I used to love hosting parties.
The bigger, the better. I loved the thrill of the preparation, making the sangria, picking the theme, decorating, and finally, socializing with all my friends. I loved the smell of smoke as our firepit burned through the night, and the sounds of laughter filled the air.
But that was then, and this is now. The way I celebrate has changed.
You see, yesterday, I celebrated five months of sobriety, but to me, that milestone embodied so much more. My journey was not only about living alcohol-free. It was five months spent reflecting upon my past and dreaming of a future that’s free from the demons that once haunted me.
I used those five months to learn to trust again and cultivate new pathways into my heart. During that time, I discovered vulnerabilities I never knew existed and began to crack the impenetrable shell behind which I had once hidden. For five months, I taught myself how to identify, recognize, and share my feelings. And it was during those five months that I explored and renewed my relationship with God.
These personal accomplishments were monumental to me and called for a celebration, but the universe seemed to have something else in mind.
Yesterday morning, I woke up with a congestion headache and uncontrollable allergies. I felt miserable. The morning—my husband and I intended to fill it with laughter and pleasant conversation over coffee—was filled with bickering and discord.
Realizing physical ailments were part of the problem. I decided that when my husband left for his bike ride, I would try to rest and find relief from my headache. I napped as he rode, and when I woke up, my headache was finally gone. I felt better, refreshed. I even posted on social media to celebrate my recent accomplishments and jumped in the shower.
The hot water and steam surrounded me while I tried to wash the old attitude away. As my Totally Stress-Free Spotify played in the background, I sang along. I was making a conscious decision to change my afternoon for the better, head into the night’s celebration, and reconnect with the one I love.
Yet, although reconnection sounded ideal, that’s far from what transpired.
Instead, after telling my husband I was feeling better, I asked him if he had seen my Facebook post. He confirmed that he had, and that’s when I looked at him wide-eyed with expectation and asked what he had commented.
He unknowingly replied, “I didn’t. I hearted it.”
Neither of us was prepared for what happened next.
The unexpected impact of those five words blew the door to my party off its hinges, and within the frame, there she stood—a younger version of me. Her adorable presence exuded insecurity, and she moved swiftly as she pulled the pink satin ribbon out of her curly blonde hair, rendering me speechless with a fancy gag!
The woman described above, that woman who was working daily to increase her inner strength and self-esteem, that woman who was feeling confident in her being and newfound lifestyle, found herself captive to her five-year-old self who handily hijacked the scene.
To that little version of Lydia, her husband’s lack of celebration was a battle cry, and she came armed with her empty buckets in need of filling.
She came with a body aching for connection.
She came hell-bent on establishing her significance.
All eyes were on her, and she was ready to mix it up with the savagery of a DMX song.
That vulnerable little girl, who still resides within me, had never been celebrated and still longs for glory. The voice, resonating through my home, was that of a grown woman, but the mind generating the spoken words was that of a child whose heels were dug in. She struggled to mold the child’s feelings into cohesive, comprehensive thoughts, and when she found it impossible, she finally donned her armour and activated her defensive tongue.
She mounted her attack, yet as fierce as she seemed, the child within stood paralyzed and afraid to be abandoned in her own heartbreak.
Her insecurities were beckoning for attention like the billboards in Times Square, and the flashing lights were making her feel nauseated. Panic began taking hold, and in those moments, emotions were scrolling through her mind rapidly like the ticker at the bottom of a cable news program: fear, sadness, anger, insecurity, neglect, insignificance, and pain.
As her lips were echoing endless justifications, demands and cries to be seen and acknowledged, her husband sat there, dumbfounded and trying to understand why a “heart” did not signify support. He struggled to identify the trigger that was causing her reaction.
She questioned him with the intensity of a lawyer, cross-examining a hostile witness:
“Didn’t you read my article about engaging a few weeks ago?”
“Don’t I deserve more than a heart for this accomplishment? Aren’t you proud of me?”
“Do you really love me? Because I don’t feel like it!”
You may be reading, thinking to yourself, wow this chick needs medication! Who knows? Maybe she does. Maybe it would make her life easier.
Medicine once was the answer, but she wants more. She wants to comprehend her reactions. She wants to understand and reconcile her pain. She wants to change her behavior, not mask it.
Five months into sobriety and free from psychotropic medications, she realizes that she’s navigating her emotions like a long haul trucker whose GPS just broke. It’s far from f*cking easy, but she is not giving up.
She physically felt the yuck consume her inside when she told him, “I’m not going to grovel. I’m not going to apologize for my feelings. If you want to withhold affection from me, I am going to have to figure out a way to deal with it.”
And although she spoke the words to portray how strong she was now, she was a scared child, petrified of having love withheld from her again for misbehaving.
Still, he sat on the steps, trying to piece the thoughts and feelings together so he could make sense of what changed. As much as she wanted to believe she was controlling her emotions, she was not.
On the contrary, Little Lydia was filled with anxiety, her heart racing like a scared baby bird being hunted. She was afraid to be rejected and was simultaneously pushing the person she loved the most away, motivated by some f*cked up belief that she’d be better off alone.
Finally he spoke.
His words filled the dimly lit corridor, “I don’t know if I can make you happy. I’m failing.”
The words hit her with the force of two little girls running toward one another, miscalculating their distance, and ultimately bumping one another’s heads. But instead, it was his words that left a large purple “egg” on her forehead.
She knew at that moment that if she really wanted to recreate her childhood, she could continue her assault and risk that at some point in their lives, he would walk away. Or I could summon the courage to make her stop.
I didn’t want him to abandon me. I never wanted to be without him.
So, through my gagged mouth, I begged little me to stop talking, and she did just that.
With my laptop, Bible, journal, phone, and blanket in hand, I said I was leaving for a few hours. He came to me and hugged me. He told me he loved me and that he hoped I enjoyed the rest of my day. I hugged him back tightly, praying somehow that it would fix me, that somehow I would get lost in his chest and feel better.
But I didn’t.
I went to my local park to sit by the brook. The sounds of the water calmed me inside. While I waited for a much-needed call, I closed my eyes and tried to make sense of my day. I examined the precursors that led up to Little Lydia’s big reveal—a long week, allergies, headache, no self-care this week, overwhelm, and exhaustion.
In failing to care for myself this past week, I provided her the combination for keyless entry into my current life.
Not only that, but following the conversation with my mentor, I realized that the freshly healing wounds from my childhood were not yet strong enough to withstand the pressure of the injury today. The sting of the air as it hits the fresh skin jolted me back to my childhood, one that had been filled with criticisms and few happy moments of celebration as a young, vibrant girl.
It’s a harsh realization knowing celebrations will never come from my parents, and at 49, it still f*cking hurts.
I recognized that in addition to myself, the only other person I can rely on to celebrate me is my husband. At that moment, I knew I had to go to him and tell him, for with full understanding, I’d be able to explain this rationally to him now. Yet before I left that tranquil setting, there was one more person I needed to tend to—little me.
I watched her splash and play in the brook as I wrote. I assured her that no matter how much I grow as a person, she will always be with me. I hugged her and reminded her that she is so loved, despite the fact she hadn’t always been loved that way. I reminded her she was safe, but before she disappeared into the trees and sounds of nature, I kissed her forehead. I thanked her for the gifts she gave me that day.
By crashing my party, she gave me an opportunity for reflection, a reminder that I am always going to be a work in progress, and she gave me the courage to begin reconciling our relationship.
At five months, my journey is still in its infancy. I have many months and years to grow and many milestones I’ve yet to celebrate.
I do not know what tomorrow brings, but there is one thing of which I am certain; future celebrations will not be interrupted again, as long as I remember to love and reassure that younger version of me.
With a focus on my daily affirmations, that little girl will learn to believe she is always welcome in my life and my love for her will always be unconditional.
That in itself is worthy of celebration.