Just a Monday

I feel a little grouchy, a little blue today. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Thanksgiving was lovely in all it’s entirety, really, and I have much to be grateful for on a day to day basis, but still. It isn’t a good day today.

Too much death, for one thing. My OTHER friend with cancer, S., passed away Friday morning, then there was M’s funeral on Saturday morning. Yes, the funeral was lovely, actually, and it was a privilege to be there. However, the family is also now planning another funeral, as M’s ex-wife died Saturday morning. So the kids have lost both their parents within a week of each other, and it sucks ass. Another friend, H. is in the hospital with lung cancer, and really, it’s just too much. I know well that death is part of life, part of the deal, but damn. I don’t have any feelings of comfort or the beauty of being part of it all today, but instead I just think it sucks ass.

I am in major pain today, too, something wrong with my stomach/kidneys/ribs, something in that general vicinity is hurting so bad that tears come and go. I hate that, too, because it doesn’t sound like anything I can call my friend for a prescription for, it sounds like something I will have to be seen for. Which really isn’t going to happen unless I have so much pain I can’t walk.

I think I would have been better off not posting today, but I am trying to get back into the habit of it, so this is what you get. Just a Monday all the way around.

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Eleven Years

Winter is officially here; we had a blizzard yesterday, it is below zero here tonight with wind, AND I fell spectacularly on my ass in the middle of the road on the way to the post office this morning. I did the whole “look around to make sure nobody saw me” thing, and just then someone stopped their car to make sure I was okay. Which is both the joy and the boon of living in a small town. No matter-I used to drink perhaps more than was good for me, so falling down on Main Street isn’t the most embarrassing thing I have ever done. At least in the winter, I have a real excuse.

Speaking of drinking too much, I celebrated eleven years sober today. I am not quite sure how I feel about it.  I mean, of course I am thrilled-one DAY sober is pretty damn huge for we alcoholics, and we all know that we only get eleven (or however many) years by putting a whole string of one-day-at-a-times all together. But you know, a year was a big deal, and three years was when I finally really started to GET the program (which also coincides nicely with how sober I was when I separated from my husband-and we all know there are no coincidences, right?). At 9 years sober, we had our crazy stalker break into the house, and that same year Hannah was molested-so it was my AA program and my AA friends that kept me together (with a lot of help from you people in blog-land, too) and got us all through. Ten years is ten years, which has the ring of authority.

But eleven doesn’t have the same feeling. Thrilled, yes. At the same time, so many things have happened in this last sober year that have reminded me that there is still so much work in front of me. After all this time, and as the result of some of the things that have happened in the last year, I have so much work still to do. Let’s see, I am a caretaker, a manipulator, someone who needs to control every little thing in her life and will resort to doing anything to get that control. I like to focus on what everyone else is doing in order to keep from dealing with my own issues, and the end result? I go crazy. In fact, one of my favorite women in the program once said,”My son started to use drugs and I went crazy.” Well, I can sure relate to THAT one. I have been doing some work in Al-Anon, re-remembering that not only do I have no control over alcohol, but I have no control over anything/anyone.

So. Eleven years sober, and it feels in many ways now like I am taking sobriety to a different level.  I know that this is a good thing, a necessary thing, and I am excited to be starting down a new path. Maybe this is what eleven years brings you, the knowledge that pain is necessary for growth. I cannot guarantee that everything in my life is going to be good, but I can guarantee that it is better than I ever imagined it would be even in the midst of hardship.

I told you about my two friends who were both dying of cancer. M., the dapper man who so jauntily swung his legs in his blue hospital gown, died early Sunday morning. I am blessed in that independent of my friendship with him, my son has been good friends with his grandson for years and years-there is a decade of connection between our two families-so they called me to let me know his time was near; they allowed me to come in and sit with him just a few hours before his passing. It was hard-my god, so hard, the shell of this wonderful, strong, absolutely amazing man there on the bed, each breath getting shallower as his family sat their watch, but this is what my eleven years have given me. Not just the desire to say goodbye to a friend, but the ability to stick it through and confront the messy ending of a life. When I was a practicing drunk, well, I would have been the one feeling self-important and scurrying around trying to make sure everyone was okay and rushing in to fill the silence with talk and then perhaps go home and throw a few pies together so I could say,”Look what I did! Aren’t I great?” Anything at all to avoid having to deal with my own feelings of grief. Now, with some days under my belt, I was able to simply be there. To hold his hand, to talk to him when he opened his eyes, knowing that he probably had no idea who I was but, strangely enough, not caring. What a humbling and beautiful experience to simply be present, to be given that gift.

So eleven years, and it is Thanksgiving Eve. I have boiled my eggs to make deviled eggs tomorrow, got the sourdough starter proofing for bread, and have my sweet potatoes boiled and cooling as well. My children are all home and safe, Owen battling a cold which makes him snotty and feverish and a little grouchy, all of them a little antsy for tomorrow. Steve is here as well, and though I have neither the time nor the inclination to go into all of that, suffice it to say that we are both in a better place. Him, for his own reasons, and me, because I am learning to detach and stop trying to control. We will go to our friends’ tomorrow and be surrounded by people we love, and will then gather at Steve’s parents house later, the first time I have seen most of them since May.  I feel grateful tonight, not so much for changes in Steve or changes in any outward circumstances but for changes in me. I am loved, that I know, by so many people that I can no longer count them on one hand like I used to. I don’t have enough hands, and I am humbles and grateful every day.

Yes. Eleven years thank you God.

If You look at the photo you have to read the post too!

Aubry After the Baptism-8 weeks old

We all stood in front of the font yesterday and watched this little girl be baptized; all the kids, Steve, and our friends J. and J.  who were chosen by Hannah to be Aubry’s godparents. For some reason, the ceremony hit me just right, and I spent most of it in tears. The good kind, watching the priest scoop water over her head and anoint her with the oil, hearing him pray over her, everything done with so much love that I felt like I was drowning in it.  There is the part of the service, too, where the entire church stands up and agrees to help love and raise this little child, and to welcome her into their lives, and I find that amazing. You all know of my/our struggles with the LDS church, so I find this even more amazing, that not only did they love and support Hannah through her TEEN PREGNANCY, but they allow her to teach the nursery class (thereby exposing those Delicate Young Souls to her ‘sin’), and were the to stand as one to welcome Aubry officially into their church family. How much more blessed can we be?

(Me, I am pretty liberal in my beliefs, but there is enough of the Fundamentalist in me to be rather relieved that she is now baptized. I mean, the God I love and believe in would certainly not turn her away from heaven simply because she didn’t take part in some ceremony; really, what kind of an asshole would do THAT? But I am still slightly relieved to have it done. Just sayin.’)

After church, we went to J and J’s (minus Steve) and had a lovely lunch, and then J. and I went to visit a couple of friends of ours who are in the hospital.  One is in the long-term-care center attached to the hospital, and I think she will be there until she dies; she was able to go home for a very short while, but is now back, and is beginning to look faded and a little crinkled, like a well-used paper bag. She is so beautiful; her hair is fine like a baby’s, short and sparse-I kept wanting to touch her head, but thought she might think I was stranger than normal. She seems at peace, speaking often of how blessed she is, how good her God is even in the midst of all of this, and I believe it was more a comfort to ME to see her than otherwise. I remember when my step-mom got like this, toward the end, with everything but her truest self stripped away-and she, too, was beautiful, more beautiful than I had ever seen her. I think maybe because they know God is near, and there is no reason to keep on the mask we all tend to wear.

The other friend also has cancer, which has metastasized into his brain. He was sitting up on his bed when we got there, legs crossed, looking poised and classy even in his blue hospital gown, bored and impatient, it seems, with the forced confinement. Six months, he said, though he of course hopes they are wrong-he was going for more tests today, but has already had all the radiation he can have and the chemo very nearly did him in the last time-treatment options are pretty limited at this point. But like S. was, he is beautiful; not at peace yet, afraid some about what happens afterward, but still in remarkably good shape.  I love him, and for some reason he loves me, and I love him enough that I would smother him with a pillow should it get to that point, but of course I didn’t tell him that. Like me wanting to touch S’s head, I thought he might think that was a little odd.

So I love these people, and it is heartbreaking and sad to see, but also an honor to be part of the ending of a life, however peripheral a part that might be. I thought all day about how it is all part of living, and yesterday in particular I felt so intertwined with the lovely, beautiful bits of all these people’s lives-from Aubry’s birth and baptism to being at least present, if nothing else, with these other people as they near the end of their lives, and isn’t it just the most messy, horrible, lovely thing there is? To be part of it all? I remember reading more than once about needing the bitter to taste the sweet, and I find myself with big, greedy mouthfuls of both. I don’t want to exist, I want to live, and somehow this is part of the deal.

So this is very much where I am today, where my head and my heart is-a litle on the cusp of both life and death, and feeling grateful for every moment.