The Hard Way

There are only a handful of dreams that impacted me enough that I clearly remember them now years later.

In one such dream during my time working at Microsoft, I needed to meet my manager  on the other side of a small pond. One route around the pond was wooded and the other side was an open meadow. I was pushing my bicycle and despite that encumbrance, headed off through the woods simply because I was facing that direction and didn’t take mental note of a different route. Wedging the handlebars between the close trees and over the deadfall was difficult. I was sweating and frustrated trying to force it through. My manager watched me placidly but didn’t offer guidance or criticism. I made it through the woods, as I always do during such trials, but not without significant struggle.

When I awoke, I could see that the dream was about me taking the hard way in life. This theme was true of my work at Microsoft and in my strained relationship with my manager. It was also true in how I approached a lot of friendships, my finances, my health and personal growth. My choices to do things the hard way, even when there was so clearly an easier route available, consistently made my life harder and I suffered.

Life here at The Angle, this tiny little piece of Minnesota wilderness within Canada, keeps showing me how I do this as well.

My honeymoon period after moving here, when everything was magical and perfect, lasted almost three years. And then life changed. Fast. I got pregnant, unplanned but welcomed. My partner and I continued to drink heavily through the first two years of our daughter’s life, breastfeeding and all. Then we broke up, which was the hardest time of all. Our priorities were so messed up. He continued to profess his love but started dating other people. So, I did too. It was terribly painful for both of us because we truly loved each other. I was hurt and so very angry that he continued to choose a drinking lifestyle over our little family, even though I was doing the exact same thing, just maybe to a lesser degree. I was trying desperately to change, though failing, and he didn’t seem to want to change at all. I was angry at myself too, but I displaced it and blamed him for everything. The rage built and built. 

Eventually, that anger spilled over into other parts of my life and I started writing in my weekly newspaper column exactly how I felt about hot button topics. The honeymoon was truly over, and I tore into the facades of small-town life as I saw them, everything from politics to religion to spanking our kids. 

Many people reached out to me in quiet agreement. But a few, who believed they spoke for the majority, called me a hypocrite and a disgrace. They publicly shamed me and I fell prey to it.

Which words did I chose to remember? Which sentiments did I internalize?

The negative ones, of course. Cuz that’s what I do. I make life hard on myself.

I’ve often wondered how my life here in this small, lonely community would be different if I hadn’t have voiced my opinions or shared my beliefs. The folks who emailed, messaged, called, sent cards, etc., they all felt the same as me, but they were wise enough to keep themselves to themselves. I broadcasted it for all to see. I thought I was doing good. That I was being brave, forwarding the progress of women’s voices and helping someone somewhere.

And maybe I was. Who knows? It’s comforting to think about at the very least.

One elderly woman wrote me a note saying that when she read about my miscarriage in 2017 it opened the flood gates for her, and she was finally able to acknowledge the loss and heal from pain she didn’t even know she had suppressed. Another person shared how challenging it was to come home north and interact with people who lived the Trump lifestyle out loud.

So somewhere in all my over-sharing and my risk-taking rants, inklings of goodness and connection resulted.

Still, when I go out walking our quiet gravel roads here, I pray not to meet cars so I don’t have to see who won’t wave to me. EVERYONE waves to each other here. EVERY single time. Except when they don’t. To me.

Some days I don’t care. But mostly, I do.

It’s worth noting that the folks who were the most publicly opposed to my point of view make a point to be kind now. They always wave or make small-talk. As I do as well. It’s as if we’re wave-by-wave apologizing and asking forgiveness for being universally awful to each other. Though I have no idea if they have regrets at all.

I have certainly made my own life hard, but I can’t really say that I regret it all. Truthfully, I don’t know that I want to be besties with someone who thinks some people should have more rights than other people. Or who posts anti-Muslim propaganda. Or who fights for guns over safe schools. Or who thinks women shouldn’t have complete control of their own bodies. Or who thinks I’m damned to a literal lake of fire because I believe their are many paths to God.

I see two women out walking together and it hurts my heart that I don’t have that anymore. I am overwhelmed with loneliness at times. I miss fellowship with women. I miss laughing with my friends. I miss having good guy friends around. (Here, coupled-up younger women don’t hang out with other men as friends without it being a scandal. It’s so juvenile.)

But my tribe will come. I will find them or they will find me. Here or somewhere else. It feels hard right now, but I hold faith that when I finally meet them, I’ll know how to be a much better friend than I used to be. I took the hard way and learned how. I suffered and pushed through.

I made my life hard when it came to drinking, chaotic parenting, and ending my relationship. But all of those choices eventually led to much better decisions and a happier life down the road. Since we recommitted to each other and to sobriety three years ago, our life has only gotten better. As a couple, we are rock solid. We laugh. We flirt. We love each other hard. Together, we’re figuring it all out one challenge at a time, and surprise surprise, it’s getting easier. I still do all kinds of ridiculous things the hard way (like getting the kids Passport Cards instead of the needed Passport books right before we’re going to fly on an international flight), but at least each time something is hard, I know now to stop and take a good look at it.

It’s the stopping, the getting still, and taking a deep breath that suffering has taught me. That’s what helps me see the pond as whole. And more often than I used to, I notice the meadow now and consider that route instead of plunging right into the woods with my burdens.

Three Years Sober and Counting

March 8th snuck up on us. Busy with the wee babe and the six-year old, we were surprised by our Sobriversary this year. Last year felt like a major accomplishment; this year felt like just another day.

Because it was. 

At three years sober, we’re wellsettled into a life without alcohol. That old life and who we used to be feels very much in the past. So much so, that at times I look at my ever-present ups and downs and wonder if I truly am better off. I still experience depression. I still have much to learn as a parent. I still have a messy house. I still have weight to lose. I still don’t accomplish everything I’d like to. Continue reading “Three Years Sober and Counting”

Dear Lacey

Dear Lacey,

I remember the night you were raped. I remember some of the details clearly, other details not so much.

My parents were gone and I had friends over when I shouldn’t have. We were seniors in high school and you were a freshman. You were my younger sister’s friend, but I don’t remember if she was there. When some of the jock boys showed up, they had been drinking. Continue reading “Dear Lacey”

Awake and sober – the journey continues

It’s getting easier to talk about. We’ve been non-drinkers for two years now and it’s time to look back at who we truly were before we quit.

Today, March 8th is our two-year sober anniversary. Our “sobriversary” as I can call it now that we’ve had more than one.

We didn’t go to rehab. We haven’t attended any meetings. We just quit. Continue reading “Awake and sober – the journey continues”

Start by Starting

I don’t have to be perfect to tell a story and the story doesn’t have to be perfect to be told.

 

“Are you bored?” I asked him. My eyes went to the wine glasses we had filled with our alcohol-removed merlot. It was Valentine’s Day and he’d done what he always does to make an event special: he brought home steak.

“Bored of what?” he asked. “I ran all day.”

And he had. February 14th is a day filled with various colorful tasks for a freight and errand runner from The Angle: Continue reading “Start by Starting”

I Will Be

A journey through the grief of miscarriage

I had the makings of a child in my womb for eight weeks and five days.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, the pain and bleeding started, and I knew. I didn’t want to know, but there it was. It was the beginning of the end of a pregnancy I had longed for and rejoiced in. It was over before we even got to speak of it, and there was absolutely nothing I could do. Continue reading “I Will Be”

Mea Culpa

 

We walked today, picking fall flowers, dried seed pods and colorful leaves. Chattering like a busy chipmunk, she found pretty rocks in the gravel, drew line after line for us to race from, and marveled at the troops of soldier mushrooms. It was more a meander than a walk, but definitions matter not to a four-year-old. Her thoughts bubble over into words like a flowing well in the flat lands; there is no filter, no pause and the music of it all soaking the earth is innocent and pure.

And it never stops. Ever.

Even in her dreams she is talkative and loud. A social sleep talker, telling her stories and voicing her fears.

But it is a respite to tune into her world, letting it drown out my restless mind that takes eternal practice to quiet for even the rare millisecond. She is my practice. Continue reading “Mea Culpa”