sober lifestyle

Compassion

Source: @centerformindfulselfcompassion on Instagram.

RRRRRIIIIIIIIPPPPPP.

A tearing sensation snaked up the right side of my back as I yanked the handle of the rower toward my midsection, and I instantly knew: I was done…probably for a good long while. I released the chain with a snap and toppled stiffly from the seat to the floor, as the digital timer ticked down the final seconds of my workout.

Tears filled my eyes. One thought consumed my brain.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I’d just spent almost two months nursing a pulled hamstring, reluctantly ramping down my exercise routine to easy walks and modified yoga, with occasional light rowing and ultra-light lifting. Over a Christmas trip to Illinois, I pushed a little, and was elated to make it around the flat terrain of my childhood hometown in a slow jog, without incident. My patience was paying off!

And now, this. Something worse. A jacked-up back that basically rendered my entire body useless.

OK, universe! I surrender! I’m listening! What exactly are you trying to teach me?!?!

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Perfectionism

The professors made it clear: Even though they’re given a 1-to-5 scale to evaluate student performance in each semester of DelVal’s Counseling Psychology grad program, getting a 3 is the actual goal. That rating is labeled “Adequate” on the official form, but it means you’re A-OK. You’re on the right track, exactly where you need to be.

In fact, if an instructor wants to give you anything higher (better) or lower (worse), they’re required to include additional comments that explain why.

If that sounds fair, reasonable, acceptable…I envy your level-headed perspective.

I’ve spent my whole life chasing 5’s, and telling me I’m “Adequate” sets off short-circuits in my head.

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sober lifestyle

Turbulence

I interviewed my first freelance client last Friday around lunchtime — after filling out 100+ mind-numbing applications for content/copywriter positions and sitting on hold with unemployment for two months, to no avail, I figured it was time to take matters into my own hands — and after a quick trip to the local tree farm with my husband to snag a Fraser fir, I was sitting down to an early-dinner splurge on Jules Thin Crust pizza, when by sheer force of habit …(deep breath)…I opened the email app on my phone.

Two hours left in the work week, and out of the blue, I had TWO job offers flooding my inbox.

Neither was ideal, but still…🤯

Up until that point, it had been radio silence, with an occasional sprinkle of rejection, nonstop since early October. I was so thrown off by this sudden avalanche of opportunity that before I knew what was happening, I had housed my half of the pizza — and then some — in less than 15 minutes.

Free advice: if you’re an Highly Sensitive Person with anxiety issues and an all-or-nothing personality, never check your phone while eating. 🤢

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sober lifestyle

Holiday

I’ve started to get a “Twilight Zone”-esque vibe from this blog, where every time I write about being happy about something, it immediately goes all to 💩.

It’s like the classic episode — aren’t they all classic episodes? — where the husband-wife grifter team finds that old instant camera, and when they take a picture in the moment, it shows them what’s going to happen in the future. And most of what the camera foretells, with the (temporary) exception of predicting winners at the horse track, ain’t good.

You thought my 90s references were bad. This TZ episode aired in 1960.

No sooner did I start gushing about my newfound love of running, to the point that I was impulse-blogging from the running trail in a state of exercise-induced euphoria, that my hamstring decided to snap. Just one week after the aforementioned blog outburst, I drove all the way over to Yardley on a beautiful Sunday morning, gulping my usual turbo-charged pre-workout drink as I mentally prepped for a 6-miler, and when I got to the canal path and my feet went to push off toward Washington Crossing…

🏃‍♀️🧨💥☠️

Two weeks later, that hamstring still strenuously objects every time I move. 😩

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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.

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Performance

Imagine a precocious little girl in a homemade, red plaid dress with matching ribbons in her shoulder-length, sandy-blonde hair (she has bangs, so clearly this is a flashback from long, long ago), and white anklet socks and brown top-siders on her feet. She is marching in the door with a good — in fact, near-perfect — report card, her whole body tingling in anticipation of that intoxicating hit of parental approval she knows is forthcoming.

That girl is me. Did you guess? It’s funny I chose to paint that exact picture, because the outfit was from first grade, when I had…let’s just say, “social adjustment issues,” that led to regular trips to the principal’s office and my teacher installing a special study carrel in the corner of the classroom to keep me from being disruptive.

Legend has it I was doing somersaults one day on the carpet in the back of the room that was supposed to be for, like, naps and storytime and docile 💩 like that. 😳

Explains a lot, right?

I ended up killing it in all the academic subjects, to the point they put me in the “gifted” —sorry, “enrichment” — program, but my conduct left something to be desired. Read on to see just how much has changed! 🤣

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Meaning

Acute soreness is radiating throughout my upper body right now, from my neck down through my fingers. This is what happens when you haven’t done pull-ups in a year and decide to do 20 of them on a random Tuesday morning — and, it must be noted, the weight you’re pulling up is not insignificant.

I’m sure I made things worse by raising my hand so damn much in Psych Theories class later that same evening. 🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️

We were discussing existentialism, and if there’s anything I’m intensely passionate about, it’s the inherent futility of life and all its attendant anxiety!

The idea that we are doomed to wander the planet alone, busying ourselves with punishing workouts and monotonous workdays in a search for purpose, knowing all the while that we’re just marching toward the ultimate nothingness of the grave…well, this is something that’s been rolling around in my head since childhood.

Between episodes of “Muppet Babies,” playing dress-up with my American Girl doll and writing/illustrating stories about talking ladybugs, I’d occasionally get sucked up in the existential vacuum and go swirling around in the infinite abyss for a while. What kid doesn’t?

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graduate school, sober lifestyle

Education

The last thing the professor asked us to do in our orientation session Thursday night was go around the room and share one word that described our feelings about the upcoming semester — our first as “Cohort 9” in Delaware Valley University’s three-year MA in Counseling Psychology program.

It’s actually my first as a student, period, since the start of this century. 😳

Anyway, the other noobs were like, “Nervous!” “Overstimulated!” “Ready!” And your trusty wordsmith over here blurted out… “Summit.”

It wasn’t an adjective (still isn’t, actually). It made no sense outside my own head. So, true to form, I took up more than my share of allotted time, explaining myself to the group.

All I could think about during the 3+-hour session was the slow climb to the top of the big drop on a roller coaster — clickety clickety clickety 😳 — and that crazy-making anticipation of the terrifying free fall to come — clickety clickety clickety 😰.

You can’t turn back. You can’t get out. You have no control whatsoever. And you know you’re going to get thrown completely, wildly, out of your comfort zone. 😱

I’m so afraid of this exact scenario that I rarely even go on those coasters.

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