Again

I got some truly amazing comments on my post yesterday about The Before.  It resonated with a lot of people which made me happy because, well that’s why we’re all out here right?  That, and the cheap therapy.

One comment in particular has been stuck in my brain since yesterday and I have to write about it or it will be up there tumbling around unaccompanied until it drives me batshit crazy.  So to avoid all that drama – I’ll be writing about it here.

Josie over at The Miracle Is Around the Corner commented that she feels like she’s in The Before when it comes to her eating and exercise plan and that it feels just like it did when she was in The Before of her drinking career.  She and I have discussed this, so she knew I would understand (which I DO).  Pop onto yesterday’s post and check out her comment – it was awesome.

The reason I get it is because it’s the same for me.  The only difference is that this particular Before has been going on for me since fucking puberty.  It’s been rolling around in my brain and making me miserable since I was about 12.  That’s almost 42 years of bullshit brain activity (or approximately 336 dog years). 

What the what?

This is my 474th post on this blog.  Of those posts, I would estimated that at least 1/4 to 1/3 of them are about eating, exercising, dieting, body image, etc.  That means between 119 and 158 posts have been written about my struggles not with alcohol but with FOOD.  That feels like a lot to be on a blog that is supposed to be about sobriety.  Maybe it’s not.  What the hell do I know?

What bothers me is the up and down in and out back and forth of the whole thing.  One day I’ve got this killer eating plan and I’m exercising every day, the next day I’m stuffing my face with Oreo’s and Halloween candy and my self-esteem is in the toilet.  One day I’ve sworn off thinking about food and I’m just going to learn to love myself the way I am, the next day the doctor calls me “obese” and I’m crying in my Diet Pepsi.  One day I’m meditating and practicing self-care and telling myself only good things, and the next I catch sight of myself in a mirror and I swear I’m not going to eat until my 55th birthday by which time (in 2016 btw) I will have lost approximately half my body weight and have to check into Betty Ford for an eating disorder.

I’m not making fun of eating disorders by the way – I’m saying that thinking like this IS NOT HEALTHY.

Where does it stop?  Unlike cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or gambling, WE HAVE TO EAT!  What’s more, food is one of the greatest joys of life.  Sharing a meal with friends and family is a beautiful thing.  Sitting down to a table of food made with love (including dessert and bread) is a blessing that I never take for granted.  (There are too many people in the world that never have enough to eat.)  All this bullshit going on in my head ruins that joy if I let it get away from me.

Which I do.

Often.

I wish that for once in my life I could make peace with sustenance.  I wish I could find a happy place that was free of guilt or shame or self-righteousness (when I’m doing well I can get very self-righteous).  I wish I could learn to treat food as sacred and, in turn, treat myself that way.

I know there’s a root to this issue that I’ve yet to uncover.  I’ve read book after book on the subject.  I’ve scoured the Internet and plunked down lots of cash in an effort to understand what’s going on with me and food.  I’ve been to nutritionists and spas and doctors in a desperate attempt to right this ship.  And here I am typing about it again.

I often talk about wanting to get back to the way I was when I was in my 30’s and early 40’s.  Now I’m not so sure.  While it’s true that I was at a healthy weight and was extremely fit, the fact is that I was not happy.  The shit going on in my head now was there then – a constant stream of consciousness about what I was eating, where, how much and how much exercise I needed to do.  That’s not healthy.  It also wasn’t very joyful.  It was, in fact, a Before.

There really is no point to this post.  No pithy comment that will make you think, “Yes!  That’s it!”  Only a recovering alcoholic, ex-smoker who would love, for once in her life, to find peace of mind on a plate.  I have no idea how I’m going to get there or even if I’ll ever get there.  I just know I have to keep trying because, as I said yesterday, The Before is no way to live.

Namaste

A Christmas Leaf is Overturned

When I was a kid, we weren’t allow to even speak of Christmas until after my mother’s birthday – December 14th.  Since that was halfway through December, it made enjoying the holidays difficult.  I found I had to squelch down all my childlike wonder until 10 days prior to the BIG DAY because my mother wanted all eyes on her until after her special day.  I mean really, what self-respecting narcissist wants to share her birthday with the SON OF GOD!

I don’t know what I was thinking!

Now I decorate as soon as possible after Thanksgiving and I try to enjoy the entire season but I recently realized that I still tend to squelch those feelings. 

You know…stuff them down. 

No!  Can it be?  I STUFF down emotions!

You know, a sarcasm font would come in very handy right about now.

As soon as the Christmas commercials and decorations start after Halloween, there’s a voice in my head that says, “No!  I will not enjoy the holidays until…(whatever random date).”  As the excitement begins bubbling up I stuff it down and stuff it down until…well…it’s flat.  As a pancake.  With about as much flavor.  You know…before the syrup.

Then I get all wound up in the other thing my mother taught me about Christmas – that no matter what…it’s all about the presents and how much you spend on them.

Sigh.

I try and try not to do this but no matter what – it always seems to seep through.

The pinnacle and thus turning point for me was last year when, in spite of everything swirling around me, I struggled through the holiday season in a deep depression.  Part of it was chemical but a bigger part was all about stuffing everything down and then expecting it to resurrect itself when called upon and create a magical wonderland of holiday joy.

Yeah…not so much.

Then, as usual, when it didn’t happen I blamed myself.  I didn’t spend enough.  I didn’t bake enough.  I didn’t do CHRISTMAS enough. 

Bah…humbug.

Well not this year people.  I am making a conscious effort NOT to do these things for one more holiday season.  This holiday revelation came about after watching the marshmallow Target commercial with the little girl that looks a lot like my granddaughter did when she was about 7 years old.  I heard the familiar chords of the song “Marshmallow World” at the beginning of the commercial the day after Halloween and thought, “NO!!!  It’s too soon!”

Then I stopped.  And thought (amazing right).  And a big lightbulb appeared over my head and lit up…brightWhy is it too soon?  Who says I can’t enjoy this feeling RIGHT NOW?  Why should I wait until some arbitrary date?  There’s enough holiday cheer to last me through New Year’s even if I start in August, so why not on November 1st? 

The next time that commercial came on I sang along.  I let the feeling of holiday cheer fill me up and spill over.  I took a shower in that shit yo.

Then I decided that I was cutting a third of my holiday list because, quite frankly, we just don’t have the money this year (three kids in college = no cashola) and that if my friends couldn’t get on board than oh well.  I even emailed a couple of them to let them know and, surprise surprise, they WERE on board!  So, instead of exchanging gifts that we and our children do not need, we decided to spend time together instead.  Fucking genius right?

Next I decided that I wasn’t going to measure the thought or intent of the gifts I did buy by the price tag.  I really try hard not to do that but when it comes to the kids…I fall really short of my goals.  It never feels like I’ve given them enough which I’m completely aware is crazy but stuff that you’ve been doing your whole life is really hard to stop doing you know?  I’m going to sit down with all of them and explain what I’m feeling so that it’s out on the table and they know what to expect come Christmas morning. 

Because for real people?  It’s about how much we love each other as a family and not about how much we spend on one another.  Up until now that’s been easier said than done for me.  I’m hoping for easier done than said this year. 

So let the holiday celebrations begin!  I can set the table for Thanksgiving while singing Christmas carols!  I can Christmas shop and shop for my Thanksgiving turkey!  Bring on the commercials filled with heartfelt sentiment!  Let me see some Salvation Army kettles!  String the lights, lights and more lights!  Gingerbread lattes in red cups for everyone!

I’m ready and, for the first time in a very long time, I’m happy about it.

Namaste and dare I say, Happy Holidays!

Geezer Alert

I’m about to rant about something which makes me sound (and feel) really old.  I’m not going to rag on the most recent music (I love ALL music), I don’t particularly care what the younger generation wears, and I don’t really care if they spend all day with their noses in their phones on their personal time, but a lack of manners and decorum really pisses me off.

I know that times have changed and blah blah blahdy blah blah, but good manners never go out of style.  Look, I was raised in the projects.  My parents had no social skills and certainly didn’t pass them on to us.  My grandparents were immigrants.  But I knew better than to show my ass in public from a very, very young age.  I knew the difference between my inside persona and my outside persona. (Forget voices.  I’m Italian…I have no inside voice.)

When my kids were at that “magic” age when they began to flex their potty mouth muscles, I made sure to have a conversation with them about their different personas.  I explained that I knew they would be trying on expletives to see how easily they rolled off their tongue and while that was perfectly normal, there was a specific time and place for that behavior, i.e. only with their friends and only out of earshot of adults.  Who could be lurking around any corner.  So be careful.  Very careful.

I made sure they understood that they were a reflection of me and that no matter how “good” they were, a foul mouth and rude behavior would have people thinking poorly of them and that good manners, kindness and a polite demeanor would cast the impression that they were trustworthy, mature and well behaved…even if they were the heathens I knew them to be.  I also made it clear that a poor first impression was very hard to overcome and a good first impression would pave the way for forgiveness of future sins.

In other words…don’t fuck up and make me look bad.

No…of course I didn’t actually say that.  My foul potty mouth is reserved only for this blog and my husband’s ears (and a few close friends).  Otherwise I have daisies and rainbows flowing from my mouth on a regular basis.

It worked.  I am consistently complimented on my kids and their behavior and they make me proud everyday.  They have an excellent vocabulary.  Wouldn’t think of cursing outside of their inner circle.  They open doors, pull out chairs, say please and thank you and blah blah blahdy blah blah.

Here’s the thing though.  Yes, my kids are well-behaved adults but I honestly think the reason I get complimented so often is that the rest of the world has lost their freaking minds!!!  Since when is it acceptable to drop the f-bomb every three minutes within earshot of perfect strangers?  Strangers with toddlers in tow?  Or at a work function?  Or directly to your boss?!

Again…I must be geezing.  I know they are just words and that, as I told my kids, they only have power if we give them power.  But the fact remains that society has given them power and we have to respect that.  Or not.

We recently took a group of our trainees to a community service function.  We were asked to leave.  Let me type that again.  This group was asked to leave a VOLUNTEER function because they didn’t know how to behave.  From the time they walked in the door they were rude, foul-mouthed and not helpful at all.  These are young adults – not high school or middle school kids.  We didn’t accompany them because we thought they were adults.  We were wrong.  And let me assure you, they knew what was expected of them.

And let me also assure you that they heard from me upon their return.  But digress.

On what planet is it EVER okay to be rude, foul-mouthed and disrespectful?  I’m no Emily Post but damn people, it doesn’t cost a dime to be kind and respectful.  But it costs a lot for my company to have their reputation drug through the potty because of a few obnoxious frat boys and girls…yes girls…even they were in on it.  I think that pissed me off the most because, in a male dominated industry like mine, I expect more out of the women.  I expect them to be better than their male counterparts because that is what they’ll have to do in order to get ahead.  Is it right?  Hell to the no!  But it’s a fact so get over it.

What I do not expect is for them to show their ass while wearing a t-shirt with the company logo on it.  Show your ass in your own clothes…not mine.  And while you’re at it, bring me a bar of soap because I’ve got a line of people who need their mouths washed out.

See…told you I was geezing.

Namaste

 

 

Homesick

I am a Maryland girl.  I was born and raised for a period of time in Washington, DC, but in my heart of hearts…I’m from Maryland.  I have a big tin of Old Bay Seasoning in my cabinet (because what self-respecting Marylander doesn’t), crave Thrasher’s fries and Dolle’s caramel corn on a regular basis, think of mountains as soft and rolling like the Blue Ridge rather than sharp and steep like the Rockies, and likely have a combination of salt, fresh and brackish water running through my veins (because the Chesapeake Bay is actually an estuary which has all three). 

Chesapeake Bay Bridge from the Annapolis side.

Maryland is neither north nor south having straddled the Mason-Dixon line for the better part of the last 300 years.  Most of the state has very little accent save for the group near D.C who put an “r” in the word wash (as in Warshington), the group from deep southern Maryland who sound like they’re from the deep, deep south, and the group from points north of Baltimore who sound just like they are from Philadelphia.  We have bays and beaches and mountains and lots and lots of places where not only George Washington slept but most of the Founding Fathers’ laid their heads as well.  In fact, MD is a hotbed for political activity and personalities.  (Camp David is in MD you know).  We are the shit yo!

Western Maryland in the fall…only God makes colors like that.

I’m finding that I get homesick less frequently but with greater intensity than I used to and that the only thing that will cure it is plant my feet in good old Maryland land.  I need to soak up some salt air along with the stench of crooked local politics and fresh cut tobacco.  I just need to go…home.

The Boardwalk in Ocean City Maryland.

When this feeling comes over me, I begin to think about how and when I’m going to go.  With whom I’ll stay.  Whether or not I can make a trip to the ocean while I’m there or if I’ll just hang at the Bay.  Who I’ll stop and visit and for how long.  Maybe I can get a trip to the mountains in while we’re there and stop at my grandparents gravesite to maybe “tidy up” a bit.  Or maybe not.  I wonder how to get where I need to be while still managing to avoid the absolute nightmare that is the Capital Beltway.  I know I need to grab a copy of the Washington Post – Sunday Edition and read my favorite comics and talk one of my friends into a crab feast while I’m there.

Steamed Maryland Blue Crabs

My daughter and her family are still there.  My best friend is still there.  My beach is there.  My Bay is there.  The city dock in Annapolis is there.  My football team is there (don’t bust my chops, The Redskins play in Maryland); my baseball team is there (The Orioles).  It’s where I met and fell in love with the hubs and where all my babies were born…all six of them!  My first house is there and my favorite house is there and the only church to which I ever really belonged is there.

One of the oldest Catholic churches in MD (and Maryland has A LOT of Catholic Churches). I love this church.

Of course my time there wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns.  As we all know my upbringing wasn’t exactly Ozzie and Harriet (and if you’re too young to know what that means…Google it).  Could I move back permanently?  I doubt it.  We’ve planted roots here.  It’s a beautiful place to live and I love it.

But 8 hours north (by car) is home and every once in a while…I need to be there.  I need to hug people and wander roads that I’d know in my sleep and see what’s changed and visit old haunts.  Maybe it’s a result of the depression cycle I’m in or maybe it’s just been too long but whatever the reason, I feel a distinct pull to the north.

Now where did I put those ruby slippers…

Namaste

Frozen Hearts

I’m on a heart theme lately so just go with it okay?

I FINALLY saw Frozen for the first time on Friday evening.  It was a beautiful movie, clearly made for a stage production, with strong female characters.  What’s not to love?

I cried almost through the whole damn thing.

I know that a lot of people cried while watching Frozen but I don’t think I was crying for the same reasons.  See, I was crying because I’m estranged from my only sister and will likely be for the rest of her (my?) days.  Watching two sisters grow distant and then come together was tough for me.  Then there’s THAT SONG…but that’s another post entirely.

My sister was born 49 years ago today.  I was four when she came into the world.  She was conceived in an ill-fated attempt to save my parents marriage after my mother figured out that she didn’t love my father and my father found out he was going blind and he started drinking and she started gambling and running around.  A real “happily ever after” if there ever was one.  I know this because I knew all the intimate details of my parents marriage…doesn’t everyone?

From the moment she screamed her first breath she was a challenge.  She was always getting into something.  When she was about two my mother awoke one morning to find my sister at her feet with her purse contents all over the floor and my sister eating her “diet” pills (amphetamines…it was the 60’s after all) like they were candy.  I remember it clearly because she yelled at me and told me it was my fault.

I was six.

That was just the beginning.  I won’t go into detail because her story belongs to her; but suffice to say, she has been in active addiction to anything and everything since she was about 13 years old.  She is the worst kind of addict.  A narcissist who believes all of her problems are someone else’s fault (usually mine or my parents…but mostly me) and that she never gets a break.  She’s been through countless rehab’s, spent tens of thousands of dollars (most of which were not hers), has never worked a day in her life, and tried her best to ruin the lives of her children.

I cut off all ties with her after my mother died in 2006.  Her children we pretty much grown thanks to the hubs and me so I didn’t have to worry about court battles and lawyer fees any longer.  I had only tolerated her to that point because my mother continued to try to help her and stay in contact in spite of some very bizarre and hateful things. (She called the police once from where she lived, 1200 miles away, to report that I had my mother tied up in the basement and I was abusing her.  We didn’t have a basement.  The poor police had to come out, wait for my mother to get home from bingo, and make sure she was okay before they could leave.  That was an example of the bizarre…the hateful I’ll leave to your imagination.)  Even before I got sober I knew that her dysfunction was something that I no longer wanted in my life.

If she had just been an addict I can say without question that I would have had more compassion and would likely still be in touch.  But the ugliness that she brought upon her children and my parents is something I can’t forget.  I’d like to think that if she suddenly got sober and clean I would relent and greet her with open arms…but I don’t really know if I could.  I’m still working on healing wounds she inflicted in her children…the kind you can’t see.  I’m not sure there’s any hope for my niece…but I keep trying.

The thing that made me cry though was the fact that, like the sisters in the movie, we were so close when we were little. Of course we fought, but we played together when things were good and comforted each other when things were bad.  We were a unit and I loved her so much.  Like the movie, I think she was born with her demon and it wasn’t long before it became apparent to everyone around her that there was a problem.  Teachers, clergy, psychologists, relatives, doctors all tried to help…only to give up when it had no impact.

I kept trying though.  I kept trying to be there for her.  To help her when she needed it and even when she didn’t.  I stuck around for a very long time until I couldn’t any longer.  I had to save myself, my children and her children.  For lack of a better term…I froze my heart where she was concerned.

It’s still very sad.  I don’t really miss her because she’s been gone from my life for a very long time.  I certainly don’t miss the chaos and dysfunction she brought.  I think what I miss is the idea of a sister.  Not in a “happily ever after” kind of way but in a “no matter what we have each other kind of way”.  I have that with a number of other people, my best friend of 35 years, my daughter, my husband…so I’m not lacking for anything. 

But still…

Namaste