hello, babies

I'd like to describe this moment for you. Early evening in my tiny, tidy apartment. Propped up on my bed, fresh sheets, laptop warm on my stomach. Lamps lit. Chaucer asleep on the floor beside me, worn out from playing at the new park. AC cranked and I'm in my softest, comfiest hoodie. Listening to Blackbird Blackbird and Houses. A perfectly calibrated mood of my own creation, with no one and no thing to distract me. Everything feels cozy, clean, bright, full of potential. I feel full of potential, for the first time in months.

It was a long, agonizing spiral down, with bumps every inch of the way, a hard, hard crash, a few days of reeling, then a shift. A couple days of gentle blooming, a slow opening back up to warmth, joy, and inspiration. Clearing space in my head and heart for new things, new sources of happiness. Ready to move on from pain and confusion and self-pity and stagnation.

Since my father died in April, I have been allowing myself to collect sorrows like dust. They thickened around me like a fog I felt powerless to fight. Every sadness a link in an impossibly heavy chain. Can't lift just one piece without feeling the weight of it all. Too heavy. Too heavy. I gave up.

I gave the fuck up.

When my dad died, I experienced the pain of losing my mom - who died three years ago - all over again. I was freshly cut open. That sense of loss tugged the thread on other losses I've had, and before I knew it, I was unraveling a sweater of tightly knit, perfectly repressed regrets, including my divorce, other failed relationships, and a not-so-small catalog of personal failures. I had attacks of tremendous anxiety that sent me cowering in corners, unable to perform the every day logistical tasks I needed to complete, in order to close my father's affairs. I wrote about this before - the inexplicable terror I felt in the face of paperwork, emails, phone calls.

But one by one, often with hands and voice shaking, I've put these obstacles behind me. And now, suddenly, I find myself sliding down the far side of the mountain I never thought I'd get over. I'm just about done. The emptiness of my desk is an invitation and a challenge - not a reproach.

Less esoteric specifics:

Stuff Relating to My Dad. My dad's estate is sizable (to me, anyway - it's all relative, I guess), providing a host of blessings to me that I am acutely aware of, even in my lowest moments of depression. If I could bring him back to life just to thank him again, I would. He gave me the gifts of security and peace of mind. Provided I'm not a total jackass and don't squander, I won't have to worry about money for a long time. Pass the knocking wood, quick.

But his will came with stipulations regarding the division of my brother's and my inheritance. My brother is a drug-addicted, violent sociopath who, when he's not in prison, is homeless. And it's my responsibility to see that he gets what my father set aside for him. But he detests me and often makes threats on my life. Kind of complicates my duties as executrix. I've hired an estate attorney to help me with this. It's been an overwhelming, emotionally fraught process, and I've only just started. I also had to handle the sale of my dad's house (and everything in it) and vehicles, the settlement of his debts, and the filing of his taxes.

All of this crap was the perfect diversion for avoiding other scary shit I didn't want to face. Like the fact that I don't have a job. Or the disintegrating relationship I was in.

Singledom. Now that it's come up, here's the skinny: A. and I tried but couldn't revive what was convulsing, bleeding on the operating table. Graphic, wow, but ok. That's what came out, so let's leave it. I don't know what the final word should be. Too much damage? Incompatibility? Emotional unavailability on his or my part? A cocktail of all of this? Something I heard recently that stuck with me, regarding relationships, is that common interests do not equal shared values. I think there was some of this going on, too. Which is not to say either my or his values are better/worse - we just come from different places, have different needs, or different ideas about how to communicate, or support one another, or hell, who knows.

Really, I don't know. All I know is that there doesn't seem to be any blame-gaming or hard feelings, and he's continued to be a support for me when I've hit some brutal walls, emotionally. We spent a couple days together in San Francisco (he came up for the last day of Outside Lands) and truly enjoyed one another. Then again, we were on various drugs for most of those two days. So, yanno.

Life Improvements. I went to a few weeks of therapy, at the insistence of a friend who was sick of hearing me be miserable. But I didn't get much out of it. I didn't like the therapist all that much. I didn't feel that talking about my dysfunctional family and mostly-ok-but-probably-kind-of-shitty childhood was helping. My mother was an alcoholic. My father was a misogynist. My brother is nutters. Discussing none of those facts boosts my self-esteem, the utterly wasted state of which is what's holding me back from success in work and relationships. I don't care so much about identifying the psychological root causes of my issues as moving the fuck past them.

So I quit therapy and hired a life coach. But it isn't as if I Googled "life coach" to find this person - she's someone who came into my life a few months ago, through mutual friends. At parties and get-togethers, we'd been getting to know one another slowly. And I'd sort of been falling in love with her, because she's fucking incredible. Finally, she broached the subject of coaching me, after I was telling her that formal therapy wasn't getting me where I wanted to go. She prodded a bit before declaring me the perfect candidate for life coaching. I was game to try.

My first session with her saw me crying harder, talking more honestly/vulnerably, and walking away more inspired and empowered than a month of counseling. She's already helped me enormously, and we've only just scratched the surface. I'm really, really excited about it. She's helping me to look at my life right now not as a bunch of pieces to be picked up, but as a huge, exciting opportunity to reinvent myself. To be anyone and anything I want.

I mean, think about it. I am beholden to no one. I've shed the dead weight of an unhappy marriage. No husband to tie me down, emotionally, geographically, whatever. My parents are both dead. I'm free to experience and explore the world in any way I want now, without having to weigh their concerns, their needs, their judgments. More on this idea later.

Anyway, the really powerful thing she said to me was this: "Ellie, you're already a successful person. I see this just from the short time I've known you. You're smart, funny, all of your friends love you. You're healthy and fit. You're already successful. It's just a matter of deciding - how do you want to be successful next?"

Yeah. Yeah.

Might sound obvious to others, but that's some revelatory shit to a hyper self-critic like me, a woman who beats herself up daily for mistakes made and opportunities missed. Hopefully, I will quit playing that zero-sum game very soon.