(This entry contains talk of suicide and addiction.)

Back in 2005, I wrote a short but earth-shattering (to me) post that revealed I was 9 weeks pregnant. I wrote, in part:

Over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of confusing feelings about becoming a parent. I’ve spent so much time thinking about it, wishing it were easier, wishing I knew what I wanted, what the right thing to do was. Trying to pull apart the water-clouding issues of my age, JB’s own feelings, and, well, the unbearable cuteness of Leta.

God, everything about parenthood and pregnancy felt so confusing and terrifying to me back then. I was not the kind of woman who always knew she was going to be a mother. I was the kind of woman who secretly believed she had no fucking business being a mother: that was the dark swirl underneath my parenting ambivalence.

I linked to Heather Armstrong’s blog in that announcement because Heather’s writing helped me feel like I could do it anyway.

The comment itself just references cuteness, and that was relevant: Heather was a talented photographer who shared some of the most adorable baby photos I’ve seen. My ovaries! — you know.

But it wasn’t just the aww factor: the way Heather wrote about parenthood made it relatable to me, even though I was not yet a mother. She was funny and she was real and even though I had devoured Erma Bombeck and Shirley Jackson it was Dooce.com that helped me feel like parenting was accessible. That it was not somehow reserved solely for a certain type of person. That it was of course life-changing but also that you would still have your life, you would still be you, potty mouth and all.

I’m writing about this because I have been thinking of Heather since the news of her death.

Let me say that we were not friends. In fact, we had a couple of unfriendly interactions over the years. I didn’t continue to love her writing as time went on, but I’ll tell you this: I never stopped reading. When she wrote about her battle with alcoholism, I felt a very conflicted desire to reach out — but I never did, and now I never can.

I wish I were a better example of sobriety and not someone who literally had to go to rehab for something else entirely after quitting drinking, but it’s also true I have not had a drink for almost exactly ten years. I wish I could have shared my experience with her, the story of how and why I drank and the still-ongoing process of letting go of the shame. I wish I could have told her how much alcohol took the self-hatred I already had and made it unfathomably worse. I wish I could have told her that addiction is a real motherfucker that will never go away, it’s just like that movie It Follows, but time brings distance and empowerment and relief.

Every recovering addict has a heart full of anvils. Other addicts know; we share our stories as a way of saying we understand this weight, we carry it too. I don’t know that it lessens the load so much as it can help a person take a much-needed deeper breath.

Years ago, Heather Armstrong was a little ahead of me in parenting, and she helped light the path. I was a little ahead of her in sobriety from alcohol, and I wish I could have done the same.


One of the most exciting things happened to me recently: after years of daydreaming about riding horses again someday, I found a trainer who is willing to give me lessons. I told her about how I had taken lessons as a child but haven’t ridden anything aside from trail horses for about forty years or so, and she assured me she had a great school horse for me to re-learn on. She has access to a large terrific facility that’s only 15 minutes from my house and on the much-anticipated day of my very first lesson I …

…almost canceled, like twelve different times.

And I mean I really had to stop myself from messaging this lady and being all, Oh no I can’t come my uhh car fell in a sinkhole. Even though I wanted to go! It wasn’t like it was a pelvic exam, I had specifically sought out this experience and I was legitimately so thrilled about it and what the FUCK, brain.

I expected some anxiety because that’s just how I roll (into a worried ball like a potato bug): if I’m gonna be doing a new thing, there’s gonna be stress. But this was kind of a crushing amount of the kind of anxiety that I can only compare to the personal experience of waiting in the roller coaster line at the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas: I have chosen this, and it was a terrible, terrible mistake.

Anxiety has really come to the forefront of my life lately. I guess I used to think of anxiety as being a nervous person filled with excess energy — jittery, darting from one thing to the next, maybe. But anxiety isn’t always like that. It can be paralyzing. It can be an all-encompassing sense of dread. It can be a mess of intrusive thoughts and what-ifs, or the inability to focus.

It can be the difference between hanging in there for the “fun” icebreaker Zoom question or dropping the call because you can’t take the pressure and then berating yourself for being such a stupid! Piece of shit! Weakling!!!

It can manifest in all sorts of unpleasant physical symptoms, like for instance waking up at 3:45 AM with a pounding heart because OH NOoooOOoooOOO except there’s nothing wrong? (Aside from everything that IS wrong, of course. With an immediately obvious source of worry, there’s always, say, climate change to consider!) Or feeling absolutely poleaxed by nauseating amounts of cortisol/adrenaline over a relatively non-stressful occasion, so much so that I avoid making commitments now because of how a 6 PM hangout with someone I legitimately enjoy and feel comfortable with will ruin my entire day.

I often suspect this New and Improved Anxiety is menopause-related, even though I’ve had anxiety all my life. It feels … biological in nature sometimes, if that makes any kind of sense. It feels like a thing that is happening in my body more than it is happening in my head, even though there is plenty of not-great stuff happening in my head. It feels like an OVER-REACTION, frankly, sort of like an auto-immune disease.

All that to say, I did make it to that first lesson. I’ve been riding weekly since, and it’s one hundred percent the best thing I have done for myself in years and years.

I still honestly have to life-coach myself out the door each time, which I resent. Here is a thing I love and value and look forward to, why does it still have to be so hard?


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