There is no magic wand

There are times like this, in the middle of the night, when I wake up for a pitstop and worry sneaks in before I can get back to sleep. Not helpful. I fruitlessly wish for a magic wand to erase the fearful thoughts from my mind to allow me once again to get the rest every body needs.

I’ve been on my recovery journey for almost ten years now. When I began, I had no idea it was an endless journey. Not that I presumed I’d immediately “get” all the things I needed to “get” to be recovered. It’s more that I had no idea of the many layers of recovery that were both needed – and possible. I am humbled, I am grateful, I am relieved that this is a journey that continues for as long as I am alive and have the capacity to live and grow and understand and change.

The past couple of weeks, my recovery focus has been on Steps 8 and 9: made a list of all persons we had harmed and became ready to make amends to them all; made direct amends wherever possible, except when to do so would injure myself or others. When my sponsor and I met last, I pulled out the amends list I had started…in 2012. It had overwhelmed me then; my body tells me it terrifies me now. And that feels unreasonable to me.

This journey is not simple. It’s not easy. At times, it isn’t even fun. (Imagine that.) Yet it is so very worthwhile! I don’t think it’s worthwhile; I know it’s worthwhile. I have been graced with more blessings than I ever thought possible, in terms of how I think, how I’m experiencing my life. There are times when I look back over the last few months and I am in awe of how much I’ve changed – at how much my Higher Power, whom I call God, has transformed me and my thinking.

That’s why it puzzles me and frustrates me when I get stuck in fear, in feelings of being overwhelmed, in the anger and resentment and general grumpiness that have been accompanying me these past couple of weeks. My sponsor and I laughed when she shared about the “earthquake” in her own thinking with a book we have both been recently reading. Now I’m having my own “earthquake,” as the gnarly, ugly bits of resentment still present in me are getting stirred up.

The crazy part is, I still want to take these Steps toward greater recovery, albeit in that “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! I’m freaking scared and already feel terrible enough about myself that I’m not sure I wanna do this at all” kind of way. You know, that digging-my-heels-in way of insisting that I be dragged into this, even as I know I cannot be dragged into this. I can choose to stand still or to walk forward. I suppose walking backward is an option, but that is unthinkable. It already feels like I’m walking backward just to have the negative feelings stirred up and brought to the surface, as if one can ever stay clean and tidy mucking out the stables that have held those hurts and resentments.

A few days ago, I read in The Forgiveness Handbook that “our biggest demons are those we do not have the courage to face” (p 42, Diana L. Guerrero). I think she’s right. And I think I’ve found one of my biggest demons. At least it feels that way in this moment. I’ve also often heard that I need to trust the process – trust that working the Steps, doing the best I can to do my part, and letting go of the results will bring me to the recovery I desire. I know it’s true. Both intellectually and on deep body levels, I know it’s true, because I’ve experienced the truth of it over and over again.

When fear and worry creep back in, I futilely long for that magic wand to make the fear, the pain, the feelings of being overwhelmed vanish, to return me to the serenity that’s hiding in the closet once again, the serenity that was with me so deeply only a few days ago. Yet, ironically, I also know that it is precisely my willingness to walk through the fear and the pain, even kicking and screaming all the way, that enables me to return to that serenity and experience the deep inner healing that comes with it.

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Little by little – A nice place to be (Sat, Jun 15)

While dressing after my shower, I pondered what I might like to read for my morning reflection time. The number “473” came to mind. Thinking of the various daily readers from my Al Anon and OA programs, I knew there would be no page 473. I considered the possibility of reading only pages with those numbers in them – 3, 4, 7, 33, 34, 37, and so on. A possibility.

When I pulled out my copy of Courage to Change, it was more than an hour later. Although my usual morning routine is to shower, then fix breakfast and do my reflection and journaling time, before doing anything else, this morning I felt led to go through the two small (but expanding) stacks of mail and papers on my desk. Surprisingly unsurprisingly, I found myself opening up virtually every piece of mail and putting it in the appropriate pile, “shredding” it, or simply tossing it in my recycle wastebasket. I have avoided opening mail from creditors because it’s depressing to be reminded of how much I owe. There’s also the vague fear that one of the letters might finally be demanding something I can’t do. Yet none of those fears were with me today. I opened these envelopes without fear, curious to see if they held any surprises. The one that might have didn’t, since I had taken a call from them the week before and didn’t need to respond to the letter. It felt good. And it felt good to take this small – yet big – step in lightening my burden of paper piles.

By the time I sat down to do my reflections, I was truly hungry (for my breakfast, that is) and truly ready to appreciate what I read. I began with page 3 in Courage to Change (CtC) – and didn’t go any further. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Some of the lines that jumped out at me (sometimes loosely quoted here):

I can do nothing to change the past except to stop repeating it.

I am already breaking out of unhealthy and unsatisfying patterns of the past and making wiser choices.

My life is built upon layers of little everyday accomplishments.

When I think this way, setting goals and taking small risks becomes nothing more than a daily striving to make my life better.

Taking some tiny action each day can be much more effective than a frenzied attempt to make radical changes overnight.

When I face a new challenge, I can take my beginning wherever it may be and start from there.

It takes only a slight shift in direction to begin to change my life.

With my Step 9 work, I am really getting, on deep levels, the meaning (and perhaps even the gift) of not being able to change the past. I’m noticing the fears that arise are fears around repeating past behaviors. The reading from CtC reminds me of the progress I’ve already made. I’m learning to respond in different ways.

As for the part about “frenzied attempts to make radical changes overnight” – that was the story of my life for decades. And it was a lesson slowly learned to discover that small daily actions, even tiny steps were far more effective. At some point in my life, quite some time before Al Anon even, I realized that small shifts in direction can make huge changes down the road. It’s like changing the trajectory of an arrow: the tiniest shift and it lands in a wholly different place.

It’s taking time for me to become the person I glimpse in my mind’s eye every now and then. She’s bold and confident, unafraid to be fully herself, yet approaching the world with a serenity and wisdom that allows that boldness to be a blessing and a help rather than a threat. Little by little I’m coming to know her and little by little she’s freeing herself of the burdens and snares that have held her captive for far too long.

May you be blessed this day with small steps of progress and moments of serenity and joy. 🙂

Rest for the Weary?

Virtually every morning I write in my reflection journal, usually in response to a devotional reading or some snippet I’ve read from my Bible. I say “virtually” because, as rich and nourishing as this practice has become, I have learned to hold even this with an open hand. My early schedule has challenged me to rethink what I have time for each morning. I used to take half an hour or so to read and reflect, often gaining insights along the way. Anymore, I’m often sleepy and simply don’t have the energy or inclination to spend my mornings rushing about to get everything – including some reflection writing – done before leaving for work.HPIM1992 T back

When I read the passage that starts, “Come to me, all you who are weary…and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28), I thought of how often I feel the need for more sleep these days. Then I read the verses that followed and began to think beyond my yearning for restful sleep. I still need the rest that sleep brings – don’t get me wrong. But I’m noticing other things, other ways these words speak to me.

“Rest” can be the recovery I experience as I continue to work my program, as in rest from the insanity of compulsive behaviors like overeating. “Rest” could even be letting go and taking a break from staying so focused on my recovery work that I miss the rest of what life has to offer. Sometimes I feel as if all my attention is focused on my recovery work, especially, specifically actually, around wanting to begin making progress in my newly restarted OA journey. I’m in this ‘learning about the nature of this illness’ and ‘how to work the program’ state where reading and thinking – and sometimes writing – about it are helping me understand myself and giving me a glimpse into what recovery might look like for me.

It’s different than my Al Anon challenges, in that it involves reactions to foods, as well as triggers and compulsive behaviors that I don’t fully understand and am powerless to control without the help of a program and my Higher Power.  Yet it is also like my Al Anon/ACA challenges for these very reasons. The primary difference is that my OA issues directly impact my physical well-being, as well as my emotional and spiritual well-being.

I’ve long been aware that I have what I would call an ‘addictive-type’ personality. Even in high school, I knew that if I took up smoking or drinking, I would probably become a chain smoker and an alcoholic. (Fortunately I never liked either.) But the notion of compulsively eating is a new concept to me and I’m still – and gratefully – taking in what I’m learning about it in the OA literature.

The need for humility...

The need for humility…

Today, I’m grateful to have read beyond verse 28 in the passage from Matthew, for I noticed something. Jesus says that he is “gentle” and “humble in heart.” As I wrote out the verses, it occurred to me that Jesus is not only “gentle” with us, he is also gentle with himself when he needs to be – as when he goes off by himself to pray and perhaps rest from the burdens he carries. And he’s humble – a characteristic needed in 12-Step work. The need for humility is also something I noticed as lying behind several of my character weaknesses.

I had to review the Steps because I was sure one of the first three steps used this word. It turns out it’s Step Seven: “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.” Yet even beginning this program requires learning to be humble. It takes humility to recognize, acknowledge and accept that we are powerless over alcohol or compulsive eating or debting or whatever it is that leads us into these rooms.

Humility speaks to me of the willingness to admit our powerlessness. And that, for me, means I also have to be gentle with myself as I find the humility to fully accept my own powerlessness and as I learn to turn to God for help every step of the way.

Rest? I suspect it comes when we give up the struggle and find the humility and the willingness to let go and let God do that which we cannot do for ourselves. Maybe that’s when sleep truly becomes “rest.” It’s 8:43 p.m. now. It’s so-o-o past my bedtime. Zzzzzzzzzzz…

Seeking Balance – What *does* it look like?

It’s been over a month since I’ve written a post, even though dozens of times I’ve had ideas and experiences I wanted to share. It seems as though my life has been about rediscovering balance…and it still feels elusive.

At the beginning of March, I moved into a house with three other roommates. I never thought I’d want to move in with so many strangers, yet it has been a pleasant and delightful adjustment. The gay couple who own the house have been so easy to get along with, always wanting to make sure I’m comfortable and happy here. And I am! Just the other night, one of them told me I was the best roommate they’ve had. It was a lovely affirmation of what I already knew – that this is exactly the right place for me to be right now.

Last night, I was surveying the corner of my room that I reorganized a week or so ago. It’s still rather chaotic, not particularly helpful in terms of making things accessible, and not at all what I want it to be. It’s the corner where I’d like to put my tall bookshelf – the one that’s in storage. It’s filled with boxes and buried behind a layer of boxes and will need considerable effort to bring here. A challenge for another day…

It occurred to me last night that one of the reasons this place still doesn’t feel like home is because I’m still not close to being settled. I have truly been honoring the slogan “Easy does it!” I have been settling in slowly, letting things find their proper places in my bedroom, in the bathroom, and in the kitchen. The bathroom is happily in order. We haven’t yet expanded my space in the kitchen because I haven’t been inclined to rush and organize anything – I’ve wanted to take my time. And now I’m ready to begin transforming my room.

That’s the funny thing about transforming living spaces – it takes time and it usually begins by transforming ourselves first.

Most of March I was tired – unaccountably tired and sleepy virtually every day. My days were literally about getting up, getting ready for work, going to work, coming home, eating dinner right away, and heading to bed an hour later. I felt really good if I got something as simple as adding up my checkbook done. I wondered how I could ever do anything else I wanted to do in life. It turned out that at least part of the problem was that we needed to further adjust my thyroid medication. (Too much hormone and you sleep poorly. Oy…)

The last couple of weeks I’ve finally begun to feel a bit better. My schedule hasn’t changed a lot, but I now have the energy to begin asking myself what I can do differently. And on my mind now are two particular questions: What can I do differently to be able to enjoy more of life during the week, so there’s more to my life than sleeping, eating and working? And what can I do to make my room feel more like home?

The first question will require my inventorying what I’m doing now, considering “How Important Is It?” (the slogan from last week’s meeting) around each part, and discovering what I might do differently. My journey in Al Anon has taught me to listen and notice what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve discovered that small changes have the biggest and most lasting impact, which is exactly why I’ve been disinclined to rush to rearrange my room.

Have you ever had the experience of quickly moving and settling in, even if only for a visit with a relative, only to discover you can’t remember where xyz is because you so quickly put things away and it isn’t where it used to be or usually is? Well, I have – dozens and dozens of times! And I’m tired of it and no longer willing to do that. But I do want to create some order and begin to make this place feel like home.

The balance I’m seeking right now may not be earth-shatteringly important. But it is important to my serenity. It is to pay attention to what I’m doing, to see what I might be able to do differently, and to enjoy the incremental improvements in my energy by considering how I can make this house my home.

Baby steps, Bob. Baby steps. 😉

Gracefully(?) Weathering an Al-Anon Moment – Day 354 cont. (Thu – Nov 22)

My preferred spot

I don’t know how many times I find myself grateful for the many tools of the Al Anon program. Today I’m especially grateful for the reminder to HALT. Whenever something catches me off guard, something to which my first response is to resist, I try to notice whether I’m feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. If I am, I try to stop or at least pause before putting my foot in my mouth and biting down.

Today is Thanksgiving Day and my landlady – let’s call her Lulu (for the alliteration in landlady) – is expecting a number of family members (and possibly a friend or two) for the meal. I have no idea how many are coming or what time they’re eating. Lulu feels no need to inform her tenants of her plans (even when we’re affected by them). Indeed, I only had a heads up about today’s influx of people because my other housemate overheard her on the phone (which is easy to do – she has a loud voice).

When I emerged from my room to get something for lunch, Lulu told me she was expecting more company and they drive SUVs. This is a neighborhood where parking is limited to one side of the street and the spaces fill up quickly with so many driveways sprinkled along the way. Plus it’s hilly and narrow. Lulu has her own small garage that opens into the alley for her car and she has a 2-car open “garage” that opens onto the street. She asked me to move my car into the open garage because the SUVs will not fit in there.

Last night, all the spaces that were reasonably close to the house were full, so I backed into the garage. It’s a painted cinderblock affair that has two very narrow carports. The thing is you have to make a choice. Either you drive head first into the right space or you back into the left space. Neither space is wide enough to be able to open both driver and passenger car doors. In fact, if one car is already in one of the spots, you have to be careful not to hit their car door while opening your own car door.

It’s a one-sided affair!

When Lulu asked me if I could move my car into the garage, all the while justifying her reasons for needing the space I was (happily) occupying on the street, I felt myself simmering. In fact, I was getting ticked off at her – not because it was such an unreasonable request, but because she has often been unconcerned, even dismissive, when I have expressed a desire for something or even simply expressed my feelings. Once I mentioned that the “garage” was kind of creepy in the dark because it has no lights. She said she couldn’t do anything about it and essentially told me, “Too bad!”

Thus, her request for me to move into a space I had intentionally moved out of earlier in the day (there were no close spaces yesterday when I got home) was not well received. I grumbled a little, barely resisting the urge to say, “Why the heck should I?!”

Fortunately, I recognized that I was not only hungry, I was starting to get to the shaky, need-food-now!!! stage. So I told her I just needed to get my lunch and that I’d think about it.

Yep, they’re all taken…

I tried to relax and enjoy a few minutes of my movie while I ate, but I found myself wrestling with my anger. I considered the facts. One: it literally took me almost ten minutes to back into the garage yesterday as I tried to angle my car in from what must have been a very awkward angle. (Cinderblock posts and walls are not kind to paint jobs.) Two: I didn’t want to give up my favorite parking spot. Three: It will be dark when I leave in the morning and it’s very dark in that parking garage – the street lamp doesn’t quite get in there. (Creepy!) Four: I didn’t want to have my day interrupted later to move my car back onto the street – I would have been “waiting” for that interruption and been unable to relax and enjoy my day.

Then I thought about the flipside of the coin and went out to see just what the parking situation was. The truth is, there was no parking anywhere near the house. Then I thought about backing in again so I could at least drive out nose first in the morning. And if I didn’t pull back too far – just far enough to be able to open my door – then maybe it wouldn’t be too awfully dark. And maybe, just maybe, it would be a kind thing to do.

Yep, full that way too. (But notice the smart guy parked facing downhill. That’s my preference on this silly hill!)

So I moved my car and, in doing so, discovered that if you drive almost into the driveway across the street, it is much easier to back in.

It’s still not a place I care to park. I tend to schlep a lot of stuff with me, so I truly prefer to be able to put things in the passenger seat from the passenger side of the car. (My back seat’s otherwise occupied.) And the street curves, so you can’t really tell if anyone’s coming till you’re out there. Yet once I’d decided to move my car and leave it there, it was actually pretty easy to do it with (mental) ease – and physical ease, as it turned out!

It occurred to me later that choosing to say “I’ll think about it” was actually the best possible response I could have given Lulu. It was a way to “halt” when I felt very hungry and increasingly angry. Plus it gave me some space to do just that – think about it. It gave me time to recognize and have my feelings (which were mostly angry) without directing them toward her. And it gave me time to consider my options.

Judging by the sudden increase in volume and number of voices I’m hearing in the kitchen, it sounds like the additional guests found parking. I’m glad I was able to help. 🙂

The Countdown: 30 days till the journey is “done” – Day 336 (Sunday – Nov 4)

I began this journey December 4th, almost a year ago, expecting to regularly and frequently be going through the paper piles and doing lots of other things that took more courage than I felt I had. With only 30 days remaining in this year of breaking through my fears, it could be deflating to look around my room and notice the many places those paper piles have not only not shrunk, but even grown. Then again, if I take a look inside, I am in awe of the ways I have changed and been changed.

My hope for these 30 days until December 4th is that I might use this time to consider what has happened – hopefully with frequent, perhaps shorter posts (it could happen!), and I’ll try not to worry about adding pictures when I don’t have the time.

I spent the past three days with a group of amazing and wonderful people, mostly transgendered or genderqueer in some way. Most of them active and involved, even being the leaders in their various faith communities. Being around them never fails to inspire me to continue the inner work I am doing. I’d like to share some of what I wrote in my journal this morning, beginning with a verse from Psalm 90: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” (NKJV)

In the past day or so, I’ve been thinking about new beginnings and how this day that begins the 30-day countdown of my ‘blog journey’ feels like a new beginning to me. Interesting, how it doesn’t feel like a journey to a new beginning, for the new journey has already begun.

This verse reminds me that God has been with me throughout this year of challenges and changes. The conference felt like a time of introspection and renewal. My trans friends and colleagues rekindle my desire to do ministry even as a I also appreciate that the “be still” process needs to continue. The author of a devotion I read talks about lying in a tree house as a kid, looking up at the sky, and not needing words to talk to God. She speaks of her experience as one of being in a “sacred space.”

I thought of the “sacred spaces” created through the differing faith expressions shared at the conference. There were people from Pagan, Jewish and Christian traditions, among others. Diverse experiences of the Divine were made available to all.

I don’t know that I have ever had the experience of being truly unwelcome in a particular faith group or 12-Step meeting, although my ACA/Al-Anon mentality can sometimes leave me thinking I might be unwelcome. Most, if not all of my trans friends have been rejected from these places that usually claim to “welcome” all who feel drawn to be there. Being around them enables me to show my support for their journey and deepens my own as I consider the courage they have needed just to be who they are.

This day does feel like a “new beginning” for me. The ten(!) hours of sleep I got helped, I’m sure. Yet it’s more than that. It’s even more than being thirty days away from the end of this 366-day journey.

It’s about having learned that I can “be still” and let my insides transform so that my “outsides” can begin manifesting those changes. It’s about learning that letting go in countless small ways is teaching me how to let go in bigger ways and how to let go with even greater ease.

It’s about discovering that even trusting God happens incrementally; that it’s not a simple decision I make, after which I can heave a sigh of relief, check it off my to-do list, and call it “done.”

It’s about learning to dream again and discovering that it’s the dreaming itself that’s important. I don’t have to know if or how any of these dreams may manifest, let alone when; it’s simply important that I do the dreaming and, through giving myself that permission, experience the growing belief that I am loved by God and I am just as worthy of experiencing these dreams as anyone else – as are you.

It’s about learning to trust, one day at a time, in God’s provision for me, in God’s love for me. And as I trust, I find I do have the courage to take those next steps of my journey through life.

Note: Your comments, experiences and reflections are welcome and appreciated. This is a place where “cross talk” can be a good thing! 😉

And for anyone who might notice: Admittedly, the math of my day numbers in previous posts doesn’t quite add up from the day I began this blog journey, but I needed to keep it simple. I adjusted the day count around the first of the year, adding 20 rather than 27 to whatever day of the year my calendar said, in order to make it easier to track. Yet this is, in fact, day 336, not day 345. 🙂

Changes, Challenges and Choices – Day 283 (Wed – Sep 19)

I’m finding it hard to get started again with my blog posts after such a long gap and after not having internet access on my home computer for nine and a half months. But maybe that was a necessary “gestation” period for something more to come.

Interesting how things change in ways we didn’t expect (or want). It felt so right deciding to move into this place. And actually I believe it was the right thing to do. It’s just that I had hoped for a place that felt far more welcoming and comfortable than this has been so far. There are moments when I feel like the whiny Israelites, complaining that they got what they wanted, only to discover they didn’t like what they got!

I’m living in a room that is about 8′ by 12′. The distance between the twin bed on one wall and the desk on the facing wall is all of 34″ (almost 34″ that is). On either side of the desk, unfortunately, there are still piles of my as-yet unsorted boxes and such. I’m having to be very patient and gentle with myself these days. I arrive home from work with little energy for tackling such tasks as organizing my room. But little by little I see progress. I just didn’t expect it to take so long.

The changes that come naturally to any move are unavoidable. Different room arrangements, different furniture (in my case, at least), different logistics of where things are in relation to each other, both room-wise and stuff-wise. Following my initial move into the downstairs apartmentette, I schlepped all my things into my newly painted room, with it’s newly sanded and finished floor and a new 5’x8′ rug bridging the gap between bed and desk. I made the move pretty much all in one day, which was exhausting. But it was really nice to simply get it done.

Unfortunately the transition has been difficult, fraught with challenges. The short version (of the most annoying challenge) is that my bedroom still serves as my pantry/kitchen extension and the kitchen is essentially only a place I can use…a little. I have been allowed one small shelf-drawer – the bottom one of a lower cupboard. In other words, I can keep a few things on a shelf-drawer that’s just a couple of inches above the floor. Aside from a teensy area (less than a square foot) in the kitchen refrigerator and a few things that are now in the freezer (which was less than 1/4 full and appears to stay that way), all of my things that need freezing or refrigerating live in a tiny refrigerator in the (non-attached) garage!

The refrigerator is, thankfully, not on the garage floor. It is perched atop a makeshift cupboard which is my “pantry.” (Swell…) It’s too vulnerable to outdoor multi-legged critters from various insect families, so I’m only keeping things there that are in cans, jars, or seriously non-perishable and virtually all of them are in small plastic tubs to deter invasions. Thus, things like my boxes of cereal and granola need to live on the built-in bookshelf in my small bedroom. (So much for lots of book shelf space.)

Preparing a bowl of cereal, for instance, required grabbing a box of cereal from my bedroom, getting my bowl out of the shelf-drawer in the kitchen, pouring the cereal in the bowl, carrying the bowl out to the garage, getting the milk out of the tiny fridge to pour on my cereal, then trekking back into the house to eat the cereal. (Thank God, I haven’t yet had to do this in the rain.) I finally started keeping a small amount of milk in a small, washed & recycled plastic juice bottle in the fridge. It’s too small for my housemates to object to, but big enough to save me a few trips to the garage.

All this is to say that I am facing these and similar challenges on a daily basis – sometimes several times a day. Which leads me to “choices.”

I have to admit that it is taking a lot of very conscious effort to keep letting go and setting aside my irritation when everything about living here feels like the very opposite of what I’ve been praying for. It is only by reminding myself that this is a temporary situation and that I am blessed to have a comfortable bed and now, at long last, an internet connection that I am able to find any serenity at all. I’m finding myself truly grateful for my recovery work and for the support and encouragement I receive from my 12-step friends. I am discovering just what it means to live “one day at a time” when I very much want things to change for the better. I know they will. I just pray that it comes sooner rather than later.

In the meanwhile, I take care of myself by continuing to work my program and prepare for better things to come. Letting go, remembering to trust, and noticing my journey are all a part of the process.

Actions, Small Steps and Noticings:

  • I released my bike and was able to give it to a program friend who truly needed one (and actually rides it, unlike me ;-))
  • I bought a $20 computer table at IKEA.
  • Things go much better when I remember to be patient and gentle with myself. I really can only do one thing at a time… (Who knew?!)

Day 192 (Wed Jun 20): Between peace and panic

Why do I feel at times like I’m still a beginner?

Today has been an odd day, where I have flowed (and sometimes bounced) between peace and panic.

My car still sounds and feels like it needs some attention. The challenge is, its symptoms are not clear enough to readily describe to a technician. I decided to drop by the dealership and see if they might have time to check it out today. They didn’t. But it was helpful to talk with the person in charge of my car’s maintenance. She helped me consider other possibilities to the nature of the problem. (And no, it isn’t the driver.)

We have an appointment for Tuesday morning.

Because my finances are not quite steady, I was nervous about going there this morning. So I said some prayers, then turned on the CD I’ve been enjoying a lot lately. My favorite song is called “Strength for the Journey” (I think). For once, I let myself become enveloped in the words. I surrendered to them and the message I needed to hear: that I need to let go and let God handle this because I can’t do this alone.

When I turned to my little devotional book while I was waiting for the garage to open, I was amazed to find that today’s reading reflects what I had been hearing and “getting” from the song: that we must rely on God and others to help us on our way. These are the words I especially appreciated reading this morning:

Self-sufficiency is impossible. As much as we hate to admit it, no one can get through life on his or her own strength. At some point, we all need help…God knows we can’t get by alone. That’s why…[God] reaches down to help us up. (June 20 in Every Day With Jesus ©2011 Worthy Publishing)

After feeling myself surrender to the song lyrics on the way to the garage, reminding me that I want my Higher Power to be my strength for this journey, these words were a welcome affirmation. They expanded the peace I had been feeling on the way.

Perhaps that’s why it felt so decidedly ridiculous to experience such an opposite state a short time later. At 8:30 this morning, less than an hour later, I wrote this in what I thought might become a blog draft: Okay, this is just plain annoying! Just thinking about preparing a posting [e.g., in Craigslist] to find a new place to live is raising my anxiety level. I can feel the butterflies in my tummy going berserk and I feel anxious all over. Augh! This feels so dumb and silly!

Now wouldn’t you think that a healthy dose of peace might have washed away the tendency toward panic? I would have! Even though I’ve experienced swings between peace and panic countless times, I still expect to remain in that place of peace when the scary thoughts arise.

I know we’ve all been there, in one way or another. Maybe you get as frustrated as I do when you lose that serenity, and fear, anxiety or outright panic starts to set in. The only thing I’ve found that helps me – and perhaps you’ve discovered this, too – is to keep returning to the things that nurture me and return me to serenity. For me that often comes in the form of uplifting music, inspirational reading, practices like InterPlay and prayer, and remembering that we are not alone on this journey. At any given moment, I may feel alone because I don’t have another earthling walking along beside me (and probably not an extra-terrestrial either, for that matter ;-)).

Helpers

The truth is, we are all loved and helped every moment of every day by our Higher Power whether we know it or not. My Higher Power is God, the God of my understanding who loves me and is patient with me, who puts up with my repeated whining and complaining and the humiliating number of blunders I make, and who loves me anyway! I don’t recall off the top of my head who said this, but I like to remember that there is nothing – NOTHING! – I can do to make God love me any more – or any less.

Thank God!

Day 183 (Mon/Jun 11): Finding my way back

I’ve lost sight of why I’m blogging – or not blogging, as has been the case more recently. It has been such a helpful thing to record my feelings here, to process the work I’m doing or not doing.

Three weeks ago I learned that I was taking too much thyroid medication. My low energy levels were not because I needed more thyroid hormone; rather I needed less. Contrary to popular belief, too much results in poor sleep and a state of increasing fatigue as the body’s metabolism gets stuck in a higher gear. When I found myself positively dragging, thoughts of staying up later to write more posts for my blog simply weren’t on the list of practical things to do to take care of myself.

This is kinda how it’s feeling…

The other thing I’ve noticed is that the longer the gaps between posts, the more I have stored up. So much is happening in what feels like such a short time. My time with the temp position was extended through July on a 2-day per week basis. Now that I’ve done a bit of work in Debtors Anonymous and through a random question from an acquaintance, I’ve realized that the steady income for these two months, although providing much-needed income, are still keeping me at a poverty-level income.

I never knew I was trying to live at poverty level. I knew I was broke and that I needed more money. I even knew that it was ridiculous for anyone to expect to make ends meet with only 14 hours a week at a modest hourly pay rate. But I didn’t truly understand that my income was considered poverty-level. Ironically, I thought that because I’m making more per hour than I ever have before, something must be going well. Right? Wrong! My base of comparison was a job I had seven years ago when rates of pay – and cost of living – for everyone were lower. (Did I mention that I am rather oblivious to certain areas of ‘reality’ – like what it takes to live with all your basic needs met with a reasonable amount of ease?) I think I need to develop at least a wee bit more awareness in certain areas…

I don’t know how frequently I’ll be posting in the coming weeks. I inadvertently discovered that my uncle really doesn’t like me on his computer. The viruses he recently discovered, in his mind, have likely come through my internet use on his computer. He uses his computer a lot, but doesn’t understand how some things happen. That’s okay. I’ll simply avail myself more intentionally of the internet when I’m at the office. Coming in a little early, staying late, and lunch and break times will suffice.

This is how I *want* to feel!

On my radar at the moment: the need to find other housing. My aunt and uncle would like their guestroom back so other family members can come to visit this summer. The challenge for me already is to remember to trust that God is bringing me to a good, new place. I was grateful that the Al Anon slogan we talked about at one of the meetings this weekend was “Easy Does It.” Sound words for me right now, as I am occasionally tempted to “hurry up” and find a new place – as if it were as simple as dropping by the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread. I suppose one can always do that – if you don’t happen to care about the kind of bread you’re getting or how much it costs.  😉

Positive step(s):

  • Gathering my spending numbers to get a handle on just how much I *do* need each month
  • Gathering my income numbers to find out how much I have actually been earning the past few months
  • Called a friend, then talked with my sponsor when I was tempted to make a hasty decision and rush out of an uncomfortable situation when the timing would not have been in my best interest

Day 155 (Mon/May 14): On releasing guilt

I’m fast concluding that releasing guilt, like so many other aspects of life, is a process, a journey that has ebbs and flows, times of ease, times of struggle. (Who knew?)

This morning, I turned to page 217 in my Bible simply because that number was what popped into my mind when I considered what to read for my reflection. I started reading about people dying and being afflicted with tumors and thought, “Bleck! This is not what I want to use for my reflection!” But I persisted, especially as I had begun in the middle of a chapter. It didn’t necessarily get “better,” but I found myself intrigued by a couple of lines in the chapter that started on that page. The people were told to return the ark to God with a “guilt offering” and they would be healed (1 Sam 6:1-3).

It took a few minutes for it to register that guilt is one of the character weaknesses I identified for myself in Step 6. I decided to see what I might find in Courage to Change on guilt. But before I looked in the book, I decided to prepare my own “guilt offering” to be placed in my “God box” – a written prayer asking God to take my feelings of guilt and remove them from me.

Guilt is a wholly appropriate topic for me today. I awoke with dreams of worrying about my credit card debt and what I should do about it. In an effort to take better care of myself and to maintain a sense of serenity, I have chosen to ignore most of the incoming calls from the credit card agents. I have even left the messages on my voicemail to pick up when I’m ready to deal with them (or not). It dawned on me recently that they are the ones who feel the need to keep pushing for different answers from me when I have none to offer. Repeating the same, unhappy responses to their questions – affirming repeatedly that I do not, at this time, have the income to send them as much money as they want – upsets me and renews the guilt and the worry. Since they have not been willing to honor my request for less frequent calls (one company calls me five days after we last talked – every time!), I have chosen not to take the calls just now.

As I was writing my reflection this morning, I felt guilty that I have not picked up my voice messages. Now I’m at work (on my lunch break) and it’s not the time. There are five messages – all, I suspect, from these collection agents. I have more practicing to do in order to let go my guilty feelings. I have more things to figure out with regard to how and when to respond to the messages.

I read two of the pages on guilt listed in the index in Courage to Change. They reminded me that I am imperfect because I am human (can’t escape it…), that I can “be free to look at my mistakes without blowing them out of proportion” (CtC, p 120), that I can learn to stop repeating the mistakes I’ve made and learn to make wiser choices. I already am making wiser choices and the tendency to fall back into old patterns is lessening every day.

I especially appreciate the “Today’s Reminder” with the April 29th reading:

I will not chain myself to the past with self-defeating guilt, or by inflating the importance of my errors. Instead, I want to face my past and heal old wounds so that I may move forward into a richer, fuller, and more joyous life today (Courage to Change, p 120).

The reading on page 144 in CtC also reminds me that it is easier to love myself when I accept myself as I am, imperfect choices and all. I notice I need to be reminded of this often – the idea of loving myself, that is. Sometimes I get caught up in the doing of xyz and forget that the reason I am doing recovery and other work is to be able to see and love myself more the way I know God does. Once in a while it occurs to me to ask God to give me eyes that see others and myself through the eyes of love. I even get there and stay there for a while now and then. Then I slip and fall back into old patterns of thinking and behavior. I am so grateful for 12-Step programs, wonderful little books like Courage to Change and a God whose love is big enough to overcome those times when I forget to love myself.

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