Clever North Wind

clever north wind

Clever North Wind
The wind visited me last night,
Rustling my leaves and chilling my aching bark.
She felt cruel and unyielding at first
But softened into a wavelike drag.
Lifting the heavy parts of my old branches,
Giving relief to my sinking roots,
Raising me from my bed of dampened soil and
Gracefully uplifting my oftentimes laden and restless sagacity.
In moments of change, I weary with tiredness
Again, I must grow?
Yet, with her winds I feel her ever-love for movement
The flood of celebration and gift of newness,
A remembrance of childhood sprouting.
Almost like falling asleep,
Beginning with a slow birth
And then a sudden and complete surrender,
I am bewitched by her breeze of arriving seasons.
A wild delirium for nature’s will to be done.
Influence my stems, lead me where you need me
Raise my creaking camphorwood,
And then admire how I blossom.
For what is change without appreciation?
My sweet wind, you are the causation and
The heiress to all of springtime.
Another growth-ring appears,
A recorded reflection of age and time
To cut me in half would reveal my wisdom
But it would also unveil that I took courage from thine.

Are You Ready? Winter Solstice, Full Moon & A Meteor Shower This Weekend!

MOONLIGHT ASSIGNMENT

I don’t know if you are as hippie as I am, or if you’ve been feeling this lately as well, but there is a freeing sensation in the air.  An awakening.  I’ve been lighter these past two days. The grief is present but it’s not aching, I have finally slept 3 nights in a row without nightmares and my heart is settled and planted firmly in my chest.

I was wondering what this was all about, because the last time I felt a shift of this magnitude was during the autumnal solstice. I did some quick Googling, (sidebar: I really don’t like using “Google” as a verb), only to find that this weekend is not only the winter solstice, but it’s also going to have a full moon and a meteor shower. I am vibrating with excitement!

During the autumnal solstice, I was not ready.  I was unstable, anxious as all hell, missing my partner who was out on tour, and our wedding was like 8 days away and everything felt like it was falling to pieces.  Fortunately, for this solstice, I am super ready.

I am ready to embrace this season of transformation.  I have been in darkness for months, I have felt the pain, the loss, the depression, the shadows and I am learned.  I have new discoveries in my heart and in this moment I feel prepared to self-reflect and free them into the powers of this moon and welcome the light to come.

The winter solstice is a time of major change.  On the northern hemisphere, it’s the longest night all year.  On the southern hemisphere it is the longest day.  With such a sharp contrast, it reminds everyone that with darkness, light will come and with light, darkness will follow.

It’s not about longing for one, or being distressed with the other – it’s about accepting that both are present at all times.  There is light and darkness in the world, in each of us, in all things – there is a sun and there is a place of no sun.

It’s about allowing these polarities to flow through us as the universe allows both the sun and moon to gravitate around Earth simultaneously.

Alongside this time of acceptance, we have our beautiful first winter solstice full moon since 2010, with the next one not returning until 2094.  A special occasion to be witnessed.

To some, this moon is also called the Long Nights Moon, or the Cold Moon. With the power full moons bring, it really delivers the weight of introspection, heart-searching and renewal.

Full moons often remind us of our wisdom and our intuition and if you’re in a calm state of mind, you will receive some very positive influence during this winter moon.  But, if you’re feeling a bit chaotic or disoriented, the full moon could increase your emotional state due to her powerful energy. Be gentle with yourselves and know it’s okay to be quiet.

With this beautiful combination of the wise full moon and the reflective winter solstice, I feel the urge to dive inside.  I’m reminded of this time to hibernate, to recharge, to fatten up.  I’ve been storing all of this darkness, and foraging for education in the experiences around me and now it’s time.  It’s time to allow the cold moon to light up my inner silent voice.

With the end of the year being a phase of completion, I’m looking forward to honoring the light and dark inside myself.  I plan to greet myself wholly as I am and becoming more fluid with my solar gravitational pull.

Now, if both of these weren’t incredible enough, the Ursid meteor shower will also be taking place Friday and Saturday nights.  We’re expected to receive about 5-10 per hour, but some have said that in the country it’s possible to see upwards of 100 in a burst.

The showers can be seen between the big and litter dippers – Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, from which the shower was named. The showers will start around 1:00am in the north-northeastern sky.  But with the full moon in bloom, the viewing might be affected from the harsh glare. The pre-dawn hours are usually the most favorable for viewing.

It’s a time to delight in!  It’s a season of mistletoe, cinnamon, nutmeg, deep reds and lush greens, pine cones and wood.  It’s rich and earthly everywhere and the warmth of the people are all around.  If you are in the darkness, hibernate and listen deeply while the sage moon guides you into welcoming the light.  If you are already feeling the sun rotating your way, open your home and heart for it is a time of generosity.

Veneration
Have you ever lived in a dream?
“I’m in one right now,” whispered the little blackbird.
My song is the most beloved,
And I like it best after a rain.
Usually I sleep at night, but not now,
Tonight, there is a beautiful refrain.

Loneliness Is Just A Label

LONELINESS IS JUST A LABEL

Meditating last night, I found myself chanting “sit” on repeat.  Going through my mala beads at least twice, maybe three times consistently reminding myself to “sit.”

“Sit, sit, sit, sit, sit, sit..”  and so it went.

Having been born in a house of chaos, it’s been challenging for most of my adult life to sit still in times of uneasy emotional circumstances. Instinct tells me to run away from the feelings, either by moving to another apartment, city or even state.  Instinct also tells me to lose all the friendships I’ve made, destroy or abandon them all and start anew.  It’s fear-based, it’s fear that people are getting too close, it’s fear that tells me to run.

I’ve moved 20 times in the last 12 years because of this flight-based instinct.  I have recreated my life and developed new friendships more than I can count.  Only showing people what I want to show them and leaving the rest as the past, fearing judgment, criticism or inability to relate.

Sitting in uncomfortable moments where our anxiety is high, our emotions are abusively loud and our hearts are aching, are signs of true growth.  If I can sit quietly with my pain long enough, I can uncover the root of the disturbance.  In this circumstance, like most children of alcoholics, my root was and usually is, loneliness.

I was alone in my childhood.  My dad traveled 90% of the time. He was home for maybe 1 weekend a month for 15 years.  When he was home, he was devastatingly drunk.  To put this into perspective, my dad usually drank about a half gallon of vodka a night.  So when I say he was drunk, I mean he was terribly drunk.  That led to fights, slurs, stumbles, accidents, hurt and eventually him passing out with a lit cigarette in his hand – to which I often put out at the end of the night when I heard it was finally quiet, and safe.

My mom started out as a very loving and doting mother.  But, from the years of isolation and an inability to self-reflect or grow on her own, she too began to drink as a coping mechanism.  Alcoholism ran in her family as well so it came as no surprise why she married a drunk or why she herself found it easy to treat her symptoms with alcohol.  However, that left my sister and I very much alone.

I responded to this by becoming a classic internalizer.  I felt so much of the responsibility in my household that when problems arose, I turned the blame on myself and wanted to mediate the entire family until there was peace again.  Which, there could never be because alcoholism doesn’t allow that.  I often found myself depressed, anxious and drained by the internal voice in my head constantly criticizing and accusing me of things I’d never really done.

Because of this internal monologue, I decided it was probably better for me to just live in the woods, so that’s what I did.  I retreated inward, into my dark cave of anger, confusion, hormones, self-hatred and dying light of childhood and went into the woods.  I slept under the stars, exhaled the sunrise, listened to fawns gingerly walking towards me on the ever-so-loud crunchy autumn leaves.  And in this solicitude, I started to find some semblance of peace.  But, I also found loneliness.

It took me another 10 years to figure out how to quiet my mind, sync in with myself and my world and my love and realize that I’m never alone.  It took me 10 painstaking years of dating, promiscuity, drinking, drugs, depression, anger, boxing and eventually deep-healing for me to fill that often-referred-to as “God-sized” hole inside of myself.

Now, when I hear myself chanting “sit,” I remember that fawn walking on those leaves.  I see the slideshow of grief and moves and echoes of myself – and they all remind me that I am here, I am whole, I am worthy and I am forever surrounded by love because I am love.  Fear was only a self-induced mechanism to aid in my survival.  Loneliness was just another label for something I didn’t understand, which was quiet.

“Sit, sit, sit, sit, sit, sit..”  and so it goes.

It’s Not Purpose – It’s Important Life’s Work

IT'S NOT PURPOSE - IT'S IMPORTANT LIFE'S WORK

To friends that are close with me, I say that my purpose in this life is unconditional love.  But that statement is such a short cliff note of what I truly mean.  First of all, I think saying that I have a purpose is like saying a single ant’s purpose is to build a colony for it’s queen.  When from a grander perspective, ants as a whole, aerate the soil so water and nutrients can flow directly to plant roots, they serve as food for birds and lizards, and they distribute seeds by storing them in their tunnels.

I don’t know what my humanly purpose is much like an ant doesn’t know what his ant-ly purpose is.  However, I do think what I choose to focus on here is important and my focus is unconditional love.

Nine years ago, when I realized that I wouldn’t make the kind of money I needed as a photojournalist, I was heartbroken.  I had $23,000+ in student loan debt and I lived in California, one of the most expensive states in the U.S..  I didn’t want to move back home and I was freelancing for (sometimes) 90 hours a week to pay my bills.  I lived comfortably, which was a step up from being homeless.  Something I also experienced for a month straight out of college.  I was grateful for the roof, the food, the work – but I was also alone in my apartment every single day for a year.

After I ‘gave up my dream of becoming a photojournalist,’ I realized that I could look at things in three different ways:

  1. That I gave up my ‘dreams’ and my ‘purpose’ and I sold out.
  2. That I chose a career that provided me financial security, while I could still pursue my passions in life: photography & journalism.
  3. That I can dream, that I can envision a pursuit for my life. Acknowledge that gift, and realize I can do anything else I want and it can change at any time.

I chose the third. (And a little bit of the second).  Once I realized that my career, and my financial well-being were not determining who I was or what I wanted to represent, that freed me up to dream even bigger.  And believe me, as someone who has spent 9 years dedicating her life to unconditional love – this is the biggest thing I can think of still to this day.  And that brings me to my next point.  What’s so important about unconditional love?

The reason why I chose this as my study and my important life’s work is to receive an endless and infinite answer. Love, time, and the universe are pretty much all I think about.  They’re definitely all I write about and my poetry can’t seem to find anything else to grip on to.  I tried writing a poem about a day in the life of my cat and that turned into a love poem too.

Unconditional love is a daily practice.  I have to give it to myself, try to receive it from the world, bestow it to others – even to people that I may be mad at for not using their blinker.  Seriously though, it’s so easy, I just don’t understand.

Sometimes unconditional love means boundaries.  Sometimes it means ending a really loving, authentic and genuinely happy relationship because you know you aren’t right for each other and you’re enabling your partner.  Sometimes it means saying goodbye to your dad every day so you can love yourself and heal. Sometimes it means ending friendships because they aren’t healthy for you.  Sometimes it means being honest and admitting something you don’t like about yourself. Sometimes it means putting your cat to sleep because she has diabetes and is about to go unconscious into a coma.

Sometimes you have to receive it, even if you don’t feel worthy.  Sometimes it feels too beautiful and too good to be given to you.  But sometimes, it’s easy though, too.  It’s all around and ready to be felt and absorbed and accepted and then churned inside of you to be handed over like a gift to passersby.  It’s in the sound of the wind, the dancing fall of the yellow leaf, the mother gently caressing the soft cheek of her young baby and the woman pushing her elderly dog in a stroller.

Sometimes unconditional love is selflessness, and other times it’s compassion.  Every day it reveals itself in a new, beautiful and expansive form.  Every day I learn something new about people, about myself and about my important life’s work. One day I will even figure out the words to describe what I’ve learned.  Until then, I’ll just write love poems.

Unconditional
You are the first name I hear upon waking,
The wind dancing in my hair.
When the sun turns gold
And the light feels old,
I hear you once more.

 

Grieving with Gratitude

GRIEVING WITH GRATITUDE

I miss my dad so much right now.  Today it’s been exactly one month since his passing.  I miss so many things and it all floods into my awareness at the same time.  I miss his voice, and the way he said, “I love you.”  The other day I recalled how my dad would congratulate me for doing something good at work.  He used to always say, “You’re kickin’ ass and takin’ names, sweetie.”  Tonight, I miss how he would tell me everything was going to be okay and that he knew I’d figure it out because he raised a strong young woman.  I miss his confidence in me.

We only really got to know one another over the last 8 years and that time together meant so much to me, especially now in retrospect. I remember that evening so well.  I was standing out on our back porch by the pine tree that sits outside of my window.  It was summer, one of the last summers I spent with my family in Michigan. The sky was glowing lava red with splashes of blood orange and yellow.  I miss those summer sunsets.

My dad walked out, cocktail in hand.  At the time, his cocktail of choice was a large glass of vodka with about a teaspoon of club soda and grapefruit juice.  He walked right up next to me, stood silently for a few minutes and then very clearly asked if I thought he was an alcoholic.  I said, “I can’t answer that for you, Dad.  Do you think you have a problem with drinking?”  He said “no,” with a sweetness that came across as quite genuine.  I said, “Well then, turns out you’re not an alcoholic.”

He then proceeded to apologize for not being a very good dad but that he’d like the opportunity to try.  I told him I’d really like that.  That all I wanted was for him to be interested in my life, and to participate in my life with me.  The sunset faded to a haze of purple and pink, and from that day on, my dad was more present with me than he ever had been.  He asked me questions about work, my friends, my boyfriends and never gave me suggestions unless I asked.  He was a very good dad.

Alcohol, poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking is what inevitably killed my father at the young and abrupt age of 66.  He had advanced cardiovascular disease that went undiagnosed and his body just shut down.  I do believe my dad drank too much, and I believe it was an old and bad coping mechanism.  I think he did it to relieve stress, to not feel, to entertain himself, to numb his boredom, to forget even.  Because of some of the tragic things that happened throughout my childhood, I think he bore a lot of guilt and shame. And unfortunately, he was not willing to confront those demons.

I’m grateful I said everything I wanted to say to him.  I’m grateful I had the courage to heal myself, confront my own resentments and hurts and then love my dad wholeheartedly for 8 years.  I’m grateful that I was able to enjoy his company, his humor, his mocking my “libralism.”  I’m grateful that he put in the effort, something I noticed every single day.  And just two days before he passed, he left me what might have been his first voicemail ever, where he congratulated me on my new apartment and how everything was going well over there.  He called me sweetie one last time.  He said I love you one last time. I’m so grateful for all of that.

There is a special bond between a parent and their child.  If you currently have an estranged or messy relationship with one or both of  your parents, but hope in your heart that you can somehow make it fruitful, I would like to stand up and say that it is possible. I worked tirelessly at reestablishing my relationship with my father and I was able to.  And then, I was able to enjoy him for the remainder of his years.  A gift I wish I could give everyone.

Gratitude for the shiny moments you get with someone truly special is what turns grief into happy remembrance.

Dear “I Need To Know Myself,”

DEAR "I NEED TO KNOW MYSELF"

READ TIME: 10 minutes

Dear “I need to know myself,”

Relationships can be so difficult.  No matter what type of relationship; a father and daughter, friendships, or in your circumstance, with your long-term committed partner. I too have cheated in the past, and I commend you on reestablishing your relationship and working through the broken trust, the betrayal and the hurt.  That is no small feat.  You faced shame, self-loathing and depression.  You self-reflected and internalized and came to a realization that you still loved the man you hurt and then you stood vulnerable in front of him and asked for compassionate forgiveness.

I am sorry to hear this newly reignited relationship isn’t what you thought it would be. I’m sorry it’s causing you confusion and discomfort.  Here are some things that I hope might bring you some relief:

This pain is temporary.

You don’t have to make any decisions today.

You had mentioned wanting to know yourself.  That, if you did leave your partner, it was only to discover what you truly wanted and needed.  I will say, with understanding love, that you can do this regardless of circumstance.  Emotional work is similar to any other kind.  As an example, my husband used to say, “If we had more light in this apartment, I’d be able to do more work.”  “If we had thicker walls where I knew my music wouldn’t be heard by others, then I would practice more.” “If I just meditated regularly, went to yoga every day and ate a consistently healthy diet then I would feel more mindful.”  Those are all very likely and accurate statements.  However, we only have control over so much.  Circumstances won’t always be perfect. That’s like saying that in order for a flower to grow, they require the perfect amount of water, sunshine, space and nutrient-rich soil.  But sometimes, like in L.A., we see flowers sprouting from concrete!

Now, I’m not saying that you should stay in an unhappy relationship by any means.  But I am giving you permission to look for opportunity for change exactly as you are now.  Here’s a beginners guide to help you figure out what you might need to find balance in your life.  And this balance might eventually help you discover who you are:

  1. Am I in a safe place to practice self-love? (Is this relationship healthy enough for you to stay and work on yourself?)

If you do not feel like you can take the time to practice self-love in this relationship, then you may need to take some solo time to learn to love yourself.  Then try to figure out why and how you got into a relationship that didn’t place importance on self-love and personal growth.

  1. Back to the basics:
    1. Have I been drinking enough water?
    2. Have I been eating well?
    3. Do I get enough regular sleep?
    4. Have I done any form of exercise? (even a 10-minute walk a day)
    5. Do I get regular amounts of sunshine?

If you feel like you have not been taking care of these areas of your life, start slowly, and then monitor the progress.

  1. Below is a list of areas in personal life; what feels like it needs the most work?:
    1. Intellectual (am I learning, reading, expanding?)
    2. Mental (do I feel depressed, anxious, restless?)
    3. Emotional (have I felt erratic, chaotic, confused?)
    4. Physical (am I tired? Lonely? Does my body ache?)
    5. Spiritual (do I feel purposeless, aimless or stagnant?)

Each one of these areas is a key component to your self-love practice.  Each one has a new and separate solutions and a variety of ways to access the answers. If anyone reading this wants to know the best way to answer some of these questions – please reach out and I’ll write a separate post on how I’ve trained myself to look intently and honestly at these aspects of my life to find a more comfortable daily balance.

  1. What do I like?

This is a very important step.  Determining what you like, what you enjoy and how you can do more of it is crucial in understanding yourself. Do you like to bake?  When was the last time you did that?  Why has it been so long?  Can you do more of it, and regularly?

  1. How can I communicate this to others/my partner?

It’s one thing to know that you are taking care of yourself, to know that each area of your person is supported and loved by YOU and that you are fulfilled in the things you enjoy doing in life – and it’s another to TELL someone all of this and see if they align with you.  Being rigorously honest is not confrontation.  Let me repeat that for the cheap seats:

BEING RIGOROUSLY HONEST IS NOT CONFRONTATION.

Sometimes I talk to friends and they are scared to tell their partners how they truly feel or what they truly want because they are afraid of their reaction.  We have no control and no responsibility over other people’s reactions.  It is, however, our responsibilities as partners and as humans to say what we want, what we like, what pleases us and displeases us and it is up to the other human on how they choose to respond to this.  None of this has to be confrontational – we can be rigorously honest with love, compassion, kindness and empathy.

Once you meet yourself, it’s very easy to be honest with others.  It’s usually in the “space in-between” when we feel like we are confrontational because we want to place blame on them for not telling us what we want. Or we are so confused with our own internal systems that we can’t tell someone else what’s going on because we have no idea what’s going on!

The 5 steps above can take time.  It is a daily practice for me, but it took me months, if not years, to fully learn how to satisfy the various aspects of my personality. So be patient with yourself.  Be gentle, kind and patient.  No one really teaches you how to love yourself – unless you had kick-ass parents!  Most of us are just clumsily trying to figure it out on our own.  But, in my life, the best way for me to learn who I was – was by looking at myself openly, honestly, raw, and real. The shiny spots and the dark spots.  The kitty-shelter volunteer and the girl who had an affair with a married man.  The liar and the granddaughter that called her grandpa every Sunday for a year when he was depressed and lonely. No one is perfect.  We all have done something that we tragically wish we hadn’t – but I do not regret any step I’ve made on my path because it brought me closer to myself, closer to my universal architect and closer to you.  I’m more human and more myself today than I was yesterday.

I hope you find this helpful in getting to know yourself, loving yourself and being able to communicate more lovingly and authentically with your partner.  Thank you for opening up to me and trusting me. You are so loved.

Chapter 1: Weeds

CHAPTER 1: WEEDS

WEEDS
I’ve always loved solving problems.  That’s why I excelled in school, I liked the feeling of not understanding a complicated question and then working diligently until finding the solution.  That moment of completion, of knowledge, of pride has been a driving force in my life.  The more challenging the problem, the more excited I am to learn and master the resolution. So it seems fitting that the hardest problem I’ve had to solve, has been myself.  Something that I have had to genuinely work hard at to solve, every day.

While sitting on a couch the size of a small submarine, engulfed by pillows and faced in front of a psychotherapist, I realized I was broken.  I was the problem.  I was the common denominator in all of the bad relationships, the failed friendships, my sadness, loneliness and my crippling fear.  I experienced them all and I created them all and I was a part of them all.

Her name was Chris.  She was a short woman of maybe 65 years, she had a youthful face, but you could hear in her voice she had lived, seen and conquered.  Her blue eyes, overdone mascara and short, pixie length strawberry blonde hair reminded all her patients that she was once a real beauty.  Chris was my Cognitive Behavioral Therapist for over 2 years. Her patience, forcefulness and raw honesty guided me through PTSD, manic depression, borderline personality disorder and suicidal impulses.

I believe we have to tend to our mental and emotional health like gardens, attentively and regularly, to make sure we are remaining teachable, grateful, open-minded, empathetic and cognizant of the world and people around us.  If you just pick the weed’s leaves, it will continue to grow – but if you pull the weed out by its root, it will never sprout again.  But at this time, sitting on this leather sofa with my legs dangling like a child waiting for their mother at the DMV, I did not understand this.  I was just a confused, rattled, angry little girl who had been taught to stigmatize therapy, and live in a perpetual state of denial, guilt and grief.

Chris had me fill out all of these tests that asked about my family’s mental and physical health. She asked me questions about what brought me there and why I felt I needed support.  I told her about the attempted suicide.  I told her about how my childhood was almost all blacked out, except for a few select memories that were so interlaced with nightmares I couldn’t tell the difference anymore.  The words were hot and poured out like lava, burning my tongue and making me sick with the aftertaste of ash.  By the end of my first session I felt high, exhausted, 30 pounds lighter and calm.  I also still wanted to kill myself.

I couldn’t believe the things I just said.  I couldn’t take ownership of my choices because I didn’t feel as if they were my own.  I felt forced into this life, into these circumstances, playing a martyr to all the abuse I faced as a child.  As a woman of 21 years – I could no longer watch myself behaving badly and blaming it on something that happened against my will.  I may not have had control over those moments, but I sure as hell had control of these new, present moments.  The path I was choosing and the woman I was electing to become was someone I did not like.   And how could I possibly go the rest of my life living with someone I disliked?  That’s why suicide looked like the way out.  That’s why it always seemed to look like the way out.

I tried committing suicide twice before.  The first time I was 15-years-old and I think of that little girl now and sometimes I cry for how lonely she felt.  Humans have a remarkably strong will to survive, so strong that we immortalize their tales in movies like, “Apollo 13”, “The Perfect Storm”, “127 Hours” and “The Revenant.”  We are in awe of our own strength, perseverance and this basic human instinct that is so deep-rooted in our genetic makeup that it has kept our species alive for roughly 200,000 years. So to reach a despair as desperate, fragile and bleak as to fight our nature itself is nothing shy of heartbreaking. Seeing that place 3 times now has taught me what hell truly looks like.  It is not engulfed in flames, there is no eternal burning – it’s only numbness.  There is no devil, or demons – there is only yourself.  And after what feels like lifetimes of sleepless nights, restless days and impossible amounts of solutionless problem solving, you come to a decision that it’s better to die than to live.  You become so tired, worn down, so beaten that you have lost any resilience you once had.  There is no longer fear of death because you have felt the most unimaginable pain already and any suffering that exists in the transition of death surely will be more comfortable than what you are currently living through.  At this point in a person’s depression, there is very little that can be said to change or alter the choice.  The only thing left is to plan.

At 15, I planned to hang myself.  It seemed quick enough and I had all the materials already.  On our 40-acre property in rural Michigan we had a large farmhouse barn with high ceilings just outside of our house.  The barn’s walls were made of metal, unlike most of our neighboring farms made from traditional red wood with brown roofing.  Our barn was recognizable because it was a grayish-purple with a bright white top.  My dad kept it in pristine condition, caring for it with time and pride, always raking the gravel and sweeping the wooden floors under his work surfaces.  We built a loft together once, as a family, back when I was younger at maybe the age of 10.  I remember helping bring all the 2×4’s up the ladder in a sort of human escalator.  That same ladder I was now climbing to attach a rope from the ceiling beams no more than 5 years later.  I sat on that loft overlooking my father’s old John Deer tractor.  Remembering with fondness about the time my sister sneezed so hard she slammed her eyes shut and accidentally crashed it into a tree.  My dad was so upset, he yelled at her all night.

Having that fondness quickly morph into hopelessness at the mental remembrance of my dad’s rageful face, I returned to the present moment and how my life was shattered, broken, and unfixable.  I slipped the rope over my little head, with my trembling little hands and wiped the tears from my eyes.  For a moment, I realized how human I was and how remarkable tears were.  I was mesmerized at how people had the capability to make tangible, liquid representations of pain.  And how I had gotten to a point in my young life where I felt like I didn’t have any more tears to give to the world.  When your depression is past the point of feeling and you’ve transitioned in the pits of numbness that is a truly terrifying place to exist.  My insides felt rotten.  I already felt dead and like there was no spirit of a child left anymore. And with that, I stepped off the side of the loft that I helped build with my family.

One thing that happens when you go to therapy is that you become aware of all of the weeds in your garden very quickly.  Like when you’re lying in a bath tub, propped up with your feet against the other side and then all of a sudden your footing slips, you lose grip and before you know it, your heads dunked underwater.  I was drowning by my third appointment.  Hell on earth was becoming a frequent gas station on my road, instead of it being in my rear view mirror.  I didn’t want to keep filling my tank up with negativity, self-hatred and pity.  I wanted to understand how people function in society.  How they cultivate happiness and exude joy.  Was it just pretend or do people actually have that in their lives?  It all felt so comparative and judgmental in my mind.  And although I never felt like life owed me happiness, I wanted to see if people could actually obtain it and if so, how.  I wanted to live more than a few years without crippling depression, anxiety and perpetual guilt for something as meek as existing.  Chris said she could help me.  And for whatever reason, I trusted her.

She told me about how she had been an alcoholic for 20 some odd years and that felt safe to me.  I knew alcoholics well.  My dad was one (although he never sought sobriety), my mom was one (although she always said, “there’s nothing wrong with a few cocktails after a long day.”)  My Aunt was one (when I knew her, before my family ex-communicated her).  My grandpa was one (but he was a dry drunk by the time I was born) and the list goes on and on.  If Al-Anon got one thing right – it’s that alcoholism is a family disease.  It pollutes the addicts and everyone that loves them.  So, when I heard Chris was an alcoholic, but had been in recovery for 25+ years, I felt like she would get it.

We jumped from current events in my life to past events quite frequently.  We didn’t focus on my parents, or the drinking, or the abuse, but rather what choices I was making now and how much they pained me.  She never judged me.  She only told me lovingly and harshly when I was making patterned choices that continuously led me into circumstances I wanted to avoid. My patterns were very clear: men.  I loved men.  I loved falling in love with men.  I loved men falling in love with me.  I loved the cat and mouse games.  And it’s all so clear why, and it’s all so cliche.  I was a neglected, lonely, insecure girl.  Getting attention from anyone was a surprise and a delight.  But the men I kept playing with were very unhealthy.

One of the first learnings I had in therapy was that unhealthy women attract unhealthy men.  And I was very unhealthy.  I also had been living in chaos my entire life, so I only really felt comfortable in chaotic relationships.  To define my chaos: I never wanted to feel stable, I wanted to question your love.  I wanted a man who would always look over his shoulder at another woman.  Maybe just slightly or completely emotionally unavailable.  They needed to be an artist, but not a kind, flowery one – a brooding, depressed, consistently miserable one.  Because when I made them smile, I knew I did a good job that day. Make sure they smoked, drank, had a mean streak.  I liked that.  I liked the “heroin-chic look.”  I wanted to question if you were ever in rehab.  I wanted to question if I was safe with you.

These unhealthy relationships were the torment of my current situation and why I started going to therapy and Al-Anon in the first place.  The unhealthiest of all my relationships, the one that brought me to my knees, the one that had me blacked out on my patio in the middle of California winter waking up from a drug-induced, hallucinated state and the one that finally gave me recovery and healing was my 2 year “relationship” with my married boss.

I awoke on the barn floor and I could hear Jo-Jo, Mittens and Cupcake, our three outdoor barn cats, rustling in the hay stack behind me.  I took a deep breath and coughed as the sandy floor got in my mouth and lungs.  Starting to groggily and weakly look around, it was as if I had risen from an all too realistic and haunting lucid dream.  The freshly raked gravel on the floor hurt, my skin felt so sensitive.  Like I hadn’t been in my body for a year and suddenly, the feeling was turned back on.  I felt every stone and pebble piercing into my shoulder, forearm and hip.  Propping myself up on my hand, after what felt like 30 minutes, I realized I had not succeeded in killing myself.

I didn’t tie the rope correctly. I didn’t understand how a noose worked and without the internet, I just tied it with a bunch of knots.  Like a flash, I recalled what happened with great sensation.  The knots dug into my skin.  The rope was tight but not tight enough.  My heart raced and I was panicked.  I couldn’t breathe, my feet were kicking, and unable to touch the floor I pulled at the rope gasping, alone and scared.  Flashes of hot flesh on my neck and hands.  The pain seared from external to internal.  I felt heat and pressure in my face, pulsing behind my eyes. My back arched and legs started to straighten, feeling heavy as I tried to reach for anything to make it stop.  The will to live clicked back on.  As I started to slip out of consciousness, my last thought was “not yet.”

My throat aching, still coughing and without feeling I stood up.  And like a familiar ritual, I cleaned up the mess I made, covered the shame and walked back to the house to go to sleep and to wake again in the morning for another day.