Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's the Little Things

I'm deeply asleep, and the alarm goes off.   It's still dark out; Steve has an early meeting today. 

Please, please, may the kids not wake up, I think, scrunching my eyes tightly shut.    Steve tiptoes quietly around, but it's too late.  Greta's panicked voice comes from her bedroom:  "MOM!  How much time do we have?"   She is obsessed about missing the bus, even though that has never happened.

"Greta, it's 5:45am," I mumble, "go back to sleep."

"I can't," she says.  "I'm going downstairs."  

"Okay, but please don't wake up your brother."

"I awake Momma!"  Finn cries, and follows Greta downstairs.

I sigh, roll over, and try to go back to sleep.   Steve is cursing because he doesn't have any clean undershirts, the dog starts barking to go out, and the kids start fighting over the computer.   

I'm not getting up, I think.   I just can't.   

I hear Steve's car pull down the driveway, and look at the clock:   6:15am.     "MOM!   How much time do we have now?"   Greta screams.   The dog is still barking.   I curl up in a ball; I can't face the day.   I start to drift back to sleep, safe in the knowledge that my alarm will wake me by 7:15am, plenty of time to get Greta on the bus.    It is quiet-ish downstairs, and I sink back into blackness.

"WOMAN!  WOOOOOMAN!  WOOMANNNN!"   I jerk awake.   The kids are on the computer, giggling over the Muppets.   "WOMANN!!"    It is Animal, the crazy muppet drummer, and he has ruined any chance of catching another hour of sleep.

I hear a SMACK, followed by "MOOOOM!   Finn hit me!   How much time do we have NOW?"

The dog is still barking, and irritation settles over me like a black cloud.   Go away, all of you, I think.  Go away and leave me alone.

I lie in my bed, bitter and tired, and then I realize:   I don't hear it.   For the past two days rain has pounded on our roof, relentlessly, filling our yard and our basement with muddy, stinking water.     But this morning, there is no rain.

The dog barks, more urgently now,  and Greta and Finn are arguing.    I sigh, and swing my legs over the side of the bed.   "MOM!!  How much time NOW??"

I pull on sweatpants and a sweatshirt, as the kids' arguing gains momentum.    "MOM!"   "MOM!"  It is Finn.  "Gweta won't turn off the computah, she's wasting electwicity and wuining da earf!!!"

I bury my face in my hands.  I am cranky, fed-up, tired.    Every day feels just like the last day, an endless stretch of menial chores, breaking up fights, picking up after the kids who have been stuck inside for days.   I can't face it.

Find your gratitude, I think.   Change your perspective.   Stop feeling sorry for yourself.   I don't do this every morning, but this morning I slide down onto my knees.  If you're up there, I think, help a girl out, please?    Help me find enthusiasm.   Help me find gratitude.   How about a sign, some kind of sign, that I can do this?

And then I hear it, a muffled song:  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!   Halllleluuuuuuuuujah!

It takes me a moment to orient myself, to realize the sound is coming from outside.   I shuffle downstairs and peek out the door.    Greta and Finn are in the front yard, in their pajamas and barefoot.   They are smiling from ear to ear, pointing to a bushel of daffodils that were only buds yesterday, but this morning are bright yellow blooms.    "Hallelujah!"  Greta yells.  "Spring is HERE!"

I smile, and look skyward.

Thank you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Mother. Maybe.

I'm not very uptight.  

Maybe a better way of putting it is that I tend to be fairly relaxed about a lot of stuff (except, of course, for the things I'm not at all relaxed about). 

I wonder about this when it comes to certain things, though.  Like movies.  This weekend I took the kids (ages 7 1/2 and 4 1/2) to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid.   Greta has been reading the first book of this series - often out loud to Finn - and both of them were clamoring to see the movie.   I had seen the trailers, read some of the book, and had a vague idea of what the movie was about.     It is rated PG, which according to means: 
Not particularly helpful, really.   There is a lot of stuff I "might not like" for them to see, of course.   You can look up specific movies, and it says Diary of a Wimpy Kid contains "rude humor and language".     Hmmmm.     If you consider word like "moron" and "booger" rude, then yes, it does.     I don't want my kids thinking it is okay to go around calling people morons, any more than I want them to think it's okay to run after people with a booger on your finger (both of which happen in the movie).   

But where is the line?   How much do I have to censor them from what is happening all around them in real life anyway?   A good percentage of Greta's classmates will see this movie (we saw three of them at the theater, in fact) and they'll be running around saying 'moron', so she is going to hear it.   

The movie's plot (the book's plot, actually) is centered on popularity, or lack thereof.    Greg is trying to find a way to increase his social status, and differentiate himself from Rowley, his best friend, who he perceives as dragging him down.     Do I want Greta thinking about this stuff now?   No.   But she is thinking about it.    She has been for the past two years.

I would rather be proactive than reactive when it comes to this type of thing.    The movie was cute, and funny, and chock full of bodily function humor.     There was one scene that involved Greg and Rowley finding a girly magazine under the big brother's bed - the girl on the cover is clad in a bikini and sitting on a motorcycle.    I flinched.    Then Rowley says, "I didn't know your brother was into motorcycles!"   Neither Greta nor Finn had any clue about the adult undertones of this scene.

It is such a balancing act, figuring out appropriateness.    Finn is already much more worldly than Greta, because he's a second child, and he doesn't seem any worse for wear.   He may be growing up a little faster than I would prefer (he thought Dora was a "baby show" when he was barely three - Greta didn't even know the term "baby show" until she got to Pre-Kindergarten) but he seems to roll with it, for the most part.

I never know what is going to impact them negatively, and I can't seem to guess well, either.   I thought the first Harry Potter movie would be scary to them.   Wrong.    But an innocent scene that involved fire in a cartoon aimed at 4 and 5 year olds kept them up for three nights straight.

When we sat down in the theater, I cast my eyes around desperately, hoping to see other younger kids there, seeking that acceptance that I wasn't the only Mom who would bring a 4 1/2 year old to a PG movie.   I wasn't the only one, not by a long shot.    But another friend wouldn't bring her 7 year old to a PG movie, no matter what the topic.     It's confusing.

We used the movie to have an interesting discussion about popularity at the dinner table that night.   And I, of course, had to go into Lecture Mode about why we don't chase people with boogers or call people morons.   I was especially clear with Finn - I don't need him showing up at preschool calling another kid a moron and thinking it's okay because I let him watch it in a movie.   He rolled his eyes at me, and said "It's just a movie, Mom.   I'm a nice kid.  I wouldn't call anyone a bad name." 

At 4 1/2, Finn completely understands that the things he sees in movies aren't real.   When something scares him, or upsets him, we talk about it.     He has a good sense of self; he doesn't think that just because he sees something on TV or in the movies that it is a green light to go out into the world and do those things.   I like that he is figuring this out now.   I like that we have platforms to discuss certain topics.    I feel like if I simply tell them they "aren't old enough" to see a movie like Diary of a Wimpy Kid it will create a mystique around it that would simply make it more compelling and alluring.   

But, like I said, I tend to be more relaxed about things like this.  I have no idea if it will come back to bite me, or not.   

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, too.   I think.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bringing Back Rubenesque

"Well," I say to my husband, throwing a few shopping bags on the floor, "I have a shape, just not the shape I'd like to have."

He raises his eyebrow at me; we're going to a charity dinner tonight, virtually the only annual occasion where we have to get sort of dressed up, and I spent a stressful afternoon shopping for something to wear.

"I'm going a little daring tonight," I say, and he raises the other eyebrow.

I took Greta with me as a fashion consultant, trying on and discarding countless dresses, flowing skirts and ruffled shirts (when did ruffles come in again?  And, for God's sake, WHY?) until settling on two options:   the Safe Bet and the Boob Shirt.     I still don't know if I'm going to be courageous enough to wear Option #2.

I used to be proud of my, er, top section, considering it one of my best features.   But two kids, turning 40 and gravity, and, well, you get the idea.  I have spent the past four wintry months in stretchy black pants and an oversized polar fleece pullover.  I don't think I have even seen my arms in months.   
The Safe Bet is a pretty coral tank top with a black cape-like wrap.   Shapeless, but still slightly stylish.   

This particular event can be tough for me, drinking wise (or not-drinking wise, as the case may be).    We've been going for over five years, and I used to look forward to it, because of the emphasis on drinking.     My first year sober I skipped it; I wasn't ready.    Last year I went, but felt itchy and frumpy all night.   I'm looking for a change.

I step out of the shower, wrap up in a towel, and glare at the two outfits lying on my bed.    With a sigh, I reach for the Safe Bet and put it on.   It doesn't look bad.   It doesn't look like anything, really.    I did find a pair of sexy black shoes on sale, and some form fitting black pants that fit me well.    But when I wrap the cape-like shawl around my shoulders, I look like a woman who is hiding.   I don't want to hide anymore.

I grit my teeth and put on Option #2: the Boob Shirt.   Don't get me wrong, it's hardly racy - it has a form fitting black stretchy shell with a three-quarter sleeve crepe-like (see?  I don't even know what the material is called) shirt that ties in the front.    Right under, ahem, The Girls.      Along with the black pants and spiky shoes, it is a look that feels alien to me.   Something a confident person would wear.   Something a size zero woman could pull off no problem.   I've got curves, and they make me nervous.    I throw back my shoulders, stick out my chin and say to my reflection:   "I will not wimp out."

When my husband sees the outfit, he blinks twice and says, "Wow," in a neutral way.   My resolve crumbles.    He back pedals, and says "I don't mean that it doesn't look good, it's just, so, different for you."   I spin for him, a questioning look on my face.   He breaks into a huge grin.   "Go for it," he says.   "You look really good."

On my spiky heels I tower at just over six feet tall.    I picture all the curvy, voluptuous women I've seen who don't hide their femininity.   Nothing makes a woman look frumpier than when she is ashamed of her own shape.

Tonight, I'm gonna bring it, I think.

And I do.

P.S. - Sorry about the bad picture quality, and the lack of a smile.  I'm not coordinated enough to hold a camera and smile and take a self-portrait at the same time.   I had to re-create the outfit, with nobody else available to take the pic.   But at least you get the idea....  :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Back In The Day

One interesting side effect of going through hell is that is changes how you define success forever.

In the throes of active alcoholism, I worried about success a lot, in a really backwards and messed up sort of way.   Back then my definition of success involved getting from one end of the day to the other without getting too drunk, or too sober, and without anyone discovering my terrible secret.     I considered it a banner day if I navigated the waters of guilt and fear, leap frogging over bad or inadequate feelings with a drink, or the anticipation of a drink.    The object of the game was not to feel too much, ever.

Measuring success in early sobriety was simple:  get from one end of the day to the other without a drink.   Simple, but not easy.    Life in early sobriety, for me, was measured out it the smallest increments of time, sometimes just a minute or two.   Without my anesthesia and chock full of bad feelings, I considered it a victory to get up, get dressed, and wait for the next minute to pass.   I couldn't think about a whole day, not yet.    By cautiously stepping from minute to minute I set an achievable goal, with the focus on reward and not punishment.

A few months into sobriety I could picture hours without a drink and not succumb to crippling terror.    A year into it a day was an achievable goal, and that is how I take it now:   one day at a time.


Lately, as I've been writing about, I've been feeling overwhelmed.    There are practical reasons for this, of course, with practical solutions.     But there is a deeper sentiment here, one I have to pay attention to or I could be in trouble.   I've been getting hung up on the big picture, asking myself broad existential questions, like is this what my life is really all about?  Is this what I want?   Who do I want to be?  Am I getting all I can out of life? 

Sounds admirable, to a degree, pondering existence in the interest of living your best possible life, doesn't it?

As an alcoholic in recovery, though, I have to be careful.   Big picture thinking gets tricky for me.  Having a great day?   I start to get unrealistic expectations:   I've got this down, I'll never feel badly again.    Having a bad day?  I begin to think that I'm terrible at everything, that I'll never feel good again.    It is my disease knocking at the door, waiting for me to lose sight of the little victories, letting me roll the little failures into insurmountable obstacles.

I have been taught to keep it in the day.   To keep my head where my feet are.   That wasn't so hard to do in early recovery, when each sober moment felt like a victory.    Overall, now, I feel good.   I feel capable.   When I get a little of something, I want more, more, more.    But there isn't any such thing as more sober.

The other day I was all twisted up, angry, resentful, bored, stressed.  My head was full of lofty ideas - what I wanted to do, all the dreams I have - and my feet felt tangled in the wires of everyday life.   That night I went to a meeting.    It is a meeting I love, the place where I first got sober, and I had a moment, a flash of insight:  I remembered how I felt when I first dragged myself into this room.

It changed everything, immediately, and I thought: today is a good day.   It doesn't matter what tomorrow brings, today is good.

I am an alcoholic who doesn't want to drink today.   That is a successful day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unsticking the Stuck

Today is a new day, and an opportunity for a fresh start.  

Yesterday was baaaad.   I feel odd complaining about the drudgery of life, because I know - I do, truly know - that things could be so much worse.     But sometimes it all catches up to me, and if I don't vent it out, talk about it, I get into trouble.    I went to be early last night just be done with the day.    It was one of those days - and thankfully they don't happen often - when I thought about drinking.   Just one.  Just one to take the edge off.    I didn't come close to drinking, but I hate it when my mind goes there.   HATE it.

Today the sun is shining, I'm rested, and I'm trying to look at things with a new perspective.   

It is so easy to get hung up in the way things are - at least it is for me.    I can wallow in misery, in being stuck.   Lately, I have felt really stuck.    It's hard to pull up and out, and look at the overall balance in life, but it became clear to me yesterday:  something isn't working, and I need to make some changes.     Finn needs more than I can give him - he's very active, very attached, and he knows exactly how to play my heart strings (and, of course, I let him).    

After a day of negotiating, whining, lots of tears and constant needing, I was at the end of my rope.   He did something bad - again - something he knows is a big hot button for me, something that always elicits punishment:   he spit on Greta.     As I'm sending him to the time-out room (no toys, sparsely furnished, nothing to destroy) I realized he just wants my attention, and he is going to get it any way he can.    Even when I'm punishing him, it puts him at the center of things, which is where he wants to be.   All the time.  

While he was crying and screaming in the time-out room ("MOM!  MOM!  I have a cold and you're not even taking CARE of me!    I hate you and I hate everyone in da whole WORLD!") I flopped down on my bed and had myself a good cry, too.     Greta came in and said, "Is there anything I can do to help you, Mom?"   This, of course, made me cry harder.   

We all fell asleep early (Steve was working late).    Today, as I'm driving him to school, I realized I had to make some kind of change.   Finn and I are miserable on the days we're together all day.   I'm tired of feeling guilty about that, as much as I'm sure he's tired of being in trouble a lot.

I'm going to look into sending him to school another half day per week, so he would go three half days instead of four.   I don't know that I can afford it, but I'm going to try.     I have resisted this idea, thinking that I should be able to handle it, four full days home with a 4 year old kid.   But I can't.    And it's okay. 

I'm trying to stop looking at parenting like something I should want to do all the time.   I simply don't.  I'm not equipped for it, and there are too many other things I'm interested in.   I need and want to make more money.    I want to pursue my dreams of writing, too.      I'm tired of having too many things at the top of the list.   My  kids will always come first, of course they will.    But in order for them to come first, successfully, I have to take care of myself.  

I'm stuck.  And when I'm stuck I'm trying to try a new tactic:  change something.   Move a piece on the gameboard of life around and see what happens.    I can always move another piece if I need to, down the road.  

So we'll see.   Thanks again to everyone for all the support - through comments and emails.    It really helps to know I'm not alone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Working on Acceptance: In Which I Simply Vent

I get resentful sometimes.

I'm learning, slowly, how to handle feeling this way, but it is a work in progress. Without a doubt, the thing that is hardest for me is the fact that my entire schedule relies on other people, big and small.    I have 15 hours a week, when Finn is in preschool, of unfettered freedom.   I simply can't pack everything I need to do into those 15 hours, but my expectations of this free time are always lofty:  I'll go to the gym, make all the jewelry orders, get writing done for the book, clean the house, grocery shop.     If I get one or two of those things done in that time period, it's a lot.

The rest of my week is spent in fits of stops and starts.   Errands with a 4 1/2 year old are torture - one step forward and two steps back the entire time.   Getting him out the door takes 10 mins of negotiating.   Thinking clearly while in a store is next to impossible.   He is either getting into trouble or peppering me with unanswerable questions.   He is like a little dictator - if his needs aren't met immediately he pitches a fit.    Errands that should take half an hour take an hour.

When I'm home, if I can get ten minutes of uninterrupted time it's an accomplishment.   And I can't watch him every minute of every day, so the messes that wait for me if he does actually leave me alone for a bit are staggering.    Greta was different at this age, more able to play independently and not destroy the house, and getting accustomed to the differences between a boy and a girl is taking time.

Sometimes I think I should just chuck out the idea that I can pursue the things that are meaningful to me, postpone my dreams until he's in school full time.   Two years from now.   But I know in my heart that these things that keep my sane - jewelry, writing - make me a better mother overall.     Even though in our day to day lives it doesn't feel like it.   If I had a nickel for every time I said, "IN A MINUTE!" to Finn I would be a rich woman indeed.

And then there are the evening and weekend activities.    I rely on my husband to be home to attend meetings, go to social events, go to the gym, or go do some writing.     We have sitters we use, but we can't afford use them very often.    So I feel like a child asking for permission to go out and do the simplest of things.  And then, of course, his work trumps my needs.  He is the breadwinner in the family, so if he needs to work late my plans have to be put on the back burner,or cancelled.  It gets really frustrating.

In recovery I'm learning about acceptance.    Acceptance of people, places and things.   I know, and accept, that this is just my life stage at the moment, that it won't always be this way.     On my good days I cherish the fact that I can be home with my kids, that I'm there to get Greta off the bus, that I can play with Finn.   On my bad days I just want to speed up time and have more freedom.   I get frustrated with myself when I'm wishing away the way things are at the moment, because I know better, now.    I'm learning to sit in my frustrations, wait out the bad feelings, tolerate boredom, resentment and frustration as simply feelings that will pass.   And they always do.   

But today is one of the bad days.    I have a list a mile long that involves going to three stores, and then making a bunch of jewelry orders that have to be done today.    And Finn isn't in school.    He has already asked me several times when we're going to the playground, when we're going to play a game, and can we have friends over?    The guilt stabs me in my heart.   Who am I to put my needs before his?   I know how today will go:  putting him off for periods of time, forcing myself to stop and play for a bit, and then putting him off for more periods of time.    It is a juggling act that is extremely tiring.

So I decided to write about it.   Vent a little, here, to work through how I'm feeling.   To own my emotions instead of stuffing them, which never works, it only makes me erupt in other more irrational ways. 

I'm trying to name it and claim it.   To set my expectations of today realistically.   I'll do the best I can.  

That's all I can do.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Just A Moment

I had a moment today.

Time is flying by.  Or perhaps I have reached that age where time has become more precious.   I never thought time was flying by when I was younger.   Time couldn't go fast enough for me when I still had all the major milestones ahead of me:   a first job, my first apartment, marriage, a house, kids.  

Most of the time I don't think about time, not consciously anyway.   In our daily lives time warps and contorts into little bits and pieces, and there never seems to be enough of it.   We're always rushing:  to get out the door, to get to various activities and errands.   We live in an era that moves at warp speed, where instant gratification takes too long.  I found myself cursing at my computer yesterday because it was slow to load.   I was tapping my fingers impatiently, muttering away, trying to order my groceries online - online! - and things just weren't moving fast enough for me.    I was cramming my virtual shopping in between dropping Greta off somewhere and getting to the post office before it closed.    I spend my day with an unconscious mantra running through my head:  hurry, hurry, hurry.

We hardly ever just stop.  When I wake up and I don't have every inch of the day planned, I get itchy.    Today is a cold, dark, rainy day.   A perfect day to snuggle in and play with Finn.    Instead, I found myself pacing about my kitchen, thinking through all the things I just had to get done:   the gym, the bead store, the bank, make jewelry, the post office.   I can't get it all done, I thought.   

And then Finn padded up to me in his little footie pajamas, his blanket trailing behind him like Linus.    "What special thing are we going to do today, Momma?"  he asked.   And time just stopped.    I had one of those moments, where he suddenly appeared to me, this real boy, my son, and I thought:  how did he get so big?   

It is as if I don't know how to operate if I'm not under pressure.   Somehow I associate being chronically busy with importance, relevance.    There is plenty of time.   Plenty of time to snuggle and play, plenty of time to get the errands done.    And the world won't stop revolving if I don't get to everything, I would just like to think it would, because in some bizarre way that makes me think I matter

I plunked down on the floor and hugged him.  "What special thing would you like to do today?"  I asked.

"I want to play a game wif you,"  he said.  "When you're done wif your work."   

"How about now?"  I said.  "How about playing a game now?"   

He beamed, and ran to get Ned's Head, his favorite game.     I watched him run, soaking in the very boyness of him, trying to preserve the moment in my mind.    I never take time to just see him.    It is as if his image slips and slides in front of me, morphing from the baby he was to the grown man he will become.  

But right now?   He's four and a half and he loves me without question and it is incredible.    

Right now is pretty incredible.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alcoholism Q & A. Or maybe just Q.

There are some questions about alcoholism I get kind of a lot, not because I'm so smart, or I know more than anyone else, but because I blog about it for the world to see.

By far, the most common question is how to tell if someone is an alcoholic - this either comes from someone who is worried about their own drinking, or from someone who is worried about someone else's drinking.

The answer, in my opinion, is simple yet unsatisfying:   there isn't a way to know for sure.    There are signs, or symptoms, but there is no blood test to take, like for other chronic illnesses.   There are countless questionnaires that people can take that ask about their drinking habits:   how often, how much.   But there is no silver bullet - no definitive way to diagnose alcoholism - at least not that I have heard about.

Even discussing this is treading on thin ice.   People are very opinionated about this topic.   If you ask 100 people about this, you will likely get 100 different answers. 

When I'm asked, this is what I say:   it doesn't matter how often, or how much.   It matters what it does to you.

I don't wake up every morning wondering how I'm going to get my hands on, say, Roquefort cheese.   I don't go through my day thinking about the Roquefort cheese I can have at the end of the day, as my reward for existing successfully.     I don't eat Roquefort cheese to access my emotions, dull the edges, entertain or distract myself.   I don't hide my Roquefort cheese consumption, or lie about it.   I can have one piece of Roquefort cheese.   I can even have half a piece.  In other words:  I don't obsess about it.   Because, to me, obsession is the definitive characteristic of addiction.

So I can't point to someone and know whether they are an alcoholic or not by how they look, or even what they tell me.   Because denial is such a huge part of addiction, often behaviors that are indicative of a problem aren't even acknowledged, consciously, by the person doing them.   At least it was that way for me.

It's a double-edged irony, if such a thing exists:  it is a disease that tells you that you don't have it, and at the same time only the person suffering from it can diagnose themselves.

I can share some of the signposts I missed along the way (and some that I didn't).   If someone identifies with any of them, then it is up to them to decide if they have a problem or, most importantly, if they want to do anything about it.   Here are a few things I wish I had paid more attention to along the way:
  • Feeling possessive about alcohol.   Even early on, I would watch how much was in other peoples' glasses, always looking to be sure I got my fair share.
  • Thinking about drinking earlier in the day.    I could snap myself out of a bad or bored mood at noon, just thinking about the drink(s) I could have that night.
  • Lying about my drinking.    I make the analogy to when people are asked how much they weigh.  Most of us fudge it a little, shave a few pounds off the truth.   I was like that with alcohol.   When asked how much I had the night before - even when I was with a group of friends and we were comparing hangovers - I would always diminish the real number.  
  • Sneaking drinks.   Even before I actually hid bottles around the house (it's hard to lie to yourself about that one) as I was pouring wine for my husband and myself before dinner, I would pour one for me and slug it down (when he wasn't watching, of course) and then pour myself another and act like it was my first drink. Or, if he left the room, I'd top off my glass, or drink some of his.  
  • I always, always finished my glass.   I was never the type to drink half a glass and forget it was there.   It baffled me - even early on - when people could drink half a glass and pour it out. 
  • Having one glass was almost impossible.    Once I had the first, I always wanted another.   Even if I didn't have another, I always wanted one.
But by far, the primary symptom was how much time I spent thinking about drinking.   Even when I wasn't drinking - when I was trying to cut back - I'd think:   here's me not drinking.    As my drinking progressed, what had been a pleasant anticipation of drinking turned into a full blown obsession.   That, to me, is addiction.  

I'm bracing myself a little for the comments on this post.   I don't claim to be an expert on addiction. I don't claim to have any answers.   I am sharing a bit about what it was like for me.  That's all.  

Please add other comments or insights from your own experience. You can post anonymously if you wish. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Caught In The Web ~ Part Four of the Snapshots from Before Series

"Wake up."    I hear a voice; a faraway voice.

"Ellie, I said wake UP."

My consciousness surfaces slowly.    My head feels swimmy, disconnected.    I open one eye, the sunlight sears my brain.    I see the fuzzy outline of my husband standing next to the bed.   He's holding something in his right hand, and he looks angry.

"What time is it?"   I mumble, glancing at the clock:   9:30am.   What day is it?  I hear cartoons blaring from the television downstairs. Saturday.   My last clear memory of the night before is of spooning ice cream into dishes for the kids.  Dessert. 

"Do you want to explain to me what this is?"  he asks.    I rub my eyes, and now I can see his face clearly.   He looks livid.    My thoughts race - I don't remember having a fight last night.   Did we have a fight?    I know we watched a movie on the couch.   Then we went to bed, right?   Damn.   What movie did we see?   That part is a little hazy.   "Did you eat breakfast yet?"  I ask in order to buy some time.

"Please.  Explain.  THIS," he says through clenched teeth.

I drop my eyes to his right hand and panic jolts me fully awake.   He is holding a half empty bottle of white wine.  

"I found this in the washing machine," he says.   "Under the wet clothes.   I thought I'd do some laundry, and I found this."

Crazily, my first thought is:   I was looking everywhere for that last night.   

I'm too sleepy to think quickly, and besides - what can I possibly say?   This is the moment I have been dreading for months, and I'm frozen with fear.

"You are an alcoholic, Ellie," he says, with surprising calm. He's never said the A word before.

No I'm not, no I'm not, no I'm not, please God anything but that I'm not I'm not I'm not.

"I know it must look weird, but I can explain," I begin.   Think, Ellie, think.   How can I possibly explain this?   That one of the kids dropped it in there? 

"STOP," he says.   "Just stop.  No more explanations.   You need help.  You're an alcoholic.  What the hell is going on, Ellie?   Don't try to explain this away.   Just DON'T."

My heart is pounding, my mind racing.   "Okay, I won't," I stammer.  And then, of course, I start explaining.  

"I don't hide it all the time."    Liar.  Liar.  Liar.  "It's just that sometimes I like to drink more than you at night, and I don't want you to judge me.  So I hide it."   I hang my head, try to look contrite, but I'm thinking:   please don't pour it out, please don't pour it out, please don't pour it out.  I'm so scared, and if you pour it out I'll never make it.

"I'm pouring this out," he says, and my mind goes white with fear.    "And then we're calling someone, somewhere, and you're getting some help."

Don't look scared, I think.   Don't let him see how scared you are, you need to come up with a plan.

I stand up and hug him.  "Thank you," I say, calmly.   "I know I need help.  I know I drink too much.   This is probably the best thing that could possibly happen."     He gives me a stiff one-armed hug, holding the half full bottle away from his body like a smelly dead animal.  

He walks into the bathroom, and I hear the chugga chugga chugga as the wine goes down the sink.  

I come up with a plan.

"Let me just get dressed, then I'll go get us something good to fix for breakfast,"  I say brightly. 

He looks at me strangely for a moment.   "You will get help?   You admit you're an alcoholic?" 

"I know I drink too much.   I know what I need to do.   It will be okay,"   I say as I pull on jeans and a sweater.  "We'll go online and find a meeting.   I'll go tonight."   Tonight feels about a million years away. I just need to get through the next few hours, and I'll be okay.

"How about pancakes for breakfast?"   I say, forcing a smile.

As I rummage in my purse for the car keys,   I furtively cast my eyes to the clock.   10am.   Perfect. 

I can get more.

Friday, March 19, 2010

In Which I Threaten, Beg and Guilt Trip You. Sound Fun?

I started a Fan Page over at Facebook.   But let me be clear:  it's not a Fan page.   I don't have fans.  I wish I could call it a Community Page, because that is what I would love for it to be.  

I love Twitter - but I get all nervous with the whole 140 characters or less thing.    When the character count turns red as I'm typing a Tweet I get all Twanicky.    And, sometimes, it is hard for me to follow.   I'm slow that way.

And communicating via Blog comments just doesn't do it for me.   There are so many vibrant, funny, insightful people who comment here - I always have so much I want to say!   And, I want to get to know you better.   Maybe we can have extremely intellectual conversation dish a little.   Like, can someone explain to me what the deal is with American Idol?  Why it's so compelling?   I've never seen it.  Not once.    Or maybe we can figure out why Keira Knightley annoys me so much?     Or discuss whether or not George Clooney is hot.   Do you think he's hot?   WAIT:  don't comment here.  Join the Fan Page and tell me all your deep thoughts there.

Maybe I'll get a little controversial over there - you know, really get daring.     Talk about really juicy topics I wouldn't talk about here.    Just give me a day or two to spice up my life first...  I'm SURE I can think of something juicy.

And if the above reasons aren't compelling enough to join, do it 'cause you don't want me to drown my sorrows in triple vente lattes or overdose on Everlasting Gobstoppers.    I'll do it, you know.   

Does that work?   Guilt trips and idle threats?   

To join please click on the widget/gadget thingy on the right hand side.    Come introduce yourself.   Because, seriously?   At the moment it says "Zero Friends" and that is more than I can bear.

**UPDATE 9am - Woo Hoo!   9 people!   Come join the fun!

**UPDATE 10am (I promise I won't do this all day):  we're cooking now!   I'm getting to know you better, and I love that.   And so far only one latte and four Gobstoppers.   Not too shabby.

**FINAL UPDATE (jeez, obsess much, Ellie?) - if you become a fan, your Facbook info is still private to others on the page, unless you directly Friend them.   And, of course, they accept.   Which is a source of constant hand wringing for me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Becoming That Woman

Ever have one of those moments, where you suddenly pop outside yourself, and realize you've become that person?    That person you couldn't ever, possibly, be old enough to be?  

This happened to me this week.    I was at the hair salon, getting my hair foiled and cut (for the one or two guys that read this blog, "foils" is a fancy way of saying I was getting my hair dyed).      As she is foiling and snipping away, my hairdresser tells me she is expecting her first child.

"OH MY!" I exclaimed, and my hands went all fluttery.    "How exciting!  Your first!  Oh, it's so exciting, your first child!"   On I went, using exclamation point after exclamation point.    She smiled patiently, and kept foiling away.

And then I became that woman:  the one that used to prattle on and on to me when I was pregnant with my first.   At the grocery store, the salon, Babies R Us - everywhere I went it seemed these middle aged women were popping out of the woodwork to go on and on about their first pregnancies, their c-section scars or how many hours they pushed, their colicky babies, their sleepless nights, their - EW - episiotomies (for the one or two guys who read this blog I'll spare you the details).    All this TMI was followed by some Disney-esque exclamation, like:  "Oh, but it's such a magical time!"

As I'm prattling away, I suddenly look as myself in the mirror and I really see myself:  a middle-aged woman getting the greys dyed out of her hair, foils sticking madly off my head, bags under my eyes, and - gulp - an age spot or two on my hands.   My hairdresser hasn't said a word in about ten mintues.   I didn't go so far as to talk about c-section scars or episiotomies, but I came really close.

When did this happen?   When did I become the woman of two school aged kids, who won't be having any more children, who is talking to young pregnant women like we're peers?    I realized, with some horror, that she is about ten years younger than I am.   

Throughout my tirade she smiled patiently, nodding her head on occasion, waiting me out.   She's used to it, just like I was.    I know she's thinking the same thing I was when this happened to me:    whatever, lady

I stop myself, and leaf through my Us magazine for a minute or two, sheepish.   Finally, I ask what I wish other women would have asked me:  "How are you feeling?   Are you excited?   Nervous?  Have you started buying baby stuff yet?  Are you registered anywhere?"

She smiles openly, and starts chatting away about how she isn't getting morning sickness, she wished she would start showing, she doesn't feel like she has that pregnant glow.    She talks about the nursery they are preparing, the little onesies and booties she can't stop buying.    She isn't thinking about the actually giving birth part, yet, she is wallowing in the warmth of expecting, of becoming.     She is radiant.

"Congratulations," I say, and I mean it.    And then, of course, I say it:

"It's such a magical time."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Name is Ellie, And I'm A Recovering Transmogrifier

A wonderful, wise, funny woman I knew in recovery (sadly, she passed away on New Year's Eve) used to say all the time, "what other people think of me is none of my business".

For a long time, I laughed when she said this, because it's funny.    But I think I'm only now beginning to understand the deeper meaning behind the humor.

See, I'm all up in other peoples' heads, way more than I should be.    I have always been hyper-observant; I scan a room full of people, watch facial expressions and gesticulations and draw all sorts of conclusions in my head.  See that woman, how she's leaning away from her husband?   They had a fight tonight.    And her, over there, who keeps looking at the floor, she feels completely out of place.   And that couple holding hands so tightly their knuckles are white?   They are either deeply in love or they want the world to think they are.    I can go on and on like this.  I have no idea if my observations are correct, but I can no better stop them than I could breathing.   It's just the way I'm hardwired.   I see everything.  

Maybe it was because I was a shy, introspective kid.     I felt out of place most of the time, and watching how other people moved through the world gave me clues on how to, well, be.    Shape-shifting 101.    It is a craft I fine-tuned over many years.   I never really understood myself, so I'd quickly figure out who you wanted me to be, and transmogrify into that person right before your eyes.   I was very good at it.     So good at it, in fact, that I lost all sense of me.    This didn't bother me when I was drinking; it came in very handy, in fact.    Alcohol was the liquid mortar that held my characters together.   In a sense, I was method acting all the time. 

It's a different story now that I'm sober.   The past two and a half years have been spent trying to piece myself together from the inside out.    I used to draw my entire sense of self-worth from external cues;  if you were happy with me, I was happy with me.   End of story.   

If I'm going to be successful drawing my sense of self-worth from the inside, I can't be spending too much time all up in other peoples' heads.   It is one thing to pass the time at a boring party by trying to figure people out through their facial reactions and body language.   It is another thing altogether to think every facial tic, innuendo, or gesture is all about me.     

If someone glances over my shoulder while we're talking, or blinks slowly, or looks down at the floor - I'm crushed.    Oh man, I'm boring them, they just saw someone over there they would rather talk to, I'm making a pathetic fool of myself.    I can get all that from a blink or a glance.    Imagine what I can do with words.

I can spend hours ruminating over someone's turn of phrase until I've turned a passing remark in to a scathing dissertation about me and everything I've ever stood for.   Or thought I've stood for.    It is tiring, and it gets me exactly nowhere, because instead of reaching within myself, I'm scrabbling for clues from everyone around me.   But it's a tough habit to break. 

Because, really, if I'm comfortable with who I am, what I believe, what I want from life, it doesn't matter what you think.    I'm trying to strike that delicate balance between wanting you to like me, and not altering my sense of self in the process.

So: what other people think of me is none of my business.  If I'm not spending all my mental energy wondering about what you think of me, I can figure out what I think of me.

But you still like me, right?  RIGHT?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Taking the Red Line

I am one of those Red Line people.  

You know, one of those people who waits until the red line appears on the envelope of a bill before they open it?    Then puts it in the Important Drawer until the utility company threatens fines, or to shut off something like electricity, phone or water?   Then, under threat of disruption in life, finally paying it?  With interest or fines?    That's me.

Thankfully, I no longer pay the household bills.   Under my husband's watchful eye, things like finances and taxes run like a Swiss clock around here.

I don't know where the expression "red lining it" came from - I always presumed it had to do with that red zone on speedometers - but we all know what it means.   Pushing things to the limit, taking things right up to the edge of the cliff, not over it, but almost.   

There is more to it for me, though, than simply a tendency to procrastinate.   I think on some passive-aggressive and chronically bored plane of my psyche, I feel a need to test limits.   Even over mundane, daily stuff.  I've described it as being a "chaos junkie".   Only now I no longer flirt with chaos in the form of alcohol and all the insanity of addiction.   But the urge to mess up my life a little hasn't left me.   Yet.

It is a character defect I know I need to change.   Today, instead of ticking off the usual items on my To-Do list, I spent the day tearing around in the pouring rain, going to the DMV, waiting on hold with various bureaucratic offices, trying to get some parking tickets paid.  I left it, true to form, until the very last minute.   My husband needs to renew his driver's license this week.   Like, tomorrow.     He is not happy with me about this, and I don't blame him.    It is one thing to snarl up my life with little inconvenient knots I have to unravel; it's another thing to inconvenience him. 

So as I settled in for the long wait on a bench at the cheerless DMV office, drenched and shivering from the long run across the parking lot in the rain, clutching my little paper number like my life depended on it, I did some thinking.

What is it? I thought.  Why do I do this?    Is it some quiet rebellion?   Some need I have to feel that the rules just don't apply to me?     I was briefly distracted from my reverie by the loud conversation happening between two strangers behind me.   "Those f-ers think they can just fine you for anything," said one husky voice, the gender of which was impossible to determine.     "I'm gonna give them a piece of my mind."   

I totally deserve this, I thought.   I deserve this hellish wait in this overly bright office on this hard bench in my wet clothes.   I deserve this for not just paying the freaking tickets when I got them.   

And then it hit me:  it isn't some quiet rebellion.   It isn't that I think the rules don't apply to me, like Husky Voice.  

It is that I still set myself up for failure.    I remembered carefully filing the parking ticket in the Important Drawer, making a note on the calendar to pay it, and then simply not doing it.    I stared at the deadline on the calendar as it came and went, and I did nothing.    

I'm going to change this, I thought.     This is part of not putting myself first.   This is part of not caring for myself.   This is part of that damn disease of addiction:    Self-sabotage?  Check.    Denial?  Check.   Hiding from responsibility?  Check.    Good intentions and lousy follow through?  Check.    Having a negative or disruptive impact on my life?  Check.

This is one of the gifts of recovery:  the gentle observer who can take a step back, see things for what they are, help me understand that my problems are of my own creation, most of the time.   Most importantly, though, the gentle observer can nudge me towards change, not self-hatred.  

When my number was finally called, I stood up to approach the counter, and Husky Voice said, "Go get 'em!"   

My gentle observer quietly flicked him the bird.

It is a work in progress.

Twice Monthly Giveaway - New Item!

Congratulations to Debbi, who won the Tree of Life Necklace!   Thanks to everyone who entered!

The next giveaway features two of my favorite rings:   the Lemon Drop Ring and the Summer Rain Ring.    The bright colors of these rings remind me that spring is coming!!

The Lemon Drop Ring:

And the Summer Rain Ring:

To view these items in my Etsy shop, please click here and here.

To enter, please comment below indicating you would like to be part of the giveaway, and please indicate which ring you would prefer!    The winner will be chosen at random on April 1st (my daughter picks a name from a hat).    Please include your email in your comment so I can contact you if you win (if you are more comfortable emailing me directly please do so at

This giveaway is open internationally.

Thank you!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I lost it today.

It wasn't over anything big.   Finn did something for the umpteen millionth time, and the umpteen millionth and first time, it turns out, was one time too many.    I don't even want to get in to what he did, he was just doing what four and a half-year olds do, and besides what he did wasn't even the reason I lost it.   Not really.

Like an earthquake deep on the sea floor that only causes a small swell in the middle of the ocean, but by the time it reaches shore it is a tidal wave - full of force and momentum and capable of massive destruction- my frustration, anger and resentments had been building and building, and I didn't even know it.

I saw that Finn had done this thing, again, and some switch flipped in my head.   A deafening silence, and then a roar.


There I am, my rage like a tidal wave poised to crash ashore, inside it all the debris of the week roiling away:  the countless snacks fetched, sibling fights refereed, messes cleaned.   The momentum of it propelled by the force of the constant negotiations to do the simplest of things, the inconveniences, false starts, boredom and pressures of our daily lives.     The constant-ness of it all built up inside me, and suddenly I couldn't take it for one. more. second.

There I am, consumed by pure, undiluted rage; it is burning in my head like a white hot coal.    There is nothing else, only anger.    I want to burst into a million pieces, I want to run away, I want to fling myself on the floor and wail for hours on end.   I want to fall apart.   Dammit, I just want to fall apart.

What I do is scream.    I scream at, around and over Finn.   I run downstairs and and burst into tears.    The tidal wave has come ashore, and I'm held captive by its force.  Nothing to do but wait, let the tears flow and flow.  

Eventually, the tide of my anger recedes, and I'm left standing like a lone survivor, surveying the wreckage.   Finn is upstairs lying on his bed, crying soft, hiccuping sobs.    I'm spent, exhausted, my rage evaporated and a stone of guilt sits in my stomach.   

I slowly make my way upstairs, as unsure of what to do as I've ever been.   He is lying on his side, his blanket crammed in his mouth, his shoulders heaving.      I have no words.  I can't make the words come.    

I rub his back until his breathing slows.   He is asleep.

I have never known what to do with rage.   When I drank, I had a built-in rip cord; if I got too close to any undiluted negative emotion, I'd have a drink, or think about the drink I'd have later, and I had my work-around.

I sit awhile, looking at Finn's sleeping face.    I resist the urge to let the mother-guilt take the helm, the babbling voices that tell me:  see?   you're not cut out for this.    Instead I force myself to look inside, at the ugly distorted troll of rage crouching within.   I mentally reach out and shake its hand:   so that's what you look like.    Not so very nice to meet you.   But I acknowledge that you are here.   That you are a part of me.    But you are not driving this bus, I am.   I am good and  patient and kind.   I can make a mistake, and I can own it and move on.   

So make yourself comfortable, but don't expect to have much to do.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Announcement - Oprah Show

For those of you that didn't see the show in October - there will be a rerun of the Oprah show my husband and I were on today at 4pm EST.   Important caveat:  I think they are showing the same show as before, but this is television, after all, so it is possible my segment won't be on it.    The show is about mothers who were involved in tragedies due to drunk driving - we were on to tell our story, shed some light on mothers who drink secret, and provide hope to Moms who are out there suffering in silence.

For my post about why we did the show, please go here.  

Thank you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Snapshots from Before ~ Part Three

I'm sitting in my car in the church parking lot.   I want to go in. I don't want to go in.   I watch as people saunter into the meeting, sipping coffee, chatting with each other.   Laughing

I'm sick, and I'm miserable.   I'm here because I have to be here - my husband told me to go to meetings, or else.  I don't know what the or else is yet; in my heart I can't really believe he would leave and take the kids, but that is my fear.   Part of me doesn't care.   They would be better off without me.

I glance at the clock - the meeting starts in three minutes.   I don't know what to do.    I could drive around for an hour, say I went to the meeting.   But I know where my car will go: to the liquor store.   I want to prove to my husband that I can do this.   I still don't know what this is, I can't imagine it will be to stop drinking forever.   I've lied so much, though, said I would stop, tried to stop, and I can't.  I just can't.    I know I need to go in, but I can't get my feet to move.

One minute until it starts.   I burst into tears.   I'm so angry.  So, so angry, that I've let it come to this.    A life of church basements, coffee, strangers.    If only I had stopped after one last night, like I promised myself I would.  Steve wouldn't be so angry today, and I wouldn't be here.

I wipe away my tears, grab my coffee mug, and get out of the car.   Maybe there won't be an empty seat, I think.  If there are no seats I'm turning around and leaving.  

I swing open the door.   Right in front of me is an empty seat.   Shit.   A woman smiles at me, pats the seat, and says, "Welcome."

I knew it was a cult, I think.    I keep my eyes on the floor as the meeting starts.   I feel like everyone is staring at me.   The weak one.   Most people are smiling, so they can't be as bad as me.    I'm the worst.   I'm the worst ever.

The chairperson, or whatever he's called, says, "Anybody new here?  Anyone want to introduce themselves?"    No freaking way, I think.   But my hand goes up.   All heads swivel towards me.   I'm staring at my hand like I've never seen it before.   I'm supposed to say something, I think.    Crap, what do I say?   

"I'm Ellie," I stammer.   I'm not going to say it, I think.   I'm not going to say the A word.  "And, I think I'm an alcoholic." 

"Welcome, Ellie," they say in unison.    I'm shaking from head to toe, and the tears start flowing before I can stop them.   The woman next to me puts her hand on my shoulder.   "It's okay," she says.  "You're going to be okay."

No, it's not okay, I think bitterly.   Screw you.   Screw you and all you people in here.  You have no idea how much pain I'm in, what a terrible person I am.   

A woman about my age gets up to the podium to speak.   I stare at the floor.   She is blonde, pretty, smiling.   She introduces herself, says she is a grateful recovering alcoholic.   Whatever, I think.   Cult

And then she tells my story.    She's a mother, she has two kids, she has been sober two years.   She hid her bottles the same place I do, she came here because her husband made her come.   She stays now, she says, for herself.   

I'm not looking at the floor anymore.   I'm staring at her, agape.  I thought I was the only one, I think.   

Someone else gets up to speak, but I don't hear what he says.   I keep stealing glances at the pretty blonde woman.    There is no way, I think.     There is no way she did those things she talked about. There is no way she's just like me. 

Suddenly, the meeting is over.   An hour passed?  Already?   One whole hour passed, and I didn't think about drinking.   Not once.   Some people come up to me, give me their phone numbers.   I'm just trying to get out of there.   I'm wondering if I'll go straight home, or if I'll stop at the liquor store.  I don't know yet.  I never seem to know.

I stuff the phone numbers in my pocket and mumble some thank yous.   I don't think I'm thankful.   And I'm definitely not calling anyone.     As I open the door to leave, I feel a hand on my shoulder.   It's the pretty blonde woman.    "There is a meeting tomorrow too, you know.   I hope I see you there."   She smiles and walks out to her car.

I don't know if I'm going to the liquor store or not, but I do know I'll be back tomorrow, because I can't remember the last time I didn't think about drinking for one whole hour.

It felt pretty good.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicks In The Mail

We have chickens.

It was my husband's idea.  Two years ago he came home from work with a big ole smile on his face.   "Kids!" he shouted.  "I have a surprise for you in the car!"

Greta and Finn ran gleefully to the car, and he pulled out a shoebox with holes in the side.   Inside were - get this - SIX baby chicks.   Turns out there is a little farm store in the neighboring town, where one can purchase baby chickens if one is so inclined.

I knew he was thinking about getting chickens, and while I thought he was a little nuts, I wasn't going to get in the way.    But I didn't realize at the time he meant he was going to get chickens, like, that week

While Steve and the kids giggled and played with the newest members of our family, I peppered him with questions like: where the heck are these critters going to live, sweetheart?    He had it all planned out.   The chicks spent the first two months living in increasingly large boxes in our basement, while he built a gorgeous A-Frame chicken coop.   I call it the Chicken Condo.  It's practically nicer than my living room.

About ten months later we started getting eggs.  If you are an egg person, there is nothing more delicious than a farm fresh egg.     Although the idea does take some getting used to.   I was accustomed to purchasing my eggs in a nice brightly lit supermarket.    Now we could get an egg that was still warm from the, er, source.   One of the chickens lays light green eggs.   That took some getting used to as well. 

Turns out chickens are pretty low maintenance.     We've had the occasional mass break-out.  I can picture them there, late at night, pecking out their escape route in the dirt.      One day they all figured out a way over the chicken wire surrounding their coop and fled, en masse, to the neighbor's yard.   This prompted a little visit from the Chicken Police, politely asking us to keep them contained.   Yes, there is such a thing as the Chicken Police.   

Talk about a learning curve.

We've had a few losses, and we're down to three chickens.   Yellowy passed due to natural causes, PeePee was lost due to the proverbial Fox in the Henhouse, and most recently Blackie had an unfortunate encounter with a Chickenhawk.    Such is life.  My husband started making noises that three chickens isn't enough.   Maybe we should get some more?

So yesterday as he was heading out the door to work, he shouts over his shoulder, "the new chicks should be arriving today.   Have a good day!"  

I was rushing around getting the kids ready for school, so he had already pulled down the driveway when I thought:  Wait?  What? What does he mean arriving?    This question was answered a few hours later with a voice mail message from the post office.  "This is Sue from the post office.   Your express package from, er, 'My Chicken' is here, and we need you to come pick it up as quickly as possible."

Yes.  It turns out you can order baby chicks by mail*.

The kids and I piled in the car and drove to the post office.   We walk in, wait in line, and then we hear it:   cheeping.    It is so loud the post office worker has to raise his voice a little.    It gets to be our turn at the counter, and I sheepishly say, "We're here to pick up an Express Delivery.     The, um, cheeping one."  

We take the chicks home, and carefully open the box.  There they are:  nestled comfortably in straw over two warming pads:   three baby chicks.     Meet Curious, Fluffles and Joe:

*I was worried about this practice, too, but it's done all the time, and the chicks are safely and comfortably transported  through a special delivery service.    So it's all good.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In Which I Preach To The Choir

Last night's House episode was about a blogger.   Of course, true to House form, she falls ill with some mysterious illness that takes his team of talented and good looking young doctors a full 58 minutes to diagnose and treat.     But that isn't my point.  

The episode starts with this blogger up late at night, clacking away at her keyboard, blogging to the world about a fight she had with her husband.  He pokes his head around the corner and asks her when she's going to bed.  They re-ignite their argument:   he doesn't want her telling the world about their business.    In the middle of this fight she suddenly falls ill:   enter Dr. Gregory House and his team.   Fast forward past commercial, and there she is in her hospital bed, blogging away about her illness, asking her readers and the internet for advice on what course of treatment she should pursue, her exasperated husband at her bedside, shaking his head.    I risk a glance over to my husband:  he is grinning like a Cheshire cat.  

"That's totally you," he says.

He's only partially kidding.    I wouldn't (I don't think) blog from my hospital bed.   Mostly because I would be too busy drooling over Chase - the good looking Australian doctor with the great hair.    But also because there are lines I don't cross, information that is personal and private that I don't share.    I try to make my little acre on the internet less about spewing personal information and more about communing with other people.    It mostly works out that way.    But I know there are times he is shaking his head, wondering what on earth is so compelling to me about blogging.

Bloggers seem to get kind of a bad rap.  The battle cry of the skeptics is that we're a bunch of self-absorbed isolationists who hide behind our computer screens because we can't cope in  the real world.   Or worse:  that we're liars - we blog to project a life that isn't really ours.

And, truth be told, I was very skeptical when I started this blog.   Not because I was down on bloggers, but because I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to read anything I had to say.   My life just isn't that interesting.    I did, I will confess, consider it to be a self-absorptive endeavor, and I guess it is.     Now, however, I feel like if people don't want to read, they don't have to.    Blogging helps me appreciate the smaller moments I might have missed, some poignant moment that otherwise may have gone whizzing by unnoticed.  

What I didn't expect was the sense of community, the very real friendships and connections I have made.    I don't consider them a replacement for real-life friendships, I would feel isolated if the only people I knew were on the other side of my keyboard.    But they are real friendships nonetheless.    We reach out to each other, offer support, validation, humor and relief from boredom.     The internet is amazing in this regard - it brings people with shared interests together with a click of a button.    In real life, it can take years to find people who share your world view and even longer to get them to talk about it.    

It's true that the internet can enable you to create a persona that isn't you; you can assume any identity you want.   But it's equally true that is strips down some of the posturing and pretenses that can muddy the waters in real life.     Sometimes being able to conceal your identity leads to the ability to reach down and get real in a way you wouldn't with your neighbor over coffee.

Case in point:   a week ago I started Crying Out Now, Voices of Addiction and Recovery.   I wanted it to be a safe place for women to anonymously share their struggles and triumphs with addiction and recovery.   I had no idea if it would work, but I was inspired by such amazing places as Maggie Dammit's Violence Unsilenced, and the Booze Free Brigade started by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor and Sweet Jane.     They are doing a lot of good in the world, in large part because they are providing a platform for people to open up without having to reveal who they are.    Healing happens that couldn't happen in the real world.   And people who understand are right there to cheer them on.      The response to Crying Out Now was immediate and amazing.   

There is a lot of white noise, a lot of self-indulgent blabbing that happens on the internet.   But there is also a lot of good:  good writing, good community, good works.     

I get some funny looks from people when I talk about blogging.    I get some outright condescension.   Most people in my life are very supportive of my blog.   They understand why it's important to me, see that it is helping me and others commune over common interests, whether it is staying sober, parenting, or just sharing insights about life.      Like all things in life, it involves balance.  I can see how easy it would be to slip beneath the pixilated surface of the internet and stay there forever.   In lots of ways it's simpler than real life.     I have to resist the siren call of the computer a lot.    I look at it the same way I did about drinking:   I need to be careful because if it threatens the balance in my life I'll have to give it up, and I don't want to.   Let's hope I have more success with blogging than I did with drinking.

What about you, internet?   Do you get a hard time from friends or family members about your blogging?   Do you struggle with balance?    What does blogging do for you?

I'd ask the skeptics for their opinion, but, of course they're not here.

Their loss.

***Important disclaimer in the interest of full disclosure: I'm new to this blogging business. I started this blog nine months ago, with only a vague sense of what I was going to do with it. Most of you have been at this way longer than I have, and you've likely talked this subject to death, but I want to hear from you. So please comment if you have insight or advice.