KaRyn: See You Tomorrow! Same Time? Same Place?


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I’m pretty sure it was inappropriate for me to laugh out loud at the NPR story about the attempts to raise the fuselage of an airplane that crashed into the ocean killing hundreds of innocent people. According to the reports, the effort hadn’t been going so well… The fuselage was heavy and it was resting so far below on the ocean floor that when they got it up to the surface to a near completion of their goal, the cables pulling it above water snapped and it dropped back down into the black abyss. There was something about the way the reporter casually said at the end of her tale of crushing defeat, “the company says they will try again tomorrow.” The end. That’s it. Try again tomorrow.

I laughed because there was something comical in the lack of emotion, the technical timbre of it all. There is no way a PR talking point could match the weight of watching your work, your important carefully planned, everyone-is-watching work snap from its controlled ascent and plummet back into the Sea of Who Knows. Seriously. That’s all we get? “We’ll try again tomorrow.”??????

After I laughed, I of course started to see the poignancy of that statement. Lately, the disappointments of my day to day life have been pressing on me in a way only January could endorse. The interpersonal challenges, the academic setbacks, the professional pressures, financial imbalances – it feels almost like the threads of my cables are groaning and pinging in the direction of snapping. Actually, if I dispense with poetics for a minute and just tell the truth in plain English, I have crashed back down more than a few times with crying, wailing and flailing pumping fists on the bed. I’ve been angry and sad. why isn’t the wreckage raised? Why am I not who I want to be, where I want to be, and how I want to be even after all this work? Even more troubling, why are those I love not who I want them to be even with all this work?

Well, now, really. When that airplane dropped back into the sea were they really and truly right back at the beginning? Of course there was a collective cry of swears and frustration. Of course there was disappointment and the momentary chorus of “all is lost!” But then, the PR Lady walked into the room. She slapped a few sad faces and grabbed a few shoulders to shake them and she said, “we spin this. We always spin this. You are one attempt closer to bringing it all home. You have to reconfigure a few things, attach a new cable, but you haven’t lost the work you’ve already put in! You know where it is now! You know it’s possible to get to it, grab it, move it, make the water swell with its shifting. Tomorrow, we go again. We try again tomorrow. And tomorrow……AND TOMORROW. Now go to bed everyone. I’ve got a press release to fire off to the BBC.”

My inner PR Lady just shook my shoulders (after hugging me for a long time… She’s good at her job, but not a monster, y’all) and I heard her. I’m
adopting her talking points. And even on the days when it elicits nothing more than a jaded laugh from an NPR addict, I’m believing in it. Because I do believe in change and tomorrow and movement and forgiveness. For myself and others. And that is why I’m going back to therapy. Tomorrow.


KaRyn: The Outburst (or life in a snow cave with addicts)


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We love it when The kids come stay with us… They bring more meaning to everything we do. Today we got to spend the whole day with K2 all by herself. That’s a full day of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” videos and jokes, goofy made up songs, girlie chapter book snuggling and sewing bean bag hand warmers for littlest pet shop animals. I am in pseudo-mom heaven. I always wanted a daughter that I could make magic for the way my mom always made magic for me. Every stitch we sew together, every chapter we finish… These are the building blocks of “the life I was meant to have” and I’m so grateful that Justin gifted me these kids. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a2b/66271315/files/2014/12/img_2805.jpg /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a2b/66271315/files/2014/12/img_2835.jpg I need you to know that when I tell you what I did today that made Justin angry because I did it out of love.  Even though it looks like meddling (and it was).

He was headed out the door to smoke a cigarette and he came into the kitchen where K2 and I were sewing and said, “I’ll be back.” No big deal, right?  Well, K2 started to act funny.  She grabbed her dad’s coat and tried to wrestle it off his body and said, “Just stay here! You don’t need to go anywhere.”  Justin lied and said, “I’m just going to get some (insert type of candy here).”  She grabbed his gloves and said, “We don’t need any candy! Don’t go anywhere.” Justin got kind of bugged and told her he was leaving.

As I watched this whole scene play out, I felt like I was reading the cliff notes to K2’s heart and brain probably because I have been in her shoes so very many times.  She was scared.  She knew he wasn’t REALLY going to buy (insert candy name here) and she was worried that he was going to “the shed”.  These kids, they’re so far from emotionally and intellectually stupid and because they now know the truth about Justin’s drug use in the past, they’ve got a vocabulary in their brains to explain the past disappearances and exit strategies.  It’s human nature to be triggered by similar looking experiences.  And I was tired of watching Justin try to hide his cigarettes from the kids.  After all we’ve been through.  After everything that we’ve done to come clean.  Enough.

So I inserted myself where I probably shouldn’t have. I said, “Justin, K2 knows you aren’t just going to buy (insert candy name here).  She knows you’re going to smoke a cigarette.  You should just be straight with her.”  I said it in front of K2 and this embarrassed both of them.  For that I am sorry.  Justin was livid and mouthed a few angry words and sent me some searing faces across the room.  And for a minute I felt bad about it too, but not bad enough to stop meddling… He went to the door and i nudged K2 and said, “Hey, go tell your dad you still love him.” and she got up and ran to hug him before he left and I heard him saying something like this to her in the most loving and careful tones:

I’m not going to do drugs.  I’m going to smoke a cigarette.  You know that I’m not perfect and I still have some things to work through.  I don’t want to smoke cigarettes and I don’t want you kids to think that smoking cigarettes is ok, but for right now, it’s something that I’m working on.  I also don’t want you to worry or to think that you have to take care of me.  I promise I will be honest with you and won’t do drugs and you just take care of yourself ok? I love you so much.

She cried a little and when she came back to the kitchen to finish her sewing project, you could tell she was relieved.  I think about the amount of reassurance I need sometimes and can imagine that it’s NOTHING compared to the reassurance these little people need. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a2b/66271315/files/2014/12/img_2823.jpg Later that day, we went sledding – we whizzed over hilltops and narrowly avoided death by snow or collision.  At one point, my sled sent me reeling and I ended up prostrate on the ground with the sun blinding me as it glared off the snow.  I lay there for too long, willing the cold to make its way through layers of carefully chosen fabric as the flecks of winter burned at my brow and cheeks.  I had a vision of myself at K2’s age in the snowy Pennsylvania winters of childhood.  I used to spend hours building snow caves that I would make just big enough to crawl in face first but not big enough to hold my whole body – I remembered the quiet in that cave that protected my face and ears and arms from the wind and the strange sensation of being half in and half out.  Eventually, the snow would burn its way through my lower half cuing me to head inside where I would wait for the pins and needles to signal a return to life.

This is now.  Half in, half out.  Protected and exposed.  safe and vulnerable.  Confident and terrified.  This is the healing process.  Some days I’m in the cave and the mistakes I make turn into beautiful moments for all of us.  Other days, I’m dangling out the door and no matter what I do or say, I’m creating freezerburn on everything that matters.

But really, isn’t that what it’s like for all of us anyway?  Nothing particularly unique about any of this if I’m honest.

KaRyn: The Return


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I’m about to use the word cocoon in this post which of course made me think of steve guttenberg and this movie…You’re welcome.

I abandoned my post for a few months…but I think it was a necessary evil.  There is a season for everything and this past season was all about acclimation and recalibration.  It was also a season for insane work for me and frankly, depression for Justin.  I won’t say anything more about what was going on for Justin because there’s really no way for me to know the inner workings of his universe, but I will talk about what it was like for me on the other side of it all.

I haven’t wanted to write because I was afraid I would do it wrong.  Do you know what I mean?  There’s this person that I love who’s been through a lot and while I am well aware that every day is battle to remain sober, I’m also well aware that it sucks to be the person trying to keep it all together… but I’m also well aware that it makes things worse when I say what I’m actually thinking… and I’m also well aware that what I’m thinking might be shitty and wrong (sorry for the swear, but also not sorry).

When I was a missionary for my church in West Virginia, I experienced what I can only describe as the darkest, saddest, scariest time in my life.  It started about 2 months into my mission (a period of 18 months where you are away from friends and family serving and proselytizing) – terrible crying, massive anxiety, insomnia, self-abuse, flat affect and finally, suicidal ideation.  I didn’t know what to call it, but I knew the day that I slapped myself in the face while yelling berating things at the mirror, something was not right and I needed help.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression and while I feel like I could fill an entire blog with my thoughts and experiences from that period of time (I did fill 5 journals), it’s easiest if I sum it up with the mantra my therapist and I came up with for me:  I am enthusiastic, but with a laid back attitude toward success.  I so desperately wanted to be good at being a missionary, but the reality was that I had developed some serious coping mechanisms over the years to deal with my anxiety and mild depression (and perfectionism) and the structure of a mission ripped those tools away from me unceremoniously.  I needed hours to write in my journal…I had 20 minutes.  I needed social interaction and time to verbally process…I felt guilty if I didn’t speak ONLY about the gospel.  I needed flexibility and freedom to create in order to express myself…I was given goals to knock on a certain number of doors every day and told to report back about whether I did it or not every night.  It was uncomfortable and actually, for me, it was toxic on some level.

Luckily, I had an amazing therapist who taught me truths about myself and about the Savior and the atonement of Christ.  He taught me about grace and about mercy and about revelation and about self-trust.  He taught me to believe what the Spirit dictated for me and to follow that inner guide even at risk of looking stupid to other people.  He started me on my journey of true testimony and for that reason, I believe I was sent to West Virginia to work hard at being a missionary and to work even harder at being a true disciple of Christ who can testify of His healing power.  EVERY     DAY   WAS     A    MIRACLE,

So why?  Why has it been so hard to have empathy for Justin as he struggles through those dark days?  I will forever be grateful to my mission companions who were forced to sit with me in our little apartments while I rolled myself in a blanket like a burrito and rolled myself under the bed crying in anguish and a true desire to cease to exist.  I will never forget the safety they created in a time when nothing felt safe.  Why can I not be that friend to my husband?  And before you start saying,”Oh KaRyn…I’m sure you were better than you think!”  I want you know that I wasn’t.  I was victimized by his inertia.  I was resentful.  I was petty.  I was insensitive and selfish.  No really.  I was.

From what I understand, it’s totally normal to go through a period of elation and then depression after treatment.  Makes sense, right?  You’re in a cocoon.  Surrounded by people who can think a little like you.  YOu don’t have to worry about the normal things of life because you’re just trying to stabilize.  Then you get out and BAM…life is really… real and you don’t have your old coping mechanism.  Talk about uncomfortable.  I’m sure it’s like 10000 West Virginias for him.  I feel some regret that I was so angry when I came home  to find the dishes still sitting in the sink and the couch with a seemingly permanent butt mark in it.  It has been really hard not to believe that I know what is best for Justin.  And I feel truly sorry for the times when I was self-righteous and imperfect in my practice of mindfulness because I know it didn’t actually help ANYONE.

But, I’m also aware that neither of us is going to get this right right out of the gate.  Today, Justin came home from “guesting” at his treatment facility.  We’re 8 months sober around here and though life and marriage is far from complete, it’s a million and 10 times better than it was this time last year.  My goal for this week is to simply recognize the moments that make up the days and notice what the calm feels like.  I take it for granted these days, but I’m thinking that’s the biggest mistake I’m making. There is something healing in gratitude and recognition that EVERY DAY IS A MIRACLE.  And I am actually enthusiastic, but with a laid back attitude toward success.

Step 1 is to start writing again, whether I do it right or not.

KaRyn: The Story (of a Utah Mormon)

Today I am thinking a little about where we’ve been and where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.  The truth is that as I’ve been forced into this journey with Justin and accepted the challenge, my heart has expanded exponentially toward everyone.  I find myself constantly reminding myself that we’re all just trying to do our best and today, for today, THAT’S ENOUGH.  

I’ve also been thinking about the power of narrative and active listening to help us get to know each other.  Do you know how many group therapy circles I’ve been in during the last 4 months?  so many…and they are amazing.  People telling their stories, bringing you in, letting you see them as they really are even if it’s just for a minute.  And there’s something sacred about that.  

You haven’t heard much from me because I’ve been moving into my crazy work mode (fall and spring) and helping with a fundraiser for the FAR BETWEEN documentary that is all about STORYTELLING.  Last weekend, I got to perform a story at two fundraising events in conjunction with another great organization THE PORCH and it was such an amazing experience.



Mid Story at Pioneer Book in Provo Photo: Jay Jacobse

 IT was amazing because storytelling and stand up comedy are things that I have been wanting to experiment with for a while now, but it was also amazing because for the first time in a long time, Justin and I both felt so connected.  We have always been knit together in our desire to serve and this was a sweet opportunity to explore that again when it wasn’t all about Justin and his health and healing.  I think we both just felt NORMAL and outwardly focused for a few days.  Like we remembered who we want to be when this is a little further down the road.


Photo credit: Jay Jacobsen


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Anyway, here’s an essay-ish version of the story I told:    

In the winter of 1997 my Philadelphia singles ward made a pilgrammage to NYC for the macy’s thanksgiving day parade.  Somehow in between making fun of Kenny G’s mullet float:

2012 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena

and the pirate ship full of the cast of cats (grown men in unitards pretending to bat at nothing. Really?)


we found time to make friends with the other people around us.  We shared bagels and huddled together for warmth and when a large contingency of rainbow shirted children and adults made their way down the parade route singing and waving their jazz hands in mock cheerfulness, it wasn’t at all unnatural for someone to make a comment.  The surprise was that the comment came from one of our new found NY friends who turned and said loudly.” Ah, here come the Mormons. Yep, look at those hands and faces. Mormons!”  We all kind of laughed nervously because this is the part where a missionary moment is supposed to happen, right?  Of course someone from our group said, “well, you know, we’re mormon and we’re not like that!”  With out skipping a beat, our friend looked us straight in the eye and said “Honey. Honey. NO.  Those.  Those are UTAH Mormons.” THere it was…And suddenly I had a name for this group of people who made me feel bad that I had no pioneer ancestors and hadn’t ever been to EFY.  UTAH MORMONS. From that point on, Utah Mormons came to mean overly cheerful, inauthentic, and bad fashion sense. Because, rainbow shirts?  

SO I probably need to back up and tell you that I grew up in Pennsylvania where we attended church in a tiny branch with about 80 people every sunday.  The missionaries referred to it as OUTER DARKNESS, so you can imagine how popular it was.  It was probably only because of those missionaries and the western transplants who came to our town that I realized we were different from other Mormons.  I knew THEY were different with their Hawaiian Haystacks (seriously, what the crap?) and the constant references to being “in the mission field”, and I guess that meant that I was different from them. But somehow I also knew that being Mormon in Pennsylvania had a slight air of  “coolness”.  Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t make ME cool, because nothing could help that greasy middle school hair and sally jesse Raphael glasses.


But it is true that in a town where everyone was Polish, Italian and VERY catholic, I was different. Unique. And that was kind of cool.  So when the kids in my 8th grade geography class wrote Christmas jingles about Joseph Smith on the bus, it was flattering instead of horrifying.

You know what happens next. I moved to Utah. I came to Utah for lawschool (oh, don’t worry, I didn’t actually GO to law school) at the ripe old age of 23 and I was convinced that Utah Mormons were the devil and I was bound and determined to avoid the appearance of evil.  I did everything I could to be un-UTAH mormon – I joined an interfaith council at the U of U even though I wasn’t even a student.  I got a job at the freaking NATURE CONSERVANCY which is probably the least Mormon organization I could work for… And I vehemently proclaimed that I was from Pennsylvania every chance I got (which may not have been to my credit since few people equate cultured refinement and Pennsylvania.)

 One of my very first non-utah Mormon acts of rebellion was to attend a local poetry slam in downtown SLC. Because Mormons HATE poetry, right? I had attended and even performed at a few in Philadelphia so I guess I knew what to expect. I was thinking cool hip-hop vibe, a little overt sexuality and maybe the hint of the political. I remember sitting at a table by myself feeling very grown up as I waited for the spoken word to start, but as the evening wore on, my feelings changed from excitement to shame and I don’t know…fear? I am certainly prone to exaggeration, but I’m pretty sure that EVERY. POEM. was about how the LDS church was ruining their lives and how they felt marginalized by the Mormons in their midst. I shrunk lower and lower in my seat… felt like everyone in that place could TELL that I was Mormon and they hated me for it without even knowing ME. I think now, looking back at that experience and my subsequent actions, I allowed that shame to get in the way of the opportunity to be a real change maker. I channeled my shame about being Mormon into hating other Mormons as a way of distancing myself from other people’s judgement. So i refused to own my new home and I rejected a lot of people because of that. Now looking back at it, I’m most ashamed to say that I have purposely not accepted people into my heart because of the way they say MELK and MELL and MOU-EN. I have not been true to myself and my desire to be a peace-maker, a bridge-builder because of this perception that I am better than someone just because I don’t wear bejeweled pants and see things with the same black and white surety that they do.

 I wish I could say that I had some epiphany about my Utah Mormon hatred that changed everything. But the truth is, over my 8 combined years as a citizen of this state, it’s been a slow burning process to come to a place of acceptance…I’ve left Utah and come back twice now, so obviously, there is something I love about it being here, but it’s still not easy. Something that has helped me to accept and attempt to move past my own prejudice is my own work as an ally to the gay community.

 When I moved to Utah it was from Oregon where I had just been in love with a gay Mormon man. My first gay Mormon. Not my first gay crush by a long shot… I was a theater nerd in highschool and college..so you know. In fact, I would say that I was in love with no less than 4 gay men during my 4 years in school…many of whom were Jewish…but no Mormons.  It wasn’t hard for me to make sense of their sexuality because it had nothing to do with me.  I just enjoyed the non-committal party fondling that being the straight fat girl in the gay community afforded me.  And I felt like I had a pretty ROCKIN’ gaydar by the time college was over. But Mormon gays flirt. And I know all gay men flirt. But gay men GAY FLIRT and Mormon gay men STRAIGHT FLIRT. Seriously, the night my Mormon gay came out to me, I was still convinced he was going to kiss me… I was like… “Feel all that nervous tension in the air? That’s makeout tension… YEAH.” Well we all know what that nervous tension was really about.

 It was a bitter sweet experience, his coming out. Because this wasn’t just a crush but true and honest love, I was, for the first time, acutely aware of the constant crush of his faith and culture on his heart and the way it hindered him from leading a truly authentic life. His faith community (my faith community) was failing him in ways that I didn’t quite understand yet, but somehow I knew that I needed to be part of a solution. Here’s where it gets tricky…While the conservative culture that I perceived as belonging to the UTAH Mormon community seemed like the perfect representation of all that was oppressive and wrong, I have since realized that it is ME who needs to change.

The truth is that I NEED to believe that there is space for everyone in this faith, church and gospel that I love so much. I NEED for there to be room for all in my church pew: gay, straight, Pennsylvania, Utah, conservative, liberal, black and white thinkers and those of us who swim comfortably (or not so comfortably) in the gray. And in order to be a true ally, I have to be the one to MAKE THE SPACE. I know now that I am doing more harm than good for my gay brothers and sisters, for ALL my brothers and sisters, by separating myself from the rest of my people. My own prejudice has crowded my church family out in ways that I don’t really fully understand yet, but want to understand. That wanting to understand is the first step, but more than that I need to own this community and become part of it.

Because the next time some fabulous New Yorker turns and says, “Honey. HONEY. THOSE. Those are Utah Mormons.” I hope and pray that she is pointing at me.  And I will say, proudly, I am a UTAH MORMON and I am open. I am a UTAH MORMON and I see you. I am a UTAH MORMON and I choose authenticity instead of perfection. I am a UTAH MORMON and I seek to understand. I choose empathy as Christ did. I allow others to be who they are and expect the same respect. I am a UTAH MORMON and I am an ALLY to those who feel abandoned, marginalized, alone, rejected and displaced by their community be it religious or otherwise. I am a UTAH MORMON and though I will always fight against be-dazzled pant pockets and big hair, I am ready to embrace my home and make room in the pew for YOU and everyone. I am a UTAH Mormon.

KaRyn: The Pieces

I hate this part of blogging – the part where I haven’t written in two weeks, but I’ve got at least 6 things to catch up on, each of which could be its own entire blog post.  But let’s be honest.  If we waited for me to get to all of them, we’d be waiting a long, long time (do I need to remind you about that whole thesis business? hmmm??) So I’m just going to have to practice the long lost (to me) art of brevity and give you what I think cliff’s notes would do with the last two weeks of my life starting chronologically from past to now:


I think I mentioned my autoimmune disease in at least one other post.  The thing about this that is important is that I like to pretend it’s not real.  There.  I said it.  I don’t want to be a sick old lady with -itises that I drop into casual conversation as though you care.  The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t really work.  It’s still there and occasionally, regardless of how well I ignore it, it pops up in the most inconvenient times and places to let me know that I need to take care of myself.

10543646_10152213239972651_7161511943996106500_nThis time, it was iritis which is a condition where the colored part of your eye gets all flamey and painful.  it usually affects only one eye at a time with a red sort of halo and it makes it insanely painful when exposed to sunlight – hence the doubled up sunglasses.  I haven’t had this in almost 10 years but I knew EXACTLY what it was when it started and was able to catch it early.  The really awful part is that I can no longer live in denial.  This was a wakeup call to do what I need to do:  sleep more, take my dumb pills, make time to see a doctor, reduce stress – all things that require me to care for myself, which we all know is not my favorite thing to do.

Do you know the weirdest part?  FOR YEARS and I mean YEARS, I have been telling my mother to see the doctor for things that ail her and I have been genuinely baffled by this strange trait that makes her say, “I don’t have time for that”.  And here we are.  Apples don’t fall far from that tree, evidently.  It’s what primes the pump for unchecked codependency if we don’t keep a close eye on it (pun intended). Continue reading

KaRyn: The Challenge (of Living with a Clean Addict)

There was this from the Alanon “ONE DAY AT A TIME” book:

“THe change from active alcoholism to sobriety makes a great upheaval in our lives.  It is a challenge to both partners.  Making this difficult adjustment requires entirely new thinking patterns.  In the years of active using, the husbands of compulsive drinkers had to take on many extra responsibilities.  Along with earning a living for the family, they had to provide for the care of the children, take care of the home and get the meals.  Wives of compulsive drinkers often had to work to supplement the skimpy budget or do without many necessities, as well as doing the man’s chores around the house.  With sobriety, many of these roles must be reversed, many habits unlearned. Continue reading

KaRyn: In Training

I started going to cross-fit about three weeks ago.  My neighbor does it in his backyard and invites anyone who hears the grunting and thinks it would be fun to join him.  If you are unfamiliar with cross-fit, this description of one of my daily workouts should give you a clue to what we’re dealing with here.  

WOD (workout of the day) for Wednesday:

first:  Get a sledgehammer (don’t worry, neighbor has at least three of varying weights -pick the lightest one for your own safety). Stand around a large pronate tire that has presumably fallen off a monster truck and into your neighbor’s back yard.  Lift the sledgehammer above your shoulders and hit the tire as though you are breaking concrete on a chain gang.  Repeat the action as many times as you can for 1 minute.  When the timer goes off, switch arms and repeat the action again for another minute. When you are finished with this work, cry a little.

ifaacademy_combat_conditioning_fitness_02Second: Stand upright. (if you can after sledgehammer business).  Fall down into the grass until you are in a sort of horizontal place with the ground. Push yourself back up off the grass in a motion that might look a little bit like a push up.  Crawl apologetically back up to your feet, put your hands in the air and clap them high above your head.  Repeat as many times as you can in 1 minute.  This is called a burpee.  Why?  I have NO idea.  MODIFICATION:  Fall down into the grass and play dead until the timer goes off.  

Rest for 30 seconds and then start over again.  Do 20 minutes of these rotations.  

Yep. Cross fit.  I’m the special needs participant in a group of highly fit people.  My first day there, they told me there was NO SHAME IN THROWING UP (!) because at some point or other, every one has done it.  I modify everything and have an irrational fear of jumping up on a high box, but still I go every other day.  I’ve been fit before and have often said that I want to learn how to become an athlete.  This is not something that comes naturally to me.  In fact, almost every day when the text message comes telling us what time we will start falling on the ground and getting back up again, I think I might just do what DOES comes naturally instead. “Maybe today i will do what I know how to do well.  What I’ve always done.  What feels safe and intuitive.  Maybe today I will just eat this bag of kettle corn while watching old episodes of 30 Rock and Arrested Development and scroll through instagram until it’s time to go to bed.” (note: there is NOTHING WRONG with that occasionally.)

But then I remember that I actually feel better after cross fit.  I put on my shoes, grab some water to stave off the inevitable dehydration (sledgehammering a tire will do that to you), and make my way to the neighbor’s yard for 30 minutes of hard, hot work.  It’s worth it to feel the strength returning to my legs and arms.  

Justin has been home for 6 days.  His sobriety is precious and it is impossible to do everything right and exhausting to have to work at every aspect of our interactions.  I feel constantly drawn to what I’ve known and how I’ve done things before.  Sometimes, when there’s even just a hint of tension, I start strapping on the kettle corn feedbag (ie…old communication patterns).  For example, we were having a tense conversation in the car about my crappy driving and I felt like Justin was accusing me of not taking responsibility for myself and I just lost it. I screamed. Banshee screamed. I felt every ounce of my own sobriety slipping away…I was seemingly suddenly weak and unbalanced and afraid.  Afraid of not being loved.  Afraid of being abandoned and victimized.  THere was this tenuous moment where it was all collapsing, sliding into the kind of pit that takes days to dig out of. The miracle came when we were somehow able to recover.  I can’t even really remember what that recovery looked like (a fumble and catch?) but the thing is: We are getting stronger.  Slowly.  We are falling down and crawling back up again.  I take comfort in knowing that we aren’t going anywhere and tomorrow is another day to try again.  

Now, quickly, I want to say that I am not so presumptuous to believe that Justin’s sobriety can be undone by me.  I mean, I didn’t cause his anxiety, addiction or his recovery, so it would be pretty impressive if I could CAUSE his relapse.  But I CAN add to the stress that might cause a relapse.  So I am sensitive to that, but not overly.  What I’ve realized is that my brain is in training the same way his is.  I have neural pathways that have gotten really comfortable jumping to their conclusions and subsequent reactions.  I’m allowed to feel tired because the work I am doing is exhausting too!  But the important thing is that I keep showing up, choosing  to hit the tire and giving myself and my marriage the opportunity to evolve into something with real muscle.  And sometimes I cry to release the tired and that’s ok too.

Are there any other family members of alcoholics and addicts reading this who have felt this exhaustion when their loved one first comes home?  What has your experience been?  How long did the funky/walking on eggshells/finding your sea legs part last for you?

KaRyn: The Hole

Tonight, the ache in my heart required bad poetry.  It demanded it as I sat crying on an overlook above the city.  Here’s a bad picture to go with my bad poetry.

photo (64)

There’s a part of me that wants to describe where the poem came from, but really, it’s not that subtle (as bad poetry often isn’t).  The reality is this: my husband is giving 110% of his energy to healing right now and though I have every right to feel empty, neglected and sorry for myself, I cannot blame my emptiness on anyone else.  I would venture to guess that this poem and this post are my Higher Power’s way of reminding me to seek Him to fill the void.

This night, this heart

is a gaping maw

Toothless gums gnashing open

closed, empty

a low gutteral hum whistling through its depths

Even the dusk-filled skyline

holds her flickering dotted gems at arms length

all is unable to satiate

all is hunger, want

why, heart

The sun retreats in a trail of curdled sky

swirling flames put out with his distance, but

not this heart’s desire.

What hopes to soothe it? why

nothing can be made from that

From here, it seems like something quieted by darkness

but really it is not reconciled.

It will wake again, desperate

for things it cannot create, gather, wish

out of this night, this heart

KaRyn: The Creation

It’s Homecoming Eve.  I need to go to bed because I have to get up early to head to the treatment facility to pick up Justin, but I also needed to document this milestone.  Or rather, the night before the milestone.  I’m not going to bother trying to describe my feelings.  Suffice it to say nothing makes you look more insane at work than having a panic attack followed by maniacal laughter.  Yep.  It’s like that.

I’ve cleaned the house because that makes me feel like I’m ready for something.

I tried to make something because that makes me feel the most like myself.  I started with a fancy BLT for dinner…heirloom tomato, REAL bacon from the deli at harmons (none of that turkey business for a last meal).  It was nice but somehow didn’t quite hit the poetic notes that I was hoping for.  I don’t know, I guess I imagined it like a scene in a movie where there is some sort of moody music playing while the camera shows slow shots of my hands close up, slicing the perfect purple red tomato, the crackling bacon and then my face with my eyes closed while I savor every bite – the music crescendo-ing to remind you of how alone I am.  It was more like just a sandwich in the hands of a moderately hungry person.  I don’t think I savored anything. Then I tried to make some fruit leather.  That was not a winner.  I used some cherries that I acquired yesterday and it took me forever to make because of all those stupid pits.  Then I cooked it wrong and it turned into a sort of tar paper with a flavor profile reminiscent of death and defeat. Like I said, not really a winner.   But that’s ok, maybe what I should be creating is not food related.

We’re making a contract, me and Justin.  It’s a document that says what he’ll do to maintain his recovery and what I’ll do to maintain mine and help with his.  We’re going to talk about it tomorrow with Ted.  We’ve also contacted our old marriage therapist who will start to see us again next week.

I realize that everything is going to change, maybe even this project.  I mean, how can it not?  I’ve been having this sort of one sided conversation with my husband, and he with me for three months.  He couldn’t read any of my posts while he was in there so I felt safe to say what I really wanted to say.  How will his ability to fully participate on this blog change what I say and how I say it?  Will I censor things more?  Will I stop writing all together?  And what about Justin…will the ability (and requirement really)to post his own videos change his experience?  Will he feel like he can’t really say things because he’ll KNOW that I’m watching? (even though he knew I was watching before, he didn’t have to watch me watching…if you know what I mean.)

There’s still so much to create, really.  First a contract, then a relationship and a revised life together.  Then trust.  Then, who knows!  I hope all this creation includes writing and video and The Beauty for Ashes Project because it’s been good for me.  Whatever we end up creating, Luckily, creating together is one of the best things about my relationship with Justin.  I probably won’t try to create cherry fruit leather again though.  You’re welcome.