Sunday, August 31, 2014

Let it Go (Admit it, you are singing it now)

A few weeks ago I let it all out.

Before I go further, I would like to thank all of you. For reading, for offering support or a laugh. Even those of you who were embarrassed for me. And even those of you who are still treating me with kid gloves (I get a little giggle from that). I’m fine. And I was then, too…just maybe not as.

But I did learn something. A couple of things, actually. Go figure.

I remember when I was finished typing and it was time to hit the ‘publish’ button. I sat there, hesitating for quite a few minutes, unsure all of a sudden. Those of you who write will understand when I say that writing all that had been building in my mind quite forcefully and I had to—had to—write it all out. Yet when push came to shove, at that last moment, I hesitated. Then I had to stop and think why. I looked back at what I bled onto the page again, and still felt that need to let it out. And still I hesitated to push that key. Why? And then I realized what was stopping me. I was so fucking pissed that I hit the publish button fast…and then a second time to make sure it took.

What would people think?

What??? Did I not just get through saying that I didn’t care what people thought of me? Ouch.

That was lesson 1.

Lesson 2 came a few days later. It’s kind of hard to explain the daze I felt like I was walking in. I was still…not entirely happy, and I was hyper-aware of everyone around me. I felt exposed (duh!), very conscious of what I let people see and, if I’m honest, I also felt a little embarrassed. Not happy about that. And I watched closely how people talked or reacted to me. I did feel ‘naked’—and not in a way I like, either (I normally like naked).

I was sitting out on my porch drinking my coffee…and yes, mentally replaying everything. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I wasn’t sure if I could just write another blog as casually as I did before. Everything I’ve written is personal in some way, but that was beyond personal for me. I crossed one of my own lines. Then it hit me.

That felt good.

No. It felt better than that. It felt…

Freeing.

I let go of my own control—of my own control. That’s two things right there. I grew up believing that emotions were bad and had to be hidden. Not the good emotions. I let those fly all over the place when I’m feeling them. If I’m happy to be with you, if I love you, if I’m having fun I say it and I show it. A lot. If I’m REALLY enjoying a piece of steak or my coffee or chocolate, everyone will know (I will even post a picture of it on FaceBook so that no one misses how much I’m enjoying it!).

But when I’m down, or scared, or unhappy, or ‘emotional’ (I’m going to make everyone as sick of that word as I am) I have to keep that hidden. Keep it under control. Put on a face. Everyone knows what putting on a face is like. Parents have to do it all the time in front of their kids. I’ve had to do it since I was a kid, because nothing less was allowed.

I’m not saying I hide totally everything. I vent. And I vent sarcasm. Humor, even biting humor, was allowed at home, and I got good at it. Maybe too good. I had a boyfriend who actually told me that my humor could sometimes hurt his feelings.

Right this moment, looking back, I have to give him props for admitting that and communicating that to me. I don’t imagine that was easy to tell me. We weren’t having a fight and it wasn’t brought up in anger. He just talked with me. Thank you, David.

Humor got me through many things—everything. My ex and I owned a bar. It was the best bar, and I loved it (I still miss it). But he was battling a drug and alcohol addiction. I was so naïve and ignorant that I did not see the signs in the beginning—maybe because he wasn’t battling it, so much as enjoying it then. I was eight months pregnant when I found out fully what was going on, when he pulled his first multiple-day bender. I knew nothing about cocaine, or the signs of use. I may not have liked how much he was drinking, but if he came home before the bars closed he wasn’t doing anything (or anyone) else, right? I learned fast. I had a lot on my plate all of a sudden, with a new baby and a business to run, pretty much alone. It became a game staying one step ahead of him and his friends trying to keep the drugs out of the bar—which meant even keeping him out. I even repainted every smooth surface in the bathroom with a mixture of sand and paint so they couldn’t “line anything up” in there (It became obvious that lines outside the bathroom door meant there were lines inside as well).  Let me state that addiction SUCKS for everyone involved. And recovery is even harder. “Friends” of his knew he was trying to stop and would show up and “shake his hand” in that gesture normally reserved when trying to bribe a maître d’ to get a good table at a restaurant, only they wouldn’t have money in their hands. But my ‘face’ was in place. And I ran that bar. And it was a fun place. Yes, people knew. It was a small neighborhood bar in a smaller neighborhood. We lived two floors over the bar. I would work during the day and we had our friends bartending on the nights I couldn’t work. At 2:00 am when the bar closed, whoever was tending bar would cover the windows and use the back stairs up to my apartment to stay there while my daughter was sleeping, so that I could go down to close up and do the paperwork. Karen, one of our friends and bartenders, would sometimes stay with me, just to hear me vent. I was entertainment for her. She loved when I went off on my tirades, every other word was ‘fuck’ and ‘fucking’ and she would just laugh and tell me how funny I was when I was angry.

But I wasn't just angry. I was sad, and isolated, and I felt so alone. And I was afraid. Afraid that we would lose the business that was my only means of support (I had to double my efforts to keep him and his friends out when I found out we were being watched—because of the activities of another of his ‘friends’), afraid that I would get a call saying he was dead…and then afraid for me, when in his worst moments he threatened to ‘take everyone out’ because if he was going down, we all were, too.

I even wrote one of those “If anything happens to me…” letters. He knows about it. Eight years of trying to get sober. In and out of meetings. In and out of rehab. Steps forward and steps back. And a smile on my face for most of it, even when I was behind the bar, humiliated, serving the many women he was having ‘sexual relations’ with—depending on your Clintonian definition of ‘sexual relations’. Eight years in survival mode, of putting on that ‘face’, dealing with that mockery, pity (from some), and even the bullshit chauvinism from his friends, who would pull him aside and say stupid shit like, “She knows too much about your business.” Kinda had to, right? He wasn’t running it.

Maria knew all of it. She was his friend first from childhood, and then mine when he and I got together. We had the biggest ‘custody’ battle over her when we split up. I miss you, Maria. In a few weeks you will have been gone a year… <3

My ex will be celebrating 17 years sobriety this coming month. I am proud of him, because I know how hard it was (for both of us) and there is no more anger. I have to say we get along quite well now.

But I’m talking about the control we feel we have to have, to be able to put on that face for others. One year ago (this week, in fact. Wow!), I had been out of work for eight months, borrowed from everyone around me to keep afloat and managed (THANK YOU to all of you) to be only one month behind in my rent (that was quite a feat)—and I woke up to a ‘For Rent’ sign on the lawn for MY apartment. It took every single ounce of control I had for my face that day—especially when my then 8-year-old asked me, “Who’s moving?”

I’m not the only one who has had to put on a face. We all do. Many of you have been through much worse than what I have. But a few weeks ago I didn’t put on that face. By choice. And I realized later that it made me feel free. Because—you all know this—keeping that tight control is exhausting. So letting go actually felt good (better than taking the bra off at the end of a long day—Ladies, you know what I’m talking about).  

The past couple of years have been exhausting for me. I’m not saying that for your benefit—I’m saying that to myself, to give myself permission to not be ok all the time. And while there may have been a little embarrassment, it wasn’t the same as an accidental embarrassment—like the time I had to reach way down and in the back for a gallon of milk at Shaw’s and found out when I got home that the entire back seam of my pants had let go. Those moments are worse because we have no control over them. I still had control, even though I didn’t feel it at the time. I made a choice to be that open, to let myself be seen without the plaster.

And the walls didn’t collapse. I still did my work and (most of) what I had to do. Even my ‘letting go’ was controlled somewhat. I stepped outside my comfort zone (again. Lol). And I’m still here. And I still have my job, my family, and my friends. I still have everything I need. And I’m still fine.

I guess sometimes we all need to let go, even if just to prove to ourselves that the world won’t fall off of its axis if we do.

Of course, this doesn't mean I'll be doing it all the time from now on, either. :)

I was serious about the bra thing. It was even better than that.