Aubrey Harmon

Centered Heart Coaching

Author: Aubrey

Closure

2018 is winding down – only 26 more days of the year. It’s two of the darkest weeks as we move toward the winter Solstice with its shortest day and longest night. The moon is also in its waning crescent phase, leading to the New Moon on the 7th. On a macro-level it’s time to wind down, to let go of the old in order to welcome the new, so it’s oddly fitting that today – after a lengthy four and a half year separation – Tom and I signed our divorce papers.

While our relationship was clearly over at the time we separated, it took us much longer to get the legal side of things completed. The papers will be submitted to the court later this week, and though we won’t get a response for several weeks, once the documents are signed by both of us, the contract is considered binding.

Our mediator didn’t have any openings in her schedule in the North Bay office, so I trekked into San Francisco this afternoon. I don’t go into the city very often now that I’ve moved, and it’s even rarer for me to go to the heart of down town – Union Square. There was traffic, of course, and construction, and so many people shopping for the holiday season. Everything felt grey – concrete, sky, buildings, even the people. 

Tom and I sat across from each other at a conference table much too large for just us. We mostly signed in silence, except for a few awkward jokes. 

“You are sober, right,” I asked as we initialed the declaration that we weren’t under the influence of any mind-altering substance during the signing. 

“Yeah, but I’m getting a beer after,” he said.

The paralegal commented that it was always interesting to hear what people did after the papers were signed. Some went for drinks. Some went home. One client had to rush out because they had a dentist appointment directly after. Sounds like a glutton for punishment, to me.

At one point I realized he and I were in mirrored positions – head on fist, looking down. I don’t know what he was thinking… part of me wondered if his line of thought mirrored mine too  – this wasn’t where I imagined we’d end up, when we got married. I thought we’d be in it forever. I certainly never imagined that I’d be the one who ended it. I couldn’t imagine living without him.  But I had, and here we are.

I came home right after – today was my day with the kiddos.  I made dinner, gave Miriam a shower, made sure Tai practiced his trombone, fed the dogs.  I lit a candle. Now it’s nearly midnight and while I feel a little melancholy for ‘what might have been’ and ‘what I imagined it would be’, I know that I am content. I am fine. I am growing.

Denial

This morning I went to my favorite women’s recovery meeting. It’s a decent sized group – not so big that I feel lost, but also not so tiny that I feel like I have to speak up every time I go. There are women with long sobriety, and also newcomers. It might not have the same edginess and drama as meetings I used to attend in San Francisco, but it shares the same element that drew me in the first place – no matter how I am feeling, there is at least one other woman in the room who has felt that way, too.

For most of my life, I’ve felt different. Too shy, too anxious, too bookish, too awkward. I wanted to fit in, but I wasn’t sure how. I didn’t start drinking to fit in, but when I drank I felt like I did – or at least I didn’t care that I was different. For a while, alcohol worked for me. It worked really, really well. Until it didn’t.

Even so, 90 days sober, there have been many times that I’ve doubted that I’m an ‘alcoholic’.  I’ve had consequences of my drinking, but they all could have been worse. I’ve not lost a job, a house, a relationship, family members. Did I really need to be in recovery?

Today one sentence in the reading stood out to me.  When I enjoyed my drinking I couldn’t control it, and when I controlled it, I couldn’t enjoy it.  A small voice in my heart said ‘yes, this is you.’

Sometimes I drank normally, socially. A beer or two or three with family or friends at dinner. A civilized glass of wine after a hard day. But when I drank the way I felt I needed, I drank to feel the ‘click’ in my head where everything turned way, way down. The anxious voice in my head? Silent. The feeling that there was something ‘else’ I should be doing? Gone. Restless, discontent, lonely? Not anymore!

It took more and more to get the ‘click’. I was careful not to drink when I had the kiddos, because sometimes the click lead to blackouts. No problem if I’m on my own, but if the kids needed help in the night I had to be available for them. On nights the kids were with their dad, all bets were off. It took a little while to realize, this wasn’t actually working. In the morning all of those crappy feelings were still there, along with some guilt and shame for drinking so much, what I might have done while I was drinking, and an ass-kicking headache too.

Sobriety is a journey and I’m just at the beginning. I’m not making forever statements, but for today, I am not drinking. I’m learning about feeling my feelings and doing things anyway. Learning that we all feel anxious and awkward and weird and that’s fine – just keep moving, keep following our hearts. I’m working on building a community of women who can see me in all of my weirdness and join me with their weirdness. We’re all in this weird world together.

Bittersweet

Having a quiet evening at home, after a day of catching up on chores that I let slide while the kiddos were here. Pups are curled up beside me on the couch, snoring. Candles flicker on the mantel. Classical music is playing softly. The quiet is both a balm, and bittersweet.

I’ve been separated from my ex for four and a half years, and we knew it was over before that. Sharing the kids is nothing new… but even so, coming off a whole week together, I miss them. Not the whining, the arguing and rolled eyes. Not the dulcet tones of Fortnite battles and complaints about having to pick up after themselves.

I miss the early morning snuggles with Miriam when it’s just dawn and we both half-wake up but then cuddle closer and drift off again. I miss hearing her sing to herself while she draws. I miss hearing the conversations between her toys when she plays with the dollhouse. I miss when she reads me a book before bed. I miss Tai’s shouts of triumph and despair when he plays video games with his friends. I miss his boundless energy that fills the house. I miss when he asks me to tuck him in and sit with him until he falls asleep. I miss those minutes when he decides to tell me about how his games were, about what he’s doing at school, bits of randomness until he drops off to sleep. 

Even as I miss them, I relish this time alone, too. I relax into the stillness, take time to read, to write, to think a complete thought without someone asking for a snack, a drink, something to do because “I’m bored!”.  I go to Target and take as long as I want with no one whining that can’t we just gooooo already??  I stay up late watching Netflix and knitting, or falling down a YouTube rabbit hole. I remember what it is to be a woman on her own.

Not Perfect

December 1st already – hard to believe how quickly the year has gone by… though I’m pretty sure I say that every year. Just past Thanksgiving, still a few weeks out from Christmas. Hanukkah starts this Sunday… The holiday season is gearing up. So, of course, is the stress. I need to decorate the house, get the tree, decorate the tree, buy the presents, wrap the presents, mail the holiday cards. Most of all, make memories for the kids. Make it magic. Not too magic, of course, don’t want to spoil them. Just enough, just the right amount. Just make it perfect. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? You can find perfection on Pinterest and Facebook.

I am not, however, Martha Stewart. My house is loud and lived in. My elf on the shelf is hiding (and I’m hoping to keep it that way, dude is creepy). My dogs sit on the sofa and lick my face. I buy the kids too much and wrap it messily, all thumbs with tape and ribbon and wrapping paper cut too large. I make hot cocoa, the instant variety out of little envelopes. The kids love it anyway. We watch Christmas specials on YouTube, memories of my own childhood. I string the lights on the tree – white, because it’s what I grew up with and what I love – and the kids decorate it. The ornaments are placed haphazardly, clumped in odd array instead of perfectly placed. I annoy them by singing Handel’s Messiah, every part including soprano and bass, too loudly. We balance it out with The Grinch.

It’s imperfect and messy and still magical. When the lights are out and only the tree is shining.  When we’re all cuddled together on the couch. When the kids write letters to Santa. When we drive through the neighborhood to see the lights shining in the long darkness. It is enough and more than enough.  To quote a Tim Minchin song out of context, “It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.”

I don’t want perfection, or the stress that goes with striving for it and failing. (Because, after all, nothing is ever perfect.) I want to enjoy the quiet, the magic, the lights in the darkness. I want to stay grounded and present. Because I don’t want to lose touch with how lucky I am.

Equinox

Fall in Maine

Even though it’s in the 80s today, Autumn has technically begun here in California. The fall equinox just passed last weekend and I am ready for Halloween. I’ve always loved sweet-spooky decorations and while it’s not yet October, I began putting out my jack o’lantern collection yesterday afternoon, at Miriam’s urging.

While I love the Bay Area, I find myself missing the Midwest and East Coast at this time of year. I miss the vibrant fall colors, the huge swaths of red and orange and yellow. I miss making huge piles of leaves and jumping in. I miss the truly cold early mornings and late nights. I miss old graveyards and orchards. I miss visiting Salem around Halloween. I miss the bonfires.

The one thing I don’t like about Fall is the growing darkness. I have a tendency to feel more tired and sad than usual as daylight wanes.  This year, however, I am attempting to attune myself to the season, the turn of the wheel of the year.  In doing so, I celebrated the Equinox with an online pagan community. 

Starhawk sent out an email that brought to mind questions I will focus on during this changing season. She writes, 

This is the time of the final harvest, when we prepare our homes and our gardens and our hearts for the impending darkness of winter…  If we look to the natural wisdom of our Earth, this is a time when we are positioned to find balance within ourselves. … I encourage you to take some time to consider what has moved into and out of balance in your life and in the world. What have you planted, tended, and harvested in this past wheel of the year? What has disappointed you, shriveled on the vine? What are you holding onto and what can you let go of, like the trees release their leaves, to restore equilibrium? Can you savor and celebrate that which you have accomplished, and turn under into compost that which has left you with disappointment or regret? 

Starhawk

I would love to have you join me in this time of reflection – feel free to comment here, or join me in my Facebook group: Goddesses, Warriors & Wise Witches.

Dream Big and Dance

  There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

Martha Graham, modern dancer and choreographer

One of my favorite pastimes is to browse bookstores and public libraries. I happily spend hours lost in the stacks of books, following whatever obsession has caught my mind recently. I read voraciously, drinking books like water. From literary novels to scifi to romance to chick lit to biography and essays and nonfiction on a variety of subjects, I read it all. I read for escape, and I read to learn, and I read to find my way. I look for my path in other people’s experiences. I love glimpses into other other worlds, both literally in science fiction and metaphorical, in memoir.

Sometimes, though, when I enter a bookstore instead of inspiration, I find despair. There are so very many books, and none of them tell my story. More than that, none of them are my book. The only thing I love more than reading is writing. I could happily spend every single moment of my life scribbling away in a notebook or pecking at the computer. I’ve written stories ever since I could write… but just writing for myself isn’t enough. I long to be published. To see my books on the shelves of libraries and stores. I want that broader reach, to have other women who have gone through similar experiences find some relief in knowing that they are not alone.

You might ask how many rejection letters I have amassed. The answer? None. Not because I have a huge publishing deal in the works, but because I have yet to submit anything I’ve written. Novels languish on hard drives, more personal stories on blogs and in paper diaries. I doubt and second guess myself. I hold my (unedited) manuscripts up to comparison with published books.

I was reading “This Messy, Magnificent Life” by Geneen Roth and discovered the quote above. Slowly, I am realizing that I have been blocking this unique energy that can move through me. While someone else might write a book with a similar plot, no one will write exactly what I have. 

More broadly, in all the world there is no one else like each of us. We are singular and unique. You might not have a novel in you, but instead a song, a painting, a dance, a poem, a child, a business. While someone else might create each of these things, no one will create exactly what you would. If we keep ourselves small and afraid of being seen, the world will lose out on our offerings. 

Let’s not allow this to happen. Share your creations with the world and let yourself shine.

If you’d like help as you walk this path, please reach out to me – I’d love to work with you.

Trust

  How would it feel to live with wise trust, with the sense that things will somehow work out, perhaps not in the way you think they should, but in some magnificent way?

Jack Kornfield, No Time Like the Present

I have not been a sanguine person. Family and friends who have known me longest might call this an understatement. Though I often presented a cheerful facade, I tended to a deep-seated anxiety and recurring periods of depression. I went to a psychiatrist in my twenties and began medication and this evened my moods out enough to live life without crying on the back stairs for no reason. It allowed me to do deep work in therapy and with my coach, to have two children, to survive and thrive after divorce.

Slowly, very slowly, things began to shift in my heart. I learned I could pass through experiences that had scared me the most. I learned to treat my fear not as something to be shoved away or drowned out with alcohol and food and television – because none of those things worked long-term – but as a piece of me deserving kindness. 

I began to speak gently to myself when I was afraid, as I would do for my kids. Even though I would never berate them for their fear of the dark, or fear of scary parts in movies, or any of the myriad things that I, as an adult, knew weren’t objectively frightening, I would internally criticize my own ‘irrational’ fears. Oddly enough this never fixed the fear. Once I began giving myself permission to feel my fear and to keep moving forward anyway, the fears began to fade.

In this more spacious frame of mind, I started reading Jack Kornfield’s “No Time Like the Present”. The quote above dropped into my heart like a stone into a pond, sending out ripples through me. No matter how much I might wish it were otherwise (and I wish this a lot) there is much in the world that I can’t control. Worry won’t control it. Work won’t control it. So there are two choices – either fret and rail against the way things are, or surrender to trust, and maybe even to faith. Faith that even though certain things are shitty or difficult, in the end it will work out in some magnificent way. I’ve tried the fretting and the railing. I am beginning to try trust. As I allow myself to sink into trust, I feel a stillness in my center and I want more of this. 

My kids are away visiting their grandparents on the East Coast this week. I have been taking the opportunity to sit in quiet and simply feel present. In the evening twilight I sit on my back deck and listen to the wind sighing through the trees, to the birds singing, to other kids playing in the distance. and I allow myself to trust in this still place.

Stars at night shine above a tree. "Pretend the Universe is rigged in your favor," Rumi.
Pretend the Universe is rigged in your favor. ~ Rumi

Pull Each Other Through

It’s difficult, these days, to pick just one topic for a blog entry. It feels like every time we blink there’s another atrocity, another assault, another loss. Too often it feels like we’ve been transported to what Starhawk calls El Mundo Malo.  In her novel, “The Fifth Sacred Thing” she writes:

There was the Good Reality, El Mundo Bueno, literally the Good World, and the Bad Reality, El Mundo Malo, and they were always vying with each other. In the Good Reality you have a mild headache; in the Bad Reality you have a fatal brain disease. In the Good Reality, you catch hold of the rail as your foot slips; in the Bad Reality, you miss, slide down the stairs and break your neck. We walk in the Good Reality as if we were treading the thin skin on warm milk. It’s always possible to break through and drown.

I read that quote for the first time in college but never has it felt so true as it has since the 2016 election. It is so easy to slip into despair and the thought that the political machine is too big and impossible to change. Even voting feels like it doesn’t make a difference. Fortunately,

There is a hopeful side, … even in El Mundo Malo, the Good Reality is always just on the other side of the surface of things. If you can learn to reach and pull yourself through, you can make miracles.

I am gripping this idea with both hands. Change can happen, if we work for it. It’s not just waiting passively, but reaching and pulling ourselves through. I would extend this idea further – it is time to reach and pull each other through. We cannot leave anyone behind, drowning in El Mundo Malo. We must march, resist, speak up, speak out – in ways both large and small. Action is the only thing that has changed the world in the past, and we can make it happen today.

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