sober lifestyle

Appearance

Another lovely day at the unemployment office.

I’d just snapped the above picture and punched the button in the side of my earbuds to silence the music, thinking, “I just want to listen to nature,” when a familiar voice filled the momentary void.

“Jen, is that you? Girl, you’re looking skinny!”

There it was: The sweet yet shattering sound of my sickness. I know it so well.

Turns out the speaker was an old friend from two gym memberships ago. I hadn’t seen her smiling face in years, and she was pausing her run to pay me a compliment.

It’s not her fault I still struggle to accept one.

Let me just be clear from the jump: This post isn’t about blaming others for my own deep-seated issues.

It’s actually about progress in the weakest part of my recovery “game.” It’s also about messages — the ones we send others, and the ones we tell ourselves. It’s about stopping that cycle of skewed interpretations, where we assign meaning to what someone else says based on our fear, insecurity and need for external validation, instead of our own unshakable personal truth.

I guess, then, it’s really about shaking out what’s true.

Continue reading “Appearance”
graduate school, sober lifestyle

Compensation

This week has been all about making up for lost time. I don’t know if one can actually do that, without injuring themselves…but dadgummit, I’m trying!

It’s like every moment I’m awake, I want to cram it to the brim with activities I enjoy. I want to take full advantage of my freedom and experience life on my terms!

So, I’ve basically been walking/running around Bucks County like a madwoman for days on end.

When I entered Tyler State Park on foot Friday afternoon, eyes fixed upward at the pure blue sky (when they should’ve been checking the path for those little round ankle-killers that fall from the trees 😬), I’d already run from Washington Crossing to Bowman’s Hill Tower on the canal path earlier that morning, then flowed through my usual yoga program on my deck shortly after breakfast. On Thursday, I walked in the park twice, in addition to working out in my basement and doing another hour of yoga. On Wednesday…

OK, Jen; they get the point. 🤐

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sober lifestyle

Rewards

My husband and I booked an ocean-view suite on the “concierge floor” of a quirky old Victorian hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Del., for a brief weekend getaway to celebrate my new job. The accommodations came with a list of perks, and the friendly young man in the suit who greeted us in the lobby (I think he was the actual concierge) was eager to tell us about them as he chaperoned us to our room.

I got distracted staring out the glass elevator shaft at the Atlantic, so I didn’t hear most of what he said. But I snapped back to attention when he pulled a pair of coupons out of his pocket.

“…and as a welcome gift, we’re happy to offer you BOTH complimentary alcoholic beverages at the bar!”

I burst out laughing. An inappropriate reaction, but I couldn’t help myself. It was like some internal pressure relief valve opened, and all the nervous energy and anxious tension I’d felt building up in my body throughout our three-hour drive came gushing out. And of course, because it’s me, this happened in the most awkward way possible.

The guy must’ve been used to all kinds of weirdness, because he barely missed a beat. “Orrrr…” he said, “if one of you doesn’t drink, it’s two drinks for the other person!”

“Thanks,” Hubby replied, taking the vouchers and handing the guy an obligatory tip as the elevator dinged and I dashed, still giggling, out the door down the hallway.

Nearly two years sober, and he still can’t take me anywhere.

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sober lifestyle

Freedom

Fat, wet flakes started falling as I neared the causeway at Tyler State Park, smacking me in the forehead and occasionally the eyeball, and my face broke into a self-satisfied smile. This was my plan: To be out in nature when the storm started, and before every other human within miles crawled out of bed.

My mom is somewhere cringing, picturing this scene — “Do you always go walking alone?” she once asked me with alarm — but the truth is I much prefer the park when it’s deserted, and even sometimes when it’s dark. To take in a sunrise, witness a change in weather, or just stare at an early morning sky, is such an intensely personal experience for me that I think something would be amiss if anyone else was there.

I guess you could say that it’s when I am isolated that I feel most free.

I’ve been a loner all my life, and at 42, with an annoying habit of getting up at 2AM, I’ve pretty much given up hope of ever fitting in with society. I was always one of those “morning people” that seemed to perplex all the normies. These days, I feel like I’m at my best in the wee hours, when I write or do yoga while excitedly awaiting the dawn.

(Flash forward 12 hours, when some of y’all are just eating lunch):

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sober lifestyle

Expansion

What to say about the sky? I haven’t really known, so thus far, I’ve let my pictures do the talking.

The above was taken just a few hours ago in one of my favorite places on Earth: the top of the big hill on the main road into/out of Tyler State Park. The huge expanse of unobstructed, endless openness that greets you when you’ve hoofed your way up that steep incline has an effect that I can only describe as spiritual. Transcendent. Other-worldly. I’d say that the view “takes your breath away,” but unless you’re a world-class athlete, you don’t have much left to lose after completing the climb.

Today’s humid, stagnant morning air had me wheezing even more than usual.

Physically, right now, I’m not…shall we say…in great shape. At 13 months sober, walks in the park are my go-to form of exercise (when I do ramp it up to running, I head to the all-flat canal path). And at 42 years old, with a sedentary job and an increasing affinity for big meals, long naps, audiobooks and Netflix crime-show rabbit holes, I’ve…shall we say…lost some leanness from my old CrossFitting, strict-eating days.

Pre-Climb Selfie on Day 391
Continue reading “Expansion”
sober lifestyle, Uncategorized

Nature

sundaymorning
Tyler State Park. Newtown, PA. October 20, 2019 (Day 106).

The forecast called for rain in late morning, so even though it was Sunday and the only opportunity I had all week to sleep past 5 a.m., I sprung up at 4:30 for some weightlifting in my basement gym. After making the 105th hash mark on my “Sobriety Scoreboard” — my husband is thrilled that I’ve commandeered the whiteboard he intended for charting his workouts — I laced up my Asics and hit the road.

I’m currently at the step in recovery when you ask a higher power to restore you to sanity, and for me, that’s setting out on nature walks, every single day, weather be damned. I take lunch walks along the riverfront to break up the work day. I go for hours-long morning walks in the local state park on weekends. Through hair-trigger hamstrings, boots that cause blisters, insufficient outerwear, full bladders, busted headphones, rain, mud, 40 mph winds…if there is time and even a little bit of daylight, I’m out there trying to calm the emotional cauldron that’s bubbling away inside.

Fresh air and movement are the only two things in the universe that ever made (the sober version of) me feel sane.


jenfarm
My grandparents’ farm. Brodhead, Wisconsin. Fall…1988?

My grandparents lived on a farm in Wisconsin throughout my childhood, and we went up there several times a year to visit. We would set off from our house in Chicago’s northern suburbs on Friday night when it was already dark, Dad driving the old brown Ford Fairmount station wagon (and playing one of his legendary mix tapes), Mom next to him on the front bench, and my younger sister and me in the back.

I remember staring out the window as we rolled along on the two-hour trip, and excitedly waiting for the point when the bright lights of civilization faded into the countryside canopy of stars. Continue reading “Nature”