“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” — Desmond Tutu
It seems that I’ve retreated to the hideout again. For those not familiar with my earlier post, the hideout is a virtual one, described as follows, “I don’t have a cabin in the woods, or a bunker in the basement, I only have my home, a 645-square foot apartment. It’s where I wake up in the morning, retreat at the end of the work day, hideout on the weekends when I’m writing or feeling introverted, and end my days, often falling asleep on the couch watching TV. Yeah, I’m that girl. I live alone and most days I’m happy with that choice.”
I was struggling to find a topic to write about for my blog and I realized the subject was presented to me in the introduction of this sentence as I wrote, “I was struggling…” This is the final day of my four-day holiday weekend and I had hoped that whatever malaise was hanging over me would dissipate in time. It hasn’t.
The two poles of gratitude and grief best describe my current emotional state. I enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday with my bio family. On Wednesday, I left work early, picked up my sister Tami and we talked nonstop on our drive home to Racine. We spent the evening beginning preparation for the family feast the next day and visited with our father. Grateful.
The following morning as the Thanksgiving dinner prep continued, the three of us shared stories about Mom, our favorite meals that she made, our precious memories of her. Grief. Tami shared a poem that her daughter Gemma had written for school, the theme was, “Where I Came From.” It was a poignant and beautiful tribute to her family and the mundane, yet memorable moments of everyday life and the people and things that define her. No one in the family had volunteered to say grace before the meal and we all agreed, if Gemma was willing, it would be the perfect blessing for our meal. Grateful.
Soon, other family members began to arrive, first Tami’s husband, Ron and the kids, Quinn and Gemma, 15 and 13 respectively. We asked Gemma if she would be willing to read her poem. Earlier she had told her mother, “I want to be a writer.” Later, she qualified the declaration, “I’m not sure I’m good enough to be one.” The first chance I got, I reminded her that she already was a writer, and a damn good one! She agreed to read her poem as grace. Grateful.
The rest of the family arrived in waves, niece Casey and her partner Ben and four of their kids, including the youngest member of our family born after our mother’s, and Casey’s grandmother’s death — little Ivy Love, who we all agreed resembled Mom and Ben. Next up sister Kelly, Casey’s mother and Kelly’s husband Bill arrived, followed by Bill’s adult son, Dan and later my sister Cindy. Grateful.
Since Mom died, as the eldest, I’ve stepped up to take the lead in making dinner and with help from my sisters, and Gemma this year, we got the meal on the table. We are a big family who grew up in a small house. Though my brother and his family in Colorado and his family couldn’t join us, and my sister Roz, who died in 2012 and her son John and his family in Las Vegas celebrated with their family in their home, we still filled our father’s small Cape Cod house. Some family members ate in the kitchen, some at the basement bar and the rest crowded in the small downstairs bedroom watching the football game. After dinner my niece Jennifer and her wife, Becky joined us to visit and in time for the pie course. Grateful.
Later that day, I returned home exhausted, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Before I left for the holiday in Racine I had stubbed, or perhaps, broken my little toe. I also had a couple of sebaceous cysts that had flared up, plus my arthritic bones were aching. I mention the complaints for a reason. As is true for most, if not all of us, our physical well-being affects our emotional and spiritual well-being.
I was tired and that fatigue caused me to feel reflective and regretful about some of my behavior during the holiday. I was anxious preparing the meal and my response to stress is controlling behavior. Our family home has an extremely small kitchen, and looking back, as in other years, I spent a lot of time shooing family out of the kitchen and not always in the warmest manner. I also tapped into my grief of the family members and friends who were no longer living. Grief.
The days following the holiday I rested, yet felt like I was slipping into depression. Gratefully, I don’t suffer from chronic depression, yet I get blue periodically, usually when I’m not taking care of myself. I’m also a grateful alcoholic — which people who are not find the expression to be an oxymoron. It’s not.
As a recovering person, I’ve learned to retreat to the hideout (and/or attend a 12-step meeting), plus practice H.A.L.T. a regimen of addressing hungry, angry, lonely, tired. What I’ve discovered through the years is when one or more of those self-care needs are not being taken care of, depression and grief settle in.
Finding the Light in the Darkness
“We see things the way we are, not the way things are.” — Fred Holmquist
The weekend before the holiday, I attended for the third year in a row, a free recovery enrichment seminar at Edgewood College sponsored by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation from an anonymous donation. Fred Holmquist was the presenter. I find him to be inspirational and insightful and I always learn new tools. The theme this year was “To practice these principles in all our affairs.” The principles in this case are the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Grateful.
In addition to my grief exacerbated by my emotional, physical, and spiritual fatigue, I’ve been struggling to find hope and a light to guide me to move forward with optimism in these dark times as we witness the degradation of our democracy under the current president and regime. An essential element of my early sobriety was to learn to embrace the belief that the world was in fact a safe place. Today, it’s a challenge again. Grief.
Before I put fingers to keyboard for this essay, instead, I considered writing another installment of The Toilet Zone, my commentary series on the Trump presidency. The subject: Trump’s tweets during the holiday, his proposed appointment of Mick Mulvaney to The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the independent consumer credit watchdog agency, and the upcoming tax reform bill vote this week, enriching corporations and the wealthy, while eliminating many of the deductions and reducing tax relief for the middle class (many who supported him on this issue). Anger and Grief.
I decided to pay attention to the words of Fred Holmquist, “We see things the way we are, not the way things are.” “First things first” is one of the slogans of AA and a tool for living like the 12-Steps, recovery meetings, and H.A.L.T. So instead, I’m retreating and going underground at the hideout and taking a look first at how I am, before paying a lot of attention to the way things are. Today is a day of self-care. I’ll address each letter of the H.A.L.T. acronym. Yesterday I made Italian Sausage & Tortellini Soup, so I’ll feed my hunger today, do my best to let go of my unproductive anger, meet my social needs beginning with my weekly phone date with my father, and rest. A couple of things may fall off my “to-do list” since I’ve added to my “to-be list.” “First things first.” Grateful.
One last shout out. I’ve found solace and have enjoyed reading hopeful messages, affirmations, and blogs written by friends and other writers. The lived experience of others of a like mind have been providing both the needed light and comfort in these dark times and an antidote to Trump’s narcissistic, insecure, and ego-driven tweets. Grateful.
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