But for the Grace of….

The Universe? God? I don’t know what I believe. But I do have a confession to make.

I have been wallowing in self-pity and resentment. Marinating in “it’s not fair,” and, “I don’t get paid enough for this responsibility,” for the better part of this school year.

You see, I’m a Teaching Assistant. I teach more classes than the two teachers I work with -several more classes per week. I’ve had some really challenging students to deal with. I even went to the principal, who “mansplained” my job to me and basically dealt with my complaints by metaphorically patting me on the head. He even had the balls to admonish me to keep my unhappiness and frustration with my workload from affecting my relationship with my students.

This, from our Fearless Leader who is famous for not only bringing his domestic issues to work with him, but unleashing on anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path. Asshole.

So where does the Universe come in, you ask?

Well, sometimes the Divine tweaks us on the nose just when we need it most, if we’re paying attention.

Yesterday we had a long-anticipated sleepover with Darling Granddaughter #3. We kicked off the festivities with a rollicking trip to the grocery store – do we know how to show a kid a good time or WHAT?

As we enter the produce department, I notice another Grandma and Grandpa happily doting on an adorable baby in their shopping cart. The Grandma and I make eye contact and share a knowing smile.  As it happens, she and I find ourselves inspecting the same vegetables. On impulse, I say, “Isn’t being a grandparent SO much more fun than being a parent?” She laughs and replies, “I remember your husband from High School!” So I urge her to go over and say hello to him.  She does, and I follow.  I’m entertaining our granddaughter, half listening to their conversation.   I freeze when I hear him expressing condolences to her. I glean from the conversation that she’s lost a son to addiction, within the past six months or so.

My husband shares with her that we have two daughters who narrowly escaped with their lives – addicts ten years in recovery now…. He gives her a big hug, and I do too.  As we walk away I find myself fighting back tears. I know we could very easily have lost not one, but both of our daughters. I can’t even imagine what hell she’s going through.

And then it occurs to me – that could so easily have been us. And in the grand scheme of things, my problems are so minor.  I have a job with co-workers I adore. I don’t have to worry about being laid off. My husband, children, and grandchildren are healthy. All of my immediate family lives within 30 minutes of me.  I want for nothing.

I need to keep all of this in mind the next time I feel negativity start to creep in.

Because for a million and one reasons, my life could have easily become a tragedy. It’s quite the opposite.  And I’m so unbelievably grateful.

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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.

Just What I Needed

Sometimes the universe gives you just a little “snap on the snout” to get your attention…. Today I got the message, loud and clear.

It has been a completely hellacious winter here. Shoveling to be able to get out of the driveway, taking our lives into our own hands to pull out of the driveway because the snow piles at the curb were so high, and shoveling to get back IN the driveway at the end of the work day…. more times than I care to count this winter. Now, I HATE hot weather. I’d rather be inside, reading a book in the air conditioning, thankyouverymuch.

But this morning, 215 days sober, I was thinking about spring. And summer. And how nice it would be to sit outside with an ice cold beer or a chilled glass of pinot grigio, my summertime fave… And I had just sent my daily email to Belle since I’m doing her 365 day challenge. And I had said as much to her.

Then I headed off to do some grocery shopping. As I was driving down the road, I noticed a kind of beaten-up truck in front of me. There was a rather large decal on the window directly behind the driver’s head. It said, “In Memory of my son, David.” And it listed the dates of his son’s birth and death. So sad…. he was only 13. But what made me REALLY sit up and take notice was that the day his son passed away was also the day of my last drink.

Here I was, feeling sorry for myself because I can’t have a fucking glass of wine on my deck and how am I going to get through a summer without drinking. Meanwhile, this poor man lost his son. How’s THAT for perspective?

And just in case I wasn’t paying attention, on my way home I turned on the radio, which I rarely do. I heard two songs: Chandelier by Sia, and Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. Back to back.

If I ever wavered for a moment about my decision to stop drinking, this little episode helped re-frame and re-focus me.

Unbelievable. All I can say is, “Thanks, Universe. Message received, loud and clear.”

Gratitude: it’s what’s for dinner!

Silly name for a blog post, but I’m feeling particularly thankful and happy today. Sobriety has become my new normal; just got back from another romantic little overnight trip with the Hubs. Another successful sober getaway under my belt.

And speaking of gratitude, here’s another thing that happened recently that is so unbelievably lucky, I had to share it with you…

My husband marks our milestone wedding anniversaries with a lovely piece of ‘bling’ for me. For our 30th anniversary five years ago, he gave me a gorgeous ring studded with several channel-set diamonds. I love it and never take it off. I should also note that I can’t be trusted with nice things: if something can be accomplished effectively at 5 mph, I just can’t do it that slowly. I’m hard-wired to go at least 55. Consequently, I tend to damage/chip/ break anything unfortunate enough to cross my path.

So, a few weekends ago, I decide to have all the kids and grandchildren over for homemade sauce and meatballs. I get the sauce on and proceed to clean the house. After I dust, scrub, vacuum like a woman possessed, I notice that one of the diamonds in my beloved ring is missing. I. Am. Heartsick.

So, lapsed Catholic that I am, I throw a little prayer up to Saint Anthony (patron saint of lost objects). And then I let it go, because I figure that stone is looooong gone. I mean, what are the chances I’ll ever find it again? I figured that it must have been vacuumed up or something, right?

Well, the next morning, I was emptying the dishwasher. I slid the Keurig out of the way to make more room on the counter for coffee mugs. And – lo and behold – what to my wondering eyes should appear – there was the diamond from my ring!!!

I very carefully put it away and plan to have the ring repaired soon…. And I promise, I’ll be much more careful with it – I really will.

So, friends, I have no idea what any of this means. But I kind of feel like it might be a little pat on the back from the Universe.  A sort of, “You go, girl!”, from the Powers That Be….?

‘Cause this past six months ain’t been easy.
But so worth it.

One Hundred Days Sober, A Lost Earring, A Hockey Game, and the Universe

I know, longest name for a blog post ever. But bear with me. And draw your own conclusions.

The themes for this post are: unexpected gifts of sobriety and the blessings of the universe.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I marked 100 days without alcohol. I celebrated it by giving myself a little gift, and later in the day my husband made quite a big deal out of my accomplishment. But that’s a story for another post.

A little background: for my birthday this year, my kids all conspired together on my gift.  They gave me a beautiful pair of chocolate-brown pearl earrings and a bracelet to match. I had worn them to work that day (the day before Thanksgiving) and that evening my husband and I went to watch our local NHL team play.  On the way to the game, I noticed that one of my earrings was missing. I felt my heart drop.  It was a special birthday and and even more special gift and I was so sad to have lost an earring.

We got to the hockey game and made our way to our seats, which are waaaayyyyyyy up in the arena.  The nosebleeds.  I joke with my husband that every time we go to a hockey game, of which I am not fond,

a.) The team goes into overtime, and

b.) I get squeezed between him and some guy who’s like, 7 feet tall.

Imagine my relief when I realize that there’s no one sitting next to us! I actually have a little room to breathe!  We settle in and get as comfy as possible in narrow, hard, plastic folding seats.  Shortly after the game begins, I glance up and notice a MOUNTAIN of a man making his way up the stairs toward our section. I’m thinking there’s no way he’d fit in one of these seats.  I’m also thinking, pleasedon’tbecomingherepleasedon’tbecomingherepleasedon’t – He’s coming here. Right next to me.

He and his friend sit next to us and my entire right side, from shoulder to knee, is pressed – very – shall we say, intimately? – against the stranger sitting next to me.  I’m uncomfortable.  He’s got to be VERY uncomfortable.

And here’s where the blessing of sobriety comes into play. Drinking me would have been MISERABLE. Whispering angrily to my husband about how creeped out I was, having to be that close to a stranger, I hate these stupid games anyway, this kind of shit always happens to me, etc.  I would have consoled myself with beer. I would have ended up making him so unhappy we probably would have left early.

The difference now, is that, even though I was uncomfortable about being squeezed by a stranger in our seats, I felt even worse for HIM. This poor man had to be so uncomfortable in his own skin – every minute of every day. I just felt awful for him.  So I just shut my mouth and let it go, determined to make the best of the evening instead of obsessing about how unhappy I was.  He did eventually move to a seat in a row that had open seats on both sides, and I felt better for both of us; especially him.

So.  The earring.  The next morning, we were getting the house ready for 16 guests for Thanksgiving dinner.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, our house isn’t large and we have to reconfigure some rooms to accommodate everyone.  We gather up all of our shoes and put them in the garage to make room by the door for our guests’ shoes. So my husband is doing that, and I ask him to sweep out the front of the garage because I want to set up a card table in there where it’s cold to hold the food that won’t fit in the fridge.

He heads out to handle the chore and a few minutes later, walks back into the house with a big smile on his face.  He’s like, “Guess what I found???” I completely draw a blank and he holds up MY EARRING! He found it in the garage and had swept it up with the last of the fall leaves that had ended up on the floor in there. It must have fallen off as I got in the car to go to the hockey game the night before.

Now, he is the LEAST new-agey spiritual person that I know.  And he says, “Honey, there is no WAY that we should have found this earring. It should have been swept up and thrown away without being noticed.  This is the universe saying, ‘You deserve this. You’ve worked hard and this is your reward.’ ”

I have to admit I kind of agree. Giving up booze is one of the scariest, best things I’ve ever done. And if there are unexpected blessings to be had as a result – the gift of compassion or something found I thought I’d lost forever – I’ll welcome every one.