Living in a ghost town (Part 1)

I’ve lived in Tucson for 34 out of my almost 42 years, and I’ve liked it for most of that time.  My blood is used to the hot, dry summers and I love that I can wear flip-flops all winter.  I like that Tucson is spread out and kind of flat, with mountains surrounding the city on all sides.  It’s a short drive to Mt. Lemmon for hiking and camping, where you can have a reprieve from the hot, summer weather.  And, even though I don’t notice it all the time, like the pictures on the wall at work that I walk by everyday but don’t see, the Arizona desert is truly beautiful.  I think that we have the most colorful, vibrant sunsets of anywhere in the world.  Oh, and when it rains here, the smell of the wet creosote and the clean air…it’s like nothing else.

It doesn't look like much, but it smells like rain.

It doesn’t look like much, but it smells like rain.

I like that Tucson is a relatively large city, right around a million people, but it doesn’t feel like a big city.  Everything is casual here, there’s not much call for dressing up, jeans are acceptable pretty much everywhere you go.  Overall, it’s not a bad place to live.

So why am I telling you all of this?  No, I’m not trying to sell you a time-share in Tucson.  I’m just trying to paint a picture of how I used to see the place I consider my hometown.  Here’s the problem, it’s hard for me to see it that way anymore.  For me, living here, has become like living in a ghost town.

My family moved to Tucson the summer before I started 3rd grade.  So pretty much every clear memory I have took place while we have lived here.  Over the years, I have lived in various places around town.  I grew up in central Tucson, lived on the southwest side, the far west, the southeast.  I’ve worked pretty much all over Tucson.  So there really isn’t a part of this city that I don’t know, or with which I don’t have some memory.

The problem with that is, a lot of the memories that I have are not good ones.  Every bad thing that has happened to me, or that was caused by me, happened within a ten-mile radius of where I live.  I am reminded every day of the ghosts of my past as I soon as I walk out my door.  They are always lurking, waiting for me.  And if I don’t deal with them in a healthy, mindful way, they can quickly have me circling the drain.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I took a drive around town.  The drive could have been called ‘The History of Jami Tour.’  We drove by every place I’ve lived, every place I’ve worked, every school I’ve gone to, every place that had some significance to my life.  And we talked about all of the things that happened at each location.  It was not a short trip, and it was not without tears.  The points of interest along the way included: the family home that my parents forced me out of when I was 16, the houses I lived in when my abusive ex-husband was at his most violent, the duplex where I was raped, the first place my daughter and I lived after I got away from her dad (where my alcoholic drinking really took off), the spot where I got pulled over for a DUI, the bars I used to frequent, I could go on…

It’s hard for me to see those places and not feel the pangs of shame and remorse that came along with them.  At times, just seeing them can make me feel like I’m reliving the bad things all over again.  I know that’s not the case, that I don’t have to live like that anymore.  Most of the things that I listed above have been addressed in therapy. They can be put on the ‘dealt with’ list.  I’ve moved into a place of acceptance and forgiveness about them.  But that being said, the reminders still aren’t easy to feel.  When those ghosts show up, I have to remind myself that they are nothing but ghosts.  They are a part of my past, but not a part of my present.

But even though they’re in my past, they still have a powerful effect on my present.  It’s hard to leave the past in the past, especially when I live in a town full of poltergeists.

One of the hardest things I have to deal with every day is the absence of my daughter from my life.  I wrote a post about her a while back, and part 2 of ‘living in a ghost town’ will be dedicated to my feelings about living in the same place that she does, but feeling like she’s just a ghost.  I have to gear up for it emotionally, but it’s coming soon.  It’s been percolating for a while now.

In part 3 (it will be the last part, I promise) of this post, I want to talk about how all of this affects my recovery, what I am doing to try to deal with it in a healthy way, and how I am not going to let my past dictate my future.

the past

10 thoughts on “Living in a ghost town (Part 1)

  1. Thank you Jami…ghosts are hard to deal with & your writing has helped! Ann

    >________________________________ >From: Sober Grace >To: >Sent: Sunday, September 1, 2013 5:10 PM >Subject: [New post] Living in a ghost town (Part 1) > >jamilynaz posted: “I’ve lived in Tucson for 34 out of my almost 42 years, and I’ve liked it for most of that time. My blood is used to the hot, dry summers and I love that I can wear flip-flops all winter. I like that Tucson is spread out and kind of flat, with mountains ” >

    • Thanks, Ann. It is really hard to be reminded of the bad things that have happened, and the bad things I have done. Just this morning one came up for me. Austin, Benjamin and I went out hiking in the Rincons, and when we got there a bunch of memories came flooding back about the last time I had been there. That last time wasn’t pretty, it was a drunken mess of poor decisions. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time, but there we were, and the memories came flooding back. We talked about it afterwards, and I felt better…Austin always reminds me that the past is in the past, when I can’t remember it myself. 🙂

      • It is so good to have someone like Austin. I have Ron who does the same thing — he reminds me that the past is in the past and helps me when I need it to sort out what things can be helped, and what can’t. Things that can’t be helped, sometimes just need to be let go. You are an amazingly kind & good woman and the future looks very bright for you. I feel fortunate to call you my friend!

  2. Jami, I totally relate to this post. There are places I can’t stand to drive by but every so often, I do just to see if I feel something different. One amazing aspect of grace is that the facts will always be the facts but our perception of them can change. I can’t wait to read the next two posts!

  3. *hugs*

    You can write about this as often as you’d like, Jami. It sounds like it is therapeutic.

    It’s hard to not link memories to places. But they’re just places. They’re objective. They’re Switzerland. We bring our own perspectives and our own labels to what we see and experience. You can change the voices in your head, you can make them places of healing, places of redemption that you have moved on from.

    (I see Karen mentioned similar, how we can change our perception.) Great minds 🙂
    xo, Christy

    • They’re Switzerland.

      I love that! I’m totally going to use that in my own thinking next time I’m seeing ghosts. 🙂 And I think that you and Karen are right, a change in perception the answer. I truly love all of the support I get in the blogging community…I only wish I had found you all sooner.


  4. I was born and raised in Tucson. (I grew up under the radio towers) Always thought I would move back there and retire. So I did in 2008. I have only good memories from living there, but it has changed so much since I left. I wonder if we saw each other at a grocery story or the mall? hahaha But, sadly I had to leave in 2009. Love your post. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pingback: Living in a ghost town (Part 3) | Sober Grace

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