Making Peace with the Past

I have made many bad decisions in my life and hurt a lot of people I wish I hadn’t. I have had traumatic experiences that I have used as excuses for inexcusable behavior. I have spent money I didn’t have, lied, cheated, stole, wasted time, and jumped from one bad relationship to another. Asking the question, “if you could go back, would you change anything…” is pointless from the get. The past is unchangeable; no matter how much we may wish it to be different or not.

We can try and hide from our past. I certainly don’t like who I used to be; no matter how much I thought I was a “good” person at the time. My past actions make my current self feel sick at times. I used to wake up fearing whatever had happened the previous night, and spent my days running around with anxiety of bumping into someone who knew something I didn’t want someone else to know. The dread of being exposed as a fraud, a fake “good” person only out for my own self interest, was too much to bare, and I self medicated with alcohol to “fix” that feeling. Of course, it only made it worse.

So I don’t hide from my past anymore. I am a flawed, sick, fragile human being making an honest effort to be a better person little by little; day by day. The most, perhaps, obvious use for past mistakes is to learn from them. That seems like a no brainer. However; it is a little more complicated for one plagued with the disease of alcoholism to learn from the past. I am unable to will into my mind with sufficient force the miseries of my past; self knowledge is not enough to enable me to learn from my failures. A complete psychic change is necessary for me to do this and also to continually use my past to help others like me. Though this sounds like a tall order, it really is not. The AA program has it down unarguably, when it comes to helping even the slowest, most defiant learner. The only catch is, I have to want it bad enough.

I can sit and ruminate about all the mistakes I have made, focus on the negative aspects of my life, and wallow in self pity all I want. Nobody cares if I do, and I’m only hurting myself in doing so. But, inevitably, if I do that for too long; I will fall away from my spiritual program. I will stop doing the simple things required of me to maintain my sobriety, and I will wind up drunk. That would hurt people. So I have a duty, not only to myself, but to all the people I care about not to let that happen. I face my past with acceptance and gratitude. I am candid about my horrible decisions with people who may need to hear it or can relate. It was what it was. It is what it is. It is what I do with it now that matters.

Friday, I get to go to my favorite place (in Illinois), and take part in a Japanese lantern ceremony with my two favorite people in the world. I am not focused on the fact my car might get repossessed on Monday. I am not worried how I will pay the mortgage. I have enough money to buy food, gas, pay for insurance, and have lights, water, and AC. I have wonderful people in my life, and with a past like mine, there are very few mistakes I cannot currently avoid. Been there, done that. Let’s do this the right way now. How exciting is that?

Nine to Six Feet Under

I was never cut out for the corporate world. The thought of 9am-5pm jobs made me shudder. I could hardly handle 8am-3pm in high school. When I was little I would tell anyone to their face I would “NEVER” work for someone else. I was going to be my own boss. Reality really likes to kick me in the teeth.

Before I knew it, I was working for my high school as a tech intern, then Dominos for one “glorious” summer, then I started my brief job at Best Buy around 4:30am on Black Friday that year. Finally, I found myself with a 9-5pm job at the company my mom worked for, Adventist Midwest Management Services. This company was bought out several years ago, but I spent ten years there; on and off during school breaks and finally as a full time employee after graduating from college. My Bachelor of Arts degree is in English Literature. I graduated, however; at the end of 2009, and the job market was not doing well. I fell back into the world of medical billing/collections and haven’t been able to get myself out since.

I jumped to a different big medical billing company after I got married hoping for a challenge and upward mobility, but I just found more of the same monotonous boredom that tortured me all day long. So I made the decision to quit and become a personal trainer. I got certified the same night I passed another test; a pregnancy test. Back I went to the world of medical billing to save up for the bundle of responsibility now on its way.

It was hard to tell  I was pregnant until month 7 or 8. I was running right up until I got put on bed rest. One long night in the hospital with steroid injections and magnesium sulfate fun, and then I was home. But my son was impatient to get out into the world. I was back at the hospital in for a ten day stay with talks with NICU doctors as well as a surgeon in the even I started hemorrhaging after giving birth. Due to a low lying placenta, I was at risk and a hysterectomy would have been the only salvation. Three weeks prior I’m running in the fall breeze, now I was hoping my son and I made it through alive.

Blood pressure medication, of all things, kept contractions under control. As long as I took it and was on bed rest, the little bugger would keep cooking and I got the first chance I had in years not to be working full time. I knew that as soon as I went off the medication it was “go time.” So my pregnancy was kind of unique in that I could time when I was going to go into labor. It was a Saturday morning when I stopped taking the medication.  I went out with my mom to go buy a baby blanket and get some food and fresh air before the big event. My son was born at 5:43 am the next morning. Everything went fine aside from major game plan change of getting an epidural at 6cm. I wanted an all natural birth, but for all intents and purposes, I had been having contractions for a month and a half. Enough was enough and god bless that anesthesiologist!

Anyway, back to the topic of work. I found being a stay-at-home-mom to be far more work than a 9-5pm job, but it was much more rewarding and far less boring. I was fortunate enough to have almost two years at home with my son before I had to reenter the workforce full time. It was necessary as I had filed for an order of protection against my ex and (obviously) planned to file for divorce. In the span of a week and a half, I got a brand new car without a penny down or a job, found a daycare I wasn’t completely terrified to leave my son at, and found a job that started the Monday after I interviewed. Talk a bout a whirlwind; It was a crazy, stressful, and challenging time.

After the initial anxiety of leaving my son in the care of strangers for 9-10 hours a day, I found some appreciation for being back in the world of adults; working to support myself and my son. Alas, it was again in the field of medical billing, and after no more than six months I was, once again, bored to tears. A mixture of infatuation with my new love, hatred for my cubicle jail, stress from the divorce, and lack or relying on AA for support lead to a period of relapses. I missed too much work and lost my job because of that. Despite a solid month of looking for something in a different field, there was nothing that would compensate me at a rate I needed to survive. So, I wound up at my previous company’s biggest competitor; once again, in a cubicle.

Part of me thinks that I stayed with my ex as long as I did for the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom. I hated him, but I also hated working a 9-5. Eventually, I saw that if I was going to survive and do what was best for myself and my son, I had to get away from my ex. So now we are divorced, I am working a job I don’t love but need and can’t complain about, and I’m moving back in with my mother. I suppose I am hoping in the interim, I might find a way to carve out a new career path. If I stay on the course I am currently stuck in, I am certain it will eventually kill me spiritually. That may sound over dramatic, but you don’t know how much I loath the ice box rat maze in which I spend 40 hours a week.

Crash and Burn

More than once, I have let all my problems weigh me down so much I have been crushed. I did this again recently. Broke, divorcing, my little one acting out constantly, losing my home, debt ever rising, credit score plunging into the depths of hell, several sleepless nights in a row, and waking from vivid nightmares in cold sweats shivering; it all crushed me. I forget about self-care, there isn’t a drop of optimism in my heart, and I slowly get closer and closer to insanity. The flame of self-destruction ignites when I can’t carry the weight anymore. Exciting at first, it burns until I think I might die. At the breaking point, I surrender; accepting help or death. Time and time again, I feel I might die. Yet I always find a helping hand.

The journey of restoration is slow and painful. I used to picture it as a phoenix rising from the ashes; a beautiful image in my mind. Now, I just feel like a zombie crawling out of the grave yet again. Broken, bruised, worse for wear; slowly picking up pieces of myself try to put it all back together. No beautiful phoenix, I’m just a Frankenstein girl/woman/mother/partner or whatever.

This cycle leaves me more dizzied and drained each time I go through it. Coming to the point of accepting death if it is fate, being pulled back from that state of surrender, it’s just painful. As said in one of my favorite shows, Altered Carbon, “…coming back from the dead is a bitch. Every single time.” Despair to renewal to complacency and back to despair; why can’t I just stay happy, healthy, and at peace? I understand life is not always wonderful, but my dreams fade further in to the blackness. I’m not thriving. I’m only surviving, barely, and I am tired of it.

Purpose

I hate feeling like I have nothing of value to say. I can vent about the nasty divorce I am going through or complain about how mind numbingly bored I am every day at work, but what is that really good for?

I suppose writing here is a healthy outlet for the many frustrations in my life; a safe space to just get it ALL out. As a reader, though, what good does this do for you? Is it for sympathy, empathy, comfort in knowing you aren’t alone; maybe. Although I am going through some very engaging life challenges at the moment, it is never my goal to be some base form of morose entertainment.

 I have always had this fundamental presumption that any content that I write should serve some real purpose. So I ask, what can I do for you and in return for myself through writing? My experience can serve as a cautionary tale. My growth can serve as a guide for someone else. My failures can highlight some of the many pitfalls to watch out for in life. But is this enough? I don’t feel like it is.

Feeling like I have no control over my life during this divorce and having no real passion for what I do 40 hours a week; I am left with a giant hole to fill. I try to take care of myself and my son. We eat healthy, exercise, and usually get enough sleep. I see a counselor and a psychiatrist to keep myself mentally healthy. Still, there is this gaping hole in my life. It is a painful darkness that leaves me agitated, lost, and hopeless.

If AA taught me anything, it was that this hole is best filled with “God.” I am not religious, but the concept of spirituality in a very basic sense is intriguing to me. Finding a sense of self and purpose in a realm of pure energy and good intention sounds great. But how the hell do you do that?

AA lesson # 2, helping others helps you. So, I want to volunteer and help other people or animals or the environment, but when do I have time for that? I’m up at 6:30 am with my always way too energetic three-year-old, breakfast, get dressed, drop him off at daycare, and then get to work. I get to squirm for 8 hours of boredom. By the time 5 pm comes around, I’m exhausted and just want to curl up in bed. Instead, I drive in traffic, pick up the little man, go home, figure out dinner, bath time, maybe a few minutes to mess around on my guitar, then bed time for the kiddo. He’s out by 8 pm, and I’m lucky if I make it to 9 pm before I call it a night.

Lack of time, lack of energy, lack of money, lack of purpose; no wonder I’m having a hard time finding joy, spirituality, and satisfaction in my life. I’d love to get out of the office setting. I’m considering instructing Yoga classes, but certification is costly and time consuming. I got certified as a personal trainer about 4 years ago, but found out I was pregnant the same night. Since then I have lost interest in that path. Nutrition and wellness coaches are becoming popular career paths, but again, it is time consuming and costly to get certified. So, I’m left theoretically pulling out my hair.

Perhaps, I need a life coach. Or maybe I just need to stop thinking about myself so much and start giving the little free time I do have to others. The only thing I do know for certain is that I am need of a complete life redirect. So, one way or another, I have to find a way to make it happen.