It’s days like today, Thanksgiving Day, when your 40-ish and single that have a tendency to get to you. I left work this morning feeling okay, I remember thinking about my plans for the day. I thought about how I needed to go home, and get some rest as quickly as possible so I could get up, do some laundry, and run errands that had slipped my mind the day before. I remember looking forward to seeing my family for Thanksgiving dinner, but by the time I got to the top of the Grand Island Bridge, and looked out at the horizon burnt a deep red by the still invisible sun, I was in tears.
2015 has been an incredibly emotionally trying and tough year thus far. I had to say goodbye to my best friend and most faithful companion. Marley my first dog, not named after the dog in the movie, rather the namesake of Bob, the artist, musician, and thinker. Definitely one of my favorite people to ever walk amongst us. Marley would have done anything for me, and i for him. He hated rain and snow, but never hesitated to follow me outside into a downpour when i felt the need to feel the rain, as his namesake remarked in one of his most famous quotes.
Marley’s first taste of snow was in 2001 when our beautiful lake dumped 5 feet on us in 2 days just before Christmas. I will never forget the look he gave me as we went down the steps, and his tiny puppy body disappeared into the snow. He stopped dead in his tracks on the bottom step, shook the snow off of him, turned to me as if to say “aw hell no”, he went right back up the stairs, and into the house. The next day we began to dig out, and I thought it would be fun to jump off the porch into the five feet of snow that now encapsulated the entire backyard about a foot higher than the fence. When I jumped, i turned to see Marley’s reaction. All I saw was his tail as it was engulfed by the snow. The dog that wouldn’t walk through it to pee had, without a thought, jumped in behind me. I learned in that moment true loyalty, not from a person, but from a creature with four legs. It is to this day one of the best feelings I have ever had.
Marley was 15, he had a bit of trouble with stairs, but for a 15 year old dog he was in pretty good shape. When I came home that morning, and found him stuck spread eagle on the floor crying, I knew it was time to be loyal to him. I know he probably would have suffered through his pains for me for as long as I needed him to, but that day he jumped in after me, I made a pact with him that when it was his time, I would not ever make him suffer for my selfishness. I said goodbye to this beautiful, loyal soul on august 21st. This is the first I’ve had the courage to write about it.
To add to the emotional burdens of this seemingly never ending year I have suffered through 2 heart breaks. I know, attachment is bad. I am bad at it. I am a lover of love. I love being in love. Boundaries and listening to my intuition I need to work on. Without sounding judgmental and childish, I lost 2 people I cared deeply about this year. One was a tremendous heartbreak, the other heartbreaking. Not sure if that makes any sense to you, it does to me. I’m sorry that I don’t have a better explanation, but there is an upside to all of this sadness and heartbreak that is more in line with what I should be discussing on a day like today. Gratitude.
I have learned through life to take nothing for granted. Just last night at work I had a dear friend tell me that her cousins’ wife, who was 33 years old, went to work, collapsed and died from an aneurysm. My heartbreak seems very small in comparison. She was happy, vibrant, and talking about plans for thanksgiving with coworkers, and bam, gone. In one moment, maybe one breath, many lives changed.
Moments like these teach you gratitude for everything. They teach you to look for a deeper meaning in life. This woman said to me. ” It just goes to show you, go do your life. Don’t waste your time saving up for things to be right. Just go do it.” I’m not sure she noticed, but as I turned to leave, and told her how sorry I was for her loss, I shed a few tears before walking back into work. This spoke to me, not only the utter sadness of it all for the poor woman’s family, but also that I am at a turning point in my life. A point at which I have decided that I am in charge of making me happy. I am no longer putting my happiness in the hands of anyone or anything. As sad as this was for her, it was another sign to me to follow the path that I clearly see lying in front of me.
The point in all of this is that I have been learning to find the good in the bad. Sometimes it is not easy, but if you really spend some time searching, many times from the bad, some amazing things happen. Regardless of how tremendously the first heartbreak affected me I realize it was a life changing experience for me. I found sobriety, yoga, and meditation from that period in my life. These three things have probably been the best things I have ever accomplished/learned in my 43 years walking on this grand blue ball. I am grateful for this. These things have taught me to love and believe that with determination and dedication I can accomplish anything. The latter has taught me that I need to allow myself to be loved, even though I am not perfect. It also taught me how I deserve to be treated, and how I should never allow myself to be treated, all in almost the same breath.
I am grateful for all the things that you are grateful for too… The family, the friends, the wine, and the pie (Butterfinger pie OMG!) Most of all I am thankful that after 43 years that I am still learning about myself, and growing every moment. I am grateful to be able to sit in a moment, whether good or bad, and realize that it too shall pass, and that these fleeting moments are all meant to teach us something, and that everyone crosses our path for a reason, no matter the time that they spend with us. Happy Thanksgiving to you ALL!
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the definition of addiction is the following:
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.“
The hard part is knowing, or noticing these patterns within ourselves. As with any addiction, many times it is easier for someone outside the addiction to notice. In order to notice these things within ourselves we need to examine ourselves closely which many times is very hard to do. People with these types of addictions usually spend most of the time finding excuses for their actions, and putting blame on others for causing their reaction, without ever noticing a pattern or problem. Many times we think an angry reaction might make someone respect our position in the moment better. This is generally not the case, and usually causes more harm than good. Aren’t we all responsible for the ways we react? Instead of reacting negatively, usually we can find a better reaction that does not cause more negativity, or averts it altogether, garnering true respect. This explains why these addictions are very hard to ever try to tame. Recovery for any addiction starts with acknowledgement of, and admission of a problem.
One good way of becoming aware that these things may be a problem is by sitting with that emotion. When an emotion like anger comes up, let yourself feel it. The next time you are driving, and someone cuts you off, or beeps at you for what you think is no reason, this would be a good time to try this. Sit and breathe into that feeling, and notice anywhere that feeling manifests into a physical reaction in your body. It may be a clenching fist or jaw, (or an unfurling finger, don’t laugh we have all done it) or maybe more subtle like a facial expression. Whatever it is, just notice it, don’t judge it. Find where in your body this feeling lives. The next time this emotion comes up you may notice the very same physical reaction. If you practice this enough, and you will start to be able to notice these physical manifestations, and adjust your reaction accordingly, thereby breaking the cycle of that negative emotion controlling you. This is the start of your recovery. It takes some practice, but as with any addiction it can be overcome with work and dedication to yourself, and your well being.
If we are looking at life through these negative emotions, how can we ever feel joy, or happiness. Those are things we would all like to feel more of. How can we see the good in others if we are always reacting from a place of negativity? How many times have you reacted negatively toward someone and regretted it? Feeling negativity without reacting to it will empower you. It will change more each time you practice it, and lighten the load on your emotions ten fold. It will help you to realize that these negative emotions are separate from ourselves, and they do not define us. Take pride in your recovery, we are all human, and as imperfect as the person next to us. We however can be a better person than we were yesterday. If that is our goal, it can be achieved.