“Spiritual growth involves giving up the stories of your past so the universe can write a new one.” – Marianne Williamson

Can we talk about Money?

This is a big, scary word that has held an incredible amount of weight for me for so long. For a word that has had so much weight, I’ve done a really good job pretending like it doesn’t matter. I have spent a lot of years wavering between blissful ignorance and crippling inferiority surrounding my financial situation. So much of my self-worth has been held by the unloving hands of my paycheck. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to come to the people closest to me and have really uncomfortable conversations about the disparities between my reality and my appearance. I love to let you think I have it all together, but a lot of times, I’m hanging on by a thread (or that last $10 in my account.) Can you relate? I am writing this because writing is healing and because it’s only talking about money (daily) with people that I love, that is changing the weight of it. I have spent hours and a lot of you know what, talking about the root of my issues with money. I can blame it on genetics and addiction or the generation I was born in. I could also blame it on the Stars and the time of year I was born and the Planet that rules my house. I could also blame it on the fact that I am lucky and I’ve always had people I love who have bailed me out. There a lot of reasons that I think I have never been able to get ahead, but I am done with making excuses and hanging my head in shame. What if I change the narrative? What if I use my voice to talk about the ways that I am trying to make changes? What if I actually believe that I deserve to be free of financial fear? 

I have talked circles around my financial fear for most of my sobriety. When I was newly sober, I wholeheartedly believed that quitting drinking was going to be a magical salve for my impulsive spending. Surely getting sober would at least help me start balancing my bank account on the regular? If not a strict budget, at least I’d stop living paycheck to paycheck? My first sponsor quickly brought me back to the ground after this first flight from reality. She said, “Lori, the two greatest foes of alcoholics are romance and finance. You will most likely find yourself in more financial despair than you are in now.” Well, that was a buzzkill. But she was right.

At six months sober, I decided I needed to revamp my look for the summer. I Maxed out a credit card or two and then shamefully paid the minimum payments for a couple of years. In 2012, I took out a large 401K loan to consolidate some debt (and take a vacation of course). This was better debt to be in, but it was still debt. Then in 2013, I started dating Josh. It was the first time I became painfully clear on how my discomfort with my finances was affecting my relationships. Josh was busy working his butt off to pay off his debt and I was secretly racking it up. We decided early in our relationship that the smartest way to keep our relationship happy was to keep most of our finances separate. This, combined with my ability to work as much or as little as I want, allowed me to hide my indiscretion for a while. I don’t know if you’ve ever hid debt from people that you love, but it is uncomfortable. It is gross. I finally came clean about my situation and he was as loving and kind as could be. So I did it again. And again. And then again one more time. The year we got married was the last time. Something about marriage made me realize how much my actions affect him and it made me want to stop.

The question is, and has always been, WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO? The most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done is sit down with my husband and let him look at my bank and credit card accounts. Letting him see my insanity was the beginning of a really strong dose of reality. We discovered that I have a penchant for taking Ubers to get coffee on my overnights. What is already an expensive habit, becomes exponentially more expensive when I am taking Uber each way. And then there is the minimum credit card payments. I was a slave to interest for over a decade.

After cutting up and closing most of my credit cards, Josh and I worked at paying off my debt. And then we worked at saving for our future. The last year has been huge. Two huge vacations that we paid cash for, all while saving for a home. It feels great to be where we are and to have nice things. But even though I’m not creating debt, I’ve not been saving money the way that I want to.

You know what is amazing about being in a relationship with someone who has a handle on their finances? It makes you really want to have a handle on it too. One thing that Josh does to have a handle on things is he looks at his credit card and bank accounts every single day. Me? I’m more of the once a week type. Something has happened though…I created a manageable budget. A realistic one. One that accounts for my insanity around coffee and organic food. I set the numbers high, even though I have a lot of shame around them. In the past, it has felt too gross to acknowledge that I spend as much as I do. By restricting myself, I was creating so much room for error and yep, an incredible amount of shame. Each time I tried to budget, I failed. And each time I failed, I reopened new wounds which tell me that I don’t deserve to have nice things or be free of financial stress because I am a bad person who is always going to fail. (I know that this is false, but this is what setting myself up for failure has looked like for the last 20 years.)

In February, I started talking about my financial fear in therapy. I talked about my inability to accept that I deserve to be free of shame and guilt. We talked about setting a budget. Then we set a realistic one. And guess what? I have stayed within the numbers I have set for myself. It feels so good! Getting paid and having an amount left over from my last payday to roll into savings is one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.

I have a feeling I’m going to write a lot about this from here on out. Talking about my finances has stopped giving them so much power. I know that I have every right to be free of the fear and shame that has held me back for so long.

Do you relate to any of this? Have you had success at making changes? Let’s talk. We are all in this together.

 

 

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Habit cultivation.

Has it really been two years? That makes me want to throw up. Or at the very least, I want to write excuses about how long it’s been since I’ve written anything, there is truly no excuse. Last year, I sat down to design my blog after Josh bought my URL for me. And I got upset about my lack of skills when it comes to web design, so I just stopped. Shame is so tricky. If you let it get to you, it can really take away everything. I really don’t know how I let so much time pass without coming here to write something. I’ve had a lot of words inside me. At times, I’ve shared them on Facebook. Mostly, I’ve just let them pass. What inspired me to come here today is that I’ve just finished reading Anne Lamott’s latest book of advice. Her chapter on writing was all information that I’ve heard before, but maybe I wasn’t ready for it yet. Isn’t it funny when that happens? I was reading these words of hope that she wrote for those of us in despair and this sentence lifted off the page and went straight to my heart. “Writing dilutes our habitual fear and our need for control.” OH. OKAY. Thanks for invading my head, Annie. I didn’t realize it was that obvious. I also didn’t realize that I was doing such a poor job of trying to hold the pieces together until that sentence came into my heart and ripped the whole thing wide open.

OH, YEAHHHH. I have been doing this writing thing for years because I like it and it makes me feel better. Not because I want to make money from it or have lots of people read my words. I do it because it makes me feel better. And I haven’t been doing it at all. Why? Because I let fear tell me not to. Really? I thought I’d know better by now. This is how I know I’m still learning so much. It is time to dust off my keyboard and start where I am. It doesn’t matter what font my writing is in, it just matters that I write. It doesn’t matter if anyone is reading this, but it matters that I am writing. Every time I look back at what I wanted to be when I was younger, the only thing that stands out is the day that my Aunt gave me my first journal. That is how I know that this is important, this matters.

I have been praying for change. For a way to let myself try to let go of the reins. I want to be in control of everything. On occasion, my job lets me master the art of being an absolute control freak and I am able to hide behind the shield of my Profession. “I’m not a control freak. This is just my job.” It gets scary when this manifests in all other areas of my life. My marriage. My friendships. In the car. At the grocery store. At my favorite coffee shop. Walking down the street. (You get the picture.) The issue with thinking that you’re in control is when things don’t go your way, well your whole life starts to feel like it is falling apart.

When I read those words from Annie, it felt like she was reminding me that the answer for change has always been right here. I am reminded all the time that starting small is better than never starting at all. A 15 min walk is better than no walk. Five minutes of stretching a day can make my body feel like a whole new body. After a week of eating out for every meal, my life usually starts to feel like it is falling apart. Coming back to my kitchen and cooking one breakfast for myself an make me feel like I am loved, whole, safe. And yes, I can already feel the anxious knot in my chest unraveling as I type this. I am forever grateful for an open heart that allows me to see the truth when I am not seeking it. I promise to be back soon.

 

 

1-1-17

It’s hard to look back on a year and write about it without feeling overly dramatic; histrionic. It’s especially hard when you haven’t given yourself permission to sit and write anything solid for over a year. I know I came to this place several times in 2016 with the intention of writing something, but for some reason, the words just didn’t come.

There were times I came to process what was happening in the world, but also what was going on in my own life. Growing into my relationship, which at times felt difficult and almost too much to handle. It is hard to be with someone who is different than you. Someone who feels and processes experiences in ways that are different than your own. Even the way we eat meals is extremely different. And sometimes those differences seem so VAST, so WIDE, so impossible to cross. I want to write about them, but I also want to respect this person that I love so much and writing about something as personal as relationships has felt very odd and very scary to me. But this relationship is where I do the most growing -where I do the most learning. There were times in the beginning of 2016 that it really felt that we might not make it to the other side of certain months. And then something changed. I learned how to let go of the outcome. I learned to be okay with my own needs. And I learned how to listen to his. And we grew closer because of this. Even now I find it really hard to write this, but I’m doing it, because it feels important to me.

I also remember really wanting to write about how the ALC changed me and how I could feel the spirits of my great friend Mike and my Dad (both of whom I lost in 2015), pushing me up each hill that I had to climb on my little bicycle that week in June. Eight hours each day of that week was spent on my bike and while about 40% of my thoughts were focused on not dying and 30% of my thoughts were about when I was going to get to eat again, the rest were focused on what kind of magical stuff I’d have to write about when I finally got the chance. But the chance came, and the words didn’t. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that one of the saddest days of 2016 was the day I tried to sit down and write about that ride. Instead, I just found myself trying to scroll through Facebook and reach out to those people who might be feeling scared or triggered by what happened at Pulse in Orlando. I found it impossible to process what I had experienced on that journey without also processing what happened the morning after. And so I didn’t write, I didn’t process, and I moved on to the next big goal.

That’s really what 2016 was about for me. I lost touch with a lot of myself in 2015 and I was determined to find my way back to some sort of idea of who I might be, what I find important, and how to cultivate that in my life. There were some real victories, too.

I think the thing I’m most proud of is how I learned to stop chasing relationships (friendships) that didn’t make me feel good.  Loved. There are so many people out there who need love and who need to share it. If you are not spending your time with people who make you feel special, make you feel like you’re a champ – then you are wasting your time. As a result of making this my primary focus in 2016, my relationship with my partner is stronger and my relationship with myself is stronger as well. I also feel like I have the best tribe in every aspect of my life that I’ve ever had. Good, strong women surrounding me in every place that I spend my time. I can’t say enough about making sure that you have people in your life that make you feel capable and confident and worthy of the things that you desire.

Because of the people that I have in my life right now, I feel strong and happy about where I am today. I am sad that last year was so focused on external strength and happiness, that I lost a little bit of touch with my creative stuff, which feels like internal strength and happiness. But I am also confident that I did exactly what I needed to do at that time. Learning how to love myself is not easy, but I do it because it helps me and it helps others.

So, on this New Year’s Day…I’m going to commit to 30 minutes of writing, everyday. Maybe it will be in here, maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll carry my pen and notebook everywhere in an attempt to be more creative and engage less in topics that are not kind or necessary. I’m also going to commit to not engage in the type of self-commentary that makes me look and feel bad.

Looking ahead, the future looks bright. Vacations, marriage, more growth.

“I’ve got a feeling…..”

hello from the other side of 2015…

I am writing because I feel like I should write, but I have no idea what I’m going to say. How do you come back to something that you have neglected for a while? How do you pick up the pieces and remember how to do something that you used to love? Baby steps. Practice. Patience.

This has been a year of losing people. In the midst of it all, I feel like I must admit that I’ve lost some of myself as well. I want to stray away from self-flagellation and the type of reflection that feels like it is not constructive, but I do have to say that the life that I visioned myself having today is not at all what I have. I’ve had a tremendous year, full of hope, but it’s also been full of quite a bit of despair.

Writing the way I do (as I am even doing now), is sometimes just a process of wrapping things up. Processing experiences. I love to go back and read what I was doing at this time last year, the year before, etc. Keeping this blog and other manifestations of diaries, has been a way that I have lived and experienced my life since my aunt gave me my first journal when I was eight or nine. This has been the biggest and most emotionally charged year of my life, but I’m pretty sure it’s been the least documented of the last 15 years for me. I haven’t written much here, or in the other journals that I keep. Not for lack of trying though. I came to this space many times this summer, planning to reflect on the feelings I was having after losing my Dad in July and then again, after losing my wonderful friend, Mike in September. But every time I started typing, the words seemed cheap and unreal. I guess what I have needed to learn for a long time, is that processing experiences doesn’t always come easy. Letting people go is not easy. Saying goodbye is not easy. And learning how to let yourself grieve, is definitely not easy. It’s taken a little while for me to learn that I can do all of these things but I must also take extra care of myself in the process.

2015. A year of loss. I find myself enjoying the sadness that I have started carrying around with me since my Dad passed in July. Sometimes I watch the video on my phone that I took of him when he was in the hospital last December over and over again, like some sort of crazed person. And sometimes I talk to him when I am alone and driving, because I always felt closest to him when we were in the car. We were never all that close, but I know that he loved me and was proud of me for getting sober so young. I’ve had a really hard time forgiving myself for not running to his side the week that he passed, because I feel like I never had a chance to say goodbye. Some people have told me that guilt is a useless emotion, so I try to remind myself of that every time I try to pick up my bag of shame and carry it around with me.

The same sadness that has me watching that video of my Dad, over and over again, sent me back in to the realm of my old live journal, searching for stories and laughs about my old friend Mike. You know when you’re younger and you can’t imagine ever losing people? Mike was one of those people for me. I just sort of felt like he would always be there. And he’s not anymore. And it fucking sucks. But what has developed for me since he’s passed is this overwhelming sense of love and appreciation for the people that we (our group of misfit friends) were and the people that we have all grown up to be. Mike knew that I would grow up to be loved by someone who loves me the way that Josh does today. And he would tell me all the time. I never believed him.

I am crying like a baby right now, of course. It feels good to get this out and to know that I have made a beginning here again. I can’t believe ten months have passed and I have written anything. My life has changed so much this year, and even though most of what I shared here has been about loss, there’s been some triumph too. I’ve let go of some fear and really embraced things that I never thought that I would again. I absolutely love driving, probably a little too much. And I’m falling back in love with my job again, thanks to the amazing people that I work with out here in Oakland. My relationship with Josh is better than it was at this time last year, and even though we are so very different, we have managed to find a way to co-exist in a space that is so beautiful and wonderful and ours. These are all things that make me feel triumphant.

Truly. This life is beautiful and I’m glad to be alive and present in it. Thank you.

Truth

How did I forget about that pesky thing that happens when you move? You know, losing everything….

I keep thinking of things I want to find and having no idea where they may be. I keep looking for two different books and my favorite T-shirt. And then there’s my confidence….It’s nowhere to be found. Uprooting myself from my very tight and loving community is proving to be weird and awkward. I’ve landed in a place of abundant sunshine and I can’t allow myself to really love it. It’s just so fucking sunny all the time. And even though I love every bit of it, it feels weird. It feels weird not to complain about the weather all the time! I miss commiserating with strangers about the weather. I am serious.

I truly don’t know how to love it here without feeling like I’m doing something wrong. Does that make sense? Ugh, I just feel so uncomfortable in my skin, it’s like I don’t even know who I am or where I am. I know that it’s normal, but it feels so gross. I keep holding it together in the day to day, but little moments of unpleasantness pass over me and I don’t like it one bit. Of course, I haven’t been doing any of the things I really love that make me feel alive day to day. Why would I do that?! Pray? No way. Write? Who has time for that when there are library books waiting to be read? And stupid iPhone games to play! And let’s be honest, I’ve been working too much and keeping myself too busy to feel any discomfort. I decided to slow down a bit this week and not over do it on my days of this week, and as soon as I did that, I felt something similar to sheer terror.

I am getting my drivers license this month. And then I’ll have to get a car. And like, really be an adult. You know, pay for insurance and shit. So much has changed and continues to change. It all feels super weird. I hate when things feel weird. The last thing I want to do is be honest about my emotions. I’d rather hide behind fluffy Instagram photos of my new neighborhood, or even better, my super glamorous job. But, the jig is up. I have to stop hiding. I definitely have to stop pretending that everything is sunshine, rainbows, and butterflies. Even though it is all of those things, it’s also a new place with new faces, new things, and new experiences. I love everything about that, except for that I have to be vulnerable and I have to be brave. And honestly, I probably have to stop trying so hard. Seriously, I’m in the land of Organic Vegetables and Sunshine, so I just need to let things grow the way they are supposed to, not the way that I want them to.

I’m really Okay. I just needed to vent. At least I am headed to somewhere cold today, which will allow me to remember why the hell I left.

Love you all. ❤

Home. Wherever that may be.

So this is it. All my belongings are in a truck headed west, along with the love of my life. I can’t believe that we are doing this. I’m so excited. So excited that I can’t find it in me to be sad just yet. And that’s not without trying. I tried to have a good cathartic cry, the tears just haven’t come. Yet.

Last night and this morning, I sat on the floor of my empty apartment and thought about what has changed in my life since the day I moved in.

I have lived in this apt since May of 2010. I had too many drinks the first night I lived here and had to climb in through my balcony. The same third floor balcony that I dropped my phone off earlier that day.

Six months later, I stopped drinking and slowly started to put the pieces of my life back together. I mended myself and I mended relationships. I decorated my apartment. I got curtains and I even hung them up all by myself. Today I wrapped myself up in those same curtains and said “Thank You.”

Thank you for this home; where I learned to stop being so afraid of the world and get more into loving it instead.

I have done the bulk of my traveling while calling this place home and it has been such a good place to return to. I stopped calling myself bad names within these walls, and learned how to forgive myself too. I learned how to let myself be loved, and learned to love someone else.

I have never loved anywhere I’ve lived as much as I have loved this little apt. Even with its quirks and the three awful flights of stairs I had to climb to get there, it was the first place that I ever looked in the mirror and was happy to just BE.

Thank you for all the memories, Chicago. I’m gonna make you so proud.

Four.

So many things to say. Writing has not been very easy for me in the last month, so it is with hesitation and loads of fear that I put my fingers on my keyboard and try to find the space in my heart to write. I’m so hard on myself and want to find any sort of excuse to avoid this task that brings me so much relief and so much joy. Writing was my second love as a child. After reading, came writing. I took my pen to my first journal and wrote about so many things. It was easy. It came to me like a gift and I squandered it and pushed it to the side in favor of other more glamorous and exciting interests. The only thing that got me back here today was reading my blog entry from this date last year. I can’t believe how far I have gotten from where I thought I would be by now, but I also can’t believe all that I have accomplished, so even if it feels like I am not where I thought I would be, I am here and that says a lot.

1460 days. Four years without a drink or a drug. I did not know that it would get harder with more time, if I had known, I might not have stayed sober as long as I have. So far, my even years have been harder than the odd ones. It seems like it’s been that way in life in general, so maybe there’s a theme there. I can remember feeling very grateful that I made it to two years and I’m certainly very grateful that I made it to four. I am full of hope for the next year and feel like it could absolutely be the best year yet, I just have to keep working hard to make sure that’s the case.

Growing up is hard. There has been so much of it this year and I want so much to dull the growing pains with something easier than getting on my knees and asking for help. I know it sounds easy, but some days it seems like the ground is farther from me than the bar down the street. Today, I woke up feeling grateful for my sobriety for the first time in nearly three months.  I’ve been full of resentment lately. I’ve resented this life, I’ve resented the separation that being sober has made me feel like I have from a lot of people that I love, and I’ve resented every person that I have seen leave their sober lives behind them this year because I can’t stop thinking that maybe I should do the same. But today I woke up and I remembered what it was like to wake up four years ago on this day and know that I deserved better than the life that I was living. I felt it in my bones when I woke up and I felt it all day today. Gratitude.

There is a part of me that knows that my crazy is all part of being afraid of what lies ahead for me. There is a great big move in my future and there is a man by my side that has fought like hell to make me believe that he is my biggest supporter, my partner, my best friend. We plan to move across the country, to build a new life for ourselves in a place that we both believe is the perfect place to be together. There is so much beauty in change, but it is going to be the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Moving across the country at 17 was scary, but I didn’t know any better. I know better now. It could end up being a stupid decision, or it could end up being exactly what we both hope it will be. Home. Some place to plant some roots and grow together. We have been through so much together this year, and I finally feel like I am safe with him, safe enough that I can lean in and admit how scared I am. If it ends up being a mistake, well, I guess that makes for some good writing material.

I didn’t even know I had so much to say tonight. I just knew that I had to write. I’m filled up with all kinds of yummy goodness, after seeing a good show and then getting to see so many lovely faces tonight. I’ve met some amazing people in this city, and it will always be a part of me. I will always come back to this place and love it with the most gentle heart. This sweet city beat the living shit out of me, and then it picked me up and taught me how to live again.

Many people ask me, “if you love it so much, why on earth would you leave?” I often ask myself the same thing. But then I think about how dearly I loved Austin, of how I spent my last year there, wondering why I was so anxious to get the F out. There is a humming. It starts soft and low, and sings sweetly to me and tell me to open up and get ready for adventure. That adventure lies beyond what I already know. And oh, how I know this place. I know it more than any other place I lived, because I have known myself here. I have known my loved ones. I have KNOWN myself and my loved ones. Like really, truly known myself and other people. When I allow myself the time to sit still and reflect on living sober, that humming, it gets louder and more excited when I realize this one thing: There is still so much growing ahead. Let yourself grow. 

I can’t begin to wonder at how much bigger my world will get when I finally begin to plant roots in my home state again. And even though I’ve been full of doubt and resentment regarding sobriety, I know that the only way I want to live my life is sober. I’m sure I’ll cry and complain about it every October, but come November 1, I hope I always wake up grateful.

Thank you.