Community Magazine

To Abby, With Love

By Amanda Bruce @RecoveryisCake

639661348Glennon, I realize Abby is all yours.  I got a pretty fantastic feminist husband of my own.  However, your wife turned a corner for me I never thought I’d get around, or rather, that would continue to pierce me relentlessly because – the secret was out – I was a bad person.  Your wife helped me to realize that I didn’t have to do anything else to fix it – that all I had to do was stick to my pack.

Let me back up 20 years or so.


The year is 1997.  She is getting ready for college auditions.  Yes, auditions, not interviews, because she is going to be a musical theater star.  She had the opportunity to practice with a professional accompanist, and she is singing Sondheim.  Not just any Sondheim, but “I Know Things Now” by Little Red Riding Hood from Into the Woods.

Freaking Little Red Riding Hood.

She sang for the piano player, silently terrified that her genuinely smooth soprano would not be enough.  That it would not please the cold, austere gaze of the NYU professor. That there was always something lacking, something she was always trying to grasp onto.

Little Red Riding Hood described her journey into the woods as the soprano jumped over the unpredictable Sondheim score, and tied it up neatly with a bow by the end of the song.  It seemed similar to the way she was raised.

Prettiness was revered in her house; perhaps due to her parents’ former low financial status, perhaps due to her mother’s poor self-esteem.  Whether it was physical beauty, or smiling the day after one of her parents threatened to drive her into a tree at 60 mph, making everything seem wrapped up neatly and beautifully was placed upon the highest shelf.  When she became anorexic, help wasn’t gotten for her.  She was raised to be Red Riding Hood – stay on the path, do what makes sense to people, appear in a way that makes sense to people, don’t take up too much room.  Stay safe.  Don’t make waves, smile.

She suspected her thin beauty was actually a power point for some in her family.  She knew it was for her.  Falsely, of course.

She grew up, and didn’t become a musical theater star.  She drank, and realized she was an alcoholic too.  And it was when she became sober that she started to really get near her core self.

And she was kinda shocked, because she wasn’t pretty at all.

She had a lot of opinions.  She was liberal and liked running (something she thought she was never good at pre-sobriety, she wasn’t brought up an athlete) and becoming super strong.  She stopped doing musical theater, she just couldn’t get herself into it.  Once almost-mute, she started speaking at 12 Step meetings and then at college lectures about being a wounded healer.  She wrote nonstop. She took a managerial position.  She started to sniff out some really dark truths about people that she wasn’t able to see in an alcoholic haze.  She was uber-sensitive, and that was ok. It was more of a superpower than a hindrance.  She was the first person to sniff out trouble in a room.

And because she became so herself, for the sake of others finding themselves, others got suspicious and resentful of her motives.  And the day came where the pack she thought she belonged to attacked her.  Attacked her job, her character, her ability to mother, everything.  And it hurt, even though she had six or seven years of sobriety under her belt.

Everyday she would run, trying to wrap her head around how she should have done things differently.  Should she have not stuck up for herself?  No, that was ok.  Should she have not demanded to have a voice in the family equal to others’?  No, that was ok too.  Should she have not tried to put a stop to gossip about her when she first sniffed it out?  Nope, totally kosher.  She just couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the bad energy about it, and concluded it must be hers to fix.

And then she watched this video.

And she realized, head dripping with sweat, legs pumping through the roads of her rural little town, that she was a damn wolf too.

She was a wolf because she protected the shit out of her pack.  She didn’t want old, unhealthy family dynamics creeping in and warping her daughter’s growth.  She didn’t tolerate gossip in her family – and when people did it about her, she snarled.  There was a full stop with that shit.  She was a wolf because she could sniff out any threat and spoke up about it immediately.  She was a wolf, most importantly, because she loved herself.  And she protected that self, fiercely.  And if someone in her pack was going to try to defame her character, than she would start anew with her new pack.  And remember that the old pack was simply none of her business.  Because she’d rather be the wolf leader of a pack lead with love, than by fear.


On the Fourth of July this year, I woke up early, and went for a run like I usually do.  Sometimes runs have the power to bring forth emotion, and this one did.  By the end of the run, tears were coursing down my face about the rejection I’d received from my first pack and about infertility and about holidays, cause fuck holidays.  I walked up the stairs, and woke my husband and daughter up.  “Get up,” I said.  My husband opened his eyes.

My back was turned to them, but when I turned around, they both had eyes-wide-alarmed expressions on their faces, and had their arms outstretched in identical fashion.  It wasn’t a, “please come here” gesture, it was a primal, “GET IN MY ARMS NOW” command once they had glimpsed my tears.  My pack, who loved the fact that I was a feeling, sweating, live wolf, wanted to protect me.

I don’t have to do shit for people who wouldn’t spend the same mindspace for me.  Like a good wolf, I need to know when to let things die.  Mind my own pack.  Thank God for yours, Abby.  Because it led me to mine.  And the only work I have to do?

Be ok with being the wolf.  Because that’s exactly who I am.

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