I just read my friend Lizzy Russinko's post on Instagram. This is one of her many insightful statements that she shares with the world thru her hand lettering and her speaking engagements. I have heard it before, "The story you are afraid to tell will set you free" but it didn't really sink in until today. As I read her post I realized that by starting this blog and by sharing the story I wrote about my mom in Heros and Rainbows, I am starting to share my real story. Sure, I am open about the fact that my mom was an alcoholic, but it's just a statement and then I move on. But the better part of the story is how she was both an alcoholic AND an amazing person. And I am always peeling back new layers of the patterns that I have taken on by being raised by her and the choices I made in my teens and 20's. They are all bubbling up right now as I enter my mid 40's - insight into why I fell in love so young and ran into the "safety" of a long term relationship, why I left college 2 years in thinking it was too expensive to finish and yet I ended up putting Nicholas thru school and taking on debt in his name, why I became a mom at 28 - it's all right there, deep in the core of who I am and asking to be told. And maybe in the telling, I will see my future more clearly? I sure hope so. And that hope is based on the fact that as people read Heros and Rainbows, they shared their own stories of loss and redemption. And I am starting to see that when you share your honest truth, rather than no one caring, it connects us to those around us. People who we have been drawn to or maybe barely know, but we find a common thread and we feel seen and heard and that is true connection.
When I was 17 I met Nicholas at Whole Foods Market in Mill Valley. I felt, at the time, like the best version of myself. I had been to Spain the previous summer and it had given me perspective. I came back less entangled with the "friends" I had been in school with since third grade but who had never been very accepting or kind. Growing up I wore the wrong clothes, didn't have a mom who could volunteer and drive on field trips, had weird food, the list was long. But by 17 I was feeling more sure of myself. I got my own car that November when my grandmother could not drive anymore. And I felt free - to go wherever I wanted to go. And then I did the precollege program at CCAC and I knew I wanted to go to art school. I could see my future clearly and I had hope. But my home life was rocky. I was exceptionally close with my mom - we shopped and cooked together everyday, we were on our own. But it was also hard. She would be fine for long periods of time and then she would do into a deep dark place and then explode. I never knew when it would happen and it often was horrible timing- after I had a good weekend at my dad's or I had a friend over to stay or I had gone to a friend's house to sleep over. Sometimes she would storm in and take me out of a fun situation or embarrass me in front of friends. So I guess my life was always on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop. We would have huge fights - raging into the night, doors slammed, tears shed, so many tears. And then the storm would pass, sometimes she would say she was sorry, sometimes she would just pretend it never happened. But there was never any real resolution. This went on until I decided to move out the fall of my senior year at the age of seventeen. The summer after I met Nicholas.
What I can see clearly now is that I was running from one codependent relationship to another. He needed me, I needed him to need me, and I thought I needed him to get out of the cycle with my mom. But what I did was give up the time in my life that would have been just for me, before kids and marriage. I gave my 20's to a domestic long term relationship. And I will never get that time back.
Now in my 40's I am letting go of the need to be needed. I hear this is the beginning of menopause, when we move from being caretakers of the world to caretakers of ourselves. In a time not so long ago when we gave birth in our teens and 20's we would have been done mothering by now and it really would be more of a time for ourselves. In the modern era, many of us still have young children and/or teenagers that we are caring for. Sometimes I feel like I will drown in doing for others, probably because I have been gasping for "air", which is really time and space, for so long. But I keep getting reminders that I need to focus on what is good for me - it might be a 10+ year plan but it started a few years ago and each year, especially at this time of year, I need to refocus and stay clear. Take MATS classes and build my illustration portfolio, do my work for the Town of Fairfax which brings stability to my life, and take on private clients but only if it pays well (which requires me to charge a decent rate) or leads to creative growth. I'm not sure what my future holds, but I know I want to be in deeper connection with my creative forces, I want to travel and I want to feel at peace rather than waiting for something bad to happen. And I think this is the story I need to keep telling, because it will set me free.