Game-Changing Gratitude

A couple of weeks ago, I was a guest at a bridal shower for my sister-in-law. My granddaughters were invited, too – which was a huge treat for me. My youngest granddaughter is shy in social situations when there are a lot of people kind of converging on her – come to think of it, who wouldn’t be put off in a situation like that?

Anyway, this little one’s Mommy wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed close and focused on keeping the toddler happy and occupied. I rarely have an opportunity to spend such concentrated time with all my grands, so I was in my glory.
Had a lovely afternoon, and thought everyone else did too.

Wrong.

A few days later, my husband gets an email from his elderly uncle (at the behest of his wife, who was also at the shower). Apparently I didn’t spend enough time with them at the shower and they wanted to know what was wrong “before it becomes a problem.” Wonderful man that he is, the hubs fired an email right back setting them straight and ending with, “nothing is wrong and it won’t become a problem unless someone MAKES it one.”

Have I mentioned lately how crazy I am about him?

Fast forward to yesterday. There was an engagement party for the bride-to-be and her intended, that we (and the bride’s other siblings) were hosting. I was very edgy about having to see this aunt and uncle in person again, so soon after the tension their email created.

Now, a great strategy I’ve used in the past is to reward myself after something stressful. But I had a whole afternoon to fill BEFORE the party. So here’s what I did: I used a gift certificate for a pedicure, which is one of my very favorite indulgences. Then I came home and had about an hour before we needed to leave for the party.

So, I made myself a coffee, went into my bedroom and closed the door, and used a free meditation app called “Insight Timer.” I was scrolling through the menu looking for something for stress relief. But instead I stumbled on an eleven minute guided meditation for gratitude.

This was a complete game-changer, people.

My head was filled with images of my three sweet granddaughters, my grown children and their spouses, my precious husband….. There was absolutely no head space left for the asshats I was so worked up about.

And everyone showed up at the party and it was just fine. As a matter of fact, as we were choosing which table to sit at, I looked over and noticed that the offending relatives were sitting all alone. I just looked at my husband and said, “Let’s go sit with them.” And we did. And it was – fine. Really fine! I felt like I was adulting like a champ. I had the upper hand with them, was gracious and friendly – and I have no idea where it came from.

The party was really nice, everyone had a good time – even me! And I was home and in my pjs by 8:30.

I just had to share, as we head into the summer, with its graduation and summer and 4th of July parties – maybe try stocking your mental shelves with gratitude before you head out? It just might help, more than you can imagine!

Even More Gratitude for a High Bottom

Something happened last week that I’d like to tell you about. This story is aimed especially toward anyone who’s sitting on the fence, suspecting that their relationship with alcohol isn’t healthy, but not sure if that’s a good enough reason to quit. After all, you probably have a successful career, marriage, happy family…. You’re fine! You’ve never had to deal with any negative consequences of your drinking, right?

I totally get where you are – I was there too, for many years.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the main reasons I decided to quit drinking was the fear that I would do something under the influence that would hurt one of my grandchildren. Thankfully – I stopped before anything like that ever came to pass.

Our youngest granddaughter is almost two. She lives six minutes away and we see her several times a week. This child is a miracle – born to our older daughter after a pregnancy fraught with complications that I’d never heard of before – complete with an emergency c-section delivery that was completely harrowing.

In her short time on earth, she’s been hospitalized two or three times with viruses and high fevers. She has asthma. And peanut, tree nut, and cat allergies. You’d never know it by her appearance or the way she talks and plays and sings. To say that she’s precious to us is an understatement of epic proportions.

So last weekend was rainy and chilly. I had a hankering for homemade sauce and meatballs. We invited our daughter, son-in-law, and this little one over for dinner.

I’m happily tending to the sauce and boiling spaghetti. For some reason I may never understand, a little voice in my brain says, “Check the pasta boxes.” So I go to the recycling bin and pull one out. I’m struck dumb when I read the ingredients: made with chick pea and lentil flour. Both are legumes and could have caused – no, WOULD have caused – a pretty dramatic allergic reaction. So I told my daughter what I discovered and we quickly regrouped. Little sweetheart did have Grandma’s meatballs, cottage cheese, and corn. Strange combination, but she loved it.

But here’s the thing: if I hadn’t made the decision to quit drinking, I know myself well enough to know that I would have had two or three glasses of wine already on an afternoon just like that one. (Pasta and sauce? You HAVE to have wine, right?) And if I even heard that little voice, which I doubt, I’m reasonably certain that I would have ignored it.  The results would have been awful: for her, for her parents…. And most definitely for me.  I would never, EVER have forgiven myself.  And the entire situation would have been a direct result of the muddled state of mind that I routinely inflicted upon myself by drinking.

By nature, I’m not a hand-wringer or a worrier.  I’m not big into wasting my time with “what-ifs.”

But I know, in the very core of my being, that I dodged a HUGE bullet last weekend.  Another reason I’m so incredibly grateful that I stopped drinking when I did.

Glorious Chaos

The kids all came over for dinner yesterday, to celebrate Mother’s Day. My husband had ordered specialty pizzas from my favorite place, along with these incredible, pizza oven baked, lemon-juice-and-olive-oil marinated chicken wings. Our son brought dessert and one of our sons-in-law brought two delectable salads he’d made. And homemade Gorgonzola vinaigrette. I was in food heaven!

By the time my son and his family arrived, our three year old granddaughter had fallen asleep in the car. She was carried in, snoozing contentedly, and lovingly placed in the middle of our bed and surrounded by pillows, to continue her slumber.

When she was awakened for dinner, it was discovered that she had peed on our comforter. It’s one of those big puffy ones that has to be cleaned in a commercial washing machine. I was a little unsettled, and went to determine just how much of our bed would need to be stripped and laundered. Luckily, nothing had soaked all the way through the bedspread so that was all that needed washing.

So, we sit down to dinner. Everyone’s laughing and talking and passing things at the table. My son goes to pick up one of the bowls of salad – which was heavier than he expected. The bowl slips out of his hand, and he inadvertently knocks over his bottle of beer. It goes sloshing across the table and onto his niece’s plate of food. This sweet toddler has recently been diagnosed with peanut and tree nut allergies, so her Mama prepares her food very carefully.  Into the trash her dinner went, and some homemade frozen soup had to be defrosted for her dinner instead. Much mopping up and apologizing ensued….

At the end of the evening, after everyone left, my husband and I headed up to the laundromat at about 8:30.  This was the view as we sat and chuckled  about the events of the day.

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And we laughed as we talked about how grateful we are that we HAVE children and grandchildren living within 20 minutes of us who can spill beer all over the dining room table and pee our bed.

I silently contemplated how differently I would have reacted to mishaps like this a couple of years ago.  Maybe not outwardly, but – I would have been SO massively annoyed, especially about being inconvenienced by the trip to the laundromat.  And no one but me would know how much I resented my “down time” (i.e., drinking time) being cut into. I was so incredibly calm and NOT stressed out.

Truly a Mother’s Day to remember.

Addition by Subtraction

Last weekend we went to a concert .  Our local philharmonic was playing, featuring the music of Elton John.  His music comprised a huge chunk of the soundtrack of my youth. One of the first songs they played was “Daniel.”  Admittedly, it’s a sad song – and I felt the tears start to well during the opening notes.  I was overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgia and regret and gratitude.

The nostalgia piece is probably obvious…. I spent hours as a young teenager, sitting cross-legged on the floor of my bedroom in front of the record player listening to “Madman Across the Water” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”  Memorized the lyrics written inside the album cover, singing along with every song.  It brought back memories of the girl I was, with my entire life ahead of me. I’m at a point in my life where there’s more of my life behind me than in front of me, and I guess I’m getting nostalgic in my old age.

And I had one of those “time-removed-from-time” moments: when you step outside of yourself and view your circumstances with such clarity and perspective that it feels almost other-worldly. I was so acutely aware of how the old, pre-sobriety me would have most likely approached an evening out like this one.  I would have suggested dinner out first – most likely with a cocktail first, and then wine with the main course.  The concert hall had several bars set up – I would have insisted that we wait in line to purchase overpriced glasses of wine to sip either before the concert or during the intermission.  Then I would have been a little “itchy” as the evening wore on, anxious to get home and have even more drinks.  Because it’s the weekend.  And a special occasion, of course.

And finally, the gratitude that washed over me was all-encompassing. Almost overwhelming.  It occurred to me that I was absolutely present and living in the moment – loving every second of the concert and so gloriously, acutely aware that this new way of life is a gift and a blessing.

I was struck by this feeling that I’d  been asleep for so long, focusing too often on the wrong things – and I’ve spent the better part of the past 20 months honing in on how to create a new life for myself. Without a trap door or escape hatch.  I’m just now fully waking up and appreciating the gifts that have been right in front of me for so long.

This sober life, that I was so terrified of – is so completely amazing.

This is What 600 Days of Sobriety Looks Like

Today marks 600 days since my last drink. 600 days since I woke up with shame. Or self-loathing. Or regret. Or worry about the damage I was doing to myself.

And, the morning of the day I decided that I’d had enough – that I had to stop or I was going to die before my time, by my own hand – I was as scared as I’d been in as long as I could remember.

Scared that I’d never have fun again. Scared that it would negatively affect my relationship with my husband. Scared that I wouldn’t know how to fill the gaping hole that would be left.

So much has changed since that day.

Yes, I’ll admit that I was sad and teary and terrified to leave my old buddy, my pal booze, behind forever.  I was in an emotional free fall, plummeting blindly without a clue where I’d land.  I felt raw and weird – like my skin was inside out. And after a month or so of what seemed like a bone-deep craving for sleep – these emotions started bubbling up from some pit in my psyche.  And I didn’t know what the hell to do with them!

I had so much help from Belle (Tired of Thinking About Drinking) and her 100-Day Challenge.  Her daily emails gave me accountability and a lifeline to a sober mentor. She’d give me homework assignments and reassure me that everything I was feeling and thinking was 100% normal and to be expected. I ate all the treats that I’d denied myself for years: homemade macaroons, pies, cakes and cookies.  What fun I had!  And I still lost weight without trying.  I read sobriety memoirs and found Mrs. D. and UnPickled on the internet.  I started writing this blog and eventually found my way into that private Facebook sobriety support group I’ve mentioned before.  That was another game changer.

I cut way back on “have to” and focused way more on “want to.”   My husband and I are taking ice-skating lessons!  I’ve started taking a weekly yoga class and intend to explore that even more often as the school year wraps up and I have the summer off.

There have been more subtle changes that I only notice when certain situations arise: conflict or any kind of emotional discomfort.  I find that I perseverate and beat myself up less.  I’m learning how to sit with unpleasant feelings and not immediately try to change them. And I can’t even remember the last time I picked a stupid argument with my husband or went to bed in tears over some real or imagined slight. We’ve never been closer…. His eyes shine with pride when he looks at me. Even better – I’m proud of who I am.  This is something only total badasses do!  And another surprise is that he drinks much less than he did before.  I was a very bad influence, I’m afraid…

Life continues to be “interesting.”  I’m becoming more confident that no matter what happens, I can handle it without altering my mental state.   Or even wanting to.

Which is pretty amazing, considering the fact that only 20 short months ago, that was my automatic go-to; my one and only coping mechanism.

Oh, friends.  Don’t get me wrong.  My life isn’t perfect.  I’m certainly not perfect.  But life is so much better and richer and more authentic and more – real – than I could’ve ever imagined. Or dared to hope for, on the morning of August 18th, 2014.

I’m one of the lucky ones who got to make the decision to walk away, before there were any horrible consequences.

You can do this, too.  Care to take a walk with me?

The Gift of Presence

For as long as I can remember, I always felt like there was something wrong with me emotionally; unless something directly affected me personally, I couldn’t really force myself to care the way I perceived that a normal person would. I felt vaguely disconnected.  Oh, I’d go through the motions and say (and hopefully, do) the right things.  But deep down inside, there was another part of me that felt detached. Disengaged. Other than. I thought I was inherently emotionally flawed somehow.

Since getting sober 18 months ago, I’ve undergone so much emotional growth – especially in terms of learning how to sit with unpleasant emotions and situations.  And I’ve learned something else: anger can be a blanket emotion.  I’ve been learning how to sift through what I’m feeling and dig out what’s underneath it. I feel so much more connected and tuned in to my own emotions and to the people I love.

Sometimes I don’t have the luxury of time to unpack what I’m feeling.  I have to react to a situation quickly and diplomatically, which isn’t one of my strengths. I can’t escape or emotionally check out. So, when all else fails, I try to remember: “if you can’t get out of it, get into it!” I take a deep breath and stay present.  Right here.  Right now. And do the best I can.

I realize now that booze was robbing me of the ability to stay in the moment.  I’d operate by kind of shoving feelings away and putting them on a shelf so I could drink over them later; medicate them away.

This is such an interesting journey.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

18 Months Sober

February 18th marks 549 days since I took my last drink.  A year and a half!  I can hardly believe it.

18 months since I woke up that last morning after I yet again, drank more than I intended to.  And blacked out.  AGAIN.  And remembered neither the last half of the show I was watching nor an intimate interlude with my husband.

And I came to the inescapable conclusion that I could not moderate.  Years of research had proven it.  As terrifying as it seemed, I had to close the door on booze forever.  If I didn’t I’d actively be choosing what would likely be a highly untimely, unnecessary, and unpleasant death.

And – talk about terrifying – what would my life BE without booze?  How would I celebrate? How would I console myself? How would I have FUN? What would my relationship with my husband be like?  I just couldn’t imagine how not drinking would make any aspect of my life better – in fact, I thought it would be quite the opposite.

What’s changed?  So, SO much – for the better! First of all, I wake up in the morning (and sober sleep is FANTASTIC, thank you very much) free of heart and mind. I no longer have to worry about what I said or did the night before and whether or not my husband is disgusted with me.  I don’t wake up thinking about the previous night, assessing whether and/or how much I drank.  I actually like and respect myself and accept that if I make a mistake, I’m not a horrible, broken, worthless person.  I’m just human. Gloriously flawed.  But still worthy of love and respect, especially from myself.

I’ve learned all about the wonderful world of self-care.  And discovered that I’m actually an introvert.  I really like people and love to socialize – on my terms.  But I respect myself enough to honor my need for quiet time; I crave it and soak it up like a sponge.

One of the best things I’ve discovered is how much MORE fun I have – especially with my three granddaughters. The return to childlike play and the ability to lose myself in the moment with them.

I’ve learned that strong emotions, left to their own devices and not medicated away, will NOT kill me.  And not only that, I don’t WANT to self-medicate.  And some super scary and stressful stuff has happened in the past year and a half.

I just feel like the real deal.  And present.  And authentic.  I’m still learning and I’m certainly not perfect.

But here’s what I want to leave you with: if you’re struggling. Or on the fence. Or not sure if giving up booze forever is something you can wrap your brain around.  Please, please, PLEASE – give it a try.  Sign up for Belle’s 100 Day Challenge. Tell just one person you trust that you’re concerned about your own drinking.  Reach out and I can give you information about a private Facebook group comprised of people just like you and me.  People who want to stop drinking and need some support.  It’s helped me so, SO much, especially since I don’t have any friends in real life who are walking this road with me.

For me, walking away from booze forever was absolutely non-negotiable.   My only regret is that I didn’t do it 20 years ago, when I first began to suspect that my relationship with alcohol was unhealthy.

Please – don’t wait one more day. You’re worth it.  And you won’t regret it.

I promise.

The Most Epic Blog Post Ever Written

Yesterday, I woke up with the knowledge that my youngest, my baby – had cancer.

Until we found out she didn’t.

Let me back up and tell you the entire story, complete with some details that elude explanation and push the boundaries of belief…

A short while back, I mentioned that I was dealing with some worry over a child’s health issues. (Said “child” is 29 years old and married, but – she will always be my baby.) She had something funky growing on the skin of her lower back and was concerned enough about it to mention it to me last summer.  I took a peek at it and didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but suggested she keep an eye on it.

Fast forward to late fall… She mentioned it again and I suggested that she have it looked at.  One thing led to another, and her primary doc referred her to a dermatologist, who biopsied it.

Fast forward to about a week and a half ago, when I got a text from her during my work day, asking me to give her a call when I got a chance.  I did, and she told me she was given the news that the growth was malignant and that she’d need to see a sarcoma surgeon at THE cancer hospital in our city the following week.

As I listened to my child telling me that she had CANCER, my vision narrowed to a dark tunnel.  My heart followed my stomach, plummeting down to my feet.  I had the fleeting thought: “I can’t wait to get home and have a glass of wine.”

And then I went home and googled shit as if it were my job. Googled the name of the tumor.  Googled diagnoses.  Googled prognoses. Googled treatment protocols.  Googled morbidity data.  Googled the hospital.  Googled the surgeon.

And the information was alternately terrifying and reassuring, depending on which site I was visiting.  And the ten days between the diagnosis and the trip to the hospital were just. Awful.  Waiting. Wondering. Twisting in the wind.

I shared with a few friends at work, and shared more widely with a private Facebook group I belong to.  I felt buoyed by the messages of love and support I received.  People told me they were praying for her, for me, for our family.  Even though I’m not a religious person, I could feel the waves of positive energy flowing over us.  And it helped, so, SO much.

My poor husband bottled it all up. He shared with no one, and didn’t want to talk to me about it, either. He found a way to put everything on a shelf, as best he could, and just get through each day the best way he knew how.

I need to preface the really good part of the story by telling you that my in-laws were wonderful people and excellent, much-loved grandparents. I was particularly close to my mother-in-law. They’ve both been gone for quite a few years now, but let’s just say their presence is felt in our lives.

So.  The day of the consultation, I slipped on a ring that had been one of my mother-in-law’s.  Whenever I need a little of her strength, I wear something of hers to keep her close.  I knew I’d be needing all the help I could get.

We get to the hospital and my daughter does all the preliminary checking in stuff.  They tell us we can go upstairs to the sarcoma unit. It has its own private waiting room.  We walk in and my daughter walks up to the window to register with the receptionist, who notices my daughter’s cute purse and the two of them chatter like bffs about handbags (which I could personally give zero shits about.) So I tune out and look around the waiting room, which is unoccupied except for us.  There’s a TV mounted on the wall, and a local morning show is on.  So is the closed captioning. I look up to see the man being interviewed.  He happens to be a former teaching colleague of my father-in-law’s, and he’s talking about an annual Sleep Out for the poor and homeless that he and my father-in-law started in their school district many years ago.  AND SCROLLING ACROSS THE SCREEN ARE MY MOTHER AND FATHER-IN-LAW’S NAMES.

I shit you not.

So I interrupt my daughter’s handbag chat to point out what’s on the screen.  She gasps and says, “Mom! I was just saying to Tobin (her husband) the other day that I’d feel so much better about everything if I could just have a sign from Grandma and Grandpa that everything was going to be ok!”

And then, not ten minutes later, the Physician’s Assistant is asking my daughter some intake questions, including what she’s been diagnosed with.  My kid kind of mangles the multisyllabic pronunciation, apologizes,  and the P.A. says, “That’s ok.  You just put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble.”  That just so happens to be a phrase that I’ve never heard anyone other than my father-in-law use.

And she follows that up with the information that the growth on my daughter’s back is, in fact, benign.   BENIGN, PEOPLE!!! I must have sounded like an imbecile as I sputtered, “What? I’m sorry – what did you say? What she has is NOT malignant?”  She just smiled benevolently and and asked, “Have you been on the INTERNET….?”  And I told her the website I’d been trolling for most of my information.  She just kept smiling and shook her head. “These types of tumors are almost always benign, although they have the potential to BECOME malignant.”

I could literally feel my shoulders relax and slump – let’s just say it was a good thing I was sitting down.

So, my daughter has to have the growth removed, and she’ll be sore for a few days.  She’ll be monitored for a period of time, and then move on with her life.

And we all feel like our lives have been handed back to us, intact and perfect and better than before.

And as strange and wonderful and fantastical as this story is, what I really want to leave you with is this:

We can do really, REALLY hard shit. Like stare our child’s mortality square in the eye. Stone cold sober.

And we can celebrate and rejoice and be jubilant. Stone cold sober.

Just When You Least Expect it

So, here I am, puttering along in my little sober car. Doing the next right thing, minding my own business. My mind isn’t preoccupied with thoughts about drinking or not drinking. Sober is the new black for me. I wear it every day; it goes with everything!

Every waking minute doesn’t revolve around how raw and weird and new sobriety is…. So my thoughts and focus return to the ups and downs of daily life.  A life that includes a job I love: I work with groups of elementary school kids, helping them with their reading or math skills.  Now, I love my co-workers. I adore my job. I love the kids that I work with.  I love MOST of the kids that I work with.  But there’s one kid in one of my groups who’s a ginormous pain in my ass.  Disrespectful, argumentative, disruptive – seems to delight in walking that very fine line between discussion and argument over every single thing I tell him to do.  I’ve tried explaining why I need him to do what I ask.  I’ve tried TELLING him to just do what I ask.  I’ve tried ignoring it when he gets out of his seat for a tissue every three minutes. Or belches.  Or passes gas – you get the idea. My husband is sick of hearing the kid’s name.  I’m sick of hearing MYSELF say the kid’s name.  He is just all-around disagreeable and I find myself thinking about him every morning when I wake up, just dreading having to deal with him yet another day.

So. One day last week, there was a substitute teacher in our room; a lovely retired teacher whom I’ve gotten to know pretty well, as she’s become a familiar face in our building.  We were chatting at lunch and she asked me how my sister is doing ( I have a sister who’s undergoing chemo for breast cancer.) I thanked her for asking and mentioned  a new medication she’s on, one given to cancer patients whose white cell counts are low.  She said,  “I’m familiar with that drug – my son was on it for a while.” I ask, “Oh! Is your son a cancer survivor?”  There’s just a beat – she responds, “He didn’t survive.”  Three little words.  So much pain.

She proceeds to tell me about his diagnosis and eventual death – at the age of 28.  I could feel the tears start and just couldn’t keep them from falling.  She cried too,  and it was a little uncomfortable and awkward, to be honest.  But I just listened as she told her story and gave her the space and time to share as much as she wanted. Needless to say, I was reeling by the time I went back to work; I had absolutely no idea that she’d been through something so devastating. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 50-some-odd years I’ve been on this earth, it’s that you can never look at another human being and assume you know their story.

So then later that evening, as we’re eating dinner, the phone rings.  The woman calling had been given my name by a mutual acquaintance who’d asked if I’d be willing to talk – or more likely, listen – to her friend, whose son is an out-of-control heroin addict. He’s destroying her family.  And she’s a widow, trying to raise three kids alone.  Such heartbreak.  And anger. And love.  All rolled up in one little woman, trying to be the very best mom – and dad – to her kids that she can. So we talked for about an hour and a half, and I made her promise me to stay in touch.  I know the road she’s walking and I don’t want her to ever feel alone.

I was reeling and exhausted emotionally by the end of the day.  And I thought – these people have REAL problems. I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

And I think the Universe was just trying to remind me to be grateful and focus on the important, wonderful blessings I’m so incredibly lucky to have.

Duly noted.

My Word for 2016: Health

Well, friends… now that I’ve got enough sober time under my belt, it’s time for me to focus on my health – mental and physical.  Starting this week, it’s back to counseling.  My therapist has recovered sufficiently to begin seeing me again.  I have so much to catch her up on, in the four months that’s elapsed since our last chat. I feel as though I’ve been in an emotional state of stasis since I saw her in September.

And I see my primary physician early next month to discuss physical therapy for a strained left shoulder,  and golfers’ elbow in my right arm.  Super frustrating as I tried cold laser therapy for the elbow, which was a gigantic waste of money and time. And I love to incorporate weights in my workouts.  Now I can’t even lift a 6 pound dumbbell comfortably.  I used to curl 20 pounds! Ugh.

The fridge and freezer are both stocked with healthy foods: fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy.   Breakfasts and lunches are prepped and healthy dinners are planned for the week. Time to tame the sugar monster: bowls of berries and cut-up fruit will replace ice cream for evening treats.  This is my year to focus on getting in the best shape of my life.

The second set of sober holidays was much, MUCH easier than the first.  So much more comfortable and normal feeling.  I’ve also noticed that the “drink counter” in my brain seems to have taken a hike.  I no longer notice, with such glaring focus, what everyone else seems to have in their glass.

Another new experience? Handling some pretty overwhelming worry sober.  One of my kids has a health issue that is almost positively minor, but I had managed to work myself into a near-frenzy over it. It cast a pall over much of my holiday break. I’m typically not a worrier and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t “talk myself off the ledge.”  Until I realized that this is the first time I’ve experienced something like this without any anesthetic.  I did work my way through to the other side, but – boy, howdy – it sucked scissors. But it just goes to show that we can handle the hard shit that life throws us, stone-cold sober.

And continue to grow, and learn, and evolve.