The Minnesota skyline of late has been a long, thick sheet of steely clouds, dotted occasionally with brief openings that reveal the sunshine above.
It’s a good reflection of my mood and energy–or, perhaps, my mood and energy are a direct reflection of the weather. I do tend to suffer that seasonal problem with being…oh, how do I word it…happy? I’ve been working my cognitive-behavioral magic on myself, along with some very intentional attempts at mindfulness meditation and stress-relieving exercises. I’m very much aware of the impending winter, and the challenges that lie ahead of me in the next 5-6 months. I’m aware that I need to do my best to manage them.
These are challenges that, were I still drinking, I’d simply blot out by getting blotto. Indeed, much of my time spent drinking was time drinking alone, where I’d start out the night with my low mood and end it heaped into a messy pile on my bed, ready to pass out–dulled, but able to forget whatever it was that was making me unhappy. Alcohol was an extremely useful tool to blunt the sharp edge of my sadness. It blunted everything, really–sadness, anger, happiness, contentment, motivation. All of it. We know how that story goes.
So, now, I’ve made it 2+ years without the sauce and have managed (managed? is that the right word?) to find other ways to dull those sharp edges and ease the aching pains that have forced themselves into my daily life. I’m doing ok. But the weather, man… it affects me more and more each year and I’m finding it hard to take my good moods back into my own hands. It’s a little disconcerting.
Aside from the weather, I’ve been dealing with a host of bothersome symptoms that are causing me to be at odds with my body: an odd ache here, a headache there, painful knees, and shoulders so tight it makes it hard to move my head properly. This summer brought a surprising resurgence of insomnia, the kind I experienced when I was first getting sober, and when I was going through my divorce. I’ve been getting dizzy while sitting at my desk–dizzy while sitting down, barely moving–and as some of the readers on here might remember, I fainted not a month ago. When I went to urgent care to find out if anything was wrong, they told me there wasn’t anything they could see right away, and that maybe I should try drinking more water.
This is frustrating and worrisome. I am sober–I was told that being sober and eating mostly well and exercising weekly would help save me from weird, unrecognizable, undiagnosable ailments. Yet here I am, now hobbling up and down stairs because my right knee feels too weak to support my full weight either way. I’m scrunching my shoulders to my ears without even realizing it. Driving in Minneapolis traffic gives me a tight chest and headaches.
My new chiropractor suggests that perhaps I’m a little over-stressed. As we were going through the intake process last week, I went over my extended elevator speech for the people I meet: I am a full-time graduate student, interning at a community mental health clinic with clients who have severe & persistent mental illness, while working a part-time job that I don’t particularly like, facilitating a weekly creative writing group, and dating someone who is due to move three states away within the next 5 months to be closer to his teenage son.
I nod and smile politely when the chiropractor suggests that stress may be playing a role in these mysterious aches and pains. Internally, I scoff. I know, I think. Duh. But what can I do? There’s no good place for me to drop the ball in my life right now. If I drop the ball at work, there may be severe financial repercussions, up to and including getting fired–I’ve already shown myself to be bad at multi-tasking and bad at managing my own levels of stress, to the point where I’m making dumb mistakes in my work and showing myself to be a bit careless in my tasks.
I can’t drop the ball at school or in my internship–I’ve been working for 2.5 years to get this far, and failing there might be the difference between graduating in May and having to wait to graduate til next Fall. I’ve got to keep pushing through this til May. I’ve got to keep my head above water. I haven’t come this far, to only come this far. I can’t let that happen.
Besides that, I enjoy the writer’s group I facilitate and I get a lot of social time out of it. It’s not a hard thing to do, nor is it stressful. I’ve even handed off some of the responsibilities to a fellow group member who offered to step in and facilitate on weeks when I’m gone. I could drop the ball there, but I really don’t want to.
And in my relationship, well… I’m struggling to figure out how to move forward knowing it’s going to end–and soon. My boyfriend has said he’s thinking of moving back home closer to the end of March, and so we’ve got all this time to spend getting closer to one another, only to have it dissolve in ~5 months. I don’t want to end things right now, necessarily–but I feel like I’ve just been thrust into yet another holding pattern with him. I feel myself emotionally disconnecting bit by bit, even as I’m still in love with him and wanting to hold on. I don’t have any idea how to ease out of a relationship like this; I don’t know when or where to draw the boundary line between exclusive, monogamous relationship to a more open-ended thing, where we still spend time with each other while knowing there’s a definite end. Does it end the day he gets in his car and drives away for the last time? Does it end before then?
I’ve been in a series of holding patterns with him since we started dating last year. It’s been an endless practice in remaining in the present moment, not letting myself think too far into the future or grasping for the “what-ifs”. The one time I did that, I got a pretty rude jolt back into reality when I realized my hopes weren’t likely to come true.
So here I’ve remained with him, barely looking a month ahead, while enjoying the memories of the months we’ve left behind. Now the future is quite literally on a countdown. Each day, we march closer to the end of “us,” and we both know it very acutely. I’m having trouble trying to comprehend what the process of letting go and moving on is going to actually look like. I keep holding myself back from pressuring him to talk about it all. the. time.
What’s more, as I am barreling toward my 30th birthday and the completion of my Master’s degree, I am feeling the itch for a more permanent, stable partnership. To say that I’m in “hunt mode” for a spouse would be a bit much, but my mind is veering that way and it’s becoming more and more something I really want. Having been married young and divorced not long after, I feel like I had a very brief introduction to the idea of building a home with someone, and I honestly loved it until it all fell apart.
I feel like I’ve grown a lot since then. I know I have. The divorce forced me into a new phase of my life, sobriety carried me further, and graduate school has transformed my understanding of the world and myself and my own pain to something completely unrecognizable.
Yes, I am the same person at my core, but there is a lot about how I interact with the world that has changed, especially when it comes to partnership. Looking back, I don’t think I was really mature enough to take on the responsibilities of marriage at the age of 23, especially when I wouldn’t even let myself see how many red flags my ex-husband was throwing down in front of my face. Today, I won’t say I’m perfect. I don’t actually know how “ready” for marriage I am–but I know it’s something that I want again, eventually.
Being where I am with my current partner, I get this very low hum of anxiety when I think about how I latched onto the tiniest glimmers of hope that maybe–just maybe, against all odds–this partnership might be the one to last. Despite doing my best to stay in the moment…Despite knowing that it was a no good very bad idea to daydream about such things…I did daydream, sometimes. And while I don’t for a second believe that I’ve wasted any time in this relationship, I do wonder how it’s all going to play out in my life story. Do I feel ready to spend the next 5 months continuing to invest in someone I love who is going to end up leaving anyway?
It’s a shame I don’t have therapy again for another week. It’s a shame there’s not much else to say until my boyfriend has established an actual, concrete timeline for his journey home. It’s a shame that I feel stuck between the worlds of wanting to hang on and wanting to let go. It’s a shame I don’t know why I want to keep holding on, despite feeling so much pain about it all. It’s a shame that my first healthy, sober relationship has to end.
It’s a shame, yes, but also, it’s okay. It really is. At least, that’s what I have to tell myself. Otherwise, what else to have to hang my hat on?