I have anticipated writing about her for quite some time as she is someone who I give total credit to saving my soul. My heart tells me that today is the day to release these words after I granted myself time of silence and reflection. Jayne left this earth yesterday morning. My heart, equally, aches and celebrates her reunion with her beloved Tom. I must tell you, although I have 'written' this out in my mind a thousand times, I really have no idea what words will come today as I type. This one is a really tough one. A really, really "Big dose", if you will. I am currently closing my eyes and letting my fingers go at it. No editing, just moving my fingers.
Next month (January) will mark my 15th year as a grateful member of the Alanon program. A program that has changed me. I simply refer to my life as 'before Alanon and after'. Yes, it has been that profound for me. Alanon is a program for those who have been affected by the family disease of alcoholism or addiction. (which, I have personally never met anyone who doesn't qualify under those circumstances, but I also look at it as a roadmap to living a happy life even if you do not quite match the criteria) It is a spiritual program, not religious. Which, on a side note: I personally had a very difficult time trying to decipher the two in the beginning of my time in program, as I am not a religious person. I have always had a strong connection to a higher power but I couldn't get around the word GOD. That word just made me feel very uncomfortable for no particular reason but that topic is not important now, I will go into that at another time.
January of 2006 I was depressed for reasons unknown, even to me. I couldn't put my finger on it, I couldn't pull myself out of what seemed to be an all- time- low. I felt sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was living in a cycle of insanity. (which, for me, is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.) Outwardly, I had no reason to feel this way. My husband and I had just bought our first home. I had two beautiful, healthy children. We drove a cars, we had plenty of food, an extended family who loved and supported us. All the puzzle pieces were there. It was seemingly good. Yet, I was locking myself in a dark room and drowning out my feelings with mindless tv, food and numbing myself with distractions. What I later began to see was my husband and I were completely detached, my sons atypical behaviors were becoming more apparent and I had a lovely and sweet daughter who I couldn't give my full attention to, because I was busy obsessing over my own irrational behaviors. I was failing at controlling my environment. I was angry, scared... no, terrified and spinning out of control. (literally)
I don't know how to tell this story without going way far back...Buckle in, this is going to be a long one.
A year or so before that winter, I was opening up to a friend about something that had happened in my past and she asked me if I had ever heard of a program called Alanon. I had, and what I knew about it was, it was a group of people who sat around talking about their problems and that God was going to fix it for them. No thanks, not for me.
Fast forward to week 3 of being in my dark room and unable to" pull myself out of this funk" while simultaneously being pissed at myself for not being able to 'get it together.' 'Come on, get yourself together Monica' echoed in my head. Over and over. I thought I was going to go absolutely stark raving mad because I just couldn't seem to do it this time.
In a moment of despair, I recalled my friends mention of Alanon. Luckily, I was so desperate in that moment I would have cut off my arm to feel any semblance of relief. I looked up the meeting schedule and found that there was a meeting in 30 min, only a mile and a half away from my house. Ok, 30 minutes was just enough time for me to change my mind a good 10 times but somehow, my body sprang to action while ignoring my head as I began talking myself out of it. As I was driving I came to the conclusion that I was too either, go and prove myself right, verifying that this IS NOT for me. Or, don't go and try to come up with my own solutions, which even I could now admit, was no longer working. (this is was one of the countless moments in time that I now refer to as a Green light.* Just go towards the next 'feel right thing'. One foot in front of the other. Or, in my case, pedal to the metal.
I walked into that first meeting at a church, which of course, I was uncomfortable with. I sat and stared at a picture of Jesus on the wall, again, uncomfortable. I almost walked out several times before the meeting even started. Someone walked over to me and asked if it was my first meeting and then gave me some pamphlets. To which I think I verbally replied "yes". Although, the dialogue inside my head was, "this is my first and likely my last. I am not looking for friends, I have friends. And you will not, I repeat not, get me to join your cult." ( what a peach I was ) I don't know what happened next but I must have not said anything out loud because I somehow I was holding the papers she handed me and she smiled at me from across the room. A warm non -threatening, non -you will join our cult- type of smile. Next, the person who was leading the meeting began, "Ok, Hi everybody, I am (said name) lets begin with the opening prayer, 'God, grant me...' OH CHRIST! get me the hell out of here, I thought.
Only because I am a people pleaser and would have had to walk in the middle of the circle of people to get to the door, did I decide to stay and "just listen". But I had made up my mind, this certainly wasn't for me. I don't recall exactly what happened in the next hour and a half but I do know recall with certainty these 3 specific things; 1) These people were talking about heart wrenching things that they had experienced or were currently experiencing and still managed to laugh.- there was a lot of laughter in that room. 2) There was this woman, " Hi I am Jayne", sitting across the room whom I was inexplicably drawn to. I held on to every word she said even thought I had already decided I was not ever coming back there, I listened to every word she spoke. She was equally as tough as she was tender. I didn't know why but she was familiar. 3) I cried throughout the entire meeting. These people spoke about things, that at that point, I was sure that only I had felt. These people were talking as though they lived in my head and had walked in my shoes. One by one, person by person, my cover was lifted, I just cried. Another, Green light.
The next Monday, I went back. And the following one. I was just chasing the green lights. Each time Jayne would speak, I would hold onto every word. She had something that I wanted. Was it a secret that she knew and she was willing to share? I felt somehow, she was there for me. Remember she was equally tough as she was tender, I had no idea why, but I just knew this is exactly what I needed. Fully expecting her to say no as it was clear that she worked with a lot of others, I eagerly asked her to sponsor me. To which she engulfed me in a warm hug and replied,"I will not sponsor you, I will be your loving friend." In that moment, I felt like I had returned home. The sincerity in her eyes was nothing I had experienced before. I was to call her, come to her house, bring my books and get started. Perfect, just what I knew I needed, pedal to the metal.
Without hesitation, I jumped in. I called her, we scheduled meeting times, I brought my books. She gave me work. She listened to my story. She gave me more work. I uncovered more of my story. She had me writing and answering questions and talking about things that I had never imagined talking about with anybody, let alone a stranger. But that is just it, she was never a stranger, Jayne was familiar from the moment I looked at her. There was just something so loving about her. She loved me until I could love myself. She taught me how to love myself. She taught me how to forgive myself. She taught me a whole new way of life. She gave me work, I did it and then she gave me more. I couldn't get enough. She gave and gave and gave. She was just as fast and deliberate as I was. I was hungry for it and she never let up. She was just there with a spoonful and open arms every time. EVERY. DAMN. TIME. She uncovered things in me, that even I didn't know. I would call her and dump all sorts of worries onto her. I would talk breathless for 30 min about a problem- even the problems I made up in my own head. She would pause and reply with a one- liner that would lay me out flat. Simple. Done. I absorbed everything she would say. I devoured each wise comment. I tattooed it onto my forehead if I had to; each and every word she would utter was like gold. I worried that I wouldn't ever be able to work this program on my own. I worried that I would never be able to have the muscle memory and that I would always need her to set me straight.
I continued going to meetings every Monday night. I listened and ignored the things I didn't understand (or agree with). I just learned to skip the word God until I got so used to it, that it no longer could trip me. Jayne taught me to trust in a "force for love and that is all". She would say, "you don't have to understand God, my dear, you just have to know you are not God". She then just smiled her loving smile. I kept Jayne close. VERY close.
She held my hand. She straightened me out. She dusted me off. She kicked my ass when it was needed. She never once told me what to do, she showed me by sharing herself. She told me story after story. She just gave so freely. I went to her house and would talk to Jayne and sometimes she would pull her husband Tom, in for backup. Tom was what is referred to as an AA Blackbelt. We sat under the tree. We ate lunch. We sat on the patio and watched the squirrels. We laughed. I cried. We cried. And at times when she wanted to bring Tom in to enlighten me the wisdom of an AA blackbelt she would call him into our conversation. He would always say something witty or give me a paragraph right from the Big Book. The two of them together, were a force for love, that is for sure. Tom and Jayne, Jayne and Tom. Their voices became part of my inner dialogue. I worked with Jayne feverishly, every week, for years.
A few years into my program, Tom was making his transition. I would frequently check in with Jayne and she would share what they were going through with his health and transition. Tom passed and Jayne shared her pain. She shared everything. We continued to laugh and cry. We continued our peaks and valleys. We continued to uncover more of life's great paradoxes. She continued to give to me all that she had. I might add, I was only one of many people that Jayne did this with. As I would leave I would stop and chat with the next person coming in. As I would spend my time with her, Jaynes phone was always ringing. But in the time that I was there, she continued to give herself to me. Just me. I wondered how I could ever repay her. I wondered if I would ever stand on my own. (which by the way, I never thought would be possible) I made this program my life blood. Slowly, the weight that I had been carrying was lifted. I felt lighter. I could see the blue sky. I could see the endless possibilities again. I was becoming. I was becoming the person that I always knew was there but couldn't get to her. I built had built up all of this armor. And slowly was taking it down one day at a time. With Jayne guiding me I slowly, imperfectly and accepted me, as me. And I forgave myself, understood myself and slowly accepted myself by the example of Jayne.
Without going too deep into it, Jayne was the first person I called when my marriage was falling apart. She talked me through every move. I was paralyzed. I couldn't feel. I froze. I couldn't think. I was having trouble breathing. All of what I had learned and come to understand just vanished. Poof. But Jayne, she was there every step of the way. She once again, held my hand. She walked me through the steps. I say this all the time, but it is worth saying because it is true...had she not been there, I am quite certain our marriage would have failed. Because I can't say for sure that I wouldn't have gone back to the way I did things before Alanon. I would have destroyed my marriage with the way I did things, before I knew better. My fearful reactions were not often logical. Jayne was there every step of the way. She carried me until I knew how to allow myself to feel again. Until I could breathe and behave without reaction and fear. Every step of the way, she guided me.
I don't recall the year but I got a call that Jayne had had a massive stroke. I don't remember where I was going but I turned around and went straight to the hospital. It is all a blur but when I got to Jayne's bedside I had been crying and was shaking as I grabbed her hand. I didn't know what to expect, it was past visiting hours but that didn't matter. I was quiet. As I grabbed her hand I whispered, "Hi Jayne, it's Monica". She opened her eyes and she said, "I am so pissed, I was supposed to go and be with Tom". I burst into tears and laughter and said, "I selfishly think you were not finished with me yet, I am a very big job". To which she responded, " maybe so, I just wanted to go." We laughed as we cried. Just like we always do in the rooms of Alanon. As I always say, "laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." For me it is when I feel most like I am living a life from deep within my soul. But I always had her assurance that after the tears would come laughter. It was that day, that I knew I was time for me to sink or swim. I had to now do it on my own. Training wheels off. I had to, it was go time. I was now there for Jayne. I had to show her those countless hours that she gave so freely weren't wasted. It was just all part of her story, my story, our story. I had to now give to others, the way Jayne so freely gave to me. I had to "walk the walk and talk the talk." I had to "practice these principles in all my affairs". It was time to give to her and it was time for me to share with others; my experience, strength and hope.
The years following her stroke I would just do what Jayne taught me to do. Just show up. Show up and share with Jayne. I would cut her hair. She thought since I was in the Beauty Industry, I knew how to cut hair. I don't know how to cut hair, but I would show up and cut her hair, because she wanted me to. She never complained if I had done a bad job, she just didn't want her bangs in her face. She always blew up towards her eyes to make sure they were how she liked them. I would dry brush and lotion her body, that I knew how to do. I gave her facials too, of course. I showed up and shared with her as often as I could. I touched her hands and hug her as often as possible. I would bring lunch. I would show her pictures. She always wanted to know about our kids. Our marriage. Our home. Our lives. I would share, because that is what she taught me to do. We would talk about the miracles of the program. We would pray. (yes, pray to a God that is not me) We would laugh. I always cried when I left her but I wouldn't let her see me crying. The last time I left Jayne she was asleep. I leaned in and kissed her before I left. I whispered, "Thank you. A million times, I thank you and it will still never be enough. I felt such gratitude, I felt so strong, I felt both, tough and tender. I was ok, if that were to be the last time I saw her. And it was.
Yesterday, when I got the news that Jayne left us, I allowed myself a good long cry. Reflection, I thought of all of the things that she has taught me. I listened to my inner Jayne as her voice is ever so clear in my mind. I then felt a since of relief because she finally got her wish, she is with Tom. I now understand that I can finally give her back all of those hours upon hours of selflessly giving to me, just by letting her go.
I love you,
* I recently listened to an audiobook written by Matthew McConaughey titled Greenlight.
I borrowed this analogy directly from his words. It fit my story so perfectly. I used to refer to this part of my story as a 'Nugget' or a 'Golden ticket', referring to something to chase after. Greenlight nails it, don't you think? Thank you Mr. McConaughey, both for the awesome read (if you haven't read his book, you should) and also for 'Greenlight'.