Tales of a Nearly 49 Year Old Nothing

Listen to me! Think what it is like to have most of your life ahead and be told you are obsolete! Think what it is like to feel attraction, desire, affection toward others, to want to tell them about yourself, to feel that assumption on which self-respect is based, that you are worth something, that if you like someone, surely he will be pleased to know that. To be, in other words, still a living woman, and to be told that everyday, that you are not a person, but a joke. Well, I am a bitter joke. I am bitter, and frustrated, and wasted, but don’t you pretend as you look at me, 43, fat, and looking exactly my age, that I am not as alive as you are, and that I do not suffer from the category into which you are forcing me. Zoe Moss-It Hurts to be Alive and Obsolete: The Ageing Woman

In the conference room, I sat in a chair without arms to accommodate my hips and ass made too large from stress eating. The food I put in my mouth seems to be the only control I have these days. I hate that I have no control, hence the reason I’m sitting in a sterile conference room on a Monday morning, with the HR Manager and my team lead. I was feeling confident about the performance improvement plan that I’d been on for the last sixty days, as my job performance and accuracy had been increasing. That was until they began to speak. I was told that I’d failed it and would be removed from my position immediately. It had been decided by the team lead and her supervisor that there was no way I could continue the momentum of my accuracy rate of 97%. I also wasn’t approving at least 30 reports a day, so they were going to immediately move me another position.

The HR Manager slid a sheet of paper in front of me and ask that we read through it together. This was difficult for me as I was in tears, and trying to digest all of what was being discussed. In summary, the settlement agreement would allow me to stay long enough to be eligible for full retirement from the U, but I could not be hired into the my current placement  ever again. Here I was, almost 49, single, fat, no higher education, a recovering addict, mother of grown children and grandmother, being told, bitch, you got to go!

They sent me home to read the agreement and consult with a lawyer before I signed it. I did that, but I also thought about how I’d gotten here. Part of the reason I was here was because I was an addict that had ruined my work reputation while I was trying to kill myself with drinking and other self destructive behaviors. I also had shown too much of my personality while at my new job. I laughed too loud, I joked too much, and I was too friendly. I didn’t focus enough on the work at hand, and that caused my managers to look at me negatively. I was scrutinized every time I made a mistake, but I owned the errors.

The next day I went back to work. I went back to my old desk and packed up my crap. I was smart when I moved to my new location and didn’t place too many personal items on my desk. I swear, I instinctively knew that I shouldn’t get too comfortable. And I never was…

I was told by the team lead and her manager that I would make the announcement to my colleagues that I was moving. And I did, with a smile on my face and positive lilt to my voice. But, if they could have seen inside of my body while I spoke to them, they would have seen a maze of jangled nerves, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and racing thoughts skittering around a brain in early recovery from alcoholism.

I took my medicine though, and I walked my chair and box of belongings down to the first floor.

My former supervisor handed me off to my new supervisor. The new supervisor greeted me with such positivity and warmth, I was so overwhelmed that I started to cry. I kept my head down to hide the tears, and went about the task of setting up my new work space. I put up a couple of photos of my grandson, but now that I’ve been in the job a few weeks, I’ve removed them. I’ve decided to keep my work space neutral. To keep the desk space clear of clutter, and to keep focused on learning my new job.

I’ve learned that I’m expendable, because of my personal and work history, and my age. I’m obsolete. I’ve married and divorced. I’ve bore children and raised them. I’ve worked at the U since I was 20 and I’ve worn out my welcome at nearly 49. I’ve nowhere to go from here. I guess what I should say is, I don’t know where to go. I’m so unsure of myself and I wallow in anxiety and depression everyday. I’m not young, but I am not old. I am not book smart but I am not dumb. However, because of previous errors in my life, I will always viewed as not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough. Never enough.

My daughter has told me to buck up and deal with it, but my tender heart continues to be crushed with sadness and fear, every time I try to look into the future. Because honestly, I see no future for me. Tell me, wouldn’t you be scared if that’s what you saw when you looked ahead, was nothing?

I want to feel vibrant and alive again. I want to feel stable. I want to feel hope again! To sparkle. Unfortunately, I don’t even know what to do or where to begin this process.

Actually, I think I’ll start here. I pray that this is my future, and I pray that I find my way home…

 

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The Day the Music Came Alive

I am 32 Flavors and then some
I’m nobody, but I am someone

The last year of my addiction to alcohol had killed my love of music. Every time I listened to any song I would feel it so deeply that I would be left sobbing. If I couldn’t listen to music, I damn sure couldn’t write either. So in the last six months I fed my need for words by listening to NPR and the great Dave and Chuck the Freak morning show on 101.1 The WRIF in Detroit.

During detox and rehab we weren’t allowed to have our phones, so I was starved for information, morning radio shows, and finally, music. The few songs I did get to hear during that time made me cry, but there was no longer any deep seeded pain connected to it. The pain I felt was the itch and burn of healing to my tattered and war torn soul.

On the day I walked out of the Brighton Center of Recovery, the sun of early fall was shining. It lit my hair and my spirit on fire and I knew I was on the path to rebirth. I threw my suitcase in the backseat, and placed my ID and insurance card back into my wallet. I slid the keys into the ignition, turned the engine over, and rolled the windows down. As I drove out of the parking lot, I turned the radio up to 11, the wind caught my hair and I sang the words to whatever song that was playing on the radio.

I  finally felt at home in the music, no matter if it was upbeat or a ballad. The words helpd incredible power! Not to hurt me, but to help me heal. Everyday I get closer to fine with the help of my IOP group, my AA community, my other Brighton alums, my friends and family and my music. Oh my fucking God, I am so incredibly blessed!

May you find peace and serenity today, and may you find joy in the little things in life.

 

 

A Letter of Forgiveness

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‘Let us be willing to release old hurts.’- Martha Smock

Dear Renee,

The last three years have been especially harrowing, yet you’ve persevered. I always knew you were  a strong woman.

I want you to forgive yourself for the last ten years of drinking. I want you to love and accept yourself and know that you are a beautiful spirit.

You are not your past, and it does not need to define you. Your future and your community are the sober people, the perfectly broken.

Your children love you. The longer you are sober, the more their trust will return.

Do not look for love until you can find it within yourself.

Go to meetings.Work with a sponsor. Keep busy. Dive into work and become a stellar employee again.

Be kind to yourself and know that you alone are enough.

Let go of your past. Let go of love that is not evenly returned and move forward.

Find peace.

Find joy.

Find love from within, and the brilliance of it will flow to everyone you encounter.

Forgive yourself, and put your trust in the future.

Love, Renee

(This is a letter I wrote to myself the last night of my stay at the Brighton Center for Recovery. My addiction counselor told me to save doing this section of my homework after everything else was done. I read it to my community the day I ventured out of the Brighton Bubble into the sunlight of new future. I’ll  share of my journey when the time is right. For now, I have another story brewing about a wheat farmer and his wife. I hope to post it soon. This girl is getting her sparkle back for sure. Thanks for following me on this journey.)

My Soul, Born in the South

Werther-porch

Tonight my favorite movie is on and though I’ve seen it a hundred times, I’m watching it again. I was one of those that watched the movie before I read the book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, as my little kids played around my feet. While they ate their meals. While I changed their diapers. While I bathed them. And after I put the to bed.

The children grew older, and as they did, we bed shared. For comfort, yes, but also for closeness and for me the possibility that I might get a full nights sleep so I could function at work the next day. Often, the cats and a dog or two would crawl in there with us.

After the little ones settled and fell asleep, and before I’d drift off, I’d grab my dog eared copy of Fried Green Tomatoes and devour a chapter. I knew every word, yet the story continued to resonate within me. Was I born in the South in a previous life? Why did the story of Ruth and Idgie effect me so deeply?

I began to know every word of the story, yet I couldn’t put it down. The book fell apart, yet I continued to read it. I would jump from story to story without missing a beat. I felt the promise of new life when Buddy was born, and the sadness of love lost when Ruth died. I felt anger so intense when there was racism, and when Idgie was accused and tried for murder I cried.

As my children grew older and took to their own bedrooms, I continued to read the book. It was now in pieces and I had to tape most of the pages together. I swear to you some nights when I read the stories, I could feel the heat of the day on my skin, while tendrils of my hair blew in the humid Alabama air. Train whistles blew and sweat poured down my back. I was dressed in white cotton, sitting on my front porch, and drinking sweet tea. When I’d finally fall asleep, I’d dream I was as tough as Towanda, that brilliant woman unafraid to bait her own hook and love the woman that was meant to be hers forever.

The kids are grown now, and the copy of my book is long gone. I think about replacing it, but something always sidetracks me. Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t get that time back. Or maybe it’s the fact that I want to write like that, but can’t. Or maybe I can write like that, but I’m afraid to fail. All I know is I’ll watch Fried Green Tomatoes tonight and it will make me feel all the things I used to feel. Maybe I’ll finally start that book. Or maybe, I’ll just know that my soul, it was born in the South, and it will have to be enough.

The Darling Buds of May

Darling buds of May

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18-Shakespeare

I stood outside with a purple dog leash wrapped around my left wrist. I patiently waited for the dog to finish feasting on the fresh crop of green grass that I was sure he was going to pee on. My mind wandered back to last spring and how I had missed out on getting the chance to watch the barren trees bud and begin to sprout leaves.  It was also impossible for me to even see my favorite flower the lilac, bloom. I missed their radiant scent permeating the air around me.  I missed walking barefoot, branch cutters in hand and cutting off as many branches as my arms could hold. I missed stealing them from other people’s yards and placing them in vases all over my kitchen and living room. Oh how I missed my favorite season, the one of rebirth. 

While Eddie continued his inspection of the yard, I looked above my head at the branches and saw the darling buds. It wasnt May yet, but I was so thankful for the unseasonably warm weather we’d had and the early burgeoning of said buds. The green, brown, red and gray of them too. I reached up pulled the branch closer to my face and took in the scent of new and dirty life. 

To my right and  down the drive, there are lilac bushes. I won’t get to see them bloom again this summer, because of another ankle surgery that will leave me housebound. But at least I get to see the darling buds of May, only they are out in April. It seems that God is giving me back my favorite season only a little at a time. Maybe it’s His way of making sure I don’t take it for granted ever again. 

For now I will love the scent of spring and the buds of new life. I can’t say that this is the beginning of life for me or if it is the end. All I can say is that it is spring and I will rejoice in it. Dear Reader, go outside, and smell the scent of spring. Revel, in the light and life of newness. Revel, in this thing we call life. 

Amen. 

Pain is Fear Leaving The Body

The therapist raised the table up so that she could slowly jerk my stiff ankle from side to side. It didn’t hurt, but the sensation was definitely uncomfortable. When she was done, she pushed her fingers into the outer ankle bone and lifted it up for a few seconds at a time. The pain I felt was on the inside ankle bone. It was excruciating and I cried out. Amelia asked if she should stop, but I told her no, that pain was needed to heal. She then palpated the inner ankle bone and I felt the tendons crack. When she was done, she shook my ankle from side to side again. It felt good, even though I knew it would ache a few hours later. Physical therapy is a special kind of torture that needs to be administered in order to heal. Now that the ache of it has finally settled in, I must remember that this pain is merely fear leaving my body……

Meggie called during her lunch break and asked me how I was doing. I explained that my ankle ached and I was bitchy because of the pain. Her comment was she didn’t feel sorry for me since all she’d been doing is throwing up for the last 3.5 months. Yes, my lovely daughter is going to make me a grandma in June. That gorgeous blonde haired, blue eyed wild fire that I gave birth to 24 years ago is going to grace us with another living soul to walk this planet. So how can I complain about learning to walk again, while she’s growing a new life within her body?

We hung up while she let her dogs out and hoped they’d come in quickly so she’d get a chance to take a good nap with all three of her Huskies. I latched the leash on Eddie the Rat and took him outside, and he lifted his legs on the bushes just outside my apartment entrance. Because of the pain, I couldn’t walk very far, so we headed back inside. My text alert went off and I entered my password into my phone. Meggie informed me that she’d thrown up before she could get the dogs outside. I replied that I was so sorry and wished there was something I could do to help her. Unfortunately I couldn’t but she knows if I could, I would. After all, I am her mother. And what mother doesn’t want to take care of their child, no matter what age they are.

Meg’s final text to me told me that she was going to take a nap. I told her I was going to wrap Christmas presents. I hate shopping, and I’m not very fond of Christmas, but I figured while I still had my gym shoes and brace on, I better get as much wrapping done as I could. I knew the pain from my therapy session would settle in before too long, and the tears would flow.

My friend Lori has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her battle is much more in depth than mine, because her’s is for her life. While mine is for the chance to be able to not walk with a limp. I watch Lori’s battle closely and I cheer her on every single damn day. I know she has watched my battle closely and though she’s got her own fight, she cheers me on. I’ll fight for my chance to walk without pain. But I’ll fight for Lori too. And I’ll also fight for Megan’s struggle too. We are in our own kind of pain. We can’t discount the hurt. We can only fight through it.

The Waves and George Clooney’s Twin

VWThe waves

I spoke to my sister for a few minutes this morning. She brought me a light bulb that she’d bought me months ago and wine corks that I’m going to do some kind of crafty thing with. We talked about being lonely vs. being alone, and I told her that I’ve finally learned the difference. I’m an extrovert but I’m happy with the quiet and the solitude. I’m happy with ruffling the scruff and scratching the ears of my dog, than spending time with people that talk to much. I’ve let go of toxic people and I’ve let go of the toxicity within myself.

2014 has royally sucked but as it draws to a close, I’m thankful for what I experienced during it. I mean, at least I’m alive to tell the tale. But now it’s time to write the final words and close this chapter.

My friend Bette said in 2015 we deserve to find George Clooney’s twin and have him whisk us away to the Caribbean. He could feed us grapes while we tanned our pale bodies on the deck of his yacht. I told her I wouldn’t care if I had to draw his bathwater and wash his dishes. Hell, I’d swab the poop deck if necessary!

So this morning I will enjoy the coffee cup, the knife, the spoon, things in themselves, and myself in myself.

Have a happy Sunday my lovelies.

Four Little Children

Tom my new friend and taxi driver, dropped me off this morning at Domino’s Farms for my Pre-Op appointment. Once there, I checked in, completed forms. Next, I was poked and prodded. I sat in the lobby and waited for the physician’s assistant to explain the surgical process to me. In two weeks, hardware that held my ravaged then rebuilt ankle will be removed. Tendons will be unwrapped from freshly healed bone in hopes that it will alleviate some of my chronic pain. I am tough, but I am scared. I am scared, but I am strong. I pick up my phone and the heat from my fingertips bring it to life. As I begin to play a game I mutter in frustration, “I’m so fucking tired of this injury sucking the marrow out of my very existence.”  

I’m an observational writer. Two and a half years ago I would have laughed if you’d said such a thing. Most of my young and adult life, with the help of ADHD, OCD, married life, parenting, and plain old rushing around, I couldn’t observe more than five things at once. Once I realized that my dream was to observe and write about it, I couldn’t stop. Life was a rush. I was constantly stimulated, and inspired. I say passionate, everyone else in my life said I was obsessed.

This morning, as the lives diminished in my game, I remembered who and what I was.  Placing my phone in my purse, I began watching four little children. One boy and three girls ran wild up and down the hill outside in front of Lobby C. The girls, ranged in age from 8-11, and wore short skirts with little shirts. Their feet were clad in sandals and their long blonde hair whipped around their faces as they ran. The little boy, about 7 was clad in shorts, t-shirt and black flip flops. He ran up and down that hill, faster than his sisters did. He didn’t seem to care that  he lost his shoes in the process.

The oldest girl walked away from her siblings to stand in the stone and ivy garden. The foliage and ceramic toadstools made her look a bit like Alice when she spoke to a hookah smoking caterpillar in Wonderland. Her young charges continued to run up that hill, around the tree at the top and back down.  I’m sure if there wasn’t concrete at the bottom of that hill, they would have rolled down it. Staining their knees and elbows green, as their little brother lost his shoes again.

I sat in a comfy armchair inside, but I wanted to run with them. I wanted to walk on stick thin legs made tan by the summer sun. I wanted to be the young girl standing in the ivy garden that looked like Alice. I wouldn’t have even minded being the little boy that lost his shoes as I jumped to touch the arbor at the entrance of Lobby C.

I don’t wish to go back to that age, but I do wish I could let the wind whip my hair as I run. And to feel confident that when I run, there wouldn’t be pain. I want to suck the marrow out of life again. Maybe after this next surgery, I will.

Communion, Forgiveness and Recovery

home.communion

This do in remembrance of Me

Last Sunday, I held the small piece of bread in my left hand, and the tiny plastic glass of ‘wine’ in my right. The pastor recited a prayer, and with my eyes closed, I recalled the last time I’d taken communion. It was at Linda’s funeral, in a Catholic church. No, I’m not Catholic, but I am a rebel. Therefore I’ll be damned if anyone will tell me whether or not I can partake of the body and blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. I grinned at the memory while I chewed and drank. I had to stay seated during communion because my newly mended right ankle was achy and stiff.

The pastor spoke of finding joy in our nearness to God. That happiness is fleeting, but joy is everlasting. As the lesson continued, I began to do my daily ankle exercises. I pointed my right toes as far forward as I could and held them there for ten seconds. I released the stretch and pulled my toes up toward the sky as far as I could. I held the stretch for another ten seconds, repeating each stretch 15 times. Then came the side to side stretches. The sermon progressed and I placed my right foot back on the floor. It didn’t ache nearly as much as it did before I stretched the Achilles tendon six ways from Sunday.

A particular bible verse struck a raw emotional nerve and I began to cry. Don’t ask me what it was about, because I can’t recall it. All I know is it had something to do with paying for indiscretions and mistakes. That once we are forgiven by God, we must learn to forgive ourselves. As I wiped my eyes, Laura asked if I was all right, and I assured her I was. That I was better than all right. That I was forgiven.

After the sermon ended, we made our way to the back of the church. My ankle was stiff as I began to walk, but I noticed that I no longer had any pain. The familiar ache had disappeared! A smile spread across my face and was lit by the morning sun. I walked with almost an entirely normal gait. I felt free for the first time since March 11, 2014. I. Was. Free!

It’s Wednesday night and the pain has not returned. I’ve had a few twinges here and there, but that’s because I had a very intense physical therapy session on Tuesday afternoon. On March 12, 2014 after 5.5 hours or reconstructive surgery on my right ankle, my life changed. I know it will never be the same, but I am assured with God’s grace and love I have recovered.

 

Living a Full Life

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“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.
C. JoyBell C.

A few years ago I went through a major weight loss transformation and I became addicted to working out. I found that it didn’t bring the world to my feet and it most certainly didn’t bring me happiness. Sure, I liked the looks I got from men and women. I loved the highs of working out. But I was still looking for something to make me complete.

Since my injury, I’ve gained weight because I haven’t been able to move much. I hated being sedentary. It felt like prison. I ate a lot, but found that it didn’t bring me happiness. It didn’t stave off the desperation I felt, and the extreme loneliness. I’ve been trying my very best not to beat myself about it. I won’t.

I have begun eating healthier and the weight is coming off. I place my feet in gym shoes and set about walking the sidewalks of my apartment complex at least five times a day. I’m building stamina so that I can walk to the bus stop to get myself back to work in early August. Physical therapy is grueling but worth it.

I’ve decided I will not become addicted to food or the gym again. I will not worry about every piece of food that goes into my mouth. I will be mindful of my eating, but I will not beat myself up about having a piece of cake. A full life for me means walking outside in the fresh air, biting into a ripe nectarine, or watching my dog carry a stick that’s bigger than him. Yes, that’s a full life.