Worry Clouds and Melon Sorbet

The first thing sobriety changed for the better for me almost immediately was my sleep. From terrible sleeping patterns with waking up several times with the sweats and palpitations, it was only a few days in that I ended up falling asleep quickly (although to be fair, when I was drinking I’d be out like a light) and then sleep solidly until morning. Because being sober is a change for me, I’ve taken pleasure in noting all changes and even when I’ve felt bad for whatever reason I’ve enjoyed being able to experience my emotions completely as they are without anaesthesia. Even when I’ve felt really crappy it’s been a positive thing to just be faced with the actual crap, as opposed to a big, wet cluster fuck of wine soaked mess that may or may not contain an actual message from my soul. Plus I used to be too fucked from either being too drunk or too hungover to begin to untangle it anyway. Goes without saying that no matter what I’m feeling, when those emotions come along I’m awake, alert and ready to take them on no matter what they’re bringing me.

And here’s where I want to salute Mother Nature again for equipping me with this excellent survival system – all our senses are there to keep us alive! Even fear is our friend, if you think about it, Mother Nature’s genius way of letting us know that we need to watch out. And so I think of feelings as my subconscious sending me signals. Feeling good = keep doing that! Feeling bad = hm, let’s have a look at what’s going wrong here shall we?

This week has been quite crappy so far. I’ve been irritable and unsettled. Some I’ve assumed to be the work of hormones given I do get a bit down when Auntie Flo pays a visit, but this is worse than I usually get. I’ve slept badly over the past few nights. Not as badly as I did when I was drinking, but much worse than at any other point during these blissful five-plus months of sweet sobriety. Nightmares, lying awake, having trouble going to sleep. Can I just say though, that even when I’m feeling off and sleep badly, I still get to wake up without a hangover so even after a night of bad sleep I’m feeling miles better than I did during the Drunken Years. Either way, it’s been horrible lying there in the dark, unable to get comfortable, my jaw clenched and thoughts spinning webs of worry and anxiety. My jaw is cramping and achy – it’s where I carry stress. Some people carry it in their shoulders, for me it’s in my jaw.

Because I get to feel properly for the first time since I was actually in my late twenties, I don’t know what to make of it and it really frightens me. This isn’t a chemically induced alco dip. This is the stuff I’m feeling and I can’t immediately see any logical reason. Oh yeah, and there it is – my heart is beating faster than normal too. Hello palpitations, long time no see, how’ya been? What if I’m now plunging into depression or anxiety, or, heaven forbid, both? I’ve not been sober long enough before to truly feel everything so now that I do it can be overwhelming. What is this? Is it anxiety? Is it a lurking depression? The rational part of me kicks in and I decide I can only begin to understand this by spending some time with ME. Hubby is also tossing and turning, plus we went to bed pissed off with each other so his tossing is of the exaggerated kind – it’s like trying to fall asleep in a bouncy castle loaded with toddlers. When I’m confident he’s finally gone to sleep, I get up as quietly as I can, picking up my trackie bottoms and tank top from the floor and take them with me as I tip-toe out of the bedroom. I only put them on when I’m in the living room. And there I sit, at 1.30am, vaping and wishing I could make myself some coffee, giving my soul a private audience and waiting for it to help me understand what it’s trying to tell me.

Except the occasional breath that tastes of melon sorbet and menthol, I focus on my breathing and although it’s dark I close my eyes as an invitation to my mind to serve up any stresses I need to deal with. What are the images? What are the emotions? What am I so in knots about? Most of all I try to figure out what I’m feeling just sitting there alone in the middle of the night with only myself for company, doing nothing but breathing. I figure if I discover it’s uncomfortable I’m in trouble. What if it’s being me that’s uncomfortable and has me in this state? What then? I feel a little tearful at the thought but I know that I need to face this head on and if I can stare down the beast I can bloody search within myself for the cause of pain if I have to. So I do. For someone who has always detested any new age hippy-dippy shit I’m not exactly good at this but do my best. Inhale, exhale, fill my chest and then let it sink back – over and over until my mind agrees to focus on this only. I like it. It’s relaxing and it feels good. I go on to “think through” my whole body – this is quite funny because it’s something my childhood friend M sort of taught me. She used to get stoned and then do this as a way to relax her whole body and then claimed it was like she was in some sort of trance like state. I’ve never been much for drugs and so didn’t join in when it came to weed, but this little procedure of hers did stay with me. I start from the bottom up: I think of my toes, each one in turn and what they look like, the position they’re in, both visualise and feel each part and then the same thing throughout my entire body moving up through my feet, legs and so on. It doesn’t send me into a different dimension (possibly because I’m not stoned) but it does do the trick and I can finally feel my jaw relax and the tension in me lift.

When I’ve untied mind from being bundled up in a tight and whirring tangle of anxiety, the spikes go from struggling to buzz and strike at me all at once and all my worries and fears are just floating around me in separate little clouds, I can calmly examine them one by one. They don’t feel so charged and prickly anymore because I’ve given them this audience and each will have their turn instead of trying to shoot and crackle their way into my conscious that’s been locked down by anxiety.

Yup, there’s stuff in one in particular that hurts no matter how I turn it over. I feel the bumps and lumps and discover I can’t heal this pain or change it. This can only be lived through but I do reluctantly realise I have to be less selfish and that some of the angst I feel comes from putting myself first and losing sight of what’s important. Chuck in a little forgiveness and the tangle is less severe. The little cloud of worry still hovers around me and will continue to do so, possibly for a very, very long time and maybe even forever, but if I can reel myself back in like this once in a while and regain my focus on what matters it’s going to be much easier. I find a number of other little clouds that are just pathetic. The sort of clouds that have formed because I’ve just fucking lost another few marbles – stuff I’ve ended up worrying about for no apparent reason and even if there was reason to worry there’s nothing I can do about it. Those clouds I need to figure out what to do with – how to stop wasting energy worrying about stuff I can do literally fuck all about. Answers on a postcard please. With the rest of the little clouds that patiently wait there as they’re hovering around me, it’s mostly a case of acknowledging them and trying to be really fucking zen about it. Genuinely try to give each problem a little score or label to indicate how real and important it is and my level of power to change it.

So nothing has changed, really. It’s in the middle of the night and I’ve just sat on my own in a dark room with nothing but my breathing for company. But my thoughts, or my worry clouds rather, have calmed down because I gave them my full attention and that made them stop shooting lightning all over my mind like the little drama queens that they are.

I quietly and carefully creep back into bed. I don’t cuddle up to hubby because I’m still pissed off with him and at this point he is to my mind the one of us who was more of a dick last night. I may engage in the odd little spell of meditation but I’m still me and right now he’s a git. And that’s OK. My thoughts have quietened, worry and stress at least temporarily lifted and clouds dispersed for now. And I can finally sleep.

Oh, I’m still having a shitty week. But hey, that’s cool too. At least I know what I’m feeling, what I’m ACTUALLY feeling and not a haze of booze depression or paranoia. All home grown worry clouds here, folks! Au natural!

Today I’m not going to drink.

The State of Vera’s Glass

Ever encountered an energy thief? I can, as I write this, think of two people in my life who can with just a look sap me of energy and drain away every last little happy vibe. I don’t know where it comes from but perhaps it’s again all back to this need we all probably have: see me, see me! Some wish to be acknowledged, appreciated, validated. I’m trying to live my life according to a whole bunch of new principles and perspectives, and one of them is “never assume bad intent“. This means I am making a concerted effort to stop for a moment and not go with my initial reaction when the reaction is negative. I.e. when I feel irritated, offended or even angry. My intention is to pause for a moment and ascertain if my reaction is indeed valid due to another’s crappy action, or if it’s an exaggerated or even faulty response mechanism that engages and fires because there is something in me that’s off somehow. If I land at the conclusion that the action itself is crappy and my reaction to it is sound, I want to see if I can understand where it’s come from because I just don’t believe there are many people who are just inherently shitty. Gosh, talk about over analysing stuff, but I’m in that sort of mood this week. And yes, I am irritable, possibly due to hormones. Hah! It kind of frightens me to think what I might be like when I hit the menopause and they kick in for real, I’ll be delightful I’m sure.

Anyway.

For all my flaws and shortcomings, I think anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I’m a pretty positive person. My default setting seems to be sunny. Thank God. They’d possibly also say I’m sensitive. I mean, you could probably quite easily, with minimum effort make me either feel really low or exuberantly high. Boom. Case in point: if my bosses are sour faced and quiet I immediately feel a bit ill and assume they hate me, but if they are smiley and chatty it’s enough to make me feel appreciated and accomplished. Both reactions in me that are utterly disproportionate to the actions themselves. But I know this – my emotional antenna is WAY too finely tuned and I can plunge into both inexplicable joy and sorrow for others as well as myself. Exhausting, as I’m sure you can imagine. Another thing I am working on but generally accept to be part of who I am, but being aware of it does help. We’re all different and whereas some people are more sensitive to, say, physical pain or bright lights or strong flavours or whatever it might be, it just happens to be the case that I get the feels very easily. It does also mean that whenever there’s an energy thief around, I go down faster than a fat kid on a see-saw.

One of the two energy thieves I could think of just now that I’m writing this is Vera. I’m naming her that because she was drinking an aleo vera drink just earlier with the motivation it might make her less tired. I like Vera a lot, she is super duper sweet, but I don’t think she has EVER responded to my “how are you?” with anything other than a sad grimace and a so-so hand gesture. OK, I can’t say I’m a bundle of boundless joy this week and we all have our ups and downs – of bloody course we do, it’s LIFE! – but Vera’s glass is not even half full, it’s never had anything in it, the fucking glass is empty. Worse than that, it’s broken and she has severely cut her mouth as a result. Her tongue is almost completely severed and she is bleeding to death. That’s the state of Vera’s glass.

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I don’t know where it comes from in Vera’s case. It’s not that she is spoilt and just won’t appreciate what she has, because she has worked her arse off her whole life and has built up an impressive life from nothing. She’s had nothing handed to her and her work ethic would put any of us to shame. Especially me, unfocused and lazy bugger that I am. Vera’s life I’m sure many would envy. Due to aforementioned hard work, she has now placed herself in a very nice position for the future, having laid solid foundations not only for her baby daughter but also for any further “at least one more” children she and her partner may have. At a glance, she’s got it made. And yet she never has a good day, never seems to be really happy about anything. Of course, I’m sure people could look at me and say the same things – list a bunch of stuff off the cuff and conclude I have nothing to complain about. I have a happy and healthy kid and a loving husband, and we live in a home where we are warm and safe, never worrying about putting food on the table. I’m sure for many people someone else could just take a brief look in through the window and not see any reason why we might complain, and of course there is always more to everything than first meets the eye. I just think some of us are wired the way Vera seems to be and focus on the downers more than the uppers, even when the uppers are right up in our faces. I don’t want this to slip into a discussion about depression, which is something different altogether and comes for you regardless of whether you’re a prince or a pauper. Depression doesn’t give a shit about reasons to be happy or sad, it’s nothing to do with that. Well – I don’t know enough about depression to embark on anything further, so let’s leave it there. This post is about energy thieves and a negative outlook on life, and what I’ve diagnosed Vera with is a piss poor, negative, broken glass attitude.

If I compliment her on her hair, she complains that she found a grey hair and if I say her dress really suits her she’ll complain she gained a few pounds. If I tell her that her daughter is so lovely, Vera will immediately point out how she kept her up all night. If I comment that it must be such a great feeling knowing she’s nearly paid off her mortgage she sighs and recounts how she feels like an old lady due to working. Actually, the way she put it was like this: “oh, I probably won’t get to enjoy it, my body is worn out, it will be too old too soon“. Vera is in her early 30s and is a waitress. Yes, she is on her feet all day and yes, she carries stuff around more than an office worker, but REALLY?

Unless she has some awful, devilish side to her I’ve never seen, this just can’t come from a bad place. Perhaps she needs reassurance that she has done well. Like we all do sometimes, perhaps she wants and needs a pat on the back for having worked so hard? I’ve tried to say to her that it’s impressive to have done what she’s done but it only results in that wistful look and an exasperated sigh over how life is so tough. I don’t want to take any of that away from her, I don’t want to minimise how she feels because her experience is her experience and it’s not up to me to validate or approve it. It just makes me feel so TIRED. So it’s back to me. Me, me, me. I soak up her words and her vibes and magnify them within myself to the point where I am massively affected by them and allow them to adjust my own outlook from happy to sad. Because I do feel sad any time I’ve had a chat with Vera. I’m left feeling a little exhausted, actually.

Then take Olive, named here due to her olive skin that I envy enormously, who may have what many of us would refer to as ‘It All’ but whose young son has a rare form of cancer and has spent more days at hospital than he has at home. Olive can absolutely talk of the heartbreak and absolute nightmare they endure on pretty much a daily basis, but she just doesn’t sweat the small stuff. If I compliment her on her dress she’ll light up and do a twirl and comment on either where she got it or how she bought one in a different colour too because she loves the material. If we talk about grey hair she’ll giggle about something or make a joke and somehow I walk away not with fewer grey hairs but certainly much less worried about any of them. In fact I walk away quite liking the grey hairs I have after discussing them with Olive. Olive has that effect and it’s the very opposite to Vera.

Funny, isn’t it? Goes to show how life and our experiences are a direct result of our thoughts and attitude. I believe that 100%. OK, so we can’t THINK away cancer or the like, but we can always, every time and without exception choose our approach and reactions or at least do something about those. I think if Vera had Olive’s attitude, she’d bounce up each morning and feel gratitude. With Vera’s attitude I reckon Olive would have just given up. Or dragged the whole world down with her. It’s one of the first things about doing the 12 steps really, as far as I’m concerned, or anything at all that we decide to do: having hope. Without hope and a belief that it’ll all come good, where do we get the energy to even try or begin? When I speak with Vera I get the impression that she feels hopeless, that she’s just doing all of this but it’s all pretty pointless and she’ll never have any reward. Well, her body is getting too old too soon, remember? Then Olive, who seems to approach each day with a sense of purpose and hope. World’s apart.

Again, I don’t know what it is that makes Vera so negative about life or so prone to immediately focus on the downsides even in the face of something really positive, but I do know that as usual there is only one thing I can control: myself. I’m not sure how to though, because I’m not going to cut Vera off or stop talking to her. As I mentioned, she is actually a super lovely person. I need to somehow not let it grate on me or get me down when she focuses on the negatives in situations. But how?

Do you know an energy thief who also happens to be someone you either can’t or won’t cut off? How do you manage your reaction to them? Is there a clever way of being immune to their negativity?

In other news, it’s the battle of the neutrals this afternoon – Sweden vs Switzerland in the World Cup. I try to tell myself I don’t care that much, but I do. And then England vs Colombia. The English fans are always really cocky and it’s all football’s coming home, but who knows, they might be right as long as they don’t underestimate Colombia…

Today I’m not going to drink.

Dancing With Hemorrhoids

There’s this woman who really rubs me up the wrong way. It’s ridiculous because I don’t know her and I’ve never met her in my life, we just happen to be part of the same Facebook group. Because this is so pathetic (on my part obviously, not hers) it made me wonder why it is that I allow myself to become wound up at what someone says online. And, may I add, nothing she’s ever expressed in that Facebook group has been aimed at me personally or anything I could possibly take offence at. It’s mad, isn’t it? I can only conclude that I have too much time on my hands or something, but that can’t be it because life is usually busy. Am I bitter and alone? Is that it? Nope, not that either. At least I don’t think I am? Am I? No. Surely not. I wake up each morning, this one included, feeling happy and content. Except yesterday, I wasn’t fucking content then with a cramping uterus. But this isn’t about my period cramps from hell. It’s about me being mysteriously bothered by a woman I don’t know and with whom I have zero dealings. I need to figure this out – right now! – and once I have, rightfully feel bloody stupid and laugh at myself before proceeding to let this nonsense go. Here goes.

Let’s call her Needs-a-Poo because when I read what she writes I imagine her voice to be like when you really need to do a poo or are in the process of squeezing out something akin to a bear’s arm. It’s not as nice or poetic as Dances With Wolves (and may we all take a moment here to appreciate Kevin Costner’s arse, although 20 years on it probably doesn’t look like that anymore) but I am in a bitchy mood and also petulantly childish, the woman irritates me and this is my blog so I name people what I want.

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Actually, looking at it now in that picture it’s nowhere near as good as I remembered it to be and Mr Costner also has chicken legs, eurgh. His bottom (even here, 20 years ago) is a bit flat, no? I need to sneakily take a photo of hubby and stick on here to illustrate naked male perfection, the guy has the most divine bottom and his legs should be fucking illegal. I swear if I weren’t married to him I’d end up in prison for just what goes on in my head when aforementioned divine bottom and illegal legs are on display. I hate people who brag and I hate people who are smug, but again, this is my blog although now it’d appear I’m behaving precisely in Needs-a-Poo’s online manner. Can’t express it enough though, my husband is what I, if I weren’t married to him, would refer to as prison bait. I literally can’t walk past him without slapping him on the bum or pinching or groping him. Even when he’s eating and dropping half a sandwich down his front (I keep wondering what happens at work lunches and dinners – I mean, how on earth does he get by then?) I want to molest him. Perfection in a lovely well built kiwi package. Yummy–dum-dum. OK, enough, I feel Bad Me taking over and need to get back to what I was actually wanting to talk about. Needs-a-Poo.

So what does she write and comment on that makes me spend energy sighing and rolling my eyes? Well, it’s exactly what I’ve just engaged in without inhibition – bragging. So the discussion could be about anything at all but the most recent I can think of was a parenting discussion around bedtimes. Most people then added what time their kids go to bed and their ages. Needs-a-Poo did the same but went on to add that her precious dahr-ling does swimming before school and then pony riding and tennis after so she’s oh so tired and needs plenty of sleep. Another time someone had asked a question related to school uniforms and Needs-a-Poo felt the need to get in to her response how unique and gifted her child is. I genuinely don’t know why it grates on me the way it does! But anyway, Needs-a-Poo always seems eager – or even desperate – to put across how nice her house is, how well her kid is doing at school or whatever, what a good area they live in and so on. I honestly can’t read her comments without groaning and much eye-rolling.

So I think I have just caught myself when I’m at my most cynical and negative when it comes to Needs-a-Poo. I chucked in a throw-away comment about Kevin Costner’s bottom which was totally random and not even in my head until I typed the first Indian name I could think of that was nicer than ‘Needs-a-Poo’ and that film popped into my head, followed by the scene with naked Mr Costner. I got the picture and then looked at it and realised that this male bottom I used to think was so delicious is nowhere nice as my husband’s. Et fucking cetera. And where did this come from? This incessant and frankly off putting bragging about how hot my husband is that then followed? Where? I’ll tell you where: it came from a place of the purest and strongest love and how I love that big old kiwi so much I can barely breathe. I’m fucking crazy about my lovely, sweet hubby. That’s where it came from. And how, when I look at anything or anyone he could possibly be compared to I can’t even see how the bottom belonging to one of the greatest Hollywood heartthrobs of our time is anything special because hubby is to me the dreamiest creature to ever inhabit this planet. And it’s like I can’t help but shout about it.

Why do I shout about it? Is there part of me who wants you, who reads this blog, to be impressed that I’m married to such a dreamy wonder? Probably not, actually, because you could be precisely the sort of smart, amazing, witty, attractive woman who could steal him away from not as smart, not very amazing, not as witty and not as attractive me! Is there a part of me who wants to show the world hey, this incredible guy chose ME!!!!! Possibly, but I can’t say it’s a huge motivation. Sure, I’m proud of him and I always feel such fondness for him when we’re around my friends and family, joyful at what a great person he is and it fills me with happiness to see how those I love also appreciate him and he them, but that’s not my reason for bragging. In fact, I sometimes feel guilty! Like when a sister-in-law asked what we’d done for Valentine’s and I said we’d had a lovely time and she went “of course you did, with that man!”. I almost felt like I wasn’t worthy. I felt sheepish telling her how hubby had got me flowers and presents and taken me out. I felt the need to tell her what great gifts I’d got for HIM. So do I brag because I want people to know he chose me because it’s ME who totally rocks? Do I brag because it’s lil’ ol’ me I want you to see?

Gosh, that might be approaching the real reason a little – I have, after all, always been utterly desperate for people to like me and care WAY too much what other people think of me. One tiny comment, even if it’s from someone I don’t even like, can crush me and be imprinted in my conscious forever. I’ve always known that about myself because it’s always been there, this inexplicable insecurity that so many of us seem to feel and this sensitivity that means I can go from invincible to dust with just one unkind word. So maybe, just maybe, I’m trying to not just see what’s great about me through hubby, but to get you to like me too. Because, you know, if someone as great as him loves me, then that must mean I’m very, very loveable.

Anyway!

When I brag about hubby, it comes from 1) a place of love, and 2) wanting to be loved.

So what about Needs-a-Poo? If we assume nothing is wrong with her, that in all likelihood means she’s just like any other parent, namely, she loves her daughter so much it’s driving her nuts and wants to shout it from the rooftops. It turns out her daughter is also the result of IVF and years spent trying and repeatedly grieving failure after failure. So perhaps even more so than your average, bog standard parent like me who didn’t go through the same heartbreak to get there, she is even more appreciative of the gift that is parenthood. Who knows? I don’t know where her need to demonstrate what they have in terms of material possessions (their house, their area, their cars and so on) comes from but perhaps she grew up with very little. Or she has worked her arse off to have a life she is now very, very proud of? Or she’s fucking irritating and an incorrigible smart arse braggy boots. Entirely possible too. Or she just wants to be seen and loved like the rest of us. Maybe that’s all there is to it, even if it’s irritating and the voice over that accompanies her comments sounds like someone who is pushing out a mega poo.

This is one of the reasons why I’m loving sobriety – not only do I get to feel all my emotions properly without modification, I also have the luxury of dissecting them and thereby understanding myself better. It’s really interesting – I’m soooooo much more fucked up than I realised and now I can get to know myself for real, fucked-upness and all. Fucked-upness is the new black. When a bad feeling comes, whatever it might be – sadness, anger or, in the case of Needs-a-Poo, irritation – I can slam on the breaks and take a proper look around and see where it came from. So when Needs-a-Poo bleats on about her precious kid, her house or whatever else, is it a case of me worrying that people will run out of love and none will be left for me? I don’t know, I honestly don’t. I do suspect, however, that even though she is infuriatingly, frustratingly annoying, it’s very likely it all just comes from love. So I’m going to close my eyes for a moment, say a little prayer and wish for good things for Needs-a-Poo. There! Don’t get me wrong, she annoys the crap out of me and I want to staple things to her head every time I read her smug and conceited comments and wish a bad case of hemorrhoids on her, but I am, after all, trying to stay connected to a better way of living and be a better me so less of the hemorrhoids and more of the assumption she is basically an OK person. I’m trying, OK?

Sobriety feels good today. No beast in sight at the moment and despite the beautiful summer weather the urge to drink hasn’t really come over me much over the past week. Hard not to imagine drinking when the rest of the world congregates at riverside pubs and beer gardens, but right now it’s plain sailing. In other words, a good time to not only feel gratitude but also be vigilant. Such is the nature of the beast. Ho-hum.

Today I’m not going to drink.