I was surely going to die here when someone busted through the front door that I would be sleeping near.  The man got an ear full of my F bombs.  Not that there is anything wrong with the F word.  We all know it’s my favorite.  But these were angry F bombs.  Not my norm.  I didn’t want to call my husband immediately, because I knew I was too upset and I would blame him for messing up the reservation.  I also knew he was taking a nap.  That worked out well for him.  I looked around the tiny cabin as I was attempting to calm down and the first thing that popped into my head was that the only thing to do in this tiny place is to get fucked up.   Seriously.  That’s the thought that went through my head because I didn’t get the cabin I wanted.  My next thought was “Holy Shit, what is wrong with you?”  Followed by “Maybe I need an AA meeting.”  Followed immediately by “Hell no.  You are here for solitude, the last thing you need is to be around a bunch of AA people.”   I think a lot of thoughts, all the time.   Which is why I write and why I meditate.  I texted a friend who is also in recovery and while I never mentioned having that thought, I did tell her about the “horrible” experience I was having.  Her response helped me reframe my thinking.  The cabin is far from horrible.  It’s cozy.   It’s actually perfect and after I made myself dinner in the full kitchen, I settled right in.  I came back to gratitude and realized that I was being  a spoiled baby.  Which I can be.  I read all evening and went to bed.  I didn’t get murdered.  Yesterday I decided I needed to get outside in the fresh air.  There are tons of great trails here.  I drove two miles down a gravel road and arrived at the trail I intended to hike.  When I got there, there were three men in the parking lot.  I sat in in my car trying to decide if I wanted to go in or not.  I put my hiking boots on, and watched as these three put all of their gear on.  They had everything.  It looked like they weren’t coming out for a few days.  I didn’t feel good about going in alone behind them.  As I was leaving, I noticed they all had Eagle Scout stickers on their car.  They were probably exactly the kind of people you want on a trail with you.  But, I was over it.   I found another trail nearby, but on the side of the road leading to the trail head were tons of Busch Light cans and boxes.  All I could picture were drunk men in the woods, waiting to rape and kill me.  Or kill and then rape me.  Basically, the woods was full of drunk men waiting to attack me.  I knew it.   I passed on the trail.  I tried one more time.  And I hit it.  No beer cans.  No people.  Perfect.  I went into the woods a little ways, but I was still scared to go too far by myself.  The trail was marked well and I mostly felt safe.  I got the fresh air I wanted and went back to the cabin.  I thought of a million things I could do with my time, but I made myself do the thing I came here to do.   I started writing.  I wrote and wrote and wrote until 1 am.   This morning, I made coffee, got right back in the bed with my laptop and wrote some more.  I wrote a solid chapter in what will  one day be a book.  It might not be the book I have in my head, but it’s definitely a chapter.  But not a first chapter.  A middle chapter.  Which is odd, because that’s not how I had it pictured in my head, but then again, this weekend hasn’t been what I pictured.  But it’s been perfect.  There was a thunderstorm last night.  It poured rain, the cabin shook and the power went off.  And, I didn’t flip the fuck out.  The battery was charged on my laptop and I kept on writing until the power came back on.  And I thought, “Look at me. I am such a bad ass.  I’m not even freaking out.”  LOL  I told you I think a lot of thoughts.  I went back into the woods today.  Back to the trail that proved to be a winner for me yesterday.  This time there was a truck parked at the trail head.  I could see a woman’s jacket inside and that was somehow comforting to me.  I went further down the trail today.  If I had a week here, I might make the entire loop around. Not unlike exposure therapy.   I noticed one can on the side of the trail today.  It was an unfamiliar can.  Blake’s Hard Cider.  Mango Habanero.  6 1/2% alcohol.  It said El Chavo on the side.  Google tells me this is the name of a sitcom.  Or a wrestler.   For whatever reason, I felt better about this empty can than a can of Busch.  Obviously, the person should have carried out their trash, but they probably weren’t drunk and waiting to attack me.  Emphasis on probably.  As much as I love solitude, I don’t think hiking alone far from home is for me.  I wanted it to be, and maybe it will be someday, but I’m not there yet.  But the back porch here is lovely and I am right in the woods.  Tomorrow I will rejoin the people in the world, but solitude is my friend and I am going to find ways to incorporate more of it into my life.

Addicted

What were you doing on New Year’s Eve in 1999?  And what were you listening to?  A friend just posted those questions on FB yesterday. I haven’t thought about that year for a LONG time, and yet, I immediately knew exactly where I was, what I was doing, who was with me and what I was listening to.  On December 31st 1999, I was living at my parent’s house.  I was in my bedroom, with a man who loved me, detoxing from methamphetamine for the hundredth time.  The man loved me. I didn’t know how to love anyone. And if it wasn’t the hundredth time I detoxed, it sure felt that way.  The what was I listening to part especially hurt, because the ONLY thing I was listening to were the voices in my own head.  I should have been partying and living it up. I was 22 years old and I wanted to die.  I hated my life and the people in it.  I lived in a dark and depressing world.  My “friends” and I were manufacturing methamphetamine.  Dirty.  That’s what my world was.  A sick cycle of misery.  Wait for the sun to come up, (because there was no sleeping), go see people I hated, do things I didn’t want to do, wait for drugs and eventually get high.  After that, the next few days and nights would be spent being paranoid and hiding from the cops that I was sure were looking for me.  Until the meth ran out.  When I was ready to crash, I would roll up at my parent’s house and sleep for days at a time.  I was always sure I was going to die when the crash came.  I didn’t care.  I wanted death to come.  It would have been nice if that New Year’s Eve had been the last time I had to detox, but it wasn’t.  I lived that way for another 6 months before I finally made it into the treatment center that saved my life. “Another 6 months” may not seem long, but meth years are like dog years. When I arrived there I probably weighed 90 pounds and I was the poster child for the “faces of meth.”  Ever seen those adds?  That was me.   I lived that way from the time I was 20 until I was 23.  It is truly a miracle that I didn’t die.  And it’s an even bigger miracle that I was able to get off meth.  I know people that I used with who are still hanging in there, struggling to stop.   Many have died, and lots of them have gone to prison.   Some don’t even struggle anymore.  They just accept that as their way of life. There was a solid year before I got clean where I had accepted being a meth addict as my fate.  I didn’t try to hide it.  When you just accept that and live that, nothing good can follow.   I am forever grateful that enough people loved me to not let that be my life.  Believe me, I was quite unlovable.   And, because everything comes back to Facebook, another thing got my attention last week.  “On this day” FB memories from December 23rd 2011 reminded me that I was right up in my worst days of alcohol addiction.  I was making horrible choices and breaking the hearts of everyone who loved me.  It was at this time that I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic.  The reason this memory really jumped out at me is because of the date.  December 2011.  My sobriety date is November 13, 2013. I lived in Hell for two more years.  And I took my family with me. Seeing those memories was like getting punched in the gut.  I deleted a few, but I kept a few as well.  Just enough to serve as a reminder.  Not that I could possibly forget.  Shit.  I still remember that New Year’s Eve in in 1999.   Addicted life is hard.  I have a friend who is super struggling right now.   I love this girl all the world full.  She’s been reaching out from time to time for quite a while now.  But she’s never actually ready.  I like to throw the “want me to come over right now?!” on her when she texts me asking for help.  I know it’s a little much, but I am always hopeful that it will be the time.  Timing is everything.  And…..when you’re really serious, right now is the perfect time.  I feel like she’s getting closer.  Stringing together more days of not drinking.  She’s aware that it isn’t serving her.  It doesn’t add any value to her life and it causes problems.  Yesterday she texted me and said she needed things to do with her time.  I suggested we go to the beach together.  Right now! And she said yes. She said yes to my pushy ass “right now.”  We sat on the beach and we talked and it was lovely to connect with her.  I don’t see her much these days because of life things mostly, but also because I don’t live in the world where people party and get hammered anymore.  She kind of fell away when I got sober. It’s ok. I don’t judge it, because it was part of my path.  Until it wasn’t.  I know how hard it is to be young and thinking about a life without alcohol.  It’s scary.  Talking with her took me back.  Getting sober is hard AF.  Staying sober is easy.  Maybe she’ll figure out how to manage her drinking.  I couldn’t.  I tried. Maybe she’ll get sober and have an amazing ass life.  That’s my wish for her.  I spent so much of my life struggling with addiction in one form or another. It’s misery. Today, all I feel is freedom. And joy. I wish that for my friend.  However she finds it. I wish that for everyone. I’m sure I’m still “addicted” to things today. It’s the way I’m wired. That “all in” thing I do. Today I choose things that are good for me.

Belonging to Myself

Last week I celebrated 6 years sober.  I considered updating my birthday on FB to my sobriety date so people would post happy birthday on my wall, but that seemed like an asshole move……so I didn’t.  Also, I didn’t think of it in time.  When I say I “celebrated” 6 years of sobriety, what I really mean is that I had a beautiful sober day just like any other.  There was no big party. I posted a sober selfie on social media.  I went to an 8 am AA meeting.  I don’t even remember what I did after that.  It was a non event. I hope I took a nap.  I know I went to the middle school that afternoon to pick up my youngest son and then we went to the high school to take pictures of the band for my oldest son.  THAT was the celebration.  Spending time with my children. And loving every minute. 6 years ago I might have been able to do those things, but it would have been an awful experience.  I would have been worried that I smelled like alcohol.  It would have been an event to “get through” so I could get back home and have a drink.  And I would be ashamed of these things.  That’s how life was 6 years ago. And it sucked.  But I’m not here to dredge all of that up today. Sober life is way more pleasant.  All of my sober years seem to have a theme. You can read a little recap of those themes/years here if you’re feeling it.  When I think back on my last year (year 5) to try to come up with a “theme” it could easily be the year of the bathtub altars. I did a lot of that this year.  But it’s got to be deeper than that, right? Year 5 was the year of community. I’ve known for a while that building community is one of my super powers.  Which is interesting, because I spent a lifetime feeling apart from.  Like I didn’t quite belong anywhere, even though on the surface I could fit in anywhere.  Now I see how this “weakness” is my strength.  It’s fueled my desire to build a strong community where I feel loved and supported.  That community has expanded in such a way that I can see it impacting others. I see others finding the same love and support that I was seeking.  I see meaningful relationships being made.  I see connection.  And it’s beautiful.  We all want to be seen. We all want to feel like someone gets us.   I spent a lifetime trying to fit in to places I didn’t belong.  I was missing the piece where I had to learn how to truly belong to myself first.  It’s ironic that I started using drugs and drinking to fit in and be a part of all those years ago.  To belong.  Only through the process of stripping that all away and peeling those layers to find me, could I truly find a place where I belong. I belong to myself.  I put so much of me out there for the world to see.  This is my process.  It’s not for everyone, but it definitely is for me.  It empowers me to show my real self to the world. All of it. Not just the pretty parts. This is how I belong to myself.  It’s letting go of what other’s will think.  Because it doesn’t matter.  By belonging to myself, I am owning my power.  By belonging to myself, I am living confidently (most of the time) in the skin I am in.  Without numbing out to make myself more comfortable.  Without dumbing down to make others more comfortable.  By belonging to myself I naturally attract others who are walking that same path.  Those who aren’t automatically fall away.  “To thine own self be true.”  Back in my early sobriety I used the term #teamshannon a lot. #teamshannon referred to my family and the 5 friends I had. The team has grown exponentially in 6 years. It has grown because it’s no longer all about me. I have learned how to hold space for others to be seen and heard. I have created a space that allows others to shine. I have created a space that allows others to find their way home to themselves. A community where we all belong. And what an amazing community it is! ♥️

She is a powerful force

I was having breakfast with my daughter recently.  We were having one of those hard conversations that ended with me telling her that hopefully, one day, she would end up on a therapist’s couch processing that.  She told me she was actually ready to do that now.  I immediately pointed across the street to the office of a local therapist that I recommend to everyone.  I asked her if she wanted me to make an appointment with her or if she preferred to go back to the one she had worked with previously.  She chose the familiar therapist.  I was so excited.  I was excited for her to have support from a professional that I know isn’t going to steer her wrong.  It doesn’t hurt that the therapist she picked is a bad ass, spiritual gangster. I wasn’t exactly sure what she needed support for, and I didn’t need to know.  I was happy that she chose a healthy way to deal with life.   The two of them connected and my daughter went to her first appointment last week.  She texted me that evening and said that she was supposed to “talk to her inner child with compassion.”  I asked her if that had been explained to her.  It had.  It all made sense to her.  Then she asked if I had any books about inner child healing.  I did.  Of course. I got the book to her right away and told her to process it with her therapist.  I was immediately excited for her.  I mean, how amazing to start the inner child healing process at 18 instead of at 40.  Wow.  Then, two minutes later, I was terrified for me.  Because sometimes I still think everything is about me. Inner child healing is all about re-parenting yourself in healthy and loving ways.  In my mind this is going to bring awareness to every mistake I ever made raising my daughter.  And there were A LOT.  My daughter was 12 when I got sober.  I wasn’t a raging alcoholic all of her life, but for a few years of it, I definitely was.  There are so many things I missed because I chose alcohol over my children.  I didn’t see it that way at the time, but today, I do.  There’s a lot of shame in that.  I can have compassion for myself, and I do, but I also realize that I wasn’t there when I should have been.  I was drunk. Then I was in treatment centers for months at a time.  I was in hospitals and psych wards.  I once jumped out of a moving car with my children in the backseat, my husband was driving.  My daughter has told me that one was the worst for her.  The worst one for me was one of the occasions when my husband had taken my liquor away.  I had a bottle hidden away at a friend’s house.  I took off walking down the street. Stomping really.  My daughter was following me and begging me to come home.  She was crying.  In that moment she was standing between me and the most important thing to me. My alcohol.  I turned around and told her to stop following me.  Then.  I told her I hated her.  Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.  If there was just ONE thing  I could take back, that is the one.  I would do anything to have a do over on that moment.  Because there is no doubt that no matter how great our relationship is today and how sober I am, that moment will be with her forever.  We have talked about this incident so many times, and she promises me that it’s ok and that she knows I was sick, but nothing about that moment is ok.   This is how alcohol destroys families. We were fortunate to have a lot of love and support from grandparents, friends and other family members through that period. So, yeah, inner child healing work will be good for her.  I didn’t get to be that mom who broke the cycle before I had children.  I am fortunate that I do get to be that mom who shows her children what recovery is. I am truly grateful for that.  I admire my daughter so much.  She is strong and independent in a way that I never was.  I spent years projecting all of my fears onto her.  She isn’t me.  She has shown me that time and time again. She has been successfully adulting since she was 16 years old.  Hell, this child was born responsible. I’m not sure where that comes from. Of course inner child work will be good for her because she grew up so quickly.   I texted her to tell her that she will probably be mad at me and hate me for a while through this work.  She assured me that it will be fine.  I know it will.  It’s not about me anyway and I can’t allow myself to stay stuck in the space of all the things I did wrong.   She is thriving in ways I couldn’t have imagined at 18 years old.  She is on her own journey.  She has been all along.  My job is to love and support her in any way I can.  When I take myself out of her process, I am nothing but excited for her to do this work.  Maybe she gets to be that mother who breaks the cycle by doing the inner work before she has children.  She makes good decisions.  She is capable.  She is a powerful force.  She is amazing in so many ways.  I love watching her grow into all that she is and I am honored to be her mother.  I am convinced we picked each other in another time and place because we have so many lessons to learn from each other.  She teaches me so much.  ♥️