One month down ... just me and the cactus tree

It’s been one month since we arrived here at our new home in the desert. Here are a few things I’ve learned after four weeks in Arizona:

First, I have no doubt I’m going to die in an accident here looking for street names or where to turn whilst cursing Siri for the shit directions she gives. What the hell does "head west" mean, Siri? It’s all MOUNTAINS! It’s all CACTUSES! Or cacti or however it’s pluralized. Those tall, prickly plants are literally everywhere you look. It's sunny all day, every day, so it's not like I'm out here with sundials and sun measuring tools on my dashboard telling me where the ball of fire is in the sky in order to figure out which direction I’m headed, Siri. I can't proceed to the route without a real landmark, ok?

If I don’t die getting poor directions to the Phoenix Home Goods, I’ll likely die crashing the car while taking pictures of these gorgeous mountains everywhere. Or the sunsets. Or cactus/ cactuses/ cacti. (There is one cactus tree I pass on the way to my son's soccer practice that always seems like it's flipping me off, which is quite appropriate for me). FYI, those cactus trees are beautiful out here in the desert, but if you touch one of them, shit does it hurt.

Next. People my age should not go down a curly slide into a pool. I know this now.

Another next. Despite the coronavirus world of social distancing, I’ve realized little girls can make new friends with just about anyone so long as she has a skateboard or a doll.

The f-you cactus
Last and most important takeaway after one month in My New Desert Life is that it's not a new life. It's just the old life, with hotter temps and less familiar people around. Because you can wish and hope that positive thoughts about the decisions and life choices you’ve made will find you, but the negative thoughts will always catch up. Like familiar feelings of guilt. Knowing you are in a beautiful home overlooking mountains with amazing sunsets and riches you don’t deserve and you have it all only because your husband is dead. And you are still heartbroken and lonely at night. Those are things that can find you no matter where you move. Nobody can run from them. Especially across the country.

I've been told I like to be sad a lot. That my go-to feelings are sadness or anger. That the feelings and reactions to my emotions can be destructive, not only to me but to people around me. And most definitely in relationships with people I love. When I got that 'anxious attachment' diagnosis from my therapist for my birthday earlier this year, I hadn't contemplated how hard it would be to try and overpower it. And aside from telling all my friends and family I'm sorry—I'm realizing that my priority needs to be helping myself get better. Because for some reason, my brain wiring is fucking ornery. It likes sadness sometimes. It feeds on disorder. It's only running at top speed when it gets to deal in fight or flight reactivity. It certainly doesn't know how to handle OCD and anxiety, single motherhood and the PTSD of grief from losing a spouse.

I read that "the fear of being alone can be excruciating for those with an anxious attachment style and that partnership (however difficult) still provides some relief from anxiety." And that's the best way I could ever describe me and my brain. My greatest fear is being alone. I have an emotional hunger for someone to rescue me or complete me. So I search to fix that. Not me. My clingy, demanding and unpredictable and impulsive nature only lands me back with the loneliness though. That's the hardest one for me to swallow, but it's integral to the menu of my disorder. "Good evening m'am, our appetizers today are Difficulty Trusting Others and Low Self-Worth. The main course is Craving Closeness and Intimacy... and for dessert, we've got a delicious plate of Infinite Worry That Your Partner Will Abandon You! Bon appetit!"

Trust me, nobody wants that girl at the dinner party.

I'm realizing I'm a lot like that cactus tree. Sure, she may be pretty to look at, but if you get too close, touch her the wrong way or interact with her slightly abrasively, she's a prickly bitch and you won't go near her again. I continue to search for a way out of this brain serving me up all this shit. I called a therapist here. I put a meditation app on my phone. I'm trying to eat right and not stay up too late worrying about my son spending all day in his basement bedroom. And I journal. I write. Because that's the only way I know how to really feel better, even just a bit. No, I don't need anyone's approval here, but I do find relief in writing about the imperfections of my character and simplicities that plague my personality.

In the meantime, I continue to swallow feelings of guilt along with my Prosecco while watching these mountain sunsets from my balcony. I try to focus on something other than the to-do list of shit that nobody else but me will be taking care of here. I find a glint of happiness in watching my kids enjoy the park at sunset, with new friends, giggling and smiling. I fight this ornery brain every day that reminds me I'm alone and will be until I fix me

For now, I’ve got Siri up in here ridin' shotgun. Apparently trying to kill me before the anxiety does, I guess. So... it’s just me and you for a while, Siri.

Buckle up, bitch.


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