July is my month. I celebrate both a birthday & an anniversary of what I hope will always be the day of my last drink, my last drug.
This year, the birthday was number 53 and the anniversary was number 19. Considerably more than anyone who knew me when I was drinking could imagine and I had no interest in stopping. How that happened is another story entirely. Remind me to tell you sometime. It’s a good story.
The end of this particular July also marked one month since my magazine job went the way of so many other magazines. Down, and Out.
The job search continues, with compassion as the watchword and animals, livestock, farm, dogs and cats as the key words, explaining in my cover letter how I got to be so incredibly overqualified for the position (many of which only require a GED) while being so simultaneously uniquely suited for each one. Nothing so far, but no worries either. When I only had one weekday free, my search for a life of compassion manifested as one day a week at the Green Chimneys Farm & Wildlife Sanctuary, part of Green Chimneys Children’s Services. It’s been two months of Fridays and it feels like my forever home, as they say in shelter circles. You’ve all seen the pictures and heard the babble. There will be more babbling to come. Maybe even in this post…
I’ve crossed off a short list of possibilities, still carving out my angel. I’m learning what I can live with & what I can’t. Physically, financially and emotionally. There’ve been a few surprises.
Physically I’m making more room, packing away on high closet shelves thirty years of tax returns, medical records, anything I don’t access daily is being packed away. Books, videos, clothes, anything I don’t use, really use, is being given away. I’m acting as if I’m moving to a much smaller place and it’s creating more space around me.
I’m carving out room to breath, room for angel wings.
Emotionally, I’m terrified of intimacy. Have I mentioned that? My friend Lyle died at the end of July, six years ago. We’d gotten really close when his cancer returned, when he and I were both ill. We could talk to each other, hear each other when no one else could. I’m still not over it, whenever anyone mentions his name unexpectedly, I’m reduced to tears. I hate crying.
On my birthday I met with a woman who runs a program for Thanadoulas, to discuss the upcoming two month training she runs. The point there is simply to be there, as comfort, companionship, an ear for someone who is within 18 months of their death. I think I can do that.
Those two things seem antithetical, the Thanadoula program and my fear of intimacy, but they’re both part of me. I’m sure my therapist would say something about my keeping myself so busy I don’t have time for romance or intimacy and there’s something to that. But I’m keeping myself busy with intimacy and tenderness in the forms I can handle. I know what to expect from someone who is dying. They’re going to die. I can handle that. It’s predictable. I know too, that it’s going to be a lot more complicated than that, in ways I can’t imagine.
Faith for me is taking actions knowing I can’t control what the result will look like.
I spent part of my farm afternoon this past Friday with a young girl, H. I think she’s mildly autistic, she’s probably somewhere around 10 years old. She’d bugged me the first few times she showed up pushing her way into my day. I go there to spend time with the animals, not the kids. She shows up every Friday asking the same questions over and over again. This past Friday I lost my patience, threw up my mental hands, dove in and just talked to her as if she was anyone else who was driving me crazy.
Something clicked for us both.
We worked together for about 30 minutes. We shoveled goat poop into wheelbarrows, I pushed them full of poop and H. pushed the empties on the way back. We swept up and spread sawdust. We were a team. My heart was opened, unexpectedly. We connected when I stopped trying to be anything but exactly who I am, when I stopped trying to see H. as anything but exactly who she was. I’m kinda sarcastic and she’s kinda annoying. Together, we’re pretty funny, we cracked each other up.
When I was drinking, funny was loud and at someone else’s expense; excitement had sirens, sharp edges and was lightening fast.
Before I stopped drinking, I thought I was better than everyone because I showed up for work on time every day. Sometimes that meant roaring down the street, doing the last lines of cocaine in the back of a police car, after being out all night with them. Rinsing my mouth out with beer in the elevator on the way up to my office, almost always the first one in, simply because I had never actually gone home.
Nineteen years later, I don’t have a job, most nights I’m in bed by 10pm, most mornings I’m up by 6am. Next week I’m trailing the farm veterinarian on her rounds & taking a training in crisis intervention so I can work directly with the kids. I don’t know what that’s going to look like either and that, that is really exciting.