Lost, Found, London

 

 

I recently opened a box mailed to me from my mother back home in Hawaii that was sitting in her garage since the late 80’s. I was more than a little nervous thinking about what was inside but I had an idea; memories I wanted gone but wasn’t ready to abandon completely.

Once I finally made the decision to leave the Waikiki stripping life after nine years, moving off the island wasn’t just part of my plan – it was my only plan. I was an exhausted shell of a woman with dark circles under her eyes, over-processed burgundy hair and serious baggage – stuff that no twenty-something ever thinks of as real problems at the time.

My predicaments included snorting excessive amounts cocaine, washing down handfuls of Molly (ecstasy) with vodka and a 300 calorie-a-day meal plan (on purpose). I was oblivious to the cloud of despair circling me like Pig-Pen’s shadow in Charlie Brown.

And those were the good days.

I hadn’t given this cardboard crate of history much thought as the years passed. Then Mom called. She was planning a garage sale and my stomach turned a bit, remembering what was stashed behind the lawnmower and potting soil. Upon her discovering my stash, she gave me two choices: toss the box or have it mailed to California, where I was trying to build some sort of a normal life.

“Just promise me you won’t open it.” I asked as she confirmed my zip code over the phone. Mom is aware of my past, but her reading my old journals was nothing she ever needed to do (journals are hand-written notes before blogs were blogs, and the internet was just the inside of a basketball hoop).

After a few days, the box arrived. I ignored its existence for a week until curiosity unraveled my fear.

Upon each new discovery, I vacillated between shock and amazement that I dared to live such a life, and gratitude wrapped with joy in that I survived.

A little advice: If you have personal items from years ago tucked away somewhere, dust them off and buckle up. The memories are incendiary – in the best of every way.

One of my favorite artifacts was a poem I wrote while traveling through Europe. Nineteen and elated to be so far from home, I marinated in the moment while scribbling on a piece of notepaper from Horniman At Hays.

How amazing, to unfold corners of my mind after all these years:

Never think
Before paper meets ink
Just let it go
Don’t have to know
Begin
at the beginning
and all will come out beautifully

Christine Macdonald – 1987

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Sometimes the answers live inside the person we were long ago – we just need to accept who we are now to fully appreciate who we were then.

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“If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.” ~Author Unknown
 

 *Originally posted March 2008; edited 4/4/18.

Christine Macdonald

Saying no, to say yes

There’s no easy way to break up with someone. Regardless of who comes to the point of realizing the relationship isn’t working – even if you both agree – someone always gets hurt.

While going through my first, [significant relationship] break up at the age of 28, I cried so hard my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I whaled in agony on the shoulder of one of my closest friends.

“I can literally feel my heart being ripped apart.”

Kimmy was all too familiar at the time, as she recently weathered a divorce, which often left her curled up in her walk-in closet, while her toddler was at day care. If anyone knew heartbreak, it was Kimmy.

“I know, honey. I know. What do you think all those songs are about? All those sappy movies? Everybody goes through this – and it sucks.”

I appreciated her trying to talk me off the ledge, and taking me in when I couldn’t bear sleeping alone.

The months following my newly found single status were a mixture of tears, alcohol, and sleeping way too much. Too depressed to eat, I dropped a few dress sizes, and lost an insane amount of energy. I don’t recommend the Heartbreak Diet to anyone.

Fast forward fifteen years, and it isn’t any easier. Sure, we’re wiser in our older age, but when it comes to matters of the heart – aren’t we all just as fragile?

I don’t have much experience playing offense in a relationship. I’ve always been the one on the receiving end of the news that I wasn’t the one. As I work on myself in therapy, I’m learning that my love patterns make perfect sense. I chose unavailable men to avoid getting hurt. It’s an emotional oxymoron, I know, but if you’re dealing with trust issues or come from a long line of unhealthy relationships, you’re probably nodding in agreement.

Self-esteem is something that happens when we take care of ourselves. We stand up for what we believe, protect our hearts from abuse, and surround ourselves with people who live their lives with dignity and respect.

As I write the chapters in my story, the low self-esteem is so apparent, it sometimes jumps off the page. I’m often frozen in my typing tracks, hovering between tears and head shakes, realizing, with every story, just how obvious my choices were.

Sometimes it takes looking back, to realize just how much you want to move forward.

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My relationship rear view mirror has never been clearer these days. I am learning that for me to say “yes” to myself – for my own personal growth and self-esteem, I sometimes need to say “no”. We don’t have to allow ourselves to be in unhealthy situations. We have the choice to walk away.

It’s far from easy, and the tears still fall, but the reward for knowing we are worth saying “yes” to, far outweighs the reasoning of why we’re in unhealthy relationships in the first place.

“Sometimes the hardest part of the journey is believing you’re worthy of the trip.”

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Here’s the part where you tell me – have you ever said “no” to someone, to say “yes” to yourself?

Christine Macdonald