Living Life on Life's Terms (or how to stop arguing with reality)
HOW DO WE TURN FRUSTRATION INTO GRATITUDE? HOW DO WE GROW SPIRITUALLY? HOW DO WE MAKE THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION? HOW DO WE LEARN TO LIVE LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS?
I grew up with a father who loved to “show the world” to his children. Travel and new experiences were a part of what he did for us. I was one of the lucky children who spent Spring Break on a snowy mountain, skiing and loving every second of it. And of course, my dad would bring us to none other than Vail, Colorado. As a child, I didn’t appreciate the financial effort this meant, I was just a little Latin girl who loved every second of magic and snow around her. Every second indeed. I grew up with beautiful childhood memories of our family ski-trips, enough to last me a lifetime.
As I grew older, those trips became a long-time memory. Life happened, and had me going from one thing to the other. When I found myself pregnant at age 25, a single mom, I remember thinking: this kid and I will travel the world together. And for a while, we did travel, while I still lived as a single mom under my parents roof. But once I left the nest, with a 4-year old in tow, life became more about survival and paying rent than about fantasy travel and dreams coming true.
Life unfolded in a strange way, and my alcoholism started to rear its ugly head. At age 30, I married husband number one, and that union lasted all of 4 months. My alcoholism grew tremendously during that period. After that, I got engaged to another guy. My alcoholism peaked with him. Fortunately, that one was not to become a husband. Then I got sober, at age 35. A few years after, I met who would become husband number 2, a sober and magical guy. This man had a bag of dreams, travel plans and great ideas. Unfortunately, that union did not last either, and during it, I relapsed into drinking again. We split in summer of last year, in 2016.
Now sober, recovered and empowered by a light within, I have made a commitment to make 2017 the best year of my life: To live a connected, spiritually-fit, brave life. And so, a few months ago I started to plan a ski trip for my son and I. While I knew that financially it was not wise to do this (with college around the corner and no savings yet), I also knew that I had to make this trip happen. In only a year or so my son would graduate and I would not have a chance to travel with him much. After having spent the last 16 years tending to everyone and all, I finally decided to do this for us. A mom and son trip to Vail. Yes. Yes. Yes.
So I planned for weeks and weeks. I researched the best deals. I booked and had every minute detail planned to perfection. The lodging overviewing the mountain. The ski-school days to book. The restaurants we would go to. The memories we would make. The perfect trip for us. And two days ago the adventure began. Off we were, into the dream-trip. My son was thrilled. Even with his 16-year old facade of coolness, he was literally like a little kid when we saw the mountains emerge on our drive from Denver to Vail.
Our first night, 72 hours ago, was magic. We pranced around the town, finding he perfect pizza place to dine, and took photos of every minute. We bought souvenirs, visited my favorite childhood spots, and squealed with every memory come true. My son did his first handstand on the snow. One of many to come, I thought. I had planned for us to have a day to get acclimated, rent gear, buy groceries and get settled in before our ski-week began. What a blessing and what a gift to be here with the person I love the most in the world.
But yesterday morning, life switched gears on us. My son woke up sick. Really sick. The kid that was delighted the night before, woke up with a horrible fever and flu. Oh shit. My son never gets sick. Literally never. Oh, God not now. Not on our perfectly planned vacation. Please, not now. Please, no.
A mom on a mission, I ran to the closest Walmart and bought the whole pharmacy – and a humidifier, of course. Zinc lozenges, Mucinex, Advil, Emergen-C, you name it. However, by the afternoon, he had not gotten better. With no time to waste, I took him to the Vail Medical Center, all the while telling him it was “no big deal and surely just a quick cold”. After a long appointment, the diagnosis was bleak. “It’s the flu” said the doctor. Being a believer of mind over matter, I bought the (crazy expensive) Tami-flu and codeine syrup and took him home, feeding him lines like “you will wake up feeling like new” and “we’ll be up in the mountain tomorrow, this is just a hiccup”, and such.
Last night, as I put him to bed, our ski-lesson tickets awaited by our bedside. Today, Monday, was supposed to be our first ski day of the week. And yet this morning, contrary to my prediction (and my prayers), my son woke up shivering and with a high fever. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck-a-doodle-fuck. I didn’t know if I felt worse for him (there is nothing more painful to a mom than to see her kid in pain) or for the situation itself. Our perfect trip was all of a sudden not perfect. Not perfect at all. As the gravity of his health state hit me, my heart crunched. The alcoholic in me wanted to have a meltdown and scream “its not fair!”.
That same part of me wanted to find a way to blame him for not wearing a jacket the night we arrived, claiming that the weather was just not cold enough for it. That part in me was scared, frustrated, angry. As I kissed the day goodbye, the gorgeous view from our room’s balcony, rather than promising, was painful to look at.
Not fair, my brain kept chanting. I spent so much money and we planned for this precious week so lovingly and carefully.
What if he does not feel better tomorrow? What if he does not get better at all this week? Fear enveloped my body for a second so powerfully, I almost felt like I would faint. Our ski-boots and helmets laid in a corner of a room, as tears welled up in my eyes and my son curled up in a ball, looking like he was 4 years old again. “I am sorry, mom” he said. And my heart broke, opening up to align with Life once more. My mouth opened and fortunately, Love and not Fear came out. “Listen” I said “It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault. Sometimes these things happen. And we can do one of two things. We can argue with reality and be upset about the change of plans…or we can find the gratitude and pray that things get better. Yes, this sucks. Big time, sucks. But there is nothing to be gained by focusing on that. What is cool is that this happened at the beginning of our trip, and not in the middle. What is cool is that we could get the right meds in you from the start. What is cool is that we are here, and we are spending time together. What is cool is that we are normally super healthy and this is just a day or two, and there is so much gratitude to find in that. What is cool is that we get to still ski when you feel better. No big deal. Be kind to your body. Rest, sleep, let your body heal. The mountain will still be there tomorrow”. My son smiled weakly and sunk into sleep again. I cried a little and my heart ached with love for him.
And I stared at him and the snow outside, I realized that there is a surrender that comes with recovery, and it needs to be applied to every situation we go through. A surrender to accept life as it comes and stop arguing with it. The old me would be down at a bar grabbing a few beers to “cope” with this scenario, bitching to first poor soul who dared talked to me. The recovered me is humanly feeling frustration, but has the space in her heart and brain to know that God has a plan and it was not for us to be skiing today, but to be here, right where we are. That this space of quiet and rest is not for us to be frustrated and feeling sad and punished out of the dream vacation. That there is something bigger at play, and this is nothing but an opportunity to get closer to Him.
While this sounds a bit cooky, it really is true.
When life baffles me and makes zero sense, I can always trust that the situation will get me spiritually closer to my Higher Power, which in my case is God (but is also known as Universe, Spirit, Life, HP, etc). Why does this bring me closer to my Higher Power? For the simple reason that I get to surrender to His will, not mine. Because I get off the “Pamela planned life” and get on God’s plan for me. Do I like it? Not really. Do I understand it? Not at all. Am I grateful for it? Yes. Because in the middle of this snowy day, I get to be the mom to a perfect child. And I am so grateful that he is normally healthy and full of life. And… while I pray with all my heart that tomorrow he will be feeling well enough for skiing, it will be whatever He will have it be. And it will be ok. Whatever happens will be ok.
So I smile, as my son sleeps. I use the time to blog and plan and check up on my online sponsees. I am sober. I am alive. I am free. I am living life today. Not my yesterday, not my tomorrow. I am in the most beautiful town in Colorado, and I am grateful for my reality now. And somehow…while writing this blog, I have felt the shift from Fear to Faith. From Frustration to Hope and Trust.
So there. Living life on life’s terms.
Pamela is a Certified Professional Recovery Coach & Educator. She has been in recovery since 2009, and is a passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding addiction. Please share this post via the channels below or anyone in your life who may benefit from a little information about drinking and recovery.