Sobering

“Sober means I’m not getting drunk. I have a glass of wine or a beer now and again. So what? It was never my intention to stop drinking forever.”

These words were hurled to me as I confronted my favorite addict after I found a poorly hidden empty bottle of wine. They claimed they were 75 days “sober.” And by their definition, perhaps. But for a known binge drinker, I doubt that’s the case. I’d also like to mention all this drinking was done in secret – as was their addiction; their family was oblivious, because they would have gotten upset. And rightly so.

The addict then proceeded to make me sound like I was the crazy one. A master manipulator, there was no confession of wrongdoing or relapse. It was in-your-face defiance with their version of sober. The bait and switch made me feel cheated, hoodwinked, and the structure of trust came crashing down; that will have to be rebuilt. Again.

I liken it to having an affair on my husband with a guy named John (this is for comparison only, I’ve never cheated on my husband). An event caused me to confess, with tears, that I was ending the affair, profoundly sorry for the pain I caused, and I was again faithful to my husband. And so the marriage rebuilds. Then, my husband comes home after work several months later to find another man’s coat had fallen between the couch and the end table. His heart races as he asks me who’s it is.

“Oh, it’s John’s,” I’d say. “He came over today to watch a movie with me. We’re not sleeping together anymore, we just hang out, go to lunch and stuff, and have been for awhile, I just didn’t tell you because you’d freak out about it. I said I would stop sleeping with him, which I have, not that I would never see him again. John and I have a friendship that goes way back and he’s so interesting and nice to have around! What’s so bad about me having a friend over? It’s not a big deal!”

My husband would not think this was okay. No reasonable spouse would think, hey she’s right, I’m totally overreacting! I’m sure something would happen down the road, regardless of my good intentions, and I’d wind up back in bed with John: past behavior is an indicator of future behavior, like credit scores. My husband’s anger would boil over and he would give me an ultimatum: John or him.

I would be angry back, saying it’s unfair just because I spent the past few years sleeping with John and now that I’ve mended my ways, everything is fine, and trust should be restored.

Yet this is the argument I’m having over 2 carbon atoms with a hydroxyl group hanging off of it – alcohol.

There will come a day in the not too distant future where a line will be drawn with that ultimatum: family or alcohol. Personally I’d choose alcohol: it has no accountability.
The entire premise for my addict’s continued use of alcohol all revolves around them and their wants and needs. The fact that their use is destroying their family does not register.

Perhaps that is the most heartbreaking part of this whole painful situation.

I covet your prayers at this time.

My Writing Routine

As a writer, unless I have a pressing deadline or project – or become spontaneously inspired – I don't have much of a routine. I know. I'm working on changing that.

I read this book that revolutionized my writing approach. Free writing and pomodoro timing was a brand new concept to me that I quickly worked into my writing habits. Free writing made the first chapter of my book possible, as I had all these stories and research to sort through – I was able to organize and write simultaneously.

Pomodoro time was essential to my technical writing course with all the reading and essays to write. It gave me a sharper focus, running against the clock knowing I could take a break soon. Without these skills, I would be struggling.

My sitting room is where my iMac lives and all of my writing takes place there. It's decorated in minimalistic Ikea furniture and stays uncluttered. The walls are cyan, my favorite color, and it has a calming effect on me. Pictures of my ancestors are everywhere you look.

For blogs, I write in a WordPress window. My book, and other large projects such as proposals, are conceived in the best word processing program of all time, Scrivener. While I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of all its bells and whistles, it continues to amaze me at what can do. The composition mode is my favorite: a beautiful background of a field in Germany with my writing overlayed on a page – nothing else to distract from the words at hand. It gives such clarity and focus. I'm not sure what I would do without it.

As for the routine, I simply need to write more and on a regular basis, not allowing weeks to slip by with no words on a page. My new job has helped to give me space to explore this, luckily, as time is at a premium in this season of life.

Writing Challenge Day 30: One Thing You Look Forward To

I eagerly look forward to days of smooth sailing and routine.

I long for days where I’m not on the front lines of a loved one’s secret alcohol addiction. My soul is already weary from my world turned upside down this spring, and my anger is ebbing into complacent apathy; fighting back only makes things worse. I keep soldiering on, but my pace has slowed and I long for rest that never seems to arrive.

I want to enjoy life by having friends over with tea, using hospitality to do the Lord’s work. This includes crochet projects for the homeless and giving of time, talents, and money to those around me in need.

With this enjoyment, I truly want to experience joy – something my Generlized Anxiety Disorder deprives me of – I obsessively worry about everything – especially the patients I see. I’ve gone days with my stomach in knots, eating only enough to survive, worried sick that I may have hurt someone.

I want to lead a joyfully quiet life, focused on the Lord.

And I look forward to the day it becomes a reality in my little world.

July: Break Dead Plant Cycle

I have a brown thumb. It is neither green nor black: plants either thrive or die for me. Most die, to be honest – but I have a prayer plant and several succulents still alive and prospering. Fruiting plants are my nemesis: they will make green leaves, flower, and fail to produce fruit.

The Dovecote is a blank slate in terms of landscaping and I am excited to get a design and plants in the ground. I doubt it will be this month due to travel and the heat of a Carolina summer.

I have a small garden of potted plants and so far they are happy. I hope to steward them well enough to break this cycle of dead plants and add them to my landscape design. I transplanted some ground cover (ajuga) and I am making every effort to water and check in on them. The smaller house I hope will draw my attention to them and not get lost in the shuffle.

My marriage, like some plants, has begun to wilt. It’s been a struggle lately, to the point of where we’re arguing even after a good day.

We need to break this cycle and restore the browning leaves and parched soil. I want bountiful green leaves, deeply seated roots, and soil conditions that encourage growth.

I want life to blossom on all fronts.

June in Review

This month’s focus didn’t go so well.

I had a complete and total panic attack that hung on for over a week. I officially moved into the new house. I started my second job. My parents came for a long weekend. My marriage suddenly became very difficult.

There were a few nights I managed to steal away and read Galatians. I finished the book, and found that it didn’t touch my heart as it did in those precious new moments as a young Christian. Maybe it was that season of life is so very different from where I am now.

Psalm 130 still rings through my head. And my heart. And resonates in my soul.

Believe what God’s word says: I do. I just didn’t spend the month of June soaking it in like a summer day at the beach as I intended.

Writing Challenge Day 28: What I Wore Today

Today, like most everyday of my professional life, I wore my work uniform: scrub top and scrub pants, coupled with black socks and my new Dansko shoes. My hair is wrapped in a messy bun, still damp from this morning’s shower. Minimal make up and small button earrings adorn my face.

I started the day asleep in socks and sweatpants.

I’ll end the day with the same, but with a t-shirt, until I crawl into bed.
I wish I was more exciting in the wardrobe department. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to wear cute dresses and full make up on a regular basis.

Then again, showing up in the equivalent of professional pajamas isn’t so bad either.

Writing Challenge Day 27: Four Weird Traits You Have

Awkward
I am really awkward. Physically, mentally, and under certain denominations, spiritually. My body is a pear: small on top, large on the bottom. It doesn’t fit into normal business dresses and I can’t pull off looks where my waist isn’t accented. If only I had boobs, everything would be fine. We won’t discuss my hair. Because I am so individualistic, I don’t run with what the crowd is doing, and so I am the perpetual outsider; it can be quite frustrating when trying to make friends or join a group of people. Politically I’m a centrist who leans slightly left. I don’t swallow American Christianity whole. In fact, I don’t ingest it at all. I don’t blindly support political figures based on their rank, party, or stance on abortion. I don’t fit into any of the round holes cut out for me. I’m a parallelogram peg.

Read mood of room
One of my favorite traits I only recently learned I have, is to read the mood of a room or an individual. The key is not to view anyone through a lens: let them tell you what they are about through their words, body language, eye movement, and facial expression. I can size someone up in moments and then tailor my behavior to mimic or complement theirs.

Inability to wear make up
To go with my awkwardness, wearing make up has also eluded me. I was blessed with my great grandmother’s deep set hooded eyes. They’re basically useless with liquid eyeliner. My fancy almond eyed niece tried to help, but it was futile. I’ve yet to wear eyeshadow or eyeliner like everyone else without looking like a lady of the night or a 5 year old was my make up artist. Make up tutorials backfire. Maybe I just need help. Maybe I should stop trying. Maybe I should always look like I just spent a day at the beach with my tinted moisturizer, powder, mascara, and eyebrow pencil.

Great sense of direction
I could find the way out of a wet paper bag. If I study a map, I can recall my location and navigate. GPS is great, but I don’t need it if I have a few moments with a map. Last week I tried to find a way to my new house from the main drag: I had a decent idea where to go, used my compass, and I found it without much effort. It’s a gift. I’m fun to travel with, too, because sometimes I miss turns and find new roads. If you’re with me, adventure is never far away.

Writing Challenge Day 26: Things You’d Say to an Ex

When I was younger, I’d have written a soliloquy about this, covering the chasms of emotion and trying to hurt them with my words as much as they hurt me. Having grown up a bit and moved on, that is no longer the case. I know exactly what I’d say:

“How are you?”

I mean this not as the common American greeting; I’d want to know where they were in life. What people, events, and experiences shaped them since we last spoke over a decade ago? I’d want to know how they really are; without the facade of social media or a monotone “Fine” which is what I got the one time I asked an ex how they were. I would want to dig deep into the condition of their soul, and yet stay detached as an outside observer.

I don’t believe I’ll ever get the chance to ask, but I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I could. Chances are, their memory of me is so dim, it may not even register anymore.

The Dovecote

It was popular in the nineteenth century to name your house, no matter if it were a cottage or an estate. I have embraced this tradition with my homes.

Our old house was aptly named The Burning Pinecone, after the fabulous firepit my husband built (many a nights were spent drinking and roasting marshmallows with friends) and the giant pinecones that fell from the towering long leaf pines. Most of our fires were fueled by the massive amount of pinecones on the half acre of land we owned. The new house is nothing like our old house. It is much smaller and less grand: it is the epitome of average. It faces the south, so less sunlight comes through our windows, but it keeps it cooler in the summer. Our yard is so tiny, in fact, the listing had the lot in square feet instead of acres. Because of all the other expenses, a firepit has not been built yet, but we have picked out its site. There will be more nights of roasting marshmallows soon.

Our new home needed a name. I didn’t want another firepit inspired moniker and so I considered what other people have named their houses for inspiration. From one of my favorite books, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, John and Meg Brooke’s house was named The Dovecote. Having no idea what a dovecote was, I looked up the meaning of it on Google and promptly went into silent laugh mode:

dovecotehaha

I thought this was a perfect description of our new property, especially after my husband and I failed to get the loveseat through the door (he and his co-worker managed to shove it through the other door with a millimeter of clearance, but not without damaging the walls in the process).

I then read the description of The Dovecote Alcott gave in the book:

And speaking of sentiment brings us very naturally to the ‘Dovecote’.

That was the name of the little brown house Mr. Brooke had prepared for Meg’s first home. Laurie had christened it, saying it was highly appropriate to the gentle lovers who ‘went on together like a pair of turtledoves, with first a bill and then a coo’. It was a tiny house, with a little garden behind and a lawn about as big as a pocket handkerchief in the front. Here Meg meant to have a fountain, shrubbery, and a profusion of lovely flowers, though just at present the fountain was represented by a weather–beaten urn, very like a dilapidated slopbowl, the shrubbery consisted of several young larches, undecided whether to live or die, and the profusion of flowers was merely hinted by regiments of sticks to show where seeds were planted. But inside, it was altogether charming, and the happy bride saw no fault from garret to cellar. To be sure, the hall was so narrow it was fortunate that they had no piano, for one never could have been got in whole, the dining room was so small that six people were a tight fit, and the kitchen stairs seemed built for the express purpose of precipitating both servants and china pell–mell into the coalbin. But once get used to these slight blemishes and nothing could be more complete, for good sense and good taste had presided over the furnishing, and the result was highly satisfactory. There were no marble–topped tables, long mirrors, or lace curtains in the little parlor, but simple furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture or two, a stand of flowers in the bay window, and, scattered all about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly hands and were the fairer for the loving messages they brought.

My hear swelled. As a writer, this was perfect! My new home reflected all the nuances of the Brooke’s home, save for the coalbin. It’s coziness (read: small quarters) and less than stellar landscaping (read: years of outright neglect) will be knit into the fabric of my life. Our front yard, which is about the size of a handkerchief, will hopefully be blooming with flowers and evergreen foundation plants this time next year. We have a wonky staircase as well, I’m sure I’ll go down it pell mell at some point.

And so, my new home is affectionately known as The Dovecote. I’m looking forward to entertaining friends and strangers over tea. When our house was blessed, the pastor likened it to the moon, reflecting the light of the Son. I hope everyone who comes through the doors of The Dovecote senses the love of the Lord in this space.

I also plan to frame this passage and display it in my new home.