I’ve been back in Portland a little over a week.
It’s more difficult than I was expecting.
First and foremost, I forgot just how much I HATE looking for a job. I mean, hate it. It would be a great sense of relief to my current bosses if they knew just how much I despise job hunting, for they could rest assured that only total disaster would make me up and quit. I never really know where to look, I feel like an idiot asking people about help wanted signs, I’m either overqualified or underqualified for everything (no, I don’t have a Master’s in international public policy, and no, I don’t have an Oregon Food Handler’s License), I always fuss too much with my hair or my makeup or my clothes, so I look really uncomfortable, and mostly I just don’t know what to say. Somehow, “I’m not an idiot and I’d like money, so please hire me” doesn’t quite inspire the confidence that you would think it would.
I have to remember to calm myself down. I’m not destitute, I’m not going to get thrown out on the streets or starve. I didn’t work last summer, and that was a huge mistake, but I managed to muddle through. I wonder how I’ll feel about that muddling through business when I’m 55? I feel that panic sitting in my chest, the “holy shit, I’m always going to be broke as a joke” panic.
In fact, I was feeling a whole lot of panic last night, and not just the financial kind.
This summer is the longest amount of time I’ve spent in Portland, at my mother’s home, in about 4 years. And it is the absolute longest time I’ve spent here sober. At least, since I was 12. And even in a week, hell within a day, I could see all those old habits taking over. Looking around at the expectation that I would somehow have the answers to problems that pre-date my birth, at the necessity to run interference between people who suck at expressing themselves, at the overwhelming list of physical tasks and improvements that someone needs to take care of, I slipped right back into silence and solitude. I hid in my bedroom and read crappy books, feeling trapped by past habits and desire for a different future. It’s not resting, it’s resentment.
Now, I am realizing just how physically spent I was after this school year, and that I need much more sleep than I was getting for months. Between the stress, the complete lack of physical activity, my exceptionally poor pre-WW diet, and a list of excuses as wide as my waistline, I’m not in the best physical state at the moment, and when I set my alarm for what I think is a perfectly appropriate hour, I often sleep for more. But, I’ve gotten better over the years at telling the difference between what is physical and what is emotional being expressed through the physical. Or maybe I just think I have.
Sometimes you just have to deal with the fact that other people don’t want what you want. I want to go berry picking, I think it would be fun, and we’d get berries out of it! No one in my family wants to go berry picking. And my suggestion that this would be a fun, outdoor activity is treated as a burdensome demand from a spoiled child. Now, everyone in my family, me included for sure, has tonal difficulty. We’re not careful with our tone and often hurt each other unnecessarily. But the fundamental problem might be that what I want isn’t what others want.
I want my life to be fun.
I wanted that before. I always wanted that when I was drinking. I was trying to make fun out of something that wasn’t fun for me. I was caught up in what was supposed to be fun, desperate to avoid admitting that it wasn’t. In the hard work of early sobriety, the concept of life being fun gets pushed a bit to the background. But in recent months I’ve started to have those doubts again, the feeling that I’m bored, restless, and awfully uninspired by my own choices. And that I will always be that way, because I was born for a life of work without relief. I blame it on money, or time, or tiredness. And then I hear all those same excuses out of my family, and I want to scream. At them, but mostly at myself.
Last night I was dejectedly chopping potatoes for dinner. My mom wasn’t feeling well and was put out with me for asking her if she wanted dinner. My brother wandered into the kitchen, asked when dinner would be ready, but didn’t offer any assistance. And I just wanted to cry. Cry because it was like being 14 again, taking responsibility for what I considered basic tasks of life that no one else could be bothered with, and being treated like that was my place. As the timer counted down I made a decision. When dinner was finished I grabbed my purse, told everyone they could eat whenever, and split. I walked 30 blocks to a meeting and snuck in, late and sweaty, to a room full of strangers.
It was a birthday celebration for the two leaders. And they were wearing hats and garlands. I was shocked at first, but then everyone that spoke thanked them for being so lighthearted, for reminding the room that we have to laugh at ourselves, that we have to remember to have fun. It took me a while, but I eventually relaxed. I let myself remember that I’m not beholden to my old habits, and that what I want from my life is possible, but it might not be possible within someone else’s context. I don’t mean that to sound as if I give myself license to be selfish and think only of what will make me happy. Rather, it gave me the space to realize that maybe my family couldn’t understand my desire to do things that I think will be fun instead of sitting around the house watching TV every single night, because they haven’t been in the place where there is only despair surrounding you. Seeing happy, smiling, grateful people in all stages of recovery reminded me that sometimes the communication between myself and my family, especially about my reawakened desire to be moving, out, DOING, isn’t that they don’t love me, but rather, they don’t understand that being rid of the years upon years of despair it is important to me not to waste the second-chance I was given.
And boredom is a waste.
So, as always when reality slaps my expectations, it is up to me to decide if it is what I want or how I’m going about getting what I want that is unrealistic. As usual, it’s my approach. Time for a little tinkering.
(2 Years, 9 Months, and 10 Days Sober)