At the time of this writing, I’m 48 years old. And according to the internet, if I live an average lifespan, I have around 10, 950 more days left on this planet. I feel a little panicked when it’s put that way. Like I’m on one of those design shows, where they have 48 hours and $500 to renovate an entire house. Except the house is me, and I’m completely overwhelmed by the huge amount of work that needs to be done, in such a short amount of time.
Apparently all blogs are supposed to have an “About Me” page. It’s true. I looked. They all do. But the funny thing is, that even after 17,702 days in this world, I’m still not sure how to say it out loud. Maybe because I feel like I’m still becoming who I am. And because at least in this case, Becoming, is more of a noun than a verb. It isn’t just what I’m doing, it actually IS who I am. Which means some of the things I think are true now, may not even be recognizable later on.
If I had been writing this page 10 years ago, I might have said something like “I’m an interior decorator who is passionate about design and who loves to help other people create beautiful, organized homes.” But what seemed true then, is kind of an eye-roller now, because in reality it was more like this: “Instead of facing the truth and making difficult, life-altering decisions, I shove anxiety, depression, misery and rage, into life’s fun little hide-y holes. Obsessive organization and exterior beauty are just two of them.”
So with that in mind, because I truly believe, that if we’re doing it right, Who We Are and What We Believe is always subject to change—here are some things About Me. For now. Until I learn something new. And change again.
#1-I spent the first 40 years of my life, completely owned by Toxic Relationships, Narcissistic Abuse, and Cult Religion. Imagine the game of Survivor and the Sons of Anarchy, all rolled into one: secret alliances, blood oaths and blindsides, with someone always being voted off the island. Or taken “out on a ride” never to be heard from again. Not that anyone actually died—at least not in a way you can see. Unless you count broken spirits and bleeding souls. And I actually do.
#2-I’ve spent the last 8 years, re-wiring my brain, re-claiming my life, protecting my children, healing my marriage, and learning everything I can about WTF happened and why. In a weird sort of way, it feels like I was re-born at 40, which makes me like 8 years old right now.
#3-It wasn’t until other people told their stories out loud, that I finally saw my own—and it literally saved my life. Now telling my own stories feels like one of those those jobs I can’t ignore. Like mopping floors. Or doing bills. Or cleaning toilets. The kind that hover over a relaxing weekend, or a nice vacation if they’re not done first, because no matter how hard I try to ignore them, they’ll still be waiting when I get back, even grosser than they were before. Steven Pressfield, in his book “The War Of Art” calls that feeling “Resistance”. He says it’s a dark force that is always trying to keep us from our life calling, or our soul’s most important work. “It has no conscience” he says. And it’s “always lying, and it’s always full of shit”. Which makes it an incredibly accurate compass. That feeling of Resistance, is often the needle that points us, in the direction of our True North.
#4-I don’t want writing about this stuff to feel like my job forever. My dream is to be a travel writer. And to have a Crossfit body, without actually having to do Crossfit.
#5-I use lots of iffy grammar, illegal punctuation, and words like grosser. Because I can either do my work, or worry about the rules; and come to think of it, worrying about The Rules feels an awful lot like Resistance. Rules for the sake of rules—the kind that kill the spirit, limit creativity, and shame us into something we’re not—sort of piss me off.
#6-In 2009, I had everything I had ever wanted: A husband I loved. Kids I loved. A job I loved. And a home I loved. But all I ever thought about was dying (See #1). Not that I’d do it on purpose. But every day, I prayed for something “accidental” to happen. Like driving off a cliff. Or into the path of an oncoming semi. The Misery of the Unspeakable; literally being owned—body, mind, children, marriage, spirit and soul (clear down to the kind of toilet I had to install, right in my own damn home) really does suck, just that much.
#7-I have a Bachelor Degree in Psychology, but I never did anything with it, and I don’t remember much besides math being hard, and a story about a rat. Or was that a dog? So ya. I’m not a therapist. Or a professional of any kind. I actually need a therapist. And the fact that I’m a semi-normal, functioning human shocks me all of the time. At the end of the day, I’m just a person with a story, and a compulsive need to share.
#8-Even though I never wanted to be a teacher, after graduating from college, I found myself in the teaching program at Western Oregon (See #1 again). But then I did a ride-along on an ambulance with a childhood friend, and for the first time ever, I fell in love with a job. I dumped my teaching block immediately, and applied to the Paramedic Program up at OHSU.
#9-I was a Paramedic in Portland, Oregon for over 18 years, but unless it’s in reference to another story, you’ll never see me write about it here. It feels too sacred. And too personal. And because those stories belong to other people, who don’t have a choice, and who can’t give me permission to share. But most of all, there’s nothing there to reconcile. When I was falling apart on the inside, that job, and everything that came with it, still brought me peace, because it was the one thing I always understood. Even after 18 years, I don’t feel like I ever saved anyone. I feel like they saved me.
#10-I was a waitress for years while I was going through school, and I still have the same, reoccurring nightmare. I’m the only one on shift, in a restaurant full of angry people, and no one ever gets food. Hungry people always have been way scarier than sick people.
#11-When I met my husband on a blind date, the first thing I said when he introduced himself was “Hi, My name is Alyssa. And I have to pee.” I’m thankful every day, that he laughed instead of running away.
#12-I love dogs. And all animals. But mostly dogs.
#13-I avoid groups of any kind. Which is ironic, because up until I was 40, my entire life was wrapped around them, like one of those balls of rubber bands. (See #1. Yes, again). But because I was trained to ignore my instincts, and I associated the word “boundaries” with those psycho-babble “mean” people who aren’t easily manipulated and say “heartless” things like no, I was like the Mother Planet, calling all of the Narc-Ships home. Now being on the fringes—or not involved at all—really does suit me best.
#14-Every now and then, I pop in on my past,to see what I can learn. But if I start to set up Camp Dysfunction, and move myself back in, I have another re-occurring dream. A loud voice bellows down from the sky “Alyssa! Don’t be like a dog, returning to your vomit!” It’s from a verse in the Bible. One of the few I can still recall. There’s another dream too, where the same voice, except a little less shouty, says “Why run back to those chains, when I’ve already set you free?”. Some people call that a spicy burrito too close to bedtime, but I call it God.
#15-I love God, but I don’t love Church (See #1, and #13). I’ve spent my entire life letting other people tell me who God is (funny how no matter who you’re talking to, God always sounds just like them). But with all of that squaking and yakking, you know who never got to tell me about God? God. When I finally got out of the church I grew up in, the term “left with nothing but the clothes on their back” is exactly how it felt. Except instead of no clothes, I was left with a skeleton crew of the barest, most basic beliefs. I was a refugee of sorts, with no one to run towards, and no home to run back to. But you know who came and found me, when everyone else threw me away? God. And you know who keeps showing up, in the weirdest places, with the most unlikely people? God. Most of the time, it still feels like I’m stumbling through the world, clinging on to nothing more than the teeniest, tiniest mustard seed of faith. But I guess if that’s good enough for God, it has to be good enough for me.
#16-I tried to be an Atheist once. But when I kept praying to God, to help me be a better Atheist, I figured it probably wasn’t my thing.
#17-I believe in unconditional forgiveness, and in unconditional grace, because I rely on them myself, every single day. But you know what I absolutely don’t believe in? Unconditional relationships. Forgiveness is a one person job. I can do that on my own, without anyone else’s input. A healthy relationship is a two person job, that comes with a mutual agreement on what is ok, and what isn’t ok. We are never, ever obligated to have close relationships with people who hurt us, abuse us, or who keep us from living the life we were meant to live, or from becoming the people we were meant to be. Living like that, should be #1 on a long list of Definitly Not Ok’s.
#18-Small talk gives me the creeps. Probably the same way it gives other people the creeps when I immediately dive in to a conversation with “Do you believe in aliens? What about reincarnation? No. Wait, don’t run away! Have you ever been to a Furry Convention? It’s not all about the sex…..there’s real people under there you know!”.
#19-At any given time, I’m fighting a crippling sense of Imposter Syndrome, and I almost never end a day without being afraid I wasn’t enough. Sometimes I still feel like I’m waiting around for my Golden Buzzer Moment. Like when they’re auditioning for America’s Got Talent, and someone is so extra-ordinarily good, that one of the judges stands up and presses the Golden Buzzer, and then sparkly confetti falls from the ceiling and they move right on through to the finals, without having to perform or audition again. The reality is, we have Golden Buzzer Moments all of the time; it’s just up to us to be our own cheering crowd, and run screaming with excitement through our own bits of glittery, falling paper.
#20-I’m an adoptee, who found my Birth Family when I was 40. Although I don’t really call them my Birth Family anymore. Now, they’re just my family. As many times as I’ve tried to tell that story, I’m still not very good at it; but at some point, I hope I can write about that too. What I will say, is that even if I didn’t find the Mom and Dad, and the brothers and sisters I secretly hoped would make everything ok again, I still consider myself one of the lucky ones, because I found so many other people, who continue to show me, what family really is. By the time I found my mom, she didn’t have much to offer in the way of a relationship. Mental Illness and addictions have a way of preventing that. But she loved me and accepted me at first sight. And she did leave me with a simple way to express how I feel about so many things in the world right now: “I don’t have no right to judge anyone else. I have a hard enough time, just being me.” She also told a fantastic story about the whale they blew up on the Oregon Coast back in the 70’s. “Blubber Everywhere!” she laughed with big open arms. In that single moment, I think I saw a glimpse of who she probably used to be, and I grabbed it in my arms and ran like Daffy Duck yelling “Mine! Mine! Mine!”.
#21-I’ve had premonitions since I was 14 years old. They started the day I lost a friend in an accident, and almost died myself. I also see things that other people don’t see—like my birth mom Virginia, when she comes to visit me sometimes. I can’t make it happen, and I don’t have an explanation when it does. I wonder if a pathway opened up when I saw the other side, and it never closed back down again. Writing about it feels super weird. Which means I’ll probably be doing it more.
#22-Not everyone is going to like what I have to say. But I’m doing it anyway. And I’m not afraid. Because you know what scares me more? The thought of staying silent, while other people, exactly like me, are still praying for an “accident”, just to be free from the pain. Call emotional abusers what you want: Sociopaths, Psychopaths, Narcissists, Toxic People—the name doesn’t really matter. What does matter, is that when we allow them to invade our sacred places—like our churches, and our families, and our souls—it has a darkening effect on the world. And 10,000 days—maybe more, maybe less—suddenly feels like pretty short notice, to add my own small flame to the ever growing Fire of Awareness, that lights the path to freedom for us all.