Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A non-traditional valentine

Flowers sent to my friend to celebrate a year of growth

I've decided to do something different this year: I'm writing a non-traditional valentine to one of my dearest friends. I'm not going to name you, galentine, but you know who you are.

Last year she was going through a rough time, this friend. Actually, it had been going on for longer than a year. We had been confidantes in each other for quite some time. We called each other when things were bad. We went out to lunch and cheered each other up on dark days. But I didn't realize just how rough of a time she was having until the night her sister called me and said, "My sister is suicidal. Can you go over to her house and take her to the hospital?"

Immediately I knew what the problem was. It hit me cold in the stomach. And in spite of our long-standing friendship, and all this friend has done for me, immediately I flatly thought, "I am not the right person to call. I don't want to do this. I can't do this."

The problem was alcoholism - a problem I am all too familiar with.

Let's make this about me for a minute.

My father was an alcoholic and I have spent my entire life distancing myself from those terrible memories. I moved away from home at age 18 and never moved back. (I have only recently been able to admit this to myself.) I have been to countless Al-anon meetings. I have been to years of therapy. I have read books. I have done thought worksheets. I have attended church groups for families and friends. I have ditched out on relationships when I've felt alcohol was a problem so I could save my heart. It seems I've done it all, and I am done.

So... back to her. In spite of this, I love my friend. She is so dear to me! I had to go help her that night. I just had to. I knew she would help me if I needed it.

So reluctantly I drove over to her house. I'm not kidding when I say I had to drag myself to the car. I parked on the street and sat there and steeled myself until I was ready to go in and help.

We stayed in the hospital for the night while she detoxed. Almost like watching another person, I saw myself in the hospital room, talking to the nurses and social workers and doctors. I saw myself keeping her from leaving. I saw my hands still hers when she tried to pull her IV out. In the morning, I saw myself walk her out to the car and drive to the rehab facility. I saw myself sit down on a bench after she walked through the check-in doors so I could put my head in my hands and just breathe.

On my way home, I was so distraught that I got lost driving back. I was only driving from Salt Lake City to West Jordan - a drive I have done many, many times. I cried almost the whole way home. I felt I was reliving a horrible nightmare. I felt I was losing one of my closest friends. I had absolutely no faith that any of this would help her. I felt like once again, I had been sucked in and fooled.

She spent a few days there, checked out, and enrolled herself in an intensive out-patient addiction treatment program. She asked me to attend family meetings with her on Tuesday nights because her family doesn't live in Utah.

Can we make this about me again? Because once more, I thought, "I am not the right person to call. I don't want to do this. I can't do this." I made it completely about me.

Unwillingly, I went that first night. As I drove there, I thought, "I have been hearing this same old shit since I was in the fifth grade. It's not going to work. I'm just going to get my heart broken all over again." I even made a comment like that in the meeting.

But I did go - in spite of the baggage I have been carrying around since I was a young child, in spite of not believing she would stay sober, in spite of thinking it would only hurt me. Because of her love for me, I went.

Because let's be honest. It wasn't ever supposed to be about me.

Don't think for a moment that I was being selfless, because I wasn't. Nobody was being more selfish than I during those months. In reality, she has no idea how much she helped me. No idea at all. You see, in spite of my unwillingness to help her, in spite of my inability or unwillingness to love her fully, she reached out to me anyway. She loved me. It was her hour of need, but it was mine, too. One that I didn't even know I had.

This program was amazing. I found myself really looking forward to attending every week. I found myself releasing deep, cleansing, sobs on the way home each Tuesday night. And my friend was amazing. Her ability to open up, to feel, to share, to talk, was just amazing.

I'm sorry if I'm using that word too much: amazing. But it was. It really was.

It was so healing for me. I came to understand addiction much better than I ever have. In fact, I don't think I ever understood it at all. Obviously as a child, I thought it was about me. I think that's pretty normal for a kid to believe. I thought that if I was a good enough girl, a good enough student, a good enough daughter, a good enough friend, a good enough wife... etc etc... then that person wouldn't need to drink or do drugs.

But it had nothing to do with me at all. And that's what I learned from my friend.

I learned not to expect perfection. Not from her, not from me, not from life. I'm still learning that. Failing is a part of healing. Relapsing is a part of recovering. Falling is a part of getting up.

This really is a very strange valentine, I know. But I want you all to know, and especially my dear friend, how much I love her. I have learned more from this experience than I have learned in a lifetime. I am so thankful that she came into my life and chose me as a friend.

Happy Galentine's Day, L.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dark vs. Light

Today I have two drastically different views out my windows at work. My cubicle is situated in the corner so I have two beautiful views: one toward the airport and city, the other toward Wendover.

Here's the view out the front:

And here's the view out the back:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I could have taken better pictures. Work with me, people! This is what you get when I try to take pictures on the sly with my phone before my manager ninjas up on me like he often does. He seems to think nobody on our team is ever working (and at the time that I took these pictures, obv. I wasn't) and sneaks up on us all the time to catch us in the act. Ah, Cubicleland.

But I digress. I thought these pictures were interesting because they are taken of the same sky at the same time. The clouds have been like this all day. Ominous toward the northeast, but sunny and cheerful toward the west. It hasn't rained in the city yet, but it hasn't entirely cleared up on the other side, either.

Do you ever feel like you're part of a private war? Like.... the things you want versus the things that you need? Your dream life versus your commitments? The nice you versus the bad you? The proper versus the improper? Do you ever feel like there are layers to your heart that you peel back and let certain people see, yet keep closely wrapped against others? Do you ever long for deep connections with people, when deep down you know it's a wasted effort?

Am I having a midlife crisis? These are just pictures of clouds, for heaven's sake. My manager is right; I should get back to work.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


For a few years now, my friend Lori and I have had a tradition of getting together on Sundays to make crafty things. We actually haven't done it in quite some time so today was a treat. We ate homemade soup and rolls, chatted, and crafted. I've missed these Sunday afternoons.

Posted above is my finished product. I picked up this paper wreath kit on clearance a while back and haven't gotten around to it until today. It's from one of my favorite local companies, SEI. I love their paper and scrapbook supplies. Not that I have scrapbooked anytime in the last 3 years! But still. You know what I mean.

I chose to write the word Hope on the chalkboard paper. It's my motto for 2015. I haven't decided yet where to hang it, but I want to see it every day. I have a lot to hope for!

**Sorry for the washed out picture. I have never claimed to be a professional photographer!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Black Out Days

Remember how I wrote once that music speaks to my soul? Well, it still does.

I love words. I love music. The two combined are amazing. They are other-wordly. They are heaven. They are hell.

Every once in a while, and completely unintentionally, songs will assign themselves to a very significant person or event in my life. This year, it happened with two songs. The honor goes to Phantogram.

The song that I've shared above has simple lyrics. If you read the words without the music, they really don't say much at all. But pair them with the music and they speak volumes to me and to the February and March that I experienced in 2014.

I like to think about intention and experience, which influence where a writer is coming from when he or she creates poetry, prose, or songs. But honestly, I really don't know what Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter were thinking about when they wrote Black Out Days. At first I thought she was pleading with someone to stay away from her. But after awhile, I felt she was pleading with herself to stay away from someone or something that wasn't good for her. Whether or not that was their intention, that's what I take away from this song.

It's beautiful.

Here's the other song that I love.

My favorite part?
Babe, the night has swallowed my soul.
Could it be that I fell apart? It shows.
The lines on my face ate away my smile.
Could it be that I fell apart?
I'm still a romantic at heart. I love the emotion behind the words. I've stolen them from Sarah and Josh. They now belong to me and what I experienced last year. At the time I hung onto the songs like a life line. Now I listen to them and remember where I was compared to where I am now.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Paperweight

A gift received on my 18th birthday

I was washing the dishes yesterday, looking out the window at the snowfall, when my eyes drifted down and rested on the paperweight resting on the windowsill by my kitchen sink.

"My goodness," I thought, "this is covered in dust!"

My mom had set the paperweight on the windowsill a few years ago when she came for a visit. She found it hidden in my computer room, unused. "This is so pretty! It needs to be somewhere you will see it every day!" she declared, setting it on the windowsill. She didn't know, or didn't remember, its significance.

I dipped it in the soapy water and wiped its surface clean. It sparkled as the towel buffed it dry. I carried the clean paperweight over to the Christmas tree in our front room. Holding it up  to the lights, I looked through it. I turned it around and upside down. I slid my fingertips over its smooth surface.

The paperweight was a gift from my best friend in high school. I remember that she had made certain to wrap the gift in birthday paper - since my birthday is so close to Christmas, I often get the dreaded joint birthday/Christmas presents - and though she teased me that I complained too much about this, she always took care to give me separate gifts and cards.

As I opened the gift, my friend explained that her mother had suggested she get me something significant for my 18th birthday. Something that I could keep to remind me of our friendship.

The paperweight has been with me now for 23 years. It traveled with me from Minnesota to Utah. It sat by my bedside throughout college. It was packed again and unpacked to sit on my coffee table in my first "married" apartment. It came with me to work for a while. It came back home. It was packed up again when I moved to a new home and started a new life. It was buried by the papers in my messy office. Finally it was moved to the kitchen windowsill.

Her mother was right: looking at the paperweight and its suspended dandelion fluff reminds me of my dear friend. We don't talk often, but when we do, it carries deep significance to me. We last spoke in the spring of 2014, shortly after she had her second baby and I knew I wouldn't be having any at all. I cried for her because she was having a difficult time. And she cried for me because I was so brokenhearted.

I thought about all that has happened in our lives as I looked at the paperweight sparkling in the light of the Christmas tree. It seems so strange now that we had no idea the paths our lives would take. There was no college, no travel, no marriage, no divorce, no babies, no infertility, no Utah, no New York. Those two little 18-year-old girls had no idea what was waiting for them. They didn't know how our lives would travel side-by-side, then cross, then separate, then cross again, over and over again, weaving a silent pattern.

The dandelion fluff looks so delicate, like it can be blown away with the puff of a wish. But it hasn't blown away. It stays suspended in the paperweight, and the paperweight stays with me.