I’m 3.3 years sober and about to turn 46 years old on August 14th. I have zero preconceived notions about what ‘being 46’ should look like for me. My husband and I don’t have kids, so there aren’t obvious norms to chase after. This is fine, though. Fine, and even fun. What’s to come in the next year? Who the hell knows.
So much of this past year was filled with inch-by-inch recovery progress as well as monumental change of my own making, and I’m really proud of that. Life won’t always be so malleable under my grabby, controlling hands, but this past year it let me have my way with it.
I like lists, so here’s a list of the things of which I’m most proud:
- Opened a tiny bookstore (www.threetreesbooks.com) two blocks away from our house in Burien, WA. More posts on this elsewhere, but wow – it is SO MUCH FUN. And it’s so incredible to be working side-by-side with my husband on such a creative project.
- Finally found a full-time job that really fulfills the worker-bee-me. It’s a creative, senior-level job that takes advantage of my years in the online travel industry. My team is amazing. My boss is brilliant. I’m very lucky (thanks sobriety).
- Retirement planning (!): Refinanced my mortgage. Maxed out my 401k. Set up an IRA for several old 401Ks before auto-distributions (with penalties). Moved savings into a money market account. Set up a small online trading account to buy individual stocks (for fun). Met with our financial advisor twice. Was told we will be fine at the normal retirement age if we stay the course. These are all big deal things for me. I had a problem with credit card debt for years. To have good credit and savings and to actually be planning for the future feels really good. None of this would be possible without getting over my fears and focusing on money in a slightly more responsible way (and doing so patiently, over many years).
- Ate my way through some ups and downs, and managed to pull myself out of shame and self-rebuke. My recovery from the diet industry and years of diet/binge cycling is hard, and this year has been a bit harder than the last couple because, well, I’ve gained weight (I know because of the way clothes fit). It’s to be expected and all that, but it is VERY hard not to slip back into diet mentality and emotional restriction (even if I’m still eating in an unrestricted way). The shoulds and shouldn’ts. Trying to make food decisions in a healthful but also weight-neutral way sometimes feels impossible. I’m still so hung up on “good food – bad food” rules. However, most of the time I don’t think about it at all, and that’s a huge win.
- I – finally – took myself to an Endocrinologist (i.e., a specialist, vs my GP) to understand my thyroid condition better, and get legit advice on how to manage it. I was diagnosed with Hypothryoidism right after my hysterectomy for endometrial cancer when I was 36 years old, and I’ve been on thyroid meds ever since. Guess what? The doctor told me that thryoids almost always malfunction after major surgeries, and it’s very likely I never had a real thyroid problem in the first place. She’s weaning me off the meds now, and I’m so relieved. Hard to explain why, but I am. Similar to quitting drinking, I just WISH I HAD DONE THIS SOONER. Ah well, live and learn.
- Stayed sober.
This may sound morbid (and maybe it’s related to an impending birthday), but I’ve been thinking a lot about death. About how incredibly small and unimportant my particular life really is, and how animals and plants live and die everyday without much notice. I’ve even been thinking I’d like to be composted when I die so my body can get used by organisms in the earth to live and grow (yes, I’ve told my husband this plan – he said he’ll try to figure out how to do it…)
As I age (ever so gracefully) any notion of separateness from other people, animals or trees (or Trump supporters) seems more and more absurd. Oneness with everything is actually starting to make logical sense to me. Is this a normal feeling when you hit upper-middle-age?
I know there are buddhist thinkers and writers who do a much better job of articulating these ideas, but for me it took reading a book called “Natural Causes” by Barbara Ehrenreich to really help these ideas settle in. Her book, whether intentional or not, is like a scientific argument for letting our bodies and lives just BE. Not to say we shouldn’t pursue medical intervention for problems, of course. She just argues that we are collectively succumbing to human society’s unsupported (by science) guidelines for pursuing health and youth, which is paradoxically supplanting real living. Her book aligned really well with all that I’ve read about how diets have been proven to be damaging (and to cause weight gain), and yet every doctor on earth still recommends weight loss to cure everything. Anyway, hat tip to Barbara Ehrenreich. I’m glad she continues to write thought-provoking, well-researched books about important subjects (she also wrote a gem called “Nickeled and Dimed” which I recommend too).
Next year will likely be filled with all sorts of things I haven’t given much thought to yet, but (as you may know) I’ve been thinking about writing a book – or a manifesto, really – about alcohol and body image, and the freedom you can find by quitting drinking and dieting. I hope I’ll find a way to put pen to paper this year. That’s my intention – and may the Universe hear it and deliver the creative mojo I need to make it happen.