A journal entry from March 30, 2018: We are all struggling.

I know a mom whose husband recently told her he doesn’t want to be with her anymore.

Another mom whose 1-year-old is undergoing chemotherapy

A friend at work, with a son M’s age, just went through a divorce.

Another woman at work left her husband.

A family friend was diagnosed with ALS. The doctors say he has two years left to live.

A girl I know from college who I follow on Instagram just delivered a 20-week stillborn child.

My old roommate’s mom died suddenly. They found cancer in her brain. Days later, she was gone.

My husband is a recovering addict. Every day I fight fear and pray for peace, love in our lives.

There is suffering everywhere. I don’t know if I notice it more now, or if I am more sympathetic to those suffering, or life just gets more difficult the older we get, or all of the above. I hear these stories, and my heart aches. I feel pain. I know what it is to feel helpless, hopeless, alone, like my world is crumbling down around me. And I want to tell them it will be okay. I want to tell them to let go. Take care of yourself. Surrender to love. But I don’t know that everyone wants to hear that when they’re struggling.

How did I find my path? I picked up an Al Anon book and I started reading. I opened my heart. I prayed. I cried. I let go, and I became very afraid, but I stopped letting the fear take over. I breathed in, and put my future in the hands of the universe. It was hard, but also easy because I felt I had no other choice. I felt so alone.

I am still here. We are still here. We are happy and healthy. We are always working to be good.

We are meant to suffer and struggle. It makes us stronger. It heals us. And for me, it creates connection. Especially when we become vulnerable enough to share that struggle. To open up and let people know that we are hurting, that life is hard, that we are sometimes lost and alone, and that we need support. It’s that vulnerability that breaks down walls of perfection – the Instagram exterior that showcases a happy life . The highlights reel of life, the corner of the kitchen that is clean when just out of the frame, chaos. And when you show that mess, you open up to show the real you.

I crave transparency and meaningful connections. Conversations about faith and God and the universe. About pain and love and prayer. About writing, and mothering, and adulting. Connection. Community.

At one of my first Al Anon meetings, a woman said that eventually, whenever something went wrong, she looked forward to seeing how God would fix it. “Oh goody,” she said. I almost wanted to smack her. Maybe it wasn’t the right thing for her to say to a newcomer whose husband was still using. But I think I understand now. The universe is amazing. In a way, it is exciting to see what else it has in store. Because in the end, it will all be okay.

A journal entry from October 25, 2017.

I watch the map. Would he be moving east or west on 88? West meant he was going to his counselor. East meant into the city for drugs. He merges heading west. A sigh of relief.

I sit in my car in a parking lot not far from home. I just made an appointment with a new therapist. I miss those evenings in C’s office – a safe space to talk about all of it. Lately I have been feeling anger. And although I am often aware of it, I still hold on to it. I research which crystals help me let go, but when I’m feeling it consume me, I hang on. Like I own it, like I have a right to keep it.

I held on last night, and again this morning. As the day went on, fear set in. I checked his location at lunchtime. A suspicious stop.

What if?

I can’t control it, I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it.

Then, hurt. Why hadn’t he texted? Shame. Why can’t I just suck it up and tell him I love him? Guilt. He kissed me this morning. He’s trying to let go. He’s going through so much. We both are. Why can’t we just see eye to eye?

I slept on the couch. I didn’t know what else to do.

I pray. I admit my powerlessness, my confusion. Take this pain, this anger, this darkness. Please show me light and love, toward him. Toward myself.

Search and surrender.

“Creativity is a powerful way to celebrate who you are. It is spiritual energy that nourishes our vitality. It is a way to replace negative thinking with positive action. When we create, we plant ourselves firmly in the moment and teach ourselves that what we do matters.” Courage to Change

I write during the in-between. In my head. During small moments in my car, or washing dishes, or sitting in my cubicle at work – thoughts will enter, a sentence will form, present moments turn into short bursts of text on the page. Except there is no page in front of me, and I’m forced to tuck away the thoughts, hoping I’ll remember them when I actually have time to sit down and write. I never do – remember or have time. I make time by sitting down and just starting to type, but before that I tell myself I should be doing something else, and then when I spend a few more minutes not doing that something else I realize, OK, just write.

So I sit down, start writing. Sometimes the words flow. Those thoughts almost never come back, though. I reach back in my memory, try to visualize the words on the page, the moments when they appeared. Poof – gone.

Funny, that it’s the thoughts I want to hang on to are the ones that go. Then, during meditation, when I try to focus on the present, when I try to turn thoughts into clouds that I acknowledge and then watch as they float by – that’s when they keep coming back.

“You’re not supposed to stop thinking,” M tells me. So then I’m just thinking about not not thinking.

There it is. Now watch it float on.

//

We’ve been going to crystal singing bowl healing sessions. I keep falling asleep. The bowls’ vibrations flow through me in circles. I can feel the sounds dip and curve in my body, in my head, ringing through my ears. Sometimes they give me a headache. Sometimes I can feel the vibration deep in my gut. And then, I awaken. I don’t remember falling asleep, though. Instead, it feels as though I teleported to nowhere and then returned. Snap! Just like that. The first time, I was convinced I “went somewhere,” and the instructor told us about “yoga nidra” – a state of consciousness between awake and asleep. Yes! That’s where I was. The second time, I thought maybe I entered yoga nidra again. “You were sawing logs,” M told me. I felt disappointed. Like I missed out on an opportunity to be closer to the universe, to the energy I’m trying so desperately to feel.

//

I often feel like I’m grasping for spirituality, maybe trying too hard. It seems to come much easier for M, but then, he’s always been more in touch with a Higher Power – a feeling that we are all connected, that someone is looking out for him.

I’m afraid of being a phony. Always worried about what other people think. Shopping for mala beads online and then asking myself, What will I say if people ask me about them? Will they think I’m just conforming to a trend? Trying to be someone I’m not? Will this bring me closer to what I’m looking for?

//

Distractions. Grasping for every new thing, hoping it will be the thing that heals me, that brings me to that place where I am suddenly connected and at peace and it all makes sense. But shouldn’t I just keep it simple? Prayer. I need nothing to pray, just open arms and the will to surrender.

“When you think you’ve surrendered, surrender some more.” Gabby Bernstein

Somehow, I even manage to overthink prayer. I should pray, I tell myself. But when? Do I need to set aside a time to be spiritual, to bow down to a little Buddha statue, diffuse frankincense, line up my crystals and ask the universe for…. what?

I keep thinking that all the things will help me, but really, I think what I’m doing is OK. Thinking about prayer. Acknowledging that the universe has my back. Prayer doesn’t have to be a talk with God but rather, my own communication. That might look different than someone else’s, maybe someone who sets aside time every Sunday to worship, or every day to read the Bible. Maybe my prayer is simply looking up at the sky and knowing that it was created with love, and that love flows through me, and that is enough. It’s all going to be OK.

And those things? The crystals and the jewelry – they’re all OK too. As long as I don’t fall into the idea that they hold the answers. They make me happy, they make me aware, they bring me closer to myself and my husband and the energy around us. They are tangible things I can hold in my hand, wear around my neck, look down at my wrists and remember that I have opened up my arms, I have surrendered, and I must continue to surrender every day.

Rewrite.

I am rewriting my story. Not just the story of my life or my marriage, but the story of my every day. Each moment, its own sentence, paragraph, chapter. A toddler tantrum in the high chair, pea soup flung across the room – this does not have to be the night’s story. A period, a pause. Rewrite. Reset.

Among the other words in my story:

Light
Earth
Connect
Let go
Peace
Smile
Breathe 
Love
Focus
Notice
Energy
Spirit
Patience
Welcome
Energy
Family

Recovery homework: a letter.

Dear M,

During the time that you were using, I felt a lot of things. I’d feel alone when I woke up in the middle of the night to an empty bed. Only to get up and find you passed out – standing up in the kitchen, in your car, in the garage. Or in the garage with the door locked. Your sleeping habits made me worried, concerned for your health and the health of our family. I felt resentful because you would stay up all night and sleep in the mornings, leaving me alone with our son for a good part of the day.

On days when I didn’t know where you were after work, I was worried out of my mind. Hysterical, almost. Angry because I knew you were going to the city for drugs when your wife and your child were at home, missing you and wanting to be with you. You’d make it home with barely enough time to even see your son.

Our son. I was scared for our son and what kind of life was ahead of him if you didn’t stop. I was worried about the disappointment and the hurt he would feel if he were old enough to understand.

I felt betrayed when you would lie to my face or text me things like – My phone’s about to die. It was across the room so I didn’t answer. I lost my phone! I’m going to the mall to get your Xmas present. I don’t know who that contact is in my phone. His texts are all gibberish.

Confused. Who was this person who would lie to me like this? Who thought I was dumb enough to believe him?

I was angry when you got high the night before Thanksgiving. At one point you had your face in a piece of raw steak in the kitchen, swaying back and forth. What are you doing? I asked. Smelling the steak, you replied.

I was scared when you didn’t come home that night. I thought it was all my fault – that I handled it all wrong.

I was devastated when you had to go back to rehab – not because you used again, but because I hated seeing you so broken. I was scared.

I am scared. I am worried. I’m confused. I’m still all these things. But I am hopeful.

I love you.

The light.

“The light spread until the patch of Dark Thing had vanished, and there was only a gentle shining, and through the shining came the stars, clear and pure.” Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

It was a week or so before Christmas, and I was at the bookstore. Lights twinkling, couples bundled up and headed to their cars, coffee cups in hand. They were Christmas shopping, worried only about the items on their list, wrapping gifts, going home to Christmas trees and family dinners and everyday life.

I was buying books for my husband to take to rehab with him. We weren’t sure if there would be a bed available for him, or what the night or the next day or the next week would bring. Forget Christmas. Forget wrapping presents. I didn’t even know if we would be spending the holiday together. Even taking it one day at a time, at this point, was too much. I was taking it moment by moment. In that moment, the task at hand: Buy books for M. The next task, get him in the car. The next, get him to the hospital. The goal: Detox. We had to get the poison out. “It’s the first step,” I told him. “The only first step. The only way back to yourself. To me, to us.”

I bought “A Wrinkle in Time,” not knowing the impact it would have on him. Not remembering that quote about light, and the fight between light and darkness. I didn’t realize then, and neither did he, that light and dark would become such huge metaphors in our everyday lives. After all that – a year and a half of falling apart, the last two and a half months of everything crashing down around us, and now, sitting in my kitchen, my son m. sleeping upstairs, my husband M. back at the hospital taking classes as a part of his recovery program, “The Wrinkle in Time” boxed set sitting on the table across from me – it’s become that simple. Light versus dark. The light shines on. There is hope. We are broken, but we are still us, and we are still together, and the light shines on as we slowly pick up the pieces.

But. I’m so fucking scared.