Turning 47 this past August felt different. Suddenly finding myself standing on the other side of life, firmly planted in my “late 40’s”. All the possibilities that have danced in front of me, goals to achieve, a book to write, living in my purpose, have all taken on a greater sense of urgency. Time no longer luxuriously stretching in front of me. I started asking myself the hard questions, the uncomfortable ones that shine a harsh light back on ourselves.
When? When will I stop making excuses and start doing? Stop pushing off all my dreams for another day? Beginning to feel like I’m wasting this precious life. Still believing I have gifts to share in my experiences lived, trauma suffered and hope affirmed. In secret I am a master procrastinator. At all times, I am productive. Ticking off items on my to do list, always in motion, caring for my family, working in the yard, doing the laundry, cleaning the house. Yet I procrastinated on the one thing that truly mattered to me, sharing my story and helping others survive domestic abuse and alcoholism.
The pandemic, for all its tragedy, a quiet period with much of the world shut down. An ideal reset time to make life changes, to finally tackle dreams. And I have known, since March, it was a special opportunity for me to finally write. To sit down and make a plan, figure out how to share my message, connect with others, to do it. But I didn’t.
Instead I defaulted to my normal operating procedure. I stayed busy and made myself busier. My five stepsons all came home, so I hid behind endless cooking and cleaning. My ex-husband still insisted on following our court order, only allowing me public visitation despite almost three years of sobriety at that time. My visits with my three kids on the NCR Trail were dependent on the weather and their father’s mood. If it was sunny and he was in a good mood, he allowed me to see the children as often as I wanted. And while I was thrilled to see my children for more than the eight hours a week allowed for the past three years, my schedule was never my own. The weather forecast dictated my days. Once a visit was confirmed, I spent the hours prior baking a homemade treat, cutting up lots of fruits and veggies, filling their water bottles, making sure my car was filled with a few special things for each child from their rooms, and our devices were charged for a tech break.
So passed March, April, May and June. Finally in July, my children came home, when I had been sober for three years and one month. Reaching that goal, having my children home, after fighting to bring them home since 2017, was a huge relief. Allowing me to start thinking about what came “after”. For so long a bunker mentality had existed and I had only been capable of digging in and clinging to my coping skills. Dealing with the loss of my children, aching with regret for my drinking, feeling like half a person outside those 8 hours a week when I was allowed to be a mother. Struggling with who I was if my most important job since 2002, that of being a mom, was now only on the fringes on my children’s lives. These struggles and painful feelings consumed me as much as the busy life I created. In the thick of it, I couldn’t even realize that my default setting was surviving, and had been for a number of years. Transitioning to a state of thriving, even simply beginning to thrive on some days, required a huge emotional and mental shift.
My birthday in August was the second kick in the pants. And pushed me from self-realization to figuring out a plan for self-actualization. Reading and researching over the years has shown me that sharing my story begins with my writing. It’s the foundation from which connection with others grows – speaking, videos, articles and advocating. Behavioral psychological became an interest when I got sober, and I’ve studied how habits are formed, what steps must be taken for successful behavior changes, and how permanent shifts can happen in how we view ourselves. My plan was a commitment to write for 30 days, the month of September, and publish 2 posts a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A few years ago, before my custody battle smothered my hope and optimism, I had developed a website, Gather Connect Empower. The framework was there, just waiting for me to get started. So I did, no excuses allowed. Ironically, the only promise I needed to make was to myself.
Every day I opened my laptop and wrote. Some days for hours, others only for 30 minutes, but I got it done and I didn’t allow myself to push it off. Finally I honored myself, my journey and all the experiences along the way. My dad’s suicide when I was 16, my mom’s resulting decade long struggle with drinking, my abusive first marriage, my sons’ Aspergers diagnoses, my own alcoholism and sobriety journey and most of all, my struggle to keep my children safe in their own abusive relationships with their father. Those are the darkest moments, the times that brought me to my knees. Interspersed with the pain is so much happiness and moments of joy. My children’s love and resilience, my healthy and happy relationship with my second husband, my mom, deep friendships, my dog, tilting my face towards the sun, puttering in my yard, hiking with my kids. Experiences that flow easily living an authentic life. Writing heals me, allows me to fully explore those dark times and share my lessons learned.
Two and a half months have passed since I began my writing challenge. Slowly, day by day, sticking with my writing has shifted a negative core belief. That I wasn’t really a writer, that I didn’t have the courage or follow-through to put my story out in the world. Looking back over my essays from the past few months I glimpse the beginnings of my book. My dreams of being a writer are slowly coming true. Persevering, staying consistent, believing in myself. All of us are capable of finding our place in the world, of building meaningful connection. No matter our age. Finally, at 47, I’m stepping into my purpose.